Today it became clear that Jeff Lawrence, the boss of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) would be leaving the post in the near future. Some say Mr Lawrence leaves under duress, being forced out after losing the confidence of senior union officials in recent times, for being an ineffective communicator particularly when it comes to media. The ACTU boss on the other hand says that he was certainly not forced out of the position, reportedly last Friday and instead could simply not complete another 3 years in the job as he approached 60 years of age.
Going by experience it is almost certain that the former is true, the head union official was likely pushed out by those in the union movement unhappy with the way he has performed in the role since assuming the position. It seems as though the coup has been even more seamless than those in the ALP that have highly involved the union movement in recent years.
The ACTU Secretary, by any objective or subjective analysis has been a very poor performer in the position since taking the reigns. His media presence has at times been so non-existent as to foment questions as to his whereabouts, well not really, but you get the picture. This media spotlight has consequently been grabbed by other media hungry union bosses, including such well-known men who now have a face like Paul Howes of the Australian Workers Union and Dave Oliver of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.
In a cruel twist one of the names touted to take over the position of ACTU Secretary is Dave Oliver, whose media profile has sky-rocketed in the past 12 months in particular, gaining regular access to the ear of Julia Gillard as the Prime Minister attempts to work through the manufacturing woes which have escalated since around the time of the GFC.
But it is not only the lack of media presence that Mr Lawrence brought to the role. The ACTU boss is very poor at delivery of message and was not even effective at displaying feigned anger, even at issues which usually provoke animated debate with the union movement, like labour market deregulation.
Since the “Your Rights at Work” Campaign too, very few people would be able to associate Jeff Lawrence with any particular high-profile public relations campaign on any workplace related issue, no matter how hard they tried.
Predictably, on announcing his departure as a union boss, Mr Lawrence took the opportunity to have an ineffective prod that came across almost as a pat at the business community who are calling for some flexibility in the workplace.
The union movement, still obviously cocky from their very effective campaign against the Howard Government WorkChoices legislation, which in large part led to its downfall, think that any tinkering with the Gillard Government’s “Fair Work” laws equates to a wholesale return to WorkChoices, so the ACTU Secretary obviously could not resist temptation.
A return to WorkChoices is never going to happen, the collective pants of the Coalition are scared off permanently save for a desire for some meagre flexibility changes which would not even qualify as the ugly cousin of that divisive thing called WorkChoices. But hey, what do the unions have to talk about which scares people en masse if they don’t have something which actually does like WorkChoices? Not very much.