About four hundred trade unionists and supporters marked the one-year anniversary of the Esso/UGL dispute with a lunch and rally at the protest site in Longford (Victoria) on Thursday.
No doubt the presence of hundreds of supporters would have offered a morale boost to the workers who have faced a year of pain and hardship after resisting company attempts to force through pay cuts of up to 40%.
A group of construction workers employed by Wood PSN were called out to join the lunch briefly. The Australian Workers Union have said that these workers will probably face similar attacks when their workplace agreement expires in 8 months.
Unfortunately, the event was something of a missed opportunity. At the moment scabs are being used to carry on work at the site and the boost in numbers at the protest site could have been used to mount a picket and shut down the site for the day.
It is clear that the industrial rules have failed these workers and they need to be changed. However, waiting for a new Labor government to tinker at the edges is not a viable solution.
We need to find ways of hitting Esso’s profits. This would be a million times more potent than relying on a party whose very laws (Fair Work Act) are the source of the problems.
So far, Labor have made no meaningful commitments to substantially change the rules, let alone get these workers their jobs back.
The workers themselves deserve all the support and encouragement they can get for their heroic stand. But this dispute should not be used as a proxy for Bill Shorten’s upcoming election campaign.
The only way to push back against Esso is to develop an effective industrial strategy. And this will require bad laws to be broken.
By mobilising the wider trade union movement, bad laws can be turned into a dead letter. That is the best way to build up pressure for the rules to be changed and to put the trade union movement back on the front foot.
By Socialist Party reporters