21 March 2023

Ross Gittins on the Productivity Commission’s latest neoliberal manifesto: “The report is quick to explain that improving productivity does not mean getting people to work harder. Perfectly true. It’s supposed to mean making workers more productive by giving them better training and better machines to work with. Except that when you see the commission recommending a move to ‘modern, fit-for-purpose labour market regulation’ — including, no doubt, getting rid of weekend penalty pay rates — you realise the commission has learnt nothing from the failure of John Howard’s Work Choices, nor from the failure of the reduction in Sunday penalty payments to lead to any increase in weekend employment, as had been confidently predicted. So, what the commission is really advocating is that the balance of power in wage bargaining be shifted further in favour of employers and away from workers and their unions. Which probably would lead to people working harder for little or no increase in pay. … What’s conspicuously absent from all the bemoaning of the slowdown in our rate of productivity improvement, is any acknowledgement that there’s also been a huge fall in the rate of the flow-through to real wages of what improvement we are achieving. Until that’s fixed — until the capitalist system goes back to keeping its promise that the workers will get their fair share of the benefits of capitalism — Australia’s households have no rational reason to give a stuff about what’s happening to productivity.”

(No wonder the ACTU and ACOSS want to abolish the Productivity Commission.)