WHAT CHOICES? June 5, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Category to be ascribed.
The SMH in its editorial today (“Spotlight on IR Changes” – A high-risk gambit for Howard) attempts to explain the rationale for the introduction of the WorkChoices legislation, and they may be correct, but then again I cannot tell. The editorial had it that:
In theory, Mr Howard should be confident his initiative will succeed. Union membership is declining, and more members of the workforce are individual contractors, reliant on their own skills and market position for what they can charge. Increasingly, those in employment are on individual contracts or are working flexible hours to suit their needs. The old concept of a working life spent with one employer has long gone, while the steady transfer of established jobs to India and China means new jobs will tend to come from nimble entrepreneurs, quick to get a niche product or service onto the market. More start-ups, and more jobs, will be forthcoming if the entrepreneurs do not have to saddle themselves with expensive, protected staff.
It is passing strange that the demands of the new entrepreneurial economy were so poorly catered for by the old system, and the principal backers of the new arrangement were, as I understand it, the Business Council of Australia. Leaving aside the coy assumption that the increasing casualization of the labor market is highly desired by employees, the editorial raised an obvious question:
Why meddle with a system that, as Howard admits, has produced higher wages, more jobs, low inflation, the lowest recorded rate of industrial disputes, and longest economic expansion since the gold rushes?
One thing that bugs me in particular is the use of orwellian language, for example the so called “Fair Pay Commission”, by those for whom apparently spin and lies have become second nature, and have long since lost any sense of democratic accountability or ethics. And those who will say anything, as can be easily demonstrated (This comment has become somewhat of a broken record).
I put a comment in identical terms on John Quiggin’s Monday Message Board, but judging from past experience I do not expect any response. This is an issue that affects most of us directly, and many of us should be better informed, but the fact that this is not so, reflects in my opinion the withering of the democratic process. In the passage of this legislation parliament and the people, via the WorkChoices propaganda were treated with contempt.
In The Guradian, Madeleine Bunting discusses the disconnect that has developed between the Labor Party elite and their supporters. In this context she notes:
The key for Labour is to revisit the concept that Tony Blair dug out of the sociology textbooks and used to great effect. He seized upon Anthony Giddens’s ideas of rapid globalisation. Huge change was sweeping through every area of life, particularly the labour market, it was claimed. Blair used this to outmanoeuvre anyone who didn’t endorse his idea of “modernisation”: they were characterised as dinosaurs while he was surfing the wave of tumultuous change all around us.
But this story of huge change was only part of the picture – what about all those lives shaped by humdrum, which haven’t been changing? Jon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham, does a brilliant job in the most recent edition of Renewal, demolishing all the exuberant guff about the “knowledge economy”. In fact, there has been only a little growth in skilled, knowledge-based jobs and much more in unskilled cleaning, care, security and sales assistants. So much for this great wave of change. Even by 2010, 78% of jobs will not require a degree.
Why is this so important? Because it punctures the myths about meritocracy and it belies all the speeches about opportunity. The lived experience of the British electorate bears little relationship to the reality that Labour’s political elite has been pronouncing upon. The more a Labour politician talks about opportunity, the more a substantial number of voters are left scratching their heads and wondering what opportunity, and if it’s just them who are losers. Or even worse, they wonder if it is just their ethnic group, or their housing estate, that has been the loser.
Let us suppose the British statistics work here, and now without even award conditions. How could job satisfaction, and not productivity and or job creation have anything to do with economic management?