Sliding living standards, wage stagnation for working people and rising wealth inequality will be big issues as the next Australian Federal Election approaches.
While the election has not yet been officially called, the battle lines are being drawn on industrial relations.
Unions have called for a rise in the minimum wage to restore some balance and empower working people. They are also campaigning hard against impending attacks on the penalty rates earned by workers on low wages.
In contrast, the Coalition Government has spent $80 million dollars on a Royal Commission into investigating unions while spending little energy or funds scrutinising corporate corruption and continues to push for the anti-union ABCC to be re-established.
And while their tax policy remains vague, the Turnbull Government looks set to cut corporate taxes while refusing to supply the public education and health funding needed to provide essential public services to ordinary people.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal between Australia, the US and 10 other Pacific Rim countries will set global rules that will further tip the balance of power into the hands of the already wealthy and big corporations – and away from working people.
The TPP: Extra rights for corporations
The TPP sets rules in favour of global corporations – such as by giving them extra rights to sue governments if they can argue that a change in law or policy “harms” their investment.
This means that foreign corporations will be able to bypass national courts and sue Australian governments in unfair international tribunals. This could include over laws or policies that would be to the benefit of working people.
For example, the French Veolia company is currently suing the Egyptian government over a local government contract dispute in which they are claiming compensation for a rise in the minimum wage.
No effective protection for labour rights
In an increasingly competitive and globalized world it’s clear that workers everywhere need more protection of their rights, pay and conditions than ever.
The TPP was an opportunity to set enforceable rules for a positive outcome for working people around the world, but it was a missed opportunity.
Instead, despite promises, the labour rights chapter in the TPP is not effective or enforceable – leaving workers to compete with each other in a destructive global race to the bottom.
Indeed, the TPP does not even ban the trade of products manufactured by forced, child or slave labour.
Extra temporary workers
The TPP is set to expand the numbers of temporary overseas workers in Australia, but provides no extra protections for their rights and removes the requirement to test whether local labour is available.
Given Australia’s current culture of exploitation of temporary overseas workers, this is likely to only lead to more of the same. Local workers are also vulnerable to having their wages and conditions undermined by unscrupulous employers taking advantage of temporary workers who face deportation if they lose their jobs.
The TPP gives more rights to global corporations and undermines workers’ rights.
We’re campaigning for our elected representatives to vote against the deal in Parliament. You can take action here.