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Talkshop notes on IR

Notes from the Talkshop at the Bookshop Industrial Relations in Australia, Friday 09/12/2005, taken by Sid of the Questions & Discussion part of the night’s event. This is not a transcript, just a brief and rough outline of the discussion, with apologies to all those who took part.

P: About the two day Toronto Strike that was on the poster that advertised the talk, can you tell us something about it. When was it, how big…

J: It was in the late 1990s, about 1996/7. Type Metropolitan Days of Action in Google.

K: Business Council of Australia had a fireworks display and party to celebrate the passing of the new IR laws, I saw the fireworks that night and inquired about what they were about. The IWW is developing a strategy to help workers organise to combat the new laws. We are proposing to allocate Regions in Australia to allow workers to organise and communicate with eachother more easily, and so as not to have the centralised approach of the Business Unions.

P: How do you stop an AWA from being introduced into your workplace? We had a new guy come in and they offered him an AWA. How can you stop that from happening?

K: When it happened at my workplace, we tackled the HR manager by going in one by one to negotiate for 6-8 hours straight – every bit of the AWA. He soon got sick of it and gave up. It became too expensive to do it that way.

M & S : It’s important to get to know eachother first. If there are new people, go up and start a conversation and lead into the IR area. That’s the first thing to get united.

P: I’d like some practical ways to combat these laws. The NTEU has Bargaining Agents forms, so workers (members) can nominate the union to be the bargaining agent.

S2: That’s important, but we need to develop some de-centralised ways to do that. Its no good looking to Union Central to come out and negotiate each and every AWA. Its impossible, but we could take a leaf out of the IWW strategy of having decentralised organisers at every workplace. The union can then be changed back to what they originally were: not at Sussex St, but at the work place.

K: Latham went on about Aspirational voters. What we should emphasise is the aspirations of workers: 1. being able to allocate duties at work among ourselves.

2. selecting our work supervisors. 3. develop ways to have a self-disciplined work groups.

S1: some of the ACTU campaign for next year is more focused on the local workplace. Based on using text messages, email etc…It’s not so much on the federal election.

J: yes they did get email addresses, but they asked for postcode, and that was so they would use the email strategy to target the marginal seats, hence the postcode information.

K: At a dispute not so long ago, at McMahon’s, nearby here, the IWW and some people from Jura supported the striking workers at the plant even though their own union did not show up at the picket line. They did not because they were shit scared of being sued for all they had. We were successful because we had nothing to lose.

M: the new laws will fine the workers $30,000 individually. Its no good waiting for the election of a Labor govt. We did that in England and the unions said, after the Miners Strike in the 1980s, wait and be patient until Labour gets in…many waited and they are still waiting for things to be better.

P: The Free Speech Fight of the IWW that I don’t know much about, maybe someone can tell us about it, seems to be something that we could learn from.

K: Thousands fought the conscription and the militarism of WW1, that way A lot of the action was in the US. In Sydney, thousands were involved, including 300 women who were arrested.

S2: where do we go from here? Organise another meeting? We could all leave this talk and never see eachother again, we need to do something more concrete. Maybe another meeting on this topic to sort out some practical responses.

J: here is a sheet of paper to get email addresses, for contacts.

What about having another meeting?

Kirsten and Jeremy to co-ordinate another meeting, contacting people on the email list, advertising, getting 2-3 speakers.

Have 2-3 speakers and then open to develop stragegies from the floor to counter the IR laws from a radical perspective.

Date for the next IR meeting: Thursday evening, January 19th, 2006, at Jura.

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