Saturday, July 24, 2021

Campaign for secure work is a worthy cause


Written by: Ned K. on 24 July 2021

The ACTU leadership has been investigating what are the key issues that can unite all workers in Australia. 

At a recent union forum ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said that insecure work was an issue that union members across all union memberships identified as a most important issue. 

Insecure work in various forms was present in industries with high paying salaries such as tertiary education to the lowest paid rural farm workers. McManus said that many unions already campaign on insecure work issues. 

She said that what has changed is that there has been a shift in public opinion with the majority of Australians now really concerned about insecure work. The stand-downs by employers during Covid-19 lockdowns and the federal government's scrapping Job Keeper has added to the change in public opinion.

She said that in her role as ACTU Secretary, she was determined to lead a campaign that linked the isolated fights around the many manifestations of insecure work through "umbrella messaging" captured by the slogan "Secure Jobs, Worth Fighting For"

She said that as important an issue that job security is for workers, it is only one part of a bigger picture goal of the ACTU affiliated unions and their members. 

What was "the bigger goal"? She said the bigger goal for union members was to struggle to change the industrial laws which strangled workers’ capacity to take collective action apart from the extremely limited "protected industrial action" during isolated enterprise bargaining campaigns.
She said that there would be the usual campaigning by unions in marginal electoral Seats leading up to the federal election to get rid of the Morrison Government.

However, unlike the ACTU leadership at the time of the 2007 election, election of an ALP Government was not the end of the matter, but the beginning in the fight for secure jobs. She said even if workers did agitate sufficiently for a new ALP government to make substantial changes to industrial laws, there was no guarantee that new laws would be enough. She said, "We will need collective action on the ground" both to force changes to anti-worker laws and also to have any new laws more favourable to workers complied with by the employers.
No doubt, as the election gets nearer, there will be a push by some within the ACTU and within the ALP upper echelons to change the campaign slogan of ""Secure Jobs, Worth Fighting For" to "Secure Jobs, Worth Voting For"! 

The 2007 campaign "Your Rights At Work, Worth Fighting For" was changed to "Workers Rights, Worth Voting For" and as soon as the election was over, the ACTU dropped the whole campaign and organisation that had been built up "on the ground" in workplaces and communities.

Workers were left with "Work Choices Lite" in the form of the Fair Work Act.

It is pleasing at this stage to hear Sally McManus commit to a campaign for Secure Jobs that is independent of parliamentary election outcomes.

Time will tell whether this eventuates. Workers will embrace such a campaign as their deteriorating economic situation compels them to do so. Workers will find alternative leaders from within their own ranks in such a campaign if current ones fall to live up to expectations.

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