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The industrial policies of the Howard Liberal Government pose the greatest danger to free and independent unionism in Australian in the last quarter of a century. Howard's Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith is determined to wipe out organised labour in Australia and, believe it or not, he has had indirect help from the Australian Labor Party.
The genesis of the current problems arose during the days of the Hawke
and Keating Labor Governments. In those days, the Australian Council
of Trade Unions (ACTU) was so set on helping keep Labor in government,
that it allowed the union movement to be emasculated through a series of
amalgamations into what were termed 'super-unions'. These super-unions
lacked the specialisation of the former workplace-related unions and therefore
were more easily manipulated by the labor party and those within the ACTU
with political aspirations.
Those labor unionists are now all in parliament - but they are on the opposition benches! Australian labour is now at the mercy of a bunch of misguided free-marketeers, bent on looking after big business - because what is good for big business is good for the country! The problem is that this type of thinking became obsolete when big business got bigger than the country.
So what does this have to do with Australian Customs Officers? Before you disguard the MUA as a bunch of featherbedded thugs, think carefully. If Reith and Howard can do in the MUA, then we are all at risk. The MUA is alleging that the government has engaged in a tortious conspiracy to breach the master-servant contractual relationships between the MUA members and Patricks.
This is serious stuff! And judging by the 'used-car salesman' media responses of Peter Reith, there is certainly good reason to believe that the MUA have a good case. Much will depend on how the Federal Court interprets the Workplace Relations Act and the actions of Patricks, Reith and the MUA.
If you don't see this issue as having direct relevance to yourself and your relationship with Customs and the Commonwealth, then think again. Just as Patricks 'sold' its workforce to shelf companies and then apparently wound them up, there is nothing to stop Customs doing something similar. They would just call it 'out-sourcing' or some other benign term. Just as the media have co-operated to make us all jealous of the 'sweet' conditions of the MUA, so they could just as easily help the government do a little 'public servant bashing'!
Now is the time to get behind your union. A strong union is some measure of protection against industrial thuggery.
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