Robin Williams once told a story about when he was interviewed on a German television show. Williams was asked why he thought there was not so much comedy in Germany. Williams retort was to ask “did you ever think that you killed all the funny people“.
It is in this context that Spartacus is amazed at the latest “living wage” campaign being undertaken by the ACTU. According to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:
We are rapidly moving towards the creation of an American-style working poor. A class of people who barely keep their heads above water, despite working full time, sometimes in multiple jobs.
Where did all the good paying Australian jobs go? Perhaps Ms McManus, the ACTU and its affiliate unions consider that they you killed all the good paying jobs. And not just through their own direct campaigns, but also through the union movements’ political wings – the Australian Labor Party, the Australian Greens and GetUp! – entities receiving generous financial support and propagating anti-productivity public policy from renewable energy to tax increases to capital mal-investment (school halls, non-built roads, overpriced infrastructure).
Australian manufacturing jobs are disappearing every second, and even lower paying service jobs are being replaced by technology. Why? Because the cost of operating a business and the total cost of labour in Australia makes it just too uneconomic for these jobs to remain. But this is not about salaries per-se. This is about the TOTAL cost of employing people including, but not limited to:
- inflexible work practices
- complex industrial relations systems
- unfair dismissal laws
- workers compensation
Add on top of this, world leading record electricity costs, every expanding regulations and ever increasing taxes. Not to mention regular calls for more and more public holidays.
That Australia has notionally record low unemployment levels is completely misleading. According to the ABS, for the purpose of employment statistics, a person is considered employed if they are over the age of 15 and were in paid or self employment for 1 hour during the measurement period. Such a measure does not factor in what people are actually paid and whether they are working as many hours as they would like.
For the same reason Ms McManus would not pay $50 for a $10 sandwich, businesses won’t pay employees more than they are worth. If employers are forced to pay more for employees that they offer in productivity, then a rational employer (ie not a government employer) will be forced to regrettably let said employee go.
What better case study that the Unilever/Streets Ice cream situation, where according to public reporting:
The average annual wage of a Streets production worker at Minto is $105,000 a year. This is not a king’s ransom, especially in Sydney, but it is, according to calculations done by the union, 46 per cent above the relevant award wage, which is the legal minimum. It is also 46 per cent more than someone who wants to start an ice cream business and compete with Streets is required to pay, and that is the fundamental problem.
$105,000 is also 45% more that the $72,500 average salary of a mechanical engineer in Australia.
But in the context of a global marketplace:
a frozen Streets Magnum ice cream can be imported from Europe with a total landed cost of 30 per cent less than what it can be made for here.
The company says it needs a significant increase in flexibility and that wages will be preserved, and are not needing to be slashed, but costs must be addressed. If this can’t be achieved the plant will close.
So rather than try to work with the employer to find ways to make the business competitive, what does the ACTU and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union seek to do? Undertake a campaign to attack the revenues of the Streets at the same time as they are attaching the expenses of Streets. And they bring in their resident stunt-master, Senator Sam the Stunt-Man Dastyari.
If the Streets plant in Minto closes and any other Australian manufacturing plant closes, the unemployed workers should ask their union representatives who actually killed their jobs.
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