The Guardian 1 June, 2005

Big business cheer attack on unions

There are no surprises in the cheer squad barracking for the Howard government’s agenda to lower Australian living standards and shred job security. During the week, the Australian Industry Group (AIG), Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), the Business Council of Australia (BCA), National Farmers Federation (NFF) and the Australian Mines and Metals Association outed themselves as likely beneficiaries.

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union national secretary, Doug Cameron, said the backing group included the "most reactionary employers in Australia".

"They want to be able to make more profits at the expense of working people and their families. There’s nothing new in that", Cameron said.

"This government wants to make it very easy for them by taking away fundamental rights that have been part of Australian life for 150 years.

"The AIG, for example, is saying we have to compete with China. What it really means is, Australian families need to reduce their living standards."

AIG boss, Heather Ridout, lined up with employer reactionaries as federal cabinet was finalising its proposal in Canberra.

Specifically, Ridout called for weaker unfair dismissal laws; an end to equal pay for equal work; and making it more difficult for workers to improve living standards through the use of industrial action.

When Howard emerged from Thursday’s meeting, he endorsed her entire wish list. His program won quick and enthusiastic support from representatives of the ACCI, BCA, the National Farmers Federation and the Mines and Metals Association.

Cameron said nothing less could be expected of the ACCI, NFF, BCA and Mines and Metals Association who had form on backing radical and divisive plans to strip workers’ rights.

The ACCI and Mines and Metals Association pushed non-union AWAs into small WA mining settlements, causing bitter division to split towns and even families.

The NFF was an active player in efforts to de-unionise the waterfront through the use of mercenaries, goons and dogs.

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