France shows the way: Australian workers can stop Howard’s anti-worker laws

Statement by the Socialist Alliance:

The French government’s decision on April 10 to scrap its First Employment Contract law is a great victory for working people, and shows the way for us in Australia.

The Chirac government was forced to scrap the law it passed last month that would have allowed employers to sack young workers for no reason during the first two years of their employment by weeks of continuous protest action across France. Demanding the total withdrawal of the legislation and rejecting the government’s so-called compromises, millions of people went on strike, marched in the streets, occupied universities and secondary schools, and brought many sectors to a standstill.

Just last week, the trade unions and student unions had warned the government that if the law was not rescinded by April 17 they would call more nationwide protests and strikes. The government had no choice but to back down. Now, student and worker organisations are promising to relaunch the protest actions if the government attempts to pursue the attack by another means.

In France, the new law would have affected young workers. In Australia, the Coalition government’s new “Work Choices” laws affect every single worker, and poll after poll shows that an overwhelming majority oppose the laws. With the numbers on our side, and following the French people’s example, we can show Howard and Co. what democracy means – and we can stop the government’s attacks.

France shows that mass mobilisations uniting all those who oppose bad laws in public rallies and marches, strikes and occupations can put the government under such pressure that they have no choice but to withdraw the laws. In Australia, we must build on the two massive mobilisations last year against the government’s anti-worker laws – when 300,000 people rallied on June 30-July 1 and almost double that protested on November 15 – using mass mobilisations, localised actions and industrial action to force the government to retreat. If we simply wait until the 2007 federal election in the hope that Howard will be defeated at the polls it will be too late – our jobs, working conditions and trade unions may have been decimated.

The Socialist Alliance is joining with other trade unionists, students, pensioners, unemployed workers and all those who want an end to the government’s assault on our working and living conditions to:

  • Call on all Trades and Labor Councils that have not yet done so to organize cross-union delegates’ meetings to step up of the campaign, and to give workers control over it.
  • Help build the biggest yet mobilisations on the June 28 national day of protest.
  • Support the militant unions’ call for a national work stoppage on June 28.
  • Build large, militant May Day marches and rallies around the country next month, as the next nationwide mass protests against “Work Choices”.
  • Take immediate action in solidarity with every worker or union that comes under attack from the new laws.
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