Now that the Howard Government has been banished, it must be true that the workers have seen the light and are returning to union membership in droves - at least, so thinks Christian Kerr in The Australian.
A more favourable political climate under the Rudd government and less hostile workplace laws have helped unions defy historical trends and record membership increases across a range of industries.Christian doesn't seem to mind that none of the union types quoted give him any definitive figures about their membership - how much they have increased compared to last year - instead, they give highly selective examples, like this:
Linda White, assistant national secretary of the 120,000 member Australian Services Union, said branches in South Australia and the Northern Territory had grown by 6 per cent in the past 12 months.Hmmm, up all of 6 per cent in our least populous territory and second least populous state. In other words, last year they may have had 100 members in NT and SA, and this year they have 106.
All of this piqued the suspicion of The ShadowLands, so we decided to check out Kerr's claim that:
The most recent ABS data in April showed there were 1.75 million union members, a 3 per cent rise in membership, after many years of decline.So where did he get these figures from? Here it is:
In August 2008, there were 1.8 million employees who were trade union members in conjunction with their main job. This was a 3% increase on the 1.7 million trade union members in August 2007, however in both years, trade union members represented 19% of people who were employees in their main job.In fact, the latest available reliable figures (which were released in April 2009, but actually collected in August 2008) show that union membership is steady. None of the information provided to Kerr by other union types supports his assertion that union membership is making a comeback - and we would be willing to bet that the next Australian Bureau of Statistics figures bear this out.