(OT?) Australia - The unions are back in town - shucks

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I post this for general awareness.
Please note the Federal and State powers mentioned here.
Also note that it is written by a Liberal Party 'ex' minister. He was booted out at the last election. The people voted! He's upset? Didn't the people know what's good for 'em?


The unions are back in town
Tuesday 8 February 2000

A FLAWED and cynical strategy is the key cause of Victoria's damaging outbreak of industrial disruption and business shut-downs over recent weeks. It is this strategy of the Labor Government that must be abandoned if we are to prevent the state's economic reputation from being further damaged by extreme and unchecked union behavior.

The recent disruption of community and business affairs by union leaders in the La Trobe Valley could have been avoided if the Government had utilised the armory of legal and persuasive powers available to it. Instead, the Cabinet selfishly implemented a strategy that actually escalated the dispute and delayed the sensible steps that help end such major confrontations.

Labor's plan was simple: it would avoid having to publicly comment on industrial disputes during its term in office by pretending that the Premier had "no powers" and the Government had "no role". The partisan aim was to avoid having to criticise or overrule union allies, whose support is so critical for the parliamentary ALP. But the outcome of the plan was a longer and much more damaging dispute, with union leaders emboldened by the Government's silence and citizens left in the dark.

In simple terms, the new Government put its political interests ahead of the public interest. We have all paid dearly, but worse is yet to come if Labor refuses to alter course.

Today, Victoria is again suffering from the costly impact of strikes and bans by construction unions. In a matter of weeks, things will be even worse when the left-wing manufacturing unions start their threatened statewide campaign of industrial unrest.

The Government must urgently develop a new and credible industrial relations policy that allows it to deal with significant disputation and that sends a message to employers and employees alike that the Government is no longer beholden to just one side of each dispute.

To take this step the ALP must first recognise, and commit itself to using, the legislation and other powers that are at its fingertips. In major cases such as the electricity crisis it can use: the Essential Services Act; the Vital State Industries Act; and the energy industry acts. More generally, it can utilise the considerable options available to it under the Workplace Relations Act, as the Kennett Government frequently did when we gained leave to intervene before the Industrial Relations Commission.

In the lead-up to the electricity crisis, the acting Premier, John Thwaites, tried to have us all believe the Government had none of these powers. Nonsense. It had the right and ability to intervene, but did not do so for fear of alienating a powerful union.

The belated appointment of a state arbitrator only served to prove that the Government could move. This step should have occurred long beforehand, as should the use of the IRC.

Thwaites and his ministerial colleagues also wanted the public to believe the greatest furphy of all - that they have no capacity to act because the previous Government referred the state's IR functions to the Commonwealth. This is a wilfully misleading excuse. None of the unions that have disrupted Victoria in recent months (the energy, construction and manufacturing unions) were under the old state IR system. They are federally registered, operate under federal awards and, even if a state system was established tomorrow, would continue to work solely under the federal system.

When Cabinet faces reality, it will find that the most potent industrial relations tool in a state's hands is the capacity to influence public opinion. As part of any new approach, it should therefore abandon the tactics it first used with the Colonial Stadium dispute, then at Yallourn and with the building industry, where the Government's silence was deafening. Labor's ministers must be committed to publicly tempering extreme workplace demands and thereby cultivating a more sensible industrial environment. In the context of contemporary union disputes, this means:

Opposing the 36-hour week and 24per cent wage rise being demanded by construction unions, which will have damaging flow-on effects for the state's competitiveness.

Supporting voluntary unionism and freedom of association, which the energy unions irresponsibly campaign against.

Working with our excellent manufacturing sector to defeat exorbitant trade union demands.

One more improvement is needed: the invisible Industrial Relations Minister, Monica Gould, has to lift her game. She must shed her blind loyalty to the union movement (where she previously had an organiser's job) and step up to the duty of providing honest assistance to all the parties to a dispute. Not for every strike, but for significant cases that impinge upon the state's over-riding interests.

Victoria cannot afford to regain the reputation it had for chronic industrial instability under the last Labor Government. That is all the more reason for this administration to alter its IR policy and its duplicitous tactics.
Mark Birrell is the State Opposition's industry spokesman.


As you can see everyone has lotsa power. Did you notice the glaring omission? This article represents the singular big-end-of-town view point. It fails to address the community of workers, the bank closures, the centralisation of services in the country to Melbourne. Unions are painted as hungry and unreasonable. The workers are asking about their kids future and schooling, and the cost of living-n-petrol-n-beer...well the issues are many and all the Liberals do is threaten with big sticks. Thus they lost the election....

Regards from OZ

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), February 08, 2000


The only glaring omission is your total lack of understanding of the true cause of this debacle. Socialist plunderer governments deserve this and more, as do all of the sheeple who deserve what they tolerate. Union thugs + parasitic looter bureaucrats = moral bankruptcy and nothing but misery for the masses, by definition. Learn your ABC's of cause and effect and weep. End story.

-- Howard Roark (nowork@noeat.com), February 08, 2000.


I notice the story shys away from mentioning that the company refused to accept the arbitrators recomendations. That wasn't the unions fault.


Don't assume that every countries unions are rife with mob corruption like ours are. Heck, we even have some good unions here in the USA.

Watch six and keep your...

-- eyes_open (best@wishes.2all), February 09, 2000.

I have nothing against the concept of collective bargaining. But I do oppose what the unions have done beyond that.

Compulsory unionism is immoral and unfair. If a union cannot get members on its own merits, it doesn't deserve to have them. If I don't want to be part of a union, the union has no damn right to force me against my will.

As is industrial legislation. If a union wants to make some unreasonable strike, that is its business. If a company wants to sack every one of those striking unionists and permanently ban them from ever being rehired, then that is its business. And if another company wants to look at the resume of the ex-employee, decide "you were working in a critical industry and went on strike; I don't want to risk that happening if we hire you, so we're not going to", then that is common sense and none of the government's business.

Pieter, bank closings and so forth are part of economic rationalisation. I don't like it much, and I don't like bank inefficiency and the way the Commonwealth Bank has treated me -so I changed banks. (St George is *much* better than Commonwealth. The three friends who took my advice and also changed, agree with me. I think you would too.) But my point is that the closing banks and businesses are privately owned, and the government has no right to force them to do anything.

Likewise, centralisation. That's been happening a lot in NSW too (I live in Sydney), and I must say that the companies do it for a reason: efficiency. So they can compete. If you don't like centralisation, don't do business with a company that practises it. If enough people think the same way as you, centralisation will be bad for business and companies will stop doing it.


-- Leo Champion (lchampion@dingoblue.net.au), February 09, 2000.


The points you make are worthy and supportable. I spent 23 years in the Liberal Party and resigned because I am seeing a wrong being done.

The workers and the citizens of the Yallourn Valley are set up by those who would hold Australians to ransom.

Keep an eye on the developing situation. What you are witness to is a socio-engineering feat so extraordinary that I am joining in the protest you mention. Not in support of obligatory union membership, but to have a say in moulding my own regional future, a future that is threatened...but I just do my pro-activity slightly differently now.

Regards from the Deep South of OZ

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), February 11, 2000.

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