100,000s of workers bring Melbourne to a halt
For once, the militant CFMEU union members were outnumbered at a union rally by white collar workers, metal workers, cleaners, and other sections of the class, such as psychologists, lab technicians and actors.
As some workers left Trades Hall, in South Carlton, others had already arrived at Federation Square, 2 kms away! The rally showed to workers their potential power and will stiffen their resistance to those arrogant bosses who think 1 July - when Howard’s right wing government brings in new anti-worker Industrial Relations legislation - will magically wipe out trade unionism.
The mood amongst those who have already been under attack, such as the postal workers, who defied court orders to attend the rally, was loud and defiant. Most workers, however, were in a thoughtful mood. The rally was relatively quiet, especially compared to the Socialist Party/Unite rally of school students last Friday (see previous report on this site).
Workers have no confidence in any strategy from their leaders that means waiting for or relying on a Labor Party (ALP) election victory. They well remember that the last Federal Labor government smashed unions and introduced a wage-cutting "Accord". Workers also remember how Trades Hall, in Victoria, called off the mass movement against the Kennett State Liberal Government in the early 1990s. They are willing to fight, if they are convinced their leadership will go all the way, but are wary of losing pay for a half-hearted campaign.
Union militants need to offer an alternative to the line of the Australian Congress of Trades Unions (ACTU) and moderate union leaders. The Socialist Party argues that we need to pressurise the more militant union leaders to continue the campaign of industrial action, including a national 24-hour general strike, to stop Howard. Workers also need a genuine political alternative, a new workers’ party with mass support.
The Socialist Party and Unite had a marvellous participation on the rally. We sold over 500 copies of our paper, which included a 4-page supplement on the Industrial Relations attacks and our strategy to defend workers’ wages and conditions. Thousands of workers wore our anti-Howard sticker, including Kim Beazley (embarrassingly for him!), the Labor Party leader, as seen on the TV news that night. Hundreds of workers wore our badges, including the "Eureka Was ‘Illegal’" badge [The 1854 Eureka rebellion is a key episode in the history of the Australian workers’ movement].
Further reports of workers action, on 29 June, across Australia, will follow soon