||Issue No. 169||07 March 2003|
Re-considering The Accord
Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Interview: League of Nations
Industrial: 20/20 Hindsight
Organising: On The Buses
Unions: National Focus
History: The Banner Room
International: The Slaughter Continues
Legal: A Legal Case For War?
Culture: Singing For The People
Review: The Hours
Poetry: I Wanna Bomb Saddam
Satire: Diuretic Makes Warne's Excuses Look Thin
The Locker Room
Strangers in the House
Nursing Home Concerns
Re-considering The Accord
The architects of the Accord have been out in the media this week, defending their legacy - a period of responsible power sharing where workers received benefits way beyond their pay packets.
They point to compulsory superannuation, their position on the Reserve Bank Board that gave a real input into the economy and the array of social wage benefits that would never have been possible with spiralling wage claims as evidence of the fruits of restraint.
Even critics of the ACTU would be churlish not to concede that self-sacrifice and vision of the union hierarchy was central to the opening up of the Australian economy and the higher levels of growth that have flowed from this.
But they would point to the undeniable fact that in delivering benefits to working people from the top down, the Accord created a framework that fundamentally weakened the union movement.
Every Accord rise came as a deal brokered at the Big Table, workplace activism was surplus to requirements, until it seemed like the rises just happened.
At the same time, stronger union areas were being stymied, leaders holding back their members from claims they could have persues on the grounds of the broader interests of society.
And what did these workers get in return for their restraint? Less security, more pressure and the constant fear that they would be thrown on the scrap heap because their business could not generate the hyper-profits that footloose global capital came to demand.
The deeper question to ponder after 20 years is whether the union movement would be in stronger shape today if the ACTU had played it differently.
It's unlikely that the union movement could have prevented the economic reforms of the Hawke-Keating era; no world economy, save the wreckage that is now Argentina, has managed to insulate its dollar from the world market.
So, the conditions of a globalised economy that make it difficult for unions to organise today - an economy focussed on the service sector, smaller workplaces with more mobile labour markets - would still have come to pass.
But with the benefit of hindsight, the ACTU through the Accord could have set better limits to the way the process occurred - limits on the powers of the banks that were allowed to enter the economy, tighter safeguards on the operations of privatised state businesses, guarantees on protections for the victims of change.
Rather than taking the role of power-broker, more care could have been taken advocating for union members, translating the macro changes to the experience at the workplace.
Ironically, this is very much the philosophy of the ACTU's new focus on grassroots organising: empowering workers to campaign on the issues that matter to them; rather than ceding all wisdom to those on a national executive.
This, more than any political power dynamic, is why a formal Accord between unions and the ALP is unlikely to ever be repeated.
It was like the game got away from us and the Accord was a victory lap that took place while the match was still in progress. Only now are unions rebuilding, with the sort of activists networks that should have been erected as part of the Accord process.
|Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue|
© 1999-2002 Workers Online