A suggestion by the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Philip Lowe, that workers should demand higher wages, was something that was unheard of in the days of trickle-down economics. In those days, which was not that long ago (months rather than years). Workers were told that demanding pay rises would increase inflation, undermine businesses’ profits and end up ruining the economy. The Reserve Bank has noted that the country is now facing a crisis of low pay; wages are stagnating. Low pay is a drag on the economy and it is causing many people to be nervous about record household debt levels if, or when, interest rates start to climb again. There is great concern about mortgage default risk.
It can be done; unions can win. As an example, a relatively small union, but which has about 100% membership in its industry has stuck it out against its employer. Behind the employer was a person who was seen as a union-buster who greatly admired the bastardry of the Howard Government’s suicidal Work Choices industrial relations mechanism2. However, he has been beaten, and it was because the union held together and stuck it out. The result has been hailed a success for the union3, and going by the hangdog faces of the bosses when they announced the deal, they also realise it was a win for the union. Some of them may be nervous about their tenure given their ham-fisted handling of the dispute.
Any way, now the upcoming tours of Bangladesh and India can go ahead and this summer’s Ashes series are no longer threatened. For it was the 300 members of the Australian Cricketers’ Association who held out, enduring unemployment and uncertainty. The biggest winners, relatively speaking, have been women cricketers, who in the next few years may be able to earn enough to not bother having a second job, and to become fully professional. That is truly progressive.