Arbitration or strikes? QANTAS or Lend Lease?
Last October QANTAS workers accepted an order to return to work and to go to arbitration, thus ending their strike.
Labor’s Fair Work Australia (FWA) has just handed down its arbitration decision. The workers got a 3% pay increase per year instead of the claimed 5%.
Even worse Labor’s FWA (an acronym that lends itself to none too subtle interpretations) decided management had ‘the right to manage’ and so could use labour hire and casuals to ‘cut costs’. This means basically they can use these workers to undermine permanent employment and wages and conditions.
The bosses are ecstatic. The ‘right to manage’ argument will mean unions in the future who take the arbitration route (or even the conciliation without strikes route) will be stuffed.
Building workers in the CFMEU recently ago went on strike for a week at 22 Lend Lease sites on the eastern seaboard. They were demanding a 5 percent pay increase per annum over 4 years, restrictions on the number of casuals and the amount of time they could be used, and for such workers to be paid the same wages and receive the same conditions as permanent workers.
They basically won everything they wanted.
Determination of members secured this national agreement.
As the BLF used to say ‘If you don’t fight you lose’.
QANTAS workers did not fight all the way. They lost.
To have gone on strike rate than submit to arbitration would have required the unions pointing out the consequences to their members under Labor’s Fair Work Act – possible fines on the union and members.
But it would also have meant the union pointing out that most strikes in Australia are illegal, that recently teachers, nurses and firefighters for example have been on illegal strikes and in the case of the nurses and firefighters won.
The teachers are continuing their actions.
As far as I know, neither nurses and firefighters nor their unions have been fined for their illegal strike actions.
In Queensland proposed strikes against Campbell Newman’s job cuts will be illegal.
Eventually it could have meant the possibility of refusing to pay the fines and calling on other unions as well to strike against Labor’s anti-union penal powers.
That requires a careful build up over time from a committed leadership preparing the membership for a fight. Much of that leadership - Paul Howes comes to mind - are Labor Party lackeys and lick spittle.
Look what happens if, as building workers did, workers do strike, and in this case over very similar claims to those of the QANTAS workers. They won. Other workers can too.
So to spell the lesson out. QANTAS workers and their union leaders accepted arbitration without a fight and lost. The Lend Lease building workers went on strike over very similar claims and won.
Arbitration is for losers. Striking can win.