In contrast to their hysterical attacks on members of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP) who attempted to speak to strikers at the General Mills ‘community protest’, United Workers Union (UWU) officials rolled out the red carpet for the workers. Federal Labor MPs Tony Burke and Ed. Husic last Saturday. Husic has been greeted in the continued protest outside the factory gates in western Sydney on at least one other occasion.
As the SEP has already reported, the presence of the two high-ranking representatives of the Labor Party is a warning to workers that the union is preparing a surrender.
It continues a model established by the UWU during the Coles Smeaton Grange lockdown and McCormick Foods strike earlier this year. In both cases, the arrival of senior Labor and union officials was closely followed by major concessions from the UWU.
The union presented Burke and Husic as supporters of the strike and fighters for the interests of the working class. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is demonstrated in spades by a brief review of the careers of these two long-standing labor and union careers.
Prior to his parliamentary career, Husic was an important figure in the Communications, Electricity and Plumbing Union (CEPU). From 1996 to 1999 Husic was Vice President of the Union Communications Division and from 2006 to 2010 National Secretary.
The fact that several of the intervening years (1999-2003) were spent as general affairs manager of Integral Energy, a major (then public) electricity company, demonstrates the warm relationship between the companies and the unions.
Husic’s two stints in managerial positions at CEPU were characterized by massive sales of workers at Telstra and Australia Post and the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs.
Between 1996 and 1999, Telstra’s workforce was reduced by more than a third, from 76,522 to 52,840. The union abolished any fight against layoffs, ensuring that they went unopposed. organized workers.
A Telstra company agreement adopted by the CEPU in early 1999, despite substantial opposition from workers, changed employee classifications, resulting in wage cuts for many workers; increase in normal working hours; imposed a paltry wage increase of 2.7 percent per year and abolished limitations on part-time work, creating the conditions for the destruction of full-time positions.
Under Husic’s leadership in 2010, CEPU ended industrial action at Australia Post and forced tens of thousands of postal workers to agree to a corporate clearance sale deal that allowed for continued restructuring for possible privatization. Husic, like so many others in the union bureaucracy, went straight from CEPU leadership to a secure federal parliamentary seat for Labor.
Husic, as the former shadow minister of the digital economy, was instrumental in the party’s bipartisan support for major attacks on the democratic rights of ordinary people. This included supporting the Liberal-National Government’s Assistance and Access Act in December 2018. The legislation, granting many state and federal agencies the power to spy on encrypted communications and hack people’s computers , was passed by Parliament with almost no public debate.
While Husic claimed in 2019 that he had “pushed, pushed and pushed” for changes to the new laws, his complaints had nothing to do with violating the democratic rights of Australians. Husic’s problem with the legislation was “economic security – the ability of businesses to use encryption.”
Husic is currently Labor’s shadow minister for industry and innovation. He responded to the coalition government’s May budget, which awarded some $ 50 billion to big companies, complaining that subsidies to big tech companies had not been big enough. “We need a much bigger commitment,” said Husic.
Like Husic, Burke is a long-standing member of the “right” Labor faction. He has been Director of Opposition Affairs in the Federal Parliament since 2013. MPs appointed to this prominent role invariably have the full confidence of the largest corporations, the military and intelligence agencies. The last three ALP representatives to hold the post, Mark Latham, Julia Gillard and Anthony Albanese, continued to lead the party.
Burke’s presence at the General Mills strike is a clear signal that the conflict – and the UWU’s ability to contain it – is being closely watched at the highest level of the Labor Party.
Prior to running for parliament, Burke spent six years as an organizer for the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) in the 1990s. The SDA is well known for its far-right Catholic politics and collaboration. close with management. For decades, he imposed company agreements reducing penalty rates and the wages of low-wage workers at large retailers and fast food chains.
Burke’s only other publicly traded job, other than a brief stint at his own business consultancy firm, was as a full-time parliamentary staff and politician.
As shadow minister of industrial relations, Burke plays a leading role in the party’s current discourse with big business. This has involved the rejection of any criticism, however limited, of social inequalities, and the insistence that the Labor Party is committed to “creating wealth”, “productivity” and promoting the interests of the people. “Successful people”.
