Howes was heavily promoted by the Murdoch press when ‘leader’ of the AWU. Howes is not the first nor will he be the last union secretary to take up a job with big business.
That someone like Howes could ever become a national secretary of a union in the first place shows to what extent acceptance of capitalism is present within trade union leadership.
However there are much more deceptive forces at work within the official trade union leaderships than Paul Howes who, after all, openly preached class collaboration and consensus with business as the way forward for workers!
More sinister are some union leaderships who promote unions primarily as service providers rather than as groups of workers joining together in collective actions to win a common cause with strong organisation in workplaces and across industries they cover.
Research by NSW researcher David Peetz demonstrated that across all industries, union membership remained strongest where there was the presence of active workplace leaders (delegates or shop stewards) in the workplace.
Any resort for a quick fix to increase union membership through union as a third party ‘delivering’ a service to passive members is doomed to fail and continue union membership on its slippery slide towards only 10% of the total working class, which is about 80% of the population.
On the other hand, strong leadership to mobilise members and workers generally to win in their workplace on local issues, and to build a strong grass roots movement independent of parliamentary election cycles, is sure to see union membership grow and develop in all aspects.