By Bruce Marlowe
The Community and Public Sector Union, which covers workers in the Australian Public Service, is to hold a round of mass meetings on July 23 to vote on a CPSU national executive motion for a 24-hour stoppage onr July 25.
The move comes in response to calls for action from numerous parts of the union. In late June, the Victorian state delegates committee of DEETYA pressured the Victorian CPSU leadership into a proposing a DEETYA-wide stoppage in that state. While carried at a Melbourne mass meeting of DEETYA workers, it lost across the state. However, a call on the national union to have a 24-hour stoppage was adopted.
Similar calls have been adopted in the ACT, at the level of the all-department delegates campaign committee, and at the last ACT branch conference of the union.
The decision to call national mass meetings of the membership is a step forward, most of all because it may allow CPSU members to sort out what the real basis of the "campaign" against the Howard government's cuts actually is.
While mass meetings in May voted to oppose the cuts and supported starting the campaign with a series of bans on key government functions, the actual course of the Caird leadership since then has been to allow the government's processes of voluntary redundancies.
The CPSU opposition, National Challenge, put the issue in a recent bulletin: "The national officials are not interested in fighting for members' jobs. Their rationale is that because so many members want voluntary redundancies it's not possible to defend jobs, and so the union's task is to demand a reasonable workload for those left behind."
While accepting that many members have expressed interest in redundancies, National Challenge argues that "with productivity imperatives, closure of offices threatened, and with the general climate of jobless-led economic growth, many members feel that they have little choice but to jump, to try their hand in the job market before further foreshadowed cuts start to bite, or worse, before compulsory retrenchment begins".
The July 23 mass meetings are a vital opportunity for the CPSU membership to call the leadership to order and demand that they get serious about setting and sticking to campaign goals, including defence of public services.
The union has a vital role to play, not just in defending its members from workload increases, but also in stopping Howard's plans to demolish the public sector, and with it the living conditions of millions of Australians.
It is also an opportunity to defend and extend a bans campaign which to date has been left leaderless and applied on an agency by agency basis to little effect.
As the National Challenge bulletin put it: "We need an alternative strategy, which shows the government that we are not prepared to wear the result of their ideological attacks on the public sector and on unions. We need concrete collective action, not empty words and publicity campaigns".