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Wednesday, 25 August 1920

Mr CONSIDINE (Barrier) .- The Minister seems to be giving a concession, but actually he is giving nothing at all away. In the Tasmanian case that he mentioned, a man was dismissed because he was dissatisfied with his working conditions ; but no change ever occurs inthe conditions of an industry until some member of a union who is working for a private employer has become dissatisfied with his hours or remuneration, or some other condition of his employment. Should he express his dissatisfaction, his employer would immediately say to him, "Your organization has an award, which I am following, and, as you are not satisfied with it, you can go." There is no protection for that individual. I can understand the statement of the Minister that the measure is designed to encourage organization, because evidently its purpose is to transform 'the organizations of workers into police bureaux for the benefit of the employers. It pretends to give a benefit to the employee, but gives none at all. As a matter of fact, any employer who was stupid enough to inform an employee that he was dismissing him for his industrial views, could not remain in business very long. In practice, what the employer does when he wishes to get rid of an objectionable unionist is to tell him that he has no work for him. I have had that dodge worked on me. I have been given a start at8 o'clock, and "fired" at 5 o'clock. The employers do not threaten to dismiss their men;they merely get rid of them. This clause is a mere doping of the workers by pretending to confer benefits upon them which are not conferred. From my point of view, the Minister's explanation makes the position worse. He asks us to solemnly devise machinery for the protection of the employees, when, as a matter of fact, the power of the employer to get rid of men is not and cannot be taken away. How can an employer be prevented from dismissing an employee if he does not say straight out, " I am dismissing you for the part that you took in such-and-such a strike," or "because you gave certain evidence in the hearing of a case"? An employer, if necessary, can suspend his operations temporarily, and afterwards would not be compelled to re-employ his original hands. A wharf labourer who was obnoxious to his employers would not be " seen " by the boss when he attended on the wharf to be picked up; the sailor who was obnoxious would not be able to sign on for another voyage. The miner, after he had cut out his fortnight's contract, would be offered a low price for the next, sothat he must refuse the work. There is no way of protecting any of these individuals, and the workers will never be able to protect themselves from their employers except by the power of their organizations. If it does not pay an employer to penalize individuals who are agitating, he will continue to employ them; but otherwise he will get rid of them, even though he may have to stop his plant for a time to do so. In Broken Hill there have been cases of deliberate victimization; but when a mine has been laid idle in protest against such cases, the men may be reinstated, but a little later they are got rid of under circumstances which make it impossible to prove victimization. It is nonsense to think of protecting the employees by provisions of this character. To-day the employers are on top, and have the control of industry, and until the workers have a bigger say in the control of industry, they will have no protection.

Sitting suspended from 6.28 to8 p.m.

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