Crikey Sept 19 WA business doesn’t fear unions, just a union

To the west for business and pleasure – and confirmation that business’ fear of Kevin Rudd’s industrial relations changes is real and focussed, a factor in the Ruddster’s act not playing quite so powerfully in WA.

But further discussion finds business not so much scared of unions as a union – Joe McDonald’s CFMEU.

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In a state where over-award payments are the norm, where the shortage of workers and skills is by far the biggest problem, where the ads on the FM radio station include a plea from Rio Tinto for folks to visit their Make It Big jobs expo at the Perth Convention Centre this Friday and Saturday, in such a state employers are already offering employees plenty.

Yet major companies quake at the thought of Rudd’s IR changes allowing McDonald and his comrades to walk onto any site, whether or not any worker is a union member or wants to be a member.

One senior executive said McDonald and the hard core of the West Australian CFMEU are simply very good at intimidating workers.

“They’ll march onto a site, point at something and declare it unsafe, tell the workforce there’s a 24-hour strike and ask who’s against it,” the executive said.

Companies dolefully point to the massive cost overruns of the Perth-Mandurah rail line, citing that as a prime example of the sort of union bastardry that could wreck unsustainable havoc on numerous resources and infrastructure projects.

The shortage of workers and materials is already pushing construction project inflation well into double figures – and that’s with AWAs and no CFMEU. Employers complain that t’othersiders don’t understand how contrary the WA CFMEU is.

“There’s the hard core of the old BLF still operating here,” one said.

Labor has hopes of perhaps winning two seats in WA. Joe McDonald is not helping.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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