Tag Archives: Worker Political Organisation

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Humphrey McQueen on May Day

Speech by Humphrey McQueen – May Day Dinner, Adelaide, 2011 Although we are more than half way through our May Day dinner, it is never too late to say grace: ‘For the food and drinks that we are enjoying, we … Continue reading

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“We are going back to Palestine” – marchers cross into Palestine from the Golan Heights

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Editor’s Note: Over night (15 May 2011) there have been dramatic reports of an uprising by Palestinians from within and from the borders of Palestine. One of the most dramatic was the Palestinian march from Syria breaking through the Golan … Continue reading

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The Left on Labour Day 2011

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Labour Day, Brisbane, 2011 Socialist groups missed an opportunity this Labour Day. There has been a shift inside the Labour movement and the Left has not recognised it fully nor have they responded to it. Observe the Labour Day march … Continue reading

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Brisbane Labour Day Celebrations 2011

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The Qld Council of Unions Labour Day Committee have organised a March and Celebration to be held on Monday 2 May, 2011. 10:00am March Commences from the Cnr of Wharf & Turbot Sts, please check with your union for details … Continue reading

‘Reorganising Cuba’

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Time
10 May · 18:30 20:30

Longshore Workers Strike against Iraq War

ILWU call for walkout in protest of US war in Iraq

17 March 2008

By MUA news –

US West Coast longshore workers plan protest against imperialist war in Iraq, Afghanistan on May 1

The International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) has announced the 40,000-plus members of its 60 locals in California, Washington and Oregon will walk off the job for eight hours on May 1 to protest the US-led war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The ILWU, he said, would also be calling for “wider international action” in support of the walkout with letters going to both the International Transport Workers Federation and the International Dockworkers Council in Barcelona, Spain.

“We’re writing to inform you of this action … to honour labor history and express support for the troops by bringing them home safely,” Bob McEllrath, ILWU wrote, adding that the ILWU action “will send a message to Washington.”

Employers and port authorities at 29 sea ports from San Diego to Seattle have been notified with the work stoppage scheduled for the day shift.

The ILWU International Executive Board recently endorsed Democrat Barack Obama, citing his opposition to the war in Iraq as one of the key factors in the union’s decision to call for the work stoppage.

“If we can do something so dramatic as to shut down the ports on the West Coast, I think people will realize how important” opposition to the war is, said Jack Heyman, an executive board member of San Francisco’s ILWU Local 10, and a prominent antiwar activist. In 2003, Heyman and about a dozen other war protesters were arrested outside Oakland shipping facilities.

Quoted by several Bay Area media outlets, Heyman said, “The ILWU has had a legacy of opposing US imperialist wars like the one in Iraq, while supporting struggles internationally like the anti-apartheid struggle and the Cuban revolution.”

A number of organizations including The Internationalist Group-League for the Fourth International, a New York-based Marxist activist group, have voiced their support for the ILWU action.

Announcement of the May 1 walkout comes just days before contract negotiations are scheduled to start between the dock worker’s union and the San Francisco-based Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

The MUA sent a delegation to the US last contract negotiations in 2002, after employers locked out the ILWU and shut down all activity at ports along the entire US West Coast for 10 days.

A film “In the Eye of the Storm” has been made about the dispute and will be playing during the upcoming National Conference.

For further information

Contact: Maritime Union of Australia

Phone: +61 2 9267 9134

Fax: +61 2 9261 3481

Email: muano@mua.org.au

WWW: http://mua.org.au/

Aside

Close of Queensland parliament on 28 February 2008. And we were only seven Email said: “Intervention action Parliament house 10am Thursday” Pollies come on balcony to look down at 1,000 firefighters And we were only seven who have produced a … Continue reading

My worst moment: remember September 11th … 1973

A short story

The morning of 11th September 1973 will remain forever fixed in the memory of Julio Jorquera Muñoz.

