Here On “Workers Radio”, Caroline and I discuss the latest reports of wage theft and hyper exploitation of aboriginal workers in remote Australia and meat workers in northern NSW. WE ALSO START A SERIES OF DISCUSSIONS ABOUT WAGES SUPPRESSION IN AUSTRALIA, INCLUDING NOT JUST WHATS HAPPENING BUT WHY. This discussion will continue over the coming weeks and will connect to the ACTU’s Living Wage Claim to be heard as part of the National Wage Review as it continues in 2018. Please discuss and share. Also send comments, questions and information to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Here, Greg Jericho joins with other mainstream economists in agreeing with the lead analysis of Jim Stanford’s Centre for Future Work, that LNP government’s Budget expectation (requirement) for wages growth is not happening and shows no prospect of happening.
Again the usual high quality info from Greg. But this time, the analysis about why and what might be done is quite shallow, even absent.
Greg’s statistical causation focuses on underemployment. There are other deep factors at play than competing statistical tendencies. But what establishes and further enables underemployment, and what is its connection to unemployment?
Another deep factor in keeping wages low is the Fair Work Act 2009 systemic, repressive scheme of penalties against workers who seek to exercise their SOLIDARITY power to improve their wages or to improve their job security. The Turnbull government’s only major change to Labor’s own version of this anti worker, anti solidarity wage and conditions fixing regime in the FWA is the harsher penalties against construction workers, including their extension to workers and their unions who do work in association with construction.
This is because Labor’s regime for bargaining and national wage fixing is working perfectly well for employers, not workers, as it was designed to do. This is one of the essential planks of neoliberalism, or Labor’s “neolaborism”, that is not going away … yet.
It beggars belief that this government, and arguably an alternative Labor government, will change the FWA so that workers can help solve their weird wages problem in the macro economy.
The other factor in keeping wages low is the union movement’s failure, so far, to develop a significant strategy that will genuinely restore worker’s right to strike and other forms of collective action, that will include rights to deal with international competition on wages etc., include climate change transition as a bargaining issue, and put worker solidarity back into both minimum legal rights and the development of society.
Mixed up in all of this is the “little matter” of profits. The discussion about profits, or its absence, in Australia is pathetic. Not just the volume of profit, but also what profit is, the exploitation of humans and nature upon which it depends, and profit in relation to total investment, that is the combination of investment in machines, hardware, software development, etc and the workers who bring all of that to life through their labour. We cannot understand the significance of the “wages problem” without grappling with profits and investment. Traditionally, Keynesians are not very good at that. So, we turn instead to our potential as union activists to do it properly?
Don Sutherland 27/3/16
I decided to take a close look because early last week the Australian Tax Office (ATO) released to the general public the latest stats on the incomes and income tax paid of Australians. (Click here , and look for Tables 14 and 16)
For example, we learned just how little tax was being paid by some of Australia’s highest income earners. For example, click here.
Remember, we are talking about “incomes”, not wealth. (We know that some people can report very low incomes but somehow or other be very wealthy.)
The incomes information is in a very big table that divides income levels into 100 “percentiles” – that is, the bottom 1% of income earners, then those between the 1-2%, all the way through, percent by percent, to those earning at the very top, between 99-100%.
And, the ATO tells us how many individuals, both men and women, there are for each percentile, and where particular occupations sit. From this it’s possible to work out reasonably well what the average income is and what the median – the middle point – is in the income league table.
I have been guided by the work of Greg Jericho, a journalist who writes for The Guardian (the Australian on line edition) and the ABC program, The Drum. If you are interested, click here to take a look at Greg’s latest work. Or, follow this link: http://www.theguardian.com/business/grogonomics/2016/mar/24/the-budget-is-coming-so-standby-for-talk-of-ordinary-australians-who-are-these-people
Jericho shows the increase in incomes across all 100 percentiles compared to the previous report.
Among other things, Jericho supports the idea that since the 2007 global economic crisis the rich are paying themselves (earning?) a lot more than they are paying those who they employ. For example, he says:
“But the average income of those in the 90th is 34.9% more than in the 80th; and the average income of the 100th percentile is a jaw dropping 481% larger at $698,574”
My go at Greg’s work starts here and then goes on to look at the typical engineering service / metal worker occupations. It is interesting, also, to see how any individuals there are at each percentile, but that is not the purpose of this commentary.
So, what about the typical engineering services / metal worker?
Here in this graph is my go at a snapshot for some of the typical occupations in the industry.
Remember! The numbers 30, 40, 50 etc are selected percentiles only, and each is the average at that percentile for both men and women.
Also, these are the stats for 2013-14, at the beginning of the fall in incomes associated with the fall in mine site production. These numbers also reflect very long working hours for the blue collar jobs. The current numbers (ie early 2016) would tend to be somewhat less, especially for fitters and diesel mechanics.
Anyone can compare their own actual annual income with the graph. I suspect some would be higher than the number for their occupation, and some probably less.
It is worth reflecting on the gender pay gap that prevails in the industry.
Just in case you are interested, you can also see the average taxable income of the senior executives of the type that “manage” engineering service work from their corporate boxes.
We do not know at this time what this means for the members of company Boards and owners. Secret squirrels’ business?
Obviously, not the employer organisations:
http://www.workplaceinfo.com.au/payroll/wages-and-salaries/27-a-week-to-avert-working-poor-actu (If the link does not work check the text of this short article below)
Australia’s union movement leads the way.
How to weaken that movement’s effectiveness:
– bring back in a new form anti worker / union member repressive laws – Workchoices Mark 2
– escalate daily propaganda that the union movement a s a whole is corrupt
– give privileged communication rights to white flag union and so-called “labour” leaders – eg Paul Howes, Martin Ferguson
– prevent union achievements from flowing to non organised workers
– promote the myth that only employers have the knowledge and the right to make investment decisions
and so on.
And so we struggle against all of that, right?
If you are fair dinkum against poverty, get on board with this campaign. Anything else will be weasel words.
From Workplace Information, 28/3/14
The ACTU has called for a $27 a week increase to the minimum wage, calling it “essential if Australia is to avoid creating an underclass of working poor”.
ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said: “A $27 per week increase to the minimum wage will ensure the gap between low paid workers and the rest of the workforce does not widen even further.
“Australians do not want to live in a country of ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ and the only way for low paid workers to keep up is for the Fair Work Commission to approve this increase.
“That’s why the ACTU is demanding the national minimum wage increase to $649.20 a week for Australia’s lowest paid including cleaners, retail and hospitality staff, childcare workers, farm labourers and factory workers.”