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Big business spin

Oct 19, 2012Hot Topic

Recent media coverage featuring voices of the big business world would have you think that the answer to reducing our high electricity prices is simple – privatise.

Just yesterday, the Productivity Commission was in the press claiming that selling the electricity monopoly in NSW will reduce power prices.

It’s an interesting argument given that privatisation has resulted in higher electricity costs for consumers in Victoria and South Australia.

Nevertheless, the story suits the business lobby groups – the people that have been pushing the government hard for reform of late. We’ve seen calls for less red tape, weaker workplace laws and the abolishment of unfair dismissal laws getting traction with our governments.

Now they’re using legitimate concerns about electricity prices to push an agenda to cut wages.

The Productivity Commission review says that “NSW, Queensland and Tasmania should privatise their energy networks because state ownership has saddled them with higher wage rates, greater employee benefits and job security out of kilter with private utilities.”

If their agenda of driving down wages and conditions for electricity workers is successful, there’s nothing to say that other workers, like train drivers, won’t be next on the hit list.

The only thing standing in their way? The truth. And a society full of people who believe in fair wages and conditions and can see straight through their plans.

The truth is that power prices have nothing to do with people’s salaries. Experience in other states like South Australia shows that privatising electricity and attacking the workforce does nothing to reduce prices. In fact, South Australia has the most expensive power in the country under private ownership.

And you just have to look at Sydney Airport and the banking sector to see the negative impact privatisation has had on costs there.

The Electrical and Trades Union has been telling the NSW Government for years that in order to reduce electricity prices they should be fixing regulation and reducing the massive level of dividends it currently gouges from the NSW electricity network. But that obviously doesn’t play well into the story they want us to believe.

Another article in the papers recently shows that the big business attempts to drive down wages isn’t just confined to the electricity sector, with one paper leading with the line, “Australia’s high minimum wages are pushing up unemployment”. It went on to say that “in the US wages adjust to an economic slowdown but here the floor on wages means unemployment rises when growth slows”.

The private sector may want to rob us of our fair wages and conditions, but that doesn’t mean we should let them.

We shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for people’s proper wages and entitlements. After all, they mean that people have decent lives, support their families and sustain our economy.

The RTBU defends the right of all its members to good wages and conditions and we support the same for all workers. It’s electricity workers today, but it would be naive of us to think it won’t be other workers tomorrow.

We shouldn’t be sucked in to a cynical agenda from big business.

What do you think?