No Ticket, No Start---No More!
Enterprise Unions---The Alternative: Discussant
I am not a philosopher like Ray and I feel uncomfortable
in these semi ecclesiastical conditions, I am a practical
hard nosed businessman who has really been involved
all of my life in the do-able, I am not driven by philosophy
of any sort and I have some difficulties with both
the points of view that Vern has put and that of Joe
and I think probably for much the same reasons as Ray.
First of all Joe is espousing two things. The single
industry union underpinned by a closed shop. The two
have to go hand in hand in Joe's proposition.
Vern wasn't quite clear whether he saw the right way
to go was a closed shop. I suspect he believes that
to be the case. He also didn't draw out as to whether
the enterprise union is going to be in addition to
craft unions or in substitution, and these are two
key issues which need to be addressed.
If enterprise unions are going to get support, we
would not wish to see them as part of a closed shop
arrangement. Joe may well be right, maybe there are
plenty of instances where closed shop, single industry
unions work and work well, but if that is the case
I would say---lt's for the wrong reasons, it's an accident
rather than design of the system. Personally I think
it's an affront to individual freedom to be required
to join a union to get a job or to hold a job. I think
every person ought to have the right not to be or to
be in a union. What we need is more choice not less.
It's easy to be critical, but what is the better alternative?
There are paths through these various alternatives
that can be travelled, I would think that the preferred
option is an openness with enterprise unions competing
with craft unions with voluntarism, so that there is
no underpinning by closed shop and, although somewhat
removed from the exact debate on increasing share ownership
by employees and share equity ownership arrangements
so that the three things together, i.e. a share in
the fortunes of the business, enterprise unions and
voluntarism can work together and not be in any way
My experience is very limited and Vern correctly says
that some of the funny things that happened up north
can be regarded as a diversion, but everything has
its starting point and I give you my personal experiences
in a free choice situation, in an organisation of modest
size, 2,700 people strong, after four years from being
a closed shop to an open shop over 40 per cent have
chosen not be in a union, and that is growing at an
even 10 per cent p[er annum.
The enterprise union which has been in existence from
zero to 15 per cent of the total workforce and is today
the largest single union in the establishment. My
experience tells me that we do underestimate, as someone
said today, the intellect and the capacity of our
workers particularly at grass roots level to understand
and come to grips with these issues. The other point
I want to make is making voluntary unionism work.
Voluntary employment agreements, and running a business
in a non union situation, or a mixed situation, is
much harder to administer, it puts a lot more pressure
on the management to deal with the employees because
you have to deal with individual people, you can't
delegate that right to the shop steward or to the union
official or whatever. It is much harder, and Vern says,
quite rightly, that the most likely people who, in
voluntary agreements, will tend to be the negotiators
are the shop stewards but that doesn't say that we
should allow that to be. One of the important training
needs all of us have is to train people who are not
activists to be industrial communicators and not leave
it to the activists and the shop stewards. I think
it is appalling that whilst TUTA has legitimacy management
does not train non aligned people if I can put it way
in industrial negotiation. We train them in everything
else but how many corporations do you know of conduct
in-house training arrangements in negotiating with
the workforce? I would say to you it is not done because
workforce negotiation is abdicated by management substantially
to the shop stewards and the activists.
But if you can get that right, if you can treat with
your employees individually, then you are starting
to get the business right for the right reasons and
the benefit is not just improved industrial relations,
it is improved productivity and everything else. Although
it is difficult, I say to you it certainly is worthwhile.
I am not surprised that employers' associations have
not actively embraced voluntary employment agreements.
They have been in business and their business has grown
up through the system of interpreting awards and providing
advice on awards. It is not in their interests to start
promoting things that are anti the club because they
are in fact founder members of the club.
I believe that the voluntary agreements should be
with the employees and not with the unions whilst Vern
is of the view that they should be with the union.
In my judgement VEA's should be with the individual
employees, they can be negotiated with unions, but
if they are to be the bond between capital and labour
then the signatory party really need be the individual
employee with an enforceable agreement with the individual
employer. Another point I would just like to address,
arising from Vern's paper, is the difficulty of getting
enterprise unions established. Sure, there aren't very
many around, very very few, but just about every major
employer has a staff association and the jump from
staff association into an enterprise union is more
in the name than anything else. I have had problems
in getting the enterprise union that I am associated
with registered as a union. That's a legal problem.
A voluntary body of men and women acting together as
a union, but not a legal union is very common. All
that is required is legal recognition.
I have got here some nice little quotes that don't
affect the business that I am involved in---that have
been publicised in the local press.
A small brewery has been established in our town by
a fellow called Bernie Power to take on the might of
Carlton and United and Bond Brewers of the market label
XXXX. This brewery is of about 80 employees and the
first quote I will give you is that the Managing Director,
Malcolm Davies, said
'All employees had been given the opportunity to be
shareholders in the company and were keen to keep inefficiencies
to a minimum and improve productivity'---well, that
sounds pretty good. 'This was able to be achieved and
will provide employment with better conditions and
scope for significant career and earnings growth. Together
with our employees we have created a productive work
ethic which will give Power Brewing a real competitive
edge in Queensland and Australia'. Nice stuff!
So an employees' spokesman, of the enterprise association
says 'Power Brewery had left it to the workers whether
they wanted to negotiate a voluntary agreement pursuant
to the award'. Two arms of the proposition I am putting
to you are in place. Some days later with a nice photograph:
'Power Brewing workers met yesterday and declared
they were fed up with the Liquor Trades Union campaign
against voluntary agreements they have signed. The
Union claims that the agreements would increase the
weekly hours from 35 to 40, abolish accrued sick leave
and a 10 per cent day shift allowance, reduce leave
loading from 50 per cent to 17.5 per cent and end christmas
One worker who did not want to be named said 'if we
had things so bad how come there are hundreds of applications
by workers from other breweries to get jobs here. We
were not forced by anyone to agree to the VEA but most
of us felt it was in our best interests to do so.'
The union says it is trying to protect us, they think
we are idiots: Last night the LTU assistant secretary
said the union would be continuing its campaign against
Power Brewing---drink coasters printed with the slogan
'Sorry Bernie'---(Bernie is Bernie Power)---would be
distributed to hotels and union members would be urged
not to drink Power Bitter. Mr Hardy said we are not
doing this to victimise individual workers.
'This unfair competition against Carlton United and
My Case Rests.