A virus drives a pivot to manufacturing!

For 42 years the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, manufacturing workers, and the majority of Australians with common sense, have been saying that it is not rational to use Australia’s mining resources to diminish the role of manufacturing in our society.

In the main their rational thinking and proposals (in the case of the AMWU, see below) to maintain and develop our manufacturing voice have been ignored – especially by Liberal National Party governments – or downgraded, relative to free trade policy, as has been the case with the Australian Labor Party.

The union has consistently stood up for manufacturing workers and for Australian society over those years, using a variety of methods and tactics. They have been more consistent and insistent than anyone else.

The covid19 virus, presumably not a being with intellectual capacity, has proven them correct.

So much so, the Morrison LNP government, steeped in a long history of hostility to manufacturing and the AMWU, has announced a “pivot” to manufacturing. (Before the virus spread the Australian economy was drifting into a recession that would have become more apparent by around mid year. There is no way that, in that circumstance alone, this government would have considered the restoration of manufacturing as part of its anti-recession response.)

A national manufacturing task force has been created, dominated by business “leaders”, although the National Secretary of the AMWU has been appointed as a sole union voice.

Paul Bastian recently explained what could be done quickly to begin the restoration of manufacturing as an essential part of the Australian economy, instead of a coincidental afterthought.

These are the Union’s preliminary proposals for the immediate situation. However, the AMWU’s capacity used to go way beyond that.

Here you will find a quick history of AMWU and other union interventions in the struggle to maintain a strong manufacturing base founded on a skilled and well paid workforce.

Extreme bush fire smoke and workers’ rights (part 1):

Workers Radio Podcast 24th January

In our first discussion for 2020 Caroline and I start a 3 part series on the unprecedented and extreme bush fires and their implications for workers’ rights.

The core idea is that these bushfires are not an “act of God” and not even a “natural” disaster. What does that mean for the bosses’ right to stand down workers without pay?

We start with comments on the broader context. Then we take a closer look at the Fair Work Act’s rights for employers to stand down workers without pay in such circumstances.

Please listen, comment and share. This core idea is controversial.

And watch out for more to follow.

Mainstream journo talks Plan B for tackling climate change

Morrison’s fake “evolve” can be challenged

In today’s Guardian (Australian Edition), Lenore Taylor presents another strong summary of where we the majority sit with the role of government in slowing and reversing climate change. Again she is clear and coherent.

On this occasion she assumes what most of us who are paying attention already know … that Morrison’s blather about how is government’s policies may “evolve” is more about diversion, conning and alibi building for continuing to do know where near what is necessary and possible. (I am not convinced that this has reached the majority, although for real change to occur a majority is not always necessary.)

Therefore Ms Taylor speculates, too briefly, on a plan B. In brief, her Plan B amounts to state government collaboration in spite of the Commonwealth, and billionaire initiatives.

Obviously, this where she is disappointing and may just have been looking at the wrong responses.

The potential of worker and community organizations, existing and new

Just a couple of months ago a group of union leaders, meeting on the South Coast, talked about a plan B that would be driven by workers and their organisations, including but not just unions. They were riffing off the push from unions in a number of countries for, and implementation of, a “just transition”. “Just Transition” was tragically absent for worker’s in central Queensland at the time of the May elections, and also since. Regional mainstream media gave this about one day of coverage.

I commented on this at the time and elaborated on some ideas, drawn from a range of sources, actions and discussions, and called that Plan B triple A plus.

Workers and their communities can govern and implement recovery and just transition

The role of workers and their communities in stitching together bushfire recovery, urgent and future adaptation to extreme heat and bushfires, and rapid regional industry job creation and nature’s restoration where renewables replace fossil dependency, is lost in mainstream media. We should be surprised and there is little point in whinging about it.

However, communities and workplaces are not just courageous and resilient. Also, they are loaded with mutuality, knowledge, skills and determination to – a potential capacity – take charge of recovery and justice transition. Thus,”Just Transition” becomes “Democratic Just Transition”, that can also meet the immediacy if recovery.

Further, paying respect to this untapped workers and community intelligence will do wonders for the severe mental health problems that will surely flow in bushfire destroyed communities.

The role of government here is to facilitate and fund such initiatives, not dominate them. Government is the enabler.

The role of unions is to work out what that means for their employed organizers and their delegates in the workplaces. And then to develop plans of intervention and attack that give strength to the communities in which their members live.