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Document ‘drafted by the devil’? Hardly.

By John Hargreaves - 2 May 2016 18


I noticed recently how Jeremy Hanson, for the time being the Leader of the Opposition in the ACT likes to talk about the Government/Unions Memorandum of Understanding as though it was a document drafted by the devil with the express intention of subjugating the ACT Government to the will of the CFMEU.

Mr Hanson was joined in the hysteria by Senator Michaelia Cash in a banshee shrieking condemnation of said MOU. She said “the ACT Government has effectively outsourced core business to UnionsACT (my emphasis)”. Where is the evidence to support this assertion?

Note here that Senator Cash, the federal Industrial Relations Minister hails from WA, knows nothing about the ACT and its industrial environment, and made her reputation for being an ardent and vocal opponent of unions. Hardly a unbiased view from the good senator.

Have a look at what the MOU actually says. Admitted by Mr Hanson,
“… the MOU states in its definitions section that consultation means “providing relevant information to UnionsACT and/or the relevant unions as identified by UnionsACT.” If there was nothing to hide, where is the problem? What is wrong with the Government using whatever resource it can to make sure that the workplace is a safe and honest one?

Mr Hanson goes on to reveal that:

“the MOU further stipulates that:
(i) only providers/performers of works and services who meet the set criteria will be pre-qualified;
(ii) ACT Government agencies must decline to award a tender proposal for ACT Government works or services where a tenderer does not provide an undertaking in their submission that it will comply with the relevant obligations as set out in 3.3 of this MOU;
(iii) the list of tenderers for each contract will be provided to UnionsACT and/or relevant unions as identified by UnionsACT;
(iv) providers or performers of work must afford access by union delegates and/or officials to enter a workplace;
(v) providers or performers of work must afford access to an inspection of the relevant employer records by the union, including the name and address of the employee and the hours worked; and
(vi) the Territory Directorate responsible for procurement will provide an annual report to UnionsACT on the progress made in implementing this agreement and on instances of compliance activities undertaken by the Territory and of proven noncompliance by tenderers. This is in addition to any ordinary reporting of non-compliance that may occur between the Territory and unions; “

All of these clauses merely indicate an exchange of information, nothing is said about a power of veto; nothing is said that suggests the unions have the power to decide who gets what contract. The clauses merely say that the workplace will be under scrutiny and if sham contractors are discovered, dodgy practices or poor workplace safety is prevalent, then the Government will be made aware of those concerns. And the problem is?

What is wrong with the Government committing to denying tenderer a contract if a tenderer does not commit to fair workplace practices? The private sector can do what it likes and no-one says diddly, but when the Government commits to a safe and fair workplace, all hell lets loose!

Let’s look at some of the biased points raised by Mr Hanson.

Incidentally, he suggests that the ACT Labor Government is doing the bidding of the unions, yet stakes the veracity of his position on comments by the ACT Master Builders Association, the Canberra Business Chamber and the Property Council. Now almost all in the know recognise that these entities are massive supporters of the Liberal Party and are no friend to the ordinary working person in the construction workplace.

Incidentally, sham contraction is not only in the building industry but also in the hospitality, transport and cleaning industries but no mention of these by Mr Hanson.

He alleges, under parliamentary privilege, that:

“UnionsACT and the CFMEU have been and continue to use money raised from their activities to conduct paid campaign advertising and other activity on behalf of the Labor Party and its policies to influence elections and maintain mutual power; ”

Well, durrr! Remember the union campaign against Work Choices? Remember the unions’ campaign against Peter Reith and his balaclava and attack dog approach to consultation with the Maritime Workers Union in Victoria? I hope that the union movement continue to use their resources to protect the rights of workers, including using their influence, coupled with the legitimately elected ALP, to ensure that the lap dogs of capital in the ACT don’t get their way in screwing ordinary working families.

This is going to come as a surprise to Mr Hanson. The unions are the rock upon which the ALP was formed in the beginning. If it wasn’t for the exploitation of the working man and woman, there would be no need for the union movement. The trickledown effect of generosity from the profiteers is a myth.

He also said :
“worker safety is vitally important, but this MOU does not serve that purpose. Various other local and national legislative protections are in place, as they are in other jurisdictions; ”

Say what? Remember that it was those very same conservatives who opposed the Industrial Manslaughter laws the ACT pioneered. It was those same MBA, Canberra Business Chamber and Property Council who provided the backbone for the Liberals to oppose natural justice for people in dangerous industries being forced to work in conditions which were dangerous and in some case life threatening.

It was those same conservatives who opposed the going after the corporate mindset which drove contractors to disobey the laws (such as long distance truck drivers) and holding the corporations responsible as well as individual managers.

If the local laws and federal laws were so good, why is it that we needed to expose sham contractors, poor safety practices and highlight workplace bullying? There have been no charges laid against employers for these practices that I know of.

It needs to be remembered that it was the union movement in Canberra which promoted the concept of Industrial Manslaughter laws, gave Katy Gallagher the weaponry to protect the workers and Simon Corbell the material to bring the whole thing to fruition.

The MBA went as far as to say:

“the MOU established “a three way process that also involves a union tip off and pay off” and that “their huge wealth and power has been built on forcing Canberra’s construction industry into the woefully anti-competitive pattern agreements that delivered $1.2 million in direct profits to the CFMEU ACT in 2013-2014 alone”

Where is the evidence? It is not there. This is typical anti-union hysteria from those who are fundamentally of the view that the workforce is merely a resource to use to generate profits for the holder of capital. There is no recognition of worker contribution to the success of a business provided that the workplace is safe, honest and fair.

Mr Hanson quotes the Canberra Times editorial as though it was Gospel. They said:

“The Canberra Times editorial of 17 March 2016 stated “there are reports some organisers have brandished it to force people to sign enterprise bargaining agreements. If true, the allegations are telling evidence of the MOU’s real purpose: entrenchment of union power over employers by state writ. Long-standing it may be, but no amount of deflection or redirection will change that unsavoury fact”.

Well, the Canberra Times is not an authority on the mindsets behind the construction of Memoranda of Understandings. We have seen evidence before the Royal Commission into the activities of unions reveal some allegations of stand over tactics and bribery. All of it directed to the CFMEU and yet the Police haven’t charged anyone with standover tactics. Strange that.

But it is ok for Woolworths or Coles to use the same standover tactics with long distance truckies, giving them impossible deadlines to meet, requiring the truckies to defy speed limits, load levels etc.

The Times suggests, cleverly, that “if true, the allegations are telling evidence of the MOU’s real purpose”. What unadulterated rubbish. If my aunt was a man, she’d be my uncle.

The purpose of the MOU was to ensure proper process at the workplace, particularly in dangerous workplaces. It was the articulation of a commitment on the part of both Government and unions to protect people from dodgy practices. It recognised that sometimes unions are better placed with their documented corporate knowledge, than the ACT bureaucracy, to highlight a dodgy business.

And finally, I get sick and tired of the anti-union movement going on about the practices of one particular union, labelling all of them with the same brush.

I don’t see the hospitality unions copping it, I don’t see the shoppies copping it, I don’t see the plumbers and sparkies copping it, I don’t see the AFPA (the police union) copping it or the firies or teachers’ or nurses’ unions copping it, I don’t see the AMA copping it for extortion in charging.

The MOU was with the UnionsACT representing all unions, not only those affiliated with the ALP.

I leave you with this thought. Bob Hawke and Bill Kelty gave us the Prices and Income Accord. It delivered a fair pay system for decades and actually committed us to Medicare. Wanna tell me what was wrong with the unions joining with the Government in those days to achieve those aims?

What’s Your opinion?

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