Howard's gone but there's still a job to do

Issue 

Victorian unions have begun discussing the next stage of the campaign to rip up all of Work Choices.

Given that the Labor Party leadership kept repeating that if it won government, it would "rip up Work Choices", most workers voting Labor would assume that this is what will happen.

However, many of the activists in the union movement are fully aware that Labor leaders Kevin Rudd and industrial relations minister Julia Gillard intend to keep the most anti-union aspects of Work Choices.

When the Victorian Trades Hall Council executive met on November 30, it passed a motion which said that "the very successful 'Your Rights @ Work' campaign of 2005-2007 is unfinished business until Howard's WorkChoices [sic] legislation is 'ripped up' and replaced with a new, fair and workable Federal IR Act, as the first priority. This will include the removal of prohibited content provisions and the lifting of right of entry restrictions.

"That WorkChoices [sic] related legislation like the Building Industry (Improvement) Act 2005, the Building Industry Compliance Code (including Guidelines) and the Independent Contractors Act 2006 also be scrapped by the incoming Federal Government.

"The VTHC Executive Council calls for the maintaining of the 'YR@W' trade union campaign until the above tasks have been concluded."

The motion also called on the incoming federal ALP government to put the International Labour Organisation Conventions into legislation.

Some unions at the meeting felt that the VTHC's goals could be achieved lobbying the incoming government, whereas others felt that lobbying alone was ineffective and a public campaign with petitions and demonstrations was needed.

In the last issue of Green Left Weekly, unionists such as Electrical Trades Union Victorian secretary Dean Mighell said that the new government did not deserve a honeymoon and should rip up all of Work Choices as had been promised prior to the elections.

The United Firefighters' Union has also begun a campaign against the Victorian Labor government to stop using Work Choices against workers. Some sections of the laws which were used by Premier John Brumby's government against firefighters and nurses will remain under the Rudd government.

The ACTU executive met on December 3-4, and a leaders' forum is being organised on January 30-February 1 in 2008. At this stage it is unclear whether Victorian Trades Hall will win support from others on the ACTU executive.