|Back to the salt mines|
The latest tactic in the union vs coalition industrial reforms battle is the
suggestion that employees will lose their rights to holidays including
Christmas and new year's day. Under the proposed changes, all holidays are up
for negotiation. Employers and employees will be free to negotiate the terms
and conditions of employment.
The coalition claims that employees would be free to negotiate away holiday
rights for extra pay. Unions claim that employers will strip away the
hard-earned worker's rights. And many Australians are clearly concerned that
their bosses will demand they work these holidays - with penalty rates, and no
right of refusal.
Ignoring the issue of whether the government should dictate the kind of
agreements which private parties voluntarily make between each other (if either
party doesn't agree, they can choose to go elsewhere), will this new law
(actually the removal of an existing law) make it worse for employees?
The unions are certainly right that many employees will lack the confidence
to 'negotiate' better terms and conditions with their bosses. A young,
inexperienced worker will be no negotiating match for the experienced
businessman paying their wages, and they are well aware they will come out
second best. But over time, these people will take the less confrontational
approach - simply finding an employer who gives them a better deal. No
government legislation, or unions representation is necessary. People will just
gravitate to employers which offer better pay and conditions.
From a personal point of view, I would love to get my employees working extra
days with no extra pay. I could extend the operating time of the business, and
the extra work done would increase my profits. But I wouldn't dream of
dictating this to my employees.
About a third of them would quietly resign on the spot, another third would
turn up, but start applying for other jobs, and the remaining third are the
third that I would least like to keep as employees. Good staff are hard to
find, and up and coming employees (as they gain greater confidence and skills)
are even hard to keep. They get yearly performance reviews and pay increases,
not because the governments (or unions) dictate it (I don't think any of them
even belong to a union), but because they become more valuable to the business.
The cost of losing them goes up, and their attractiveness to other businesses
(like my competitors) goes up.
So the reforms will make little difference in practice. They will create
greater possibilities. Perhaps one of my employees will one day negotiate to
work through public holidays, and neither of us will be prevented by government
legislation. But this is not very likely.
But I am still hoping the reforms go through. There is the possibility
(however slight) that one of my competitors will be foolish enough to believe
the union propaganda and think they can take advantage of their staff. I might
be able to pick up some good employees, and maybe pick up some of his customers
in the fallout from his suddenly rapidly shrinking business.
What a capital idea.