Union bosses omnipotent, etc?

An intriguing email landed in my inbox on Friday.

In two weeks’ time, the Australian Labor Party will meet for their National Conference, where they will thrash out their policies for the 2007 federal election.

We have seven days to make sure the ALP know how much we are counting on them to make fair and democratic IR policy their top priority. Use our website to email Labor Leader Kevin Rudd, Deputy Julia Gillard, and the Labor team now!

Together, unions and Rights at Work supporters have over the past 18 months decided on some guiding principles for fair workplace laws. These include: no AWAs, collective bargaining if the majority of workers want it, protection from unfair treatment and dismissal, a decent safety net, and the right for all workers to be represented by a union if they choose.

Email Mr Rudd and his team and ensure this important agenda for fair and democratic workplaces is at the top of their plans. Australia and Australians have plenty of big issues – IR needs to be number one.

Should you wish to, and I have, you can send an email via the ACTU’s campaign page.

But what’s the broader political significance of this campaign?

Joe Hockey, when not playing Ruddster’s fellow former Channel Seven television personality, is supposed to be delivering the government’s hard hitting attack lines on IR. I can’t personally work out why it does make any difference if the ALP and Unions have spent $100 million on the anti-WorkChoices campaign, even though it appears more likely that one of Uncle Joe’s staffers worked it out on the back of a napkin. I suppose it’s meant to drive home the “evil Union bosses in brown cardigans out of touch with TEH WORKERS and plotting to raise interest rates” message, but no one who’s in a Union would be in any doubt that Unions oppose WorkChoices. Sure, the government has to try to hold on to some of the unionised vote, but given how bloody difficult it is to actually be in a union in many workplaces these days, I very much doubt that there are that many union members who are open to such tactics – which really made sense only in the long gone days of compulsory unionism.

The “faceless union bosses dictate policy” message isn’t going to fly.

In fact, what the email, and the website campaign suggests, is that there’s an appreciable difference in policy priorities between the ACTU and federal Labor. Big business, and numerous commentators rattling on about “New Labor” and “economic management” have been on the front foot since day one of the Rudd era pushing the ALP to take a softer line on IR. I doubt that this will have much effect, but it will have some, as the clamour will add impetus to an election year impulse to make some concessions to the business agenda – probably not with regard to AWAs, but quite possibly with regard to unfair dismissal provisions. We might not even get the detail, and the detail will be crucial, from the National Conference. But all this, and the evident concern that WorkChoices might not receive the campaign attention it deserves, does suggest a real concern among unions to lobby Labor to hold the line. We live in interesting times, but we certainly don’t live in times when unions can readily dictate policy to the Labor party. That’s perhaps not the worst thing in the world, either electorally or in principle, but it does underline both the old fashioned and shopworn nature of the government’s attack and the necessity for those of us who are concerned to see justice in the workplace to keep our eyes firmly on the ball.

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Posted in activism, Federal Elections, politics
51 comments on “Union bosses omnipotent, etc?
  1. wpd says:

    but we certainly don’t live in times when unions can readily dictate policy to the Labor party.

    Very true. And remember, that Rudd became leader in spite of hostility from many union power brokers, including Uncle Joe.

    But WCs are so patently unfair, Rudd will repeal, or at least attempt to repeal.

    Fertile grounds for a double dissolution, early in the term.

  2. Kim says:

    That’s Uncle Joe Ludwig as opposed to Uncle Joe Stalin Hockey, of course.

  3. Aidan says:

    I don’t know the rules regarding what are legitimate tasks for a ministerial advisors, but I reckon it is highly dodgy that they are being put to work compiling clearly politically partisan stats on the opposition. This stuff occurs during actual election campaigns, but the rules are different then, the ministers do not have the same unfettered access to the public service.

    Minchin’s office is putting out regular updates on Labor spending promises. This requires a fair amount of work. Who is doing this? I reckon the public would rather see them do their job than spend all their time attacking the opposition. Or is this just business as usual?

  4. Andrew E says:

    After the next election WorkChoices will be replaced with tripartite (unions, employer bodies, govt) legislation, but as I’ve said it will be interesting to see how long a corporatist model can last in an era of declining union membership and corporatist affiliation (please, let us have done with the fiction that the interests of union leaders are identical to those of all working people, same with employer bodies and actual businesses).

