“According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, in the June quarter this year, 66,200 working days were lost due to industrial disputes, an increase from 19,700 in the March quarter. That is a staggering 340 per cent.”
Miranda says “under Julia Gillard’s reworking of industrial relations laws, unions are freer than ever to wreak havoc on the economy”. But despite being “freer then ever” according to Graeme Orr’s graph unions are striking less than they used to in the 80’s and 90’s. It’s as if they’re reasonable people rather than leaches trying to suck Australian industries dry thus destroying the very jobs they’re trying to improve.
After losing hundreds of thousands of dollars during the two-week picket, Baiada, the major supplier of chicken to Coles, capitulated to the National Union of Workers last week with a deal believed to include an 8 per cent wage increase, no contract staff and a doubling of redundancy entitlements. Victorian Farmers’ Federation’s poultry spokesman Mike Shaw fears further pressure on chicken farmers ahead. “We know the supermarkets have been screwing the processors,” he said last week.
When existing five-year contracts between farmers and chicken processors come up for renegotiation, he expects cutthroat bargaining which may push many farmers to the wall. He likens the situation to the one faced by the dairy industry as Coles and Woolworths slashed the price of milk to $1.
So where does that leave the consumer? With cheaper milk, staler bread, and ultimately less choice, as your favourite brands disappear and you are left with home-brands, Soviet style, and prices still rising.
It’s hardly the time for unions to be flexing their muscles.
|—||Woolworth’s profits this year “rose 5 per cent”. Those unions asking for temporary workers to get paid the same rates as permanent staff (how selfish) must be really hurting.|
Miranda’s point in her latest article is that “under Julia Gillard’s reworking of industrial relations laws, unions are freer than ever to wreak havoc on the economy”. How any of the examples she provides are not havoc wreaked by management are beyond me. Alan Joyce used the Fair Work Act to force the unions back to work, yanking their power to continue striking. He himself shut down his company with no warning leaving flyers stranded. He did that, not the unions who have to give three days notice before striking. He refused to negotiate with the unions, whose demands were that Qantas pay overseas workers as much as they received and that their wages get increased along with inflation.
She then mentions the Baiada strike; “Baiada, the main supplier of chickens to Coles, has had a string of terrible accidents in the past six years, including the decapitation of 34-year-old Sarel Singh last year while cleaning a processing line. The company is being investigated by WorkSafe Victoria.” She does not tell the story in explicit detail;
“Sarel had actually finished his four-hour shift when he was told to go back and re-clean the pack line area.
Mr Kennedy from the National Union of Workers says Sarel was not familiar with the line.
“Now the line he went to was not a line that he normally cleaned. He did not have his full protection gear on in terms of glasses and helmet,” he said.
According to the union, as Sarel was standing on a ladder hosing down the line, his jacket was hooked. He was swept into the next machine and decapitated.
The union says the chain line should be stopped while it is cleaned.
“Over time what has happened is the company, to maintain production, to maintain the returns they want to get, has pushed the risk to workers by speeding that chain up so they have run the chain 20 to 40 birds per minute and people have been asked to clean it,” Mr Kennedy said.
“The night on which Mr Singh was killed the chain was running at absolute capacity … 180 birds per minute.”
She states that “the union’s main complaint is that the company employs contract workers, which means more than half of the workforce does not belong to the union”. They claim they are striking because they are”being bullied into accepting below-award wages and long hours - often beyond working or student visa conditions”. I had a feeling Miranda was going to use the security guard scuffle at Baiada to make the unions out as “thugs”. To me it looks like the security guard drives into the strikers, to her it looks like they start trying to take his keys for no reason.
Miranda thinks the reason strikes are on the rise isn’t that employers are screwing their employees over, that doesn’t even factor into her realm of possibility. She thinks “cashed-up unions are flexing their muscles, knowing they have a short window of opportunity to entrench power before the Labor government is thrown out.” If I was Miranda, I would look at the polls she loves to cite whenever they agree with her. The Liberals are losing ground with the public and the business community because of Abbott’s protectionism, backflips and budget black holes. It looks like the Liberals may have to turn back to the one Liberal Miranda can’t stand. He does seem to be dominating the media lately while his leader is hiding in England lavishing praise on the Labor government.
Well a mafia is a family (symbolic or in this case literal) involved in crime so I think it is an apt title. The mafia used to be connected to unions, but these days it’s the Murdochs who are participating in mafia style thuggery. My sympathy rather then for poor Murdoch jr is with the victims of phone hacking, police bribery and Murdoch’s front page bullying campaigns. In the footage Miranda links to the security guard clearly drives into workers. The workers try to stop him and then the organizers came in and calmed everything down. I think the real thuggery in both these cases is corporate because at Baiada working conditions have actually killed people.