More tips for successful workplace discussions

Posted on Monday, 29 January

More tips for successful workplace discussions

Two success stories: First, how a Vic Socialists member in a suburban office in Melbourne got workmates to the Sunday rallies and to help with local poster runs. And second, a thoughtful piece about the challenges of creating a space for discussions and organising on Palestine in a Melbourne high school. 

(Previous items on this blog discuss using badges and fundraisers to start conversations; organising a group at Victoria Uni; and having discussions in schools despite the repressive atmosphere.)

Office worker in suburban Melbourne:

I’ve had a lot of success with Palestine activism at work. I’ve sold four badges, organised a lunchtime poster run with a workmate, and in the process of organising another. I’ve loaned out my copy of Intifada and have had multiple conversations with colleagues, at a much higher political level than in the past.

I put this down to previously establishing myself as a political person at work, and have been very active in union work. People are actively seeking me out to discuss Palestine and are asking my opinion on it. I’ve faced no backlash so far because I haven’t pushed too hard yet, so I think I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and see if people want to go along with it.

Conversations have been good, mostly they are around the Sunday rallies themselves and the amount of people attending. From there we’ve topics like workers power (union involvement in social questions like the BLF), what we can do as individuals (get involved in activism) and also have been able to talk to people around the power of the working class and the need to rebuild our unions.

I’ve had a couple of chats about how the working class doesn’t have an interest in oppression in a material sense. This is something that’s resonated somewhat with a couple of people.

I believe that 4-5 of my fellow workers out of 20 have gone to the Sunday protests and they seem like they would like to help out in some way. I’ll keep trying to engage them in as much activity as I can including post rally meetings, public meetings and if they’re interested in VS activity. 


High school teacher in Melbourne’s northern suburbs:

I work at a school in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. The student body are highly engaged on the issue of Palestine. Most students support Palestinians, and we have Palestinian students and staff at the school. Around 50% of Year 7 to Year 9 students went on strike for Palestine in November, and many took the train into the city and participated in the march.

A handful of staff have been attending rallies and are highly committed to the cause. Most staff haven’t rallied to the cause. A passionate staff member encouraged other staff at a morning briefing to attend the weekly rallies to “stop the genocide against the Palestinians” and this went down like a lead balloon. So have efforts of an AEU rep to facilitate a discussion on the issue or organise a sub-branch contingent for the rallies. There is little consciousness that union members should do anything about this issue.

While many staff are appalled by the destruction of Gaza they are also very concerned about the actions of Hamas and don’t want to take a partisan position, that is they don’t want to take sides in a war. The minority of staff who are acting on Palestine are losing patience with the majority who aren’t. “We shouldn’t have to convince people” or “people need to do their own research”. What’s needed is a strategy to win members over to a position of supporting Palestine. This will take time and education.

The AEU sub-branch executive met and discussed organising a “peace lunch” in week 10 of last term. Even that could have been seen as divisive, so we opted for a “lunch for human rights” to coincide with the December 12th international day of human rights. We fed all staff with delicious food from the Middle East and conducted a quiz on human rights. We won a lot of good will for the branch and started a conversation and framework for discussing the conflict in 2024.

Going forward we will need to listen very carefully to what our colleagues are saying. We need to appreciate that having any organising conversations now is difficult. We also need to find the links between existing widely and deeply felt issues and Palestine. What is the link between workload, under funding, staff shortages, student behaviour and the issue of Palestine? If we don’t find these links we won’t have a basis to take any union action on Palestine.