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John Passant

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December 2011



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (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. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (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

Sick kids and paying upfront


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. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Shorten’s shortfall: the Fair Work Act ‘Review’

The Fair Work Act maintains the hated Workchoices regime with a few changes as sops to the trade union bureaucrats and to give the impression to workers that they have done something major when they haven’t.

There are still massive restrictions on the right to strike and fines and threats of imprisonment for taking ‘unprotected’ action. The building union cop, the Australian Building and Construction Commission, with its draconian and undemocratic powers, still terrorises building workers.

The crisis of Australian capitalism – the two speed economy masks the low profitability of large swathes of capital – has seen the bosses scream for industrial relations changes. More flexibility and higher productivity are two key demands. Both are code for attacking wages and conditions and restoring profitability at the expense of workers’ living standards.

In fact the bosses have been using lockouts as a way of getting what is effectively arbitration of claims. Who really imagines that the locked out QANTAS workers will get a fair deal from Fair Work, assuming the other union leaders don’t sell out like the engineers’ leadership did?

And the bosses want further restrictions on industrial action. It is true industrial disputes in the June quarter were at their highest level for seven years. But that is from a very very low base. It is slight blip in an otherwise bleak  industrial landscape. 

The  ‘upsurge’ is due to two main factors. There were a large number of  enterprise agreements that fell due in 2011.

52% of the industrial action was in New South Wales. NSW pubic servants fought against the O’Farrell attacks on their wages and conditions. For example they went on a one day strike. 

This quarters’ numbers might also be up with the unprotected action Victorian nurses took for all too short a time.

There may be more ‘shooting star’ action organised by the union officials next year. For example the Baillieu government in Victoria has decided to cut ten percent of public service jobs (about 3600) and limit wage increases to well below inflation.

This follows the lead from the Gillard Labor government which has announced an increase in the ‘efficiency’ dividend to 4%. This effectively means the loss of 3000 public service jobs, according to their union. Labor too is limiting pay increases to well below increases in the household price index, in effect real wage cuts.

Labor’s ‘review’ of the Fair Work Act is something it promised when it introduced the original legislation. It is being painted as refining the Act. However the appointment of Shorten as the Workplace Relations Minister, the pressure the bosses are putting on the government and the neoliberalism that is now Labor DNA all point to more significant changes to the Act that will go a long way to addressing the concerns of capital.

 As a former senior union official Shorten is in a great position to oversee changes to the Fair Work Act to placate the bosses and sell it to his former union leader mates who can then sell it to their members.

Clealry Shorten’s class collaborationist past will be influential in him pushing through pro-boss changes to the industrial relations laws. Here’s what he said when he was appointed Minsiter.

My view is very clear about Australian business: you can’t have employees without employers.  I do not have a catastrophic view of industrial relations. I don’t have a view that being Industrial Relations Minister is all about fire fighting. I know from personal experience of doing thousands of enterprise agreements, having been an employer myself of people, having sat on investment boards of pension boards and superannuation funds, having been a Parliamentary Secretary and Minister in this Government, most Australians go to work and are happy at work and most employers are happy with their employees .

You cannot have a workforce without employers and we need employers to be doing well, and of course there are many different forms of employment:  there is direct employment, there is the very important world of independent contracting, some businesses are large and some are small.  I have a lot of respect for people who risk their capital and give up their weekends to running businesses, managing businesses, and I have great respect for employees. I do not believe it is too difficult to be pro employer and pro employee at the same time.

Of course the opposite is true. Capital only exists and survives because of the exploitation of workers. They need us. We don’t need them.

But the outcome of the Review will be a shortfall for workers looking for better wages and conditions and the right to strike if the pro-boss sentiments of Shorten are any guide.

The Fair Work Act Review is being conducted by a member of the Reserve Bank and economist, a former industrial relations judge and an academic. Gee, I wonder what the first two will be interested in? Listening to the bosses perhaps? 

Is there an alternative? Yes.

Baiada workers showed it. They set up a picket for two weeks and won their demands. Nurses showed a glimpse of it when they started closing down beds and defied for a short time the orders of Fair Work Australia and the Court. QANTAS workers were starting to do it but accepted the lockout and the cessation orders. 

Industrial action, especially strike action, has the potential to win real gains for workers, to defend jobs and to help rebuild unions. The way to reform industrial relations in Australia is to make the draconian anti-strike and other rotten provisions of Labor’s Fair Work Act a dead letter by concerted strike action challenging the rule of the bosses.



Comment from David
Time December 21, 2011 at 2:26 pm

What a pathetic view of the industrial world. Passant would have all Australian businesses going broke in short order and then where would the jobs come from. Get real.

Comment from Peter Perkins
Time December 21, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Spot on John. If unions do not fight next year then members will dump them. There needs to be a concerted campaign against the current Fair Work Aus Act in the New Year. Keep up the good work.

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Time December 22, 2011 at 9:52 am

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