We all celebrated our fantastic victory in driving the miserable anti-worker Liberal government out of office. However the fact remains that we still have a lot of work to do to turn back the Howard agenda.
With the passing of recent IR legislation, the media talked about the "death of Work Choices". However, most of it is still in force.
The new law only stops bosses from putting workers on new AWAs (individual contracts); existing AWAs will be allowed to run their course. Furthermore, bosses will be allowed to put workers on a new kind of individual contract called an Interim Transitional Employment Agreement.
ITEAs are only marginally better than AWAs. This is why the Liberal Party supported the new law. Joe Hockey, the former workplace relations minister, said, "I welcome the fact that the government has introduced legislation that actually continues AWAs in a different name and different form for the next few years".
Meanwhile, all the other rotten anti-worker shit will stay in place for another two years. That means all the restrictions on union entry, the right to strike, industry-wide bargaining, access to unfair dismissal — and plenty more — are all still in force.
Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have said that they will bring in a new national IR system in 2010, but we don't know what's going to be in it. The signs aren't good. Gillard has already said she supports penalties against workers who take so-called illegal industrial action, such as the workers who walked off the job to go to the magnificent "Your Rights at Work" protests.
To make matters worse the new government has said it will keep John Howard's Australian Building and Construction Commission and all its Gestapo-type powers! This is the outfit that sued individual construction workers for $26,000 each and is right now going after the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) in Sydney and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and Australian Workers Union in WA's north-west.
It's not enough just to fiddle with the signboard on Howard's laws. Rudd promised to rip up Work Choices, so that's what he should do. Everyone knows that it was the foul stink of Work Choices that killed off the Howard government, and it was the union movement that kept the issue in the public eye. We defeated Howard, not Rudd, so it's time to for him to deliver.
Our job continues: we must keep up the pressure to abolish all anti-worker laws.
[Socialist Alliance Fremantle convener Sam Wainwright is the editor of Rank and File Voice, newspaper of the West Australian branch of the MUA. This article appeared in the latest issue.]