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Big unions undermine workplace bargaining



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N E W S RELEASE JO H N H O W A R D , M.P. M E M B E R FOR B E N N E L O N G S H A D O W M IN IS T E R FOR IN D U S T R IA L R E LA T IO N S , E M P L O Y M E N T 6 T R A IN IN G

IRET 004/92

BIG UNIONS UNDERMINE WORKPLACE BARGAINING

The registration of the new Construction, Forestry and Mining Employees' Union yesterday is but the latest reminder that the Keating/Kelty policy of forcing unions to amalgamate runs counter to the overwhelming need that genuine workplace bargaining be introduced into Australia's industrial relations

system.

The government and the ACTU cannot have it both ways.

They cannot, on the one hand, claim they believe in workplace bargaining yet, on the other hand, actively promote a restructuring of the trade union system which is antagonistic to, rather than supportive of, workplace bargaining.

In government, the Coalition will immediately change the law under which current union amalgamations are occurring.

We will remove the requirement that every union have at least 10,000 members. This effectively prevents the formation of company or workplace unions which must be an essential element of any true workplace bargaining system.

If the true focus of industrial relations must be upon the workplace, then surely the employees of a particular workplace should have the right to join a union built entirely around that workplace.

Yet such a fundamental right has been ruthlessly denied Australian workers by the Keating/Kelty philosophy.

The Coalition believes that those Australians who wish to belong to unions should have the right to join the union of their choice, be it a craft industry or workplace union.

We have no objection to the formation of large unions except where, as is presently the case, the law allows of no alternative.

Last year the Hawke/Keating government deliberately changed the law to force the amalgamation process by introducing the absurd 10,000 minimum membership requirement.

COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

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This was in line with Bill Kelty's desire that union power be concentrated in a few hands, namely twenty very powerful unions in place of the existing 300.

Unless the current process is reversed, Australia's union structure will be heavily centralised and autocratic. Most importantly, its sheer size will make it even more remote from individual workplaces.

Large amalgamated unions, such as the Construction, Forestry and Mining Employees' Union which aspires to a membership of 200,000 within twelve months, will be completely insensitive to the needs and aspirations of employees at individual workplaces.

In such circumstances, true workplace bargaining has no hope.

This is barely surprising as the Labor Party does not believe in it.

SYDNEY 11 February 1992