John Howard’s claim that his changes to the industrial relations system will mean a better deal for workers is just not being bought by the public. Despite the fact Howard has been attempting to keep workers in the dark about the detail of the changes most people can see quite clearly the reality of what they stand to lose. It is clear that job security, wages and conditions all stand to be dissolved.
These attacks are part of a broader international assault on workers on behalf of the bosses. As part of their neo-liberal agenda they not only want to drive down wages and conditions, in order to boost profits, but they also want to weaken workers rights. The price the bosses will be forced to pay however is that workers will inevitably be politicised and will begin to see the need to be organised in order to effectively fight back.
Howard is trying to reduce the debate to one of ‘choice’ rather than one of industrial relations! The idea that workers will have any ‘choice’ about signing an individual contract when applying for a new job is absolutely ludicrous. As the bosses are asking for tax breaks to become incorporated in order to take full advantage of the changes, workers have no confidence that the so called ‘good will’ of the boss will be enough to protect us. Howard has even toyed with the idea of reviving the industrial inspectorate system as a means of reassuring us that he is not going too far. This does very little to reassure anyone, it is unlikely any such body would be given any effective resources or powers beyond a ‘figurehead’ type status to be of any use at all.
The turn outs for the mass rallies on June 30th and July 1st was a positive indication that workers are not only aware of what’s at stake but are prepared to take to the streets to defend their wages and conditions. The ACTU’s new found fighting spirit, even if only in rhetoric, was undoubtedly the result from pressure felt from below.
The Socialist Party has welcomed the ACTU’s advertising campaign, events like the family picnic day called in NSW and the calling of the October 25th National Day of Protest. However, these on their own will not be enough and must be backed up with industrial action. We call on the ACTU to turn the October 25th action into a national 24-hour general strike as the first step in the industrial side of the campaign. This would send a warning shot to the bosses and remind them that having the laws in place is one thing but using them will prove much more difficult.
By Socialist Party reporters