Sticking to your guns can often backfire

31-08-2010
Let’s hear it for union boss Paul Howes.
 
Finally we have a union official who is prepared to face reality – industrial relations reform holds the key to the future of manufacturing in Australia.
 
Mr Howes has proposed that unions enter into a new partnership with the Coalition Federal Government and business to rein in high wages and lift productivity.
 
This new spirit of co-operation is reminiscent of the Hawke-Keating government's highly successful accord with unions in the 1980s.
 
Not surprisingly, Howes’ comments have put many of his comrades’ noses out of joint.
 
He has not only broken ranks with the union movement, but also the Labour opposition who have been strongly campaigning against any dilution of current workplace agreements.
 
They have rejected out of hand any suggestion that Tony Abbott would be interested in working with the trade union movement.
 
But a bi-partisan working relationship is not only be in the best interests of the manufacturing sector – it’s in the best interests of Australia.
 
It comes at a time when manufacturing is facing many its toughest challenges.
 
Recent announcements of closures and job losses in the car industry and more recently SPC Ardmona are
testimony to that.
 
Mr Howes agreed with what many employers have been saying for many months: “Our industrial relations system is dragging us down.”
 
Mr Howes rightly points out that powerful unions are pricing themselves out of the market with unsustainably high wages, claiming that unions have “overreached” in some wage claims.
 
In a recent address to the National Press Club he said corrupt union officials were ''traitors'' to the cause and that endless conflict was economically disastrous.
 
A new bi-partisan industrial relations policy would not only help to lift productivity – it would save jobs.
 
By sticking to their guns on workplace reform, the union movement has jeopardized the futures of the people it has been so desperately trying to protect – workers.
 
An overhaul of our industrial relations policy is long overdue. Let’s bring it on!
 
It's also no surprise that our PM has welcomed the Howes proposal.
 
Mr Abbott says he wants to maximise Australian jobs and pay.
 
But quite rightly he adds that to be among the best paid workers in the world we have to be among the most productive workers.

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