Fit to muscle out Howard’s IR laws

(Originally published in now abandond Livejournal blog, Sept 2005)

I hate everything that John Howard is doing, and so do most people who I know.

What baffles everyone I speak to, is why do people have trust in Howard? In fact there is considerable opposition to what Howard is doing on both Telstra and industrial relations – but that opposition is not stopping him.

Enough people voted for him to win 3 elections. Why and who are they? I think that part of the answer is that when confronted with anxieties about their own way of life, many Australian workers can’t see anyone they trust more to protect what they do have.

And Howard is looking like a winner. He is a winner.

I like to think that the way to beat Howard is for unionized workers to take him on.

Over the last few months since the Rights@work campaign was launched, there have been mixed feelings. There is a sense of hope and strength, that Howard could really be going too far and that this attack on unions could be the reviving tonic that the labour movement needs. But many key union officials do not seem to have confidence that the membership has the will and the muscle to come out on top. Unless the unions do take him on before the legislation which amputates workers rights is passed, not only will their industrial muscles get weaker and more unfit, they will have severe legal disabilities that will make it even harder to enter the struggle for rights at work.

Union officials are talking about the need to be smart in dealing with Howard, not to be hot headed and rush to use the industrial muscle. Yes, there is a need to be smart, but it’s not very smart not to notice, that throughout history the victor is not the one who is polite and reasonable, but the one who gets the upper hand and uses it. Those of us who hate Howard, those of us who recognize that he is dangerous can only mobilise those who have previously placed their trust in Howard, by showing that we can beat Howard, that we have an alternative to Howard. The smart thing to do is to work out the best way to maximise our industrial muscle and to choose the best time to use it. And it would be smart if that were before the amputation of more legal rights.

Unions need to try to stop the legislation going through parliament, by giving all the wavering politicians plenty of reason to think that the laws would provoke too much unrest to be workable.

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