Federal

Jan 29, 2018

If the rail workers can’t do it, when can we actually strike?

The defusing of Sydney rail-worker's threat to strike has raised once again the question of how free our right to strike really is.

Charlie Lewis ā€” Journalist

Charlie Lewis

Journalist

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus

The most immediate impact of the decision last Thursday by the Fair Work Commission to suspend all industrial action relating to negotiations between the New South Wales government and Rail, Bus and Tram Union for six weeks, was that a 24-hour strike meant for today cannot go ahead. More broadly, according the Australian Council of Trade Unions, it has the effect of demonstrating that the right to strike in Australia is "nearly dead". How true is that?

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33 comments

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33 thoughts on “If the rail workers can’t do it, when can we actually strike?

  1. shea mcduff

    Media reporting is a problem with public perception of strikes.
    The MSM usually emphasise as much as possible the disruption to the public, work days lost, loss to the economy blah blah.
    Yet strikes are comparatively trivial in their impact on the economy.
    Workplace safety is largely ignored [except, strangely, when it involves pink batts] and the figures below show why.
    ABS
    2015
    http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/mf/6324.0
    “Of the 531,800 persons who experienced a work-related injury or illness:
    . 61% had some time off work (62% of males and 60% of females).
    .Approximately 7% took off part of a day or shift
    .23% took one to four days off (20% of males and 27% of females)
    .29% had five days or more off work and 2% had not returned to work since the injury or illness occurred
    .5% were no longer working in the job in which the work-related injury or illness occurred. Of these, 31% left because of their workplace injury or illness .”

    I tried to find the stats for workdays lost from injury/disease but was unable to do so but from memory they run at about ten times days lost from strikes at their historical ‘worst’.

  2. Dog's Breakfast

    Recovering the right to strike is an essential weapon the unions have to regain. The loss of the right to strike and record levels of immigration are unquestionably the most direct influences on stagnant wages at a time of record profits. I know that Michael Keating made a grandiose attempt to explain away stagnant wages as a product of technological change, based on a World Bank or IMF report, which all relied on third and fourth layers of knock-on effects to explain it, while dismissing the obvious impact of a loss of capacity to push your case through strike action and the capacity of employers to look overseas when they weren’t getting workers at sub-standard wage levels. Kyle H’s comments sound like academic explanations based in the world of economics, a field of study noted for never being right, even in explaining phenomena retrospectively.

    1. kyle Hargraves

      “Holy hell Kyle, we must be getting close now. Labour is tied up in knots and capital is stealing the furniture. How can you be so sanguine”

      Its about conserving energy or minimising the expansion of entropy D.B. As noted but more than one contributor to this topic industrial action by any party is manipulated by the media which has the capacity to either “wind-up” or “hose-down” the flock as it pleases.

      “Recovering the right to strike is an essential weapon the unions have to regain.”

      The right to strike does exist but not as if existed previously. Those conditions, as I have pointed out, will never return. Moreover the press has the capacity to “hammer” the Unions for greed etc. but leaves the AMA or the Law Society (the two strongest Unions in the country) amongst others alone. The game is “over” D.B.

      To reiterate : the task of Labour, nowadays, is to anticipate and formulate policy for the future and nature of work (5-30 years away) but not one union or Labour MP is up to the task.

      “The loss of the right to strike and record levels of immigration are unquestionably the most direct influences on stagnant wages at a time of record profits.”

      That statement, as I have inferred, is just NOT true. The matter is considerably
      more complex. If Crikey wishes to offer the space I’m only too happy to engage.

      “Kyle H’s comments sound like academic explanations based in the world of economics, a field of study noted for never being right, even in explaining phenomena retrospectively”

      it seems to me that the readers deserve definitve examples as to my being “incorrect” – and not a three line over generalisation (with all due respect).

      “By George, that is the most hopeful and naive statement I have read in a long time.”

      [re. a previous post] Actually, D.B, its right on the money (literally). Marx, indeed communists in general, at the date of publication of Volume 1 (indeed at the time of the publication of the Manifesto) assumed (that word) that capitalism would “break” in the most advanced countries BECAUSE the workers would encounter maximum oppression (and alienation), comparatively, to other less developed countries. BECAUSE “capital” could reform itself the “revolution” did not occur in “advanced” countries. In point of fact it occurred (world wide) in the least developed countries. The changes to I.R law (in Australia) attest to the initial assertion.

