Victorian union delegates respond to Reith


By Chris Slee

MELBOURNE — A July 7 Victorian Trades Hall Council-organised meeting of about 1000 union delegates passed a resolution calling for a "sustained campaign" against the federal government's "second wave" industrial relations legislation. A stop-work meeting and rally will take place on August 12, with regional stop-works and rallies between August 17 and 25.

The resolution condemned the legislation as "a fundamental leap toward total deregulation of the labour market. It weakens the protection of the award system and access to it, reinforces the primacy of unfair individual contracts over collective bargaining, weakens the powers of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission and interferes with the ability of workers to organise and take industrial action. Not one aspect of the legislation can be supported or justified."

The resolution stated, "Member and community education and mobilisation is the key to defeating the legislation. To achieve this delegates will: distribute information to members and hold job meetings; encourage members to write to the Liberals and Democrats; organise letter writing to newspapers and calls to radio; alert the VTHC to cases of injustice under the Kennett system and under the Workplace Relations Act that might be used as examples in the media or before the expected Senate inquiry."

Noting that the Democrats will determine the fate of the legislation in the Senate, the resolution stated: "We call on them to say 'No' to the Coalition and to refuse to negotiate. The Democrats must decide on which side they stand: with workers and in defence of their rights or on the side of the de-regulators and business. We give notice to the Democrats that should they stray across that line we will do everything in our power to mobilise electoral opposition to them."

ACTU president Jennie George told the meeting, "We beat Reith over the MUA [Maritime Union of Australia]. We can beat him again." She addressed the need to reach out to community groups, including the welfare sector and women's and migrant groups.

Speaking about the attacks on the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) because of its high level of union membership, she said, "We can not allow the construction division to be isolated". George pointed out that nurses, teachers and police also have high levels of unionisation, and asked if they would be attacked too.

Arch Bevis, state Labor's industrial relations spokesperson, promised to abolish the government's Employment Advocate if the ALP wins government, but made no other specific promises.

Electrical Trades Union state secretary Dean Mighell said, "If Reith wants a blue, we are more than happy to have one". He called on those present to build a huge rally on August 12, exceeding the 100,000 who rallied in solidarity with the MUA last year.

In Sydney, union members and supporters are planning a state-wide day of action for August 24. On July 8, more than 200 people marched from the CFMEU office to the Industrial Relations Commission building.