Contributed by Joe Montero
As the Morrison government proceeds with its so-called Omnibus Bill, it amounts to a declaration of war against the Australian union movement and all workers. Behind all the spin and the pretence that this is about undoing the damage of Covid-19, this is a blatant move to destroy existing jobs. The key planks are to casualise a bigger part of the workforce, cut pay, and introduce individual contracts through the back door.
The Morrison government intends to take away the right to belong to a union and further muzzle the capacity of unions to act for their members.
No compromise can be made with any of this. It would throw millions into poverty, with few rights and work, and do enormous harm to the economy along the way. The declaration of war must be met, and its instigators defeated.
Image from the Independent Education Union (IEU)
Referring to his threat as the Omnibus Bill and getting entangled in the detail would be a tactical error. This is largely a re-visit to John Howard’s WorkChoices. It should be called as it is, and the focus of communication should be on the above points. The omnibus Bill is better referred to as WorkChoices 2.
The good thing is that the union movement and its supporters are gearing up a campaign to stop it. There is an internal debate over direction. This is natural. The debate centres on whether this should be confined to a marginal seats campaign, aimed at a possible October election, or whether it should be far more than this.
It is argued here that it must be the second option, and there are several reasons for this.
The experience of the last election campaign was that confining to campaigning in the marginal seats was a failure. One that contributed to the return of an unpopular government. Doing the same again will repeat the failure.
Everything suggests that many Australians are calling for political leadership they can believe in, which gives confidence, a sense that change can be brought about, and inspires involvement.
This means that the first task is to mobilise and organise activists, to go into their workplaces and communities build fighting capacity.
The lesson of the WorkChoices battle was that it was won by doing exactly this. Workplaces and communities were organised in sufficient numbers and capacity to translate into a movement from the ground up. Everyone who was there and is honest about it, knows that this is the fact.
Howard’s WorkChoices was defeated by building a movement on the ground
A marginal seats campaign gains legitimacy when it springs from such a base. The problem is that it does not exist yet.
Last Friday’s (12 February) action at Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s office in Melbourne was a good start to the campaign. The unionists who were there signalled that the fight is on. Many such actions are needed. Together, they can build a from a trickle to an unstoppable flood.
The example must be taken to every workplace and to every neighbourhood, ensuring that it comes home to every Australian. There must be large scale mobilisations at key moments.
Only this way, will people come to believe they can win, and this will give them the confidence to take part in the effort.
Instead of running a rear-guard campaign, reacting to what the other side is doing, what about taking the initiative, leading the issue, and forcing the other side onto the backfoot?
The only a marginal seats direction will put most people in the position of bystanders, only asked to tick a box on a certain day. It is disorganising and not likely to inspire a great deal of confidence.
Some photos from the action at Josh Frydenberg’s office in Melbourne
Photo by Joe Montero
Photo by Joe Montero
Photo by Joe Montero
The lessons for the labor movement and all workers from the 2007 ACTU campaign ‘Your Rights At Work’ must not be repeated. The LNP and all conservative principles and policies is antithetical to working people. In order for fundamental change for the betterment of working people, requires a return to collectivism, as opposed to individualism as a societal value. Recognizing Class is integral to understanding and winning hearts and minds.