On July 23, the Australian published extracts from a leaked internal Australian Council of Trade Unions report that described unionisation in the private sector as being at “crisis levels”. The report, authored by ACTU assistant secretary Chris Walton, warns unions against any expectation of a “golden age” should Labor be elected at the forthcoming federal election, and proposes continuation of a levy on all members to build a war chest with which to rebuild the movement.
The ACTU report estimates that union membership is at 15.2% in the private sector and warns unions against expectations that a federal Labor government would re-regulate the labour market. “There will be no return of closed shop, secondary boycotts or compulsory arbitration”, the Australian quoted the report as saying. “We still face decentralised bargaining, employer hostility and international competition. Our industries and sectors will continue to change, and the workforce trends towards casual and part-time work do not look likely to reverse.” The ACTU’s sober internal assessment of the promise of a returned Labor government contrasts starkly with its resolutely uncritical attitude to Labor in public. The ACTU has taken every sell-out by Kevin Rudd of Labor’s industrial platform in its stride — from restrictions on the right to strike, to bans on pattern bargaining, to Labor’s promise to keep the draconian Australian Building and Construction Commission and allow individual contracts (AWAs) to run to 2013. In a statement released during the ALP national conference on April 28, the ACTU’s president, Sharan Burrow, said: “The industrial relations policy announced by Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard today will give great hope to working families because it means that under a Labor Government basic rights at work will be protected.”
From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #719 1 August 2007.