According to a statement released by COSBOA CEO Peter Strong, the government plans to attack many of the biggest unions and employer associations, stripping them of what he labels “easy money”.
He says the Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, has announced that funds designed to provide redundancy pay and income protection for workers would be used for this purpose and not channelled off to unions and associations for other purposes.
“Good thing and about time,” Mr Strong said. “Workers need protection and the biggest unions are not providing that protection.
“Let me be clear: a democracy cannot exist without unions, but they must be good, honest unions. The great majority of unions in Australia are just that: love them or hate them, they’re doing their job in looking after the worker.
“It’s the biggest unions that are the problem. This has reached the point where those big unions are giving all unions a bad name. A recent survey by the OECD of 35 countries showed Australia is fifth lowest when it comes to trust in unions. That is unfair on the small unions, but it does reflect the damage done by the big end of union town. Sad but true, Australians don’t trust unions.”
Mr Strong likened the larger unions and associations to failed regimes.
“It’s these big unions that seem to be practising the dark arts of some of the failed regimes of the cold war,” he said. “One example is the Transport Workers Union which has applied illegal black bans on deliveries to businesses where the owner has made a public comment it doesn’t like – Sunday penalty rates and tax cuts being the two main issues.
“The union has decided that no one can make public statements it doesn’t like. If this does happen, then the businessperson and those around him or her, including any employees, will be forced out of business and out of work. That is suppression of free speech.
“Another example is the ‘C’ part of the CFMEU [‘Construction’]. It seems that the FMEU [‘Forest, Mining and Energy Union’] part is there to gather funds to pay fines imposed on the ‘C’ part for a lot of illegal activity. Seems the ‘C’, not the ‘FMEU’ will pick and choose which laws to follow and have enough funds to pay the piffling fines they receive so they can continue to break the law.
“A third example is the retail union, the SDA [Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association]. This union is running a campaign to keep Sunday penalty rates high while, over the past six years, it has negotiated for low, or even no, penalty rates for weekend workers in the retail and hospitality industries. It achieved an increase in the base rate of pay, but even with this increase we find in one agreement that some 60 per cent of workers have ended up with lower pay than they would have received under the award.
“This would be common across all other agreements. Why would it do this to its members? Well, in return, the employers involved basically coerced employees to join the union. The union then pays back to the employers 10 per cent of all union fees collected from those employees.”
Mr Strong noted that “smaller unions who have integrity should form a new organisation named the Council of Small Unions of Australia”.