||Issue No. 243||22 October 2004|
The Perfect Storm
Interview: The Last Bastian
Unions: High and Dry
Security: Liquid Borders
Industrial: No Bully For You
History: Radical Brisbane
International: No Vacancies
Economics: Life After Capitalism
Technology: Cyber Winners
Poetry: Do It Yourself Poetry
Review: Hard Labo(u)r
The Locker Room
Shop Till the Worker Drops
Bobís Silver Anniversary
Hit And Myth
Letters to the Editor
Hit And Myth
"Historical Revisions" is a fitting title for your myth-making editorial (15/10), which celebrates the Hawke-Keating regime's "tremendous economic achievements" under the ALP-ACTU Accord.
What did the Accord do? It caused a dramatic shift in incomes from wages to profits. In 1982-3, the share of GDP going to profits was 12.1% and the wages share was 63.3%. By March 1996, the profit share had reached 16.3% and the wages share had fallen to 57.8%. Put another way, workers handed the bosses 4.2% of GDP -- over $20 billion a year. Between 1983 and 1990, hourly award rates of pay dropped by 15-30%.
Was this all used for productive investment? No, much of it went into a speculative bubble which, in turn, led to Keating's "recession we had to have". Then Kelty & Co began pushing us into enterprise bargaining. A fine record!
Peter Lewis says these economic changes were "driven by a partnership between a social democratic party and organised labour, something that did not happen anywhere else in the world." Unfortunately true. Elsewhere the culprits were open reactionaries like Reagan and Thatcher -- here it was labour leaders who did it to us, and we are still paying the price.
Did we at least "avoid the social dislocation and break-down of the Reagan and Thatcher regimes"? Perhaps Peter has forgotten the smashing of two unions: the BLF and the Pilots (in the latter case, by using the military against unionists).
And I love this one: "the union movement took the principled decision to back labour market deregulation - even though they knew it would make their own job tougher".
What kind of principles are these!? But actually, it wasn't rank and file workers who took these decisions, was it Peter? It was Hawke, Keating and Kelty - over workers' heads. No wonder workers began to lose interest in unions. Over the Accord years, union coverage fell from 49.5% to 31%.
And no wonder voters "threw Labor out of office", and still suspect that "Labor cannot manage the economy".
We do agree on one thing: the best ideas come from "the bottom up". Which means if we want to revive the labour movement, the last thing we need is top-down pro-capitalist projects like the Accord.
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