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Who’s On Top?

6 Aug 2012

This is a head scratcher. Is Ross Gittins living in the same world as the rest of us?

This morning, Gittins, who doesn’t hail from the Fantasy Review (better know in the banker world as the Financial Review) world of seeing things, wrings his hands about the review of the Fair Work Act, ending with:

My guess is a few big, militant unions are taking every advantage of Fair Work to make unreasonable demands. And they’re being vigorously opposed by a few equally militant, unreasonable big businesses.

But we shouldn’t allow people with a vested interest in conflict to misdirect us. The real problem with Fair Work is that it’s not doing as much good as it could be at a time when bosses and workers need to pull together.

Actually, as I pointed out last week, the key part of the review found:

After considering the economic aspects of the Fair Work Act the panel concludes that since the Fair Work Act came into force, important outcomes such as wages growth, industrial disputation, the responsiveness of wages to supply and demand, the rate of employment growth and the flexibility of work patterns have been favourable to Australia’s continuing prosperity,” it says. It also criticises Work Choices. ”Of the four bargaining frameworks over the last 20 years, Work Choices is least like the others. Its period of effective operation was relatively brief and during that period it was significantly amended.” [emphasis added]

It’s fine to call for employers and workers to “pull together”. But, when you have the Empty Suit, leader of the Coalition, leading a full-throated assault on basic working conditions and wages, the balance of power is not equal. It is, indeed, a false equivalence to pit unions fighting for members rights versus corporate leaders trying to preserve their own huge pay packages and profit margins. They are not the same.