Australian unions: all ads, no action
Posted by John, March 9th, 2009 - under ACTU, ALP, Australian Building and Construction Commission, Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australian politics, Big business, Building industry, CPSU, Capitalism, Community and Public Sector Union, Economics, Fighting back, History, Jobs, Labor Party, Living standards, Resistance, Strikes, The Depression, The Left, The Liberals, The Right, Trade unions, Unions, Wage cuts, Wage freezes, Wages, sackings, unemployment.
Seen the latest union ads? Pathetic!
The Australian Council of Trade Unions is trying to pressure the Opposition and cross-benches to support Rudd Labor’s new Industrial Relations laws (called Fair Work Australia).
These new laws will supposedly overturn the former Government’s hated WorkChoices laws. They won’t.
They keep many of the anti-worker provisions Howard had in WorkChoices. That’s why some of us call Fair Work Australia what it really is – WorkChoices Lite.
While Sharan Burrow, President of the ACTU, and other very important union people approve of the new Bill, some Victorian unions thought it was so bad they were looking into the option of referring the Bill to the International Labour Organisation for its breaches of workers’ rights to organise.
Here are just a few problems with the proposed laws. The Bill when passed will prevent industry wide bargaining; restrict union entry rights; outlaw industrial action during agreement periods; and retain the hated and dictatorial Australian Building and Construction Commission by giving it a name change.
It will ‘modernise’ awards to ten basic standards. Under this guise the bosses will strip away various hard won conditions.
The Bill keeps already existing Australian Workplace Agreements. It allows common law employment contracts (AWAs in another form).
Fair Work Australia won’t stop unfair dismissals either. There is a six month employment rule before the prohibition against unfair dismissal applies, and if you work for an employer with less than 15 employees the period is 12 months.
Remember, this is what the ACTU is campaigning for in its ads. These lapdogs of Labor want WorkChoices Lite.
The ACTU has no idea what to do to defend the jobs of its members and other workers, now or into the future.
It wants to appear to be doing something for workers – pressuring the Opposition of all things! – while not actually contemplating the one thing that could defeat job cutting – industrial action.
What has the ACTU done to defend the 3300 BHP workers sacked over the last few months?
Or the 1850 Pacific Brand workers sacked last week?
Or the 3000 public service jobs Rudd’s efficiency dividend destroyed last year?
Or the 20000 extra workers in February who joined the dole queue?
What has the ACTU done? Nothing.
More and more workers will soon face the sack or wage cuts and less paid and more unpaid hours.
Amidst the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s, what does the ACTU give us? Pathetic grovelling ads.
Oh, the ACTU will say that WorkChoices is bad law. I agree. But so is Rudd’s WorkChoices Lite.
The ACTU should oppose both.
The ideas of class collaboration have infected the Australian trade union movement for the last 26 years. In boom times this strategy of what is good for the boss is good for the worker can appear to work.
Real wages have risen for most of the last 17 years (in part because of speed ups and trade offs).
Yet for unions the strategy is a failure. Workers have not joined unions. Membership numbers are abysmal as a direct consequence of the ‘suck up to the bosses’ approach of the ACTU.
And while real wages have grown, the labour share of gross national income is at its lowest level in 40 years and that of capital at its highest ever.
A combative trade union movement would have won more for its members and other workers from bosses during the boom times. Workers are, after all, the people who create all the wealth in Australia.
The ‘suck up to the bosses strategy’ necessitated destroying any real rank and file participation in unions. This has left many unions weakened industrially and seemingly incapable of stopping the tsunami of sackings on the way.
An alternative to accepting Howard’s anti-worker WorkChoices would have been an industrial campaign to defeat it. An alternative to accepting Rudd’s WorkChoices Lite? Industrial action.
Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Workers would never take action to defeat bad industrial laws, at least not in Australia. Would they?
But that is precisely what 27 left wing unions did in 1969 to defeat the penal powers. Rolling general strikes of one million workers across Australia saw unionist Clarrie O’Shea freed after 5 days in jail (put there by one Justice John Kerr) for refusing to pay fines for industrial action.
The penal powers remained on the books but were not enforced because the bosses knew (or at least thought) they’d get a repeat of the general strikes.
In fact it took years before the weakening of the combativity of the trade union movement and the capitulation of the Left unions to class collaborationist ideas saw the bosses feel confident enough, with the help of Peter Costello, Barrister, to argue again for fines.
I know, 1969 is a long time ago. The general strikes were 40 years ago in May to be exact. But there is nothing systemic in changes in the workforce that has changed the relationship between boss and worker.
They own the capital, we own our labour. Without us there is no profit.
Cut off their flow of profits and they take notice of workers’ demands.
The rank and file of the trade union movement needs to reclaim the basic idea of industrial militancy to defend jobs before unemployment hits up to 15 per cent in the next 18 months.
The ACTU advertisements are a sign of the weakness of our current union leadership.
Ads don’t feed the kids or pay the rent, mortgage and other bills.
Action, not ads, can defend jobs and defeat Howard’s WorkChoices and Rudd’s WorkChoices Lite.