This year’s annual celebration of May Day is a timely reminder of the significant contribution Australian workers have made to the international industrial relations landscape, writes IEU Organiser, Pat Devery.
On 18 August 1855, stonemasons working at Sydney’s Holy Trinity Church walked off the job in protest at the refusal of employers to accept demands for an eight hour working day.
The employers, forced to the negotiation table, finally agreed to the first in a series of hard fought victories leading to Australia boasting one of the most progressive industrial environments in the world at the dawn of the 20th century. We find 153 years later Sydney’s train crews are routinely required to work extended overtime hours to prevent the meltdown of the network due to timetable deficiencies and inadequate employment policies.
IEU members joined in the May Day March and Family Fun Day on Sunday 6 May to commemorate the significant achievements of previous generations while at the same time rallying today’s workers against the clear and present industrial dangers they face.
IEU members in Catholic systemic schools have just emerged from a protracted battle with employers over their reasonable call to simply include the right to arbitration in their agreement.
An 88% ‘no’ vote during our protected action saw IEU members stare down the, at times, misleading and belligerent attitude of the employers, allowing us to win an industrial right denied to many Australian workers, including some of our members.
The fact that this claim was so vigorously resisted by the employers is both edifying and concerning, and points to the broader agenda of stripping workers of their rights.
The Fair Work Commission’s recent treatment of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union is a timely reminder that industrial conditions secured over many generations can be easily lost. The Commission’s ruling, prohibiting the strike on the grounds that it would cause too great a risk to Sydney’s economy and safety, lead the ACTU’s Sally McManus to declare ‘the basic right to strike in Australia is very nearly dead’.
McManus went on to explain, ‘Rail workers followed every single rule and law, and still the minister of the day can get an order to cancel bans on working excessive overtime.’