- by Julie Valentine
- The Guardian
- Issue #1983
The recent attention to trade union activity is unsurprising; victories of the unions bring admiration for workers but worry the capitalist elites. When the Murdoch media, the monopolised right-wing source of Australian journalism, attempts to undermine and demonise unions, it becomes especially important to highlight union efforts and celebrate the wins.
After twelve months of struggle with the City of Fremantle, CFMEU members recently gained a victory that delivered job security to workers. CFMEU organiser, Michelle Sheehy, has shared some details on the events in an interview:
Sheehy explained that when COVID first hit in March last year, the City of Fremantle stood down some of its workforce. The workers were directed to stay at home and were put on leave. It could be paid, or unpaid leave, and they didn’t know when they’d be able to return. Despite some government support being available to some workers, local government workers were excluded. Sheehy described the terrible situation, not of their making, that the members from the city of Fremantle were potentially facing with no income at all. A provision in the Enterprise Agreement that was meant to cover short shutdowns like Christmas was also misused. It was applied during COVID when there was no endpoint. The workers felt it was an abuse of their annual leave provisions.
Through a strike combined with rallies and marches, with the support of the community and other unions such as the Maritime Union, Australian Workers Union, and Teacher’s Union, along with letters to the council, workers were able to return to their jobs and have the unjust provisions in their contract agreements removed. This was a powerful demonstration of what workers can achieve through standing together with their unions against the unfair treatment of their exploiters. It is a lesson on the importance of solidarity between workers, unions, and the community. Working together in the fight for rights is the frontline in the warfare of class struggle; without it, it is “divided we beg.”