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Document ‘drafted by the devil’? Hardly.

By John Hargreaves - 2 May 2016 18

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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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18 Responses to
Document ‘drafted by the devil’? Hardly.
dungfungus 8:13 am 12 May 16

Ryoma said :

I think its rather telling that the left of centre contributors to RiotACT discussions haven’t jumped onto this article to back the MOU. It seems the only people who think its a good idea are the Labor Party and Unions.

…the Labor Party and Unions = 90% of Canberra.

justin heywood 4:41 am 12 May 16

John Hargreaves said

“…the lap dogs of capital in the ACT don’t get their way in screwing ordinary working families.

If it wasn’t for the exploitation of the working man and woman, there would be no need for the union movement.”

Lap dogs of capital? Hey John, the 1960s called. They want their campus rhetoric back. (Surely no one with half a brain still buys this stuff)

Our union-backed local ALP is about to embark on the biggest infrastructure project yet in its sad history of bungled infrastructure projects.

And before it even starts, it makes explicit the union’s power over infrastructure projects.

What could go wrong?

rommeldog56 5:40 pm 11 May 16

Ryoma said :

I think its rather telling that the left of centre contributors to RiotACT discussions haven’t jumped onto this article to back the MOU. It seems the only people who think its a good idea are the Labor Party and Unions.

And now this – which is an impact of the MOU. Like, this won’t increase the cost to ACT Ratepayers will it !! :

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/cfmeu-close-to-signing-deal-for-gungahlin-light-rail-workforce-20160510-goqrhq.html

I would think that in any other state or territory, such an MOU would have the potential to bring a Government down. It can only happen in Canberra.

Garfield 3:01 pm 06 May 16

I think its rather telling that the left of centre contributors to RiotACT discussions haven’t jumped onto this article to back the MOU. It seems the only people who think its a good idea are the Labor Party and Unions.

rommeldog56 7:31 pm 03 May 16

Again, from the OP :

“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.”
_______________________________________________________

So does the other “relevant unions as identified by UnionsACT” include the CFMEU – a union found to be corrupt and/or acting illegally ? Does UnionsACT let the ACT Gov’t know which specific unions it has passed that information on tenderers onto – presumably, that is at the sole discretion of UnionsACT ?

rommeldog56 10:46 pm 02 May 16

From the OP :

“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……”
_______________________________________________________

The information in points (i) through (vi) should all be in the ACT Gov’t tender documents, with compliance or undertakings given and signed off by tenderers. Also, (vi) is more than a little odd, if not bizarre.

rommeldog56 10:40 pm 02 May 16

As the OP has re-raised these issues, here is my own previous observations on this, re-raised too :

The Chief Minister Andrew Barr told the ABC when this story 1st surfaced that the MOU allowed unions to alert the Government to possible wrongdoing by contractors.”. This is just plain WRONG.

Fact 1 : Disclosure of which suppliers bid and any documents associated with their lodged tender response, would have to be declared in the ACT Govt’s tender doc’s. Without acknowledgement of and agreement to that by tenderers, it may be a breach of Confidentiality by the ACT Gov’t.

Fact 2 : The ACT Govt has said that this MOU was to detect “possible wrongdoing” ? Possible ? Huh. That really opens up a can of worms for the unions to interpret “possible”. And from the OP, what really is “relevent information” to be shared with UnionsACT ?

Fact 3 : If any tenderer/contractor or sub contractor was successfully prosecuted in a court of Law for breach of any law or OH&S requirement, or had proceedings underway against them, would be on the public record which could of course, be discovered by the ACT Gov’t tender evaluation team or their Lawyers. There is absolutely no need for the Unions to provide that information to the ACT Gov’t.

Fact 4 : If any tenderer/contractor has been prosecuted for breach of any Law, that has to be declared by the tenderer in their tender response. Failure to do so would usually mean automatic exclusion from the tender evaluation process.

Fact 5 : If a tenderer/contractor has in fact been prosecuted for a breach of Law, they could/should be given the opportunity to provide a rectification plan to demonstrate how any further breaches of that Law can be mitigated. To do anything else, would be a denial of natural justice.

Fact 6 : Mr Barr has said that the MOU was designed to protect the rights and safety of workers on ACT Government projects. So what are the Laws for ? What is Worksafe & their inspectors for ? Maybe just employ a few more inspectors instead – they would be far more “independent” than hearsay/interpretation by Unions.

Fact 7 : The Greens Mr Rattenburry said “I have reviewed the MOU in depth and found that 90% of it simply reiterates the existing laws and procurement requirements operating in the ACT.” If that is so, then why is an MOU restating these even necessary ????

So, whilst the Chief Minister is probably correct in previously asserting that UnionsACT do not have “veto” power over tendrers (that would actually be exercised within the ACT Gov’t itself), the whole arrangement of vetting by UnionsACT is highly, highly inappropriate – and just plain stupid. It smacks of giving UnionsACT unnecessary and inappropriate potential influence on, visibility of and perceived input to, ACT Gov’t tender processes – that is something that should never happen !

Any “sham” contractors that are prosecuted at law (and so discoverable), can also be identified by exchange of information with State Governments.

Call it what it is – its an early “heads up” to the Union movement about which contractors had tendered so that they can identify their favorites (probably, those with the most highly unionised workforces).

