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Working together "for the nation" is a class question

Written by: Ned K. on 20 August 2023


Governments and big business often say that business, government and workers must work together for the benefit of the nation as a whole.

In the day-to-day experience of workers, it is the businesspeople and governments that get the benefits rather the workers. Who is 'the nation" is a class question that workers face every day.

There are countless examples of this on a large and small scale. Big banks often announce that they have to "let so many thousand workers go", a euphemism for throwing workers on the scrap heap. 

Many workers thrown out of work though, never have their story told in the newspapers or on the TV news. Human Resources managers, now called "People and Culture" managers have the job of disposing of unwanted workers without any disruption to the profit-making activities of the business. 

Where workers are hired by a contractor to perform work for larger host employers, it is sometimes the host employer that is the one calling the shots.

Shopping centres owned by multinationals like Westfield and commercial property developers are renowned for this type of behaviour. Shopping centers and large commercial developments such as multi-story office towers are often owned by corporations whose entire existence is based on workers’ income in the form of managed superannuation funds.

Recently a worker (Bill) employed by a medium sized contractor performing work for a large shopping center owner complained to his contractor boss about excessive workload.

His concerns fell on deaf ears. He was a conscientious worker and was worried that his contractor boss would lose the contract and he would then be out of work himself if something was not done. The quality of work required to be done at the shopping center was deteriorating as the workers hired by the contractor were not trained properly. The worker complained again about the declining standards of work but the contractor boss still did nothing.

In desperation the worker took one of his family members in to work with him after the center had closed to the public to try and catch up on unfinished work. The manager of the center’s owner saw this "unauthorised" worker on the premises and within a couple of days, the worker Bill was told not to come to work as he had breached health and safety by bringing another person in to the center to help him catch up on workload.

The contractor told Bill the shopping center owner no longer wanted him on the site.

Bill's union got in touch with the property owner and their People and Culture manager promised a full investigation. There was hope that the center owner would overturn the decision of their center manager and recognize that the real issue was workload and that Bill's action in calling in a family member to help out was with the best of intentions.

Bill's hopes were raised when it was revealed that one of the large industry superannuation funds had money in the ownership of the shopping center. After about a week of not being able to work, the property owner said that after a full investigation, Bill had to go.

Bill the worker and his union on one side, representing the viewpoint of the workers and on the other side, the contractor, property owner and property manager with the viewpoint of the capitalists. The contractor boss was not the worst boss in the world, but fearful of losing work with a major client, fell into line at the expense of the worker. All the drivel of the People and Culture manager of the property owner and the property management about people are our greatest asset came to naught. Bill was down the road, so disgusted he did not want to go for unfair dismissal but instead took up assistance from his union in helping him find alternative employment at another worksite.


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