By Bernie Brian
WOLLONGONG — Wollongong Out of Workers Union (WOWU) convener Nick Southall believes that after 10 years of consistently high unemployment, a renewed spirit of anger is emerging in the community.
WOWU was formed in 1982, when record job losses in the coalfields and the Port Kembla steelworks led to the historic storming of Parliament House in Canberra by South Coast trade unionists. Today, Wollongong has an official unemployment level of 15,000 and probably a real level double that, with one in three young people unable to find work.
"We have leafleted the major DSS offices of Wollongong and Corrimal and are getting much more support from the unemployed, the public and DSS staff than we did three years ago", Southall said.
"I think one reason for the growing anger in the region is that people are tired of hearing the same old excuses and solutions from governments such as training and work for the dole schemes. These 'solutions' have not worked, and people are starting to look for alternatives.
"Sections of the ALP and the unions are also beginning to show concern at the unemployment statistics because they know governments will fall as a result."
Southall said unemployed unions were being established in many cities around the country, most recently in Brisbane and Sydney. WOWU's intention was to establish a coordinated national campaign against Newstart.
"We are urging all unemployed people to appeal to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal about the compulsory agreements being imposed on them by Newstart. So far the DSS in the Wollongong region has been soft on applying Newstart. We feel this is partly due to the pressure being applied by WOWU and the union movement."
According to Southall, the initial target of the DSS seems to be those sections of the community with the least means of defence, such as people of non-English speaking background, Aborigines and the unemployed in the rural areas. "Unemployed people need to be informed they have rights under the Australian Constitution, and that includes the right to unemployment benefits."
In addition, WOWU is supporting the campaign by the South Coast Labour Council and welfare unions against Greiner's cuts to
public and community sector jobs and is calling for job creating investment in social and economic infrastructures.
WOWU now has an office at 59 Evans St in Wollongong and can be contacted on 26 2654 or 29 2934.