We need an alternate Council of Small Trade Unions of Australia – COSUA


It is a fact that unions are an integral part of democracy and most Australian unions are doing their job in looking after the workers. A lot of the excellent conditions enjoyed by Australian workers and indeed the good condition of our society comes in part from the work of unions. So why in a recent survey by the OECD of 35 countries was Australia fifth lowest when it comes to trust in unions?

Simply put it’s three of the biggest unions that are the problem and they are giving all unions a bad name. They also create angst and health problems for small business people. The damage done by these three from the big end of union town reflects unfairly on the other unions, large and small. Sad but true, Australians don’t trust unions. It is somewhat similar to trust in business where a few recalcitrants have let down their employees as well all others in the business community. Although it should be noted trust in business (48%) is higher than trust in unions (26%).

Most of the unions in the ACTU are small with less than a hundred thousand members, a quarter have less than ten thousand members. So, the smaller unions who have integrity should form a new organisation called the Council of Small Unions of Australia (COSUA). We here at COSBOA know the value of representing only small organisations and can show them how to do it, for a small fee of course.

Furthermore, my criticism of these three unions has been judged by some as nothing more than good old-fashioned union bashing. So, let me be clear again, a democracy cannot exist without unions. The fact is most unions are like most businesses, they are honest hard working organisations.

One of the problems is the Transport Workers Union (TWU) which has applied illegal black bans on deliveries to small businesses where the owner has made a public comment they don’t like, Sunday penalty rates and tax cuts being the two main issues. The union has decided that no one can make statements they don’t like. If they do then the business person and those around him or her, including any employees, will be forced out of business and out of work. That is bullying and suppression of free speech. It is women in the workplace who are being threatened and bullied by this union. The ACTU will not condemn that behaviour.

Another example is the C part of the CFMEU. It is the C not the FMEU that will pick and choose which laws to follow and have enough funds to pay the fines. Recently a participant in a CFMEU picket line called out to a worker “we will rape your kids”. No wonder we don’t trust unions.

A third example is the retail union, the SDA. This union is running a campaign to keep Sunday penalty rates high while over the last six years they have negotiated for low or even no penalty rates for weekend workers. We find in one SDA led agreement some 60% of workers have ended up with lower pay then they would have received under the award. Why would they do this to their members? Well, you see, in return the employers involved automatically enrol employees as members of the union. The union then rebates to large employers 10% of all union fees collected from those employees. The SDA has contributed to the slow pace of wage growth. The SDA is a culprit not a virtue.

An ALP Senator recently suggested that the above unions should take the place of the Fair Work Ombudsman. We could see a world class government run and regulated agency replaced by the unrepresentative and untrusted unions.

On the other hand, The Greens have called for a Royal Commission into the behaviour of the SDA union, a call which we support.

Those unions mentioned above are also filthy rich and pay no tax. According to media reports they had a combined income of over $197m last financial year. Their combined assets are over $350m, that’s a lot for just three unions. Seems like they are a big part of the modern hegemony that is the rich ruling class.

These three unions have had a negative impact on the health of small business people. It isn’t the other unions. The ACTU will not condemn bullying of innocent people and the threatening of women in the workplace. Once again, my advice is for those other unions, particularly the small ones, to cause some much needed disruption in the union world and go their own way. Then Australians might have respect for unions which is what any good country wants and needs.

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© 2018 Peter Strong CEO, COSBOA  

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