May Day 2008

AS Australia totters on the brink of recession AND with the continuing decline in union struggle workers will assemble in union ranks on May Day 2008 facing a tough future.

Union Membership 1911-2007


It has been 10 years since the MUA dispute of 1998. On the eve of the dispute, at Wynnum in Brisbane, John Coombs, the then secretary of the MUA, said to MUA members:

“This is the big one.” The MUA secretary then warned of the weaknesses that could destroy the union. He talked of scabs and informers. Coombs announced that they would not win the dispute in the courts, and he added that ‘win or lose’ he would be back to cop the flak. Then and there, all of the officials and members pledged support. For the first time, the union leadership was fully briefed. Despite Coombs’s espoused mistrust of the courts, it was in the courts the union took its first steps to defend themselves. No industrial action was called.” — Excerpts from After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet.

On May Day 1998 in Brisbane, the MUA declared victory in the courts and in the dispute. The long decline in unionism was to be halted.

Yet the decline in union participation and struggle has declined even further. Recent Australian Bureau of Statistics ABS figures reveal that the decline in union numbers has continued even at the height of the Your Rights at Work Campaign which brought Labor to power federally.

Now that the Howard government is defeated, the Labor government has told the unions that they are on their own. Does Labor even want union support any more?

The industrial landscape offers little change; the employers are still on top. Added to this, inflation is out of control, high interest rates and the financial crisis that has already begun to hit housing affordability and superannuation for retirement.

How can workers and their unions deal with these setbacks? After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet advocates the formation (actually a reformation) of Workers Political Organisations [WPOs] to change Jachie Howeunions from bureaucratic organisations to fighting rank & file industrial unions.

Who is the most famous member of the WPO?

It was Jackie Howe who in the 1890s set records for shearing sheep and was a member of the Shearer’s Union whose struggle led to the formation of the Australian Labor Party. In 1909, Jackie Howe was President of the Worker’s Political Organisation in Blackall.

AFTER THE WATERFRONT– the workers are quiet

This book is 10 years in the making. It was written collectively by LeftPress members with input from other unionists.

image Begun during the 1998 MUA dispute, After the Waterfront — the workers are quiet analyses the last 20 years of unionism in Australia.

The book aims to discuss ways to arrest the decline in workers struggle.

After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet will be for sale at the stall this May Day 2008 in the Exhibition grounds under the LeftPress and “Workers of All Countries Unite” Banners.

You can buy this 144-page book by sending $13 (includes $3 postage) and your return address to:

PO Box 5093,
West End, Q.4101.

You can read the book online at After the Waterfront website and make comment and participate in discussion arising from it.

You may download a PDF of the book by clicking on the cover above.

2 thoughts on “May Day 2008

  1. Come along and celebrate Labour Day with your family and friends. Listed below are the venues where you can get involved over the weekend.

    This year, Labour Day will be celebrated on Monday 5 May 2008. The march will commence at 10:00am with the route as follows:

    – assemble at Wharf and Turbot Sts
    – merge into Wickham St
    – turn left into Brunswick St
    – turn right into St Paul’s Tce
    – turn left into Brookes St
    – turn left into O’Connell Tce
    – turn left into RNA Showground Oval 2

    CPSU members will be assembling in Area D (Yellow) which starts outside of Allans Music Academy, 153 Leichhardt St, and finishes at the Sportsmans Hotel, 130 Leichhardt St
    We will be with other public sector unions: Queensland Teachers Union, Queensland Independent Education Union, National Tertiary Education Union & Student Unions, Queensland Public Services Union & Community and Public Sector Union, United Firefighters Union, Queensland Fire Services, and Queensland Nurses Union

    A march will be held on Saturday 3 May with assembly at the top end of Quay Street at Riverside Parklands at 10:30am for the march to start at 11:00am. The march will proceed to the Bundaberg Bowls Club for a Labour Day barbeque for delegates, officials and families and rides for the kids. Please contact Greg Purches on 4123 0800 or 0418 194 387 for further information.

    A march will be held on Sunday 4 May from 9:30am with assembly at Neal Shannon Park followed by a family picnic day at Neal Shannon Park with drinks, BBQ, kids’ activities and live entertainment. Please contact Liz Pommer on 0431 116 090 for further details.

    A march will be held on Saturday 3 May commencing at 10:00am with assembly from 9:00am on Ellenborough Street between Roseberry Parade and Darling Street. The march will proceed to Timothy Molony Park, Elizabeth St, Ipswich followed by a family fun day with BBQ, drinks, kid’s activities and rides. Please contact Brian Hall on 3202 2497 or 0427 065 651 for further information.

    A celebration will be held on Sunday 4 May commencing at 11:00am at Cotton Tree Park, Maroochydore. There will be speeches, a sausage sizzle and kids activities. Please contact Kay Densley on 0408 442 084 for further information.

    A march will be held on Saturday 3 May commencing at 10:00am with assembly behind the Toowoomba City Council Building, cnr Herries & Victoria Streets. A Family Fun Day and bowls competition will be held after the march at the Toowoomba City Bowls Club. Please contact Andrea Lamont-Mills 4631 1703 or 0409 639 148 for further information.
    Join, participate and win

    If you are not yet a member and you support having a say at work, then it’s time to join the CPSU. If you are a member, thank you for your support. You are also urged to talk to your workmates about joining and getting involved. To find out more about joining: email either or , speak to your local CPSU representative, or call us on 1300 137 636.

    We will find much in the bulletin from the CPSU to see why unions like this are still in decline.

    CPSU – LABOUR DAY – 2008

    Labour Day this year is a great opportunity for working Queenslanders to come together and celebrate a year of achievement.

    Your Rights @ Work had a major impact on the outcome of last year’s defeat of the anti-union Howard Government. Now we need to build on that success with an increase in union members in our work places to ensure that we reinforce that win with the newly elected Government.

    Join in with other members of your union, proudly marching with the greater union family, as well as have fun at the family BBQ’s and activities planned for the afternoon.

    Brisbane celebrations will be held at the RNA show grounds on Monday 5 May with a march starting in Spring Hill at 10am. (CPSU members should assemble on Leichhardt Street from 9:30am). Look for the CPSU banners and flags.

    We will be handing T-shirts to members that proudly state “WE MADE THE DIFFERENCE” at the march.

    Bill Marklew| Qld Regional Secretary| CPSU | Phone 07 3002 7500

  2. An extraordinary May Day.

    Numbers were about 2/3 of last year. The cleaners ‘Misos’ [Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union LHMWU] had good numbers because of their dispute with the State Government over [more] privatisation.

    Marchers were instructed to take down banners before marching inside the show grounds.

    Another first, workers were able to see the state leadership of the ALP speaking from the top of a brick shit-house [literally].

    Prime Minister Rudd could not make it, he was called away to a funeral of a soldier who had been killed in the war in Afghanistan.

    Police gave a tickets to workers carrying alcohol out of the Ekka grounds.

    The ‘Left’ was at an all time low at the end of the march. That is, until we got nearer the exhibition grounds. Our numbers gradually swelled from 50 [at the beginning] to about 500 [at the end] as workers dropped back to march with us behind our banners.

    Workers of all countries Unite!

Please comment down below