EDITORIAL

Save the forests and fight the bosses!

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In bed with the enemy. Without a doubt, the ugliest sight of the Federal election was members of the forestry division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union cheering John Howard. When workers — especially those organised in unions — put their hopes in the re-election of a viciously anti-worker Prime Minister, something has gone horribly wrong. We saw the result of years of misleadership — trade union leaders crossing class lines to put a case that workers unite with bosses against environmentalists.

Collaboration boosts profits. Timber bosses love to peddle their anti-green propaganda.  Since the mid ’90s they’ve spent millions funding groups like the Forestry Industries Campaign Association and the pro-logging Forest Protection Society to  aggressively argue that “irresponsible environmentalists will cost jobs.” And what better way to get workers listening than to have the message come from their union! If forestry workers blame environmentalists, it takes the heat off the bosses whose restructuring of the industry, which began in the 1970s, is the real source of the massive job losses. In their quest to maximise profits, employers have used contracting out, technological change and speed ups. The result?  Production figures up while the workforce has been systematically downsized.

No to Labor Party backsliding. This is why the ALP was right to propose a plan to save the magnificent Styx Valley and Tarkine forests and provide assistance to promote employment. In his 1998 book, Mark Latham wrote that of the 25,000 timber jobs lost during the previous 15 years, 98% were due to mechanisation and restructuring, and only 2% due to environmental demands. Given these facts, it’s galling to observe many in the ALP arguing to dump one of the party’s better policies. What the timber industry urgently needs is a plan based on plantation timber and a union which understands which side it is on.

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