|Issue No 101||06 July 2001|
A Flaming Ideologue
As a captain of industry he was one of 'Reith's Rambos'; but with his job on the AIRC now in the balance Rob Cartwright is looking less like an ideological warrior and more like a Tool.
Cartwright is the guy whose use of the office email has exposed Telstra to nearly half a billion in penalties for discriminating against union members, while he was heading the push to purge the telco of a unionised workforce.
This zealous behaviour was somewhat predictable, coming as it did from one of the CRA bulls who masterminded the 'pyscho-babble' theory that individual staff relations were improved when there was no 'third party' to disrupt the intimate relationship of exploitation.
When CRA transformed itself into global bully-boy Rio Tinto, Rob set forth to virgin lands where unions still held sway, coming to rest at Telstra, a little public sector utility caught in the process of making the fraught transition to corporate bastard. In his time with Telstra, Cartwright is remembered for his work as employee relations manager in initiating a new sick leave policy of not recognising doctors certificates and of dismissing staff with disabilities - including a Paralympian for spending too much time training.
Cartwright also had the soul-enriching task of stripping 10,000 jobs out of the company in order to prop up shaggy share prices, a task he carried out with unrestrained zeal. Rob's contention was that those workers who had already signed non-union contracts had proven their loyalty to the company and should be repaid when deciding who was for the chop. He said as much in the email sent to managers across the organisation that has now become the legal noose that threatens to slit his throat.
Last week, the Federal Court found this email to be in breach of even Peter Reith's union-unfriendly-friendly Workplace Relations Act's freedom of association principles. Now that would be OK if it was just one breach - after all a $10,000 fine is the corporate equivalent of a pat on the back for services rendered. But Judge Ray Finkelstein set the cats jumping by opining that the fact that the email referred to 42,500 staff meant that Cartwright could have breached the Act 42,5000 times.
Now that is a breach of the Act! And it spells a whole lot of trouble for Telstra management, shareholders and the good Senior Deputy President. SDP? Yep, you see Cartwright displayed more tool-ish tendencies by accepting a sinecure offered him by Reith on the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. This was the very body that Cartwright's contract strategy was designed to sideline, which probably made him a perfect Reith appointment. And hey, the super scheme rocks!
It would be a delicious irony if these actions now deem him to be unfit to sit on the AIRC. This would take a majority vote from both Houses of Parliament - an unlikely scenario in the current climate, but one that could be very much alive in the advent of a Beazley Labor Government. Until then the ball is in Cartwright's court, to sit as an independent umpire when all pretence of independence has been stripped away or to slip back quietly into obscurity. His true test of Tool-ishness now lies in his behaviour henceforth.
Interview: A Little Knowledge
Labor's science spokesman Martyn Evans was the Opposition's key player on the Knowledge Nation inquiry. He fills us in on the process.
Education: Theory and Practise
Whether or not you agree with the priorities for of Barry Jones’ Knowledge Nation Taskforce, Julie Wells argues its boldness has to be admired.
E-Change: 1.1 Email Nation
In the first of a series of articles on politics and the new economy, Peter Lewis and Michael Gadiel argue network technologies are reshaping the fundamentals of society.
Economics: Banking on the Goodwill
Given their history, Evan Jones wonders whether banks can really claim to be "just like any other business"
International: A Deathly Struggle
In this dispatch from PNG, a trade union leader briefs us on the situation following the shooting of seven students at an anti-privatisation rally.
History: Enlarging Human Personality
Mark Hearn argues that Lloyd Ross's post-War approach to Workplace Democracy seems contemporary by today's standards
Satire: Shit is a Four Letter Word
Australian TV drama is lame and gutless just look at the ABC's Love is a Four Letter Word, says Tony Moore
Review: Tribute to an Artist
Dalgarno painted the seagulls circling the seafarer like flies buzzing around the face of a bushman. Thus did the artist depict the maritime worker.
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