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The Forum > Article Comments > The 'gentle invaders' > Comments

The 'gentle invaders' : Comments

By Angela Barns and Alison Preston, published 22/10/2008

‘Gentle invaders’ revisited: women and the Australian union movement, past and present.

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Fantastic overview! However, in trying to cover all bases it got a little waffly in parts - especially towards the end.

I would like to have seen some figures included on the state of female union membership in Australia relative to union membership in general - is it going up or down? What have surveys revealed about women's attitudes to unionism (if any such surveys exist)?

Also, the essay only briefly touched on the 'poor' industrial relations of part-time and casual (PTC) employment - very much a female issue. I doubt if much progress will ever be made without a proactive collaboration between the unions and women's organisations to achieve some positive outcomes on this.

If the unions are serious about reversing their declining numbers, winning over the vast (and, with the current economic situation, soon to be increasing) army of female PTCs is a very good place to start.
Posted by SJF, Wednesday, 22 October 2008 3:10:37 PM
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This is a good article, but I think suffers from seeing their "new narrative" through the prism of the labour/capital divide.

The role of the family has changed over time, in part because of the demands of women (eg through the Women's Liberation movement) for work participation and in part becuase of the reality for capitalism that to deny half the population access to productive labour is essentially unproductive. Nevertheless it was the push from below which saw the change come about.

But I think this idea that the working class male is defensive of his position as worker per se is wrong. At a crude materialistic level male workers benefit from paid employment for their female partners.

Even the ideological propaganda battle putting the male bread winner on a pinnacle has I think been lost, mainly because of the push from below for paid work for women.

Of course, none of this means the struggle for equality is over. The wage gap is one area where the struggle must continue, but the solution I think is for unions to strike for equal pay. Teachers and nurses could stop the country (with massive support) if they did this, and would likely win.

The article's problems I think can be highlighted by the fact that Sharan Burrow is praised. She heads a timid ACTU whose commitment to the status quo matches that of John Howard in practice. why doesn't she lead a direct action campaign begining tomorrow for equal pay?

It is in my humble opinion not becasue she is a woman; she is a trade union official whose role in society is to sell workers' labour power to the bosses, and who fears the uncontrolled power of the membership more than she fears the boss or government.

Thanks again for the thought provoking article.
Posted by Passy, Wednesday, 22 October 2008 9:53:34 PM
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