The Guardian 23 March, 2005

Build a united front
against Howard's anti-union,
anti-worker offensive

A statement adopted by Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia at its meeting 12-14 March 2005 said that the Howard government and the monopoly employers its represents are about to launch a new attack on the trade union movement and to remove the rights of Australian workers. This attack will be stepped up when the Liberal Coalition government gains a majority in the Senate in July.

The resolution said: The Government believes that the working class is not as united as it once was with many workers now voting Liberal. The Australian Labor Party, in which so many workers have traditionally placed their trust, is torn by factional strife. On many important issues, the right-wing ALP leadership agrees with the policies of the Liberal Coalition.

Employers have never let up in their attempts to weaken and destroy militant, class conscious trade unions. The aim now is to destroy all unions.

The big corporate bosses are pressuring the Howard government to introduce total deregulation of the conditions covering the employment of workers.

The Howard government plans include:

  • A further savage attack on awards potentially removing penalty rates for weekends and overtime

  • Reduce workers rights under enterprise agreements

  • Smash unfair dismissal laws

  • Restrict union right of entry provisions

  • Curtail any ability to take strike action

  • Reduce annual and sick leave

  • Cut the minimum wage

  • Aggressive pushing of individual employment arrangements

  • Unleashing politically motivated attacks on unions and entire industries, such as shipping and construction

  • Undermine the existing State systems reducing workers rights, pay and conditions.

    It is going to require the full might of a highly organised and united trade union movement along with support from the broader community and left and progressive organisations to defeat the employer offensive.

    The Australian people have a great track record of standing up to attacks on democratic rights. In previous years, workers have rallied in huge numbers to defend democratic rights and to defeat attacks on them by the conservative forces.

    These struggles include the Eureka Stockade, the struggles against conscription, the defeat of the cold war ban of the Communist Party, the 1967 "yes" vote in the referendum which gave indigenous Australians the right to vote and to be counted in the census, the defeat of the infamous penal clauses imposed on the trade union movement which culminated in mass industrial action in 1969.

    The time has come to launch new struggles to defeat the attacks that are again being made against the trade union movement and the democratic rights of the people generally. At the centre of this struggle must be the working class and its organisations. The trade unions must mobilise like never before without concern for craft or industry divisions or for individual gain. The rights of all are under severe attack.

    The CPA is of the view that the building of a powerful united front of all trade unions and working class political parties and their supporters is needed to overcome these attacks on the trade union movement and the rights of workers. The union movement will be pivotal in building this united force.

    Trade unions which have an organised membership should, without waiting for Howard's legislative and legal barrage, send teams of workers to explain the effects of the anti-union legislation and to recruit unorganised members to the trade union movement.

    A great educational campaign needs to be launched to explain what John Howard's policies of "individualism", "competition policy", "choice" and "privatisation" really mean and that on the other hand the trade union movement and workers' organisations are built on "collectivism", "co-operation" and "mutual solidarity".

    Industrial actions taken by workers need to be strongly supported by helping workers and unions establishing pickets, printing and distributing literature to other workers and the community, establishing support groups and fighting funds for striking workers and their families, and lobbying for the widest support from political parties and community organisations.

    The formation of groups of activists to act in solidarity with workers who are under attack could help to reinforce pickets established by workers and their trade union. A magnificent example was given by the huge community support for the MUA during its dispute with Patrick in 1998.

    It is time to come out fighting with a united mass movement of workers and all progressive sections of society. It will be easier to defeat the Howard government's attacks now, rather than later when they become law.

    Above all, it is necessary to bring about a united front of workers, trade unions and labour movement activists irrespective of political affiliation, all directed to defeat the Howard government's dangerous offensive and implement policies that are in the interests of the working people.

    The CPA strongly advocates these measures and declares its willingness to assist with its resources in every possible way.

    The CPA aims to have May Day 2005 as a National Day of Action in the campaign to mobilise workers in opposition to the Howard industrial relations assault. We call on all unions and workers to rally for May Day and make that day a successful starting point in the mobilisation against the Howard government's plans. This should be followed by a National Day of Defiance before the bills go to Parliament.

    John Howard's assault can be stopped if the initiative and creativity of workers is unleashed with the organised labour movement playing a central role.

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