Conference statement & motions adopted by Fightback Conference
- Now’s the time for a united fightback!
Statement from National Union Fightback Conference
With control of the Senate on July 1 the Howard government will begin an all-out attack on the rights of working people. The Coalition’s plan is to destroy our unions and their ability to defend our wages and conditions.
If Howard and his big business backers get away with their plans, many employment conditions such as awards, redundancy pay, penalty rates and breaks will be shredded. Anti-union penalties will be massively increased, and our unions’ ability to organise will be massively restricted.
The industrial relations changes announced by the government on May 26 are much more severe than those announced during the election campaign. And the government has already announced a further round of attacks on workers in 12 months time after a review of all awards. The sort of attacks that that have been launched against the building industry unions will be extended to all unions unless the government comes up against stiff resistance.
We therefore call on the ALP to commit to opposing all anti-union laws and to repealing them when they are next elected to office.
History tells us that anti-union laws can be defeated by the combined mobilised strength of the union movement. Already some employers are nervous. Since the new anti-union laws were announced they have told the media that they will only support the proposed laws as long as there is no significant industrial campaign against them by the union movement.
Therefore, the National Union Fightback Conference recognises that:
1. The campaign against the Coalition government’s proposed industrial relations law won’t be won by one single action and that there needs to be a sustained campaign involving a wide range of actions – mass rallies, media campaigning, education, workplace meetings, solidarity action between unions, public meetings, joint actions with other sections of the community under attack from the Howard government, and industrial action organised at a regional, industry, state and national level.
2. The campaign for union rights must be linked with opposition to the anti-democratic agenda of the Howard Government. This includes defense of refugee rights, civil liberties, students’ rights, public broadcasting, and opposition to Bush’s war. These issues should be interwoven with all publicity and literature of the campaign.
3. Education campaigns are absolutely vital, but they have the most impact when they are linked with proposals for workers to take action. At the same time industrial action will be critical in the campaign, although not the only element.
4. Opinion polls show that the majority of workers who aren’t union members would join a union if they weren’t intimidated by their employers or they had contact with a union. Non-union workers who are scared about the Howard government’s attacks are more likely to join unions if they see the union movement mobilising on a large scale.
5. Co-ordinated nationwide, statewide or regional mass union protests are particularly important in recruiting non-union workers to unions and in giving workers the confidence to go back to their workplace and stand up to their employers.
6. Such mass union protests will also be important in strengthening solidarity between different unions, between blue collar and white collar, between low-paid and higher-paid, between male and female workers, between casual and permanent workers, between Australian-born and migrant workers. They will also help weaken the hold of sexism, racism, homophobia and other attitudes used by the bosses to divide working people.
7. Such protests are also important for building alliances with other sections of the community which are being attacked by the federal government, such as disability and sole parent pensioners. If the union movement makes a broad public appeal for all sectors of society that are being attacked by the government to join the big union protests, it will give increased confidence to other sectors.
8. The old tradition of mass delegates meetings needs to be revived to strengthen the campaign at the grassroots.
9. Solidarity will be key to the success of this campaign. We need to pledge to take solidarity action to defend any union/s which are particularly targeted and build a campaign of solidarity in the event of any unionist being prosecuted under the anti-union laws.
Action proposals adopted by National Union Fightback Conference
1. June 30/July 1 actions
The National Union Fightback Conference pledges an all-out effort to maximise the turn-out at the actions at the end of June/early July. We also call on all sectors of society that are being kicked by the Howard government, to join with the union movement in these actions.
Rank and file union members have a special role to play in building up the activist base in workplaces to support these actions.
2. National union fightback network
- Establish a national newsletter & email list
- Establish a website
- Possibly organise a 2nd National Union Fightback Conference in May 2006
3. National actions
1. Campaign for a nationally co-ordinated action in August
2. Encourage mass delegates’ meetings in the lead up to an August action
3. Pledge a solidarity campaign in the event of unionists getting prosecuted and/or jailed under the anti-union laws
4. Pledge solidarity action when a union is singled out by the government for attack.
4. Conference statement
5. Additional motions passed:
1. Student National Day of Action - The Howard government attacks on ordinary peopal are as broad as they are aggressive. The only way we can beat them back is with organised opposition and solidarity in industrial and political action. We call on all unions and unionists to support the National Day of Action called by the National Union of Students on August 10 by calling solidarity action with students in their fight against voluntary student unionism (VSU).
2. Reproductive Rights - This National Union Fightback Conference recognizes that the union rights of workers and the reproductive rights of women are interlinked. Tha the corporate world, through its parliamentary and religious ideologues, has unleashed a vicious attack on both is no coincidence. It is a concerted and desperate assault to supply the capitalist system with the skilled, cheap, exploitable workforce needed for its survival. Controlling women’s reproduction is as important for profit as the inteesified exploitation of labour: it allows business to use women as the biological reproducers and free carers of its workforce as well as a pool of low-cost labour on demand.
Childcare, paid maternity leave, free access to abortion and reproductive technology such as IVF, and equal pay for women must be core issues for the union movement. These conditions would benefit all working women and men, especially the unions’ 40% female membership.
This conference endorses the Melbourne rally for reproductive rights on July 30, inititated by the Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights (CWRR). We urge unionists to work with CWRR in building the rally through union endorsements and the active mobilization of members, and in ensuring a strong, visible presence on the day.