ACTU

Retirement was only a few years away when Genevieve became so disillusioned and angry with her current circumstances that she joined a union; a most unexpected union.

The Australian Unemployed Workers' Union (AUWU) is one of a growing few in the Western world, with a membership base of 3500. As a laid-off public servant, Genevieve joined the thousands that chronicle our neoliberal times. Not since the 1930s have so many Australians been out of work. About 2 million people fall into the job status of unemployed, underemployed or precarious.

"The Malcolm Turnbull government's proposal to privatise the Medicare payment system is a slippery slope to selling off the whole of Medicare," Peter Boyle, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Sydney in the upcoming federal elections, said on February 24.

"The Socialist Alliance strongly opposes any privatisation of our public health system, as well as any further pathology cuts, co-payments or attacks on our public hospitals."

More than 400 workers from several unions, notably the CFMEU, took their fight straight to billion dollar miner Rio Tinto for its complicity in sacking Australian seafarers and replacing them with foreign workers, who are paid as little as $2 an hour.

On February 5 in the Port of Newcastle, five crew members were marched down the gangway of the CSL Melbourne by more than 30 police. Those same police escorted the foreign replacement crew onto the ship to sail it away.

One of Tony Abbott’s first acts as Prime Minister was to announce a Royal Commission to “shine a spotlight” onto the so-called “dark corners” of the trade union movement. The commission would expose the criminality and impropriety that allegedly blights Australia’s trade unions.

Led by former High Court Judge John Dyson Heydon, the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption officially began in February 2014.

As the pantomime that is the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, stumbles to its conclusion at the end of the year, figures released by the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on October 27 reveal a 2% drop in union membership to 15% of the workforce.

According to the ABS report, in August last year 1.6 million people were members of trade unions in their main job.

From 1954 to 1972, Australia’s official unemployment rate was under 2% as the economy grew at the most rapid rate in the country’s history. There was one exception, the credit squeeze year of 1961, in which unemployment rose to 2.4%.

Whatever else he might be, John Dyson Heydon is no fool. When he accepted the job of royal commissioner inquiring into trade union governance and corruption, he knew what was expected of him.

The commission was set up as a political witch-hunt into unions, designed to give the federal Coalition government an issue with which it thought it could win the next election. Heydon was happy to oblige and has been handsomely paid for doing so.

Dyson Heydon will not step down as commissioner investigating corruption in trade unions, having decided to ignore the widespread perception of his political bias.

Whatever else he might be, Heydon is no fool. When he accepted the job as royal commissioner he knew what was expected of him.

The commission was set up as a political witch-hunt into unions, designed to give the Coalition government an issue which it thought it could win the next election with.
Heydon was happy to oblige and has been handsomely paid for doing so.

New polls show that had an election been held in mid-August, Tony Abbott's federal Coalition would have suffered a 7.5% swing against it. The Prime Minister’s prevarication on marriage equality and the scandal over entitlements are fueling the dissent.

The IPSOS-Fairfax and Essential Research polls revealed that the Coalition would have lost between 36 and 44 seats — with Labor and the Greens being the main beneficiaries.

April 28 is International Workers’ Memorial Day, an international day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work. It is an opportunity to highlight the preventable nature of most workplace incidents and ill health and to promote campaigns and union organisation in the fight for improvements in workplace safety. The slogan for the day is Remember the dead — Fight for the living.

Pages

Subscribe to ACTU