27 May 2020

The bar is set so low for Scott Morrison that he is hailed as a peacemaker for simply saying he will allow union representatives to express an opinion about industrial relations, as part of a ‘working group’ process that will be dominated by employer representatives. How generous. The ACTU has agreed to participate, saying it will be guided by two criteria: increasing job security, and giving workers a fair share of our economic prosperity. These are sound principles but it is hard to see how they will be satisfied when the topics of the working groups are the business lobby’s anti-worker wish list. For example, “award simplification” is code for stripping working conditions out of the safety net, and the Prime Minister said the “casuals and fixed term employees” working group was “made even more prescient by recent changes through the Fair Work Commission” — he presumably means the recent Federal Court decisions that confirmed the common law definition of casual employment — and employers’ request to retrospectively legalise wage theft from casuals. Signing up to the process was worthwhile in exchange for killing off the immediate threat of the Government’s union-busting Ensuring Integrity Bill, but this has all the hallmarks of a rope-a-dope strategy and unions need to tread very carefully.