Union wins fight for higher pay

By August 4, 2017Society

A suggestion by the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Philip Lowe, that workers should demand higher wages, was something that was unheard of in the days of trickle-down economics. In those days, which was not that long ago (months rather than years). Workers were told that demanding pay rises would increase inflation, undermine businesses’ profits and end up ruining the economy. The Reserve Bank has noted that the country is now facing a crisis of low pay; wages are stagnating. Low pay is a drag on the economy and it is causing many people to be nervous about record household debt levels if, or when, interest rates start to climb again. There is great concern about mortgage default risk.

It can be done; unions can win. As an example, a relatively small union, but which has about 100% membership in its industry has stuck it out against its employer. Behind the employer was a person who was seen as a union-buster who greatly admired the bastardry of the Howard Government’s suicidal Work Choices industrial relations mechanism2. However, he has been beaten, and it was because the union held together and stuck it out. The result has been hailed a success for the union3, and going by the hangdog faces of the bosses when they announced the deal, they also realise it was a win for the union. Some of them may be nervous about their tenure given their ham-fisted handling of the dispute.

Any way, now the upcoming tours of Bangladesh and India can go ahead and this summer’s Ashes series are no longer threatened. For it was the 300 members of the Australian Cricketers’ Association who held out, enduring unemployment and uncertainty. The biggest winners, relatively speaking, have been women cricketers, who in the next few years may be able to earn enough to not bother having a second job, and to become fully professional. That is truly progressive.

Sources

  1. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-29/rba-governor-philip-lowe-goes-marxist/8662228
  2. http://thenewdaily.com.au/sport/cricket/2017/07/05/david-peever/
  3. http://www.cricket.com.au/news/pay-dispute-mou-deal-cricket-australia-aca-ca-bangladesh-tour-revenue/2017-08-03

 

8 Comments

  • Arthur Baker says:

    I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one. I am very pro-union, and I congratulate the cricketers on their victory, but I don’t think the cricketers’ union is remotely typical of Australian unions, nor does its victory imply any such future success for others.

    The difference is that these union members have a very special and unusual talent and expertise – they can play cricket at the highest level, with flair and distinction. It’s nice to play for your country and your state, and that would obviously have been their first preference, but they must have always known that if Cricket Australia didn’t come to the party, they could have hawked their talent somewhere else (English County Championship, Indian Premier League, or some billionaire-funded World-Series-Cricket lookalike, anyone?) and got paid a motza for it.

    Briefly, Cricket Australia needed the players a whole lot more than the players needed CA. Without their talent pool, Cricket Australia would no longer have had any excuse to exist. 99 percent of Australian workers don’t have that kind of clout, and for the large majority, an argument with their employer tends to lead to the employer shrugging shoulders and saying fine, bugger off then, and I’ll hire someone who WILL work for the money I’m offering.

    I doubt if there was any “enduring unemployment and uncertainty” in this dispute. The cricketers must have known all along they would win. I admire their talent, but find it difficult to work up any empathy with a bunch of highly-paid sportsmen who have been so predictably unpleasant and unsportsmanlike, over many years, especially on the field of play.

    • admin says:

      Arthur,

      I don’t think the cricketers’ association is like any other union either, but it is a union of sorts. What I was getting t is precisely that. It is a union. For decades now, we have had governments, particularly of the conservative variety attempting to decrease the power of unions, either by decreasing the number of members or making it more difficult for them to operate. As Philip Lowe now seems to realise, stagnation of wages is making the economy stagnate. Most organisations who employ skilled workers need those workers, sometimes more than the workers need the organisation, depending on how marketable their expertise is. While the effort to decrease union influence has worked dramatically well, it has lead to a shift of power away from labour to capital, and that is what conservatives wanted. The ‘enduring unemployment and uncertainty’ quote was from one of the sources. And while cricketers are highly paid individuals at national level, state players are not nearly as well paid and women cricketers are very poorly paid. You say that the international cricketers could very easily sign up somewhere else, there is a lot of competition to play in the UK and in other places, and the UK has quotas on the number of foreign players, so there is no guarantee they could sign up somewhere else. If they did, then they would have to be away from their families longer than they are now, or they would have to shift their families (many with young kids) overseas.

      • Arthur Baker says:

        If the Australian Cricketers’ Association is a fair dinkum trade union, why doesn’t it affiliate itself to the ACTU, like the Australian Professional Footballers’ Association and the Rugby League Professionals Association and about 40-plus others have?

        • admin says:

          Arthur,

          I don’t know. Do you know of any reason? The ACA has a little over 1400 members of which about half are life members (presumably former players), and the rest ‘annual’ players (who presumably have to pay subs annually). I thought it might have been a matter of membership numbers, but the PFA has only about 500 members, so that is clearly not the case.

          • Arthur Baker says:

            No idea. I’d actually never heard of the Australian Cricketers’ Association until you wrote about them. But you’d imagine, if they cared about anyone’s welfare other than their own, they might want to add their strength (and their prestige and their fame) to the national union umbrella organisation, the ACTU, which I’m sure needs every bit of assistance and support it can get.

            And arguably they might get some reciprocal support from that organisation which, despite representing a comparatively small percentage of Australian workers these days, is still a significant body in Australian workplaces, politics and the national discourse. And has a highly impressive new leader in Sally McManus.

            I don’t know. I can’t imagine any reason NOT to affiliate if you’re fair dinkum representing Australian workers. Perhaps the cricketers don’t see themselves as Australian workers? You tell me. I know virtually sod-all about them.

          • admin says:

            Arthur,

            I don’t know why they aren’t and, as I said, I can find no info regarding it. I certainly agree that McManus is very impressive, and she is in the top job just as people are starting to realise that unions served and do serve a useful purpose, particularly now where we see wages stagnating and inequality increasing.

  • Jim says:

    I agree with Arthur. The ACA is not a typical union and really had CA over a barrel, although if the Ashes had not gone ahead that would be a disaster for all concerned. As you know the percentage of workers now in unions has fallen to about 15% and the unions are struggling to remain relevant to modern society. In the future I would suggest that we will very much regret the decline of unions and the protection they provide for the work force–mind you the excesses of the CFMEU do not help their image, not to mention the financial shenanigans within the Health Services Union. What will the future of the work force look like? I heard a scary suggestion on the radio a while ago when an employers’ representative was suggesting that in an ideal world (from his point of view) the whole work force would be on short term contracts. Where this leaves people trying to get a home loan is anybody’s guess. In the worst case scenario it could lead to massive social disruption.

    • admin says:

      Jim,

      I agree that the decline of unions is a disaster, and depredations of some unions have been used very effectively to tar the whole lot. That tarring has been enthusiastically applied by conservative governments. While there is a lot of talk about jobs being taken by robots, the gig economy etc., there seems to be not a lot of evidence supporting some of these assertions. There is an article by Ross Gittins in the SMH entitled “Jobs being taken by robots? Where’s your evidence?” It is worth reading.

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