Pressure from leading employer groups for industrial relations changes, which will lead to the casualisation of more work and lower wages across the board, is building. This is the outcome of talks between the government, employer groups and unions.
Was any other outcome likely? No. Not so long as big business sees its own individual and sectional interests as being more important than everyone else’s, and there is a government still wedded to neoliberalism.
One could easily conclude that the talks were designed as a trap to force union leaders to fall over and accept the inevitability of the result.
Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus has stepped out and warned of “concerning signs” and of being on “high alert.” Unions may soon have no other choice but to transform concern and being alert into action to protect their members.
Industrial Relations minister Christian Porter says he is now drawing up a bill to address what he calls, concerns within the industrial relations system. The vague wording suggests there is something up the sleeve, which the government is not prepared to air in public at this time.
Porter has been pushing for greater use of causal labour this year. this is in line with the government’s approach, since well before the pandemic.
A proposal to scrap Fair Work Commission test that no one should be left worse off in any new workplace agreement is on the table.
Among the employer groups, the charge is being led by Australian Industry Group, the Master Builders Association, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Australian Mines and Metals Association.
The business Council of Australia seems to have a different strategy, and this to be more flexible, and even reach some accommodation with the ACTU. This difference has some importance. It indicates a division between major employers dependent and the domestic consumer market, and those with greater reliance on exports and finance.
it is also true that many employers are primarily concerned with their own micro world, the reduction of wages, increasing their flexibility in hiring and firing workers, and increasing control over the allocation of work on their own turf. They don’t give a stuff about the outside world, when they believe it doesn’t affect them.
Leading the charge at the workplace are the shipping companies, which have made their own move to increase the proportion of casual workers they use. This is bringing conflict with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA). Patrick Terminals, the same company involved in the historical 1998 dispute, is at centre stage again, with the backing of Scott Morrison and his government.
This reveals a mindset, which holds, that this is the road to save the Australian economy. It won’t. And if they want to engage in a class struggle to push this through, they should not be surprised when their intended victims fight back.