… because I guess I am. I’m afraid I don’t rejoice in what pollster Rod Cameron has to say in the lead story in today’s Australian: Rudd must beat unions: Labor guru by Paul Kelly.
FORMER Labor Party strategist Rod Cameron says most Australians support a deregulated workplace and that Kevin Rudd must confront the trade unions over industrial relations. Mr Cameron, the head of polling company ANOP, said Labor had misjudged the public mood over John Howard’s Work Choices laws, and Labor’s policy made a “mockery” of the Opposition Leader’s claim to represent the future.
“I think there is going to have to be blood spilt on the floor here,” Mr Cameron said in an interview with The Weekend Australian. “I think that Kevin Rudd has to get into a fight with the trade union movement over industrial relations policy. And I don’t mean a pretend fight but a real fight. Frankly, I don’t think this is news to Rudd. One of Kevin Rudd’s main claims and believable strengths is that he is a cautious man of the future. But this is not credible if your policy is in lockstep with the trade unions.”
Mr Cameron – Labor’s longest-serving pollster and a pivotal figure in many election victories for the party – said trade unions were “very unpopular and they are not part of most people’s lives”.
“You can’t go back to the regulated workplace environment of a generation ago and most people don’t want to return,” he said. “The majority of voters are anti-union and they don’t want the unions back in their lives. While Work Choices has delivered some Howard battlers to Labor, the majority of such voters are ordinary people who work in a deregulated environment that involves casual and part-time work and they want a flexible workplace.
“Labor’s emerging industrial relations policy is totally contradictory to this. This policy makes a mockery of Kevin Rudd’s claim to be a man of the future. A deregulated and flexible workplace is part of the modern world and Rudd cannot be a man of the future if he supports a workplace environment that takes us so far back to the past.” …
In bold there you see the truth about our much vaunted near full employment. I am such a person. In my case it is a product of age and circumstances, but for the majority of people I dispute this has been a great leap forward; quite the reverse, in fact. And yes, it does raise questions about the mission of trades unions. On the other hand, I know that some years ago I would have been roundly ripped off by the language college I then worked for if it hadn’t been for the Independent Teachers union which I belonged to at that time. I am currently a member (retired teacher rates) of the NSW Teachers Federation and hence of the Australian Education Union. Only the union can provide a whole range of legal and welfare services that any teacher might need at any time, and that many teachers I know have benefited from in the past. I acknowledge that the union movement is in its own way a remarkably conservative (i.e., unwilling to change) beast, that in some respects it needs to adapt to current conditions more than it has. (That generalisation has of course exceptions.) But I still believe that the disappearance of organised labour would be a very backward step indeed. Employer power trammelled only by friendly government is not a prospect I would embrace, and given the experiences of people I know in the hospitality sector I would say it is a bad prospect indeed.
How did you react, if you were concerned, to the Howard government’s first major venture into strong-arm industrial relations? I was shocked and disgusted, and so were most of my colleagues, but it is a subject where opinions are divided as the status of the Wikipedia article linked there testifies.
So I will watch with interest the new ABC miniseries The Bastard Boys on Sunday and Monday.