SRC President’s Report – Week 9, Sem 1, 2018

Imogen Grant

Last week workers from across NSW came together for the annual May Day Rally. The history of May Day is born in struggle and for the achievement of justice and peace for the working class.  And this is more relevant than ever when the attacks from the capitalist ruling class have been coming thick and fast. The SRC had a strong contingent at May Day which centred the right to strike as the key to how we will #changetherules.

In Australia, decades of legislative and structural changes have put workers and our trade unions on the defensive. Employers are tearing up legally binding Enterprise Agreements. Unions that exercise their right to strike face massive fines. Workers face cuts to penalty rates. Wage growth is at historic lows and 40% of Australians are in insecure work.

It is time to turn this trend around and make changes that will allow us to secure better wages and conditions and safer workplaces. This will be achieved by bold action by workers themselves along with support from affected communities – including students.

The ACTU’s Change the Rules campaign deserves support, but it is not enough. There is no prospect that the rules will change in any significant way without a serious industrial campaign by the union movement. That is the lesson of the entire history of the union movement. We cannot just rely on an incoming Labor government to improve the rights and conditions for workers. Both sides of parliament have consistently restricted the fundamental right for workers to withdraw their labour.

The right to strike has never been a “legal” right in Australia but workers have exercised their ability to take industrial action to advance their industrial interests. However, this ability has been seriously undermined by repressive laws that protect employers’ interests and criminalise workers collective action. Workers and their unions are now threatened, criminalised and fined if they fight for their rights in the workplace.

So stay in touch with the SRC Facebook page and follow the left intervention into the ACTU #ChangeTheRules campaign through The Right To Strike NSW who are petitioning for mass delegates meeting and week-day stop work rally in NSW (following the lead of Victoria Trades Hall).

Finally, next Saturday on May 12 there will be a protest at Sydney Town Hall to ‘Stop Black Deaths in Custody’. We know the disproportionate way in which Aboriginal people are targeted by the criminal justice system. Today, Aboriginal people are the most incarcerated group in the world, making up 27 percent of prison inmates while only 3 percent of the population. The SRC will be hosting stalls this week to promote the rally and we urge all students to attend this upcoming protest and call for real justice that will end these killings in custody. See event here – https://www.facebook.com/events/502574550136176/.

Feel free to email me at president@src.usyd.edu.au if you have any concerns or wish to get involved with the SRC. If you are experiencing any academic, personal or legal issues and wish to seek the advice of an SRC caseworker or solicitor, contact us at 9660 5222 or help@src.usyd.edu.au.