Thursday, June 26, 2008

SA Unions Secretary targeted over CPA address

Knives are out for SA Unions Secretary Janet Giles. Unnamed Labor powerbrokers were quoted in The Adelaide Advertiser last week calling for her expulsion from the ALP for addressing a Communist Party of Australia fundraising dinner. Giles has headed a very vocal and effective campaign against the Rann government’s recently enacted slashing of WorkCover entitlements. Most commentators are convinced the moves against her are payback for the campaign and that the leading unionist has joined a "leper list" of critics of the Rann Government’s big business agenda.


"I represent at least 20 trade unions in this State who also represent over 100,000 union members and I know that there’s a huge amount of anger about the WorkCover legislation", Giles told ABC Radio on the morning the story broke.


"We would not have fought a campaign like this if we were allowed to sit down and calmly work out a way forward but, as a very early article in The Advertiser said, what a number of senior members of the Labor Party have said was ‘Well, the unions will just have to eat it, we’ll just go ahead anyway and unions will just shut up about it’.


"But we’re not going to shut up about workers’ rights, it’s what we actually stand for and our members were asking us to do something about it and so we did something about it."


The smear campaign against Janet Giles appears to have backfired. Letters to the editor and comments on The Advertiser’s site were overwhelmingly supportive of the SA Unions secretary. Readers were stunned that attending a Communist Party function and speaking on the subject of WorkCover could in any way be cause for disciplinary procedures. A group of retired union members and community activists issued a statement welcoming the involvement of the Communist Party in the WorkCover campaign and expressing full confidence in Janet Giles.


Industrial Relations Minister Michael Wright refused to hose down rumours of moves to discipline Giles in a TV interview last week, saying that the Labor Party has rules and it appears that they have been broken. If charges are laid and the issues are debated, the fallout could be very damaging for the Rann government. Members gunning for Giles will have to explain why the SA Unions Secretary should be booted out of the party for doing her job of defending the interests of the state’s workers.


At the CPA’s recent "Curry with Comrades" a YouTube was screened showing Mike Rann addressing a rally on the steps of Parliament House in 1995. He spoke passionately about near identical moves by the then Brown Liberal government to cut entitlements to injured workers and ultimately to reduce costs for big business. Thirteen years later, carrying that same message to the community could see you expelled from the ALP.