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Keep socialist blog En Passant going - donate now
If you want to keep a blog that makes the arguments every day against the ravages of capitalism going and keeps alive the flame of democracy and community, make a donation to help cover my costs. And of course keep reading the blog. To donate click here. Keep socialist blog En Passant going. More... (4)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/18-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-g20-meeting-age-of-enttilement-engineers-attack-of-austerity-hardship-on-civilians.mp3 (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2014/02/11/john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-2/ (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/4-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-end-of-the-age-of-entitlement-for-the-needy-but-pandering-to-the-lusts-of-the-greedy.mp3 (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole
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Sick kids and paying upfront

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Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2013/12/03/john-passant-australian-national-university-8/ (0)

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Defend our unions

The Abbott government is a government of ruling class warfare. This means facts and figures and rational analysis carry little weight when up against the right of business to make a profit.

Industrial Relations minister Eric Abetz has been henny-pennying that there is about to be a wages explosion. Actually if the trends continue there will be a wages implosion.  Wages last year rose on average 2.7%, the lowest wage rise in over a decade.  Inflation is at 2.6%.

Productivity rose 2.2% with almost all of the increases being pocketed by capital.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that capital’s share of national income remains at near record highs and that of labour at near record lows. Here is the detail from the 1 November 2013 release of the ABS 5204 series.

INCOME FROM GDP

The Compensation of employees (COE) share of Total factor income remained relatively stable throughout the 1990s up until the mid 2000s. The highest recorded value of compensation of employees share of total factor income was 62.1% in 1974-75. Since 2008-09, compensation of employees share has trended upwards, reporting 54.0% in 2012-13.

 

COE share of total factor income
Graph: COE share of total factor income

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The profits share (based on Gross operating surplus for Financial and Non-financial corporations) of Total factor income reached 26.5% in 2012-13, down from the highest share recorded in 2008-09 of 28.8%. The profits shares recorded since the late 1980s are at a distinctly higher level than those reported at any time since 1959-60. Profit share of total factor income should not be interpreted as a direct measure of ‘profitability’ for which it is necessary to relate profits to the level of capital assets employed.

 

Profits share of total factor income
Graph: Profits share of total factor income

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All this rubbish about a wages explosion also gives a convenient excuse to Abbott and co to blame wage increases for job losses. They know that official unemployment (about half the real rate according to Roy Morgan research) will increase over the next six months to over 6 percent and they have given themselves a convenient whipping boy.  They are the ruling class equivalent of the Salvation Army kids homes.

The Abetz ‘sky is falling in approach’ to industrial relations is not about the truth but is about creating a climate of ‘otherness’ for unions. Like refugees, unions are being painted as the enemy, but unlike refugees they are here.  So they will require tough measure to rein ‘them’ in.
Cue to bullshit about links between unions and criminals, vague talk of death threats and the like. The CFMEU got rid of one organiser on Friday. If any of the rest of this sensationalism were true then the police are perfectly suited to investigate, just as they would or rather any other breach of the law.

The fact that there have been no police investigations and won’t be indicates that Abbott and Abetz are on the warpath, launching a ruling class jihad against workers and their unions.

The ruling class jihad takes a number of forms.  The first is the ongoing call to reintroduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission to control ‘lawless’ unions. If there is all this criminality among building unions why haven’t the police, no friend of the CFMEU, been all over them?

If there were any truth to allegations of widespread corruption and bribery let me assure you the cops in New South Wales and Victoria, together with their Liberal political masters, would have been trumpeting it long before now.

So why are Abbott and Abetz trying to re-introduce the ABCC?

This is what the bosses hate

The real reason is to criminalise industrial action on building sites and frighten building unions and their members into complete submission.  They want to smash the one group of unions and workers that strikes and fights for their interests.

A subsidiary point is that they can paint the ALP and Greens as friends of criminals and dependent on building union funds if they oppose the re-introduction of the ABCC.

Abetz has also been ramping up the rhetoric, calling on bosses to stand up to unions and arguing the time of a s’oft give in to unions’ approach from employers is over.

Another prong in the ruling class war is a judicial enquiry into so-called union ‘slush funds’. Slush funds is code for unions using funds to support the Labor Party.  The initial target would have been those funds.

However after joint reports by the ABC and Fairfax papers about alleged connections between unions and bikies, death threats and corruption, Abbott has said he may expand the enquiry to become a Royal Commission into ‘union corruption’.

There is no evidence for this but that’s the point. This is not a government of evidence. It is a government of ruling class warriors whose priority is not truth but profit.

A royal commission will provide sensational reports, most I’d bet unsubstantiated, and may undermine the value of unions in the eyes of some workers.

It will also tie up unions in time and money, time and money that could be spent on members and defending wages, jobs, conditions and safety.

