In Australia, John Howard’s Liberal-National government was defeated last weekend by Kevin Rudd of the Labour Party. Rudd’s victory had much to do with a campaign of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) against Howard’s labour market reform.
In 2005, Howard introduced ‘WorkChoices’ legislation that aimed to undermine collective bargaining and make workers negotiate contracts at an individual level. The ACTU launched a sophisticated campaign targeting marginal seats. In order to involve workers in the campaign, local groups were set up and workplace discussions were organised.
In response, the Liberals launched an anti-union advertising campaign. According to an ACTU poll, this effort had little effect. Few people said they were influenced by the advertisements, and those who did often said they were now more likely to vote Labour.
Unions do not intend to rest on their laurels. “We always said we were going to keep the campaign going after the election. One reason we’ve seen the government pass such extreme laws is that people were not organised in workplaces, and we’re never going to let that happen again”, a Unions NSW spokesperson told the Australian.