The Australian government is relentlessly rolling out austerity measures in line with the demands of the global economic system allied to US imperialism. Putting monopoly profits before people, it seeks to drive down wages, bring in cheap labour and off-shore jobs." property="og:description" />
Imperialism is driving down wages, importing cheap labour, and exporting jobs
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The Australian government is relentlessly rolling out austerity measures in line with the demands of the global economic system allied to US imperialism. Putting monopoly profits before people, it seeks to drive down wages, bring in cheap labour and off-shore jobs.
Right in the firing line are government public service workers, with the latest being those employed in the Immigration and Customs departments and the Border Protection department. On July 1st these are all to be merged into a Border Force department with a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.
In negotiations so far with the Commonwealth Public Service Union (CPSU) the government has pushed to reduce wages and cut conditions as the different areas are merged. Hanging over the negotiations is the threat that all 13,000 workers will be forced onto the current Immigration department arrangement, which would deny any wage increase and financially penalise Customs officers in particular.
CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said, “Customs and Immigration staff like other Federal Government employees face the Government’s aggressive approach to bargaining with proposals to strip workplace rights, cut allowances and conditions and of course all of this for pay offers of zero to 1 per cent… It’s not an overstatement to say that Customs officers are going ballistic… They are absolutely furious that the combination of the government’s draconian bargaining policy and the move to Border Force is being used to hang a threat over their heads and their take home pay could be being cut.”
CPSU members are already poised to implement work bans and take stop-work action in the next few weeks across many government departments such as Employment, Veterans’ Affairs and Defence.
Visa schemes guarantee cheap labour
The Senate inquiry into the widespread exploitation of underpaid and abused migrant workers only came about after public exposure by unions and ABC Four Corners journalists. It is focused on 457 visa workers in the food industry, but everyone knows that this vicious exploitation exists across the hospitality, healthcare, retail, manufacturing and construction industries as well. With over 100,000 working under the 457 and 417 visa schemes, there is plenty of scope for ruthless employers to exploit and bully this source of cheap and vulnerable labour and then sack them whenever the work tapers off.
No wonder the bosses don’t want to re-settle asylum seekers and refugees, no wonder immigration intake quotas are getting cut back! While racism is a factor, the economic incentive is driving this.
And it is not only the backyard sweatshops and shonky contractors doing the dirty work. The large local construction company Theiss has been caught out signing up workers in the Philippines under illegal contracts that threatened deportation for “trade union activities”. Theiss is half-owned by multinational Leightons Holding, now calling themselves CITIC. This has been going on for three years, but never fear, the Fair Work Ombudsman will investigate!
As the Electrical Trades Union Victorian Secretary Troy Grey pointed out, “In terms of coercion against joining a union this is about as extreme as you can get… The terrifying part is if these threats can be made in writing to migrant workers, by an iconic Australian construction conglomerate, what’s happening everywhere else?”
Manufacturing jobs shipped off-shore
Like the automobile industry, the local defence industry is being wound down and manufacturing shifted to low-wage countries. The motivation is not merely wages, but also on providing military equipment that is ‘inter-operational” with the US military and can be readily integrated under US command.
For example the formerly government-owned Australian Submarine Corporation (now ASC) in South Australia has been forbidden to tender for the major construction of the next submarine fleet, while Japan is favoured to get the lion’s share of the work in building long-range submarines that will be more suited to US plans for war with China or Korea than to defence of Australia.
As the work dries up at ASC, this is also happening at the other defence industry shipyard at Williamstown in Victoria. This year alone BAE Systems has cut 150 sub-contractors and now 80 full-time employees from its workforce, with no new contracts in sight. The viability of the whole shipyard is uncertain beyond the next 9 months or so. So much for defence security!
No loyalty to workers
Another industry already decimated by the off-shoring of jobs is local maritime shipping which employs Australian ship crews for work in Australian coastal waters. In the last 12 months three coastal oil tankers have ceased operating as local refineries are closed and more fuel is being imported from Singapore. The latest ship to go is the ironically named British Loyalty, operated by BP to move fuel from the soon-to-be-closed Bulwer Island refinery in Queensland.
This is another example of Australia’s domination by imperialism and the de-industrialisation now taking place. It means that Australia, in spite of large oil and gas reserves, will be importing 90% of its petrol and diesel fuel, with half of the unleaded petrol coming from a single refinery in Singapore. So much for fuel security!
Workers from the Maritime Union of Australia protested outside the BP headquarters in Melbourne, with assistant national secretary Ian Bray saying, “The crew of the British Loyalty are decent, honest, hard-working Australians. They just want to feed their kids, pay their mortgages, and work under Australian conditions. Instead, BP wants to give them the sack and replace them with foreign crew on as little as $2 an hour.”
The union has called for a national boycott of BP petrol stations.
These few examples show that Australia may be a developed country, but is still very much dominated by the interests of foreign capital. The ruling monopoly capitalist class and its agents in Canberra are partners and collaborators with foreign imperialism, and the working class and working people generally are more and more the victims.
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