TECHNICAL AND SERVICES BRANCH WEEKLY BULLETIN 2023
30 October 2023
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Being Melbourne based, the office will be closed on Monday and Tuesday (6-7 November) due to the Melbourne Cup.
CPI - PROFIT DRIVEN INFLATION HEAPS MORE PAIN ON WORKERS
This week's CPI figures show inflation grew 1.2% in the September quarter, coming in 5.4% higher than a year ago, according to data release by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The key drivers of the increase were rents, petrol prices, electricity costs and staples. Fuel prices were up 7.2% and the largest quarterly rise in fuel prices since March 2022, mainly driven by higher global oil prices. Rents rose 2.2%. Electricity rose 4.2%.
Earlier this year the Australia Institute released research that showed that corporate price gouging, and the associated record profits generated by it, were a far more potent driver of Australia's inflation crisis than modestly rising wages.
ACTU Assistant Secretary Liam O'Brien: "Corporate profits have grown over the last two years while real wages have fallen. Workers are falling behind whilst superyacht sales are on the increase. Big business has the audacity to lecture workers on pay restraint and opposing calls to pass legislation that will get wages moving, all because they want to protect their mega profits.
NEW APPLE EBA
After 12 months of negotiations, SDA and ASU have signed an agreement with Apple. The EBA provides retail workers with better wages; improved classifications; better leave entitlements; more predictable schedules and fairer working hours; as well as higher pay rates for overtime, weekend work, late night work and work on public holidays.
The agreement sets a minimum 5.75% pay increase for 2023, which will be back-dated to 1 July 2023, for all Apple employees covered by the Agreement, with a minimum permanent starting rate of A$29.23 per hour. After this year, workers are guaranteed FWC minimum award increases or an annual minimum rise of at least 2%, whichever is higher.
WHY UNIONS ARE GOOD FOR AMERICA
Nicholas Kristof Opinion Columnist New York Times (extract)
As the United Automobile Workers strike continues, we're likely to hear grumbling about labor unions.
"They killed the auto industry once, and now they're trying to do it again," some will say. Or "They're corrupt." Or "They're Luddites resisting modernization."
Sure, there's something to criticisms of unions. Yet the critiques miss a fundamental point: Labor unions are also a powerful force for equality, elevating underpaid workers who otherwise are often treated as doormats.
The central reality is that as unions declined over the past half-century, workers were stiffed. They were paid poorly, they lost health care and retirement benefits, and they lost control over their schedules. They were robbed of dignity and sometimes of wages as well. Deaths of despair from drugs, alcohol and suicide surged among blue-collar workers.
Anne Case and Angus Deaton, the Princeton University economists who pioneered the study of deaths of despair, tell me that one factor in the rise of such deaths has been the decline of unions and the related loss of good working-class jobs.
Like many educated professionals, I used to regard labor unions warily. They insisted on rigid work rules, impeded technological modernization, suffered corruption scandals and sometimes engaged in racial and gender discrimination. They periodically manipulated overtime hours and leveraged the threat of disruption to rake in staggering sums.
Anyone who thinks that executive pay is invariably calculated through an arms-length negotiation doesn't understand board behavior. As the economist John Kenneth Galbraith observed, the paycheck "is frequently in the nature of a warm personal gesture by the individual to himself."
The golden age for unions in America was the period from 1945 to 1970, and there were indeed abuses and disruptive strikes then. But that was also a magical period in American economic history, in which the economic pie grew rapidly and was also divided more fairly. Shareholders benefited, but so did workers, including African Americans at the bottom of the economic ladder.
In 1970, unions still represented 29 per cent of private-sector workers. Now they represent just 6 percent. Over the decades, blue-collar workers lost a path to the middle class, and pay gaps for Black men yawned as great as ever.
So I've come to think of it this way: Unions are as imperfect as capitalism itself, and just as essential.
A major study by academic economists found that union households earn 10% to 20% more than non-union households, controlling for other factors, and researchers have found that higher wages for union members spill over and lift earnings for non union members. Those scholars found that about 10% of the increase in American inequality since 1968 was a result of falling union membership.
Another study found that lifetime membership in a union resulted in an additional $1.3 million in income over the decades compared with the income of someone in the same industry who was not a union member.
While unions unchecked sometimes behave badly, consider what corporations do unchecked. Millions of Americans are addicted to opioids in this country because pharmaceutical companies found it profitable to get people hooked.
We need checks and balances to rein in overreach by both sides - and unions are part of that system of watchdogs. Yet in recent decades laws have impeded unions, and a lame National Labor Relations Board essentially allowed union busting because penalties were so pathetic. (That appears to be changing under President Biden.)
Unions have also been powerful advocates of policies like early childhood education, child care, a higher minimum wage and a refundable child tax credit to take on the scandal of American child poverty.
So it's reasonable to worry about the autoworker strike and the impact it might have on today's economy. It's fair to wonder if the U.A.W. is overreaching, particularly in its nonwage demands. Then again, it's also reasonable to worry about what happens when nonunionized blue-collar workers are squeezed and crushed, year after year, decade after decade, and what that does to their children, to their country, to our future.
Authorised by Dan Dwyer Secretary
- CWU Telecommunications & Services Branches.