Australian Left Review

Article Title

Dollars and sense : Social agreements - a note of caution


Gavan Butler


References to social contracts, social agreements, "working-class" incomes policies and the like are today quite frequent within the labor movement. The Australian Labor Party is said to have a special relationship with the trade union movement which is capable of being expressed in deals concerning, at least, the rate of growth of award wages, taxation and priorities in expenditure by the federal government. In the prelude to the next federal election, the ALP will be suggesting to the labor movement that it will be able to secure workers' living standards, while also suggesting to employers that it will be able to ensure a more stable industrial climate if not a lower and more stable rate of growth of direct labor costs. Those who recall the experience of British unions with the social contract of the mid- 1970s point out, however, that the deals involved are likely to limit the independence of unions and constrain them to accept a steady decline in the living standards of most workers.