Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Faithless No More

I want to believe Kim Beazley's comments to the ACTU congress that the Labor Party is the party of collective bargaining. After all the dithering, and so many in the party's bunker believing workers in unions are just another lobbying "interest" group, I really really want to believe he is genuine. For if behind closed doors, his inner circle is snickering and saying what a good job the unions are doing with the Your Rights At Work campaign, and that'll get us over the line at the next election, all he needs to do is blame a hostile Senate for not helping pass laws that protect workers rights.

The reality is, the only thing that will protect workers' rights, is workers standing together and collectively bargaining. It doesn't matter what the industrial instrument is. If workers collectively bargain, and collectively bargain across sectors, then that is what will even the balance between employer power and workers' power.

I've just been through an amazing four-week campaign for union recognition in a low cost airline company here in the UK. The company brought in the Burke Group - a US union-busting organisation that prides itself in a 96% success rate on winning a ballot in the employers' favour.

So it's the company and Burke Vs 350 mostly young cabin crew. The ballot is counted next week and it's been labour intensive, taking us away from other union campaigns. But this is about sewing up the sector and winning recognition for the right to bargain.

So Beazley's idea about a secret recognition vote is an interesting one. In the UK, if union members lose the ballot, you're union's out for three years. Nasty.

I'm interested to see what the response to Beazley's idea is about voting in a secret ballot if the employer refuses to bargain in good faith.

We now just need to openly have faith in Beazley that he seriously believes that the Labor Party is the party of collective bargaining and can take this as a major party platform to the next election.

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