Thursday, October 18, 2007

About time

I would have had this one out a while back but better late than never.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just don't know Gibbo.

The Liberal rhetoric is that unions are evil or irrelevant is a stupid.

In fact I think that unions will be increasingly relevant and important to people.

In summary these are the reasons why:

1) The right to organise in a union and to collectively bargain lie at the heart of advancement for working people.

2) These rights are democratic rights, and unions are essential institutions in democratic societies.

3) Unions stand and fight for important values as well as democratic rights.

4) Unions have helped shape the Australian political, economic and social environment, and will continue to do so.

5) Unions have high levels of support within the community.

6) Unions are modernising to meet the demands of rapidly changing workplaces .

The industrial relations changes the Howard Government is making will mean that unions will be even more important and relevant. I wonder if he realises it?

Let me expand upon these arguments by referring to our history as well as the future.

Australian unions belong at the very heart of the work, life and aspirations of Australian people.

That is our history and it is also our future.

We have learnt from our history that the desire for a better life, for a fairer sharing of wealth and opportunity, can never be met through individual action or personal effort alone.

It requires collective action.

And collective action, through union organisation, is the way Australian working men and women best achieve their aspirations - not only for themselves and their families, but for a fairer and more just society.

That is why we fight for the fundamental right of people to organise, and their right to bargain collectively.

It’s a struggle almost as old as Australian colonisation.

Take the example, given by Timothy Coghlan in Labour and Industry in Australia, published in 1918:

In 1822 .... a convict servant was brought before the magistrate at Liverpool near Sydney, charged with the offence of inciting his master’s servants to combine for the purpose of obliging him to raise their wages and increase their rations.

The magistrate took a very serious view of this attempt at labour combination and the prisoner was sentenced to solitary confinement on bread and water for one month, to receive five hundred lashes, and to pass the remainder of his original sentence at a penal settlement.

How John Howard must pine for the past!

Throughout the 20th century the award system of minimum wages and employment conditions, collective bargaining, rights of union representation, and access to an independent tribunal to ensure a fair balance between employee and employer interests, have been under-pinnings of Australian values of fairness – of the ‘fair go’.

These labour rights, and these values, have served Australia well.

We have a strong economy and a solid record of respect for workers rights, both of which have contributed to the success and international recognition of our democracy.

And while democratic rights are a foundation, values give life to unions.

Fairness, decency, humanity, equality, dignity, justice and respect for all people – that’s what we stand for.

In the political realm unions created the Labor Party to advance the interests of working people and the cause of social justice. The ALP is one of the oldest social democratic political parties in the world. Fischer, Hughes, Curtin, Chifley, Hawke and other Australian Prime Ministers have been union officials.

Together with Labor we have created great things – Medicare, social security, universal superannuation, institutions safe-guarding workers rights, health and safety laws. The living standards of millions of Australians over generations have been advanced by unions.

Who can deny our contribution to the economy and the society? We have argued for jobs, immigration, investment, and rights for women and justice for indigenous Australians.

It cannot credibly be argued that industrial relations rigidities are holding the economy back.

There have been fourteen consecutive years of economic expansion with growth averaging 3.7% a year, low inflation, and average annual productivity and employment growth of 2%. This is a record performance.

Australia’s growth has outperformed the US and the OECD average.

Profits have soared, increasing by 136% since 1991 – by 70% in real terms.

Average adult full-time earnings have increased by 4.1% a year and Australia has risen to 11th in the OECD for GDP per capita.

These are some of the positive features of the engagement of the Australian economy with the world.

They have been achieved with our present set of workplace rights.

The liberal party can demonize it all they want.
The population of this country know the true value of trade unions.

We’ll see that in November.