Julio was a Graphic1 maintenance fitter at Elecmetal one of the workplaces in the heavy industry sector under the supervision of the government and which was administered by a Workers’ Council. It was also the political centre of Cordón Vicuña Mackenna, an organization which brought together in one group all of the industries of that sector. This was in Santiago, the capital city of Chile.

When he arrived at work that morning the atmosphere was tense. The radios had announced that the Navy had taken the port of Valparaiso and were suppressing industrial centres and workplaces. Julio, a militant in the socialist party and a union leader, was on the director’s committee of Cordón Vicuña Mackenna.

He had good reasons for being worried as he had tried to contact his wife but communications by then were cut.

However, in accordance with emergency plans already in place for this situation, he assumed responsibility and gave instructions to his comrades to be prepared for any contingency.

At 9:00am, Radio Magallanes, the only station still free to broadcast, announced that President Allende had arrived at Government House to confront the military coup. At the same time Julio received a communiqué from the leadership of the socialist party ordering him to organize a patrol of 12 men to go to Government House and join in the defense of the government.

Julio knew all of his comrades well and was aware that they hadn’t had sufficient preparation in the use of their arms but he called a meeting of party militants and read the communiqué to them. Nobody asked questions because everyone knew what they had to do. Julio called for 12 volunteers and twenty hands went up.

Faced with this situation he felt that the fairest thing to do would be to leave it to chance. Cutting up twenty pieces of paper he wrote the word SÍ on twelve of them, NO on eight, folded them over exactly the same and placed them in a hat.

He then explained to his comrades that whoever took out a piece of paper with SÍ written on it would go on the patrol and those who drew a piece saying NO would have to stay behind. He then asked each one to read out loud the word written on their piece of paper.image

This was how he selected the 12 members of the patrol which he was to lead.

The most difficult thing now, considering that all of the streets were being patrolled by the military, was to get to Government House and join the resistance forces. Julio and his comrades discussed different alternatives to avoid the military patrols but none of the ideas seemed safe.

Finally, an electrician, Jose Sanchez, suggested that as Government House was on fire they might use a fire engine to transport the men.

As the fire station was located nearby, his idea was accepted unanimously. But commandeering a fire engine wasn’t going to be easy so Manuel Carrasco, the political leader in their workplace, proposed that the 12 men should present themselves at the fire station with Julio in the lead, identify themselves as members of the secret police and demand that a fire engine be handed over.

It seemed a good idea because at that time Santiago was in chaos and various special forces, some civilian and some in uniform, were at large.

They made their way to the fire station in two black cars with their number plates hidden. Clutching sub-machine guns and pistols they ordered the station chief to hand over the fire engine and uniforms for a special operation. The chief and the firemen on duty at the time didn’t hesitate for a minute in complying and they didn’t ask questions.

Julio Jorquera and his 12 comrades dressed themselves in the firemens’ uniforms, boarded the fire truck and set out for Government House. Traveling at great speed and with the siren blaring nobody stopped them until they reached the perimeter of Government House.

They approached Santa Rosa St. almost reaching Bernado O’Higgins Avenue when they were intercepted by a 20 man patrol armed with sub-machine guns and under the command of a young officer. The militants led by Julio had their weapons ready to confront the military patrol if necessary but the officer only asked them to identify themselves and to explain where they were going. They had false identity papers and had no problem showing them to the officer and explaining that they had been called to a fire at Government House.

The officer, not very convinced with this explanation, tried to contact the fire station but happily for Julio and his comrades communications were cut. So the young officer decided to let them through and even gave them safe passage so that they weren’t stopped by any other patrol.

Years later Julio Jorquera remembers this dramatic experience and tells his children:

‘That was the worst moment of my life. If we had been discovered we would have been shot in the act, those were Pinochet’s orders. And it would have been a useless death because when we reached the place where we thought we were going to find the rest of the resistance there were only soldiers, the whole sector was surrounded by the military.