  5. wpd says:

    Or is this just business as usual?

    Yes. The public servants in question would simply be evaluating the ‘alternative’ policy options, including costings. Nothing new there.

  6. steve says:

    I think it would be a smart move by the Fed Govt to get it’s own house in order before it worries about what others are doing. Have a look at how well the Office of Workplace Services according to today’s State Hansard page 1186.

  7. professor rat says:

    Fair democracies are unaustralian Mark. We are a governor-generalate here donchaknow…and as for IR. I believe the Lang and Whitlam precedents speak volumes for themselves as an example.
    ( Third times a charm!)
    Stupid, vapid airheads like K-Rudd and Gillard richly deserve to be sacked without even one seconds notice if they even dare mention the monarchy let alone Industrial relations.
    They know that and blather on -with Maxine – about nothing.
    ‘Fair and democratic’ is for when you stop believing in the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy – its electoral promises stupid – but if you want to lick the boots of Howard Lite be my guest. Its amusing to watch you democratic-socialist make fools of yrselves sometimes.

    All power to the Ruddites!

    Long live King Rudd!

  8. I don’t know the rules regarding what are legitimate tasks for a ministerial advisors, but I reckon it is highly dodgy that they are being put to work compiling clearly politically partisan stats on the opposition.

    That’s what they’re paid for! Seriously, read any candid book about how Governments actually run. Alan Reid is good, but turn on your bias-filter as high as it can go.

    Everyone does this, it is one of the spoils of office.

    As to the article, the Government’s whole attack sounds as futile as Mr Fraser’s ‘money under the bed’ statement of 1983. I don’t think that WorkChoices has made union officials more or less popular than they already were (not very), but I think people who have previously voted for the Government are making up their minds that WorkChoices is bad for them, and they will vote against it by voting Labor.

    I think we will see precious little from the ALP though – a few symbolic policies to get the employers yelling and making the ALP look friendly to the average worker, but no major changes to the current system.

    I predict one of the changes will be making it illegal to force people to work on public holidays, which is a great wedge issue for the ALP – it will appeal to strict religious believers in the workforce who believe it is wrong to work at Easter or Christmas.

  9. Mark says:

    David, I think that the ALP have already committed to collective bargaining where a majority wish it, the introduction of more and more rigorous legislative minima, the abolition of AWAs and protections against unfair dismissal. If you look at the Qld and NSW Industrial Relations Acts, both of which give a very wide range of protection to employees and bargaining and representation rights, I think that would probably take the edge off your pessimism as to what the ALP will try to put in place of WorkChoices. I would hope that it would be a double dissolution issue rather than something that will be bargained down with the Senate. In any case, a strong and explicit policy will go a long way towards bolstering the argument of a mandate – particularly since the measures in WorkChoices were not canvassed by the government prior to the 2004 election.

  10. Chav says:

    “There can be no going back to the industrial culture of an earlier age, that is why a further reform of the industrial relations culture we propose will be to outlaw industrial action unless there is a secret ballot,” Mr Rudd said.

    Nice one! I thought secret ballots for industrial action were a Tory policy?!

  11. Razor says:

    “given how bloody difficult it is to actually be in a union in many workplaces these days”

    Mark – what a load of complete bollocks. Anyone can a join a union anytime.

  12. Chav says:

    Mark – what a load of complete bollocks. Anyone can a join a union anytime.

    Maybe in already well unionised workplaces, however I’d suggest its a different story in the private sector, especially many small workplaces. And by that I mean not just joining but being an active member, someone clearly identified as a union member. Clearly a risky venture under the WorkChoices legislation…

  13. Mark says:

    Do you have a link for the secret ballot story, Chav?

  14. Ken Lovell says:

    Australia is full of organisations that represent interest groups but for some reason trade unions are the only ones whose legitimacy is questioned because not every eligible person actually joins up. It would be just as logical to argue that the NRMA has no right to speak for motorists when so many drivers aren’t members, or that the RSPCA should be ignored because hardly any animal lovers join.

    Moreover, even in this era of completely voluntary unionism, 20% of Australian workers choose to belong. Anybody familiar with free-rider/social loafing ideas recognises that unions speak on behalf of many many people who don’t join because they’ll get the benefits regardless. In fact, unions are far and away the most well-supported interest group in the nation. It’s therefore both sensible and completely proper for the ALP to pay a lot of heed to union views, at least in employment relations matters.

