WL Aus 37

Howard's plan: smash unions

Is it the industrial relations system that Howard is out to smash, or is it the industrial power of unions?

"It seems incredible that we would see a hundred years of a fair system that has underpinned one of the richest economies in the world [changed] because business says it doesn’t have enough power. I don’t think any Australian is going to accept that" said ACTU President Sharan Burrow in response to the Howard Governments next plans for industrial relations.

The Australian labour movement today

The Australian labour movement is in deep trouble. Not just the left wing, or the radicals, but the whole movement.

According to the ACTU: "Latest union membership figures show around 25% of them are in unions. Over the last two years union membership numbers increased by 24,500 members a year. Union membership currently stands at 1,902,700 members".

The recent increase in union density is very welcome, and it reflects tremendous organising efforts in some sectors. The ACTU reports:

"Over the last twelve months union membership increased in several industries:

Tsunami relief: social justice not just charity

The scale of the current crisis has as much to do with poverty and injustice as with 'nature'.
Trade unions play an important role in education, health and community initiatives across the world that help people fight back. I encourage you to read about the work of the Australian union movement's aid organisation APHEDA and to consider establishing a regular donation.

Israel/Palestine: "all of us will pay"

At the same meeting in which it decided to implement the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, the Israeli government took an even more important decision: to complete the wall in the West Bank.

As of now, preparations are moving rapidly ahead for the building of three new towns between the Green Line and the wall: "Gevaot" in the Etzion Bloc, "Zufim North" near Kalkilia and a contiguous built-up area connecting Jerusalem with Ma’aleh Adumim. More big housing projects are planned east of Har Homa and east of A-Ram.

Free the Liaoyang Two!

An appeal for Chinese worker activists

Xiao Yunliang and Yao Fuxin were arrested in March 2002 for leading 30,000 laid-off workers from the Liaoyang Ferro-Alloy Plant, and other local factories, in street protests. The workers were protesting against alleged managerial corruption and demanding many months of unpaid wages.

In June 2003, Xiao was sentenced to four years' imprisonment, Yao was given a seven-year prison sentence, both on charges of political "subversion".

Australia/Iraq Trade Union Solidarity (AUSIRAQ)

A Sydney group has been formed to raise money for and build links with Iraqi unions. In July a meeting initiated by Workers Liberty held at the Gaelic Club led to the formation of the Australia/Iraq Trade Union Solidarity group. Frustration with the refusal of most of the left to support the struggle of the workers’ movement in Iraq gave rise to this development.

Elections unleash employers

Bosses seek longer hours, more exploitation, by Wayne Sonter, from Shorter Work Week News No. 26 Jan 2005

Voters in Australia and United States - two countries whose workforces already work the longest annual hours of the world’s industrial economies – recently returned the reactionary Bush & Howard governments, entrenching them more deeply in power and giving them the ability to make laws that will severely punish the working classes of both countries.

Boss watch

By Lynn Smith

In its last days, Iraq’s US appointed interim administration mysteriously transferred US$500 million to an obscure bank in Lebanon. The loot was quietly removed from Iraq’s Central Bank, placed in boxes then flown by charter jet to Lebanon. Ironically, the cash transfer came the day after George W. Bush’s obscenely expensive inauguration circus in the US during which he pledged to "oppose corrupt, oligarchic regimes".

After the new economy

Doug Henwood's book After the New Economy in review (New York, The New Press, 2003)

Doug Henwood, is an independent leftwing economic commentator and critic of capitalism. He edits of the Left Business Observer web site which he founded in 1986. According to Znet he was "briefly a conservative and a member of the Party of the Right, which manoeuvred his election as Secretary of the Political Union, but he quickly came to his senses."

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