As part of a series of nationwide delegates meetings, the Queensland branch of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union held a delegates' forum on February 26 at the Queensland Council of Unions building.
Attended by 120 delegates, the forum was addressed by Queensland AMWU secretary Andrew Dettmar and AMWU national secretary Dave Oliver.
Oliver said it was important for the union, which represents 130,000 workers, to "remain the leading advocate for a strong and growing Australian manufacturing sector". The union's new members organising unit has been given a boost of funding from 3% of the organising budget to 20%, significantly increasing the resources to recruiting workers to the union.
Dettmar argued that the union was "in a new era for industrial relations". Under the Howard government, "we were cut off from negotiating at a government level. Now we have a seat at the table". Dettmar stressed that while the Rudd Labor government has not committed to removing all of the prohibitions imposed on union activities under Howard's Work Choices laws, he believed that Labor PM "Kevin Rudd would deliver on his promises".
However, both Dettmar and Oliver were critical of state Labor governments' treatment of public sector employees and the NSW Labor government's push to privatise electricity. They both encouraged delegates to continue the Your Rights at Work (YRAW) campaign.
Oliver said: "The AMWU would not enter into a relationship with government like the accord years. The AMWU will take more of an independent stand from the ALP."
The AMWU had been a key architect of the 1983 ALP-ACTU Prices and Incomes Accord. The accord was used by the Hawke Labor government to get unionists to accept real wage cuts in the 1980s through a system of partial indexation of wages to price rises.
The delegates' forum unanimously approved a resolution put to it by the officials declaring that the "YRAW campaign has not been won simply because the government that introduced Work Choices has been removed. We demand that the ALP government introduce laws which enshrine international labour conventions, especially with respect to the rights to organise, representation and collective bargaining.
"We also demand that the ALP government restore rights to unfair dismissal, protection of delegates, and implement all commitments to restore our rights made during the course of the election campaign."
A motion from the floor calling for the abolition of all the Howard government's ant-union laws was referred to the AMWU national council. Among other things, the motion called for the abolition of Australian Workplace Agreements (individual contracts)to be backdated to the time of the ALP federal election victory (November 24). It also called for:
• No AWA clones! Abandon legislation for Interim Transitional Employment Agreements.
• Allow workers covered by existing AWAs to opt out and to move onto union negotiated enterprise bargaining agreements (EBA) awards."
• End 'prohibited content' in EBAs.
• Reinstate strong awards for all workers (no award stripping). Awards must include:
• The protection of all penalty rates, loading rates and allowances.
• Full wage indexation.
• Protection of shift arrangements and rosters
• Reinstate unfair dismissal laws for all workers immediately. No delay until 2010.
• No watered-down system of 'conciliation'.
• Restore all lost rights.
• Guarantee that all legislation abide by ILO conventions on workers' rights to freedom of association, including:
• Union officials' right of entry to workplaces.
• Workers right to elect workplace delegates.
• Workers' right to strike, without the threat of fines
• Repeal the ban on industry-wide (pattern) bargaining.
• Abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).
• Abolish the anti-union powers of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).