Sunday, December 03, 2006

your rights at work - worth electioneering with?

Unfortunately, the "Union Movement's" (if it makes any sense to reduce Unions in Australia to one movement) campaign against the draconian Howard Govenment's Industrial Relations law reform, the so-called Work Choices 'workplace relations amendment', has hit full swing.
I say, "Unfortunately," because their strategy for restoring workers's rights to a more reasonable standard revolves around throwing their lot in with the Labor
Party, and in particular, Kim Beazley's re-election. Interestingly enough, Beazley is trying to survive his second leadership challenge against him, this time from Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. This won't have any discernible effect for the worker as far as the anti-IR reform campaign is concerned. (Addendum: Beazley lost to Rudd and Gillard.)
Whatever. The point is, I knew that when I went to the "Fill the G" protest on Thursday 30th last week as a Union member I would be supporting Beazley's
election campaign. But somehow I was unprepared for just how terrible this really is. Not only did the rally fail to fill the MCG (although 60,000 protesters is nothing to be sneezed at) but the speeches from ACTU and Labor politicians were incomprehensible due to poor sound. The phrase, "Working families!" was used too many times. What about workers who don't have families? There are plenty of them too. The Jimmy Barnes performance, replete with Working Class Man and that song of his that goes:
You've got nothing I want!
You've got nothing I need!
dedicated to John Howard (which I thought a little weird as it's a jilted love song, isn't it? Isn't it?) failed to impress. The rapidity with which the Greens placards were covered up by other union's flags was, on the other hand, quite impressive. This event was televised all over Australia and we don't want the Greens and the Labor Party to be seen sharing the same airspace, now do we? What will the voters think?
Though, the event hit its nadir, I thought, when, during Beazley's speech, the slogan "Your rights at work - worth fighting for" emblazoned in large letters on the field was altered to "Your rights at work - worth voting for," (see picture). Truly disheartening. And, as my workmate Liz said, this means that Unions aren't fighting anymore but are content to let the pressing issue of oppressive Industrial Relations legislation to become an election issue in the incompetent hands of the Labor Party instead of a living, breathing fact of dire importance that needs to be acted on, like, now.
What's going to happen to workers in the meantime?
What happens if/when the Labor Party isn't elected at the next Federal Election?
What happens if we do get the Labor Party in? They're just not left anymore. They may repeal Work Choices but that doesn't mean they'll be that much better for workers than the Liberal Party is in the long term.
Why is the ACTU not doing something now?
Why not strike? The Union movement could bring the Liberal Party to its knees if it wanted.
The march into the city was more impressive than the media event. All those people stopping traffic and rallying together against Howard et al. That's people power, there in the streets, not mandated by the ACTU, not mediated through politicians, entertainers and SkyTV.
So the next question is, why doesn't the ACTU want to strike? It must be because there are some grounds on which it agrees with the Liberal Party.
Something to do with Capitalism and how it operates, surely.
And as a friend of mine commented, the only time the phrase 'working class' was used was in Jimmy Barnes performance. That's an unsurprising indictment on the Labor Party and, more significantly, the ACTU.
Now Playing: Boards of Canada - The devil is in the details

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