Friday, 4 September 2009

Knowledge, they say,

is power. Power is the root of corruption. Yes, there is money involved but power is the root of corruption.
Anyone foolish enough to read my ramblings will have realised by now that I am no supporter of the union movement. Do not misunderstand me. Unions had their place. They may still have a place - but they do not have a place in the employer's office among the confidential files.
At the last election in Australia there was a highly successful and forcibly funded scare campaign run by the union movement and the Labor party over the previous government's "Work Choices" legislation. That legislation recognised the complexities of doing business on a global basis. It recognised the need to be able hire and fire with fewer restrictions than had often been the case in the past. It recognised the need for employers to be able to negotiate directly with employees rather than through a union movement that, after the abolition of compulsory unionism, represented less than 20% of the work force.
All that has changed. There are reports in this morning's paper of the union movement starting to make demands. They are claiming the right to enter premises. They are claiming the right to a place at negotiations even if there is only one union member in the workplace. They are claiming the right to previously confidential information about employees. They are claiming the right to other information about the manner in which the business is run and is proposed to be run in the future. They state that employers have obligations to provide all this information. They want to know if there are any proposals for change of ownership in the next five years. They want to know what information the business has on the financial position of its competitors. They want to see the budget and they want to know if there are any proposals for the way in which the business will operate. They want to know about restructuring plans, redundancies, outsourcing and insourcing. In short, they want to know exactly how the business is run and will be run. They say they have a right to all this information.
Business of course cannot operate this way. Industrial espionage is a fact of business life. So is employee poaching. The more people who know about the most intimate details of a business the less intimate those details will be. Knowledge is power. Power corrupts. The union movement is already corrupt. The only real outcome of the Royal Commission into the building union was a change of name and, despite another Royal Commission, the waterside workers still wield power far in excess of their contribution to the community.
The Australian Labor Party is dependent on the union movement. It is the union movement which provides, directly and indirectly, the funds for election campaigns. It is money which does not need to be sought. It just appears. Much of it is contributed in ways that does not need to be declared. Unlike contributions from other sources questions are not asked about what is expected in return. The ALP cannot afford to question what the expectations might be. It is the price for diminished democracy but greater power.

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