A study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on labour relations in 26 developed economies, including Australia, has confirmed that workers’ real wages have fallen because labour market deregulation has “gone too far”.
The IMF researchers noted the “statistically significant, economically large and robust negative effect of deregulation” on labour’s share of national income, with workers’ share of national income falling drastically from 1975 to 2015.
The Centre For Future Work has calculated that the decline in income share that has come about as a result of pro-business deregulation costs working people more than $16,000 a year each.
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Sally McManus responded to the report by saying: “When big business undermines workers’ rights and governments give even more power to big business, the system becomes unbalanced and workers’ pay goes down.
“We need to change the rules so that working people get our fair share of the wealth we produce.
“Right now big business has too much power and corporate bosses and wealthy shareholders are taking more for themselves and leaving us struggling.
“But there are clear solutions to restore the balance. We need to adopt the bargaining system that operates across most of the developed world.
“Working people need the ability to negotiate across sectors and industries and win the pay rises they need.”
The ACTU is currently running a nationwide “Change the Rules” campaign to push for higher wages and changes in federal legislation to restore the right of unions to carry out industrial action — something that is severely restricted at present.
As part of this campaign, thousands of union members have been participating in a national door-knock campaign during September to explain the desperate need for pay rises.
While petitions and doorknocking are important, it is the mobilisation of working people in mass actions, such as rallies and work stoppages, that is needed to give the campaign real momentum.
We must learn the lessons of the successful 2005–07 Your Rights At Work campaign against the anti-worker Work Choices legislation.
The nationally coordinated mass campaign involved work stoppages, rallies and regional events organised by local committees, and played a major role in bringing down the John Howard Coalition government.
But the campaign was folded after the fall of Howard, and the incoming Kevin Rudd Labor government failed to fully repeal Work Choices. Instead, Rudd introduced the Fair Work Act — “Work Choices Lite”.
In government, the Coalition has used the Fair Work Act as a base from which to accelerate its attacks on the trade union movement.
If the labour movement is to win genuine wage rises and repeal anti-union laws, it must not only work to defeat the current Scott Morrison Coalition government.
It should also commit to mobilising against any incoming Labor government to demand it repeal all anti-union legislation.
Green Left Weekly stands in solidarity with the union movement’s demand of wage rises and the abolition of anti-union legislation. We consistently campaign in support of these goals and provide regular coverage to workers' struggles around these issues.
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