Thursday, May 31, 2007

Labor skidmarks

Kevin Rudd’s resolve to rid the Labor Party of the thuggish Dean Mighell and to retain the building industry regulator, the Australian Business and Construction Commission, are sensible
first steps.

The greatest difficulty facing Australia with a Rudd Labor election victory is that imposed by trade union control of Labor Party IR policies. The more effort Rudd puts into separating his party from the union thugs the lower are the changes of the types of trade union actions Mighell favours taking hold. A major fear is that pattern bargaining would take hold again with high pay deals in highly productive sectors being transferred to less productive sectors generating unemployment, loss of productive efficiency and inflation.

Some of Mighell’s recent comments are cited in the Age today. Describing:

… John Howard as a "skid mark on the bedsheet of Australian politics" and then describing employers as "greedy pricks" has done nothing to calm the fears of many voters with memories of the Whitlam years of the faceless men of the union movement deciding policy and of a return to the old days of class warfare, mindless industrial disputes and wildcat strikes.

In a recording of a union rally last November disclosed this week, he suggested how a threat of a strike would make employers cough up "millions".

At a recent ALP conference, he said a Labor government would give unions power to coerce employers into agreements restoring conditions, and it was "going to be fun" in relation to a return of a form of pattern bargaining.

He also was reported to have said: "Now we have kept that 4 per cent agreement across our industry and I'd like to know how many millions of dollars they've paid workers that we've racked up through that little bullshit stunt."

Most Australian’s don’t want people like Mighell driving IR policies. That these comments are made gives the impression that the Rudd leadership is weak and that unions, representing 20% of the total workforce, anticipate a field day if Labor is elected. Industry-wide agreements being the norm, pattern bargaining, extortion, secondary boycotts…….

The achievement of high economic growth coupled with historically low levels of unemployment and low levels of inflation is a major achievement of the Australian economy. Partisan debates have focused on the extent to which these outcomes were due to more flexible workplace arrangements. I find it difficult to believe they did not play a part in both reducing unemployment and in preventing high wage growth in productive sectors from spilling over into cost-push inflation throughout the economy.

Australia’s progress in increasing incomes and in retaining social equity by enhancing family payments over the past decade has been strong. It would be irresponsible to put these very considerable gains at risk. As the Australian’s editorial suggests this morning it is not being ideological to stress these IR issues. The left-wing unions in Victoria who provided the political support necessary for the Rudd-Gillard ticket represent the past not the future for Labor and for Australia. In getting rid of Mighell (and in retaining the ABCC) Rudd has hopefully taken a preliminary step towards recognising this.

Still the Labor Party is primarily funded by the unions and still seems intent on abolishing Australian Workplace Agreements.

It was a step in the right direction – here's hoping Rudd’s move is not purely cosmetic.

2 comments:

derrida derider said...

I dunno. Mighell just speaks like the people he represents so I'm not too fussed about his language. And of course he's right that a lot of employers are "greedy pricks" - it's a fact of life.

And if I was one of his union membrs I wouldn't exactly be upset about using whatever it takes to get a pay rise - he's just doing his job. You'd think nothing of a company exploiting the rules to maximise their profit, would you?

So the issue isn't Mighell, it's what the rules should be. And as an opponent of the ALP surely that's what you should be focusing on, not so-called "union thugs" any more than the unions should be focusing on individual "greedy pricks".

SInclair Davidson said...

Harry I agree that unions are thuggish and a return to the bad old days would be a disaster. But, I'm not sure what Mighell did that deserved him to be thrown out of the ALP. Okay, a few rude words and the like. But, so what? The damage Mighell could impose is not due to his ALP membership, its due to the fact that that is how unions behave. So throwing him out of the party doesn't solve the issue. Cracking down on unions will - Mr Rudd has shown no ability to do so.