BY SHANE BENTLEY
SYDNEY — The New South Wales branch of the National Union of Workers has severed its ties with the NSW Labor Party in protest against the ALP state government's refusal to help the union in its legal battle with Davids Holdings.
The Davids dispute "is just one of our latest problems with the NSW Labor Party and the Labor Council", NUW state secretary Frank Belan told Green Left Weekly. "Davids workers were kicked to death. Despite pleas for help to the premier, attorney general, police minister, the Labor Council and the Labor Party, they sided with the other side, not us."
The NSW NUW is facing fines of up to $500,000 plus legal costs for breaching a Supreme Court order not to block trucks during pickets at Davids' Blacktown and Silverwater warehouses in 1998. The November 1998 hearing found the union to be in contempt of court 13 times between July 15 and August 26, 1998. Belan was found guilty three times and personally faces a fine of up to $50,000 or a jail sentence. Acting Justice Smart, after a sentencing hearing on April 26 and 27, has reserved his decision.
Fifty workers are also awaiting a decision on whether or not they still have jobs.
The NSW NUW's decision to disaffiliate from the ALP was made at a branch committee of management meeting on April 3. In a letter sent to NSW Labor's general secretary, Eric Roozendahl, on April 19 and published in the June issue of the NSW NUW's National journal, Belan announced his resignation from the NSW ALP administrative committee.
In addition to bad treatment during the Davids' dispute, the letter cites the Labor government's refusal to legislate against abuse of workers by labour hire companies and its refusal to outlaw engineered standards.
Belan said the NUW was "used to being treated like outsiders and second-class citizens" by the state party, "but we are not going to pay for it".
With 30,000 members, the NSW NUW paid the ALP $90,000 a year in affiliation fees, as well as making large donations for election campaigns. The union was one of the largest Labor affiliates and would have held around 28 votes on the floor of the state party's June 10-12 conference.