‘Judging that sooner or later we would be discovered we made our way to the embassy of Argentina which was located on Vicuña Mackenna Avenue and there we asked for political asylum. Since our lives were in danger, the ambassador, a very humane person, took us in and gave us protection. There were people already there, just like us, who had sought asylum.

At the end of December of that year the dictatorship granted permission for our exit from Chile and so we finally arrived in Buenos Aires where we were able to breathe once again the wonderful air of freedom. Thanks to the solidarity of the Argentinean people our lives were saved and this story can be written down and known by everyone.’

Marcial Parada
January 2008

[BushTelegraph Note: Please note that this is a short story. All the characters and events are fictitious.]

Marcial Parada is also the author of Vuelo Lan Chile – the true story of thirty-one families who left their country to escape from injustice and human rights violations suffered under the military dictatorship that ruled Chile.]

Brisbane Labour History Association (BLHA) news

The BLHA newsletter is available by clicking here: blha-newsletter-jan-08.pdf

Welcome to 2008 – may it be a good one.

BLHA have hit the ground running with 3 great events planned for the next 3 months:

  • Saturday 9 FebruaryWorth Fighting For! A truly exciting concert with Leah Cotterell, Margret RoadKnight, Helen Rowe and the Combined Unions Choir. This is the next in our Rekindling the Flames of Discontent events.
  • Saturday 8 March – Brisbane launch of The Coalminers of Queensland, Volume 2: A narrative history of the Queensland Colliery Employees Union: The Pete Thomas Essays (hosted by BLHA & CFMEU Mining & Energy Division, Queensland District Branch)


  • Saturday 5 April – Launch of DVD Building Unity – celebrating 150 years of CFMEU.

(hosted by BLHA & CFMEU Queensland Constructions Workers Divisional Branch)
Read about these events and much more in the attached Newsletter for January.

Cheers
Dale Jacobsen
Secretary Brisbane Labour History Association
Dale Lorna Jacobsen
PO Box 456
Maleny Qld 4552
Ph: 07 5494 4046
Mob: 0413 843 652

Arise ye workers from ye slumbers!

A New Direction for Unions.

It is interesting (but not surprising) that there have been no calls from unions for a national Your Rights at Work rally during the 2007 Federal Election Camapign. The ALP clearly believe they don’t need union mobilisation to win seats, they prefer to scare people with the prospect of higher interest rates and a reduced work conditions if the federal government is re-elected.

A “Time to GO” rally has been suggested, however it is unlikely to get much support from unions. Take, for example, the recent Australia at the Crossroads rally in Brisbane where only 100 people turned up.

Workers are just waiting for Labor to win.

Meanwhile unions are running scared in the face of well funded campaigns by groups like the National Farmers Federation.

Unions have done little more than support parliamentary reform, there has been no campaign of defiance of the laws, not even a piecemeal one. See “After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet” for analysis of possible union strategies, now and in the future.

Why should workers support rallies that support a Rudd and Gillard victory?

As for the Greens their problems are many:

Where goes a vote for Greens?

Fact: The Greens have better policies than Labor on industrial relations, indigenous affairs, the environment, war and refugees.

Under Greens policies, workers still would have the right to strike, Gunns Pulp Mill would be banned, the Northern Territory (NT) intervention in Aboriginal communities would not have been allowed and African refugees would be welcome.

Neither government nor Labor support these policies.

However, Greens policies will never get passed by any Australian parliament.

The Greens have stated that they intend giving the ALP their preferences in some seats.

The question is: “Has Labor any policies to justify Greens giving them preferences in the 2007 election?”

Since Rudd has been leader of the ALP, Labor has endorsed government policy on banning workers’ right to strike, and supported the Howard government approval of Gunns’ pulp mill in Tasmania.

Last year Rudd refused to criticise the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and has been silent on refugee rights.

Given the extreme wealth of his wife, Rudd is likely to become the richest PM in Australian history i.e. richer even than Malcolm Fraser.

