A quick look at recent industrial disputes around the country reveals a common thread running through them all. Foreign-owned multinational corporations have been deeply involved in all the major disputes around Australia in the last six months.
Workers’ wages and conditions everywhere are coming under sustained attack by the capitalist class, and the current draconian industrial relations laws has meant that attempts by workers and their unions to resist these attacks has often resulted in somewhat untraditional campaigns, as well as long and protracted battles. These attacks on the Australian working class are being orchestrated by the foreign multinationals that increasingly dominate Australia’s economy, especially our resource sector, and dictate industrial policies to the major parliamentary parties.
Milestones tumble as disputes drag on
In Longford, Victoria, maintenance workers have been on strike for over 200 days now in their struggle against US multinational oil and gas giant ExxonMobil. The workers’ direct employer, UGL, was taken over by the German and ultimately Spanish owned CIMIC Group in December 2016. This ongoing dispute has now far out-lasted the CUB dispute which lasted 185 days in 2016 and saw the entire union movement mobilised. (For more on the Longford dispute see here: http://www.cpaml.org/articles3.php?id=600)
Meanwhile, nearly 200 coal miners at Queensland’s Oaky North coal mine have been locked out for over six months now by British-Swiss multinational owners, Glencore, one of the world’s largest coal mining companies (see photo at top). This is the longest lockout of miners in Australia’s history.
In the coal mining town of Collie in Western Australia, maintenance workers at the Griffin Coal Mine have been on strike for over 150 days to protect their wages and conditions. Griffin Coal was bought by Indian conglomerate Lanco Infratech in 2011.
Attacks keep coming
In November last year, unions called for a national boycott of ice cream brand Streets, as factory workers in Sydney attempted to defend their agreement after the owners of the brand, British-Dutch multinational giant Unilever, applied to the Fair Work Commission to have the agreement terminated. The boycott worked with workers and the company reaching a new agreement within a month.
At Webb Dock in the Port of Melbourne, a two-week continuous picket at the gates of union busting company VICT (Victoria International Container Terminals) was maintained by community and union support in December last year after attempts to undercut hard fought for pay and conditions of maritime workers. VICT is owned by notorious anti-union Philippines based company ICTS (International Container Terminal Services Inc.). (For a more detailed look at that dispute see here: http://www.cpaml.org/posting1.php?id=591)
Finally, just last week 60 workers were locked out for five days at the Port Kembla Coal Terminal (PKCT) in New South Wales in an unprecedented escalation by the multinational leaseholders in the ongoing dispute with the union over the EBA. The website for PKCT lists six equal shareholders as operators of the terminal. They are South32, who manages the terminal on behalf of the other shareholders, Glencore, Centennial Coal, Wollongong Coal, Tahmoor Coal, and Peabody Energy.
Glencore is British-Swiss. Centennial Coal has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Thai mining and energy company Banpu since 2010. Wollongong Coal is owned by Indian conglomerate Jindal Group. Tahmoor Coal was owned by Glencore until the start of this year when it was sold to the UK based GFG Alliance. Peabody Energy is American and one of the largest coal companies in the world. Only South32 is an Australian company, having been spun out of BHP Billiton in 2015.
For an independent and socialist Australia
It is no coincidence that six major industrial disputes from all parts of the country in the last six months have all had foreign multinationals at their heart. We have long maintained that foreign multinational corporations constitute the decisive core of Australian monopoly capitalism.
The oppressive, anti-working class laws of the unFair Work Commission and the corporate taxation system that favours and enables big corporations to avoid paying tax are designed to maintain the exploitative system of capitalism solely for corporate profiteering. More and more this stark reality is becoming apparent to working people around the country. Workers in the front line of attacks from the multinational corporations have a sharp awareness of the domination of Australia by the multinationals.
In opposition to this foreign dominance, we put forward the position of fighting for a truly independent and socialist Australia led by the working class. This would see the multinationals taken over and run by the working class to meet the needs of Australia’s society and its people, not for the profit of a few corporations and shareholders around the world.
Needless to say, regardless if it is at the hands of foreign or Australian owned big businesses, the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) stands with all workers around the country against the onslaught by capital on their hard fought for wages and conditions.