We are once again pleased to support the Fair Australia Prize, this year co-sponsored by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, and the newly formed United Workers Union. Members of both the National Union of Workers and United Voice came together to vote for the bigger and stronger union which officially came into being in November this year. Already we have taken action which speaks to the heart of this year’s theme: STRIKE!
Just last month, warehouse workers at Woolworths Sydney went on strike for fair wage increases to keep up with the rising cost of living, equal rights for agency casuals on site, and decent redundancy packages amid fears of jobs losses to automation.
A successful 24-hour strike and the determination to take further indefinite action gave us tremendous collective power. More than 1000 workers were able to successfully negotiate a 16 per cent pay increase, a doubling of the redundancy package and various union rights on site for all workers, including agency casuals.
As we go to print, women workers at Lactalis (Jindi) Cheese are into their second week of a strike for wage justice and wage parity with male workers at the same company.
While the mainstream economic narrative has highlighted stagnating wages as some kind of law of nature or an inexorable force, we know that strike action and wage growth are fundamentally linked.
Our lived experience tells us over and over again that wage justice is won, not given. These workers were able to change their lives because they were prepared to down tools.
Certainly this was the case for Chemist Warehouse workers who in March of this year went on strike for 16 days. This walkout resulted in a 22 per cent wage increase and smashed the system of labour-hire insecurity that had oppressed their working lives.
Strike action is not solely about wages. It’s also a collective fight for a better world. We have much to learn when we stand in solidarity with the School Climate Strikers who are leading the younger generations in this vision.
Withdrawing our labour is a fundamental element of our human dignity and the basis of our collective power. To strike is to take collective action, to act in concert and impose economic disruption upon capital, demonstrating the true value of our labour. As the social memory of strike action fades, it is up to us to normalise it once more.
The appetite for strike action is demonstrated in the quality of this year’s entries. Workers across the country are keenly aware that if they are to change the material conditions of their lives, they will need to organise, and they will need to down tools, alongside their workmates and members of their community. United Workers Union is committed to standing with workers in these struggles.
Once again, we will prove that there is indeed power in a union.
If you enjoyed this piece, buy the issue