      “Because capitalism has avoided revolutions in the past, they will always reform themselves in the nick of time.”

      I’m not sure about the word “always” (it has the same properties as the word “never”) but it is most definitely the case that the Right has out-witted the Left over the last 40 years (or a tad less). “Capital” is very clear as to its objectives; Labour, by comparison has a clue (unfortunately); can’t get to the objectives without reference to the personalities. Very sad. The press doesn’t help and has never helped. Glance over The Times from about 1832 when you get a moment.

      > As they say, past performance is no guarantee of future returns.

      once again (sorry) you could not be more wrong. Past performance is a rather good predictor of future “returns”. The correlation is utilised by everyone from management consultants to electors of governments. One might include sport selectors; e.g. “top” teams in the AFL.

      To continue to assess IR as it “might” have been in the 50s-80s is the blunder of Labour. Its time for Labour to become “real” and I take the procrastination in this respect personally.

      1. AR

        In case there is someone who reads Kyle’s stuff – seriously, in full? – for other than the delightful MrsM’s work, does it show a passing resemblance to the Seldom Missed the Lesser Spotted gNormless’ output, munching on Mogadon/Prozac sandwiches?

        1. MAC TEZ

          G’day AR, I’d say similar but different.
          There was seldom any substance to the somewhat more succinct snide snipes of NH,whereas there’s some worth and weight within KH’s Wide World of Words once you’ve waded through it.
          That said, I can’t recall NH threatening another reader with a baseball bat (not a good look Kyle)!
          I think KH just loves a chat (and a bat?!?).
          The commentary contributions of “Craig” (who’s slipstreamed into the comments off the back of a couple of your recent efforts)
          is of more concern in terms of content… IMHO.

          1. AR

            Ta, Mac – Craig I seem to have missed, so I shall an eye out.
            So, do you use hip waders or are Wellies adequate to brave the Slough of Kyle?

          2. AR

            “…keep an eye out..”

          3. kyle Hargraves

            As to my own defense the remark is something of an excessive exaggeration although references to baseball bats have appeared with a high prevalence in the pages of Crikey over the years.

            With regard to some of the remarks that I have made, a few (very few) contributors have lost their blocks even resorting to nouns of Nordic/Anglo Saxon origin. Such personages have not provided the least detail in respect of their objections Apparently I (have) succeeded in confronting their prejudices. Others have assumed a more measured approach seeking clarification or justification on various statements or assertions. The latter I don’t mind at all.

            For the benefit of the readership, Crikey is one of the very few publications where the authors may be examined in respect of their presentations; a civilising characteristic of 21st century (print) media.

      2. Dog's Breakfast

        “Those conditions, as I have pointed out, will never return.”

        Thanks Kyle. An outrageous statement based on what? Want to buy a tulip? For how may years will Rupert Murdoch live? The state of media at the moment is not a default position, this is the extreme.

        Your initial position of Marx’s weakness in his analysis of capitalism was actually addressed in the beginning of his thesis. At what point does the frog understand that it is in boiling water?

        The history of humanity is that is does not move in linear fashion, and that revolution is the norm. We must be getting close, the frog is starting to agitate, it knows that things are getting mighty uncomfortable, and that all they weights are on the side of capital. How can you not see that.

        P.S. A study released today indicates a correlation between loss of days lost in strike action and poor wages outcomes. Well blow me down, who’d a thunk it?

        1. kyle Hargraves

          > Thanks Kyle. An outrageous statement based on what?

          that is the kind of question that I enjoy answering but you have more or less provided the answer yourself. Let me take you through your own “analysis” and see where we end up.

          > For how may years will Rupert Murdoch live?
          “nice” rhetorical question but do you think Murdoch is unique or that someone representing similar interests will be unable to replace Murdoch ?

          > The state of media at the moment is not a default position, this is the extreme.

