BY CHRIS SPINDLER
MELBOURNE — The militant Workers First team's election campaign in the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union for the positions of national and state secretaries and for one metal division organiser in Victoria is under way.
The Workers First candidate for national secretary is Darren Nelson. He is up against the high-profile incumbent, Doug Cameron. It is the first time in nearly 20 years that an AMWU national secretary has been opposed.
The Workers First candidate for Victorian state secretary is Craig Johnston. Johnston is assistant state secretary and metal division secretary. He is opposing Julius Roe, who was appointed state secretary after the resignation last year of Frank Fairly.
Terry Bradley is the Workers First candidate for metal division organiser.
The Workers First campaign builds on the reforms the team has introduced in the Victorian branch of the AMWU over the past 18 months. Branch meetings have been reintroduced for the first time in several years, allowing union members to collectively discuss the issues facing the union. A number of regional offices have been opened to make the resources of the union more accessible to members.
Most significantly, the Workers First leadership and organisers have supported the demands and industrial action of AMWU members. The union carried out an industry-wide campaign for the 39-week make up pay, established a hardship fund, participated in the campaign against the federal industrial laws and won good results in industrial campaigns by union members employed by Shell, Amcor, Email and across the construction industry.
The election platform concentrates on ending enterprise bargaining agreements. "Campaign 2000", set for June, will be a new industry-wide campaigns for a wage increase, a shorter work week and union control over casual and contract labour. Workers First is also emphasising campaigns to create jobs, increase job security and expand apprenticeship programs.
Other points in the platform advocate the election, rather than the appointment, of union organisers and officials, greater independence for state branches, improved training for workplace delegates, a more open union, better publications and more meetings to increase members' access to information and encourage involvement in running the union.
This platform contrasts significantly to the Cameron/Roe group, which has proposed few concrete policies for the union. Instead, it is running a campaign based on the merits of its individual candidates.
Cameron and Roe are charting a pro-business orientation for the union, with Roe going soft on a shorter hours campaign in the manufacturing industry and Cameron suggesting tax credits for employers to improve the "competitiveness" of Australian manufacturing.
The ballot will be conducted between April 28 and May 19.