On a matter of principle, why, therefore, do the Greens propose to give Labor their preferences?

The Greens intend giving Labor preferences in marginal seats like Bass, Lyons, Melbourne, Bennelong, Wentworth and Moreton.

Why not give preferences to independents and socialists that reject Labor mimicry of government policies?

Are the Greens to repeat the same mistake they made in the 2004 Federal election? In 2004 the Green’s gave their preferences to the ALP even though Labor supported Family First above the Greens.

Subsequently Family First won the Victorian Senate seat. This right-wing, fundamentalist Christian party had received one tenth of the Green vote. The Green’s Di Natale got over 250,000 votes and Family First’s Fielding go about 20,000 votes. Yet Labor put them above the Greens.

So Family First won solely on Labor preferences. Family First then voted with the government against students right to form unions, against workers’ right to strike, and against working women.

If the Greens repeat the same mistake by giving Labor their preferences in 2007, they will make it easier for the ALP’s pro-business version of WorkChoices and Gunns’ Pulp Mill in Tassie to be approved in the next federal parliament.

Labor’s bi-partisan support of the abolition of Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory has rescinded the modest reform Whitlam introduced in 1975 when he poured NT dirt into Vincent Lingiari’s hands. Whitlam’s silence on this shows how determined the ALP is to get a right-wing Christian in the Lodge.

Ian Curr
10 October 2007

Your Rights at Work

The slogan “Your Rights at Work” is now part of Australia’s popular culture.

For example, trainers who run onto the field during 2007 National Rugby League finals wear “Your Rights at Work” T-shirts, their slogan viewed by millions.

BushTelegraph published the ALP’s industrial relations policy when it was released in May 2007.

In the lead up to the 2007 Federal election, unions are urging members to enrol to vote so they can vote against the federal government’s WorkChoices legislation.

At the same time Labor Party IR policy has changed – in the interest of employers – so much so that the Labor Party will not support ‘the right to strike’ or the ‘the right of entry’ into workplaces by unions.

Australian Council of Trade Union President, Sharan Burrows, has gone along with the ALP policy change and endorsed stickers indicating a stand that workers rights are no longer worth fighting for in the workplace but only worth voting for.

History of the “Your Rights at Work” Slogan:

Nov 2005: Your Rights At Work – Worth fighting forYour Rights At Work – Worth fighting and voting for

Nov 2006: Your Rights At Work – Worth fighting and voting for

Sept 2007: Your Rights At Work – Worth voting for

Your Rights At Work – Worth voting for

The Accord

Many workers will remember the Labor government’s Accord in the 1980s. We know that it took away workers rights with little compensation.

September 2007 opinion polls indicate that workers are now waiting for the Labor Party to win the 2007 Federal election when it is held.

Workers want Howard gone – fair enough.

But after the election workers are doomed to start over again to defend our rights at work!

The reasons for this can be found in the book:  After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet by the LeftPress Collective.

If you are interested in finding out more about the book, write to LeftPress at PO Box 5093, West End 4101 or email leftpress@optusnet.com.au

Ian Curr
September 2007

“labor opportunists
‘ave taken “U”
out of labour”
Comrade Jim Sharp

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Pig City: ‘they shut it down, they pulled it down’?

This gallery contains 3 photos.

How does the song go? Watch the butcher shine his knives And this town is full of battered wives ……………………………………. They shut it down They pulled it down They shut it down They pulled it down Round and round, up … Continue reading

WorkChoices Rally

For a description of the 28 June 2006 Union rally against the WorkChoices legislation you can download the document below:

if-you-dont-fight-you-lose.doc

Rally against IR Laws – 28 June 2006

Ignorance of a worse world to come?
Unions at SouthBank Cultural Forecourt

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s chief executive, Peter Hendy, declared the national protest a failure, as he claimed the union movement only managed to mobilise 2% of Australian workers. Under the front organisation, Employers First, East Timor-style counter demonstrations were planned against the unions – you know to hold up pro-Australian Workplace Agreement signs, to throw abuse at the unionists – nothing major like burning down union buildings, not yet anyway. Luckily the federal Industrial relations minister, Kevin Andrews, called the counter demos off at the last moment when he realised he could not even get his kids (who are share traders) to make up the numbers at the bosses demos.

