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First sign of resistance against the Howard government's anti-union attacks

Sue Bolton, Socialist Alliance (Australia) trade union coordinator

With the various ACTU officials arguing consistently over the last four months that the union movement can't resist the Howard government attacks, and that the union movement will just have to adjust to working within the new legal framework set for them by the Howard government, it is good to see a sign of resistance at last.

Victorian Trades Hall Council is the first labour council to call a mass delegates meeting. The meeting has been called for 23 March in Dallas Brooks Hall, a venue which holds between 2000-4000 people and has been filled for mass delegates' meetings before.

A proposal will go to the delegates' meeting for a mass union protest. The intention is a protest which is tens of thousands strong. The date isn't decided for the mass protest but the dates being looked at are some time in April, or else 30 June.

There is also a commitment from the more active unions and some in Vic Trades Hall that May Day needs to be a day of protest this year. There are discussions amongst the most active unions about whether it would be best organised by a Trades Hall committee which is open to anyone to participate, or whether it should be organised by a committee outside Trades Hall.

In addition, the Geelong, Ballarat & Gippsland TLCs are planning their own delegates' meetings, but on different dates to the March 23 Melbourne meeting. They will probably send their delegates to the Melbourne meeting as well - the advantage of Victoria being such a small state.

It will be important to get the word around to active unionists in other states about what Victoria is doing. It would be much more effective if the protests being planned in Victoria become national protests, and if other states plan for mass cross-union delegates' meetings.

The fact that the VTHC has called a delegates' meeting doesn't mean that all unions will be committed to it and encourage their delegates to attend. Active & progressive unionists have a big role to play in encouraging our fellow delegates to attend, and in putting pressure on our union leaderships to take the delegates' meeting seriously and put serious effort into encouraging delegates to attend.


February 2005


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