[Marxism] Green Left: The 99% must stand with Qantas workers

Stuart Munckton stuartmunckton at gmail.com
Sun Oct 30 00:23:16 MDT 2011

Editorial: The 99% must stand with Qantas workers


“I don't understand what the Occupy protests are all about,” is one common
complaint in response to the global movement against corporate power.

An Australian-specific variation goes: “I can see the point in the US or
Europe, but what is there to protest against here?”

A clear answer to these questions came on October 29 with possibly the
biggest act of corporate bastardry in Australia since the stevedoring
company Patricks sacked its entire unionised workforce in a bid to smash
the Maritime Union of Australia in 1998.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce announced that, in response to legally protected
industrial action by some of the Qantas workforce for modest pay rises and
job security, the airline was grounding its entire fleet and locking out
its workers.

The day before, a conference of Qantas shareholders voted to give Joyce a
71% pay rise — taking his annual salary to more than $5 million. Other
board members received hefty boosts to their bloated salaries too.

The hypocrisy could not have been clearer.

Joyce defended the moves, which caused chaos for thousands of people around
the world booked to fly Qantas, by claiming he had no choice in the face of
“extreme” demands from three unions representing Qantas workers — the
Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA), the Transport
Workers Union (TWU) and the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers
Association (ALAEA).

Joyce claimed union demands threatened thousands of jobs and the airline
could go bankrupt.

However, TWU lead negotiator Scott Connolly said on October 12 Qantas made
$531 million pre-tax profit last year. Despite this, Qantas announced the
sacking of 1000 workers.

The unions have spent months trying to negotiate agreements. The TWU is
seeking a 5% wage and allowance rise a year, better job security for
casual, labour-hire and contract staff, and protection from outsourcing.

ALAEA wants a 3% pay rise a year for three years and better job security
provisions. AIPA wants to guarantee Qantas flights are piloted by Qantas
pilots or by pilots on conditions equal to the Qantas pilot agreement — to
stop Qantas outsourcing pilot work to cheaper labour.

Joyce's actions are aimed at destroying the power of the unions that
represent Qantas workers to force through changes that will affect workers'
conditions and passenger safety.

The federal Labor government immediately intervened and applied to its Fair
Work Australia industrial relations commission to “resolve” the dispute —
most likely by legally forcing the unions to end their campaign. As
<em>Green Left Weekly</em> went to press, the commission was yet to hand
down a ruling.

A better form of government intervention would be to reverse the
 privatisation of Qantas — and renationalise the airline.

This dispute shows why the airline should be publicly owned and run in the
interests of society, not profit. The Qantas dispute is a threat to the
entire union movement and society as a whole.

If Qantas succeeds in destroying the power of its workers to collectively
bargain, it will be a green light to other corporations to slash jobs,
employ more contract labour, deny workers better wages and conditions, and
block unions from organising.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon summed it up when she tweeted just after
Joyce's announcement: “Alan Joyce shows he's part of 1%. #Qantas lockout
another reminder why we need #Occupy movement.”

The Occupy movement is about the 99% taking on the 1% — the rich, corporate
elite that dominate the economy and politics. It must actively support the
struggle of the Qantas workers.

This has already begun. ALAEA general manager Peter Somerville spoke to a
October 22 Occupy Sydney rally about the struggle. Occupy Sydney passed a
motion in support of the Qantas workers and held a protest outside the
Qantas shareholders conference.

The Qantas bosses are part of the 1%. The Qantas workers are part of the
99%. The 99% must stand with the Qantas workers.

“Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is humanity’s
original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made,
through disobedience and through rebellion.” — Oscar Wilde, Soul of Man
Under Socialism

“The free market is perfectly natural... do you think I am some kind of
dummy?” — Jarvis Cocker

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