Unions legally privileged under new Leftist laws
JULIA Gillard's new industrial relations umpire has begun to ban businesses from directly talking to their own employees while being forced into "good faith" bargaining with unions.
Banning business from communicating directly with its own staff will not promote the productivity growth that Kevin Rudd now claims is central to his government's agenda. But productivity growth has never been a central aim of Australia's traditional industrial relations system.
Rudd and Gillard are reimposing this system for political reasons: first to put John Howard's Work Choices to the sword and second to deal Labor's industrial wing back into the game.
Just over a week ago, Fair Work Australia senior deputy president Lea Drake instructed industrial services company Transfield how to deal with the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union in holding a collective agreement ballot of its maintenance employees doing work on Sydney's water system.
The seventh of Drake's 13 instructions state: "During this process Transfield will not attempt to bypass the bargaining agent representatives in relation to its proposal by contacting for this purpose the members of the bargaining agent representatives directly, in meetings or by text or other telephonic messages."
That is, Transfield must deal with "all officers and delegates" of the AMWU as the "bargaining agent". Transfield's workers are not so much the company's employees as "members of the bargaining agent". The union can depict the company's position in any way it wants to its members, but the company cannot argue its case - perhaps beyond setting out what it has put to the union - to its own employees. That would show "bad faith".
The sight of industrial judges limiting how business can talk to its own staff about the terms oftheir labour contract is a huge break from the direction of workplace relations since the early 1990s. That began the shift away from what Reserve Bank of Australia governor Glenn Stevens this month aptly called the "bad old days" of Australian industrial relations. This had to change because the over-regulated labour market threatened to stifle the productivity growth required by business after the rest of the economy had been opened up to foreign competition.
Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here