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Friday, April 20, 2007

Reject Howard’s Work Choices! Reject Rudd’s watered down Work Choices! Socialist Alliance

“The right to withdraw labour is the only thing that distinguishes a free

worker from the slave.”

—Clyde Cameron, Labor Minister in the 1972-75 Whitlam government.

After Kevin Rudd was elected as ALP leader, he promised that a

federal Labor government would “tear up Work Choices”.

Instead, Rudd announced an industrial relations policy to the National

Press Club on April 17 that would retain significant parts of Work


There are just a few concessions to workers —the abolition of

Australian Workplace Agreements, some tightening of unfair dismissal

provisions and restoration of some basic conditions like penalty rates,

overtime and public holiday pay.

The right to strike almost destroyed

But Rudd’s policy attacks the most important democratic right of

workers—the right to strike. Workers will only be allowed to take

industrial action in the bargaining period for a new enterprise

agreement. Employers will be able to do whatever they like during the life of an

agreement—victimise delegates, restructure the workplace, maintain

unsafe work sites—but workers won’t be allowed to strike in their own

defence. There is no mention of any penalty against employers for locking

workers out of their jobs or replacing them with underpaid workers.

Secret ballots

Rudd will only allow legal industrial action after a secret ballot

conducted by an independent body. It can take weeks to get “the

umpire” to conduct a secret ballot for protected industrial action—

giving employers plenty of time stockpile goods or contract out work to

weather industrial action.

No “pattern bargaining”

Rudd says “employees … will not be able to strike in support of an

industry-wide agreement.” This means that workers in more weakly

organised workplaces who have only gained improvements through

industry-wide campaigns will continue as second-class citizens on

minimum wages and conditions.

Restricted unfair dismissal provisions

Rudd’s new policy will reinstate unfair dismissal laws but only after

workers serve a lengthy probation – 12 months for workers in

businesses with 15 employees or less, and six months for workers in

larger businesses. As always, ruthless employers will sack workers just

before their probation runs out.

Rudd’s speech has betrayed the thousands of unionists and

community activists who have been campaigning for a Labor victory

because of its commitment to rip up Work Choices and AWAs.

The thousands of activists involved in the Your Rights At Work

campaign have not thrown their heart and soul into this campaign just

to get a watered down version of Work Choices.

All unionists need to call on the ALP to:

Honour the commitment made by Kim Beazley, Kevin Rudd

and Julia Gillard to “tear up” Work Choices;

Restore all workers’ rights which have been stripped away by

the Howard government under Work Choices and the

Workplace Relations Act; and,

Enshrine the right to strike in ALP industrial relations policy.

We need our unions to respond by immediately making plans to

mobilise for the repeal of Howard’s anti-worker laws and the full

restoration of workers’ rights. Socialist Alliance has already pledged to help build the broad

union and community alliance that has powered the fight against

Work Choices and to also reject the Rudd-Gillard “alternative”.

Authorised by Dick Nichols, 23 Abercrombie Street, Chippendale NSW 2007.

Printed by New Course Publications, 23 Abercrombie Street, Chippendale NSW 2007.

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