"When the Australian labour movement has its ducks in a row, it has the power to swing polls for the ALP, even without an explicit pro-Labor message."The Power Index can reveal the ACTU has engaged veteran ALP-linked ad-man Bill Shannon to devise the creative message around a theme of insecure work. Then there will be an extensive community campaign targeting key marginal seats, when the results of an extensive "voter ID" program -- unveiled by Crikey last month -- surface. Social media and GetUp!-aping web activity will also feature. While Mookhey and Oliver stayed mum on tactics, ACTU vice-president (and Construction, Forestry Mining and Energy Union national secretary) Michael O'Connor spoke in general terms about the peak body's approach. Community campaigning, where union activists initiate direct conversations with their families and workmates, will loom large. "I think it's where the ACTU and the labour movement is heading ... we're not relying on direct lobbying or a relationship with political parties but actually just trying to develop support in the community for what we consider to be important issues," he said. O'Connor has also tapped Shannons to produce five television ads with a "let's spread it around" theme on the mining boom and issues like 457 visas and fly-in, fly-out workers. But this might not be the main focus. "The big billboards or the TV ads may get the attention, but the important part of the campaign is mobilising around this issues," he said. "We have 110,000 members who are hopefully talking to their families and their communities. If we can get them talking then that's quite a significant force." And organised labour is bigger than the ACTU. Add the CFMEU's campaign to the Queensland unions' fight against Premier Campbell Newman, United Voice's Big Steps campaign and the teachers' union's gee-ups on Gonski, and a critical mass starts to emerge. Even after Prime Minister Julia Gillard's expected demise, labour will aim to re-build internal capacity -- campaigning now for more ballast and heft in the future. Membership density is marooned at 18.4% nationally (ACTU assistant secretary Tim Lyons has calculated that 133,500 new members are required by 2016 to maintain the status quo). Former deputy prime minister Brian Howe, who delivered the ACTU's independent report into insecure work that will provide the overarching campaign narrative, told The Power Index that organised labour didn't necessarily need to frame the debate in negative terms -- like the 2007 rejection of WorkChoices -- to be influential. The 1980s Accord was seen by voters as a sign the movement was on the right side of history -- a sentiment that helped buoy Labor in the 1984 and 1987 federal elections. "In Hawke's period the accord was a very significant change ... to manage change that made people feel that it was essentially positive was quite a trick! I think the leadership of the trade union movement together with the leadership of the Labor party played a very important role," Howe said. Howe said the Keating years were crucial: "In the early 1990s you had a transition in the [Labor] leadership where the government is really responding to the issue of jobs and employment and One Nation and a range of policies that are about investment and more positive themes of stimulating employment." Without the WorkChoices bogeyman, it will be that positive sentiment that Mookhey and his community cyber-warriors will be looking to recapture this year. And as Labor knows, the effort will help them, even if the party's industrial arm only manages to slow rather than staunch the bleeding in what is looming as an electoral bloodbath.
The Power Index: election deciders, trade unions at #4
That the industrial relations issue has been neutralised in the federal election campaign is testament to the power unions still hold over federal politics. Can the labour movement regroup to help Labor at the polls in 2013?