- by Dennis Fettler
- The Guardian
- Issue #1955
Thank you for the coverage of issues relating to the industrial changes recently passed in the federal parliament. Some are celebrating as a victory the removal of some of the clauses in the Omnibus bill on industrial relations. The ACTU and other union bodies are claiming victory, and certainly, some onerous provisions have been removed. The organised sector of the working class has had some benefit but the attack on all workers has continued.
The retention of the clauses further giving the upper hand to employers regarding the casualisation of the workforce, and the removal of provisions on wage theft, have increased the divide between sectors of the working class. The drive against the organisation of unions along with anti-strike provisions remain.
The campaign by the trade unions against the act made little penetration into workplaces and many workers remain ignorant of what has been proposed and agreed. Unlike the “rights at work” campaign, the principal features of recent campaigns have involved little action within and by workplaces.
The narrowing of the trade union campaigns to the electoral politics has subordinated the workers’ movement to industry and lowered the actual organisation of workers. I would hope that an organisation like the Communist Party of Australia would be able to launch a return to building the workers’ movement and strengthening trade unions.
Problems exist such as the retail and hospitality reliance on “backpacker labour” and increased casualisation; contract labour has also become a scourge within many industries as has labour-hire. The current, low density of unionisation is also backed up by the low activity of unions in many sectors. This has been a conscious effort of employer think tanks like the Lowy Institute and the Business Council of Australia.
No matter their political persuasion, workers are being forced into more precarious employment and denied their rights. Wage theft and casualisation are deepening. A united effort is needed by all who have loyalty to our working-class interests. A strong organised working class is the foundation of democracy.
The description of our problems, while important, also requires actions to change our circumstance. We need to reverse the decline in union density and strength and raise the consciousness among workers of their strength as an organised force in society.
I look forward to the Communist Party of Australia’s contribution to this struggle. The Party, which I note has just celebrated its centenary, has a long history of advancing Australian workers’ interests.
As a casual worker and avid reader of your journal, I think this struggle to unite all workers is important.