Unshakeable - The Rules are Broken

  • 25 September 2018

Workplace delegates from all unions gathered in Melbourne as part of our national Change the Rules Campaign to endorse a massive rally 'Australia Needs a Pay Rise' on Tuesday 23rd October. 

Sally McManus tells the delegates gathered about the workers she’s met around the country who’ve had cop a wage freeze while corporate profits are going through the roof. The rules are broken. Australia needs a pay rise.

I was door knocking a few weeks ago and met Saaed. He's a mechanic and he told me he hadn't had a pay rise for five years.

Saaed has three kids and they have had to cut back on everything. He told me he feels like his kids are missing out. He said his company is doing fine, but his boss would laugh at him if he asked for a pay rise.

And then next door I met Sue who's an admin assistant. She told me because she hasn't had a pay rise for years and because she is a casual she doesn't  think she can put  her head up. She told me she is cutting into the small amount of savings she built up over the years just to  keep up, and she knows this can't go on forever.

And then there is Virginia who works for the Federal public service. Virginia and her colleagues have not had a pay rise for four years under the Abbott / Turnbull / Morrison government.

And then I spoke to Dimitri who works for Qantas. Dimitri accepted a wage freeze to help the.company out;.but now Qantas has just announced a 1.6B profit. They only people they are sharing it with are the senior management and the CEO who earns $25mil a year. Qantas has told Dimitri's workmates they will get a once off bonus if they accept whatever Qantas offers in the next enterprise agreement.

Saaed, Sue, Virginia and Dimitri are the face of the wage crisis in our country. And it is a crisis. Australia needs a pay rise because our living standards are going backwards.

Private sector wages at 1.9% and CPI 2.1%.

80% of Australians who have not had a pay rise that keeps up with the cost of living this last year.

We have record low wage growth at a time when both profits and productivity are going up. Economists and the Governor of the Reserve Bank are all scratching their heads and asking why.

Something is very wrong.

The system is seriously out of balance.

And we know why. The rules are broken and that's why the system is out of balance.

We all know that pay rises do not fall from the sky.

But putting aside that example, there are three reasons why employers give pay rises:

  1. They really need your skills and there is a shortage
  2. The law requires them to give pay rises, or;
  3. Their workers have enough bargaining power to demand and win them.

So we have record low wage growth - because the law isn't requiring pay rises and working people do not have the power they need to win them.

This is because the current rules give working people just one way to win our fair share of profits. One road to travel down. And that is the road of enterprise bargaining where we are isolated into small groups, and when we ban together to bargain or take action we have to climb more hurdles than an army obstacle course. And to top it off, employers have the power to just sit back and throw even more obstacles in our way.

The reason why we have record low wage growth is because our laws, the rules, are not doing the job they are meant to do - give workers the tools they need to balance the power of employers.

This is why the system is out of balance. This is why we need to change the rules.

But Scott Morrison and Kelly O'Dwyer say something else. They tell us we will eventually get pay rises when big business/employers trickle it down to us.

Trickledown economics assumes at some point the rich will share the wealth we have helped create. But guess what? They are not sharing! They are keeping it for themselves and stashing it in tax havens

And when we ask why are our wages not going up - what does Scott Morrison and Kelly O'Dwyer say?

They do not say, the rules are broken and working people need stronger rights. Because that would involve admitting they are the person who can do something about it.

Morrison will offer tax cuts. But if you cut taxes for working people, we end up paying more for schools and hospitals that have their funding cut or are privatised.

They do not want to talk about the real way to fix the power imbalance because they do not want to cross their billionaire mates.

Our change the rules campaign is about much more than a pay rise. It is about rebalancing the whole system. It's about changing the rules that have led to record inequality. It is about bringing back the fair go for working people. It is about saying no to a low paid insecure job future. It's about saying no to our country becoming like America where teachers have to work two jobs just to survive.

We need to show those who are not yet union members that there is strength in numbers, strength in Australia's union movement that is prepared to fight for a better, fairer country.

But we need to lead. Australians are looking for a solution to their living standards going backwards.

Let us be that solution.

Let's put on the biggest show they have ever seen.

Let's put record numbers of people on the street on 23 October and demonstrate the power of our movement.

Let's· kick out Morrison, Abbott, Dutton and O'Dwyer.

And then let's change the rules.