Abolish Work Choices to defend union and community rights


The Socialist Alliance is campaigning for the total abolition of the anti-union, anti-worker "Work Choices" laws. We say abolish Work Choices immediately.

Work Choices is a ferocious attack, not just on the rights of workers to organise, but on the rights of the broader community. It's an attempt to destroy gains won through 100 years of working-class struggle.

It's an assault on the principle that made those victories possible: united we stand, divided we fall. It's an assault on the basic principle of class solidarity.

The corporate elites that seek to gain billions of dollars more in profits from Work Choices and other anti-union laws know that if they can cripple the trade union movement they will weaken all resistance to their profits-first agenda.

This is why it is in the broad interest of the community that Work Choices should be totally abolished now.

But we musn't accept Labor's Forward with Fairness policy as the only possible alternative, as the best we can get.

Accepting Labor's "Work Choices Lite" will make it harder to stand up to the corporations on workplaces rights, as well as on all other critical social and political issues — including the very survival of humanity.

The Socialist Alliance identifies these issues as: the need for emergency action on climate change (with serious and mandatory emission reduction targets); withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan; serious affirmative action to address the shocking conditions of Indigenous communities; boosted investment in social services (including public transport, education, housing and health and dental care); and scrapping the "anti-terror" laws, which, as the Dr Haneef case showed, are an attack on the democratic rights of all of us.

Of course, to advance on these issues it is critical to get rid of Howard's reactionary government — the Alliance is for its replacement by Labor.

But Labor must not be given a blank cheque. That is why we ask you to vote 1 Socialist Alliance, then preference the Greens and put Labor before the Coalition parties. This way, in helping kick out the Howard government, you triple the value of your vote.

However, we know that we can't rely on politicians to fight for our rights — that will continue in the streets and on the picket lines even after Howard is voted out.

Is the total and immediate abolition of Work Choices unrealistic? Is the working class in this country too weak to destroy it (and the other anti-union laws)?

A large majority reject Work Choices as poll after poll has shown. At least 69% think that AWAs give too much power to the bosses; and 71% agree that the power given to workers by collective bargaining is a good thing.

More than 1 million workers have taken to the streets, over and over again, against anti-worker laws. This included, on November 15, 2005, the biggest ever trade union mobilisation in Australian history, proof that working people are prepared to fight these draconian laws.

In 2005, Socialist Alliance activists fought hard along with other union militants for a campaign of mass trade union mobilisations against Work Choices. It is a matter of record that, at the beginning, this was opposed by the ACTU and ALP leaderships. They feared it would cost the ALP votes and favoured a "clever" campaign of TV advertisements.

But the pressure for mobilisations could not be resisted, and while these did not prevent the introduction of Work Choices, they have laid the basis for the continuing fight for workplace rights.

The Socialist Alliance, whose central reason for existence is to organise the real resistance to the attacks from the corporate rich and from Liberal or Labor governments, will be doing everything it can to build on that work and help abolish Work Choices once and for all.

[Anti-war activist Pip Hinman is the Socialist Alliance candidate for the Sydney seat of Grayndler. Excerpted from speech given at the November 1 Inner West Your Rights at Work public meeting. See <http://socialistalliance.freeforums.org> for the full text.]