The Ged and Wil show: unions and employer associations working together

I was in Canberra yesterday briefly to give a paper on Labour Market Planning (yes, I know, but my message is that it is a lot of bollocks) and as I was leaving, I came across the most enormous bill board at the airport.

There were the two beaming faces of Ged Kearney, President of the ACTU, and Wilhelm Harnisch, boss of the Master Builders’ Association.

The purpose of the bill board was to extol the benefits of the Industry Superannation Funds with unions and employer associations working in perfect harmony.

I rest my case about the damaging – actually pernicious – influence of employer associations.

(One of the joys of my job is that I receive lots of emails from people I do not know with information, which of course has to be checked.

It turns out that there was one employer association in Queensland, where the guy was both president and secretary (a complete no-no),  did not file any of the required records, including financial ones, to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commision for 20 years.  He went to the Commission and begged for forgiveness and it was granted.  No records were ever filed.

And then there was the case of one CEO of an employer association who accepted sexual favours in lieu of rent for office space that the assoiciation owned.  I wonder if the regulatory authorities ever picked that one up.  I’m thinking ….NOT.)

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5 Responses to The Ged and Wil show: unions and employer associations working together

  1. Ant

    That’s amazing.

    Consider what the construction unions have done to building and infrastructure costs where an hour’s labour now costs around $90, including the vast maze of regulatory and compliance costs embedded within that hour, including the union dues, a lot of which go to funding the re-election of the Labor Party to various governments, not to mention the odd root with the odd hooker with the latter two being more and more difficult to distinguish between.

    Look the difference between erecting an apartment building (by a heavily unionised construction company) and building a house (non-unionised). (Yes, the infrastructure in a multi-level building is more intensive and its technically more complex – but not really by that much these days.)

    You can do a house in a new estate still for around $1,000/sqm. That’s the turnkey handover construction cost. The quality’s pretty good, and the massive compliance regs ensure that structurally all should be above board.

    An apartment in a multi-level building will cost at least $3,000/sqm for the sellable area. Common areas, lobbies and carparks are all extra to that.

    And I would argue that the scales of efficiencies in building 200 apartments on one site should balance out the additional technical complexities against building 200 houses across 200 sites.

    So for 200 houses measuring 300sqm it would cost about $60M, but for that much you would only get 200 apartments at 100 square metres. And much less when you factor in all the additional area which isn’t sellable such as common corridors, lobbies, service rooms, lifts, stairs which still has to be built and paid for. (Carparking is sellable)

    Where does all that money go? Materially, in comparative terms an apartment building is far more efficient than a house, so it can’t be the cost of materials. Yes, consultant costs are higher with apartments because you need more of them, but on average consultancy uses up no more than 5% of a building budget.

    That would be an interesting study exercise for outfits like these industry groups.

    But, hey, they, the unions and Labor are all for finding solutions to “the housing crisis” and the spiralling costs of purchasing a home – not!

    I always like to say that manufacturing in Australia has been destroyed by the unions by them pricing those jobs out of existence.

    The only thing that saves the construction industry is that you can’t import your house or apartment from China – although there are serious moves into prefabrication overseas being looked at, not to mention the fact that a very large amount of building componentry (sanitaryware, tapware, door hardware, lighting, tiling, etc) are already imported.

  2. ken n

    The IR Club lives.
    Live Performance Australia is the trade association for performing arts companies, theatres and such.
    If you are not a member and hire a venue – say, Sydney Opera House or Melbourne Recital Centre – you pay a service fee to LPA along with the rent. I seem to recall that unions tried this for non members but it was made unlawful. But not on the other side.
    Here is the explanation:
    Why Do We Have an Industry Service Fee?
    “All industry sectors of any significance require a peak body
    to promote and represent their interests. Every business and
    individual in the live performance industry in Australia benefits
    from a harmonious and productive industrial relations and policy
    environment. The survival and future growth of our industry
    depends on a healthy and effective representative body that can
    deliver effective outcomes. ”
    It’s here.

  3. MT Isa Miner

    Judith, in your first example of employer associations that need keelhauling; you know that we’re ” special” in Queensland, right?

  4. Jim Rose

    Labour Market Planning! back to the 70s.

  5. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    Ant, an informative view of costings from the coalface of the building industry. Add to your comments the rent-seeking industries that hang off the running of apartment buildings and all of their regulatory requirements, and you can build me a house to own over an apartment anyday.

    How much cheaper the whole arena of housing would all be without this massive infrastructure of regulation.

    To say nothing of the rorts. Judith, your mailbox must be very interesting at times, although perhaps eyebrow raising when it comes to some male-dominated industries and their preferred form of perks, as suggested by Ant above.

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