A cross-union meeting of delegates at Sydney’s Trades Hall has called for a state-wide strike against the Turnbull government’s latest round of attacks on workers’ rights. The push has mainly come from the main construction union (CFMEU), as well as some rank-and-file activists from other unions. The strike is set to take place on November 16.
Arguably the most serious attack is the government’s Construction Code which seeks to undermine union influence in the construction sector. If allowed to proceed it will set the stage for pay cuts and a loss of hard-won conditions. Safety standards will also plummet as the unions will inevitably hold less sway on construction sites.
While the construction sector is in the firing line, other industries are also facing major problems. Casualisation and insecure work is becoming the norm for many workers. In many industries workers have lost the ability to access full time work entirely. Wage rises are stagnant and union membership figures are in decline.
A state-wide strike in NSW is a very welcome development but we should guard against Labor Party-aligned union leaders using the action to divert workers anger into a campaign aimed at getting the Labor Party elected. This is a dead-end strategy.
Labor has not promised any significant reforms to the industrial relations system. Many of the anti-strike laws now in place were put in place by Labor and while they have pledged to reinstate Sunday penalty rates for hospitality workers, this cut was something that Bill Shorten himself helped facilitate while previously in office.
The trade union movement in Britain backed Jeremy Corbyn because he pledged to implement real reforms like scrapping anti-union laws and increasing the minimum wage. Shorten has promised nothing of the sort. The unions should demand that Shorten replicate Corbyn’s program as a minimum condition for support.
The best way to pressure both the government, and the Labor opposition, is to ensure that their big business backers are hit in the profits. With that in mind this stop-work should be replicated in all states and territories. Further, escalated actions should be planned if the government refuses to back down.
By Corey Snoek