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Keating says it well « Previous | |Next »
October 13, 2005

Paul Keating, the former Primer Minister of Australia, has an op ed in todays Sydney Morning Herald on the industrial relations reforms proposed by John Howard. The shift to individual contracrs works well for highly skilled workers in a booming market with skill shortages. These workers are in a strong negotiating position vis-a-vis their boss, so individual contracts make sense.

What about those workers with lower skills? How will they---Howard's battler's-- fare? Keating addresses this, and he puts his finger on the fear felt by many Australians. Keating says that Howard's target are:

Those protected by the second half of the Keating government's reform, those within the safety net, those without sufficient bargaining power in the labour market to secure an enterprise bargain. In the main, women and young people: women in retail and ancillary jobs, or the young who make up the bulk of casual employment.

For these people, there is only one guarantee of protection and wage justice, and that is the minimum award rates under the safety net. These are the kids getting $12 an hour who Howard wants to push back to $8 and $9, and the working women, particularly casuals, who will go from something like $15 an hour to $10.. Howard says he will legislate against this but this outcome is the very point of his change. Gradually, real wages will slip back.

And his argument is that cheaper rates produce more jobs. But if you can only score $10 an hour it does not matter how many jobs there are. Forty hours at $10 means you can only earn a maximum of $400 a week - not enough to accommodate and feed yourself.

Markets bust as well as boom. A flexible labour market in a downturn wil reduce wages and conditions quickly. that may well mean lower pay rates than $10 an hour and worse working conditions.

It is for these kind of situations that we need safety nets. They help to protect the vulnerable. That was the lesson socail democracy learned from the Great Depression.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:10 AM | | Comments (2)


I do not understand why none tell the truth!!! The bigest victims from the industrial relations reforms proposed by John Howard will be the migrants, the people of ethnic minorities, asian, muslims, Greeks,Italian etc, after them the women and youngs!
Already migrants have big problems in their workplaces, with Howard's industrial relations they will suffer harder.
Antonis Symeonakis

You are right.

Howard's ascent to, and retainment of power, is based on the dominance of an Anglo-Australian ethnicity in the nation; and one that is increasingly based around the religious conservatism of evangelical Christianity.

The neo-liberal economics of the free market (eg., a deregulated labour market) cannot be understood apart from the social conservatism.