ACTU

Up to 5000 unionists marched through Sydney’s CBD on September 6 to demand the right to strike and the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

A study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on labour relations in 26 developed economies, including Australia, has confirmed that workers’ real wages have fallen because labour market deregulation has “gone too far”.

The IMF researchers noted the “statistically significant, economically large and robust negative effect of deregulation” on labour’s share of national income, with workers’ share of national income falling drastically from 1975 to 2015.

The Sydney University branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) held a forum on campus on June 13 to discuss how to organise to rewin the right to strike.

Professor John Buchanan, from the University of Sydney Business School, told the forum: "The current Fair Work Act (FWA), introduced by the previous Labor government, is the second worst industrial relations legislation in Australian history, after John Howard's Work Choices.

As the government’s criminal case against Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) officials John Setka and Shaun Reardon ended in embarrassing collapse, unions called for the repeal of draconian secondary boycott laws.

Sympathy strikes are one of the most common forms of secondary boycott. They involve a union taking industrial action to force a company to cease trading with another company until the targeted company agrees to industrial demands. The law against secondary boycotts thus interferes with the right of workers to campaign collectively.

More than 60 unionists and supporters of the labour movement met after the Sydney May Day march on May 6 to discuss the next steps of the Right to Strike campaign.

The meeting, which built on the success of a previous meeting held on April 14, called for the critical addition of the right to strike as a core demand of the Australian Council of Trade Unions' (ACTU) Change the Rules campaign.

As the NSW Coalition government continues to lurch between a growing number of transport-related crises, a number of pro-public transport groups and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) are busy organising a “Fix NSW Transport” rally on February 17 in Sydney’s CBD.

The rally is a bold attempt to unite many transport-related campaigns across NSW and ensure that public transport remains a major election issue.

In response to the decision by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to order Sydney train drivers to suspend their planned 24-hour strike on January 29, ACTU secretary Sally McManus declared: "The right to strike in Australia is close to being dead."

The Port Kembla Coal Terminal (PKCT), south of Wollongong, locked out its 58 permanent employees without pay for five days from January 7. The move is part of the company’s ongoing drive to force workers to accept cuts to their wages and conditions.

PKCT has been in negotiations with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) for a new agreement since 2015, when the previous enterprise agreement expired.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) launched its national boycott campaign against Streets ice cream products on October 29, urging people to “stand up for fairness and commit to a Streets-Free Summer”.

AMWU NSW secretary Steve Murphy said the workers had no choice but to call for a boycott after Streets “hit the nuclear option”.

In public debate “the thin end of the wedge” — the notion that once made, any penetration of the status quo will inevitably be followed by something greater — is an idiom invoked almost exclusively in the negative. It is an insufferable refrain of the perpetually fearful, the racist, the homophobic, the xenophobic, the Islamophobic, and the climate change-phobic.

It is one of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s favourite lines.

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