Your job according to HoWARd
Sunday July 31st 2005, 10:39 am


image: Bill Leak for The Australian

HoWARd’s proposed industrial relations "reforms" can only be viewed as enhancements to the workplace in the eyes of employers. Cutting paid holidays, lunchtimes, ‘tea’ or ‘smoko’ breaks and removing entitlements to contest unfair dismissal in 80% of Australian workplaces is where he’s going.

Workers have next to no rights in the USA. In general, Americans get 2 weeks paid holidays per year for the first 5 years on the job and perhaps 3 weeks per year between 5 and 10 years service. There is no protection against unfair dismissal in the USA, conveniently meaning few people survive 5 years on the job anymore.

The environment is known as ‘employment at will,’ where the employer can hire/fire or the employee can work/quit, ‘at will,’ with or without any notice- or just cause. Somehow, this arrangement qualifies in the minds of business-biased American legislators as ‘equal,’ despite the fact that one is in truly dire straits without a job in the USA.

There is no national healthcare system in America; you must buy your own health insurance for yourself and your family or negotiate it to be provided as a condition of employment. Unemployment benefits are very strictly limited to 60 months worth of payment in your employment lifetime. Politicians commonly demonise recipients of welfare payments and legislate for its abolition, despite genuine need. Potential workers are over a barrel- and must take what is offered these days. A little untraceable collusion between major employers’ HR departments and wages are forced right down.

HoWARd wants to establish free trade agreements with China and other southeast Asian nations. The only way Australia will be able to compete in such a globalised economic landscape is if labour costs in Australia are within striking distance of wages paid in those nations. HoWARd will argue that free trade will stimulate business, causing wage rises in Asian nations, bringing them into line with those in Australia. However, Australian wages and worker protections- and thus average Australian living standards- will necessarily have to fall.

NAFTA has certainly not benefitted American workers. In specific example, General Motors once had massive manufacturing plants in Flint, Michigan. The instant NAFTA was signed, GM moved operations to Matamoros, Mexico, where non-union workers wages are right about 30% (or MUCH less) of what GM had to pay American workers under UAW contracts. Flint is now somewhere between ghost town and war zone, with hundreds of abandoned homes boarded up and derelict. Young men in Flint have few economic alternatives other than crime or joining the US military. Matamoros has almost hopeless levels of pollution due to near non-existent Mexican enforcement of environmental regulations. Mexican workers have little protection against unsafe conditions and are frequently injured on the job, mainly due to safety deficiencies.

The shafting of the American working class started with ‘Reaganomics‘ in the early 1980s. This ‘trickle-down’ theorem postulated that if business was unfettered by government regulation, all ships would rise, including that of ‘Joe the Janitor.’ ‘Reaganomics,’ with the added aspect of privatisation of formerly national industries was adopted by Margaret Thatcher in the UK, with disastrous results for workers in the coal, steel and transportation industries.

The ‘supply-side’ theory is fundamentally flawed as it presumes that an employer who saves money on taxes, worker safety and employee entitlements will pass the savings on in greater wages. Ain’t so, folks. The employer will either pocket the money or reinvest to grow the company’s production and sales. More people may be employed in the short term to support increased production, but wages do not rise. Frequently, businesses temporarily enjoy a growth spurt, but when business levels off, employees are retrenched and business facilities are closed. This is known as a ‘flexible’ working environment, in the eyes of John HoWARd- but it’s only flexible for the very wealthy.

Private health insurance, laissez faire capitalism and your labour as a convenient, disposable commodity- sounds a lot like America, doesn’t it?

HoWARd wants his fat biz friends to succeed and have that success ‘trickle down’ to you, while you lose your holiday pay and reasonable working conditions- including a right to contest unfair dismissal. Medicare has been in HoWARd’s gunsights for many years in favour of a private user-pays healthcare system, where provider costs cannot be controlled. The arrangement doesn’t work well anywhere else in the western world- why would it work in Australia?

A little socialism never hurt anyone.


8 Comments so far
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In your link to in this posting I read the “what we stand for” section. It states “We have regular meetings where we try to apply a Marxist analysis to political questions today.” What do they mean by this Weez? Isn’t Communism based on Marxism? We have our local representative calling us “communists”. Do you think he’s confused with the meaning of “communism”?

Comment by Ray 07.31.05 @ 12:02 pm

Now you know why I said “…a little socialism.”

