30 March 2009

NUW: democracy at its worst

The National Union of Workers (NUW) recently had a ballot of all members to decide whether to merge the South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland branches into a new General Branch. Members in those states voted overwhelmingly against the merger. However the largest number of NUW members by far is in Victoria and their votes drowned out the will of the smaller SA, WA and Qld branches.

Unfortunately for the NUW members in these smaller branches the union's rules (it's constitution) allowed for such a vote to occur. Many unions rules would not allow one branch's vote to decide the fate of another. If an Australian state was to merge with another our constitution specifically says that a majority of both states must agree to this, as well as a majority of Australian citizens.

The NUW's rules have been abused. It is a blatant power grab by Charlie Donnelly to sure up his power base in Victoria. The Central Branch will operate out of the same building as the Victorian and National Offices. Charlie Donnelly is a power-broker for the ALP Right faction - the faction that helped get Steve Fielding elected in the 2004 federal election over a progressive candidate for the last senate spot in Victoria. These people are not friends of working Australians.

The NUW has always been a bit odd. It's Western Australia Branch shares exective members Joe Bullock and Martin Pritchard with rival union the SDA. Bullock is State Secretary of the SDA and Assistant State Secretary of the NUW. Pritchard is the same but reverse the unions. (note this might have changed recently). This has led to some interesting national meetings.

The only positive from this merger is that it will do away with the absurd situation of shared officials. A union official cannot properly serve the interests of two unions and their members at the same time, particularly when the unions are rivals in coverage.

ALP - better the devil you know?

The recent victory of the ALP in Queensland brought home to me just how much hatred there is out there for the Greens from ALP supporters. Online I saw the abuse coming for the Greens who didn't preference the ALP in many seats over their poor environmental policies.

Despite what neo-cons might say the Greens and ALP are miles apart on many issues, including industrial relations - the Greens have a better, fairer policy.

The new Fair Work Act introduced by the Rudd Government does undo many aspects of WorkChoices but it continues others such as

1. Restricting Right of Entry for unions
2. Keeping in place bureaucratic secret ballots for workers to take industrial action (despite Julia Gillard being on public record in opposition opposing secret ballots)
3. Treating building workers differently to other workers

It's way better than WorkChoices yet it doesn't take a genius to see that there's still much more room for improvement.