We can no longer accept the fact that workers in Australia are denied the right to strike. What sort of system is it that accepts that neither of the political parties that can reasonably expect to form Government will guarantee one of the most internationally recognised, basic human and democratic rights for workers, and that is the right to strike?
This cannot be tolerated. Some of the most vocal critics of totalitarian systems in various parts of the world, places where unions and the right to strike have been crushed, are suddenly enthusiastic supporters of the "no strike” policies in Australia. The right to strike is ultimately the most fundamental right distinguishing whether a worker has dignity, rights, and a reasonable standard of life, or must live on their knees begging for fair treatment.
The employers have the right to invest or not invest, the right to introduce or not introduce new technology, the right to hire and fire, the right to create conditions of fear and insecurity at work, the right to establish and continue with unfair, unrealistic and bad health creating performance, measuring and enforcement systems, the right to refuse to negotiate with or recognize workers unions and so on.
Without the right to strike workers have few rights at all and must ultimately submit. What sort of a system is this?
The right to strike in Australia must be won. It will be won by public opinion, direct action, or both.
To this end the Victorian Branch Committee of Management of the CEPU (T&S) has decided to take the initiative in organising a "Right To Strike Coalition" to pursue that goal.
It has been agreed, by the Secretaries of each of the Victorian Branches of the CEPU, that a meeting of interested unions be organised for:
10 AM THURSDAY 10th MAY 2007
ETU OFFICE (Old Mill Building)
200 ARDEN ST, NORTH MELBOURNE.
The objective of the meeting is to establish a "right to strike coalition" from interested unions initially, and then move to enlist wider support from the general community following this.
We see this as a long term campaign which should begin immediately. The objective is to build such widespread public support for the principle, that it can no longer be ignored by the major political parties.
Looking forward to your attendance at this important meeting,
Please also find attached a brief discussion paper on related subject matters which had a limited distribution to unions in 2006,
Yours in solidarity
LEN COOPER Branch Secretary CEPU Communications Div M. 0439 389 302
DEAN MIGHELL Branch Secretary CEPU Electrical Div (ETU) M. 0418 354 362
JOAN DOYLE Branch Secretary CEPU Communications Div M. 0419 345 134
EARL SETCHES Branch Secretary CEPU Plumbing Division M. 0418 348 799
CURRENT CAMPAIGN IS GOOD
There is no doubt that at many levels in the "your rights at work campaign”, individual unions, the union movement and the union solidarity organisation are doing a great job.
The workplace exposures, the publicity, the community/union activities helping to defend workers, the mass "stop the city” rallies, the alternative industrial relations policies and the marginal seat organisation are all excellent and very necessary parts of the struggle against the Howard Government’s unfair, oppressive anti-worker legislation.
IS IT GOOD ENOUGH?
However will it achieve what we want? We surely want to restore workers’ rights at work - the right to unionise, the right to strike, the right to collectively bargain; however can we afford to just rely on the hope of re-electing the Labor Party to Government? Even if the Labor Party is elected will it restore those desperately needed rights?
Even if a Labor Government exceeds all our expectations it is not likely to restore workers’ rights in their entirety and it may well be that the Senate majority after the next election could still be in the hands of the Tories. Thus the worst aspects of the current IR legislation could still be in place until 2011 at the earliest.
WHAT THEN IS NEEDED
What then do we need to do to ensure that workers rights are restored in this country?
We need to prepare to use the combined industrial and organising strength of the work force to fight these vicious laws. I am not arguing for a general strike because I think that the difficulties facing the working class make such an all-out response extremely difficult at present and for the foreseeable future. I would not rule out a general strike sometime in the future if it becomes absolutely necessary and the conditions relevant.
USE OUR INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH
Rather we should aim to use the industrial strength of groups of workers with significant industrial impact in selected industries. This would have the advantage logistically of making it easier to organise, of making it easier to sustain financially and more likely quicker to organise. It also has the advantage of being able to financially support the strikers through the wider working class and community and retaining the capacity to widen the strike action if necessary.
In my view we should begin by establishing a coalition of supportive unions, and begin the preparatory work necessary (e.g. deciding on the groups of workers who should consider striking, establishing, publicising and building of a fighting fund, examining and working on the difficulties that stand in the way etc).
Even the process of organising and preparing for such a strike campaign will have a major impact on the political process and public debate. Preparing for such a response will take a considerable period of time. However serious planning for such a response should begin immediately.
LEN COOPER, Secretary CEPU (T&S) Vic, M. 0438 389 302