This article first appeared in En Passant.
Here in Canberra there is a lot of media talk about the Community and Public Sector Union affiliating to the ALP.
Not surprisingly, since about one third of all Commonwealth Public servants work in Canberra, The Canberra Times has been echoing membership disquiet with the affiliation move.
For example in today’s Canberra Times James Massola (in PS union has two dividends in view) quotes the national CPSU president Stephen Jones as arguing ‘…that a seat at the Labor table is the best means available to influence decision-making and defend his constituency.’
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This is crap, of course. As I have said elsewhere on this site, the ALP host will take over the CPSU parasite.
It is not as if the timid leadership of the CPSU currently challenges the Government or defends the interests of it members in any meaningful way. This after all is the union whose idea of fighting the Government is launching ads calling on Rudd and Tanner not to cut public service staff or the services they provide.
That should have the tough love men and women of the Labor Government shaking in their boots (with laughter.)
This whole strategy of influence (ads and affiliation) is born of weakness and the failure to undertake industrial action to defend jobs and conditions. It comes out of the deliberate strategy of concentrating power in the hands of the leadership.
The CPSU, like most other unions in Australia, has destroyed any semblance of rank and file participation in, let alone control of, the union. Power is in the hands of a small clique for whom the membership and industrial action are a bigger threat than the Government.
But to give the impression of defending members and opposing Rudd, the union runs ads and wants to affiliate. Such strength. Such power.
Two letters in today’s Canberra Times criticise the affiliation. In one, CPSU National Council/Governing Council member Terry Costello calls for a plebiscite of members after arguing that ‘…the CPSU, like many unions today, is run in a top-down fashion..’
I agree but would suggest further action. It’s time for unions members to reclaim their union and organise strikes against Rudd and Tanner.
The threat to public service jobs and working conditions is real. As the economy slides into deep recession, the Labor Party will attack its own staff.
The present CPSU leadership has no effective strategy for stopping this. Affiliation is a sideshow and would be swept aside in any real industrial campaign.
Only union members can defeat Labor’s planned attacks on the public service by preparing and organising for strikes now and forcing that strategy on their reluctant and timid leadership.
If rank and file members were to do this, (and to be frank, there is no indication that they are planning anything along these line just yet), other workers could draw lessons from their actions and move on the offensive against their own job and wage cutting bosses.
Or if other workers take successful action to defend jobs and conditions, CPSU members could learn from that.
Either way, the message is clear. Ads and affiliation won’t save jobs. Strikes have a chance of doing that.
If you don’t fight you lose.