Click ‘attending’ on Facebook and share!
Unions are back on the agenda in a big way – in recent months airline workers, Victorian nurses, and a small group of poultry workers at Baiada in Melbourne have faced attacks on their working conditions and all have relied on their unions to defend their jobs. Large-scale sackings in the banking, airline and manufacturing sectors, with the possibility of more to come, mean that the right to organise in unions and the right to strike are more important than ever to defend our jobs and working conditions. Come along to city square to find out more about how to join a union and how to get active as a union member.
This event will include:
– Union information stalls
– Special guest speakers
– Discussion on unionism today
– BBQ (gold coin donation)
– and more!
City Square cnr Collins and Swanston Sts
Friday 23 March 5.30 – 7.00pm
This event is organised by Workers Solidarity Network and is part of Occupy Fridays.
subscribe to our e-list: firstname.lastname@example.org
subscribe to our sms alerts: 0431 445 978
Help us promote this event!
Print an A3 colour poster by clicking here:
Print flyers by clicking here:
Dare to Strike, Dare to Win!
Fight for workers’ right to strike in Australia
Your employer announces that all new workers at your workplace will be casual, hired through a labour hire company, and paid at half your rate. Can you strike to stop it?
Community sector workers work in programs relying entirely on public funding, but the funding isn’t enough to pay them adequately. Can they strike to force the government to fund their services properly?
One of your employer’s suppliers is in dispute with their workers and is using a replacement labour team to keep production going. Can you black ban the products of scab labour?
The answer to each of those questions is: Yes, but it would be illegal.
The wages and work conditions of workers in Australia today are the product of generations of struggle—most often secured through industrial action like strikes. Employers know the economic power of workers walking off the job, and so governments from Menzies and before, to Howard and Gillard in the current era have passed or maintained laws that massively curtail workers’ right to strike.
How does the law limit workers’ right to strike?
Striking is not a criminal offence—but it is illegal, except for a brief time window and for rigidly controlled objectives. Even then, the present system puts obstacles in our way and has a multitude of excuses for banning the strike. Unions and workers can be fined massive sums and bosses can sue for lost income. The present system is very much stacked in the employers’ favour.
Can things ever change?
Historically, workers have resisted and fought these anti-union laws. In the campaign for better wages and conditions, there are ever-changing legal maneuverings from employers and governments that attempt to stifle social and economic progress. But workers have not always accepted this situation:
* In 1969, masses of workers struck against the jailing of the unionist Clarrie O’Shea, who defied the courts and refused to give in to attempts to bankrupt his union. After the mass strike action, the penal sections of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act were never used against workers again.
* In 1998, thousands of unionists and community supporters joined members of the Maritime Union of Australia in picketing Patrick’s Stevedores to defend the right to join a union and prevent the use of scab labour.
* When the Howard government escalated the attacks on workers’ pay, conditions and right to strike, supporters rallied around Union Solidarity community assemblies, 2005 – 2009.
* Even today, some groups of workers take great risks to lead the way. Facing the Baillieu government’s threats to reduce nurse-to-patient ratios, replace some nurses with less skilled ‘health assistants’ and pay a less-than-inflation pay rise, nurses defied Fair Work Australia and the threat of huge fines or jail in order to continue with their bed closures. Thanks to this ‘illegal’ action, they won their dispute.
What needs to change?
We need to start a movement amongst workers to win back the strike as a fundamental right. Without it, all our other rights are just words on paper. This campaign is urgent, given the onslaught of casualisation, the Gillard government’s maintenance of Howard-era anti-union laws, and aggressive attacks on workers in both the public and private sectors.
* All anti-strike and other anti-union laws have to go!
* We need the right to defend ourselves and act in solidarity with others!
As workers, we need to go to our unions and ask what they are doing about the right to strike. We need to introduce motions to our union state and national bodies, supporting the use of strike action and opposing the current anti-strike laws. And, most of all, we need to support workers fighting for justice, regardless of whether their strike is “legal” or “illegal”.