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Issue #1541      28 March 2012

Communist trade union activists meet

The CPA’s Central Committee ranks were expanded on the second day of its meeting over the weekend of March 17-18 with the participation of Party trade union activists. Warren Smith, Central Committee Secretariat member and national assistant secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia introduced the morning session with an analysis of the current situation.

He spoke about the capitalist crisis, the intensification of the crisis of over production, pointing out that the logic of socialism is becoming increasingly favourable to the working class. “We are heading into a period of intensified struggle,” Smith said, “which would be made more difficult for trade unions with the election of an Abbott government. Economically, Australia will become a basket case over the next 20 years.”

Employers are on the offensive, as witnessed in the Qantas battle, testing the limits of the Fair Work Act. At the same time trade unions are responding and co-operating to save jobs, wages and working conditions, and in some instances their industry.

Smith spoke about the importance of internationalism and supporting all trade unions in struggle against employer attacks and “austerity” measures. Locally we need to do more to strengthen our support for trade union struggles and unity, to build the movement and to get our views across.

In the discussion that followed experiences were exchanged. Many issues were raised, including changes in employer tactics; the horrendous situation in many workplaces as conditions are eroded; the super exploitation of Section 456 and 457 visa workers with reports of some guest workers being paid as little as $3 per hour; the importance of solidarity actions; the impact of the economic crisis on workers; the need to raise class consciousness; the political situation; and industrial relations legislation.

In the afternoon, the focus was turned to what is to be done, with discussion on policy and action. Central Committee Executive member Andrew Irving introduced the session, providing focal points for discussion, a number of which had arisen in the morning’s discussion. These included policy and campaigns for changes to industrial relations laws (right to strike, abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission – ABCC); secure employment; more militant and class conscious trade unions; close relations between trade unions and the wider community; trade union education for our Comrades; raising class and political consciousness in the movement; industry policy; and internationalism.

Trade unions should be independent organisations expressing the will of their membership. They were at their strongest when the Communist Party was large and had greater influence. Now is the perfect time for trade unions to walk away from the Labor Party and even consider standing their own candidates. One of the most important tasks is to build the CPA and its influence in the movement, which is presently dominated by social democracy.

The right to strike, in particular, was seen as a priority area of struggle, as without it trade unions face millions of dollars in fines and damages cases if they take legitimate industrial action under the limitations of FWA. This has not completely stopped industrial action and picketing, but has acted as a dampener in many disputes.

The meeting laid the basis for further development of policy and the holding of a Party school for trade union activists in June. The school will deal with both basic Marxist theory and its application as well as some of the issues raised in discussion at the CC meeting.  

Next article – Queensland Elections 2012 – Contempt for the people wipes Labor

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