Young workers say 'Up yours Howard'


Kiraz Janicke, Geelong

More than 80 people, including young workers from the Gold Coast, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne, joined local participants at Geelong Trades Hall on June 17 for the "Up Yours Howard" young workers' conference.

The conference was initiated by the socialist youth organisation Resistance and sponsored by Geelong Trades Hall Council (GTHC) as part of the ongoing fight-back against the Howard government's Work Choices legislation.

Conference organiser Justine Kamprad opened the conference by explaining how Work Choices is "not just about Howard, but a bigger push by business to weaken unions in order to make more profits".

Michael Canning from the WA branch of the Maritime Union of Australia told the conference that his union would support any initiative such as this conference and the June 1 student strike, because young people don't want to become known as the "low-wage generation".

Bronwyn Jennings and Tim Gooden from the GTHC discussed lessons from previous union struggles and special guest Joe Carolan from the Unite union in New Zealand described organising the first Starbucks strike in the world. Unite members and Radical Youth representatives Mingzui Fu and Sam Harre presented a workshop on the New Zealand Supersize My Pay campaign to improve the wages and conditions of fast-food workers.

Amelia Taylor from the United Casual Workers Alliance on the Gold Coast discussed the challenges of organising in a town where 70% of workers are casual.

Lisa Darmanim from the Victorian Trades Hall Council addressed the final panel, outlining the Australian Council of Trade Unions' marginal seats strategy, which aims to phone all unionists in those seats to convince them not to vote for the Coalition. Resistance national coordinator Fred Fuentes, however, argued that the only way to ensure Work Choices is defeated is to follow the French example of mobilising unions and the community in the streets.

The conference unanimously passed a resolution pledging to organise youth contingents for the national protests against Work Choices on June 28 and protests during that week outside Spotlight stores; calling on the GTHC to help establish a young workers' alliance; calling on all unions to support any further student strikes; and calling on Geelong City Council not to employ any of its workers on Australian Workplace Agreements.

[See page 8 for details of the July 8-10 Resistance national conference in Sydney.]

From Green Left Weekly, June 21 2006.
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