7 Jul 2008

RTBU call strike action for WYD

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union have called a strike on the trains in Sydney for World Youth Day. I suppose this may by brinkmanship and may not actually happen, but if it does it is very significant, in that it means that the RTBU are acting with complete indifference to both the Catholic Church (which has historically had a good deal of interpenetration with the Australian labour movement, particularly in Catholic strongholds like Sydney) and the Australian Labor Party, or more specifically its Right faction, which governs NSW, thus are the bosses as far as CityRail is concerned, and, as we've previously reported, is Catholic-dominated and sponsoring WYD in Sydney. This is not a complete surprise, in that it's in line with the RTBU's criticism of the ALP for some time, as well as being part of a general hostility from the labour movement towards the NSW government that has even included many of the elected ALP politicians in the state.

It's difficult to know, certainly for an outsider like me, what's going on here. The RTBU's story is that they are simply trying to achieve maximal leverage for their workers' demands. The threat of strike follows that logic. An actual strike goes further. While demonstrating the seriousness of the workers' demands, it feeds into discontent around WYD and the NSW government to provide leverage for forces trying to remove the current NSW ALP regime.

Update: the SMH is reporting that the strike is off, amidst the most florid use of the passive voice I have ever seen, extraordinary even by the grammatical standards of Australian politics today:

"Industrial action has been agreed to dropped," Mr Watkins said.

What this use of the passive indicates is the attempt by the government to cover up the fact that it has shat its already shitty pants and acquiesced to the union's demands rather than face the clusterfuck this strike promised to bring on.