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Competition and free enterprise … in the union movement?

By David Bates

Regular readers of this column will know I'm not big fan of those corrupt, law-breaking, and self-indulgent trade unions which regularly dominate the IR debate.

That's why I was pleased when then Fair Work Commission finally overturned a dodgy Enterprise Agreement made between the SDA (one of the largest and most self-indulgent unions in the country) and Coles.

That Agreement, as we now know, should never have been approved by the Fair Work Commission in the first place. Why? Because it quite clearly failed the 'Better Off Overall Test' ('BOOT') imposed by the Fair Work Act.

What did the Agreement involve?

The Agreement resulted in approximately 40,000 mostly part-time and casual Coles employees (those least likely to be SDA members) having their penalty rates cut to pay for better increases for full-time employees (those more likely to be SDA members).

It's worth emphasising here that the only people 'stripping away' penalty rates in modern-day Australia under the Fair Work Act are unions. Not employers. Not the Liberal Party. Just unions. Like the SDA.

Retail and Fast Food Workers Union

Now, competition and free enterprise have come full circle with the recent launch of a new trade union specifically aimed at those employees who feel they've been ripped-off and let down by the SDA. It's rather (unimaginatively) called Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RFFWU).

Their website calls unapologetically for the restoration of penalty rates for employees working in those businesses who were 'sold out' by the SDA: Woolworths, Coles and many more.

It's not too often I find myself agreeing with a trade union, but I wholeheartedly endorse this one's call for unions to stick to their core job of looking after their members, instead of trying to negotiate questionable agreements and then relying on their union brand to ensure they're (wrongly) approved by the Commission.

The bottom line

Neither the SDA nor the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) have a clue how to deal with this new union. The SDA is desperately trying to paint them as untested and unqualified, while the ACTU tries to pretend they don't exist at all.

And let's remember, all this 'disruption' has been caused by a union with a tiny membership and just two office holders listed on their website.

Fair competition is a beautiful thing.

Published: Wednesday, November 23, 2016