Union Activity During the Election Campaign

Although unions appear in this campaign to have less funding to help Labor (and themselves) than in 2007, union criticism of Coalition policies (or supposed policies) is increasing and there is precious little analysis in the media of such critiques. The AFR report (below) on union advertising is basically descriptive and, while my attempt to draw attention to the internal contradictions was published (see letter below), the editor chose to omit the important last sentence.

The acknowledgement in the PEFO that the economy may grow at a much lower rate than the official forecast adds weight to the need for structural reforms that would help lift investment, employment and productivity, such as IR and regulatory (particularly environmental) reforms. It almost takes us back to the early 1980s when Hawke called a meeting of business leaders and Wran ran with “a jobs, jobs, jobs first” agenda. Today, we don’t have the inflation problem that existed then but, with people dropping out of the work force, we need a reforming program to help/encourage business to create jobs. The steady downward trend in business confidence (the latest NAB survey is almost down to levels reached in the GFC) highlights the many regulatory problems faced by business, but which have so far received little attention in the election campaign. Important as the budget figuring is, the micro reforms are being overlooked.

It is of some importance that Holden workers appear to have accepted some kind of wage freeze. With our unit labour costs now being much higher than most other countries in the OECD, the case for changing out award system is very strong.

Des Moore is a member of the HR Nicholls Society Board of Management

Wages growth worsens (Letter published in AFR, 14 August. Square bracketed omitted by Ed)

You report that through  a program of TV advertisements the ACTU is attacking the Coalition

for an industrial relations policy which allegedly threatens reductions in wages (“Unions start ad attacks on Coalition”, AFR, August 13). ACTU president Ged Kearney alleges “the biggest threat … is … of having your pay packet cut”.

The ACTU has apparently overlooked the Reserve Bank’s latest analysis in its August statement on monetary policy showing that under the present government “wages growth has dropped to its slowest pace since the early 2000’s” and that the “increase in the unemployment rate over the past year or so indicates that there are more people actively looking for work”. Indeed, this has occurred with “employment growth remaining below the growth of the working age population” ie people have been dropping out of the work force because of the difficulty of finding jobs.

This performance of wages and employment growth is much worse than under the Howard government. [One cannot help wondering if there is something wrong with the existing industrial relations policy].

Abbott attacked in new union TV ads

AFR 12 Aug 2013

The ACTU will use television advertisements to attack Opposition Leader Tony Abbott over the next fortnight, while putting most of its effort into direct lobbying of about 120,000 “soft or swinging” union members in 38 seats.

The advertisements, which screened on Sunday night, argue Mr Abbott cannot be trusted on workplace laws, public sector jobs and services.

One national ad poses the question “Why Trust Tony Abbott?” and says he will move to cut overtime and penalty rates while making changes to unfair dismissals laws. It ends with a 2009 quote from Mr Abbott that “workplace reform was one of the great achievements of the last Liberal government”.

Another ad, which will only air in Queensland, states “there isn’t any” difference between Mr Abbott and the state premier, Campbell Newman, on cutting jobs and public services.

The Coalition has pledged not to make immediate changes that would cut pay and conditions, but it will order the Productivity Commission to review the workplace laws before taking any changes to the next election in 2016.

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