Union secretary a ‘labotomised zombie’ for going along with carbon tax

The Shadow Innovation Minister has called the secretary of Australia’s largest workers union a ‘labotomised zombie’ [sic] after news that he will back the carbon tax, despite vowing to fight the tax if it cost any Australian workers their jobs.

Australian Workers Union (AWU) national secretary, Paul Howes, says he is confident the government’s carbon tax plan will not result in any sackings, and vows to shame any firms that use the tax as an excuse to downsize on staff numbers, according to a report from The Telegraph.

The AWU becomes the second prominent workers union to support the tax, following news that the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) is endorsing the package.

Shadow Innovation Minister Sophie Mirabella says Howes’ support is worrying, since Prime Minister Julia Gillard has not yet voiced job security for workers at Australian companies affected by the tax.

According to Mirabella, Howes is a “labotomised zombie” for going along with the government’s carbon tax plan, to the detriment of Australian workers.

“Julia Gillard has refused to give any guarantee that jobs will not be lost as a result of the carbon tax either in Parliament or in interviews with the press,” said Mirabella.

“Having failed to deliver on his promise of securing a guarantee from the Labor Government that no jobs would be lost under a carbon tax, Mr Howes has given up the pretense of representing workers and is now just another labotomised zombie.”

Howes’ endorsement of the tax comes after Treasurer Wayne Swan announced that companies using the carbon tax as an excuse to sack workers would feel the wraith of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

"We said quite rightly, and quite proudly, that our union would not support a price on carbon that costs the jobs of our members," Howes was quoted as saying by The Telegraph

"We hold that position today. But we believe that the government has delivered a package which addressed the concerns we have."

The AWU serves over 135,000 members in some of Australia’s most trade-exposed industries including manufacturing, steel, aluminum, construction and oil and gas.

Shadow Minister Mirabella claims these industries will now suffer as a result of Howes’ decision.

“In the face of global economic uncertainty we shouldn’t be taking risks with Australian manufacturing jobs. Businesses all around Australia are concerned that the carbon tax will result in our jobs and carbon emissions being shipped off shore,” she said.

“Stephen Cartwright, the Chief Executive of the NSW Business Chamber summarised the bizarre juxtaposition when he said ‘It seems a strange world where business groups are arguing for the livelihoods of manufacturing workers, and manufacturing unions are arguing for the case of the accounting firms, legal firms and banking houses who want a new revenue stream’.”

Mirabella says ‘naming and shaming’ companies that lay-off workers under the carbon tax isn’t enough, and Howes should be supporting his members right now by refusing to endorse the package.

“To make matters worse, Mr Howes made the stunning revelation that he will name and shame any business that tries to lay off an AWU member under the carbon tax,” she said.

“It’s time for Mr Howes to stop playing politics, add some steel to his spine, and stand up for the workers he is supposed to be representing.”

The carbon tax is set to start from 1 July 2012, at which date companies will be taxed $23 per tonne of carbon emitted.

An emissions trading scheme is scheduled to take over from the carbon tax from 2015.

Two other prominent industry groups, the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) and the AMWU, are already at loggerheads over the tax, with the Ai Group’s chief exeutive, Heather Ridout, claiming the tax will negatively affect many members of Australia’s manufacturing sector and essentially dump industry with a ‘double tax’.

The AMWU, like the AWU, is endorsing the package, claiming it will lead to more jobs for Australians developing energy management technology — as long as the government agrees to buy locally rather than import these products.

Image: AWU national secretary Paul Howes — sourced from The Australian.