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Workers Online
  Issue No 104 Official Organ of LaborNet 27 July 2001  

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Features
*  Interview: A Super Agenda
Labor's federal spokesman on superannuation Kelvin Thompson outlines the challenges a Beazley Government will face in managing the nation's savings.
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*  E-Change: 1.4 The Shifting Sands of Ideology
Peter Lewis and Michael Gadiel conclude the first part of their study of new politics by looking for core Labor values in a post-Cold War environment.
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*  Corporate: Locking Horns
The same names keep cropping up in the business pages as the web of corporate control stays tied to a few big players. Georgina Murray has been looking at the extent and depth of the connections.
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*  Unions: The Workers Bank
With banks on the nose, David Whiteley looks at how unions and super funds have got together to create the real deal – the workers bank.
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*  International: Phil Davey's Amazon Postcard
The CFMEU's Boy Wonder has downed the megaphone for three months in South America. Here's what he's been up to.
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*  History: Faded Vision of The American Bounder
King O'Malley was an American ex-pat who dreamed of a people's bank. Neale Towart looks at what happened to his vision.
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*  Activists: The Big Gee-Up
With the big guns of the anti-corporate movement in town, Mark Hebblewhite goes looking for a definition of globalisation.
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*  Indonesia: Where to the Workers After Gus Dur?
At the end of a turbulent week, Jasper Goss looks at the impact of the overthrow of Wahid on Indonesian workers.
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*  Review: Mixing Pop and Politics
'The Bank' is a new Australian film that takes a contemporary political issue and transforms it into a piece of compelling popular culture.
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*  Satire: Milosevic's Defence: "I Was Just Issuing Orders"
Disgraced former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has brushed off against charges for war crimes against humanity and mass genocide.
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Boardroom Bastardry


Community Banks Are No Collectivists
Community banks would not gain community support if they persisted with employment policies that forced workers onto individual contracts, the NSW trade union movement has warned.
[ Full Story » ]

Labor Vows to Widen Royal Commission
A Beazley Government would widen the terms of reference of the Cole Royal Commission into the building industry to cover involvement of the Howard Government in the 1997 War on the Wharves.
[ Full Story » ]

WorkCover Finally Fesses Up – Premiums the Problem
The head of WorkCover this week confirmed what trade unions have argued for years – the troubles in the workers compensation scheme are the result of employers not paying adequate premiums.
[ Full Story » ]

Unions Launch 56 Hour Watch
As audit of working time across NSW will be conducted in the wake of revelations that frontier work practices are being imported from West Australia to the East Coast.
[ Full Story » ]

Call Centre Campaign Bares First Fruit
Membership figures released this week show that efforts to crack the call centre industry are beginning to pay dividends with over 6,000 call centre employees joining unions in the past 18 months.
[ Full Story » ]

Justice at Last for One.Tel Workers
The CPSU has welcomed a decision by One.Tel creditors to accept the administrator's report and wind up the failed telco.
[ Full Story » ]

Entitlements Push Gathers Momentum
A strike by 210 workers in western Sydney for protection of their workers entitlements has entered its third week – as a national push for protection in the manufacturing sector gathers pace.
[ Full Story » ]

Employer Dirty on Leave Win
A 50 year old Canberra cleaner who applied to take an overseas holiday to see her elderly parents, probably for the last time, is a working class hero.
[ Full Story » ]

Rights Put In Too Hard Basket
Centrelink has been criticised for delaying the case of Geoff Scott - the man sacked for working too hard. The union is demanding that Scott be reinstated immediately.
[ Full Story » ]

AMA Move on Doctors’ Hours Welcome
The ACTU has welcomed an Australian Medical Association report highlighting dangerous hospital rosters forced on young doctors.
[ Full Story » ]

Aussie Post Workers Rally
A spirited crowd of postal workers and their supporters were on hand last Monday at Australia Post ‘s headquarters to voice their disgust to management over Australia Post’s blatant and insidious attack on the job security of its workers.
[ Full Story » ]

Strike by Airport Guards Lawful
Group 4 Securitas had a knockback from the courts when they were told a strike by by LHMU Security Union members at Melbourne Airport was not illegal.
[ Full Story » ]

Workers Rejects Brough Deal
Welfare workers are fighting plans by Employment Minister, Mal Brough to apply Job Network style privatisation to other public sector welfare and disability services.
[ Full Story » ]

Unions Will March at CHOGM
The QCU and the Queensland union movement will engage in a peaceful rally and march at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in October.
[ Full Story » ]

Average Response to Robberies
Hotel and club bosses have responded inadequately to the recent spate of armed robberies with violence, according to the National Executive of the 150,000 member LHMU.
[ Full Story » ]

Coca-Cola Sued for Using Paramilitary Force
Coca-Cola and its main Latin American bottler Pan-American Beverages have been accused of using paramilitary forces to threaten labor leaders in soft drink bottling factories in Colombia.
[ Full Story » ]

Activists Notebook
A protest to mark the World Bank leader's visit, Hiroshima Day and Refugee Rights - it's another big week on the streets!
[ Full Story » ]


Letters to the Editor
  • Botsman Bites Back

  • How to Bash the Bank

  • Dreams Do Come True

  • Howard's Job Creation Policy

  • Editorial

    The Bastard Banks

    One of my favourite movies is the old Frank Capra classic 'It's A Wonderful Life', where Jimmy Stewart plays the small-time banker whose positive contribution to his world only becomes apparent when he sees what would happen if he didn't exist.

    It's ironic that the film is regarded as an American classic - compulsory Christmas Eve viewing - when it stands in such stark contrast to the financial practices that the US has taken to the world.

    What was once an expression of collective co-operation - the pooling of individual savings for the good of the community - has become the ugly face of global capitalism - the relentless push for higher profits for the privileged few who hold the shares.

    In the process the banks have lost their status, trust and standing as institutions that give to the community. Now they are seen as takers.

    Where did it all go wrong? Most would link the decline to the Labor Government's decision to deregulate banking in the 1980s, which seemed to set all the players on an unprecedented course of job-slashing and profit-chasing.

    The promise at the time was that increased competition would lead to better services for customers. The results have been somewhat different.

    Instead of increased competition Australia has one of the most highly concentrated banking markets in the world. Instead of better service Australian bank customers have witnessed the closure of over 2,000 branches in 8 years, and increased fees. Instead of improved customer service levels, standards have fallen as a result of 40,000 staff lost and instead of cheaper banking, bank fees and charges have increased

    Unfortunately, there is no easy fix to the current malaise.

    Community banking has been promoted in some quarters, but the employment practices currently being pushed, mean they could become part of the problem.

    The recent granting of a banking license to Members Equity offers new potential for a genuine workers bank - but there are limits, including no plan for a branch structure.

    Then there is still the sleeping giant of industry super funds - where workers' retirement savings could be invested in ethical and constructive ways if the regulatory regime were not as narrow as is currently the case.

    And all the while, there is the unspoken threat that banks can trash an economy that doesn't play it their way by pulling their capital out.

    One thing's for certain, if we, as a community, want to reclaim the banks as the custodians of our savings, we need our elected leaders to negotiate a new deal.

    Social obligation charters, such as those proposed by Labor, are an important first step - but if they are not binding, the risk is that they will end up little more than feel-good propaganda.

    At the end of the day, if we want to reclaim our banks we need to compel them to change their behaviour - there is no way they'll willingly give up their current privilege status as profit factories for the privileged few.

    Until this happens, Jimmy Stewart's little Savings and Loans will remain a museum piece and we'll continue to whinge about the Bastard Banks.

    Peter Lewis
    Editor


    Columns

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