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Wage case cannot continue under strike threat



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MEDIA RELEASE COMMONW EALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY C. I. s.

SENATOR FRED CHANEY le a d e r OF THE OPPOSITION IN t h e sen a te

SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

WAGE CASE CANNOT CONTINUE UNDER STRIKE THREAT. 63/88

The national wage case hearing cannot proceed under threat of national strike action.

If Monday's union conference results in other unions joining the metal workers' 24-hour stoppage , the Commission should adjourn indefinitely until the blackmail threat is lifted.

The level of strike activity before and during this wage case hearing - most of it with the blessing of the ACTU - has reached intolerable levels.

On the broader front, the current embroglio highlights the need for change in Australia's approach to industrial relations and wage fixing.

The reality is that the government has gone as far as it dares and further than it should in supporting what is effectively a wages increase well above the 5.5% it has put on the table before the conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Wages drift and the flow-through of delayed

second-tier wage increases make the likely outcome close to 8%. .

The opposition supports continued wage restraint - not a wage freeze - because of the need to restrain inflation and increase employment. It supports pay increases based on productivity gains and capacity to pay. Across the board nominal wage increases not supported by productivity

growth will result in the wage rises being gobbled up by inflation and increased unemployment,

Yet there is continuing massive dissatisfaction - the threat of national strike activity to supplement the present activity at State level and the near certainty that some low-paid areas of the workforce will be worse off. in effect, the government is conceding rises to those with most capacity to use industrial blackmail.

The government must bear a heavy responsibility for the current unrest because of its holding back tax cuts to save them up for an election bribe.

The whole unsatisfactory mess - and it increasingly appears unsatisfactory to everyone concerned - arises because we . persist with the delusion that an Arbitration Tribunal can, by making a decision to increase nominal wages, increase real wages without regard to underlying economic conditions.

A year ago the system appeared to be moving in the direction of reality when the second-tier approach required individual workplaces to find ways of increasing output or productivity to fund wage increases.

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This was hard work for both managers and unions unused to approaching wages negotiations on a realistic rather than an arbitrated basis. But it could have been the start of an approach to wage fixing which, because of its central

focus on productivity, could deliver sustainable real wage rises and improved living standards at the same time as providing more jobs.

instead the unions and the Federal Government - in its vague and ambiguous wage case submission - have taken a retrograde step toward a wage system where the biggest winners are those with industrial muscle.

Australian workers and the community in general deserve much better. Employees should be given the chance to earn real wage increases and the community should not have to suffer massive disruption because of unproductive strikes.

The Liberal and National partied Industrial Relations Policy launched this week sets out an alternative approach. The need for an alternative has never been clearer.

MELBOURNE 1 JULY 1988

ENQUIRIES; KEITH KESSELL (09) 325.4282.