"The rules that made Australia fair are broken." Sally McManus's call for people to join a union and change the rules.
Sally McManus urges unions to be 'disrupters' to fix neoliberalism's damage to workers
Gareth Hutchens, 26 June 2017, The Guardian
ACTU head says the rich have too much power & the minimum wage no longer keeps people out of poverty.
The head of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has called on Australia’s unionists to begin campaigning hard on the issue of inequality, warning workplace rules must be repaired to reverse the damage to workers caused by three decades of neoliberalism.
Sally McManus, secretary of the ACTU, issued the rallying cry on Monday during her opening address to a three-day union conference in Sydney.
She said “one group of people” had far too much power in Australia – pointing out the richest 1% owned more wealth than the poorest 70% – and old protections for wage workers had been so whittled down that the minimum wage no longer kept people out of poverty.
She said unions must recapture their role as economic “disrupters” with serious power, with secure bargaining positions at the tops of supply chains and “across industries”, so workers could once again be adequately paid for their time and energy.
“It has taken the right 30 years of union bashing and neoliberalism to take us where we are now,” McManus said on Monday. “Inequality is at a 70-year high. Wage growth hasn’t been this low since records starting being kept.
“The rules that were meant to protect our rights are now not strong enough. They need to be rewritten … we need to change the rules so working people have more power.”
McManus’s rallying cry comes a week after the governor of the Reserve Bank, Philip Lowe, urged workers to start demanding greater pay rises from their bosses.
Lowe said there was a “crisis” in real wage growth in Australia and workers ought to realise the relatively low unemployment rate meant they could start asking for a larger share of the nation’s economic pie.
Earlier this month, Paul Dales of Capital Economics warned Australian workers had not seen “one cent” of the extra income generated by recent soaring commodity prices because “it’s all gone into the pocket of business”.
He said data showed the share of national income going to Australian workers was close to a 50-year low.
Bureau of Statistics data show labour’s share of gross domestic product has fallen to 51.5%, down from 54.2% in the third quarter of last year. At the same time, the profit share of GDP has risen from 24.5% to a five-year high of 27.5%.
McManus said on Monday the meagre share of gross domestic product going to workers was part of a bigger problem.
She said wealth and power had become “so unbalanced” in Australia that 678 corporations paid no tax in the most recent financial year on record, and 48 millionaires paid no tax, not even the Medicare levy.
“We need to change the rules to make them pay their fair share of tax,” she said. “We need to change the rules so working people have more power. Surely the answer to the greed of the few is more power for the many.”
She said the only way to achieve a rebalancing of serious power away from bosses towards workers was to convince more Australians of the importance of a strong union movement.
She said Australia’s unions needed to sign up new members and demand politicians change the rules and demand employers “play by them”.
“The pendulum can only swing back when our power is enough to balance theirs,” she said.
“There is a lot of talk about disruption, [with] technology disrupting things,” she said. “But I tell you who the real disrupters are – it is us … the trade union movement, through our organising, has disrupted history, has changed the ‘way things are meant to be’, has pushed those in power off-course and changed history.”