Academic discusses IR laws, unions


On November 11, around 50 people attended a public meeting at Unions NSW on building unions under a Labor government, organised by new left-wing "think-tank" Catalyst.

King's College law professor Keith Ewing outlined the failure of the union movement to capitalise on the past 10 years of New Labour in Britain, and drew parallels between Australia and Britain.

Ewing was critical of New Labour's neoliberal policies, but he also said that unions shared some of the blame for the fact that after 10 years of a New Labour government, union membership is dropping and collective bargaining coverage has slipped to 33%, down from 36% in 1997.

Ewing also called for a return to national and sectoral bargaining, rather than enterprise bargaining, arguing "the higher the level at which bargaining takes place, the higher the level of bargaining penetration".

Industrial law professor Ron McCallum also spoke. He criticised the ALP's "Forward With Fairness" for not doing enough to protect workers' rights, and argued that Fair Work Australia — the proposed replacement for the Australian Industrial Relations Commission — will face a constitutional minefield that will make it unworkable within five years.