The Manufacturing Workers Union Campaign 2000/2001 has succeeded in uniting its members in a campaign for wages and conditions, despite being subject to dozens of separate Enterprise Bargaining Agreements.
This was achieved by careful co-ordination of EBAs so that they would expire
either in June 2000 or June 2001. 'The basic claims of Campaign 2000/2001
are for a 6% wage rise, better job security, predictable and reasonable hours,
protected and portable entitlements and regulation of casuals and contractors.'
according to the AMWU. The AMWU also claims credit for defeating Reith’s most
recent 'Third Wave' anti-union legislation, with strong lobbying of the Democrats.
This was different from previously encouraged forms of Democrat lobbying,
because it was backed up by a clear and serious intention to act, by AMWU
The Australian Industry Group was disaffected that its member employers broke ranks in failing to resist the AMWU Campaign, but has now agreed to discuss with the union on a national basis. The AMWU has repeated the Victorian CFMEU tactic of breaking down the ability of the bosses industry group to lead the employers in resisting union action for the 36 hour week.
This positive result contrasts with the High Court's upholding of Reith's award stripping provisions of the Workplace Relations Act on 15 June. The CFMEU had challenged their legality. Reith and his supporters cannot be expected to retire from battle now. Reith is still plugging away with more waves of his previously ditched legislation. We need to be ready to keep up the fight, and at least we now have some recent victories for inspiration.
Fair trade Vs free trade is shaping up to be a hot topic of debate in the labour movement, with the recent ACTU Congress having adopted the fair trade position advocated by Doug Cameron of the AMWU. The NSW ALP Conference a couple of weeks earlier had rejected it, at the insistence of the MPs and the right.
Other policies adopted by ACTU Congress indicate that there is a new mood
for taking the initiative in campaigning for improvements, rather than being
consumed by defensive reactions to attacks.
These policies include demands for legal protection for collective bargaining, a broadened campaign for a 36 hour week, and a substantial rise in award rates of pay. Greg Combet also told Congress that unions have to maintain ‘a strong independent voice for working people’ even if this meant ‘serious differences with Labor’.
"Free trade with countries with oppressive labour regimes and with no social or environmental regulations is deeply problematic and should attract a social tariff upon goods landing in Australia" according to Doug Cameron of the AMWU. On ABC Radio National on 28 June, Cameron said that it wasn't fair that Australian workers had to compete for jobs on the terms and conditions offered in very low waged countries.It seems he would prefer less disparity in the terms of competition amongst workers. The social tariff idea sounds as though it could be a form of solidarity with workers employed in extremely poor conditions, but it can easily be turned into antagonism. Do we know what sort of solidarity organised workers in the ‘unfair’ trade countries want? e.g. Indonesia, Fiji, India, Pakistan? Have ‘fair traders’ developed policies jointly with unions/workers in those countries to work out the best way to improve their conditions, and take united action together? How clean is Australia's environmental record? We have very high per capita greenhouse gas emissions. Could retaliatory ‘fair trade’ restrictions be advocated against Australia?
The ‘fair trade’ campaign is an attempt at a union response to corporate globalisation’s disregard for human needs and rights, which has been stimulated by the energy of the Seattle demonstrations. A special guest at the ACTU Congress was Richard Trumpka, a leader of the AFL-CIO, who spoke about globalisation and fair trade. Trumpka is not a socialist - on ABC's Lateline on Wednesday 28 June, he said that he wants corporations to prosper and endure, and to behave responsibly towards workers and on social and environmental issues.
For the response of an American socialist unionist to the AFL-CIO's views, which recognises its contradictory elements, you can read more in this newsletter in the article After Seattle, the ongoing battle.