Here On “Workers Radio”, Caroline and I discuss the latest reports of wage theft and hyper exploitation of aboriginal workers in remote Australia and meat workers in northern NSW. WE ALSO START A SERIES OF DISCUSSIONS ABOUT WAGES SUPPRESSION IN AUSTRALIA, INCLUDING NOT JUST WHATS HAPPENING BUT WHY. This discussion will continue over the coming weeks and will connect to the ACTU’s Living Wage Claim to be heard as part of the National Wage Review as it continues in 2018. Please discuss and share. Also send comments, questions and information to firstname.lastname@example.org .
White Australia was born as a penal colony. And throughout its history since there have been plenty of laws that fine, impose financial damages and lock up both the original inhabitants of the land and the working people of all nations who came here to make a living. Those laws swing into play whenever landowners and employers needed a government instrument to protect their profit making and wealth accumulation from the collective action of aboriginal communities and their supporters, and also combinations of workers whether members of unions or not. (For more on this read Jack Hutson’s From Penal Colony to Penal Powers.)
This story (click here) describes how Labor’s Fair Work Act of 2009 replicates that history so that it systematically prevents workers from exercising their collective power in the twenty first century.
Some of us who have been around for a long time know very well that there is NO END to the hypocrisy of employers when it comes to the exercise of their power. Employers like Bluescope Steel, in their own right and through their associations like the AIGroup, AMMA, and the Business Council of Australia, constantly whinge about the role of outside third parties in industrial relations.For them, “outside third party interference”means unions, especially those that coordinate effective worker action across industries, and a Fair Work Commission with genuine democratic powers to ensure that workers human rights to organize and take collective action are protected.
But, they made sure, when they negotiated the Fair Work Act to replace Howard’s Workchoices in 2008-9, they kept and re-energized that extra third party power that would punish workers for exercising the only power they have – collective industrial action. And, what is more, new ALP negotiators and certain (not all) union leaders let them have it.
What we see here, as we have seen in other disputes, is the PENAL PROVISIONS OF THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY.
The penal provisions of the 20th century were neutralized in big disputes through the 1960’s that culminated with the national strike when Tramway Union official Clarrie O’Shea was jailed for refusing to pay fines imposed by the courts because union members were taking industrial action in defiance of the so-called “bans clauses” of the day.
The industrial strategy that led to that great union and democratic victory was ten years in the making.
The Australian workers of the twenty first century need a strategy that defeats the penal powers of the twenty first century. It is all about a deeper meaning of democracy than the very limited form that too many of us are sort of comfortable with these days.
Electing a genuine reforming Labor government backed up by the Greens and genuine pro worker and democratic independents to get rid of these undemocratic industrial laws will make a difference.But this was never on the radar in recent Federal elections.
So, that will not happen unless it is part of a conscious strategy that creates a massive and independent movement of workers that makes it impossible for Labor and Green politicians to dodge their responsibilities.
Once upon a time it was “Pig Iron Bob”, and justly deserved it was. I am talking about Robert Menzies former Liberal Prime Minister and devoted anti-unionist, among other craven things. He who begat in a political sense Malcolm Fraser (who happily wanted to jail union leaders in 1978 and thereabouts for being strong and intelligent), John Howard, and now Tony Abbott.
But what will we call Abbott? “The Mad Monk” does not quite fit in this new situation, especially in the light of his Royal Commission into unionism, as it truly is, and his swing last week through Japan, South Korea, and China.
Today’s Sydney Morning Herald carries commentary by John Garnaut about all of this. Garnaut refers to the Menzies backdrop to the Abbott free trade expeditIon and like most others, including Labor’s own free trade champion Craig Emerson, finds in favour of the Abbott effort although with some fault lines.
It’s not a surprise but Garnaut neglects why Menzies’ was called “Pig Iron Bob.” Because, as Deputy Prime Minister and Attorney General (Brandis and Abetz know it well) he launched a war against waterside workers who followed their consciences in 1937 to refuse to load pig iron that Menzies said should go to Japan. The when wharfie sand their leaders KNEW that it would be coming back from fascist Japan as weapons of war. And they were dead right. Millions were slaughtered by Japan in Korea and China, and other parts of East Asia as well. And tens of thousands of Australians, mainly workers, did also, defending our peoples from something that a Liberal icon had complied with. (Note that in the discussions with Japan Abbott suggests that Japan can re-arm. )
Abbott’s ruling class Royal Commission aims to destroy such union activity and its underpinning – a profound collective intelligence about fairness, justice, social progress and peace.
So far, there is no sign of ANY FAIRNESS, for Working Australians or their counterparts in Japan, Korea, and China, in these so-called free trade deals. There are no ILO core labour standards let alone arrangements to ensure they are complied with. Labour standards will be left in the hands of those workers determined enough to struggle for them against their so-called masters, their employers.
Each of these free trade deals rest upon the extra exploitation of workers across all 4 countries, and seek the continual handover of democratic sovereignty to the enhanced power of transnational corporations.
Against this, we must struggle and in doing so discover anew the possibilities of a society not based upon the exploitation of humans and of nature.
Obviously, not the employer organisations:
http://www.workplaceinfo.com.au/payroll/wages-and-salaries/27-a-week-to-avert-working-poor-actu (If the link does not work check the text of this short article below)
Australia’s union movement leads the way.
How to weaken that movement’s effectiveness:
– bring back in a new form anti worker / union member repressive laws – Workchoices Mark 2
– escalate daily propaganda that the union movement a s a whole is corrupt
– give privileged communication rights to white flag union and so-called “labour” leaders – eg Paul Howes, Martin Ferguson
– prevent union achievements from flowing to non organised workers
– promote the myth that only employers have the knowledge and the right to make investment decisions
and so on.
And so we struggle against all of that, right?
If you are fair dinkum against poverty, get on board with this campaign. Anything else will be weasel words.
From Workplace Information, 28/3/14
The ACTU has called for a $27 a week increase to the minimum wage, calling it “essential if Australia is to avoid creating an underclass of working poor”.
ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said: “A $27 per week increase to the minimum wage will ensure the gap between low paid workers and the rest of the workforce does not widen even further.
“Australians do not want to live in a country of ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ and the only way for low paid workers to keep up is for the Fair Work Commission to approve this increase.
“That’s why the ACTU is demanding the national minimum wage increase to $649.20 a week for Australia’s lowest paid including cleaners, retail and hospitality staff, childcare workers, farm labourers and factory workers.”