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Unions should be opened up to competition
letter published in The Australian, 30 August 2011

While your editorial support for the reform of industrial relations is much welcomed (29/8), you are wrong to say that no one is asking for a complete rewrite of existing arrangements.

The existing arrangements are based on the mistaken view that government needs to impose extensive regulation to prevent exploitation by employers.

But Australia’s 800,000 plus of employing businesses actually compete with each other in the labour market and cannot exercise monopoly powers to dictate wages and conditions.

By contrast, the current regulatory arrangements allow a tribunal to dictate wages and conditions even though it cannot determine what rates are appropriate for maximising employment and productivity. The outcome is that such rates predominantly reflect claims by unions whose members constitute only a very small proportion of private sector employees (14 per cent).

Further, union leaders’ main object is to protect the security of existing employees by imposing a quasi-monopoly through the tribunal.

Reform of industrial relations requires the complete abandonment of the existing unfair regulatory legislation and tribunal.

Des Moore, South Yarra

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