Carlo's Corner: Why have unions when fair-minded bosses are willing to email mass dismissal notices?

August 7, 2015
A Hutchison Ports worker contemplates his future.

What do working people in a country like Australia need with trade unions or legal protections when employers in this country are so thoughtful as to email their workers at midnight to tell them they were sacked, as Hutchison Ports kindly did on August 6 to nearly 100 port workers in Sydney and Brisbane?

And not just emailed. They knew full well their workers would be unlikely to check their emails so late at night as they would almost certainly be sleeping in preparation for the next day's shift needed to pay their mortgages. So the good people at the multi-billion dollar stevedoring company sent the workers texts telling them to check their email.

They didn't have to do that. Texts cost money. Some Hutchison Ports manager has just totally blown their prepaid credit sending out a group text alerting nearly 100 people that their futures have been torn to shreds so the company can add a zero or two to their balance sheet. It is these little touches that bring home how well working people are treated in this country.

It is just as well all this shows how unions are not needed, as it just so happens that the sackings include all known union activists, including every Maritime Union of Australia delegate, union committee member and health and safety representative.

You can see why the federal government is so keen to undo what remains of workers' rights to collectively organise and bargain in this country.

Why should bosses, so willing to treat their workforce with such thoughtful kindness, be subjected to the sort of union tyranny exposed by the Royal Commission into Trade Unions?

Some people have dismissed the royal commission as just a witch hunt and political stunt. But some of its findings are truly shocking. For instance, it revealed cases where union organisers had sworn at and generally acted in a quite nasty way to managers in the building industry, which is just horrible.

I mean, sure it is an industry with a horrific record of workplace deaths and injury caused by companies neglecting safety to save money, except where workers are organised enough to enforce safety standards. Sure, construction industry deaths rose by 64% last year coinciding with the Abbott government's offensive against building industry unions. Sure, at most a construction company might be slapped with a fine if found responsible for workers’ dying. But there simply is no excuse for rudeness.

It is about priorities. How can you even consider weighing the mere life of a building worker against a site supervisor's hurt feelings?

So why let bosses be terrorised by unions, like the terrible case of John Lomax, the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union official. Lomax was charged with blackmail for demanding a Canberra building subcontractor sign an enterprise bargaining agreement to guarantee decent wages and working conditions.

It is just horrific, imagine having a union organiser threatening you with industrial action just because you want to undercut industry level wages and not ensure safe and decent conditions for your workers? It is like Stalin's Russia all over again.

This has to stop. There is no need for thuggery to achieve a decent outcome in a country like Australia. In this free-and-fair country, if you want job security and decent pay and conditions, you should do the obvious thing and get elected to federal parliament.

Then you can, like Bronwyn Bishop, entirely legally claim more than $800,000 in expenses in a year. And then when the public outcry forces you to “resign”, actually be technically allowed to keep your position and your $310,000 annual salary, as the Sydney Morning Herald revealed on August 6.

The age of entitlement is over. If these port workers sacked overnight by Hutchison via email did not have the wherewithal to become Speaker of the House of Representatives with its guaranteed comfort and perks-for-life, then really they only have themselves to blame.

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