Analysis

The Howard government’s anti-worker Work Choices laws have placed a powerful weapon in the hands of bosses, which they are using to drive down wages and eliminate hard-won conditions. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released on November 16 showed that average weekly earnings for full-time workers had fallen by 1.2% in real terms since Work Choices became law — an average loss of $13 a week.

Workplace Relations Act (1996)

This law stripped allowable matters in industrial awards back to 20, restricted the right of union officials to enter workplaces and introduced individual contracts (AWAs).

Trade Practices Act (1974)

Sections

“A visit by US officials has raised fears on Christmas Island that an immigration detention centre could be turned into a Guantanamo-style prison”, the November 17 Melbourne Age reported.

More than three thousand people had a somewhat surreal experience on November 18. They attended a rally, called by the Melbourne Stop the War Coalition and Stop G20, to oppose the genocide by poverty being promoted by the finance ministers’ meeting, and the warfare that makes the corporate plunder of the Third World possible.

Drasko Boljevic was abducted and assaulted in Melbourne on November 19. Chief commissioner Christine Nixon confirmed on November 20 that a man had been mistakenly arrested, saying that he was released “because he wasn’t the person we thought he was”. Below, Eleonor Palacio, the partner of the man that was mistakenly arrested, describes what happened. It has been abridged from Melbourne Indymedia.

Below, Dr Jim Green, Friends of the Earth anti-nuclear campaigner, summarises the EnergyScience Coalition’s critique of Ziggy Switkowski’s Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review released on November 21.

Unions NSW is promoting a campaign, including shopfront stickers and advertising in union journals, to encourage small businesses to promote themselves as union-endorsed “fair employers”. The union body is spending time and money on advertising through union journals. But this campaign detracts from our efforts at mobilising workers and the community against Work Choices and bosses who use these new laws.

Among the proposals included in the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ industrial relations legislation policy, adopted at its October conference, were provisions for unions to be able to hold elections to win recognition in workplaces where the boss refuses to bargain with them. These ballots are aimed at addressing the lack of a mechanism whereby unions can make an employer negotiate a collective agreement for workers. Such ballots have been a feature of the US industrial relations system for over 70 years.

Debate continues over how guest workers and those on 457 visas should be treated. The WA branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) passed a resolution at its July state conference that recommends avoiding falling into the federal government and bosses’ divide-and-rule trap.

Australian unionists have a wealth of experiences to draw on in the fight against the Howard government’s Work Choices legislation. Lessons can be drawn not just from the historic victories and defeats of the union movement in this country, but also from the experiences of working-class struggles in other countries.

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