Industrial Relations Reforms, my perspective

Well, I won't talk about Peter Jensen, Kim Beazley and John Howard. I am sure Jensen is criticising the possibility that workers might loose their bargaining rights, and are forced to work overtime/weekend, where they should be at home with their family. I am sure Howard did not bring out WorkChoices just to piss the Aussies off, making them work harder, so that he can get praises from the rich bosses. Being a leader of a country, I am confident he is making a decision for the good of this nation -- from his perspective anyway. And I am sure, for Beazley, is also doing what an opposition is supposed to do, and making your enemy's "enemy" your friend.

Ross Gittins' column on SMH, The changing shape of workplace muscle, makes sense to me. Basically, there are three types of workers:

  1. Skilled workers. You boss' business depends on you. He/she will not easily fire you, and even if he/she hands you the pink slip, you will little problem finding another job -- if the economy is booming.
  2. Unskilled workers in capital-intensive industries. Your union has more collective bargaining power, as your boss cannot afford employees not working due to large recurring capital cost.
  3. Unskilled workers in labour-intensive industries. Your union has relatively less bargaining power, as your boss only stopped earning money, rather than loosing, if all of you go on strike.

Therefore, as WorkChoices severely constrains union's power, and encouraging individual contracts between employees and employers, it seems group (2) will suffer most of the damage -- if the economy is bad that forces the bosses to take actions. Group (3) appears to be vulnerable all the time anyway, or maybe I am just agnostic as I have never been in these positions to experience what they were like.

I guess most high tech workers can be filed in group (1). There has never been a collective bargaining power (ever heard of IT worker union?), for the almost 8 years of working experience I had in IT. Every job I took, negotiating individual contracts were taken for granted. IR reforms would bring very minimal impact -- not something I will notice.

I guess with all these voices against WorkChoices, we are just afraid of dodgy bosses having too much bargaining power and abuse the system. People were afraid that they might loose their family time, their awarded salary, their annual leave, etc. At the same time, the idea behind WorkChoices, putting more power behind the employers, is also trying to stop dodgy employees abusing the system, and hopefully helping the economy along the way.

Vivian talked to a small retail shop owner this week, asking how her business is going. Being a Christian who wants to abide God's Word, she honoured all the rules and regulations to pay salaries according to the system, and subsequently made loss every month, as the standard rate for the unskilled labours is just not bearable. However, that does not stop dodgy employees to take advantage of her good will.

And we all have heard stories about how union in a major Australian airline has cost that company. It sucks to be their boss, knowing your pilots, engineers and flight attendants can all strike at will, and none of your planes can be flying.

It turns out, the sinfulness of men makes a simple employer-employee relationship on this side of fall not as enjoyable as it should. No, union is not evil. Nor is WorkChoices. But our dodgy sinfulness.


Ephesians 6:5-9 (English Standard Bible)

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.