Unions NSW blocks strike vote at anti-budget meeting

June 12, 2014
Susan Price moves an amendment to the Unions NSW resolution at a 'bust the budget' meeting on June 12.

A well attended “Bust the Budget” meeting on June 12 organised by Unions NSW has decided to organise a union and community rally on July 6.

The meeting of more than 500 delegates and unionists came to an abrupt halt when Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon closed it down before two amendments strengthening the resolution could be voted on.

Susan Price, a National Tertiary Education Union member and national co-convenor of Socialist Alliance, moved the amendments during the discussion, which were seconded by a delegate from the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU).

Price motivated changing the wording of the resolution from “reject the budget” to “block the budget”, saying that the federal government had lied before the election and it and its horror budget were “totally illegitimate”.

She also motivated that Unions NSW call on the Australian Council of Trade Unions to back a national day of industrial and community action against the budget.

“In 1976, it took nationwide industrial and community action to defeat the attacks on Medicare. That is the kind of campaign we need today against this cruel budget”, Price said to rousing applause from inside the Masonic Centre.

The mood was angry. Delegates had heard from several speakers, including Lennon, about the horrendous nature of the federal budget.

Jason Williams, a CFMEU construction member originally from the US, told the room about his experience of the US health system. “Forget trying to get an ambulance — you won’t be able to afford one”, he said.

Lee Smith, a retired Community and Public Sector Union delegate, held back tears as said she had never been a “leaner”, a reference to Treasurer Joe Hockey’s statement that the “age of entitlement” was over.

“I’ve been a lifter all my life. I deserve my entitlements. Let’s not forget it was my generation who fought for equal pay, for superannuation and against Work Choices”, she said to huge applause.

Jo di Pietro, a delegate from the Health Services Union, currently fighting the closure of NSW's food testing laboratory, told the room the Tony Abbott government was “putting the public at risk” while also being hell-bent on destroying social cohesion.

Dr Shaun Wilson, from Macquarie University, gave a sharp speech, including with revealing graphs debunking the debt myth. He argued the federal government was seeding the ground to launch an even greater attack on the elderly, young people and the unemployed than what’s contained in this budget.

Price told Green Left Weekly that neither of her amendments were hostile to the official motion.

“It was unfortunate that the officials shut down debate rather than let the motions be put. It’s great that the Unions NSW has called a rally for July 6 — which should be wholeheartedly supported by the community and unions.

“But unionists clearly want more — which is why there was such a groundswell of support for amendments which would have forced the union leaderships to commit to more of a serious fight against this cruel budget.”

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