So what exactly gets up employers’ goat about union officials visiting workplaces? When this issue is raised, stories are often told about intimidatory behaviour on building sites. But, no such justification has been offered this time. The only actual incident I can recall as having been discussed when this proposal was first advanced was the temerity of Finance Sector Union organisers talking to workers in a bank’s call centre. Supposedly employers are crying out for a stop to this sort of thing. As the economy heads south, and the twin deficits rear, the Government’s only idea of micro-economic reform and productivity growth appears to be more restrictive IR laws…
Whatever happened to the fine liberal principle of “freedom of association”?
The Federal Government employs a grand total of four Industrial Inspectors to ensure that employers comply with federal awards. In Queensland law, union officials have a right to inspect wages records. This is a useful deterrent to illegal employment practices.
The real justification for using the Corporations power in this manner to over-ride state law appears to be this –
If passed, the Bill would be the Howard Government’s first step towards a hostile federal takeover of state industrial relations systems.
Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said yesterday the Bill was “a way in which we can bring about more harmony within the industrial relations system within the bounds of our constitutional powers.”
Harmony is an odd choice of words in this context. And what about that other foundational value of the Liberal Party, federalism?
ELSEWHERE: Red Peter has supplied in comments a link to an excellent article in the New York Review of Books which paints a picture of what a workplace without unions looks like.