CPSU members reject smear campaign


By Maree Roberts

CANBERRA — Community and Public Sector Union members in the ACT have responded quickly to a scurrilous attack on the political affiliations of some candidates in the union's elections. Ballot papers were being sent out when many members in the ACT received an e-mail accusing the candidates who are members of the Democratic Socialist Party of having a "hidden agenda".

The DSP members of Members First, a left, independent alliance opposing the ALP-dominated ticket led by Graham Rodda, have never hidden their party membership. It is clearly stated in their campaign literature, alongside statements from other candidates outlining their political affiliations.

By contrast, none of the Rodda team have referred to their ALP membership, nor their alliance with CPSU national secretary Wendy Caird's ALP-dominated "Progressive Caucus".

The e-mail has incensed many CPSU members, some of them ALP members, who have complained to Matthew Reynolds, the Rodda ticket campaign manager.

The purpose of the e-mail was to divert members' attention from the real issues requiring debate. These include the failure of the current leadership to mount serious campaigns to defend members' wages and conditions from attack by the Howard government.

Responses from members to Members First included "Congratulations on running, it's about time the CPSU moved to the left", "The real issue ... is what services can be delivered to members ... Members First will represent those needs" and "Normally I don't vote ... but this time I'm voting for Members First".

Another e-mail circulated by WA Centrelink delegate Jan Jermalinski quotes sections of the DSP program, including a statement that one obstacle to winning workers to a socialist perspective is "a thin layer of union officials who place their relatively privileged positions ahead of the interests ... of workers".

The irony of the "thin layer" attacking Members First has not been lost on many members. These are the same officials who have failed to campaign effectively against job losses, privatisation and the loss of maternity leave (in Employment National). Their record contrasts with a recent Members First campaign in the ACT government which won a 5% pay rise with no trade-offs.

Instead of "exposing the DSP's hidden agenda", the smear campaign has highlighted the undemocratic nature of the Progressive Caucus. Members First includes ALP and DSP members, as well as political independents. Its policies are decided democratically.

In contrast, the Progressive Caucus has consistently toed the ALP's line and seeks to foist ALP policies on the membership. This was never clearer than in the union leadership-supported enterprise bargaining process, which has been a disaster for members.

Last week, many information stalls and leaflet distribution began outside workplaces. Members have responded positively to the Members First message of no trade-offs in negotiations and a return to service-wide collective agreements.

The CPSU ballot ends on November 22.