Guest post by Chris White
Watching the National Press Club’s debate between Joe Hockey and Julia Gillard, I was once again struck by the Government’s big lie about the so-called ‘job destroying unfair dismissal laws’. I remember Minister Peter Reith’s answer years ago (when he first put this in a press release) when I asked, how could this be? I said SA had the first unfair dismissal laws operating for many years without hearing from employers about such a notion. He gave this amazing reply.
“Of course, when a worker is unfairly dismissed it adds to unemployment. My press secretary reversed what happens. It creates jobs. He made it up ” he said proudly.
“But how could that be?”, I persisted.
“Look, its all about politics. We’ll just assert abolishing these unfair dismissal laws creates jobs” and laughed. He thought this was a great joke and being very clever.
There is no research evidence that an IR system allowing sacking at will and abolishing the right of an individual to go to a hearing to test unfairness creates jobs.
But over the years, political business people parroted the line that somehow they would not hire unless unfair dismissal laws were removed.
With Howard and his business mates repeating this mantra constantly, it has had some political impact.
A sad but predictable commentary on the standard of IR debate.
The same can be said about Hockey’s other political “spin”. Working families can see through all this.
Like workers’ experience of not having any power when individually bargaining with corporations; or Hockey’s so-called new “fairness” test or the union “bosses” spin, just not believed as shown in the polls and so on and so on.
Julia Gillard’s point that WorkChoices slammed through Parliament has no democratic legitimacy is telling, as were her points in reply. A majority wants WorkChoices abolished.
However, it is not positive for workers and their unions that Julia Gillard again promised to retain parts of WorkChoices that go against the International Labor Organisation’s minimum standards on workers collective bargaining rights and freedom of association, such as retaining restrictive right of entry; making pattern bargaining industrial action unlawful (the only OECD country that does so); like the complex restrictions on protected action (see ‘What limits the right to strike?’); like the repressive Building and Construction Act that the ALP quite rightly earlier condemned as removing the civil rights of workers and
the human right to withdraw labour (see my background paper “The Perth 107”).
Chris White has a BA Hons/LLB from the University of Adelaide. He was a union advocate for 27 years, first with the AWU and LHMU and then at the UTLC of SA as Secretary. He is now a labour law researcher living in Canberra. He is a long-term ALP member who can be contacted at whitecd at velocitynet.com.au.