National trade union work focusing on campaign to abolish the ABCC

National trade union work focusing on campaign to abolish the ABCC

Socialist Alliance trade union work continues to advance steadily, as registered at our September 18 national trade union work hook-up.

The agenda of the meeting included a report by Geelong Trades Hall secretary Tim Gooden on the campaign in defence of Noel Washington and against the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC); a report by national coordinator Dick Nichols on the Rudd Labor government’s new industrial legislation: and reports on improving our industrial coverage and distribution through Green Left Weekly.

Representatives attended the hook-up from Geelong, Perth, Sydney, Canberra, and Brisbane, with apologies from Adelaide, Melbourne and Newcastle. Melbourne was busy supporting an important AMWU picket that evening!

Tim Gooden reported on Socialist Alliance’s successful intervention into the September 13 Geelong rally and march on in support of CFMEU organiser Noel Washington, charged with non-compliance with ABCC orders. Jim McIlroy also reported on the 3000-strong rally of building unionists in Brisbane, and the clear willingness of workers to take action to protest the ABCC and defend Noel.

It is clear that Tim Gooden’s role as secretary of the Geelong Trades and Labour Council (GTLC) and as a CFMEU member has been, and will be, crucial for the leadership of this campaign.

At the rally Victorian trade union coordinator Margarita Windisch was able to obtain the signatures of a number of key officials on a sign-on statement pledging no-cooperation with the ABCC and issued under Tim Gooden’s name.

It was resolved at the hookup that all branches should try to use the statement to build the campaign nationally. We will also be investigating any openings for pickets or protests outside ALP ministers’ or MPs’ offices, in the lead-up to a major, nationwide mobilisation set for December 2, when the Noel Washington case goes to full trial in Melbourne.

Dick Nichols then reported on the federal government’s new industrial legislation, essentially Work Choices Lite, which was released by industrial relations minister Julia Gillard on September 17. Severe restrictions on union action and organisation are maintained, or even worsened in some cases. The Socialist Alliance needs to mount a publicity campaign to expose this ALP betrayal of the union movement, and to push the union leaders to take serious action to protest this anti-worker legislation.

The hookup also agreed to launch a drive to increase sales and subscriptions to GLW within the industrial arena. We also noted that, while industrial copy in the paper has been good in recent times, there was always the need to broaden and improve coverage, involving more Socialist Alliance unionists in this work. We want to make Green Left Weekly “the union fight back paper”, featuring all struggles, promoting debate on strategy and profiling the work of our unionist members.

On the organisation of the Alliance’s own national industrial work, it was agreed to continue the roughly monthly schedule of national trade union work hookups, and to maintain the useful weekly hookups of its national coordinating group, currently involving Jim McIlroy, Tim Gooden, Margarita Windisch and Dick Nichols.

It was also decided to encourage the Socialist Alliance industrial committees in the various branches and states to prepare and circulate reports on union work in their cities. This is particularly important in the lead-up to our National Conference on December 5-7 in Geelong.