No. 145

ACTU’s Tim Lyons – Backing taxi owners at the expense of drivers and passengers

Stone the crows! ACTU assistant secretary Tim Lyons sniped at the Productivity Commission last week and shot himself in the foot. “There’s a sameness to the advice from the PC,” he said. And added:

You can generally guess the content of a PC report in advance … If it’s a government service delivery question – turn it into vouchers. If it’s a regulatory issue – create an artificial market. A PC report is like East German shoes – you can have any sort you like as long as you want the size 10 brown ones. [i]

This is a more than bit rich coming from an organisation that holds industry-wide negotiated wages and conditions as an article of faith. Pattern bargaining is ostensibly outlawed under Fair Work Australia, except for low paid employees

and where a “bargaining representative is genuinely trying to reach an agreement.” Which strikes the Crows as meaning whatever the FWA quasi-court wants it to mean.[ii] And the ACTU advocates industrial action to impose one-size fits-all wages and conditions across industries, regardless of individual enterprises’ circumstances.[iii]

It is also indigestible for Tim Lyons to attack outgoing Productivity Commission chief Gary Banks for allegedly attempting to “reduce the income and rights of Australian workers”, under the guise of improving the economy’s efficiency.

Really? That will be the Gary Banks who argues, “Productivity, like production, matters not for its own sake, but because growth in it can generate the higher incomes and government revenues needed to raise living standards and rectify disadvantage.” [iv] That Lyons also attacks Banks’ for raising “the vexed issue of taxi licence restrictions” says it all. [v]

Taxis enrich the owners of regulated plates at the inconvenience of the public who suffer from an inferior service, certainly in Sydney and Melbourne, and drivers who are paid a pittance and denied the right to go into business for themselves because they lack the capital to buy a licence.

A Melbourne protest last week against Allan Fels’ plan for the local industry says it all. Fels recommends the Victorian government reduce the cost of plates, create new five-year licences at an affordable price for capital-poor drivers, increase drivers’ share of fares and increase network competition.[vi]

Perhaps Tim Lyons’ preference for the existing arrangement, where regulation suits insiders, is not surprising given the ACTU now represents just 13 per cent of private sector workers, generally in large private enterprises where it is easy for union officials to negotiate. Overall union membership is 18 per cent, down 25 per cent for men and 15 per cent for women since 1992 and that includes the public sector where 40 per of workers are unionised. [vii]

That Tim Lyons

supports continuing regulation of Melbourne taxis, which protects the interests of owners, who benefit from the artificial restriction on competition at the expense of drivers and passengers, explains a great deal about his attack on Gary Banks. Any industry designed to suit suppliers will never provide competition on price and service.

It’s Tim Lyons whom the East German shoe fits.

ENDNOTES


[i] Tim Lyons, speaking at the challenge of workplace productivity symposium, November 29 @ http://www.actu.org.au/Images/Dynamic/attachments/7796/Tim Lyons Speech_The Challenge of Workplace Productivity Symposium.pdf recovered on December 1

[ii] Fair Work Ombudsman, “Enterprise bargaining fact sheet,” December 20 2011, @ www.fairwork.gov.au/resources/fact-sheets/workplace-rights/pages/enterprise-bargaining-fact-sheet.aspx recovered on December 1 2012

[iii] ACTU Congress 2012, “Secure Jobs. Better Future. Draft Policy,” @ http://www.actucongress.org.au/site/attachments/policies/draft/Better Bargaining Policy – DRAFT.pdf  recovered on December 1

[iv] Gary Banks, “Productivity policies: the ‘to do’ list,” November 1 2012 @ http://www.pc.gov.au/speeches/productivity-policies recovered on December 1

[v] Gary Banks, “Competition Policy’s regulatory innovations: quo vadis?” July 12 www.accc.gov.au/…/item.phtml?…Paper by Gary Banks recovered on December 1

[vi] Amelia Harris, “Taxi drivers protest over Professor Allan Fels reforms,” Herald Sun, November 28, Taxi Industry Inquiry, October 22, http://www.taxiindustryinquiry.vic.gov.au/fact-sheets/new-responsibilities-and-opportunities-for-taxi-operators recovered on December 1

[vii] Australian Bureau of Statistics, “Employee earnings, benefits and trade union membership, August 2011,” April 27 2012 @ www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/6310.0Main Features2August 2011?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=6310.0&issue=August 2011&num=&view= recovered on December 1

'2012