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The Public Servants’ Union and ALP affiliation

By Passy - 7 March 2009 28

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.’

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.


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28 Responses to
The Public Servants’ Union and ALP affiliation
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Fred Nurks 6:15 pm 20 Mar 09

Cut the crap. For those CPSU members who don’t like, and weren’t asked about, the CPSU affiliation to the ALP, I invite you to join a protest speakout from 2pm (setting up at 1:30pm) this Saturday 21 March at the rear carpark entrance of the Labor Club, 55 Chandler St, Belconnen, where the Australian Labor Party (ALP) ACT Branch will meet in special conference to decide whether to accept an affiliation application from the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU).

The protest will address the following:
* That no opportunity was given to the CPSU membership to debate whether to affiliate to the ALP, prior to the decision being debated at the Governing Council in 2007.

* That contrary to the Governing Council motion on ALP affiliation in 2007, CPSU members have not been consulted since about the affiliation move. Some text emailed to members informing them of the decision, and opt-out tick boxes on joining forms and on the CPSU website does not constitute consultation.

* That contrary to the Governing Council motion on ALP affiliation in 2007 (“not every region need affiliate”), CPSU members have not been consulted within regions about whether their region should affiliate to the ALP or not. So far the CPSU has affiliated to the ALP in NSW and South Australia, with pending affiliation applications in the ACT and Queensland.

* That no political party alternatives were considered, particularly those like the Socialist Alliance and the Greens who have pledged to do away with the whole of the WorkChoices IR law, unlike the ALP’s current ‘Fair Work Bill’ which leaves intact much of the anti-union aspects of WorkChoices.

* That the ALP federal government has, is and is about to attack federal public servant jobs. The last budget axed 3,000 jobs, many non-ongoing jobs are being axed now, and around 4,000 jobs are going to go in ATO and DIMA. That’s before the May budget when more jobs are expected to be cut.

Conference delegates will be leafletted as they arrive. Placards will be displayed referring to the above issues. An open microphone / megaphone will be on hand for people to air their opinions.

Please pass this invitation on to CPSU members that you may know across Canberra, who may be interested in these issues.

Why be cynical, when you can protest? I’ll see you there. It’s crunch time.

Furry Jesus 5:21 pm 16 Mar 09

Is Stalin being rehabilitated? I hope not. I hate those thick moustaches.

peterh 5:14 pm 16 Mar 09

PM said :

Passy said :

I’ll self censor and not bother anymore.

Ah – so THAT’s why the revolution failed… 🙂

From a book by terry pratchett:

“they say that they have had enough revolutions, but could do with some soap, please?

why soap?

so that they can be clean capitalists, i guess.”

social 4:55 pm 16 Mar 09

I’m a Section Councillor with the CPSU in Canberra and I agree fully with the post.

At a recent Section Council meeting I put up a motion that the question of affiliation to the ALP be put to members in a plebiscite.

The rest of the Section Council didn’t agree. They said that the decision had already been taken by Governing Council and as they were elected by the members there was no reason to take it to the members themselves.

Of course, the GC wasn’t exactly elected on a platform of affiliation, and there has never been any substantial discussion on the matter among the rank and file.

When the issue was raised at a recent delegates meeting the other Councillors and the organiser quickly shut down discussion as it ‘wasn’t appropriate’.

Of course, there never is a time where it is seen as ‘appropriate’. Wherever discussions do arise on email there is a very prompt ‘this is not the time nor the place’ response. God forbid affiliation ever be raised with members themselves.

Clearly the position of the CPSU leadership is that questions like this should not even be discussed by the membership. This makes the claim to legitimacy of the GC decision even more spurious because freedom to vote means nothing when there is no freedom to criticise.

Of course, the CPSU leadership will get it’s rewards for it’s service to the ALP. I just hope that one day they get what they really deserve.

Mad Max 12:19 am 13 Mar 09

Donewrong’s just about got it right.

The CPSU officials and their acolytes are talking about taking over all three ACT ALP federal seats (Fraser, Canberra and the Senate). One of their rumored candidates has just arrived from another State and has never had anything to do with the the ACT Branch and another has only just joined the Party.

They know they could never win a preselection so they’re stacking like anything. Their first targets are the Party President Eva Cawthorne and CFMEU Secretary Sarah Schoonwater who currently command majority support in the Left faction. They figure if they can oust them from control of the Left, they can control the preselection process and knock off Bob, Kate and Annette.

How much say will ordinary party members have in all this? – not much if these people have their way.

And how much will ordinary CPSU members benefit? – not at all. They’re just the ones who are paying for it.

PM 10:07 am 11 Mar 09

Passy said :

I’ll self censor and not bother anymore.

Ah – so THAT’s why the revolution failed… 🙂

Starscream 9:08 pm 08 Mar 09

Passy said :


The Todd Carney faction wins.

I can’t take the ongoing, repetitive, humourless, peurile, pathetic, abuse on this Canberra Club for Cretins.

I’ll self censor and not bother anymore.

Enjoy your celebrations.

😀 😀 😀

Thumper 4:11 pm 08 Mar 09

I too agree with you and WMC that inciting Ralph to violence against me is totally appropriate and very educational and refutes my arguments.

If anything this demonstrates the far left’s total lack of humour…

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