- The Guardian
- Issue #2003
Without strong, militant unions workers are powerless. The trade union movement has been targeted by successive governments to the point where industrial action is outlawed with unions facing heavy penalties through the enforcement of a battery of anti-union laws – a massive redistribution has taken place, from wages to profits.
As Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus puts it: “Wages won’t rise if workers don’t have power. Wages won’t rise unless workers have rights.”
To defend their interests, workers and their unions must have:
- The unfettered right to take industrial action;
- Right of entry for union officials;
- Right to bargain across an industry as well as in individual workplaces;
- Right to secure well-paid jobs;
- Right to equal pay for work of equal value;
- Right to a safe workplace;
- Enforcement of workplace rights with heavy penalties for employer breaches of those rights.
These penalties should include manslaughter charges where a worker loses their life to failure of bosses to provide a safe working environment.
The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) must be abolished. The ABCC and ROC are political weapons of the Coalition government and employers to wield the power of the state – the police and the courts – against building and construction workers and maritime workers and their unions. Their aim is to instil fear of taking action, criminalise legitimate trade union activity, and bankrupt unions.
The Morrison government has emphatically announced that it will double the fines for breaches of these rotten laws in the construction industry against the construction union. That is $444,000 for the union for even the most minor breach and to $88,800 for individual workers and union officials! We must vote these union-busting, worker-crushing bastards out!
The growth of insecure, low paid, insecure jobs has been on the rise. This has seen “zero-hours contracts”, body hire, “gig economy” jobs, endless, fixed-term contracts and the drive to casualisation and part-time work, undermining full-time and higher paid employment.
Prices are skyrocketing while public services are shrinking. The redistribution from wages to profits accelerated during the pandemic thanks to the largesse of the government with its handouts to the corporate sector; big business made a killing out of JobKeeper and other corporate handouts.
It is no accident that profits are at record highs and real wages have been in decline. It is Coalition government policy to serve the interests of big business at the expense of workers and their families.
Capitalism is a crisis-ridden system which is failing the people. Decades of neoliberalism have taken their toll with an ongoing redistribution of wealth in favour of big business and the rich. Privatisation, deregulation, budget cuts, tax cuts for the rich and businesses have hurt working people and social security recipients. Capitalism has also unleashed ongoing wars with all their brutality, destruction and environmental pollution.
There is a wage crisis. Living and working conditions are in decline. Early childhood education and care, aged care, health care, women’s and legal services, the NDIS, housing, the public service, the arts – all are in crisis. There is a cost-of-living crisis. Leisure time is but a dream for those working two or three jobs to put food on the table. There is a climate crisis weighing on the minds of the young in particular. The list goes on and on. Capitalism has failed and continues to fail the people.
It is clear that working people want change. They want well paid secure jobs and affordable public housing. Social security recipients want an income that allows them to meet their basic needs and live with dignity. They want an end to all the “mutual obligations” and jumping through hoops with a grossly understaffed and under-resourced Centrelink.
It is immoral and criminal that the government can spend over a trillion dollars on war preparations, tens of billions on tax cuts for corporations and the rich, and tens of billions on subsidising fossil fuels but “cannot afford” basic services for the people. This must change.
The climate crisis is real – drought, bush fires and floods. Fire and other emergency services need to be fully staffed and resourced for worse is to come.
The driving force behind these crises is the pursuit of ever larger private profits. The public sector has been wound back to provide more profit-generating sources for capitalists at the expense of people. Real change is needed.
A larger percentage of the wealth created by workers is being pocketed by the rich and monopoly corporations than in the past sixty years and the trend is accelerating. The percentage of wealth created by waged workers that flowed to these workers fell to forty-seven per cent of GDP in 2019, the lowest since records began in 1959. In 1975 workers received 57.4 percent of GDP. That is a transfer out of workers’ pockets of 10.4 per cent – a loss of $208 billion or almost $20,000 annually per worker in today’s terms. (ACTU Secretary Sally McManus addressing a Webinar organised by The Australia Institute)
There is a corresponding increase in the takings of capital from less than 16 per cent of GDP in 1975, to over 26 per cent, taking it to the highest ever by 2019 – an increase of 10.2 per cent or $200 billion. (McManus)
The corresponding decline in wages and rise in profits confirms what Karl Marx said about the relationship between wages and profits under capitalism: “We see that, even if we keep ourselves within the relation of capital and wage-labour, the interests of capitalists and the interests of wage-labour are diametrically opposed to each other.” (Wage Labour and Capital)
The growth of capital, however much it might at times improve the material life of workers, does not abolish the antagonism and class struggle between workers and employers.
Women bear the brunt of this assault on wages. Women’s average weekly ordinary full-time earnings are $1,591.20 compared to men’s at $1,846.50 per week – a gender gap of $13,275 per annum. Women on average work fewer hours of overtime and are more likely to be part-time or casual, resulting in an even larger gender gap. Indigenous and migrant women are subjected to the greatest exploitation along with many visa workers.
The question is: how was this massive transfer of wealth carried out.? The answer is three-pronged: by a massive assault on trade union rights limiting struggle; by employers gutting traditional forms of employment; and by the ideological war waged by governments and employers to suppress class consciousness.
WORKERS WANT CHANGE
The system of capitalism by its very nature acts in the interests of bosses against workers and always will until it is replaced by socialism. Workers produce the wealth but the owners of capital control production and distribution of that wealth. That does not mean that gains cannot be won, that workers cannot have a larger share through struggle within the capitalist system and better the lives for their families. These gains must be wrung out of bosses and governments.
Despite all the efforts of bosses, governments, and state machinery, workers have never let up in their struggles. Witness the recent actions of transport, construction, maritime, aged care, healthcare, education, logistics, and other workers.
The Communist Party of Australia congratulates Australian workers on their struggles and successes on this May Day 2022. As the title of the book where Mandela and Castro discuss the struggles of the South African and Cuban peoples states: How far we slaves have come!
As Marx pointed out, it is necessary to not only struggle against the effects of capitalism but to simultaneously try to change the system. (Value, Price and Profit)
Socialism is the only alternative to rapacious capitalism, so join the Communist Party of Australia in the struggle for a better future for all.