    I can’t see the union bogeyman working any more … most people these days wouldn’t know who Norn Gallagher or John Halpenny even were. They associate union officials with Bill Shorten and Greg Combet, who wouldn’t scare anyone.

    I do wish the ALP would make more mileage from the story of industry superannuation funds. They were ferociously opposed by Howard personally, with all sorts of doomsday predictions about what the unions would do when they got their hands on all that money, yet they’ve turned out to be outstanding successes with nary a hint of improper practice. It’s a perfect bit of factual evidence that gives the lie to all the scare-mongering about irresponsible unions and the ALP should make more use of it.

  15. steve says:

    Mark, Secret Ballot story here.

  16. The text of Mr Rudd’s National Press Club speech today is here.

    My pessimism has returned, given that the State IR systems are to be abolished:

    Some in the labour movement have argued for a return to predominantly State-based jurisdictions. I reject that view because we must recognise that business, large and small, is increasingly operating across state borders.

    While the ALP intends to abolish AWAs, non-collective agreements will still be permitted: http://www.alp.org.au/media/0207/tvi110.php

    BARRIE CASSIDY: So what happens after these contracts run out and for those who are happy to be on these AWAs, what will replace them?

    JULIA GILLARD: More than 30 per cent of our workforce is currently covered by common law agreements, they offer a lot of flexibility and they will be part of Labor’s industrial relations arrangements. Then of course you can have very flexible award conditions, you can have very flexible collective agreements…

    BARRIE CASSIDY: So what is the difference between that and AWAs?

    JULIA GILLARD: The difference between that and AWAs is we are talking about flexibility off a fair base rather than flexibility downwards. What I don’t want to happen in this country is that a female worker in a shop, someone working part time as a cleaner can basically end up seeing their pay and conditions cut because of agreements like Australian Workplace Agreements. That can certainly happen now, we know it is happening and that is the vice that we want to get out of the system.

    This makes me wonder what the ALP will do if an applicant for employment is presented with a non-union agreement as a condition of their employment. And will they tell Centrelink that it is OK for someone on benefits to refuse a job offer unless it is under an agreement acceptable to that person?

    Mr Rudd said today that the right to strike will be curtailed:

    The only time industrial action will be legally permitted is if it is taken in pursuit of a collective enterprise agreement during a bargaining period. And even then it will only be protected from legal penalty if it is authorised by the employees who will be taking the action through a secret ballot supervised by the independent industrial umpire.

    Under our laws, employees will not be able to strike during the term of a collective agreement. They will not be able to strike unless there has been genuine good faith bargaining. They will not be able to strike in support of an industry wide agreement. And they will not be able to strike unless it has been approved by a mandatory secret ballot.

    Strike pay by employers is banned:

    Third, industrial action comes at a cost to the economy. It therefore should not be without cost to those engaged in it. That’s why under Labor’s new laws it will also be unlawful for employers to pay strike pay.

    I’m not sure if unions will theoretically be able to pay strikers (although how long has it been since unions raised strike funds and seriously planned to win a strike?).

    Employers with under 15 employees will be able to sack any worker, for pretty much any reason for up to a year after the employee has been hired, and it appears that, in effect, Rudd wants probation periods to be extended to six months (from the now-standard 3 months) for all other businesses:

    Labor will give employers the opportunity to see how employees fit into their business, meet the requirements of the job and work with colleagues and customers. Under Labor’s system an employee can only make an unfair dismissal claim when they have worked at least one year in a business with less than 15 employees…

    This represents a significant change to Labor’s previous policy for small business. For businesses employing more than 15 people, employees will be exempt from unfair dismissal laws for six months.

    The devil will be in the details of the new ‘Fair Dismissal Code’:

    Labor will, in consultation with small business, develop a Fair Dismissal Code. The Code will be tailored to the needs of small business and will be reduced to a clear and concise reference to help these employers meet their obligations under Labor’s simpler unfair dismissal system. Where an employer has complied with the Code, the dismissal will be considered a fair dismissal.

    Mr Rudd, unsurprisingly, will make it far more difficult for employees to take effective strike action. The ALP appears to want workers to take what they are given – which is not surprising, given their history of opposing union militantcy.

