Susan Price

Will the election of former Australian Services Union NSW head Sally McManus as ACTU secretary result in a strategic shift in the trade union movement in this country? Many unionists and activists are hoping so.

The government is tightening the screws on workers and the poor, intent on further attacks on the social wage, privatising health, education and welfare services and attacking refugees. We need to fight back. Strong, fighting unions are essential to building an effective resistance to corporate power and to defending our rights.

The recent Fair Work Commission (FWC) decision to cut penalty rates for weekends and public holidays will deliver a windfall to big retail and hospitality bosses, while slashing the wages of about 700,000 low-paid workers.

Figures released by the ACTU put the average worker in accommodation and food services on only $524 a week and those in retail on just $687. Contrast this with the average pay of $1163 for all Australian workers and you can see just how draconian FWC’s decision is.

The Occupy movement, which started as a protest against Wall Street, but ballooned across the US and internationally in 2011, adopted the slogan “We are the 99%” to symbolise the struggle for a better world against the greed of “the 1%”. Some people at the time thought it was an exaggeration to talk about the 1% versus the 99%, but according to Oxfam, since 2015, that richest 1% has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet combined.

In the wake of another death on Manus Island, vigils are being held around the country and more than 200 refugees on Manus Island have signed a letter calling for a Royal Commission to fully investigate IHMS (the Manus detention medical provider contracted to the Australian government) and its political control by Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

A cloud hangs over the annual picnic day for workers in the construction industry and their families, due to the passage of the bill to revive the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

Former Prime Minister John Howard’s Building Industry Taskforce was established in 2002 — a child of the Cole Royal Commission. The ABCC was established by the Howard government in 2005, once it had achieved a majority in the Senate. 

Three Australian unionists, visiting Indonesia as part of a delegation to a South-East Asian asbestos conference, had their passports seized and were deported from Indonesia after visiting a picket line organised by transport workers in Jakarta.

The unionists, including Jackie Kriz, a member of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation and President of Geelong Trades and Labour Council, have been barred from re-entering Indonesia for six months. They were told by the Indonesian department of immigration they could apply to have the ban lifted after that time.

Economist and author of Capital in the 21st Century Thomas Piketty gave a lecture entitled “Is Increasing Inequality Inevitable?” to a full house at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall on October 23.

Piketty presented detailed research on growing income inequality compiled by a number of scholars and sourced directly from national taxation and income statistics from primarily advanced capitalist countries, as well as some statistics from a number of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

Campaigning for Sue Bolton brought the issue of elder care into stark relief for Susan Price.

***

Out door-knocking for Sue Bolton in Moreland during the local council elections, we came across a dilapidated block of flats in an otherwise gentrified part of Brunswick.

One of the last doors in the block was answered by an elderly man still in his pyjamas, breathless and clearly in distress. All he could manage to say was, “Can you please call someone?” I took one look at him and said, “Are you ill? Would you like us to call an ambulance?” He nodded.

It is now less than one week until the Moreland City Council election.

Campaigning for Sue Bolton at the early polling centre in the suburb of Fawkner, you can sense the level of community recognition for the socialist councillor. When a group of school kids and their teacher were looking for a public toilet at the playground adjacent to the polling centre, one of them suggested I “get Sue Bolton onto it”.

Socialist Alliance member, Sue Bolton, is standing for re-election as a councillor in the City of Moreland. Polling day is October 22.

Pages

Subscribe to Susan Price