The Free Markets Solution to the Smoko Workplace Dilemma

(Article first appeared in the Daily Telegraph- Rendez View ) ( Picture is from Pexel-Splitshire )

Recent news out of Japan has proven, yet again, innovation and creativity stem from private individuals and businesses, not unions, and not forced government intervention. Even under the heavy hand of the Australian government smoking rates have begun increasing “despite plain packaging and the most expensive cigarette prices in the world.” In Japan a conflict between smokers and non-smokers came to a decision point at the Japanese Company of Piala.

Smokers faced a 29-story or 15 minute journey to smoke outside. Non-smoking employees began taking issue with increase time smokers were on break. At Piala, smokers made up 35% of the company’s 120 employees, and management acknowledged these trips were not wastes of time but often used to discuss business.

Rather than anger one side by implementing a ban or punishment, the company made a value proposition to its employees. Those who smoke can continue with their breaks, but the other 65% who do not smoke could utilise a new value, 6 extra days of holiday.

Looking to keep the talent they have acquired and balance customer needs, Piala found a creative solution ensuring talent was not going to leave, perhaps to a 1st floor company.

Notably, this policy has a lot in common with the creation of shorter work weeks, eliminating child labour, and shorter work days. They are all products of a free voluntary market, not unions via government force.

Shortened work weeks are a result of increased productivity via voluntary markets. As production increased, an hour of labour began creating a considerable excess in value beyond basic sustenance. Factoring in training costs and turnover issues, skilled and even so called “unskilled” workers acquired leverage for pay, safety, aesthetics, and leisure. Employees began valuing leisure time far more than income, resulting in time off and weekend benefits. Unions pushed legislation long after this became common place in the workforce.

It should be noted on the short work week debate, even as Australia began penalising a 7 day work week employers began offering higher pay than the actual penalty rate. Thereby Incentivising additional work. Government quickly shut that down in 1947 putting a cap on how much someone could be paid forcing all employees to value time off the same.

Eliminating child labour is also a result of free voluntary markets. It wasn’t greedy parents that put children to work, it was the necessity of survival. Once regions industrialised and production began rising, unskilled children were pushed out of the workforce replaced by machines and adults who were more valuable. Additional pressure grew as parents started making disposable income. The insignificant income raised from children became negligent in supporting a household. In the United States It wasn’t until most children were already out of the workforce in 1930 (6.4% 10-15 year old’s, with 74.5% of that number in Agriculture) were child labour laws then passed in 1938. In all reality only hurting the poorest in the community.

If weekend laws are the solution, I challenge a government to force a substance farmer to take 2 days off a week. After a few weeks, there won’t be any left to force.

What a 6 day holiday proposition shows is private business owners are finding unique ways to attract and keep talent in a competitive world that Australian businesses are competing with.

What is more striking is nearly 10% of Piala’s smokers decided to immediately quit smoking! 10% of Piala’s smokers suddenly valued 6 extra days of holiday rather than smoking breaks. As for the other 90% smoking and the associated breaks were still considered more valuable than all their alternatives. Besides increased moral, there may be additional long term benefits the employer and customers will benefit from, perhaps not.

Government, and unions could learn a thing or two from this moment. Creating a one size fits all proposal, or squelching all other values does nothing to resolve conflict and creates unintended consequences. Look no further than Australia’s prohibition for vaping. While the free market is finding solutions elsewhere, Australia has banned further innovation.

Allowing a more free and flexible environment where employers and employees can voluntarily negotiate their relationships will allow each Australian to prosper to their highest potential. Even the unintended consequences can be more productive. If I could bet on it, its going to be the free market that eventually pushes the tobacco industry the way of the horse drawn carriage industry.


Greg Pulscher is the current Executive Director of the H.R. Nicholls Society.

Mr Shorten, Please Explain…..

The Sydney Morning Herald has four questions for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten:

QUESTION: Were Winslow workers in 2005 (when the company paid for their dues) aware that they were AWU members?
QUESTION: What did Winslow get in return for paying the AWU?
QUESTION: Was it common practice for the AWU to have companies pay for the membership dues of workers when Mr Shorten was state secretary?
QUESTION: Is it appropriate for companies to pay the union dues of members?

and The Australian ten more:

1/ Can you guarantee that under your leadership of the AWU, the union did not take a cheque from an employer for union dues without signed application forms from workers, as you told the Cole Royal Commission in 2002, and that the workers knew they were being signed up and were happy for the employer to pay their dues?