Pure communism is an incentive killer. If ‘to each according to his needs’ is the basis, Joe gets paid the same as Jim even though Jim may be a slacker. There’s no motivation for Joe to work any harder or better than Jim.

Pure capitalism does not recognise the value of humans, rather treats labour like a replaceable commodity, not simply a by-product of people’s real lives.

Pure executions of political theory rarely work. All require some abridgement to make them practical. Democratic socialism is somewhere between communism and capitalism. Some balance in society must be maintained between human rights and potential for profit.

The Marxist analysis you cite is not necessarily an application of Marxist values in whole. To my mind, it is more a test to see if a particular scenario is benefical to the worker or not.

In the USA, the word “socialism” is equivocal to “communism” in most places you go, commonly on the sort of etymological basis you suggest. It’s a bit of a red herring, often caused by an incomplete understanding of the successful applications of democratic socialism in various countries around the world, notably Canada and Australia.

Comment by weezil 07.31.05 @ 12:15 pm

re the cartoon: Saturday I added my body to people who gathered in the main street of Ballarat to protest the IR crap. The Trades Hall in Brat is very very old and lovely. We gathered at the 8 Hour Day monument. Ther were eloquent passionate speakers – Andrew McCallum from ACOSS, our state Labor lady rep and our federal Labor lady rep, a catholic bigwig (the Rat is Very Mick) a lawyer in his lawyer costume, and the Labor crowd comprised people with poodle dogs which I wouldnae thought were the rabble pooch of choice, and a lot of heavy AMWU guys and all the others with their union banners. Dear Weezil I want you to know that every time anybody mentioned hoWARd, I yelled out “Lying Sack Of Shit’ just for you.
anyhow, there was media and betacams and plenty of photographers and point being, that in the middle of this, one of them left (in the middle of an mpassioned speech?) he had been near me and I noticed his techwiz camera and felt it did not go with his AMWU-type outfit. I say ‘type’ because it was Not Quite Right. too clean, no ciggies, tats, no 2 day growth etc – he was a cop or ASIO or an INFIDEL that’s fer sure. just like the 1950’s.
There may have been a knock at my door since, but I wouldnae heard it as I had Bob Seger Nightmoves up loud and on continuous loop.

Comment by Brownie 07.31.05 @ 4:40 pm

Wave ya sign! Raise a little hell!

BTW, ‘lying sack of shit’ is the local moniker for the Federal Attorney General (or F.A.G. as we sometimes call him…. no offence intended to all those fags out there… :D)

Comment by weezil 07.31.05 @ 5:16 pm

“lying sack of shit” is perfect for HoWARd (and Ruddock, and Bush).
Keep yelling!
Curiously, ‘unflushable turd’ is what I find myself yelling at G-SAVE Johnny.

Comment by suki 07.31.05 @ 6:55 pm

Hi Weez, been lurking MGK since its birth, and congrats on the now fully-fledged querty!

Interesting co-incidence that prompts my first post – just got hold of a battered copy of John Pilger’s “Hidden Agendas” (1998) at the Balmain markets, and right there, on page 77:

*BBC Shortwave Broadcasts, July 1997.

So looks like hoWARd’s IR agenda has been fermenting these past eight years and is now freshly-kneaded and set for a final rise before baking. Hopefully, though, protests by employees, Unions and some pollies will keep the oven unlit. (See that “South Australia is to join other states in a High Court challenge to the Federal Government’s industrial relations changes. )

I’m ready with my bucket of ice,

Comment by Booti 08.03.05 @ 1:10 pm

ooops, the whole quote went west! Musta abused the blockquote html, 🙂

““On his return from the United States in 1997, Keating’s successor, John Howard, said how impressed he was with America’s ‘low unemployment rate’ based on ‘lower wages’ and minimal unemployment benefits. He said what Australia needed was a lower minimum wage and reduced dole payments. He made no mention of the fact that with a third of the Australian population living on welfare benefits as the main item of family income, with almost half of males aged between 24 and 44 receiving close to poverty wages, Australia was already embracing the American Way. ‘We’ve got to meet the exciting challenge,’ he said, ‘of the new world being shaped around us.’”*

Comment by Booti 08.03.05 @ 1:13 pm

the lower wages Lil Johnnie applauds, is the reason we have to TIP everybody everywhere over there; and, one way to ‘meet the exciting challenge’ is to have 9 year olds dealing crack which is what goes with the American Way. for gods sake.

Comment by brownie 08.03.05 @ 11:42 pm

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