          Paul Marlor Sweezy (1910ā€“2004) made this kind of statement on a quarterly basis for about forty years. If you like correlations (and it seems that you do) there are a few (verifiable) facts, with a bit of leg-work, to consider. Google (to identify one) is more influential than Rockefeller’s Standard Oil ever was. Take a look at (Woodrow Wilson’s statement in 1912 to the effect that “monopoly will always sit at the helm of government”. As an aside, Wilson was a highly educated man; as indeed presidents of the USA were; until Truman – with a steady decline thereafter. Then run a (generalised linear) regression on the Forbes 400 list with dependent variable as revenue and independent variables : # of lobbyists to Congress (from the register), tax paid (from the annual report) and % of capital committed in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Do it well and you might generate some beer money publishing it.

          > The history of humanity is that is does not move in linear fashion
          we are on common ground here!

          > and that revolution is the norm.
          according to Hegel and Marxist thought generally. But the assertion is just too general. There is such an entity as hegemony and that hegemony has the upper hand in regard to the management of Amazon, FB, and any number of the multi-national pharmaceutical companies (with revenues that exceed the GDP of many countries).

          “We must be getting close, the frog is starting to agitate, it knows that things are getting mighty uncomfortable, and that all they weights are on the side of capital. How can you not see that. ”

          wishful thinking D.B; at least in regard to the Capital-Labour issue. While left wing idiots were ranting about the destruction of the system in the late 60s to early 70s (there were a few left wing people who took a contrary view) the Internet (as we know it – ARPANET if you like) was (being) sponsored by the US government. It (the net) was NEVER a product of the free market anymore than were the railways at the beginning of the 19th century. When the pots on the stove were bubbling away (late 1890s for the railways and late 1990s for the net) THEN the market took an interest but NOT prior. Similarly for the operating system that “runs” the internet – viz. UNIX. Actually UNIX
          has many variants but the two most common are BSD (that Apple uses for MacOS) and Linux. Add to that all the major players have their version of UNIX (e.g. SUN, HP, etc) yet UNIX was the product of an initial project commissioned by the Department of Defense. At this point we could throw in the gift of GPS but such may be a bit of a diversion for these pages.

          After all of that, take a look at Gordon, R. “The Rise and Fall of American Growth”. It is an account of the living standards in the USA since the Civil War. To date its right on mark (and its not pretty). Having undertaken about 50% of the above, or perhaps a bit less, the penny will not fail to drop D.B.

          “P.S. A study released today indicates a correlation between loss of days lost in strike action and poor wages outcomes. Well blow me down, who’d a thunk it?”

          Ok – where is the link. Are there any data. Is there any way to confirm the equation that was constructed (presumably) from the regression ? Or is the “study” just another pile of bullshit consuming a tree? Let’s take a look. Facts win D.B. It may require considerable time and patience but the facts will win!

          We do agree on one aspect : it seems to me. There is going to be a major social collision but not in the economic arena or the IR arena per se. The very powerful
          forces that take their reference in a variant of Post Modernism have an interest in peddling the PC SJW crap which, quite literally, is becoming (if not having become) a tyranny. The entire P. Modernist movement has been hijacked (with P.M. compliance) for interests of big business and the political elite. It is NOT for nothing that an increasing percentage of the wealth of Oz or the USA or the world, year by year, is owned and controlled by a diminishing percentage of people (to present one illustration) of how the hijacking is operating.Then add all the security legislation that is being pumped through our own parliament (with about 5% of the House actually realising what is going on) and the larger picture becomes evident.

          Keep in mind that P.Modernism began as a half-truth in the first instance but has transformed itself into a marvelousinstrument for social control – where everyone has a valid view (all views are equal) which prevents (i.e its objective is), de facto, the
          knowledgeable obtaining the upper hand in any subject. The idiocy of the doctrine speaks for itself but its effects to date are very real.

          The cancer of Post Modernism, at the cost of empiricism, is our enemy D.B. Until P.Modernism is given the tablet nothing else matters. Its a pity that the first world has got to this point. As information has increased the command of ones language
          (in every country) has decreased – so the noddy-classes can fell better about themselves and might not feel inferior as to their ignorance. Consider a common remark on FB of late : “every person’s opinion is to be valued” – or something rather close.
          Jesus!. Now, D.B., have I addressed the initial question to your satisfaction ?
          (kind regards – I do mean it!)

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