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Monday, 13 July 2015

The 'Industrial Peace' Racket

"Houston we have a problem"

For those too young to remember "Houston we have a problem"* were the first, somewhat understated, words of astronauts in space alerting 'head-office' when some malfunction was identified. Those of us of the right maturity have these indelibly forged into our psyche as heralding a potentially serious problem.

Indeed I believe we have a problem.

Watching and listening to the media circus over the last week, one is left with varying views of Bill Shorten's appearance at the Trade Union Royal Commission (TURC).

He was caught with "multiple smoking guns",  and "should resign", or that the whole TURC is a Liberal, or more accurately, "Tony Abbot witch hunt" and labour leaders are being "victimised". Indeed many a shrill defender of Shorten's honour has gone out of his way to get some sort of hot quote about the wonderful Unions and the hateful Tony Abbott.

I guess this is the norm for today's media frenzies, but what can we poor mugs take away from this. 

Firstly, whether the intentions of the LNP, or Tony Abbott, if you prefer, in establishing the TURC was political, is irrelevant, as its success will ultimately be judged only when it has run its course. Those criticising so volubly today seem to have other motivations themselves.

Further, the late declaration of a political donation, as noted by many is not uncommon. The focus on this aspect of his testimony by many journos and Labour defenders is simply to deflect from Shorten's failures. 

But it was not a political donation at all. More likely it was some sort of 'fringe benefit' as a by-product of an EBA deal. This of course presents the real problem. 

"The AWU has been seen as a moderate Union which has worked in harmony with business for the betterment of both workers and employers". So its supporters would say. But, if the AWU, as a matter of course, accepted payments from companies as part of an EBA negotiation then we have a problem.

Extortion is a criminal offense of obtaining money, property, or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion. It is sometimes euphemistically referred to as a "protection racket" since the racketeers often phrase their demands as payment for "protection" from (real or hypothetical) threats from unspecified other parties. 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extortion

We are all familiar with extortion or protection rackets, often associated with the Mafia, whereby henchmen would demand property owners pay to ensure their premises were protected from thugs. If payment was not made their property was vandalised or burnt down and perhaps the owners would be bashed for good measure, by the very same thugs demanding money. It only took a few brave souls to decline these 'protection services' and receive their punishment to ensure others would fall in line and make their regular payments.

Do you notice any similarity with the apparent modus operandum of the AWU in their negotiation of EBA's with employers?

As per Shorten's testimony, the AWU negotiates, a perhaps unstated but implied, 'industrial peace' in return for benefits, not only for the workers but for a financial return to the Union itself!

This payment to the Union is in effect a benefit to the Union bosses who use these funds either for advancing their Union as it competes for members against other Unions, or for, let's call it 'private purposes'. Such as those derived, for example by the likes of Williamson, Thompson, Jackson and let me include Shorten.

If the employer fails to comply, there is an implied 'menace' of a strike or a boycott or in the case of some of the more thuggish unions, sabotage and well.. thuggery.
In the same way as the property owners faced with extortion learnt to pay, employers faced with the threat of labour strife have learnt to pay. It is easier.

A Union should never accept employer payments

There is a legitimate role for Unions in working on behalf of their members to improve working conditions. But when a Union accepts any payment directly from an employer in any form it is not just a 'conflict of interest', it is a crime. It is akin to 'demanding money with menaces', it is eliciting a 'bribe', it is 'extortion'.

Where is the media?

I am surprised that almost all media has avoided calling the Union's role in accepting direct payment from employers a crime.
Houston this is the problem: Not only do we have rampant extortion in operation within our industrial relations system, but our media seem to find it acceptable!

* I have been advised I misquoted - see https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Houston,_we_have_a_problem


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