Unions have lost rights at work — will workers lose all?

In the lead up to the ALP national conference it is claimed that “The ALP is strongly defending workers RIGHTS at WORK”

This is not true in any sense. 310623515_683e3bc353.jpg

ALP-led unions have resisted actions to defend workers rights at work, they have presided over losses since the 1998 MUA Dispute.

ALP governments and ALP-led unions have mounted a failed legal challenge that their own lawyers said would be defeated in the HIGH Court. As a result of that legal action and the following decision workers lost rights at work.

The ACTU has raised $20 million from workers in its ‘Your Right at Work’ campaign. Not one cent of that money has been spent on fighting WorkChoices; it has all gone to advertising to assist the ALP to win government. Look at union delegates who have been sacked as a result of WorkChoices. The union delegate at Tristar was sacked after 32 years in the job for standing up for his fellow workers. No industrial action was called.

Many other workers have lost jobs in the retail, hospitality and tourism sectors. The only way to fight for rights at work in the hospitality industry is by unions applying secondary boycotts. Not one secondary boycott has been organised under the ALP parliamentary strategy.

The Electrical Trades Union in Brisbane organised pickets of the Fox hotel when management forced workers onto Australian Workplace Agreements. These boycotts were effective in getting a union collective agreement. But the ACTU has resisted the lead of the ETU-style campaign by calling for secondary boycotts.

All the ACTU has done is organise protests to help the ALP win government.

Remember an ALP win under Rudd promises little. Last time workers and their unions lost more under the Accord and Enterprise Bargaining introduced by the Hawke/Keating Labor Government than under the long years of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 introduced by the coalition government (1996- ).

Many workers are now giving up on unions because of the ALP failure to fight the coalition government on WorkChoices. If the ALP has fought as is claimed, where is a single victory for workers since WorkChoices was introduced. Not one strike has been called by ALP-led unions. Industrial Action is at its lowest since 1913. As a result union participation is down to 15% in the private sector.

Even if the ALP did want to change WorkChoices significantly, a parliamentary solution is high risk for workers rights at work because the ALP will not control the upper house regardless of who wins government in 2007.

Ian Curr
12 April 2007

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