||Issue No. 330||27 October 2006|
Fair Weather Friends
Interview: Cowboys and Indians
Industrial: Seven Deadly Sins
Unions: The IT Factor
Politics: Bargain Basement
Environment: An Inconvenient Hoax
Corporate: Two Sides
International: Unfair Dismissals
History: A Stitch in Time
Review: The Wind that Shakes the Barley
Fair Weather Friends
Yes employers are crying poor and the government is claiming the union has been crying wolf, after its team of part-time appointees handed down a ruling at the high end of expectations.
But the fact that this body, charged with wide-ranging powers in gathering information that is by its nature subjective, felt compelled to hit high is totally consistent with the core concerns that this body is too open to political influence.
In this case, that influence took the form of the union Rights at Work campaign, backed by a phalanx of religious leaders putting government on notice that a decline in the minimum wage would draw them into the political domain in a way rarely seen in this country.
It was positive influence, but an influence nonetheless, that highlights the fact that the Fair Pay Commission is a totally different beast from the Australian Industrial Relations Commission it replaces.
The AIRC exercised judicial powers underpinned by the constitution; it heard evidence under oath, judicial procedures prevailed and its findings, by their nature were robust and based on an objective analysis of evidence.
In contrast the FPC appoints 'experts' - predominantly free market economists, who collect academic papers, conduct focus groups and get PR consultants to run community consultations on their behalf,
They are laden with political appointees, with a keen political eye. They know their long term task is to drive the minimum wage down in real terms, but they know too that to move too quickly would spell disaster for their political masters.
Like the major corporations holding back from using WorkChoices to de-unionise their workplaces, they know it is in their long-term interests to sit back until after the next federal election and make themselves a small target until they are more deeply entrenched in the system.
The employers knew this and their outrage this week was just too cute; the PM was positively gushing - the first time he has ever endorsed a pay rise that hadn't been awarded to himself, using the term 'genius'.
The danger for unions is that the religious leaders who have spoken out, now reading the headline figure and convincing themselves there is really nothing to worry about. In a modern take on Catch-22, this mindset would ease the pressure to ensure the original fears are realised.
As for the low paid, dig behind the headline figure and it looks a little less special:
- as it's the first pay increase in 18 months - in that time interest rates have risen three times and petrol prices have sky-rocketed.
- It represents a decrease in real wages. $30 was required to maintain wages for the low paid.
- It also means federal workers will fall behind those employed under NSW awards who have received regular increases in line with or above the CPI determined by an independent umpire.
And don't forget the key difference, under the old system a pay rise was guaranteed every year - now will only occur with the government and their appointees deign it.
This breaking of this nexus will inevitably drive real wages down. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen.
|Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue|
© 1999-2002 Workers Online