As Solidarity went to press, NSW Liberal Premier Barry O’Farrell’s assault on public sector workers had hit a minor snag, with the Shooters and Fishers Party joining Fred Nile in threatening to withdraw support for his anti-union laws in the NSW Upper House, unless competition between ethics classes and scripture lessons in schools is scrapped. But the key to stopping O’Farrell is the Unions NSW-led campaign to make the laws unworkable.
Unions NSW’s Mary Yaager has announced that another mass rally is planned for Thursday September 8, starting at the Domain.
That there is more anger and willingness to take action now than even existed during the Your Rights At Work campaign against Work Choices, she said, speaking at a forum organised by Power to the People and the NSW Union Activist Network in July, attended by 50 people.
But union leaders have delayed announcing plans for industrial action on September 8, saying this could lead to legal action against unions. But this means that as Solidarity goes to press, with just six weeks to go there is no material union members can use to promote the rally.
Nurses, public servants and firefighters took industrial action on June 15—and no fines resulted. The turnout of between 12,000 and 20,000 on the day exceeded all expectations.
The Inner City Teachers Association has initiated a cross-union delegates meeting on August 16, but Unions NSW so far has no plans for Sydney-wide delegates meetings—preferring smaller meetings in regional areas and a handful of suburbs.
Activists in every union will need to apply pressure to make sure the campaign’s momentum deepens.
O’Farrell’s attacks are not limited to the new IR laws. The MUA are facing the privatisation of Sydney Ferries, as well as plans to absorb Sydney Maritime into the RTA with the loss of 350 jobs.
The PSA are mounting a legal challenge against changes to the Managing Excess Employees Policy that affect laid-off public servants, as well as TAFE and migrant English teachers.
O’Farrell has offered unions facing upcoming wage negotiations his 2.5 per cent pay increase up front, allowing later negotiations on the “productivity savings” that must be offered to get a higher wage rise.
But the principle of the pay cap must be challenged. Public school and TAFE teachers’ agreement expires at the end of 2011. The Teachers Federation claim, for 5 per cent a year, 1 per cent extra superannuation and recognition of casual and temporary teaching pay scale progression, directly challenges it. The Teachers’ Federation Annual Conference in July committed to calling out teachers to fight O’Farrell.
The larger and more militant September 8 is, the more confidence it will give teachers that we can take the sustained industrial action necessary to both win our claim, and to smash O’Farrell’s legislation.
By Mark Goudkamp
Cross-union delegates meeting hosted by Inner City Teachers Association
6-8pm August 16 Cyprus Club, Stanmore Rd