Flexible or fuedal

Judith Sloane (The Australian, 31/5) makes much use of the term “flexible”, which in the free-market lexicon is Orwellian code for “employer calls the shots”, because in practice a negotiation between individual workers and their employer is going to be very one-sided. Sloane describes this as “modern”, but “feudal” would be more descriptive.

It is for this very reason that workers form into unions, who are then in a position to negotiate on a more equal footing. And rather than fight the same battles over and over, both sides agree to set down awards. If awards were abolished altogether as Sloane wishes, the only way to stop them re-emerging would be to introduce undemocratic anti-union legislation. This is far too high a price for “flexibility”.

Clearly it has been a long time since Sloane has worked for anyone else, if she really believes the labour market has become more inflexible. What is actually happening out here is very different: permanent jobs are disappearing and being replaced by casual jobs, casual jobs in turn are being turned into phoney contractor arrangements so employers can sidestep their obligations, and dump their entrepreneurial risk onto their employees’ laps.

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