If big business hates unions, why do they have the BCA?

The coalition government and their big business backers supposedly have free market ideals. If everyone is allowed to be valued in a competitive environment, then the world will be a better place according to those ideals. Less regulation and more “freedom”. This ideology really takes its strength from the Cold War – the west “won” with their free markets, so therefore anything that is not free can be argued as a losing strategy. One place where right wing governments likes to really focus this strategy is unions.

Unions are designed to give collective voice to those who if speaking by themselves do not have enough power to make any changes. They are most known in the context of workplaces, particularly trades and mining. A big business or government can set the rules and an individual has little ability to dispute or complain. The big business can go on quite easily without the input of an individual, as there are plenty of other workers – but an individual is screwed if they don’t have their wage coming in. In this situation, the individual has no leverage, and conditions are likely to gradually deteriorate for workers. Thus unions exist. Without getting into a whole thing about the value of unions in contributing to the society we have, they allow individuals to pool their resources to get an outcome that is better for everyone. Big business likes to call this socialism, right wing governments likes to call this against free market principles. Both would prefer if individuals had less power.

One of the organisations pushing this agenda is the Business Council of Australia. They claims the unions are militant and screwing the workers – that the workers would be better off without them. BCA claims that workers would be better off dealing directly with big business. Notwithstanding that this is most likely a complete lie, what is more interesting is the structure of BCA. What is it? BCA (and other groups like it) is a representative body of which big business pays a hefty fee every year with the knowledge that they will represent their interest to the community and especially to the government in influencing legislation. Business realised that having a mechanism to provide a united front that could speak for all their interests would be much more effective than each company working individually.

Take lobbying. Big business want’s less taxes and less regulations (traditionally). They are against minimum wages. Set aside the bogus arguments they use for a moment, and look at how they argue. The government doesn’t have enough time to listen to each of them individually, and each business would likely have a difference idea of what those regulation should look like, and how much less tax they should be paying. The message would get lost. But if they combine their message and work together on a strategy they can all agree with, then the message has a strong chance of being heard. Having a single person who can represent all business is very powerful. It makes things more efficient and helps all big business achieve their goals.

The BCA is a union for big business. It is almost exactly the same. They pay fees, they have engagement form the BCA to decide what outcomes they want to achieve, and they rely on the BCA to represent their interests to the government and community. This is almost exactly what a union does. In fact, most lobbying has the same setup as a union. Big businesses are aware of how pointless it is to fight as individuals even though they are billion dollar organisations. Yet they complain about individuals with much less resources having their own representative bodys. The hypocriticism is incredible.

If big business really has an issue with unions then they should split up the BCA. They should be going after all those organisations, like the Australian Medical Association (AMA). Every industry has a body that works together to represent the groups interest. They all run on fees contributed by everyone. In sports there is a players union. It makes no sense for individuals to bargain with their employers alone, they will always get screwed.

Just like big business would get screwed if they didn’t have the BCA. Time for a Royal Commission into corporate unions and lobby groups?