By Bill Ford and David Plowman
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Extra resources for Australian Unions: An Industrial Relations Perspective
Despite protests from the unions, the ACTU had refrained from criticism of the government; as the President put it, having Labor out of office was 'too big a price to pay'. In some other matters, however, this consideration was not weighty enough to prevent unions taking action contrary to the wishes of the government. Communications unions struck in protest against continued French nuclear testing in the Pacific, and the maritime and waterfront unions took action against the governments of Greece and Chile.
The peculiar circumstances of the Historical and Theoretical Context 43 period in which the Australian union movement was established encouraged unions to concentrate on what later became known as the 'standard of living'. They aimed at reducing work hours, and maintaining wages well above ruling rates in Britain. On issues of health and safety, they were willing to trade off in terms of shorter hours or higher wages. As with structures and aims, so with methods. In the benign phase of small-scale colonial capitalism, unions often found that they could establish arrangements of mutual benefit to themselves and certain employers.
As in the Great Depression, the combined forces of Labourism were unable to withstand the assault of their enemies. The Fraser government's remedy for Australia's economic ills was based on its decision to 'fight inflation first'. This meant 'winding back the real wage overshoot' that (according to the Prime Minister) had occurred in the time of the previous government. The Fraser government intervened persistently in national wage cases to attempt to persuade the Commission that it should award increases that represented less than full indexation.
Australian Unions: An Industrial Relations Perspective by Bill Ford and David Plowman
Categories: Labor Industrial Relations