Below is a rewrite of one part of RTBU WA's submission to the recent review of the Fair Work Act.
Rights at Work
One of the big issues in the 2007 election was the Howard Coalition's government's Work Choices versus Labor's Fair Work. That it was central to the defeat of the Howard Government demonstrates, again, that industrial relations is vital to the great majority who live on their wages. That industrial relations is also very significant to the wealth of the rich is why there is a never-ending tension between employers as a group and employees as a group.
This Union takes the view that Australia's industrial relations system has over the last century very successfully handled the reconciliation of competing and conflicting employee, employer and public interests.
In contrast, the Great Recession was the entirely logical result of the post-1983 policy of deregulation. Freeing up of greed benefited the wealthiest far more than anyone else; they are equally determined to use every ounce of political and economic power to keep as much as possible now.
As is normal, employers continue to campaign against unionism and unions in both the media and their organisations. Always remember that these campaigns are themselves always proof that unions are more effective at improving pay and conditions than any individual workers would be by themselves. Longer-serving members will recall workplace "agreements" and the many broken promises and deceits with which employers sold them.
It is the nature of industrial relations that employees and unions may be dealing with a wide spectrum of conduct by employers, from those who are generous within specific bounds (often with an accommodating relationship with unions and employees), then those who are hard but will stay with negotiations (although they may install some surprises in the intricacies of the EBA's terms), to domineering managements that may consider employees' interests - and also shareholders interests - and also clients' interests - and also the impact on an industry - to be pawns in an ideological or personal agenda.
Employer Anti-Employee Propaganda
Employers are often successful in their campaigning for exploitation. In 2003, one million workers were working unpaid overtime, an increase of 24% compared to 1996. A recent poll found that 80% of people who were sick enough not to want to go to work did so anyway. Conversely, despite employer propaganda only a quarter of employees surveyed had take a sickie in the past 12 months.
Continuous employer efforts to create the images of the bludging worker, and defining working harder and longer as being improvements in productivity hence a service to the nation, are thus intended to justify unjustifiable attacks on conditions of employment.
Compare that, as with Qantas or Pacific Dunlop, with the vast increases in pay that senior management always pays itself while telling workers to accept 3% or less - no productivity trade offs, no extra work value for them. Joyce and the Qantas Board deliberately stranded 70,000 passengers to force an industrial dispute to arbitration (while Fair Work found that it was that closure and not the minimal union action that threatened serious economic damage), yet Joyce then received a 71% pay rise, then $600,000 worth of shares for having achieved performance targets. Great rewards for someone who held the country to ransom.
Good Pay and Good Conditions are actually A Good Idea
But workers having rights actually has big benefits for industry as well as society. While using casual rather than permanent employees does make money for the employer in the short run, doing so damages training, commitment and safety standards. It also causes productivity losses due to lesser training and opportunity for useful experience. As people, workers thus become marginalised. For society, unlike the employer, cheap labour is a very bad buy./strong