    Of course, the union movement, which has de-fanged any serious attempts at strike action for decades, will make a symbolic attempt to oppose the worst parts of Mr Rudd’s plan, but will be won over by the argument that Australia ‘desperately needs’ a Labor Government.

    And workers who are dissatisfied with the way their employer is treating them will have very few legal rights to strike.

  17. Mark says:

    My pessimism has returned, given that the State IR systems are to be abolished

    I wouldn’t get too hung up on that, as with the exception of Qld (the biggest) and NSW, they had pretty sparse coverage outside the public sector prior to WorkChoices. The NSW system was much more legalistic and complex, whereas (in my view) the Qld system was very good indeed – providing a lot of avenues for conciliation and banning lawyers from appearing before the commission, among a number of other features. The provisions with regard to award review – tying award wages to community standards and thus providing for more extensive wage review than through just a minima decision were also very worthwhile, as were the gender equity provisions. But, on the other hand, the conveniently belong rule encouraged apathetic unions to keep coverage over areas where more energetic unions would have been able to recruit and represent much better.

    There has only been a legal right to strike in Australia at all since 1993 by the way. The secret ballots thing isn’t a huge deal. It’s disappointing that strike pay is banned, though that would surely only extend to employers.

    non-collective agreements will still be permitted

    Yes, but they were prior to WorkChoices, and indeed, prior to the 1996 Workplace Relations Act.

    The 1993 Keating IR Reform Act provided for non-union collective agreements. And common law contracts have always been around. Again, what’s important is that choice be genuine, and I’m sure that “presenting someone with a non-collective agreement” can’t happen, by virtue of the fact that the common law of contract applies!

    I have no problems with the option of non-union collective agreements provided that the option is a genuine one – again it makes unions work harder and be more responsive to their members.

    The most important things are junking AWAs, choice of representation, and the reinstatement of legally required good faith bargaining on the part of employers, plus the resurrection and expansion of robust legislative minima.

    I’m somewhat disappointed by the unfair dismissal proposals, because I’d hoped that the mediation option would be sufficient to quiet the screams of outrage, without exemptions and probation periods. The jurisprudence prior to Howard in this area was heading in the direction of providing unfair dismissal rights to long term casuals – so there’s something really important being lost here.

  18. Mark says:

    Oh, thanks to steve and Chav for the links, also.

  19. David Rubie says:

    Mark wrote:

    The most important things are junking AWAs, choice of representation, and the reinstatement of legally required good faith bargaining on the part of employers, plus the resurrection and expansion of robust legislative minima.

    I’d still prefer more robust mechanisms enshrining the right to strike. As a country we’ve been listening to the HaRd Nipples society for far too long with their anti-Union rhetoric. There is no other way for capital and labour to come to the bargaining table on an equitable basis.

  20. Mark says:

    In an ideal world, yes, I’d agree, David.

    But the good faith bargaining provision is incredibly important – strikes within a bargaining period are often prompted by intransigence and refusal to negotiate properly by management. Restoring a legal duty to negotiate in good faith allows the commission to intervene to make orders to management, and if they are disregarded, to take the dispute out of the parties’ hands and arbitrate.

    In addition, the strike ballot provisions have been successfully used under WorkChoices by a number of unions.

    On the ABC tonight the report suggested that it was something new that strikes would only be allowed during bargaining periods. That’s not the case – they’ve always been prohibited outside bargaining periods. I’d certainly support the legalisation of strikes over the interpretation of an agreement during its course of operation – something which was in the original Keating proposals but dropped out during the legislative process. Otherwise workers and unions have little bargaining power to actually enforce an agreement where its terms are contested.

  21. David Rubie says:

    Mark said:

    Restoring a legal duty to negotiate in good faith allows the commission to intervene to make orders to management, and if they are disregarded, to take the dispute out of the parties’ hands and arbitrate.

    Fair enough. It does remind me of one other thing that doesn’t seem to have been addressed. The one-man-show fair pay commission has to go. We don’t need sanctimonious proselytisation from the ranks of the saved to tell us how much the minimum wage should be (presumably God tells that turkey what the numbers are). That should be handed back to the arbitration commission.

