The Right to Strike

(Andrew Downing) #21

I have no idea why you think you have any authority here, but it’s boring. These are discussion forums. If we can’t use them to discuss various aspects of an issue, then it’s just an echo chamber. Is that what you want?

(Frew) #22

Debating a Union’s industrial tactics is a third order issue compared to trying to develop a policy on the right to strike and industrial relations. I will explain.

The way I look at it, the right to strike is a basic right, like the right to free speech or the right to a fair trial. I support the union movement, I think workers are best off in general when bargaining collectively, when they can take industrial action.

Unions themselves are a bit of a mixed bag. Where they are democratic and give union members ways to have a say and get involved, I support them with very few conditions. I don’t work in their jobs, therefore I don’t know what they go through and I don’t feel I can judge them by the tactics they choose to use when trying to win better wages and conditions. I trust them to know what is best for them.

Some unions on the other hand are pretty shit, like the SDA, where they have been under the control of the right wing of the ALP right faction. They negotiate away conditions for nothing and run the union as a stepping stone into parliament. I think this was the sort of thing @jedb was referring to.

I have done a lot with the union movement over the years. I worked for the NSW Teachers Federation for a year when I was about 20, have been a member of a number of unions and was arrested at the MUA picket in 1998 and arrested repeatedly at the Joy Mining dispute in 2000. I wasn’t a member of these unions, I just supported them as a citizen and unionist. Because I have a long history of participating, I have the ear of some fairly influential unionists, this doesn’t really help the Pirate Party though.

To have influence over the tactics used by unionists, you need to participate in the union movement. Having a basic right to strike policy and some sort of statement saying we generally support unions (something @miles_w has been planning on proposing), we open up opportunities for pirates to participate in the union movement as pirates. From this position our thoughts on tactics would be heard and have the possibility of being implemented. From the outside and with no platform to participate, we have no influence at all. Why would they listen to us?

What I propose is that we work on a policy to expand the right to take industrial action, including the right to strike. Where our members are interested or already active in their unions, we support them however we can, when applicable. If we do this, then debating tactics will mean something.

(miles_w) #23

In the Brisbane bus drivers ‘strike’ a few months ago, they were letting people travel for free. There are other ways to carry out industrial action than strikes which can be just as effective.

I try to see issues from both sides so I like to appreciate wage pressure on companies to remain cost effective, but at the same time if a company can’t afford to pay their works fair and competitive rates then they need to be cutting costs elsewhere or reconsider their business model.

The FWC ruling against Sydney Trains is a bit of a shock to all of us, but after the outrage of the AWU raid by the ROC last year I don’t think I’m surprised by anything any more. The incoming electoral funding disclosure amendment from the LNP is another strike against grassroots advocacy and community organising.

(David Boxall) #24

The Fair Work Commission is a blade with two edges. Our Right-wing government has worked to blunt one of those edges, while honing the other.

Jonathan Hamberger, the commission’s senior deputy president who made the decision, was a conservative anti-union appointment to the Fair Work Commission. He was the Howard government’s Employment Advocate. In 2004, Hamberger admitted to a Senate Estimates hearing that he deliberately ignored the Australian Industrial Relations Commission about the correct calculation of award entitlements. He was also an adviser to then Industrial Relations minister Peter Reith.


The SDA is exactly who I had in mind, yes. They have been known on multiple occasions to negotiate rates of pay below minimum wage, amongst other things.

But back to the more immediate issue. Why on earth does the FWC have the power to stop strikes on the grounds of damage to the economy? I thought applying economic pressure was the entire point.

(miles_w) #26

We’re allowed to protest, but only so long as it’s done quietly in a corner where it can be safely ignored.

(John Jeffery) #27

The right to strike should be protected however Enterprise Bargaining is a great step forward in a mature industrial setting. A strike represents a breakdown of the Enterprise Bargain system and is a loss for everyone.
Strike action has gained better working conditions for workers however it was the The Keating Kelty policies that delivered real wealth to workers and Australia generally.
It is noticeable that the Unions themselves have tended to be weaker in their negotiated claims over the recent past however this may be due to a low wage and high employment environment. Of note is the continuing improvements in Occupational Work and Safety and the the success of the Superannuation Schemes.

(David Boxall) #28

The words of Pope Leo XIII are apt:
"If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice."
In industrial relations, force and injustice seem to be goals these days. Resisting that is among the main reasons for unions.

Rerum novarum was issued in 1891. Things have moved on a bit since then, but its principles look promising still.