In Brisbane, the best the employers could do was to have one fellow standing at the bottom of the hill going up to Roma St parklands with the sign, “It’s my right to choose an AWA.” When I saw him I wondered if he perhaps was the sole representative of the Employer First counter demonstration. The consensus amongst the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU) crowd was that he was either a self-employed businessman, or a (slightly deranged) Liberal Party supporter. The meatworkers’ comment in passing was: “Wait until the construction workers see him.”

In fact, a retired member of the Australian Services Union (Clerks) commented that she saw a big ruckus with a whole group of CFMEU members abusing a man with a sign, and a group of police apparently running to his rescue. She had not been able to see what it was all about, but it turned out to be the deranged AWA supporter. The Qld coppers hung around to defend this guy’s civil liberties right to the end of the march, even as the “Workers of all Countries Unite” banner went by.

One thing that I noticed about the rally was that there were a lot of women (see photo below). I think this is because women are direct casualties of the WorkChoices legislation arising from their precarious job security. Womens’ work is highly casualised and temporary. I do not think wages is the issue. I think it is job security. Managers and employers are using the new legislation to ramp up the bullying of workers in the psychological warfare produced by the government.

What are unions doing to focus on this?

There needs to be some defining moment when the issue of AWAs (currently conducted by the union leadership largely in an abstract and intellectual debate) becomes an organised struggle of opposition by workers.

The Spotlight case is a clear example of how not to conduct an industrial campaign with union officials and the ALP getting into media debates about the accuracy of the amount of money that workers are losing. Did you see that the SDA official, Joe de Bruyn, sided with Andrews on this issue? The SDA do not need members, they have enough accumulated wealth to function without union dues.

Both the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Construciton Forestry Mining and Engineering Union (CMFEU) were the best organised contingents in the march. The SDA contingent was quite large and as you would expect had a lot of women in it. The ETU had a small rally in the carpark at the Boundary hotel in West End after the march. Did you hear the ETU blokes saying that they have declared the old ALP pub, the Terminus hotel, “black” because all the staff there have just been put on AWAs by management. And there is Beazley taking 10 years to come out against AWAs!

The ETU got Tommy Radonikis to speak at the Boundary. Chartered buses were waiting to take the workers to and from the pub. The ETU way of organising in a group is the way to go.

There was one aspect of the Brisbane march on the day that I am curious about.

The QCU had marshals placed at the Southbank Cultural Forecourt on the Victoria Street end just prior to the march at about 12:30pm.

It was the marshalls’ job to organise each union contingent to join the march in a orderly fashion. WorkLife were at the head of the march. They were followed by the Rail Tram & Bus Unions, AWU, AMIEU, Queensland Services Union the ETU, Builders labourers Federation (BLF), ASU and so on.

However as the marshals were waving on the National Union of Workers (NUW) to join the march, the Socialist Alliance contingent joined in the march in front of the CFMEU.

Personally I marched with a small group at the end of the march behind “Workers of all Countries Unite” banner.

This included a few wharfies who did not have an MUA contingent to march with. The lack of an organised MUA contingent in the march did not seem to tally with Combet’s claim at the rally afterwards that the MUA dispute in 1998 was a victory for the union.

No matter what union officials say, many union members like those wharfies feel comfortable with slogans like Workers of All Countries Unite.

They too had no truck with the coppers or the pro-AWA protestor. Banter like “even the SDA could not support that guy”. These workers were so comfortable marching behind this banner they ended up carrying it at the end of the march.

Why is there not some attempt by workers political organisations involved in the struggle to organise a red contingent at the end of the march in November 2006?

Ian Curr
5 July 2006