  22. Mark says:

    Gilly confirmed on Lateline that the FPC is for the chop, David, and that the AIRC will resume setting the minimum wage.

  23. David Rubie says:

    Colour me happy Mark. Now fingers crossed the Labor party don’t screw up the election 🙂

  24. Mark says:

    Well, I think Howard’s lost it already, David, so there’d have to be a lot of screwing up! 🙂

    Meanwhile, I hope that MrLefty’s analysis rant isn’t characteristic of the take on Labor’s IR policy by those of the Green persuasion.

    http://anonymouslefty.blogspot.com/2007/04/at-last-alp-sees-how-important-it-is.html

  25. Lefty E says:

    Im just glad to see the ALP trying the novel approach of having policies before the campaign.

  26. jo says:

    David,

    Just to get technical on ya – under Work Choices – there is a “qualifying period of employment” which is a default six months (up from 3 months) AS well as the probationary period of employment which is usually three months. Both can be varied by agreement etc.

    Under the qualifying period of employment which is 6 months – you can’t take out an unfair dismissal claim.

    You also have the probationary period – which is normally 3 months – to “assess an employee” – and you cant take out an unfair dismissal claim obviously….but you also cant make a claim for not giving proper notice either….

    An employee however bring an action for unlawful termination or for unlawful discrimination even if the probation period or qualifying period hasn’t expired.

  27. Chav says:

    The jurisprudence prior to Howard in this area was heading in the direction of providing unfair dismissal rights to long term casuals – so there’s something really important being lost here.

    Yeah, so WorkChoices is very unpopular, the ALP should run with winding it back as far as they can…

    There is no other way for capital and labour to come to the bargaining table on an equitable basis.

    I agree there should be a right to strike, but capital will always keep changing the height of the bargaining table until it suits them. Using the law under a Liberal OR Labor government (BLF or Pilots dispute anyone?) which is why organised labour needs to be politically independent of the ALP.

  28. Chav says:

    And on a sidenote, to me its quite hilarious listening to mainstream politico’s defending the pluralist liberal democracy that we supposedly all enjoy…except when it comes to the supposed influence of the dreaded unions (surely just another interest group?) who for some reason, unlike the AMA and the Business Council of Australia, excercise a stranglehold on, if not the nation (well if not , then why WorkChoices) then at least the other party of the bourgeoisie.

  29. Christine Keeler says:

    Nice one! I thought secret ballots for industrial action were a Tory policy?!

    I thought the secret ballot stuff was an interesting inclusion, and Chav’s right.

    However, Workchoices already contains extensive and complex secret ballot provisions which are designed not to ensure the sanctity of a vote, but are essentially a legal tripwire designed to land unions in court facing massive fines if they don’t dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’.

    As ever, debbil will be in the detail but the ACTU seems reasonably happy with it. It will be interesting to see how the CFMEU reacts given that they’ve been a prime target of the government’s legislation.

  30. MrLefty says:

    “Meanwhile, I hope that MrLefty’s analysis rant isn’t characteristic of the take on Labor’s IR policy by those of the Green persuasion.”

    Gee, sorry Mark. I have clearly betrayed our ALP brothers in their brave attempt to win government by aping the conservatives’ policies. Who doesn’t want an ALP mainly concerned with “productivity growth” and “flexibility” for employers? Those are the priorities the labor movement was founded to defend, after all.

  31. An employee [?] however bring an action for unlawful termination or for unlawful discrimination even if the probation period or qualifying period hasn’t expired.

    Sorry jo, is the [?] ‘can’ or ‘cannot’?

    Presumably unlawful termination or discrimination are different to ‘unfair dismissal’?

    As ever, debbil will be in the detail [of secret ballots] but the ACTU seems reasonably happy with it.

    Well, since the ACTU doesn’t want militant unions any more than the ALP does, that’s hardly a recommendation in my book.

    Secret ballots take weeks to organise, giving employers ample time to bring pressure on workers who are considering a strike. They are designed to make strikes very difficult indeed.

    It’s fairly clear (as always of course, this is not new) that if any movement for more militant strike action by workers were to begin, it would have to fight the ALP and the ACTU.

    Mark, are you criticising Mr Lefty’s arguments, or his refreshingly blunt and direct style of making them?

    I think his substance is broadly correct, although, like many, he appears to shy away from any possibility of refusing to preference an unsatisfactory ALP.