In the early 1980s Malcolm Fraser set up a Royal Commission in the Painters and Dockers union. It backfired and found corruption among the bosses, especially bottom of the harbour schemes where drunks and homeless people became directors of companies whose records were dumped at the bottom of the harbour, leaving hundreds of millions unpaid in tax.

The then Treasurer John Howard outlawed the activity with specific legislation and introduced retrospective tax legislation to collect some of the unpaid tax. He made lifelong enemies among senior members of the Liberal Party, especially in Western Australia, as a consequence.

The Howard Government had more ‘success’ with the Cole witch-hunt Royal Commission. It spent $66 million ‘to inquire into certain matters relating to the building and construction industry.’ Despite the money and findings there was not one successful conviction coming out of Cole. Not one.

But that wasn’t the point. Using the cloak of illegality the Howard government set up the Australian Building and Construction Commission which threatened building unions and workers with fines and jail for industrial action or for not answering questions and denied them the right to legal representation, among other abuses.

The results were predictable. Cowered into not taking action over unsafe work conditions, the death rate on building sites went up after the introduction of the ABCC. As Jerome Small put it in Red Flag:

In the period June 2004 to June 2005, before the introduction of the ABCC, 28 workers were killed in “traumatic injury fatalities” on Australian construction sites. The creation of the ABCC in late 2005 led to a sharp spike in this figure. In 2005-06, fatalities jumped to 43 workers, and then to 50 workers dead the following year. While unions have worked to rein in this carnage, the level of death and injury has still not returned to the pre-ABCC levels.

The same will happen if Abbott and Abetz get their way and re-introduce the ABCC in all its Howard glory.

This judicial enquiry or Royal Commission will be like Cole – a political exercise to curtail and even criminalise unions, especially building unions. The ruling class hope that this will weaken unions even more and increase the rate of wealth shifting from labour to capital.

That wealth shifting is about addressing the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, a tendency that arises from the way production under capitalism is organised.

The Abbott government has taken the gloves off and will wage war on workers and unions. Why are our trade union leaders still playing by Marquis of Queensbury rules?  Only a massive fight will force the class warmongers back into their trenches.

Don’t let Abbott destroy our trade unions. Rank and file workers will need to organise demonstrations and strikes to defend our unions from this grave threat.

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Comments

Pingback from Defend our unions | OzHouse
Time January 29, 2014 at 10:11 pm

[…] Jan 29 2014 by admin […]

Comment from Chris Warren
Time January 30, 2014 at 12:53 pm

From: Peter Murphy

Statement by Brian Parker, NSW CFMEU Construction Secretary

The union would like to respond to certain allegations made by Brian Fitzpatrick last night on ABC television.

CFMEU officials are people who have worked in the construction industry and are committed to improving the lives of working people.

As an organisation that employs more than fifty people, we have had issues with staff from time to time as do other organisations.

There were issues around the employment of Mr Fitzpatrick and his suitability of continuing to work for the union completely unrelated to the allegations that he raised last night.

He was the subject of complaints from other staff in our organisation that were investigated in line with our responsibilities as an employer. I am not at liberty to discuss these complaints due to a confidentiality clause that was part of our agreement with Mr Fitzpatrick.

A settlement was reached with Mr Fitzpatrick through a process that was open and transparent and involved the decision making bodies of the union.

The CFMEU does not employ gangsters or members of motorcycle gangs and our office is not infiltrated by criminals.

We are deeply concerned about any such activity in the industry. CFMEU Construction National Secretary Dave Noonan has written to the NSW Commissioner requesting that the police investigate the allegations raised in the media.

The police will have my full cooperation in any investigation into criminal or illegal activity in the construction industry.

The CFMEU had no role in getting Active Labour a start on the Barangaroo project and I have no personal or social relationship with George Alex.

The union has dedicated substantial resources to address non-compliance by Active Labour in respect of employee entitlements and has recovered entitlements on behalf of union members.

With respect to Mr Fitzpatrick’s allegation about a death threat from Darren Greenfield, these are the facts:

• The CFMEU legal department called the police as soon as Mr Fitzpatrick alerted them to it.

• He did not pursue the matter with the police and as far as I am aware the police did not pursue the matter.

• An investigation was conducted internally.

• Mr Greenfield denied making the threat. The union could not form a conclusion that Mr Fitzpatrick’s allegations were true.

• The union took steps to remind officials of their responsibilities and the expected code of conduct in the union.

• Mr Fitzpatrick did not pursue a review of the outcome through the processes available to him in the Union.

Due to the unrelated matters pertaining to Mr Fitzpatrick’s employment, the working relationship between him and other staff members became untenable. An agreement was reached consisting of a settlement that took into account his years of service.

The CFMEU has at no time made Mr Fitzpatrick an offer of $300,000 as he claimed in relation to any of the comments he made in the media, or the unrelated matters that was the subject of the termination of his employment with the union.

In relation to the allegations made by Mr Andrew Quirk, we have fully cooperated in the investigation into these allegations, that is being conducted by CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor.

This investigation has not been finalised.