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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

How scary is the ALP IR Policy?

Now that the liberals have kind of relinquished ground that big budget spending puts upward pressure on interest rates, the constant line is "Labor's industrial relations policy will lead to inflationary wage increases and put upward pressure on interest rates. It will put back IR by 20 years". But what are the main points of the ALP IR policy and why are they so scary? Before we look at this policy, what is the ideal for right wing thinkers? What they want is a revolving door of flexibility for businesses to hire and fire at will. No rights, no collective bargaining, a drop in working conditions. Now according to my airy fairy MBA studies, crappy working conditions leads to crappy productivity. I fail to understand why unions are so maligned. If there were no unions, you would not have some of the "cushy" conditions you have, such as four weeks holiday a year or minors not being miners. My opinion on unions is, there are bent politicians screwing the country, bent employers screwing the workers, you may as well have bent union leaders screwing back a bit. People only remember the outstanding work unions have done when times are hard. For a lot of workers, without unions they cannot deal with employers on an equitable basis. Cast your mind back (and can someone send me a link for this) and remember when Tony Abbott was responsible for Employment. He said the government would get involved, on the side of business, in court cases that involve disputes. So not only would the workers be fighting against a business, but against 2 branches of the bloody government. Cast your mind back further and remember the Accords of the Hawke and Keating governments. The basis of these were, hold back on the wage claims, we as a government will endeavor to return money to you through tax cuts. That was innovative thinking by the ALP. I still remember day one of the Howard government when he said, "The accord is dead". And so began the long screwing of "lower" Australia reaching a disgraceful peak with the waterfront dispute. Anyway in contrast to that, here are the main points of the ALP IR policy:
"The Howard Government has turned a blind eye to the illegal underpayment of wages. Last year, about 5,000 employees complained to the Howard Government about illegal underpayments - yet the Government prosecuted only 7 cases. A Latham Labor Government will boost funding to programs that stop illegal wage underpayments with an additional $10 million a years."
This policy just enforces the law, surely nothing wrong with that.
Giving long-term, regular casuals a better chance of converting to permanent work. Guarantee the protection of 100% of the entitlements of employees where an employer goes broke, while protecting small business from any additional costs.
It is a disgrace that businesses can employ people on a casual basis for over 12 months. It is nothing more than a loophole that needs to be closed. The fund to pay out employee entitlements, paid by big business is a good balance to the fact that on bankruptcy the priority for repayment goes to secured creditors, not employees.
Supporting parents returning from parental leave who want to return to work on a part-time basis. Making sure awards and workplace agreements contain family-friendly provisions.
A bit vague, but I am guessing that this is just saying that workplace agreements can now include extra provisions that are not related to wage increases. Happy workers, more productivity.
Abolishing secret individual Australian Workplace Agreements. Existing AWAs will continue until they expire. Helping parties to avoid and resolve disputes, and allowing the Industrial Relations Commission to fix deadlocked disputes. Making sure that employers and unions negotiate in good faith.
Again, this is only addressing the inequities that Howard has brought in. So why do people get scared about measures like this? Is it simply because people take more heed of employer groups, than employee groups in the media? The standard employer group response is "this will cost jobs". Whenever I hear that on the news, I know that it's a bloody good policy and jobs are not at risk at all. Four weeks paid holiday a year? That will cost jobs you know. Does it bollocks.

Update: Bugger it, it took me ages to write this and I see that Mark Bahnisch has said it a whole lot better on Troppo Armadillo. Well I did try.

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