Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Howard and Industrial Reform

I've been meaning to do a piece on this for some time. It is mainly concerned with the Industrial Reform which the Howard government is going to ram through Australian lower house parliament (similar to the US congress) and the Senate as the conservative party takes control of the senate in June.

(Note to Aussie readers, I use the term conservative as if I use the term Liberal party..... things can get confused across borders).

Again, I'm no expert but I'd like to give the impressions of the "little guy' caught in this greater powers-that-be whirlpool.

The Industrial Relations reform will effect me and the people I work with. I am one of the few 17% still belonging to an organized union. Thankfully the combined workforce recently signed a three year EBA (Enterise Bargaining Agreement)..... the workers in the union negotiating a contract between the company and the workers for the next three years. It was a painful and drawn out experience. A "cut and shut" guy was employed by the company to handle negotiations, he almost suceeded in brokering a deal which would have seen a dramatic drop in conditions. But six months in to his employment he mysteriously resigned, throwing doubts into his motivations. The almost signed deal was thrown out and a new one drawn up with an old school manager. Both parties benefitted.

In three years things will not be so rosy for those on the shop floor.

Anyway..... to the Howard/Costello form of Industrial reform. I suppose if you wanted to see where they are going with this, you'd best look at the HR Nicholls Society manifesto.

It states:

Australia is a country in which political life is carried out through debate and argument. The Society's ambition is to bring about, through the processes of debate and argument, urgently needed reform in Australia's industrial relations attitudes, law and institutions, and thus to transform our labour market into a job-creating and wealth-generating engine of growth and prosperity.

Our aims are:

* To promote discussion about the operation of industrial relations in Australia, including the system of determining wages and other conditions of employment.
* To support the reform of Australian industrial relations with the aim of promoting the rule of law in respect of employers and employee organisations alike, the right of individuals to freely contract for the supply and engagement of their labour by mutual agreement, and the necessity for labour relations to be conducted in such a way as to promote economic development in Australia.

Why am I looking at the HR Nicholl's Society manifesto? Well a young lawyer named Peter Costello along with three other industry heavyweights formed the HR Nicholls Society in 1985 at the Country Women's Association hall, in the leafy well to do Melbourne suburb of Toorak. Here to planted the seed which would lead to the dismantling the industrial relations system which no doubt they will achieve some twenty years later.

Peter Costello is now the Australian treasurer.

The Industrial Relations system has seen Australia become one of the more elagitarian societies in the world. The wealth is shared around fairly evenly and most people seem to be on the whole happy with the deal. But for some reason there are those who think is is broken and requires fixing.

Let's read that statement of intent from the HR Nicholls Society again:

Australia is a country in which political life is carried out through debate and argument. The Society's ambition is to bring about, through the processes of debate and argument, urgently needed reform in Australia's industrial relations attitudes, law and institutions, and thus to transform our labour market into a job-creating and wealth-generating engine of growth and prosperity.

In short it is a LIE. The industrial reform debate and argument has already taken place and has been soundly voted out in the Senate which up until June/July was not controlled by the conservative party. The balance of power was held by minority parties. Come June/July when the conservative party no longer has this hindrance, there will be NO DEBATE on this issue when it finally gets to the Senate.

I'd actually like to hear from Johnny the Horse on this one as he owns a small business and employs people.He wrote a terrific piece on the difficulties on employing a CNC machine operator. Skilled operators are short on the ground which again points to "reforms"..... number of apprentices being trained and working at the rather large factory where I

I've been in his situation, getting out of the "self employed" and into the "employed by others" camp. Actually I've worn a few hats in the industrial relations process. I've been a "bruvver" (union member), I've been a young manager at the receiving end of a couple of union threats, I've worked in closed shops, I've worked in non-union workplaces where the owner is paternalistic and sees no need for a union as he "looks after his workers", I've been a business owner and currently am as a Canadian friend decribes "a class traitor" not a manager nor a worker at shop floor level in a rather large company..... I'm more of a NCO or sargeant in the army if you look at the heirachy of things.

What I have observed from both sides of the spectrum is that the employer usually gets the union and workers it deserves. I've seen example of appalling conduct from both sides and have been disillusioned several times. In saying that, I've also worked in organizations where the union/employer relationship has worked rather well. The "pay them peanuts and you get monkeys" philosophy seems to apply which I have also seen.

Anyway it is going to be an interesting exercise as the Howard/Costello govt. dismantles the Industrial Realtions framework under the "mandate to reform". There will be more covered by this blog as the legislation is enacted.


  • You got me thinking. I haven't looked into the situation in depth, but regardless of the overall ramifications I suddenly realised that it could affect businesses at a more personal level. I'm looking forward to you keeping an eye on the issue.

    By Anonymous Johnny the Horse, at 10:24 pm  

  • I can't believe I beat Harry here.

    By Blogger Brian, at 2:00 am  

  • Yeah, very cool. Distance learning here. I was about to post a not too disimilar piece about some labour neogtiations about to start around here between GM and the Auto workers union. The union has hired an economist who basically came out in public (in a newspaper repsort at least) agreeing with the economists on the Company payroll who in his preamble to the always very public PR squabble stated: we have to get costs under control and the largest cost is labor etc. Which is complete horsehit, their Hydro bill is higher, but you'd think the union would tar and feather their economist for basically walking in ass backward and arched for a reaming in negotiations which are always a bit of a propaganda game anyway - and who can trust the papers anyway after I read another piece of crap the other day which I never got around to crapping on myself about Canada being too good to be true as if anyone other than the dopey politicians ascribe to these notions as if those people in any socalled democratic nation relate in any way to anything their leaders puke up for consumption by the bimbos and half wits that collect their pay by pissing in the shadows and on the shadows of their subjects.

    My point: I forget.

    Oh yeah. Why does everything I read coming from the horse's mouth (not a reference to a previous commentor here in this thread) seem to make so much more sense when I compare with that which I read concocted by the compilers for the aggregates?

    Looking forward to more.

    By Blogger Brian, at 2:24 am  

  • Johnny, Thanks for the piece you put up. I realise you are loathe to blog about thing political and it has given me some perspective from the other side of the fence.

    Moff, As we say down here "No worries". A fly on the wall piece on the realities of the us/them trench battle from your neck of the woods would be of interest.

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  • Has anybody, even the employed realised that
    Unlawful dismissal is NOT equivalent to unfair dismissal. Just as Justice does not always receive fair judgement.
    Secondly, who is going to work for anything less than say what 5% of their co-workers receive, simply because they were employed later. The idle, useless and effort thieving, should be placed on exactly the same footing as all employees.
    It will never work that way, sorry employers.
    This particularly applies if workers have not yet realised these simple facts.
    The proposed I.R. reforms are going to be just another episode in the 9 year destruction of our nation. Implentation of martial law, and the emerging dictatorship.........

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