Premier Baillieu visited Ballarat today. On the ABC (I didn’t see it on the 9 or Ten broadcasts) he responded to a questions about the TAFE-cuts protest that greeted him with words to the effect (and I do apologise for being post-ND and not giving it to you verbatim) that people need to just accept that these changes were coming in, and accept it.
I certainly appreciate why he feels that way – how much easier his reign would be if we all just accepted the egregious changes this government wants to introduce, across the board.
It is clear that these are people have learned nothing from experience, and who still hope that if they provide enough resistance nurses(and teachers, and public sectore services, and rangers, and ambulance officers…) will just roll over.
They’re wrong – as I said before, during the acute public campaign, and as I’ve said during the 227 days (and counting) of the mental health campaign: for the government this is about money; for us it’s about patient lives and wellbeing, and the future of the profession. We will not give up, we will not roll over, and we will not betray the community we choose to serve – the community to which we belong, and the services we and our loved ones may need ourselves.
However, it’s possible that the Baillieu government, and the similarly short-sighted, worker-hostile Liberal/LNP governments in NSW and Queensland, may be beneficial for unions in the long run – membership has been declining across the board for the last decade or more, except for the ANF, which continues to grow (and no branch more strongly than Victoria). The reasons for this are manifold – I suspect it’s thanks to a combination of changed legislation, a casualised workforce, professionalisation and status aspiration, generalised political apathy, an increasingly centre Right media, selfishness (why fight for conditions you’ll get anyway), and a self-perpetuating union weakness.
However, in the face of growing egregious hostilities direct toward workers and the public sector, it’s possible the workforce at large will lose some of their complacency and see the value and strength of acting together. I suspect that our campaign was just the beginning – we can roll over and hope that there will be some sense of fair play, or we can unite and demonstrate our collective strength. Perhaps, as more campaigns also end with success for the employed, an awareness of the importance, protection and fairness of union involvement will increase membership across the board.
Union values are family values, societal values, and community values.
It’s only 897 days until the Victorian election. I, for one, have no intention of voting in a government that will force us to do this all over again – and if the rest of the state does anyway, know that I’ll be there and won’t be alone.