2/ Can you guarantee that no worker was worse off as a result of your leadership of the AWU given:
(a) Former Cleanevent HR manager Michael Robinson has given sworn evidence the 2006 enterprise bargaining agreement was “extremely favourable to Cleanevent” (allowing its workers to be paid $18 an hour in some circumstances compared with $45 for competitors);
(b) Cesar Melhem has agreed this was a poor deal for workers; and
(c) the AWU’s admission to the Fair Work Commission yesterday that it was in workers’ interests for the 2006 EBA to be terminated?

3/ You signed off on the 2004 Cleanevent EBA which formed the basis of the 2006 EBA and in turn the controversial 2010 EBA. At the time of the 2004 EBA or at any time of your AWU tenure did Cleanevent make payments to the AWU for any purpose , including that of paying union fees for employees?

4/ Do you agree with current AWU secretary Ben Davis that deals where employers pay for union memberships weaken the union’s industrial position?

5/ Do you regret signing Cesar Melhem’s pre-selection form?

6/ Under your leadership were you aware of any instances of different
names or entries on invoices being given to payments by companies for AWU
memberships , for example cases where membership fees were labelled
“training” fees?

7/ Under your leadership were you aware of any instances of the practice whereby the AWU signed up members without their knowledge?

8/ Did the netballers who became AWU members as a result of the alliance with the
Australian Netball Players Association know they were being signed up and did
they pay individually or did the ANPA pay their dues?

9/ When the AWU first negotiated an arrangement with the Australian Jockeys Association when you were secretary, did any money change hands and, if so, what for?

10/ Did jockeys including Peter Mertens, Greg Childs, Steven King, Kerrin McEvoy agree to becoming AWU members or know they had been signed up?

How the :labour market can help South Australia Forum

The HR Nicholls Society held, on the 22nd of October, a lunchtime forum on how strengthening the South Australian economy through the labour market, other deregulatory measures and finding the right place in the supply chain in open markets. Special guest speakers were Malcolm Bosworth and Professor Christopher Findlay. This was covered in the Adelaide Advertiser:

HR Nicholls Society president Adam Bisits has called on the State Government to make application to the Fair Work Commission and call for a special lower minimum wage in SA. The free-market group advocates labour deregulation and held a forum in Adelaide yesterday. In June, Australia’s lowest paid workers were awarded a 3 per cent rise to take the minimum weekly wage to $640.90 a week, or $16.87 an hour.

click HERE to read the rest of the Advertiser Story. You can download Malcolm Bosworth’s speaking notes HERE, and his powerpoint HERE.

2013 Annual Dinner with Leigh Clifford AO, Chairman of Qantas

The HR Nicholls Society warmly invites  members and supporters to the 2013 Annual Dinner of the HR Nicholls Society, with special guest Leigh Clifford AO, Chairman of QANTAS.

Mr Clifford is one of the most prominent and influential business leaders in Australia.  As Chairman of Qantas and previously CEO of Rio Tinto, he has transformed the Australian business landscape.

Robert Gottliebsen, the Founding Editor of Business Review Weekly, has argued that “Leigh Clifford, more than any other person in Australia, changed the culture of the workplace in the mining industry and made Australia one of the most productive mining areas in the world.” Read more

Opposition on Right Track with Increased Penalties

The HR Nicholls Society supports the move by the federal opposition to reform the Registered Organisations Act to bring its penalities into line with the Corporations Act 2001.

 The reform would increase penalties to $340,000 to provide for criminal as well as civil sanctions including imprisonment of up to five years.

 The government in response to the HSU scandal derisorily increased the penalties on individuals to $6,600 and on organisations to $33,000 and they are under the Government’s increases still simply civil penalties.

 This was a manifestly inappropriate response to the HSU scandal.

 The HR Nicholls Society recommends that the government support the reform in an effort to stamp out corruption.

Further information: Ian Hanke 0407 841 957