ALP or LNP - workers lose either way

In March 2006, a year and half before the last federal election, WorkChoices came into effect. Workers were outraged at this attack on our rights, but what did the ALP dominated union officialdom do? They crushed any real militancy in the campaign and instead of taking immediate nation-wide industrial action to have these laws quashed they turned workers outrage into a year long “vote Labor” campaign. Rank and file unionists got behind the “Your Rights at Work” campaign and got the ALP in and how did they repay us? They kept the ABCC, they kept most of the repressive WorkChoices laws, tinkered at the edges and re-badged them “Fair Work Australia”. A far cry from the tearing up of WorkChoices the ALP promised workers.

The ALP has a long history of being a pro-capitalist, pro-boss party. It was the federal Labor government of Ben Chifley in 1949 that sent in the army to break a strike by 23,000 New South Wales coal miners. It was in 1984 under an ALP government that the bosses began rolling back previous hard won gains, long before Howard came on the scene. Hawke’s Labor government went after and de-registered the Builders Labourers Federation federally in 1986 and in 1989 it used the air force as scab labour against the pilots’ strike.

When Ark Tribe was initially charged unions across the country should have pulled their members out of work until the charges were dropped, they can’t jail a quarter of the population for “unprotected” action. Instead a fellow unionist who stood up and did the right thing has had to go through months of uncertainty with a possible jail term hanging over his head. Tens of thousands have already marched and many walked off the job in the past month to protest Ark’s trial and for scrapping the ABCC. If Ark is convicted on any count the laws will be used with impunity by Labor or the Liberals against us all. We need an effective campaign of rolling stoppages involving all unions – including strikes, pickets and rallies. We should follow the lead of union officials who have already declared walkouts in a range of industries if Ark is jailed. But any conviction drives a knife into the union movement and has to be met with a meaningful, determined campaign. Only the power of a united union movement can defeat the ABCC and any anti-union laws.

Our union leaders, particularly in the ACTU, have to ask themselves are they ALP or union first? More importantly rank and file union members have to ask this question of their officials and office bearers because given the ALP’s track record of anti-union and pro-boss laws there’s an obvious conflict of interest when ALP members supposedly representing unions are dealing with ALP politicians.

Workers need to begin taking control for themselves and organising to remove capitalism because the current capitalist system and its politicians (ALP or LNP) will always put the profits and the interests of a tiny minority of rich people before the interests, health and safety of working people.