From the TUC

Sir Lynton Crosby? Two countries, one strategy – weakening unions to make attacks on workers easier

31 Dec 2015, By

In the New Year’s Honours List, David Cameron’s Australian attack dog Lynton Crosby will receive a knighthood for his services to the Conservative Party. But his assistance has not been solely electoral. He has been a crucial transmission belt between the right-wing parties of both countries, and in both countries his strategy is being ruthlessly implemented. Weaken trade unions so that the 1%’s attack on working people is so much easier. That’s what Lynton Crosby’s knighthood is really for.

In the UK, the Trade Union Bill would undermine unions’ ability to defend public services from attack, and public sector workers’ wages and rights at work. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Earth, the Australian trade union movement is confronting an $80million attack ahead of a full-frontal attack on penalty rates – the extra pay for weekend, holiday and overtime working that so many Australian workers depend on.

In both countries, the Government has attempted to smear the reputation of unions by focusing on alleged abuses. The Trade Union Bill follows the so-called Independent Review of the Law Governing Industrial Disputes, chaired by QC Bruce Carr, which found no need to revise the law on picketing or union campaigns, despite strenuous attempts and 58 pages devoted to “alleged use of extreme tactics in industrial disputes.” Carr concluded that:

“I believe that any recommendations which I could have put forward without the necessary factual underpinning would have been capable of being construed as making a political rather than an evidence-based judgment.”

Despite the lack of evidence of abuse to be addressed, as the police themselves have confirmed, the Government has included an attack on picketing in the Trade Union Bill.

This process is remarkably similar, although on a different scale, to the concerted attack on the reputation of Australian unions by the Liberals’ Trade Union Royal Commission, also chaired by a formerly distinguished lawyer (in this case Dyson Heyden, who was found out speaking at a Liberal Party fund-raiser during his term of office at the Commission). It reported this week, and Dave Oliver, Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), responded:

“Between 2009-13, 837 workers in the industries investigated by this Royal Commissioner have died doing their job.  We are very concerned some recommendations will make it harder for workers to raise safety concerns in their workplace. This Royal Commission went back 30 years, spent $80m taxpayers’ money, examined 505 witnesses and has found only a handful of matters to prosecute.

In both countries, these attacks on trade unions are designed to soften us up, justifying measures that make it more difficult for us to defend working people. In the Trade Union Bill, the Conservatives are attempting to make it more difficult for public sector unions to take strike action against cuts, and interfere with members’ ability even to pay their subs by prohibiting the freely-chosen automatic deduction of subscriptions from wages.

In Australia, the Government’s intentions were made brutally clear by the ‘coincidental’ publication of the report of the Trade Union Royal Commission just days after the so-called Productivity Commission recommended scrapping penalty rates for Sunday working in retail and hospitality (although these sectors have grown more than the rest of the economy in recent years.) Dave Oliver responded that:

“The Commission’s recommendations ignore the economic evidence, expert advice and very real concerns of everyday Australians. This Report attacks the take-home pay and rights of hardworking Australians.

“We will not get a more productive economy by cutting wages. The Productivity Commission’s recommendations are out of step with Australian values, out of touch with the modern lives of working people, and would compromise future economic and productivity growth.”

These attacks on trade unions so far apart, but united by the common cause of defending the vulnerable against the greed of the rich and powerful, must be resisted. Just as hired guns like Lynton Crosby facilitate common attacks on working people across national boundaries, we will ensure that they are met by global solidarity.

5 Responses to Sir Lynton Crosby? Two countries, one strategy – weakening unions to make attacks on workers easier

  1. A Teacher
    Jan 4th 2016, 4:35 pm

    The Trades Unions are weaker now than ever before. I was a school teacher for 30 years when attacks by management, encouraged by Michael Gove began in 2010. Over 30 of us were simply pushed out of our jobs over a two year period. I had no leaving present, I had my reputation as a teacher tarnished and all the unions could do was passively accompany staff to secret meetings where some staff signed confidentiality agreements. I fought it in the courts and it was all hushed up. All management did was to corroborate each others’ stories, by saying things under oath that were never said about me in 31 years of teaching. They had no appraisal data to back their claims -my appraisal data was uniformly good, yet I was found to be a teacher with weaknesses who was just out for money and who had an ‘unreasonable sense of entitlement’ to my job. In reality, I lost my life savings of £45 000 believing I was doing the right thing in standing up for myself and my colleagues; the people who go along with this behaviour are the avaricious ones, cutting expensive staff and paying themselves big bonuses, whilst ignoring the moral aspects of their actions.
    The current form of lesson observations leaves staff without a leg to stand on. Is it any wonder the teaching profession is leaching staff? My tribunal proved that school managers can say anything about any member of staff and they will be believed by the courts. It is corruption of the worst sort and Cameron wants to weaken unions still further? He is not running a Government but something of a different nature altogether.

  2. Reta O’Connell
    Jan 4th 2016, 11:41 pm

    I don’t think a truer word was said. I have nothin more to add with the exception of….have you ever thought of becoming a government minister’s advisor? I think all u have to do is tell them they look gorgeous ,pinch their cheeks n say ‘who’s a good boy then’, n the occasional advice on blusher etc.

  3. Helen
    Jan 5th 2016, 8:51 am

    His political consultancy, Crosby Textor, has also been used for negative political campaigning by the National Party in New Zealand. Very unpleasant.

    Jan 5th 2016, 11:32 am

    This government with it’s Franco fascist approach cares nothing about the health & safety of the workforce, It also cares nothing for the health & safety of the Nation as a whole. Their sewer ladn legislation on Trade unions, which includes the SCAB law leads me to ask when you travel by train do you want some ‘hooray Henry’ office boy driving your train. HAVE THE ARMY BEEN TRAINED IN TRAIN DRIVING ?

  5. Government pledges to reverse anti-union laws
    Jan 31st 2016, 9:47 pm

    […] But his government has agreed to revoke C377, a bureaucratic measure giving extra powers to the Canada Revenue Agency, among other things requiring unions to declare all expenditures over CA$5k (less than £2.5k); and C525 which makes it more difficult for unions to secure registration at a workplace and easier to deregister them, a clear attack on collective bargaining and freedom of association. These measures are in line with the attack on union operations contained in the UK’s Trade Union Bill: yet another indication that attacks on unions are not confined to the UK, but spreading throughout the developed world. […]