The Unions Tasmania hierarchy has flexed its muscles to shore up
blanket support for the Lennon Government in the state election of
18 March. It did so after Crikey revealed last week that union bosses
Simon Cocker (Unions Tas secretary) and David O’Byrne (who is
also state president of the Labor party) had been rolled.

Plenty of union organisers and plenty of members were plenty unhappy
with the Lennon Government over a number of issues, in particular
workers comp laws and objected to wholesale support, let alone union
money going into the campaign. But the hierarchy went to work behind
the scenes and rounded up all affiliates to a lengthy meeting of the
Unions Tas Council in Hobart yesterday. Old Labor had the numbers and
won the day. But not before Cocker complained of a breakdown in
discipline.

A resolution was passed in which the Lennon Government was praised for
its stand against the Howard Government’s IR laws and the Greens were
blasted for “willingness to join a Liberal minority government”.
Accordingly, the meeting resolved “to adopt a policy position of
support for a majority Labour (sic) Government as the best outcome for
the state election for protecting workers’ rights.”

Despite the lobbying, it wasn’t a unanimous decision. The Australian
Nursing Federation voted against it, while the Media Entertainment and
Arts Alliance abstained. I am MEAA Tasmania Branch president and
discussed the issue with Branch secretary Andrew Muthy before he went
to the meeting. MEAA cannot and will not support any political party
during an election – despite what some pollies think – hence he
abstained from voting.

Curiously, Cocker told The Oz today, that he wanted a closer
relationship between Labor and the Greens, that the two parties were
wasting resources fighting each other, and should concentrate on the
Liberals. Not so curiously perhaps, because his brother Philip Cocker
is a Greens member of the Hobart City Council.

Meanwhile, Greens Leader Peg Putt has put out media release on the
issue this morning in which she says: “It is completely untrue that the
Greens would ever be part of helping Howard’s repugnant attack on
workers into place which the two top officials at Unions Tasmania knew
full well because Nick McKim and myself gave our guarantee to them in
person that this would not be on the table in any negotiations.”

Peter Fray

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