Harvesting The Hunted: Union Strategy Laid Bare

WITH THE UNIONS in the gun in Australia like they haven’t been since the waterfront dispute under the Howard government — and perhaps ever — Australians over the past few years have been subjected to a revolting exposition of the worst excesses of a once honourable movement, and this will only continue; today we look at the strategies deployed by unions to infiltrate and then effectively take over businesses. It’s actually rather sickening.

Shortly before I moved to Melbourne (at the time, coincidentally, of the waterfront dispute) I worked briefly for a (now defunct) national media business; the objective was to establish whether the job was of appeal, and if so to seek an internal transfer when I moved south. It wasn’t, and I didn’t, although I couldn’t fault the company or its business model. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

I raise this story because on my first day — as one of about 15 new employees going through a three-week induction program — the managing director of this company spoke to the group for half the day; his big subject was the unions.

If anyone ever brought the unions into his business, he would close the entire company down the following day; management was more than reasonable in resolving disputes and ensuring staff were adequately remunerated. Any call-in of the unions would not be tolerated. The hundreds of existing staff in the company were told the same thing when they started and none had ever dared test his resolve on this point. If any of us called the unions in, he said, the loss of hundreds of jobs would sit on our own conscience — not on his.

My colleagues and I — all drawn either from other media companies or from different parts of the private sector — were delighted to find our boss so vehemently opposed to having any union presence on company premises.

But I wonder — I just wonder — what might have transpired if the unions made a concerted attempt to get into the company, quite independently of what any of us might have elected to do.

Grace Collier — industrial relations expert, media identity and favourite of this column — has published an article in the Weekend Australian today that provides a road map in answer to this question, and whilst I’m not really surprised or shocked (after all, this is the union movement we’re talking about) the tactics she outlines in how unions infiltrate business (and “infiltrate” is the correct word, with all the sinister connotations it conjures up) are offensive to any principles of integrity or decency. In fact, they’re rather sickening.

And if anyone would know the details of this kind of process, Collier would.

This whole sordid business raises a number of questions.

If businesses are prevented by law from engaging in predatory conduct and are policed in this by trade practice law and the ACCC, why should unions be permitted to operate on a different basis?

Bullying, intimidation and harassment are unlawful practices in Australian workplaces, and it is something of an irony that the Left (in cohort with the unions) have largely seen to that. Why should this kind of behaviour be any different? I note Collier points out that much of the “bottom up” stage of the process occurs outside the workplace, but only the most literal of arguments could suggest with any credibility that it occurs beyond the workplace in any actual sense.

And for a movement that claims to be built upon safeguarding the rights of the employee at work, what credibility is there to be derived from a recruitment model that is predicated on creating grievances between employer and employee where none exist, setting colleagues against each other, and unleashing industrial anarchy for its own sake?

Rest assured, there is nothing naive in posing these questions; in fact, I do so — for the most part — on a rhetorical basis only.

Whatever the history of the union movement and whatever good it may have rendered in the past to the benefit of all employees, readers will have heard me say on numerous occasions now that “modern” unions are far less concerned about their members’ welfare than they are about the maintenance and perpetuation of their own cosy little citadels.

Remunerated like many of the managers and business people they so readily decry as overpaid and miserly, these unionists care only about the flow of membership money that underpins the edifices that sustain them, and any worker who doesn’t pay their dues is someone the unions couldn’t care less for.

Collier’s article has appeared, I suspect, in light of the fact that arrangements in the construction industry — where large, unionised building firms that are “primary” contractors on major capital works projects mandate union membership of any smaller firms that receive work as part of the project, thus pushing union membership down the chain of businesses — have been in the spotlight over the past few days, and it is the intention of the Abbott government to outlaw this practice. As it should.

Yet the insidious presence of unionism exists today solely for the benefit of those at the top of the tree, who draw fat salaries and other perks, and who in many cases wouldn’t know a frontline industrial relations issue if they fell over it.

The unions, through this process, retain their disproportionate influence over economic activity in Australia; the costs to business and government are monumental, but in terms of outcomes — to say nothing of productivity — the unions care little, despite whatever rhetoric they engage in to the contrary.

Teachers, courtesy of industry-wide pattern bargaining, enjoy high remuneration with guaranteed pay rises each year, virtually insulated from the threat of dismissal from poor performance, at a time when educational outcomes are deteriorating at the end of a period of nationwide government by the unions’ buddies at the ALP.

Companies such as Qantas, SPC or — indeed — the automotive manufacturers either face existential cost pressures or have collapsed under the weight of enterprise agreements struck with unions that have inflicted the same compounding burden upon them, but without the guarantee of the taxpayer to foot the bill.

And God alone knows how much cheaper building and construction costs might be were they stripped of the unions and their usurious approach to members’ pay.

All the while, we have union figures being paraded through anti-corruption tribunals and the Courts to face accusations of misappropriating their members’ monies; revelations that “slush funds” of the kind former Prime Minister Julia Gillard is being investigated over for fraud are commonplace inside the union movement; and whistleblowers — emboldened by the presence of a conservative government in Canberra that has signalled it will take no prisoners in its quest to stamp out improper conduct in the union movement — coming out of the woodwork with allegations of the criminal misuse of members’ money along with a raft of other accusations that paint many within their ranks as little more than battle-hardened crooks.

And unions, to survive the assault the Abbott government is to make on cracking down on their excesses, continue to “target” businesses in search of green pastures, fresh red meat for their causes and, of course, the perpetuation of the comfy lifestyles of those leeches who run the show.

Little wonder there are business people in this country who would rather shut their enterprises down than tolerate a union presence in their works. After all, there is mounting and unequivocal evidence that unions kill businesses, and in many cases it would be quicker, simpler and cheaper for businesses to cut their losses and sack their employees than to endure the rigmarole — and the charade — of working “together” with such an odious and poisonous entity as the trade union movement.