The claim that the MOU between the ACT Gov’t (which Mr Rattenburry, as a Minister in the ACT Gov’t, said he knew nothing about) was to “protect Workforce” is just plain wrong and is a smokescreen by the ACT Labor/Greens Gov’t and their proxies.

Masquara 7:33 pm 02 May 16

If it’s such an honest and trustworthy document, why was it kept secret?

chewy14 6:35 pm 02 May 16

I’m a big supporter of people being able to form and belong to a union but this MOU has a significantly nasty odour.

The government should not be involving other groups into their tender selection process, even if it is to apparently weed out dodgy contractors. By allowingg unions this information, they are predjudicing the process and allowing groups whose motives might not 100% align with the community’s best interests undue influence in the selection processes.

If the government is worried about sham contractors tendering, they should be doing their own due diligence as part of their normal tender process.

If the unions want to out sham contractors, they can do so at any time regardless of whether a company is tendering for specific projects or whether there is an MOU in place.

dungfungus 5:47 pm 02 May 16

chewy14 said :

I’d be interested in how ALP members are locked out of preselection processes. the factions in the ACT are not as powerful as they are in say NSW or Victoria. In fact, mostly they are impotent.

Out of 25 positions in the next election, there are 11 Lefties (44%), 8 Righties (32%) and 6 Indies (24%). In the Chamber at the moment there are 3 Lefties (37.5%). 4 Righties (50%)( and 1 Indie (12.75%). an improvement I’d say.

Someone wanna tell me the factional split u of the Libs to counter my figures above?

big business corruption costs the taxpayer, all of us, heaps. Union corruption does not.
The HSUA stuff affected the union’s members and no one else. Nice try re Jackson et al.

and… while I’m at it, what experience and or information exists to suggest that union officials resemble mafia hitmen need to be provided. I know that the HSUA, United Voice, SDA, LHMU, and CPSU will take umbrage at this fallacious slur and slander.

Why are unions exempted from paying tax John?

dungfungus 5:45 pm 02 May 16

devils_advocate said :

I’ll just repeat a post in response to an earlier article.

If the Unions want to be good citizens and alert the Government to dodgy businesses, they can do that without an MOU. If the Government is at all competent, they will perform their own checks on businesses tendering before granting contracts. The Royal Commission into the unions demonstrated that some in the union movement are out to bully and intimidate businesses into paying the union and/or workers more, thus driving up costs to consumers including governments. The ACT government telling unions which businesses are tendering gives the unions valuable information, which could potentially be used in such “negotiations” with those businesses. Not everyone in business is squeaky clean, but the same applies to the unions. The government doesn’t only have an obligation to protect workers from dodgy businesses, but also has an obligation to businesses to protect them from dodgy unions. The MOU should be scrapped.

The MOU is tantamount to “an offer that cannot be refused”.

John Hargreaves 5:40 pm 02 May 16

I’d be interested in how ALP members are locked out of preselection processes. the factions in the ACT are not as powerful as they are in say NSW or Victoria. In fact, mostly they are impotent.

Out of 25 positions in the next election, there are 11 Lefties (44%), 8 Righties (32%) and 6 Indies (24%). In the Chamber at the moment there are 3 Lefties (37.5%). 4 Righties (50%)( and 1 Indie (12.75%). an improvement I’d say.

Someone wanna tell me the factional split u of the Libs to counter my figures above?

big business corruption costs the taxpayer, all of us, heaps. Union corruption does not.
The HSUA stuff affected the union’s members and no one else. Nice try re Jackson et al.

and… while I’m at it, what experience and or information exists to suggest that union officials resemble mafia hitmen need to be provided. I know that the HSUA, United Voice, SDA, LHMU, and CPSU will take umbrage at this fallacious slur and slander.

rommeldog56 1:56 pm 02 May 16

U can always tell when there is a sensitive issue revealed about ACT Labor in this run up to the ACT Legislative Assembly election in a few months time. Their proxies and apologists come out with illogical dismissal of issues or verbose response, obfuscations and spin. There is just so much to respond to in this OP – but that has already occurred in other threads on this issue.

Affirmative Action M 12:52 pm 02 May 16

Hi John.

Thought you might have mentioned Craig Thompson or Michael Williamson or Kathy Jackson in your article or the funds stolen from HSU members or why so many union officials look like Mafia hitmen.

Maybe in your next article you can explain why ALP members are locked out of pre selection processes.

Garfield 12:30 pm 02 May 16

I’ll just repeat a post in response to an earlier article.

If the Unions want to be good citizens and alert the Government to dodgy businesses, they can do that without an MOU. If the Government is at all competent, they will perform their own checks on businesses tendering before granting contracts. The Royal Commission into the unions demonstrated that some in the union movement are out to bully and intimidate businesses into paying the union and/or workers more, thus driving up costs to consumers including governments. The ACT government telling unions which businesses are tendering gives the unions valuable information, which could potentially be used in such “negotiations” with those businesses. Not everyone in business is squeaky clean, but the same applies to the unions. The government doesn’t only have an obligation to protect workers from dodgy businesses, but also has an obligation to businesses to protect them from dodgy unions. The MOU should be scrapped.

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