It is almost one year since Howard’s Work Choices legislation was introduced. These laws have had a detrimental effect, not just to the working conditions of millions of Australians, but also to the union movement’s ability to organise and strike.
The absence of a fighting alternative has been stark. The ALP (Australian Labour Party) has done nothing to organise on this issue, despite much talk of ‘ripping up the IR laws’. Along with the ACTU they have argued against any militant organised action taking place.
Initially under Kim Beazley, we saw Greg Combet and many other union leaders happy to sit by while many mass actions, such as ‘Fill the G’ became an election rally for the ALP. They assured us that all that was needed was to vote for the ALP at the next election and donate to the ACTU’s advertising campaign.
Now under the leadership of Kevin Rudd, the ALP’s position is even less clear. Julia Gillard, the ALP’s new industrial spokesperson, came out recently to inform us that the ALP would possibly not be ‘ripping up’ all the laws. She is keen to meet with the Council of Small Business to ‘re-negotiate’ the unfair dismissal laws.
The Council have already made it clear that they support businesses with less then 100 employees being exempt from unfair dismissal laws. It is clear that if elected the ALP will attempt do a dirty deal with small business bosses which will leave thousands of workers vulnerable to being sacked without reason.
It is also unclear what Rudd stands for in relation to individual contracts or Australian Workplace Agreements. He has been interviewed at different times saying that the current agreements would continue if the employee wanted them too. Workers that have very little bargaining power or are in unorganised sectors will undoubtedly be coerced by bosses into saying that ‘the current agreement is OK’.
The reality is that even at this late stage the ALP are yet to come out with a clear alternative to Work Choices. And this is the party that the unions are telling us to pin our hopes on! When Labor finally does come out with an ‘alternative’ you can rest assured it will be nothing but a different version of the same thing!
By SP reporters