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ACTU survey disproves ACTU campaign

14 November 2011

The Australian Council of Trade Unions campaigns for 'secure' work. Its campaigning includes the destruction of the right for us to be self-employed, to be our own boss. But it also wants to eliminate casual work, labour hire, contracting-out of services and anything that is not 'permanent employment'.

To support its campaign, it has released a survey, Voices from Working Australians, which it claims shows that working Australians support the ACTU campaign. In fact, the survey of 40,000 unionists shows the reverse. We've summarised the survey and make commentary below.

Survey Summary

The survey as it stands is most interesting and offers valuable insights into the attitudes of people working in some specific publicly funded areas. Unfortunately the ACTU has titled it Voices from Working Australians, which is a misleading public relations title which attempts to represent the survey as being typical of all working Australians.

It's an online survey of a specific section of Australian unionists. In this respect it gives a good insight into one aspect of the thinking of a discrete segment of Australian workers. But it is not legitimate for the ACTU to claim a representation beyond that. Further, the ACTU claims that the survey shows union support for its secure work campaign. In fact, we say the survey shows the reverse.

A note on Australian union membership:
  • 1.8 million union members in Australia = 19.1% of workforce.
  • 46% of public-sector employees are in a union.
  • 14% of private-sector employees are in a union.
This compares with 2.1 million self-employed people in Australia.

Profile of respondents
  • Some 42,000 responded, a big survey by any measure.
  • 98% union members.
  • 64% women.
  • 72% come from the caring industries of healthcare, education, welfare and public administration.
  • Educated, with 79% having a diploma or higher.
  • 60% over 45 years of age.
  • Higher percentage have mortgages than the general population---52% to 35%.
  • More likely to have permanent jobs (85%).
  • 63% work between 35 and 40 hrs a week.
Overwhelmingly, the survey reflects the attitudes of white-collar, educated females working in public-sector or publicly funded jobs in the clerical, professional, community services, health and education areas. Most appeared to have a managerial position of some sort.

ICA finds the findings surprising from the perspective of the ACTU, as they do not reflect the 'class warfare' campaigning typified by ACTU and union outpourings. Actually, the findings reflect a high level of professionalism and commitment to work that we would anticipate seeing from the demographic of the respondents.

On job security
  • 80% did not rate secure jobs as important to them.
  • 78% did not rate job security as a top industrial issue.
  • 61% worked additional hours but seemed to do so by choice.
  • Most common reason cited for people who worked part-time was because they preferred it. Only 8% worked part-time because could not find full-time work.
  • Of youth in the survey looking for reliability of work, only 15% were searching because they could not find permanent work.
These results are perhaps a surprise because they conflict with the campaigning efforts of the ACTU and the unions. But it should not be a surprise from the perspective of the respondents. Most are people who are highly skilled, working in sectors where their skills are needed and where secure (government) funding drives the economics of their industries. The respondents have every reason to be confident that they can sell themselves to find the job/s in which they feel most satisfied. Also, being in 'caring' industries, there is a strong commitment to their jobs and the people for whom they care for over and above themselves.

On job satisfaction
  • 70% satisfied with their working conditions.
  • 85% were satisfied with work.
  • 69% expressed no dissatisfaction with senior managers and 76% had not experienced problems with their supervisors.
  • 67% said managers showed interest in their working conditions.
As a general rule, the survey shows people reasonably happy with their work environment and the way it's managed. This again runs counter to ACTU campaigning which tends to portray managers as unreasonable in order to justify union aggression against managers.

On outside hours work
  • 73% were contacted out of hours about work matters.
  • 51% had attended work while sick.
  • 75% feel comfortable taking time off work to care for the sick etc.
Again, ACTU campaigning seems to want to make a big deal out of the fact that many people do extra work outside normal hours and are 'forced' into not taking sick or other leave. These survey results however show the reverse.

ACTU campaigning
  • 98% want campaigning on wages and conditions
This makes sense. It's what unions are supposed to do
  • 95% want campaigning on workers' rights
This also makes sense. However, what those 'rights' are is not defined.
  • 95% want campaigning for good secure jobs
This is inconsistent with the attitudes and experiences shown above. It probably reflects the fact that 'good secure jobs' is a motherhood objective even if people feel it's not directly relevant to their personal situation.

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