Ok. TAFKAS reckons this post will set the cat amongst the pigeons.
In the 1995 movie the Usual Suspects, character Roger “Verbal” Kint made the most profound of observation:
When people consider powerful and pernicious unions, most minds default to organisations like the CFMMEU. Well think again.
If the purpose of a union is to use all tools available to improve the pay, conditions, power and competitive positioning of its members, often (but not always) at the expense of non-members, then the CFMMEU cannot hold a candle to the big 3 – the Pharmacy Guild, the medical unions (AMA and various specialist colleges) and the various legal unions (law societies and bar associations).
If the CFMMEU and the ACTU want a lesson on how to use best practice political and regulatory capture and how to impose restrictive work practices, then they really need to better study these organisations.
Strategy number one … don’t let people think you are an industrial organisation but rather a professional organisation. Strategy number two … present yourself as always acting in the best interests of the community and the nation.
TAFKAS will write about the pharmacists and the doctors another time, but let us just consider the legal profession and consider 2 particular work practices that have long disappeared from industrial sites:
- No ticket no start – you can’t act as a legal practitioner without being a member of the relevant association.
- Demarcation – lawyers can’t throw on a black cape and wig and act as barristers, unless they join the bar and vice versa.
Oh. And if you want to ply your trade in another state or jurisdiction, you can’t just show up. You need be recognised by the local union (“professional organisation”). Even doctors can work cross state border.
And how do you measure the success of a union? Start with looking at the pay and conditions of its members and the operation of the market for member labour. One would imagine that if there is an area of the economy earning supernormal profits, those profits would be eroded away by new entrants. According to the AFR, in 2015, there were 41 law schools in Australia and:
The number of law graduates has reached a record high with 14,600 graduates entering a legal jobs market comprising just 66,000 solicitors.
But somehow, lawyer salaries are increasing. Yes, there are demand factors also, but according to the AFR’s numbers, the entire legal labour force can be turned over every 4 years.
And then, when the legal elite reach the pinnacle of their careers, they become judges, some of whom believe that their judgement cannot be questioned, such that they can send critics to jail. Recall the 3 Liberal Ministers who were forced to apologise lest they be sent to jail for daring to make criticism. Any other professional judgement can be criticised apparently, but not those of judges.
And here is another classic. In Victoria right now is a Royal Commission regarding the use by the Victorian police of an informant who was also a lawyer representing those they informed on. In an interview, on the ABC of course, the President of Law Council of Australia said:
I would like to understand fully from the Victorian Police what records they maintained in relation to human sources. But more importantly, on what basis did they think it was appropriate to have a lawyer as a human source and informing against clients that they were acting for.
Fair question. Very fair question. But what about human sources who are not lawyers, who volunteer or are compelled to inform on clients they are acting for. Consider accountants, doctors and priests. The behaviour of the police and the lawyer in question was pretty bad, but will there be a Royal Commission into the use of other informants who also are in possession “privileged” information?
Pell-eeeeze. More like the stand up philosopher industrial complex. Lawyer solidarity forever.