  32. Mark says:

    MrLefty, with the exception of the strike and unfair dismissal provisions, the proposal closely mirrors both the Keating legislation and Combet’s proposals, which he had considerable difficulty getting support for in the face of troglodytes from the NSW Right and AWU. Perhaps you think productivity is something the labour movement should sneer at, like you do? You might like to reflect on the record of the union movement and the very serious discussions in the 80s and early 90s about economic growth, productivity and distribution. As to flexibility, are you suggesting we go back to a system of one size fits all industry awards?

    What do you think enterprise bargaining is about?

    Incidentally, David, enterprise bargaining was something that militant unions pushed for in the late 80s and early 90s because it had the capacity to deliver higher wage outcomes while preserving and expanding jobs, compared to centralised arbitration and industry awards.

    Secret ballots take weeks to organise, giving employers ample time to bring pressure on workers who are considering a strike. They are designed to make strikes very difficult indeed.

    David, once again, I’d suggest you look at the record under WorkChoices of unions taking strike action. Far more important than secret ballots as a disincentive has been the penal powers under the Act.

    Presumably unlawful termination or discrimination are different to ‘unfair dismissal’?

    There’s always been a distinction between “unlawful termination” and “unfair dismissal”. The first is when an employee is dismissed for a prohibited reason – for instance, pregnancy or race or gender. Unfair dismissals are prima facie legal but lacking in fairness.

    The other point I’d make is that the “pro-business” spin is different from the reality – which is largely a much fairer and more union and employee friendly system than WorkChoices. If people want to die in a ditch over strike ballots, well, that’s fine, but I think an IR system which disallows the extraordinary attacks on wages and conditions under WorkChoices and restores a greater degree of power to employees is much more worth fighting for.

  33. David, once again, I’d suggest you look at the record under WorkChoices of unions taking strike action. Far more important than secret ballots as a disincentive has been the penal powers under the Act.

    The ABS figures which can be downloaded here do not seem to show what disincentives unions consider when deciding whether or not to strike, but they certainly show strike action has plummeted since June 2006.

    I can’t see anything in Mr Rudd’s speech which shows that he is considering removing the penalties for unauthorised strikes, thus making it easier for workers in dispute to put pressure on their bosses.

    The issue to me is not awards v enterprise bargaining, but the ability of workers to stand up to employers. Mr Rudd’s proposals will make sure it is still very hard for workers to do just that.

    Interestingly, in theory Mr Rudd’s proposals are just that, proopsals not policies, and they still have to go before the ALP National Conference to become ALP policy. In reality they will be approved because the Conference dare not publically repudiate Mr Rudd this close to a winnable election.

    I think Chav is right to imply that workers should not rely on the ALP to help them do that. I don’t think that most unions are interested in helping their workers be more powerful, either.

    Of course there is no point denouncing the ALP or most unions for this, – it is just what they do.

  34. Mark says:

    It seems to have escaped your attention that calling a ballot is also a method of exercising countervailing power. Obviously we’re not going to agree on the role of unions (though most unions, as you note, also disagree with you), but I repeat the point that judging this on the basis of strikes alone is folly. Don’t forget only 20% of the private sector is unionised anyway.

  35. Andrew E says:

    Can’t see the problem with secret strike ballots mesel’.

    Interesting that Rudd has announced this before the ALP conference rather than after, which will diminish the captive-of-the-unions thing even more (esp. if some old dinosaur like Big Daddy Ludwig or one of those Poms who run the metalworkers’ union goes him).

  36. It seems to have escaped your attention that calling a ballot is also a method of exercising countervailing power.

    No, it hasn’t. For many years I wondered why unions complained at all about secret ballots – they sound nice and democratic – , until I read an article by Humphrey McQueen pointing out that secret ballots delay action, and also dilute the sense of solidarity that can come from a mass meeting deciding to take action.

    We’re not talking about a secret ballot at a strike meeting BTW, we are talking about a ballot by mail that takes weeks to complete.

    Obviously we’re not going to agree on the role of unions (though most unions, as you note, also disagree with you), but I repeat the point that judging this on the basis of strikes alone is folly.

    I’m not judging this on strikes alone, but since they are one of the very few ways that workers have to put pressure on their boss, Mr Rudd’s proposals will make sure that a vital weapon remains out of their hands.

