New Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus’ Wednesday interview on 7.30 — in which she flatly stated she didn’t see a problem with breaking unjust laws — continues to be a boon for tut-tutting columnists. In today’s Age, Mark Kenny described the comments as “out-dated,” “politically inept” and an “enormous stick” with which the Coalition can beat Bill Shorten. Meanwhile, the Herald Sun said the comments were “advocating lawlessness and protecting some of the biggest thugs and criminals ever to carry union cards” and illustrated that workers and the union movement deserved better than McManus. And The Australian –– having dedicated its front page to McManus and her thoughts on body hair, among other things — saw fit to publish an editorial, a Cut & Paste column and a David Crowe opinion piece, as well as four letters to the editor about her comments, three of them condemning them.

While all these three publications have shown a clear commitment to the rule of law as it applies to industrial relations, it seems strange that none have mentioned what appears to be an actual illegal strike currently happening in Melbourne.

According to a report on the ABC, the staff at Nant’s Melbourne whisky bar have walked off the job, claiming they have not been paid thousands of dollars in wages, superannuation and other entitlements. According to the article, a letter signed by most of the workforce was presented to management last week that said:

“We cannot continue to strive to achieve the future we see for this bar if we perceive no support from management, and feel our basic entitlements, such as regular pay … are not being honoured.”

As anyone condemning McManus surely knows, striking just because you haven’t been paid is illegal. Surely this is just the kind of “reckless assault on [the] rule of law” that the Oz warned us of? And yet not a word about it. Perhaps a quiet strike by a small workforce over an employer’s failure to provide basic entitlements doesn’t quite fit the anarchist union thug narrative, even if it’s illegal?

Peter Fray

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