By Daniel Kelly
Results of the recent Community and Public Sector Union elections within the Department of Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs have confirmed significant support for a more militant response to government attacks on the public sector.
DEETYA is currently being targeted by the Howard government privatisation push. The largest component of DEETYA, the Commonwealth Employment Service, is facing privatisation through a competitive tendering process.
In the face of months of inaction by the DEETYA National Delegates Committee, ACT NDC delegate Paul Oboohov began circulating a petition in September calling on the DEETYA NDC and the CPSU National Executive to respond to government attacks with an Australian Public Service-wide union campaign involving bans on revenue collection.
NDC chair Mark Lively attacked the petition and accused Oboohov of pushing "his own political fraction's point of view" — an oblique reference to Oboohov's membership of the Democratic Socialist Party.
Oboohov and Darwin Student Assistance Centre delegate Tom Flanagan formed the "Save the CES-DEETYA Team" and contested the elections for DEETYA section president and secretary respectively. Their platform was sharply critical of the incumbent leadership's lack of action and strategy.
Oboohov, an NDC delegate for only a few months before the election, standing against NDC chair Mark Lively, received 38% of the vote after distribution of preferences. Flanagan, against national industrial officer Vivienne Colmer, came in second in a three-way contest with 25% to Colmer's 53%. For the position of section councillor for Area Northern Australia, Flanagan received 44%.
These results show that there is a sizeable minority of DEETYA CPSU members who want a serious industrial campaign to defend the public sector.
Speaking to Green Left, Flanagan commented: "The results indicate a strong base of support from which to maintain pressure on the leadership to mount a serious campaign. It's significant that the demand to save the CES reappeared in official bulletins after the petition was launched, and finally a campaign of rolling public contact bans was launched just as voting began.
"Not only has our campaign forced the union to take a stronger stand; it has put us in contact with like-minded delegates around the country who, up to now, have been isolated from one another. Building a strong network on the ground is the only real way to build a fighting union. The election results are a measure of how far we've come and how far we've still got to go", Flanagan concluded.