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Workers' choice: political parties or freedom

Workers' choice: political parties or freedom

by John Anderson


Over half a million workers in Australia protested against against John Howard's falsely named 'Work Choices' programme. Many of them bravely went on strike to take action despite threats of dismissal by their bosses.

The legislation is an attack on workers' protection against unfair dismissal, pushing people on to individual contracts, award conditions are not guaranteed or protected, restricting rights to organise, and rights to overtime and shift allowances, and minimum wages will now be directly under Howard's overzealous thumb.

A post-march debate in Melbourne on 'Who represents the workers' was heated on the best strategy to go forward. Workers' Solidarity reported that "officials from three major unions expressed doubt on the wisdom of relying on the Labor party. A plan was outlined to reform the ALP from within to make elected ALP parliamentarians more accountable to workers needs. Others at the meeting stated that this plan has been tried and failed in the past."

In New Zealand, Wildcat believes there is one answer to that debate. No party in government will ever represent workers.

The 'Work Choices' legislation is essentially what happened in New Zealand with the Employment Contracts Act in 1991. This National Party legislation introduced a new system of individualised employment contracts, casualisation and the removal of existing rights, voluntary unionism and the banning of most forms of industrial action, in particular any strikes not connected with contract negotiations.

The result was while Australian living standards and wages went up, New Zealand's stagnated.

The installing of the New Zealand Labour Party in to power with the financial support of New Zealand's union movement and capitalists has ushered in a new era of cooperation with the bosses.

The truth remains that on average New Zealanders earn 30% less than Australian workers, despite high economic times for the rich.

During the staunch but muted picket at the Australian High Commission in Wellington of 200 workers, activists, and organisers there was no mention by official speakers of the 600 Air New Zealand workers that are being fired by Helen Clark's government, or the recently announced public service razor gang. It took an outraged member of the Brass Razoo Solidarity Band to tell the truth about Labour and those that still support them.

We need to send a strong message of solidarity to Australia, but we also need to fight for democracy for workers at home! The first step is to sever ties with all political parties, and stop throwing good money after bad - election after election.


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