Thursday, October 18, 2007

Union attacks

Mr Hockey, whose Liberal Party has launched scathing election advertisements highlighting the 70 per cent of Labor frontbenchers with a union background, said it was incredible Labor intended to govern with such a high union representation.

"[The role of unions] is essentially over," Mr Hockey told ABC Radio today.

"That's because we have a system with a strong, independent umpire that is providing protections for workers.

"Because the unions do not cover 80 per cent of the workers out there, we find that people are turning to the Workplace Authority and the Workplace Ombudsman to obtain information and to get protection."

Mr Hockey said workers who were not union members could turn to the Workplace Ombudsman for advice, but the Labor Party wanted to dismantle that office.

He said Australians viewed unions as irrelevant and were choosing not to join them, a trend that started under former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke.


No, the reasons people aren't joining the unions is because they still have an old-fashioned view of them, and the government scare campaign over many years has wormed its way into the minds of the populace. The unions are not good at positive self-promotion.

Very few unions are as militant as they were. Because over the years they were achieving many of the goals they aimed for. But now, they have a higher profile because the government is systematically eroding their achievements. My grandfather must be rolling over in his grave. (He was heavily involved in unions. Actually even got a mention in a book about them - the name of which escapes me at present.) People started leaving the unions when Hawke was PM because they had yet to catch up with the general feelings of the public. But now they have.

Personally, I don't think much can be achieved nowdays by going on strike. Because unlike in my grandfather's era, there is less of a feeling of community in the population. If people went on strike back then, other people would support them and the reasons for the strike. People wouldn't become scabs because they knew they faced ostracisation, which doesn't happen so much now because big-business has such a foothold in the minds of the public and all people seem to care about is profit over the well-being of the people who help achieve that profit.

The public has become complacent. And now we are facing the consequences.

"I don't think anyone would have thought that in 2007 it would be credible for Kevin Rudd to go to an election with 70 per cent of his frontbench made up of former union officials, and that would be a dramatic increase in the number of union officials that, say, Bob Hawke had," he said.

Irrelevant. I'll keep saying it - you must be a union member to be in the ALP*. So naturally the chances of the bulk of the frontbench being former union officials is high. Being a union official is a politicised position. It is a natural stepping stone for someone in the ALP who wants to make a difference in the government. End of story.

Just because a politician is a former union official it does not mean that they will allow themselves to be unfairly influenced by the unions. They know that come the next election, if people are unhappy with their performance, they will be given the boot - so in a way, their involvement with the union movement can be seen as something that prevents them from making extreme choices.

The ACTU has hit back at a Liberal Party campaign highlighting the union affiliations of Labor's frontbench team, saying it is insulting to working families.

ACTU president Sharan Burrow said a television advertisement released yesterday by the Liberals was wrong to suggest unions were anti-business.

The ad was also insulting to the millions of Australians whose job security and living standards were protected by unions.

"The job of all unions is to protect secure, well-paid employment for Australian working families," she said.

"To achieve this we need profitable businesses that value their workers. (my empahsis)

Workers who are valued are happy. Happy workers are more productive. This means that businesses achieve more.

I'll concede that not all business will use WorkChoices as a means to take advantage of their workers. But there are those that will. And until you can guarantee that no workers will be unfairly treated, you cannot write off the unions. An agency set up by the government should not be relied on as the only organisation that will ensure that worker's rights are protected.

The government scare campaign will continue. You've probably seen the latest bit of propaganda by now. See it here if you've not.

Labor have hit back with Rudd calling out Howard's scare campaign with a "Fresh Ideas" ad.

*apparently this is untrue. As I said in my comment - a number of years ago before I'd gotten around to joining the QPSU, I rang the ALP and was informed I'd need to be a union member. Is this a recent thing? Can anyone enlighten?

But I don't believe that it makes my comments any less valid. Given that the ALP is traditionally aligned with the unions, it is hardly a surprise that most, if not all, of the pollies have union affiliations of some description.