Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Workers fighting back in SA

May Day celebrations in Adelaide concluded their second week with the launch of another community-based workers’ rights group at a function at the Semaphore Workers Club on Sunday. Western Adelaide Workers Fighting Back was officially established at the function held annually at the club after the dedication ceremony at the Workers Memorial in Port Adelaide.

Dan Murphy of the Southern Workers Self-Defence Committee wished the new group well and pointed to the success of a Melbourne group that mounted a 200-300 person picket at factory where workers had been dismissed under the new IR regime. They managed to turn away trucks and other visitors before the official union picket had been set up. The three sacked workers were reinstated.

Dan also expressed the wish the latest committee should get as much support from official union sources as the committees in marginal federal electorates. “The fight back must be built in the community. There’s more than one way to beat these industrial relations laws. Too often we’re preaching to the converted. It won’t be easy – that’s why it’s called the class struggle.”

Western Adelaide Workers Fighting Back spokesperson Helen Masterman-Smith traced the origins of the latest in what she hopes will be a “new wave of community-union alliances”. An initial meeting was brought together from a contact list that had been collected by members of the Socialist Alliance during the recent State Elections. Helen noted that four groups now exist in Adelaide with two in formation. She added that, as the new laws bites and the fight back builds, the groups will face “exciting as well as challenging times”.

In the morning, around 100 trade union and community activists ignored the atrocious weather to attend the dedication. This year the names of departed labour movement veterans Jack Tapping, Ron Giffard and Ron Connolly were added to the monument which stands at Black Diamond Corner. Ron Connolly’s comrades in the Port Branch of the Communist Party of Australia share the widely shared sadness at his passing last year and are pleased that his decades of struggle on the waterfront and on local council have been recognised with this honour.

Semaphore Workers Club President Ben Carslake later expressed the wish that the club should become the centre of the fight back in the local area against Howard’s IR assault. He shared the thought that the late Ron Connolly (who was the Club’s treasurer for many years) would have loved the fact that the venue had been used to kick off Adelaide’s latest workers’ rights committee.