chapter  12
Halcyon days?
231The Amalgamated Metal Workers’ Union and the Accord
ByElizabeth Humphrys
Pages 19

The Accord, a social contract between the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, profoundly shaped the Australian political economy between 1983 and 1996. This chapter considers the involvement of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) aligned Australian Metal Workers’ Union (AMWU) in the Accord process, given the agreement ultimately implemented significant wage suppression and advanced key elements of neoliberalism. The chapter explores four moments of the AMWU’s involvement in the social contract: why the union broke with its strategy of workplace and rank-and-file militancy; the early reshaping of the Accord through the 1983 Economic Summit; the Australia Reconstructed initiative in 1985; and, the motivation of the union in seeking the implementation of enterprise bargaining from 1991 onwards. The analysis reveals the difficulties for the AMWU in realising the implementation of the original Accord, and the impact on the rank and file organising that was a hallmark of the union through the 1970s. The chapter argues the role of the AMWU demonstrates how the social contract incorporated a militant union suffused with radical perspectives into the new political project, one centred on reviving accumulation and ‘modernising’ the Australian economy. The chapter concludes that the Accord, which could not have been implemented without the AMWU’s backing, ultimately played a key role in fragmenting and disorganising labour.