Commentary- We need a fighting union movement

Commentary- Joe Carolan

Over one hundred delegates, organisers and activists in Auckland's union movement gathered on Wednesday 28th July at UNite on Campus's Fightback Rally, to plan a response to the National Party government's proposed attacks on workers and unions. A triumvirate of private sector unions- EPMU, NDU and Unite, pledged that there would be direct action and a militant fightback on the worksites and on the streets of the city in months to come. Unions would be joined in this campaign by community groups, left wing parties and organisations for the unemployed.

The answer to low wages and attacks on union organisation is not to appeal to the Government for partnership. The answer is to recruit thousands of un-unionised workers into the movement before these law changes come in. The answer is to make sure any site where a worker is unjustly dismissed using the 90 Day Law is blockaded, picketed and occupied. 60 activists have already signed up for the first UTU squad, which will support vulnerable and unorganised workers who will be most affected by these attacks.

The answer is to build mass demonstrations in the major cities of New Zealand, through a proper build up of all out delegate meetings, wall to wall postering, mass leafletting and national advertising. There are over 350,000 union members organised by the Council of Trade Unions- we should try to mobilise them all.

The rallies planned for August 21st will not achieve this. At best, they will have a thousand or so in each centre. The amateur approach needs to stop- we don't need another pathetic Mayday parade of union officials as witnessed in Auckland this year- we need a Mining March for the Working Class. Late October, when the proposed laws are to be introduced, would give us a much better timeframe.

The movement also needs to respect a diversity of tactics and political viewpoints within the workers movement. Each union and organisation has their own culture. Some unions will take the fight to the bosses doorsteps. The Labour Party needs to realise that the modern union movement in the private sector is not a One Party State.

Video of the rally to follow this weekend.


David said…
The meeting sounds very inspiring. And I agree with your call to "recruit thousands of un-unionised workers into the movement before these law changes come in..." and so on.

But your report raises some concerning questions. If the EPMU, NDU and Unite, are all committed to "a militant fightback", why don't you think the August 21st rallies will be a success?

Were the officials speaking at the meeting representing the views of their union leaderships, or only speaking in a personal capacity? Or is it the bigger public sector unions you fear won't mobilise?

I don't think the August rally needs to have 40,000 in Auckland to be a success - so long as there are more, bigger rallies to follow. Labour Day at the end of October would be an obvious choice.

However, if you're right, and the preparation isn't being done. What do your propose groups like Socialist Aotearoa can do about it?

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