February 7, 2014
It is pretty clear that the Abbott Government is under intense pressure from its Big Business constituency to regain the industrial relations territory it had to surrender with the defeat of Workchoices and the Howard Government. Big Business and its neo-liberal allies want that territory retaken quick smart. This is their path of economic change and reform.
So how does the Abbott Government do what's required of them when Workchoices is still electoral poison? Talk about a a wages explosion of the pre-Accord era when unsustainable wage growth simply pushed thousands of Australians out of work".Talk about workers' conditions negotiated collectively with employers that cost jobs.The inference is that the "fat cat"union movement is irresponsible on economic policy.
Abbott chose low-paid factory workers as a target of a wider campaign to persuade companies to cut labour costs when he squeezed Shepparton's troubled SPC Ardmona factory into this IR narrative, even though it makes little sense.
It indicates that Paul Howes' call for a business-union-government “grand compact” to deliver more harmonious industrial relations, isn't going to cut it. It's fanciful.
Bill Harley argues that the Workchoices style of reform of the industrial relations legislation:
is unlikely to generate productivity gains and greater prosperity for Australia. There is little evidence, for instance, that either WorkChoices or the Fair Work Act had any significant impact on any economic outcomes. In my view, a shift away from IR reform as the proposed driver of economic performance is long overdue.A greater focus on encouraging workplace innovation through training, research and development, investment and so on is much more likely to deliver performance gains. Precisely how this would be achieved is open to debate, but there are plenty of useful examples, from around the world, of government policies which have encouraged workplace innovation and delivered performance gains.
It is fantasy to see this happening under an Abbott Government committed to the politics of austerityand blaming most things on greedy workers and unions.