  37. Darryl Rosin says:

    “Meanwhile, I hope that MrLefty’s analysis rant isn’t characteristic of the take on Labor’s IR policy by those of the Green persuasion.”

    Mark, why do you hope that? What’s riding on the attitude of the Greens to Labor’s IR policy?

  38. Christine Keeler says:

    Secret ballots take weeks to organise, giving employers ample time to bring pressure on workers who are considering a strike. They are designed to make strikes very difficult indeed.

    Under the current legislation they certainly do, and during a bargaining period that’s not necessarily an insurmountable problem.

    However a significant test of Rudd’s proposals will be whether they relate to the ability to take people off the job in response to OHS issues in dangerous, and often fatal, industries like construction. WorkChoices has removed this and whatsmore has introduced industrial coppers who can take action against the union and individual members irrespective of the wishes of the employer.

  39. Mark says:

    Darryl – Senate passage! And also – sensible debate. I’m sorry, but I found MrLefty’s post very short on substance and long on petulance.

    David, with all due respect to McQueen, I suspect that he’s mythologising the role of strikes because of his ideological commitments.

    If you look at the comparative wage outcomes between unionised and non unionised workers (even on collective agreements), it’s very clear that there are a wide range of tactics by which unions can obtain favourable bargaining outcomes other than through the use of strikes.

  40. Mark says:

    Christine, has it been conclusively found that WorkChoices over-rides state laws which enable work stoppages over OHS matters?

  41. Mark says:

    Incidentally, I see the Fin Review – the “Bosses’ Bible” disagrees with Mr Lefty – the headline on the front page is “Rudd IR pitch fails business test”.

  42. Darryl Rosin says:

    I understand Mr Lefty’s post getting up your nose (not that I particularly disagree with him) but your concerns about Senate passage are a bit backwards I think.

    It’s not plausible that the ALP will get control of the Senate in their own right so the only way this will get up is if the Greens win the balance of power. This requires the Greens to differentiate themselves from the ALP and IR is potentially a very good issue for them to do that with.

    It’s also not plausible that the Greens would vote to keep workchoices rather than pass the ALP’s bill. That’s just not going to happen.

    d

  43. John Greenfield says:

    Mr. Lefty

    Tell us what Award you hope to return to. Do you think you will manage with your current arrangements before the nanny state returns to arrange your financial and employment affairs?

  44. Mark says:

    Darryl – I may not have made myself clear. I would welcome positive input from the Greens in the legislative process so that whatever bill results from this can be improved – particularly on the points of contention people have highlighted (I don’t like the strike provisions any more than Mr Lefty but I think it’s quite wrong to single them out and infer from that that Labor has adopted the business agenda). That would be fostered by sensible and measured policy debate, not by hysterical and juvenile denunciations. So by all means, let’s have some points of difference between Labor and the Greens, but in a mature and reasoned fashion, not Mr Lefty style ranting. But I’m sure his post isn’t representative of Greens interested in good policy rather than partisan point scoring.

  45. Christine Keeler says:

    Christine, has it been conclusively found that WorkChoices over-rides state laws which enable work stoppages over OHS matters?

    Don’t take it as gospel, but I think you’ll find it probably does in the case of the construction industry courtesy of the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act.

  46. Mark says:

    I think that’s right, but I wonder whether it’s more general.

  47. amused says:

    The test of the ‘secret ballot’ proposals will be the provisions that are devised for requiring employers to obtain the permission of shareholders prior to ‘locking out’ their employees, don’t you think? The current provisions merely require three days notice to the would be locked out. No ballots there-no sirree!

  48. MrLefty says:

    Man, you make one broad cranky swipe at the ALP and suddenly everyone’s angry with you!

  49. Paul Norton says:

    An argument in favour of strike ballots is that they democratically legitimise the decision to strike, both amongst the workers themselves and the general public, and this in turn can have a positive effect on the morale and solidarity of striking workers. And if a majority of the workers being asked to strike aren’t going to support the strike call in a ballot, this would suggest that the solidarity isn’t there to win the strike anyway

  50. John Greenfield says:

    Paul Norton

    Having the state stomp its jackboot over voluntary civil associations is just fascism, pure and simple. It is none of the bloody state’s business.

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