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Keep socialist blog En Passant going - donate now
If you want to keep a blog that makes the arguments every day against the ravages of capitalism going and keeps alive the flame of democracy and community, make a donation to help cover my costs. And of course keep reading the blog. To donate click here. Keep socialist blog En Passant going. More... (4)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
You can prove my 2 ex-comrades wrong by donating to my blog En Passant at BSB: 062914 Account: 1067 5257, the Commonwealth Bank in Tuggeranong, ACT. More... (12)

My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/18-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-g20-meeting-age-of-enttilement-engineers-attack-of-austerity-hardship-on-civilians.mp3 (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2014/02/11/john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-2/ (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/4-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-end-of-the-age-of-entitlement-for-the-needy-but-pandering-to-the-lusts-of-the-greedy.mp3 (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole
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Sick kids and paying upfront

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Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2013/12/03/john-passant-australian-national-university-8/ (0)

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Can unions smash the straitjacket on strikes?

Liberal Party backbencher Dan Tehan is leading the calls in the latest round of attacks on unions. Armed with a recommendation from the Dyson Heydon Right Royal Witch Hunt into Unions, this spokespittle for reaction said that unions should be prevented from paying the fines imposed on officials for breaches of industrial law. Typically such breaches will be for organising prohibited industrial action, i.e. industrial action outside the bargaining period. Such action is, unlike action voted upon during the bargaining period, unprotected. Unprotected action can result in fines for union officials, workers and unions.

‘Independent’ Senator Nick Xenophon has expressed support for the assault on workers that the Heydon Witch Hunt represents. He voted last year for the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and will do so again this year. The ABCC is capital’s attempt to muzzle and emasculate the building unions, the main unions in Australia which sometimes fight for their members against the bosses and the capitalist state.

When it was first introduced deaths on building sites increased because the one group able to enforce safety – workers and their unions – was hamstrung in its capacity to do so.

Such is the bankruptcy of the Labor Party that the Nick Xenophon group won more votes in the 2013 election for the Senate in South Australia (24.89%) than the ALP (22.67%).

The Heydon Witch Hunt, the proposed re-introduction of the ABCC, the charging of union officials with criminal offences such as blackmail for doing basic union activity, the further suggested tightening of the strike control legislation, all are part of the overall approach to weaken unions and their leadership even further so that capital can more easily sack workers, cut wages, attack the social wage and save money by not having to pay for safe workplaces. They are all part of the bevy of attacks on workers to shift even more wealth and income from labor to capital.

Can workers break the chains that bind their ability to strike? The latest proposals to effectively make union officials bear the cost of the fines imposed on workers and their unions for ‘illegal’ strikes threatens the existence of those officials as the retailers of labour power to the bosses. However the climate of class collaboration that has infected the trade union bureaucracy for the last 3 decades means they may well do nothing to beat back these attacks.

In 1969 John Kerr (yes, that John Kerr) jailed Clarrie O’Shea for refusing to pay a fine for industrial action his members had undertaken. Left unions responded with five days of rolling general strikes across Australia. This forced a ruing class member to pay the fine. O’Shea was released from jail and the penal powers became a dead letter because capital and its state were too afraid to use them.

If left union leaders are serious about defending their members, themselves, and their position then the general strike in 1969 to free Clarrie O’Shea and smash the penal powers shows a real way to win the right to strike. Union members could begin to organise in their unions now to run any campaign to smash the modern day equivalent of the penal powers.

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Comments

Comment from Singleton Engineer
Time January 13, 2016 at 2:47 pm

If I remember correctly, many Captains of Industry are covered by the corporation that they manage for fines owing as a result of their activities.

The unions are not alone.

If the proposal was that every citizen must pay his own fines, ie that the law applies to the owning class the same as it does to the working class, then this discussion would suddenly be dropped.

The big end of town will not want their hard-won conditions eroded.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time January 14, 2016 at 9:13 am

Clearly the aim of the Liberal government is to completely kneecap the brave mouth pieces of unions, leaving unionists without leaders.

The only way that unions can regain their power in Australia is to break away from the ACTU, which sends a representative to meetings of a global union body. They also have to stop accepting union dues being paid by big corporations and find a way of rebuilding membership.

Unfortunately while everyone continues to benefit from union won improvements in wages and working conditions, few will feel inclined to actually join a union. Non-union labour is often given preference for work.

Unfortunately the government and Big Business are in control of most of the mechanisms that could improve union membership and power. These include providing a glut of workers from overseas, sending work offshore to create competition for work, making unionism non-compulsory and allowing employers to do whatever they want to workers.