The following is an obituary.
The death, though, was never publicly announced -- and the tragedy is compounded by the fact that the closest relatives are keeping it a secret. But that does not alter the truth: Trade unions, as we knew them, are dead. The protector of the underdog is no more. What passes for a union today does not have the power to provide shelter.In fact, even the estate executors need protection. Unions once saw themselves as a buffer against the whims of the executives. They made sure that wages were fair. They also functioned as the political voice of society. Today, such unions are a thing of the past.
The development of a global job market, the appearance of 1.2 billion new workers and the readiness of millions more to work at any cost has robbed the job brokers of their once-powerful position.For decades, they had access to unparalleled treasures: The well-educated industrial worker was irreplaceable; the industrial robot was not yet intelligent enough; and the masses of today's competitive jobseekers were trapped behind walls and barbed wire, and sometimes simply hidden in the morass of Asian slums. These people were denied participation in Western job markets, a state of affairs which kept the price of Western labor high.
It was child's play for union negotiators to force employers to pay higher wages. The factory owner had no choice but to buy labor from the unions, because while there was a national and -- in the best case -- still a Western job market, there was no global job market that could provide the industrial skills necessary. Workers were scarce after both World Wars, and unions had a virtual monopoly on the commodity. They milked it for all it was worth.
Der Spiegel is posting these extracts from a new book War for Wealth: The Global Grab for Power and Prosperity. It's uncomfortable reading, especially in an Australia where Howard clearly believes that social democracy is about to join the Leninist state and planned economy in the trashcan of history.
On the other hand, if Howard really were surfing towards destiny, he might be able to tell the truth occasionally and not need to constantly scare us into wetting ourselves before we re-elect him.
Cue Saruman, despatching his fighting uruk-hai:
A new power is rising! Its victory is certain! March to Helm's Deep! Leave none alive!