It was 35 years ago when the power of working class people and their communities dramatically changed. Back then we moved from industry bargaining to enterprise bargaining. It was always the wish of the bosses class to change to enterprise bargaining. Successive governments then further deregulated industrial laws to benefit bosses, while at the same time hyper regulating the laws to attack unions.
We haven’t seen wage rises in years, because there’s no capacity to gain wage rises, because of industrial laws and a weak trade union movement. Organised labor has been reduced to very small pockets, not just here but around the world.
The freedom to belong or not to belong to a union is just fantasy. The right of entry laws prevents union officials from entering workplaces to talk with and represent their members. The laws criminalise union activity. Right now 90% of working women and men have no right to collectively bargain, and 40% of workers are now casually employed. We’re back in the 1950’s. That was always the bosses aim.
Today if workers take strike action and the union defends its members by setting up a picket; under the Fair Work Act, that’s illegal. Big fines apply. Fines that would bankrupt any worker. How can you build workers power, if you can’t collectively come together?
It needs to be fought against. Workers need to increase their power. It’s critical.
Solidarity has been the history of the working class. It is one of the most important human values. It’s a word for action, a word for struggle. It’s where the best in the human condition comes together, not for selfish means, but for a greater good.
We have vessels right now coming onto our coasts, they’re really floating prisons and the COVID pandemic has seen a form of slavery forced onto workers, they can’t repatriate back to their homelands. Some have been forced to work every day for over a year, they’re brutalized, not fed properly and locked up. And when Maritime Workers hear about such a vessel turning up in the port, they remove their labor in order to get those human rights issues dealt with. It happens all the time. That’s solidarity.
We really need films made about these issues and about the lives of working class people in their daily struggles for a decent, healthy, safe and happy life, for them and their families.
The Waterside Workers Federation, the precursor to the MUA, had its own Film Unit back in the 1950s. It was a tough life back then being a wharfie. And the power of picture has been a great educator for our members and for me. When I was a young worker on the waterfront, I was trained as a delegate and activist. That training involved watching some of those films, the stories of the history of the Union, and more broadly of the working class and the struggles that were fought, and we continue to fight. Film making is very important and films are a great educator.