The Federal Governments upcoming assault on trade unions will meet resistance from some unlikely quarters, with non-members and Liberal Party voters agreeing bashing unions wont serve the nations interest.

The ‘sweeping industrial reforms’ planned by John Howard will hit in a
climate where voters of all political persuasions feel the economy is not
delivering for working families.

Annual survey of workers earning less than $60,000

These findings are contained in the annual State of the Union report,
a major poll of 1,000 NSW workers earning under $60,000 conducted by
Auspoll for Unions NSW.

Among key findings are that an overwhelming 88 per cent of NSW workers
support the ongoing existence of unions, including 76 per cent of all non-union
members and 70 per cent of Liberal voters.

No groundswell of opinion to attack trade unions

“It is clear that there is no ground swell of support for an agenda of
attacking trade unions,” Unions NSW secretary John Robertson says.

“This is important to understand and provides a counter balance to the
federal government’s claims that unions are an historical anachronism whose
passing should be a matter of universal joy.”

Growing disillusionment with politics

While unions have broad support there is growing disillusionment with the
political process and major parties, including:

  • 80 per cent (including 77 per cent of Liberal voters) agreeing that while
    the economy is going well, it is a struggle for working people to make ends meet
  • 88 per cent of people agreeing the government has a moral obligation to
    ensure that every worker earns enough to have a decent quality of life.and
  • 71 per cent believing both Labor and Liberal are too close to big business,
  • 59 per cent believing that neither major party stands up for working people
    any more.
  • Workers crying out for leadership

    Robertson says a vast majority of workers are crying out for some sort of
    leadership, which allow them to gain a modicum of control over their destiny.

    ” I’m not saying the return to the central arbitration system – where
    everybody’s conditions were pegged to the Metalworker Award is the answer.

    No thirst for more workplace deregulation

    ” But I do question, whether their really is the thirst for more wholesale
    deregulation and an outright attack on trade unions.”

    The survey, designed to create a snapshot of working people in NSW, has been
    conducted over the past ten years.

    Key findings

    Key trend findings in 2005 include:

  • Half of all workers agree they ‘would rather be in a union’
  • 41 per cent of non-members who say they would like to be in a union have
    never been asked
  • There is an increasing satisfaction with the performance of trade unions,
  • The growing perception that management has power than unions.
  • In recent years, Unions NSW has extended its State of the Union report
    to build a fuller picture about the attitudes of workers – and the differences
    between different demographics of workers

    These add to the picture built from our benchmark questions.

    Intensity and demands of work increasing

    On general attitudes to work there a sense that the intensity and demands of
    work are increasing:

  • 54 per cent agree or agree strongly that they are working harder than ever
  • One in three workers say the number of hours they are working is putting
    stress on home life – with workers who are parents even more likely to agree
    with the proposition
  • 37 per cent of workers are working unpaid over time – with those on
    individual contracts are most likely to be working for free
  • Looking at attitudes of different groups of workers helps us build our
    picture of the current state of the Australian workplace – and the impact
    further labour market deregulation will have – more fully.

    Juggling jobs and families

    Without doubt, working parents – those juggling their jobs with family
    responsibilities, are the group who currently feel the most vulnerable.

    Anyone who has had a child will tell you it’s a life-changing event, a point
    where they begging to feel their responsibilities as both a provider and

    Secure employment for working parents

    And the basis of this responsibility is secure employment:

  • 93 per cent of parents say job security is very important to them – and this
    is the one thing that labour market deregulation sets out to undermine in the
    name of flexibility.
  • The point of becoming a parent is a particular point of vulnerability, where
    74 per cent of parents say their attitude to work changes.
  • For many the manifestation of these changes attitudes is guilt – one in
    three (34 per cent0 of parents say that due to work commitments they don’t give
    their children the parenting they deserve;
  • 47 per cent say they don’t have the time to be as involved in their kids
    education as they would like.
  • Nearly half (45 per cent) say they would reduce their working hours and take
    a drop in pay if they had the chance.
  • Younger
    Younger workers don’t have the same life commitments, but many are keenly aware that what they are doing now matters in the long term.

    The survey showed young workers breaking the stereotype of footloose,
    transient workers, which the federal government often puts forward as the happy
    beneficiaries of labour market deregulation.

    The research suggested that most younger workers have a serious long-term
    career plan:

  • While transient, 40 per cent of workers say they are collecting skills and
    experience from other sources; but
  • 40 per cent do see their current job as long term.
  • The majority (60 per cent) are not prepared to trade off conditions for
    extra money
  • Older workers worried

    As for older workers, who have lived through the changes of the past decade,
    they have quite a complex take on the world of work.

    Personally, they are worried:

  • 71 per cent say they are concerned they will not have enough money to retire
    when they want to;
  • 61 per cent say they are concerned that if they lose their job they won’t
    get another one that is as good; and
  • 77 per cent say they do worry about the next generation of workers.