Worker's Union 2.0 - Why todays union sux, and why tomorrow's union rocks

Over the past 10 years, here in Australia, our Government has been doing everything it can to weaken unions. They started with the students, then the maritime, now the builders and teachers, as well as the final blow to the students. It seems that no matter what this government does, the uproar and strikes last for a few days, then everyone votes the Govs back in. They're in their third term now (or is it a forth!). This time they have control of the senate, which means they can now do pretty much as they please, and we'll just have to ride it out and hope the elections boot them out next time. Lets hope also, that the replacements have room left or know how to set things right...

We did see a fairly large demonstration recently, when they introduced their Industrial Relations Reform package. The unions called a rally, made a few speeches, paid big dollars for a sky channel to broadcast the rally, pumped out the shallow propaganda, and came up with a few interesting bumper stickers. But while I don't agree with the Government's position what so ever, I'm not in the least bit impressed with the Union response either.

I happened to be sitting next to a union rep at a conference dinner a few months back. I tried to ignore his looking through his nose at me and strike up a conversation. I asked, given the Government's control of the senate and as a result the Australian Workplace Agreements were quite likely to get a run for a while, and that if that happened the Union would be in a bit of a pickle, what was their strategy post IR reform? I added that it was all well and good to fight now, good on you/us, but when it happens - then what? He didn't even look at me - that rude little man, he looked the other way, seemingly interested in someone else at that dinner, played with his food a bit, clearly he was used to much better meals, shrugged and said, "we fight" then excused himself from our conversation and left to join the person he was more interested in.

Now that man was not just they guy that sends you spam email, and and all together uninteresting papers in the mail, he was a rep asked to present at a conference. I would have thought he knew quite a bit about what one of Australia's largest unions had in mind. I get the sneaky suspicion that Australia's largest union has not a clue. Like most institutions being threatened by this brave new world, they're deciding to dig in and do things the the way they always have. Strikes, rallies, and bumper stickers.

Its an unfortunate time for workers and their unions. We're all in the middle of a very confusing media and communications change, with an overly complex way of life, and a local economy being reformed by global trends. I almost regret being born. But I want to make a suggestion to unions, on how they may change what they do just a tad, and become the most important thing to me in my life!

I want my union to simplify my life. Take all the things that make my life unecessarily hard, and make them easy. Dragging me into a strike is not simplifying things for me. Asking me to understand the inaccessible politics of Federal and State politics in Australia is not simplifying my life either. Expecting me to put a sticker on my car that will get me into road rage fueled car park punch up with my boss will not simplify my life either. Here's what would simplify my life:

I would pay $200 a month to my union if it could offer me:
  • A 1.5 gig 2 way Internet connection with unlimited downloads and uploads
  • A managed super annuation plan that included disability and temporarily out of work cover
  • Heath care cover, including dental and travel insurance
  • Insurance for personal possessions in the home, and comprehensive motor vehicle
  • A tax accountant to do my returns once a year
  • A credit union account
  • Subsidised child care and a fund for family education
  • An agent to keep on the lookout for a better job for me, and keep me posted in my email once a month
  • And perhaps a welfare fund that offered a small amount of money to members who find themselves in need of some weekly financial assistance
  • And keep taking the fights to the Government while they're at it
Now, I don't see why the biggest unions in Australia couldn't use their collective bargaining power to get all that for me down to around $200 a month. Having it all in one place, and at a reduced expense to my money and time would certainly improve the conditions of my miscellaneous life. I'm not so interested in my largely part time, contracted work conditions any more. If my manager's an arse hole there's not a lot I can do about it really. I just want out in the smoothest possible way. I don't want to get into an unfair dismissal fight and shorten my life through stress. I just want the rest of my life to be simplified so I'm less stressed at work, and more capable of looking for new work if the manager gives me the shits.

So, if there's still a tough talking union rep left in this country, who is still genuinely less concerned with their own political aspirations, and more with a worker's life conditions, then give me a call, I have more thoughts on Union 2.0 that I think you could use.

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