Interview: Fortress NSW
Unions: Fashions Afield
Industrial: Pay Dirt
Politics: Infrastructure Blues
History: Big Day Out
International: Making History
Economics: The Fear Factor
Review: The Robots Revolt
Poetry: The Corporation's Power
The Locker Room
Rights and Wrongs
Attending the May Day Toast is a little like putting on a pair of well worn slippers - it's comfortable, familiar, makes us all feel good.
Who wouldn't feel good recalling the exploits of our fore bear - the way they stared down guns to march for the right for decent working hours?
The battles fought over 120 years - in shearing yards and mines, construction sites and docks, hotels and call centres - they are traditions that do not just deserve, but demand our respect.
Every year, we toast their memory, respect their achievements and attempt to squeeze some inspiration from their victories for our present day battles.
This year we do so at a time when the very movement they created faces its biggest ever test.
From 1st July, John Howard will have control of the Senate-power no politician has had in a generation.
You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know who his first target will be - Us.
We already know what some of his plans are:
And these are just some of the things we know are going to happen.
What else is on the agenda?
o It's worth noting that if the Howard Government's claims had got up in minimum wage hearings since 1996 a minimum wage worker today would be $2300 per year worse off
This is a once in a generation attack on our movement.
My question to all of you tody is what do we do about it?
Do we just get outraged? Take to the streets? Further marginalise ourselves?
Or do we use this as an historic opportunity to remake the labour movement.
We need to be honest with ourselves.
These laws are not the biggest threat to the future of the labour movement, we are.
While some unions are doing well, many of our unions are in a sad state.
Our political wing is in even worse shape - control of local branches is now being fought out by operatives on the public payroll.
And when we come together at ALP State Conference, we all get into our factional boxes and hurl insults at one another.
No wonder our political enemies can smell blood!
Now I know Unions NSW has been drawing flak in some quarters for not backing a general strike on 30th June.
We are accused of a 'deafening' response to the upcoming change - which may come as some surprise to anyone who has been within a five-kilometre radius of Unions NSW in recent months.
What has Unions NSW been doing?
We have been planning a campaign that is sustained and winnable - rather than protesting against legislation that will be passed. In some form or other.
We are implementing a long-term plan that focuses on: -
None of this is about taking a soft option - In fact, it is about doing the hard yards - building momentum in the workplace and the community, rather than taking the easy route of marching down the streets for a single day.
I'll give you a brief overview of the scope of the Unions NSW campaign: -
And this is just the first stage - educating the broader public that their rights at work are under attack and making an all-out attack on unions is a massive political risk.
Unions NSW is working to a campaign budget of almost $4 million - that is the largest ever campaign funded by the union movement in this state.
If this program of grassroots, community activism equates to a 'deafening silence', then I confess.
But I do challenge those who see a lap of the city streets as the beginning and the end of the campaign to take a reality check.
Because, if they think this is a battle that can be won with a placard and a chant, they are kidding themselves.
This is a major attack on trade unions.
It comes at a time when our movement is exposed.
We need to be smart in our response.
We need to fight, of course.
But we need to do it in a way: -
We need to get the support of the four out of five working people who aren't in unions.
That won't be achieved by adopting approaches that might have worked in the past but will not connect with working people today.
My hope is that in mending ourselves, we will also be able to withstand our external battle.
And that would be a victory that would do justice to this important tradition.
Happy May Day.
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