||Issue No. 293||20 December 2005|
Waves of Destruction
Interview: Back to the Future
Unions: A Real Page Turner
Industrial: The Pin-Striped Union
International: Around The World In 365 Days
Legends: Terrific, Tommy
Your Rights At Work: Worth Fighting For
Politics: The Year That Was
Economics: Master and Servant Revisited
Culture: 2005: The Year of Living Repetitively
Bad Boss: The Bottom Ten
Religion: Hymns from a Different Song Sheet
The Locker Room
Free to Rat
Tax Cuts and Cockroaches
Proportion, Not Distortion
New Ways to Take a Share
The growing trend of unions voicing workers' concerns as shareholders in big companies will take an increasing important role.
However, despite the IR laws' central aim of making life harder for unions, a lack of options is not the reason for record levels of shareholder activism, which are set to increase.
'They would have anyway, but the new IR laws will simply push more unions towards shareholder activism more quickly," says Unions NSW secretary John Robertson.
His comments come as unions and the business community wait for a landmark decision on shareholder activism between the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the Finance Sector Union to be handed down by the Federal Court.
In that case the CBA argued the FSU, which is a CBA shareholder, tried to "coerce" it into signing a new enterprise agreement by writing to members of the board and trying to get a resolution passed at the 2004 AGM for the bank to regularly review its "Which New Bank" restructure, which has resulted in around 3700 job losses to date.
Robertson's comments follow the release of a report from the University of Melbourne's Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation earlier this month.
A key question posed by the report is whether Australian whether unions will link with superannuation funds to bring even more resolutions to shareholder meetings, as has occurred in the US.
"Absolutely," says Robertson, adding unions will also seek to join other groups, such as shareholder associations, in an effort to increase the effectiveness of such campaigns.
Over the last five years the CFMEU, the TWU, the AWU, the ASU and the ACTU have engaged in shareholder activism against major employers such as Rio Tinto, Boral, ANZ, BlueScope Steel, Qantas, NRMA and James Hardie,
While no resolution put forward by a union to date has been passed at a company's AGM, the publicity surrounding such action had huge ramifications, for example the ACTU's campaign for adequate compensation for asbestos victims from James Hardie and the ASU's campaign comparing the 66 per cent pay rise Qantas wanted to grant its non-executive directors compared to the 3 per cent pay rise offered to other staff in 2004.
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