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Last week, in advance of my debate with Ged Kearney (President of the Australian Council of Trade  Unions – ACTU), at the COSBOA National Small Business Summit, my blog listed all the things I  guessed Ms Kearney wouldn’t say. I listed things like:

> Admitting the current Royal Commission into trade union corruption is both timely and necessarily

Confirming the Fair Work Commission is not fit for purpose, and

Acknowledging our employment relations laws are hopelessly complex

Well, I am pleased to say I was 100% right! Ms Kearney didn’t say any of the above. But it’s what she  did say that should send a shiver up the spine of every hard-working small business employer:

> When told of the concerns many employers have about the risks and expenses associated with unfair dismissal claims, Ms Kearney said ‘there’s more chance of your workplace burning down than losing an unfair dismissal claim’. Oh dear. Not very reassuring.

> When reminded of the ridiculous findings contained in the International Trade Union  Confederation’s recent Global Rights Index Report – which found Australians had worse  employment-related rights than workers in Russia and Burkina Faso – the best Ms Kearney  could offer was that I had misstated the Confederation’s name.

> When an audience member asked about the unfair challenges faced by small businesses v  big businesses, particularly in relation to Enterprise Agreement-making, Ms Kearney simply  said that Enterprise Agreement-making is a ‘democratic process’. Huh?

While I am certain Ms Kearney is an effective and passionate advocate of her cause, I am equally  certain that the movement she leads is hopelessly out-of-touch with the realities faced by both  employers and employees in modern-day Australia. If I’m wrong, why has union membership  continued to plummet over the past 10 years? It seems to me that reasonable-minded Australians  are simply voting with their feet and choosing to have nothing further to do with a movement that  has become increasingly focussed on power and politics (think Paul Howes, Bill Shorten, and Rudd/Gillard/Rudd).

Australians – particularly those who own small and medium-sized businesses – deserve a lot better.

To be fair, it took courage for Ms Kearney to address an audience comprised of small business  owners and advocates. But her speech only served to reinforce my firmly-held belief that unions and small businesses have precious little in common.

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What the Unions Won’t Say

Watch the opening speech by David Bates at National Small Business Summit 2014

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