At the weekly meeting of Unions NSW, unionists handed an open letter to Secretary Mark Lennon, calling for it to organise another daytime mass delegates meeting of all unions following the July 6 “Bust the Budget” rally and to plan for a NSW-wide strike.
The letter also calls on Unions NSW to call a weekday stopwork protest against the budget and coordinate with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and other state union peak bodies to turn this into a national day of action.
Susan Price, a member of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), and an activist in the Socialist Alliance, presented the letter, which was signed by 243 unionists from 25 different unions, and was endorsed by two worksite meetings of National Union of Workers members.
Price told the meeting that the letter was being presented "in the spirit of solidarity" and reflected the strength of feeling among unionists for a serious campaign against Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s budget. "The turnout at the Bust the Budget rally in Sydney on July 6 shows what is possible."
Price also referred to the June 12 Bust the Budget protest in Melbourne, where 25,000 people took to the streets on a workday on June 12. "This also shows what can be achieved when stopwork action is combined with community mobilisation."
Sydney University NTEU member Nick Riemer also raised a question about whether Unions NSW had discussed support for the ACTU's day of action in October and its call for cross union delegates meetings in September.
In response to the letter and question, Lennon told the meeting that Unions NSW would be supporting an ACTU national day of action, scheduled for October 23. He also announced that another cross-union delegates meeting would be held on September 18.
Disappointingly, however, Lennon also said the “key focus” of any campaign in NSW will be the state election in March next year.
Price told Green Left Weekly after the meeting that while it is positive that unions in NSW will be part of nationwide action, "a campaign plan which focuses union energy and mobilisation on a state election next year, rather than on a serious campaign right now to defeat the measures proposed in the budget is to give up before we've even started to fight.
"For a serious campaign to be built against austerity, privatisation and against the anti-worker laws of both state and Federal governments, union leaders have to stop reading from the ALP electoral campaign script and start to listen to the delegates and members on the job who want a real fight against these attacks."