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Recent articles by Loe Toscano
This author has not submitted any other articles.Recent Articles about Indonesia / Philippines / Australia Workplace struggles
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Dividing the Workers on IR reforms
indonesia / philippines / australia | workplace struggles | opinion / analysis Friday October 14, 2005 11:49 by Loe Toscano
Repost from “Anarchist Age” No663
John Howard’s Industrial Relation (IR) laws have not been watered down as most commentators claim.
John Howard’s Industrial Relation (IR) laws have not been watered down as most commentators claim. In an attempt to derail mounting workplace and community opposition through a $100 million taxpayer funded media blitz, the Howard government will focus its campaign on the idea that under its proposed legislation, workers who are currently enjoying a set of conditions with employers will continue to enjoy those conditions.
Davidson from the Sunday Age GRANDFATHER CLAUSE What is intended to make workers relaxed and comfortable should set alarm bells ringing in their ears. What is proposed is nothing more than the insertion of a standard grandfather clause in the legislation. In an attempt not to stampede the horses, the Howard government has decided to take workers to their new IR knackery one by one, not as a screaming kicking herd. Nearly 20% of full time Australian workers change their jobs every year. As soon as they change their jobs, they will lose any protection they enjoyed under the proposed legislation and will have their minimum award conditions stripped back from 20 to 5.
With the removal of unfair dismissal laws, those workers who have been told they will continue to enjoy their current set of conditions, will be able to be legally dismissed and be reoffered individual contracts. If they refuse to accept their new individual contracts, they will be forced to find work somewhere else and will no longer enjoy any of the Howard government’s illusory workplace protections. Nothing in the legislation will stop a company changing its trading name, dismissing its workforce and then offering them their old jobs back if they agree to sign individual contracts. The Howard government has won 4 successive Federal elections by pitting Australians against Australians. They have successfully demonised, in the eyes of the public, asylum seekers, the unemployed, the Muslim community, single parents and people receiving disability support pensions, minorities within our community. They have now set their sights on a bigger target, pay as you earn (PAYE) taxpayers. Both unionised and non unionised workers will, if they allow this legislation to go through parliament, find out what minorities living in Australia have had to put up with during the Howard years.
Let us hope this time the Howard government is not able to fool most of the people all of the time, has bitten off more than it can chew, and chokes on its new IR legislation. Michelle Grattan - WRONG RONG WRONG Michelle Grattan’s normal incisive analysis of political legislation seems to be missing in her article on the Howard government’s new Industrial Relations (IR) legislation ‘On the Seventh day, Howard began life’s work’ Sunday Age (9/10). Her prose lacks the intellectual vigour one normally associates with her work. She makes the mistake of taking the government’s press releases and briefings at face value, letting the propaganda blight her normally perceptive vision. Fortunately, the graphic by Matt Davidson accompanying her article readdresses the balance by visually highlighting the kernel of Howard’s grand plan an all out State and judicial attack on the rights that workers, both unionised and non unionized, have enjoyed as the result of generations of struggle.
The legislation strikes at the very heart of Pay As You Earn (PAYE) taxpayers ability to collectively bargain and extract from employers a reasonable return for their labor. They will be expected to gratefully accept any crumbs that are brushed off the table in their direction by the State and employers. Those who have the audacity to believe that they should be sitting at the table and tucking into the same three course meal their employers are eating, will be dragged away kicking and screaming by legislation that makes dissent a criminal offence.
The new IR laws need to be viewed in combination with laws that have been passed to force social security beneficiaries into poorly paid part time work and laws that have been passed to criminalise dissent. This legislative trifecta has put real power into the hands of corporations and businesses who exercise authority through their ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange and has made the government of the day the instrument by which corporations exercise their authority, not the institution that reflects the will of the people.
History - unparelleled opportunity
In 1822 James Straiter a convict, selected lambing time to organise Australia’s first strike. Shepherds working for one of Australia’s richest men, MacArthur, collectively removed their labour to force MacArthur to improve their miserable wages and rations. Straiter was arrested and sentenced to 500 lashes, one month’s solitary confinement on bread and water and was forced to serve the rest of his original sentence in a penal settlement for the heinous crime of ‘inciting his master’s servants to combine for the purpose of obliging him to raise their wages and increase their rations’. In 1859, Melbourne’s Trades Hall set up the Political and Social League of Victoria and saw their candidate Charles Jardine Don elected into the Victorian parliament (as the member for Collingwood), as Australia’s first labour representative. Since then, the Labour movement has used direct action, political representation and the courts to promote the interests of working people in this country. The wages, conditions and social security benefits that Australian workers have taken for granted for so long, are a legacy of militant struggles that have spanned generations. During the term of the Hawke Labor government, workers entered into an accord with business and government that resulted in working people and their unions abandoning militant workplace action. The Trade Union movement believed that rights, conditions and wages could be maintained and extended through participation in the ‘historic’ accord between labour, government and employers. In the process, most of Australia’s unions gave up the militant traditions that had won Australian workers the rights and conditions they now enjoy. Howard’s new Industrial Relations (IR) laws are based on the same principles that saw James Straiter flogged in 1822 for daring to bargain collectively. The battle lines have now been drawn by a government that believes Pay As You Earn (PAYE) taxpayers have fewer rights than indentured servants and a trade union movement that is beginning to realise that it signed its own death warrant when it abandoned its militant traditions and signed up to Hawke’s accord. Howard’s IR laws provide an unparalleled opportunity for working people and their supporters to fan the ember of a militant tradition that has served Australians so well in the past.
Irrespective of the punitive nature of the new IR laws, ultimate political authority rests in the hands of the people, not the government of the day or the State. Governments like John Howard’s that manufacture mandates and try to sweep away the gains that have been won as the result of the sacrifices made by millions of Australian workers, who are not satisfied with fighting over the crumbs that have been swept off the table, but want a seat at the table so they can enjoy a three course meal, do so at their own peril.
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