Alexis Vassiley is the author of “Establishing Trade Unionism in the Emerging Iron Ore Mining Industry in Western Australia’s Pilbara Region, 1965–72” published in Labour History 115 in 2018. He recently completed a PhD thesis From “Union Power” to De-unionisation: Explaining the Rise and Fall of Trade Unionism in Western Australia’s Pilbara Iron Ore Industry and its Consequences.
Academic workers at Rutgers University in New Jersey have achieved a stunning victory with a serious campaign of industrial action, centred on an open-ended strike. Their approach is a model for unionists in Australia.
A mass meeting of Australian Nursing Federation members in Perth has voted to demand a 10 percent pay increase, a Consumer Price Index top-up and a one-off payment of $4,500. They are also demanding “enforceable nurse/midwife-to-patient ratios” as part of an escalating campaign of industrial action.
A mass political and military movement led by the working class and headed by Communists freed Italy from fascism in the early 1940s. “A society which seemed extremely stable and controlled, destined to continue in the same way forever, suddenly exploded from below with mass activity, such that for a brief period everything seemed possible”, Marxist historian Tom Behan writes of the period.
The mining industry’s super-profits are underpinned by deaths at work, to say nothing of the trashing of Aboriginal land rights and environmental destruction.
“It was important to have stood up and said this is not right”, unionist Arthur Clarke reminisced in 2011 of the stand the trade union movement took for Aboriginal rights during the Noonkanbah dispute of 1979-80. The support of the labour movement caused a political crisis for the Western Australian government, resulting in blockaded roads, unionists arrested, truck drivers refusing to work and drillers refusing to drill for oil on Aboriginal land. Workers’ industrial action very nearly stopped a multinational company in its tracks.
Union officials in Australia’s tertiary education union (NTEU) responded to falling revenue in the higher education sector by offering up savings for management in the form of deep cuts to members’ wages and conditions. Officials hoped to buy themselves a seat at the table with management. They started these concessionary negotiations in March, but it wasn’t until 17 April that members found out that pay cuts were on the agenda, via the Guardian newspaper.