28 November 2019

Melbourne’s tram drivers are on strike today — a soft strike, in the middle of the day when it will have minimal impact, because our prohibitive laws ban any strike that might put real pressure on an employer; even a one-day strike by Sydney train drivers was ruled illegal (by a former Liberal staffer who continued to engage in partisan propaganda even after being appointed to the Fair Work Commission). But the RTBU has signalled it may become more militant in future. Launching a short documentary about Clarrie O’Shea’s resistance to crippling fines for industrial action, the new national president of the RTBU, Mark Diamond, drew parallels [$] with the Liberal union-busting bill now being pushed through the Senate: “[L]et’s take a page from our own history. A page that shows exactly what comes next. … At that time, in 1969, about 1 million people stopped work. … [They] went out then, and if it’s in the best interests of our members, we will go out now. So here’s a message for Tory politicians and for aggressive employers. If you do not respect us, you will fear us.” The industrial relations system works by ensuring the benefits of staying inside the system outweigh the costs, but as it has been ratcheted tighter and tighter, the cost-benefit analysis will change. Back to basics — strength in numbers.

(The full text of Diamond’s speech has now been posted on the RTBU website.)