By Jim Hayes
Sally McManus, the secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has called on the nation’s unions to campaign against three decades of neoliberalism that has caused a lot of damage to workers.
This was a call for action to overcome bad workplace rules and rising inequality, made on Monday, during the opening of a three day union conference in Sydney.
Referring to the I percent at the top, who own more than the 70 percent at the bottom, said “one group of people” had far too much power”. Protection of wages has been so whittled down that the minimum wage no longer keeps people out of poverty. The wages share is now at close to a 50 year low.
McManus suggested that unions need to right hard, be economic “disrupters,” exercising the power to change the situation.
“The rules that were meant to protect our rights are now not strong enough. They need to be rewritten … we need to change the rules so working people have more power,” she said and added that “it has taken the right 30 years of union bashing and neoliberalism to take us where we are now”.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the share of gross domestic product (GDP) going to wages fell from 54.2 percent to 55.5 percent, just in the third quarter of last year. The share going to profits rose from 24.5 percent to 27.5 percent over the same period.
The gap between wages and profit was most marked in the mining and construction industries, with mining accounting for $9 billion of the $13 billion profit increase.
Economic indicators show that the level of economic activity has declined and this suggests that a large part of new profits was at the expense of wages.
According to the Australia Institute, the wages fell to 46.2 percent by June this year and since the 1970’s, it has gone down by around 11 percent.
Sally McManus added that wealth and power had become so unbalanced that 687 corporations paid no tax in the latest financial year and 48 millionaires paid no income tax, not even the Medicare Levy.
She said wealth and power had become “so unbalanced” in Australia that 678 corporations paid no tax in the most recent financial year on record, and 48 millionaires paid no tax, not even the Medicare levy.
“We need to change the rules to make them pay their fair share of tax…We need to change the rules so working people have more power. Surely the answer to the greed of the few is more power for the many,” she said, pointing out that the only way to do this, is to convince more Australians of the importance of a strong union movement.