A report released by the Menzies Research Centre finds that while union membership has fallen by 41 per cent in the private sector, revenue has increased by 42 per cent in real terms.

“The value of union assets has trebled in that period, outpacing the ASX All Ords Index,” said MRC Research Director John Slater.

The report finds that unions represent relatively few working people in low-paid or insecure jobs. The typical union member works in a skilled or professional service-based job and is 20 per cent more likely to have a university degree than non-members.

“With fewer than one in ten private sector workers in unions, the movement can hardly claim to represent the broader interests of workers, said MRC Research Director John Slater.

“The majority of union members are employed in health, education and the public sector – highly regulated industries where Government is the largest employer.

“They are sheltered from the pressures of globalisation and competition, isolating them from the adverse consequences of he ACTU’s plans to re-regulate the labour market.

“The burden of a more rigid and centralised labour market would fall on the unemployed and workers at the margins – the supposed focus of the change the rules campaign.”

The report also disputes the ACTU’s claim that the existing workplace relations system has sidelined unions.

“The Fair Work Act has gifted unions rivers of gold while workers have been voting with their feet. The union movement’s finances are increasingly underwritten by rents extracted from the union movement’s privileged role in enterprise bargaining and superannuation.

“The combined assets of Australia’s 15 largest trade unions nearly equals the market capitalisation of Pilbara Mine Limited, and exceeds Seven West Media Limited by hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“At every level, we find that the ACTU’s campaign for more union power in workplace relations is a smokescreen for self-interest. At a time when their membership is collapsing, that means passing laws to entrench their institutional power in workplace relations and future proof their finances.”

Download Unions Inc: From Industrial Strength to Financial Muscle at https://www.menziesrc.org/publications

Founded in 1994, the Centre is a non-profit think tank that promotes freedom, enterprise and empowerment. The Centre’s objectives are to provide research and analysis, develop policy recommendations for government and encourage industry leaders and the wider community to contribute to public and policy debate.

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