Even though most trade union leaders are trying to turn the campaign against Howard’s IR laws into an election campaign for Australia’s second biggest bosses party (the ALP) we must mobilise for a big turn out on November 30.
November 30 is the next official national day of protest against the IR laws. There will be rallies held in all major capital cities and regional centres. Since the IR laws were introduced wages are being driven down while costs like petrol, food and interest rates keep going up. At the same time our job security has been severely undermined.
Although the ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) were slow off the mark, the beginnings of the campaign showed some promise. Massive turn outs at protests in June 2005 and then in November 2005 showed that workers were ready to fight.
The Socialist Party has consistently argued that the campaign can be successful if it includes three component parts. The propaganda part, the political part and the industrial part.
On the propaganda side of things the ACTU has done a reasonable job. The ads, websites, leaflets and posters have been good quality and always out on time. On the political and industrial side of things there have been major problems.
The union leaders have refused to open up a debate in the movement about which political direction is best. The dominant line is that we just need to get the ALP over the line and this will fix all of our problems.
The ALP still do not have a fully worked policy on IR and at a state level they continue to attack workers rights. Their track record when they were last in power is appalling. This is not a party that represents working people but rather a ‘second eleven’ for the big business elite.
The union movement needs to break with the policy of unconditionally supporting the ALP. At the moment millions of dollars of union member’s money is being wasted propping up this party that’s only difference with the Liberals is style and not substance.
The Socialist Party calls for militant unions, progressive community groups and the thousands of individuals that are fed up with Labor to form a new workers party. A party that would stand against cuts, privatisation, and the winding back of wages and conditions.
If the Labor Party does win the next election it is certain that they will bring in a different version of the same laws. If they loose on the basis of hardly being any different to the Liberals it will only further strengthen Howard’s hand.
On the industrial side of things the union leaders are proposing nothing. Small disputes have broken out but they have not been generalised or spread. The idea of a 24 hour general strike has not even been put on the agenda. Only hitting the bosses where it hurts (in their profit margins) will force both them and Howard to back down. Protests alone are not enough.
It will only assist Howard in the lead up to the next election if the union leaders refuse to engage in industrial action and refuse to discuss alternatives to the ALP. Let’s roll up on November 30 but let’s not neglect these vital aspects of the campaign.