Monday, March 27, 2006

the big issue

From Catherine via Sarah comes this piece on the student protests in France about young workers’ rights. There are some similarities with the Oz situation (in France the buzz word is flexibility – for employers that is), though some important differences too, with France’s youth unemployment being extraordinarily high. The dispute threatens to bring down the French government (according to some), with a general strike imminent.

Meanwhile at home the new IR laws are about to come into effect, and Greg Combet, interviewed on this morning’s ABC program, is castigating Labor for being too distracted by internal bickering and political point-scoring re the AWB affair to get any coherent message across regarding these laws, to mount an adequate critique, and to develop an alternative policy.

It certainly does look as if Howard is being dishonest, rather than naïve, about the way these laws will be used by big business, as this article suggests. He’s warning of a scare campaign from you know who, but it’s likely that the effect of the laws will be insidious and long-term. As Combet points out, most workers are already on agreements of one kind or another now, so the effect won’t be immediate across the board. With collective bargaining effectively dead, it’ll be hard to compare impacts. Workers will be on their own, and the new system will encourage them to blame themselves for any misfortunes they suffer. It’s a clever way of engineering individualism, of a kind.


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