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Looking for the perfect union

TO the business community, unions are a perennial problem – not because most bosses are anti-worker, but because many unions don’t allow the flexibility to operate in the current work environment.

This is because unions, like any organisation or business for that matter, are most interested in the affairs of their most important clients – unless, of course, they are corrupt, then their interests lie in looking after a whole raft of other parties.

In most cases, the unions’ best “client” is a fully paid up, permanent employee.

The people who pay full dues get the best service. It’s no different than being a regular at a restaurant or buying a fancy car.

But for employers, a union’s best clients are not necessarily its best employees.

At least, though, it is possible to develop a rapport between the employer and the union when both sides have some understanding of each other’s strategic interests, and respect them.

Certainly, we have seen some form of industrial truce in the resources sector, particularly the big mines.

A sector once fraught with industrial action, the militancy of the mining unions gave Australia a dreadful reputation overseas.

Just as we once poked fun at products labelled ‘Made In Japan’, so too did foreign investors laugh when it was proposed that further investment capital be allocated for Australia.

Their capital drove investment in other regions, making places like Japan less reliant on our commodities and forcing us to take lower prices. In the end, competition made the miners change things forcefully.

Over time, however, unions have changed to reflect the greater flexibility required in today’s markets.

It is with some regret, then, that I see the potential for a new round of change in IR that may take things backwards. With new laws set to increase union powers, there is also the spectre of the CFMEU being deregistered and actually becoming stronger, possibly through a take over of the AWU.

It would be a bitter irony if the very vehicle that revealed the extent of corruption in the building industry actually created a similar problem for the mining community.

Dome comes ’round

I WELCOME the return of some good news from our sources down at Dome Coffees.

Dome has long been an example of a WA company that had shrugged aside the apparent difficulties in starting a service-orientated, strongly branded business here.

Patria Jafferies and Phil May established a business that has set many new benchmarks after anticipating the arrival of a very lucrative market.

It was, therefore, a pity that the company found itself caught in turbulent times. That is not unexpected for any business that grows rapidly.

Sourcing new capital and then stepping aside from day-to-day management to let new blood take the leash were wise moves by the founders.

If the plans I have heard about in the past couple of days come to fruition, that small blip in Dome’s growth will hardly be noticed.

They are ambitious, but it appears that it’s not about rebadging the past Dome.

It is more about taking the strong points and changing a number of things that a business the size of Dome’s could no longer handle.

I wish them well because WA needs more success stories like it.

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