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Workchoices +disciplinary power « Previous | |Next »
March 30, 2007

What we know one year on is that WorkChoices work for those who have bargaining power in labour markets and work against those who do not. So far the impact is only being felt by unskilled and semi-skilled workers, and particularly women. As Greg Combet pointed out on Lateline Business people well recognise that:

when the economy slows or when the resources boom is over and they look around and they've lost a lot of their employment rights, they know they are likely to be worse off. It is going to be much easier for employers to reduce their entitlements in those circumstances. I'm not suggesting that the business community wants to set out to do that, but cost competitive pressures in a different legal environment that we are now in drive those sorts of chains. but workers know the impact will move up the labour chain when the business cycle turns down when current the resources boom ends.


The Howard Government talks in terms of deregulating the labour market and continually measures the success of WorkChoices with decreasing unemployment and rising productivity. We can agree that have to have flexible labour markets and argue that should not mean a race to the bottom on wages and conditions. However, no independent analysis of the AWAs has been done.

Kenneth Davidson, writing in The Age. says:

The central objective of WorkChoices is to redistribute income from wage and salary earners to profits. The means is not deregulation of the labour market. It is to re-regulate the labour market in a way that increases employers' ability to unilaterally set wages and conditions by criminalising trade unions' function in collectively negotiating with employers, a function that needs to be backed up with the right to strike when employers refuse to bargain in good faith.

The free market talk about de-regulating the labour market is a misnomer. A different mode of regulation as disciplinary power is being assembled. Davidson goes on to say:
Over the year in which WorkChoices has been in force, its success has been measured in the decline in the share of national income accruing to wages and the concomitant continued growth in profits despite very tight conditions in the labour market.

WorkChoices is emphatically not a means to achieve higher productivity or even primarily directed at increasing employment opportunities for marginal members of the workforce. This is the conclusion that can be drawn from a study for the Victorian Department of Industrial Relations by Griffith University professor of industrial relations David Peetz.

How do you retain collective bargaining and economic flexibility? How do you, as Heather Ridout asked, unscramble the AWA egg?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:36 AM |