Victorian delegates meet, but electoral campaign for Labor on the agenda

More than 1700 workers attended Trades Hall’s mass delegates meeting on 25 September, to plan for the next Change The Rules stopwork rally on 23 October—this time branded in Victoria as “Australia Needs a Pay Rise”.

Victorian unions led the way with 120,000 joining the stopwork rally in May. But the strategy at the delegates meeting this time was even more unashamedly electoral. After a brief discussion of the rally, the rest of the meeting was dedicated to signing delegates up for phone banking, door knocking, and train station leafleting for the elections.

Delegates were told that we needed to kick the Liberals out federally, “re-elect Daniel Andrews” and then the rules would change, and we would get a pay rise.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus described Daniel Andrews as the “best boss ever”. Trades Hall Secretary Luke Hilakari told the Herald Sun that Andrews “would be the most progressive Premier we have ever seen in this state. He’s delivered more for working people than just about anyone else”.

This is the same Daniel Andrews that has just prioritised funding Catholic schools over government schools with a $400 million sweetheart deal, and proposed laws criminalising the freedom of association of African communities. Andrews also privatised the Port of Melbourne and the Land Title Registry. More welcome is his statement that electricity privation in Victoria has not worked. But he is not promising to take power back into public hands.

The tottering federal Liberal government needs to go, and their racist clone Matthew Guy in Victoria must be stopped. But we can’t simply leave it to Labor to deliver the change we need.

This risks repeating the mistakes of the Workchoices campaign that went from “Your Rights at Work worth Fighting For” to “Your Rights at Work worth Voting For”. The mass rallies of 200,000 did not continue after the election and Labor did not deliver on our rights at work. The rules we are trying to change now are the ones that Labor put in place after getting elected in 2007.

Federally Labor is promising some modest changes including the restoration of penalty rates and an end to the termination of agreements. But Labor won’t deliver on the one rule that really holds the union movement back—the right to strike. Nor has Labor made any promises around the ACTU’s call for industry wide bargaining. Shorten’s backflip to support the Trans Pacific Partnership is an indication that the ALP is still committed to supporting corporate interests.

But there was no room for debate, with the delegates meeting stage managed. Motions or amendments to the official motion were not allowed on the basis that these needed to “come up through unions’ structures”.

We need to make the right to strike a key demand of the campaign and plan for an ongoing campaign of stopwork rallies beyond the federal election. A follow up delegates meeting and stopwork rally in the new year would be a good start.

By Chris Breen


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