Howard makes the 'blue' unlawful

Chris White

"The right of workers to leave their jobs is a test of freedom. Hitler suppressed strikes. Stalin suppressed strikes. But each also suppressed freedom. There are some things worse than strikes, much worse than strikes - one of them is the loss of freedom", said US President Eisenhower.

"Eisenhower was correct in pointing out that the hallmark of the Police State is the loss of the right to strike. A worker's right to strike is surely a basic human right. The right to withdraw labour is the one thing that distinguishes a free worker from the slave. This is a fundamental freedom", said Clyde Cameron, a former Labour Minister.

There are many concerns with WorkChoices (WC). Here, I only deal with how Howard is to (almost) extinguish the limited right to strike for workers.

Howard's WC legislation is to be slammed through Parliament to hide outrageous and repressive changes. One change is to make legitimate union industrial action 'unlawful'. There are new penal powers and sanctions against striking workers legitimately pursuing, as a last resort, their workplace and economic interests.

'Blueing' is to be even more risky. Will the Australian 'blue' with the boss be an endangered species? Workers and their unions in dispute, those 'blueing', will be liable to be ordered back to work, fined, sued and even criminalised, with increased penalties. Employers who love power and authority will benefit.

Howard in the election did not raise these further restrictions on the right to strike. Corporate associations to take away the protections necessary for the effective right to strike lobbied Minister Andrews. And this during a low strike era.

The government ads say 'We won't take away the right to strike' but this is 'spin'. Here are 8 further limits on the right to strike. The devil will be in the detail.