In February, Albanese unveiled Burke’s transferable rights plan, which would increase the powers of the Fair Work Commission, the pro-business labor tribunal, and allow further expansion of the odd-job economy.
Albanese and Burke praised the governments of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, saying that if elected, these Labor administrations of the ’80s and’ 90s will serve as their role model. The Hawke and Keating governments, Albanese said, “have understood the need for an agreement between companies and their workers to advance their mutual interests.”
In fact, these governments, together with the unions, have carried out some of the most serious attacks on the working class in Australian history.
Hawke and Keating deregulated the economy, oversaw the destruction of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs, and, along with the unions, destroyed labor committees.
As a result, wages fell as a share of national income for the first time since the Great Depression. Labor deployed the armed forces to break the 1989 pilots’ strike. The introduction of company bargaining in the 1990s ensured that disputes were limited to individual workplaces, and workers faced significant fines. ‘They were leading collective action outside of tight bargaining periods controlled by unions.
Burke’s role as a spokesperson for pro-business industrial relations is in line with his record in all other areas, where, along with the Labor Party as a whole, he has faithfully defended the interests of the business elite.
In November 2012, as Minister of the Environment, Burke promulgated the Murray Darling Basin Plan, which enshrined the commoditization of Australia’s largest water supply system, allowing large agribusinesses to buy and sell large amounts of water from the country. This has resulted in major environmental destruction, including the death of hundreds of thousands of fish and deprived several rural towns of a public supply of drinking water.
The plan encountered widespread opposition from ordinary people. A 2017 royal commission that found Burke’s “three-fold” approach was based on a “fundamentally incorrect” reading of the Water Act, but Burke continued to defend the plan. “
In 2013, as immigration minister in the second Rudd government, Burke led a major escalation in attacks on refugees. In total violation of the 1951 International Refugee Conventions, Labor’s “regional resettlement” plan demanded that all refugees arriving by boat be detained indefinitely in the impoverished peaceful nations of Papua New Guinea and Nauru and be refused entry. all right to seek asylum in Australia.
The Rudd-Burke policy was an extension of an attack on asylum seekers by successive governments, including the introduction of mandatory detention of refugees arriving by boat by the Keating Labor government and Gillard’s forced repatriation of refugees Tamils in Sri Lanka where they faced official persecution. and even death.
As a senior Labor official, Burke is directly involved in all of the party’s crimes against the working class. This ranges from Labor’s attacks on the unemployed and welfare recipients to its support for Australia’s participation in every war waged by the United States, including the current preparations for the conflict with China, and its role in the persecution of whistleblowers and journalists, such as WikiLeaks editor Julian. Assange.
The Labor Party and its main representatives such as Burke and Husic are representatives of big business and banks. They have the closest ties to large corporations, such as General Mills, and advance their interests at all times.
Labor governments not only oversaw the biggest attacks on working class jobs and conditions in history, they also imposed the draconian industrial relations regime that virtually bans all collective action by workers. Burke was a minister in the Rudd government, which in 2009 introduced Fair Work Australia, legislation making most strikes illegal, providing for worker victimization and continued corporate restructuring.
The promotion of work by the UWU is not the result of a misunderstanding. The UWU welcomes big business politicians with open arms and attacks socialists who are fighting to expand the strike because it is a corporate union, a “union” in name only. The UWU, like all its counterparts, defends the interests of a privileged bureaucracy, linked to the management of the company. Its civil servants receive far higher salaries than the workers they falsely claim to represent. Many are prominent members of the Labor Party themselves.
UWU’s collaboration with Husic and Burke is one of its efforts to isolate the strike and set the stage for a corporate clearance sale deal.
The alternative, and the only way to prevent defeat, is for workers to step out of the whole framework of labor, unions and fair work, and take the struggle into their own hands. This means establishing a grassroots committee, completely independent of the union, fighting to extend the strike, to involve General Mills casual staff, its employees around the world and workers from across the food production industry. .
Such a struggle is inseparable from a rejection of the pro-capitalist agenda of Labor and the unions, and a shift towards a socialist perspective, aimed at placing large corporations and banks under public ownership and democratic control of the workers.