Whose soft option?

Wednesday, July 24, 1996

Voluntary redundancy is the soft option for employers, but not for workers. In a work-based society, people even younger than 45 years are being placed on the scrap heap. The difference from past sackings is that workers are paid to sack themselves.

Public and private sector employers are paying billions of dollars for the political and industrial soft option in sacking workers. In the government sector, the savings facilitate budget cuts. In the private sector the savings become an instant profit windfall: retrenchments mean more productivity from better technologies.

Rupert Murdoch is thought to have financed his venture into US television from sackings when he set up his Wapping plant in London's outskirts.

His use of computer technology in subediting and the pre-printing process allowed him to produce his papers with about 6000 fewer people. This large labour cost reduction, while revenue remained intact, means a boost of$150 million every year.

Tens of thousands of Australian workers no longer share the wealth produced. It ends up in fewer hands. The inequality is changing the power balance, leaving workers and the community with less control over key causes of change.

Productivity and wealth are being concentrated and used to enrich a few at the expense of greater social and economic insecurity for many. Some things about the economic system never change.
— Frank Barbaro