Please sign on to this statement to support the campaign for the right to strike.
You can email your name,contact details, organisation and trade union position (if any) to Susan Price.
Australian law has never provided for the unrestricted right to strike.
The first Australian industrial law, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1904, penalised Australian striking workers with fines and jail sentences.
Before that, Australian workers had to comply with the British Master and Servants Act of 1837, which meant that a worker could face jail if they were absent from work for an hour without permission!
Successive Australian governments, both Liberal and ALP, have sought to restrict the right to strike, in contravention of International Labour Organisation (ILO) principles:
The ILO Convention No. 87, Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, was adopted in 1948 and ratified by Australia in 1973. It gives recognition to the right of trade unions, as organisations of workers set up to further and defend their occupational interests, and to formulate their programs and organise their activities. In 1952, the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association declared strike action to be a right and recognised the right to strike to be one of the principal means by which workers and their unions promote and defend their economic and social interests.
But while laws restrict the right of workers to withdraw their labour, employers such as Qantas, Schweppes, Toyota and Sigma can lock out workers or cut jobs with impunity.
The right to withdraw our labour is fundamental to defend wages and conditions. And as the global economic and environmental crises worsen, it will also be necessary to defend jobs against industry closures, and to ensure a just transition to ecologically safe industries.
As the employer class seeks to make workers pay for their crisis by cutting the social wage and attacking living standards, the right to strike will be essential to defending our social services and welfare, public health care, education and housing and to fight off further privatisation.
The lesson of the 1969 Clarrie O'Shea dispute is that a concerted, organised campaign to defy the laws and penal powers of the day can win.
Please sign on to support the campaign for the right to strike. You can email your name,contact details, organisation and trade union position (if any) to Susan Price.