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  Issue No 105 Official Organ of LaborNet 03 August 2001  




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Trades Hall

Neale Towart's Labour Review

Fuelled by his daily king-sized capp and complimentary snail, our human encylcopeadia scours the landscape for the wild, the woolly and the wonderful in thw world of IR.


Neale Towart


Casual Employment

The Australian Bulletin of Labour takes up the debate on who is a casual worker, with John Burgess and Iain Campbell critiquing the discussion paper released by Greg Murtough and Matthew Waite from the Productivity Commission. Murtough and Waite questioned the ABS category of casual worker (something the ABS was looking at also). One major point of contention was the way people self-assessed themselves as casual or not. Burgess and Campbell want to look harder at the facts of the matter ie the reality of their employment contract and working conditions, rather than a "feel OK" approach. Murtough and Waite respond to the critique and defend their characterisation. They make a distinction between "true casuals" and "ongoing casuals". Ongoing casuals can accumulate some leave entitlements and some unfair dismissal protection. Burgess and Campbell strongly question the validity of these categories of casual employment.

Rosemary Owens looks at the legal concept "long term or permanent casual" and wonders how this apparent category has been transferred to the industrial law arena. Is it seen as different from short term or true casual employment in industrial and common law.

Owens looks at recent Metals Casual case, the Clerks (SA) Award cases, and the Parental Leave (casuals) case. She argues that until the legal aspects are clear, there is no reason to remove long term casuals from the category of casual worker in the ABS surveys.

Richard Watts from the ACTU outlines the ACTU approach to the rapid increase in casual employment, and in particular explains the approach taken in the Parental Leave (casuals) case.

(Australian Bulletin of Labour; vol. 27, no. 2, June 2001)

Parental leave for Some Casuals

The AIRC decision of 31 May 2001 expanded parental leave to include some casual employees.

Eligible casual employees are those:

· employed on a regular and systematic basis for an ongoing period of employment during a period of at least 12 months.

· who can, but for pregnancy or the decision to adopt, can reasonably expect ongoing employment

Employers must not fail to re-engage a casual employee because the employee or employee's spouse is pregnant; or;

the employee is or has been absent on parental leave.

The AIRC also addressed the situation with labour hire companies. "An eligible casual employee who is employed by a labour hire company who performs work for a client of the labour hire company will be entitled to the position which they held immediately before proceeding on parental leave.

"Where such a position is no longer available, but there are other positions available that the employee is qualified for and is capable of performing, the employer shall make all reasonable attempts to return the employee to a position comparable in status and pay to that of the employee's former position."

(CCH Work Alert; June 2001)

Trade Unions Say NO to racism and Xenophobia

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has accepted an invitation from the UN to attend its World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia and related Intolerance in Durban, South Afica from 31 August to 7 September. Here the worldwide trends of increasing violence and intolerance are outlined, and union actions on the ground throughout the world are presented, with examples from South Africa, Australia, the USA, France, Spain, Great Britain, Brazil, Ecuador and the Czech Republic.

(Trade Union World; no. 7-8, July-August 2001)

Education in a Global Economy

Education International is a union, a professional association and a human rights organization. It has just completed a Third World Congress in Thailand. Some of its key concerns which were discussed are the commercialisation of education services which some states seem to be pursuing at the expense of education for all citizens. Public education is a basic component of democracy.

Education for all must be an international priority. In 1990 world leaders agreed with UN agencies to work for this by 2000. Illiteracy rates of of 113 million children and 800 million adults attest to the failure of this goal.

Globalisation, commercialisation and the proposed general Agreement of Trade in Services (GATS) are threats to any improvement in education standards.

(Trade Union World; no. 7-8, July-August 2001)

Bad Downsizing Leads to Deskilling

Companies planning to downsize should do so strategically and after consulting employees or face the loss of core skills and employee commitment, according to a new study.

Downsizing: Is it working for Australia?, by Peter Dawkins and Craig Littler, says downsizing in the 1990s had mixed results, but where it was done as part of a strategic re-organisation to re-focus and improve a business, it had a much less negative effect on employees.

A finance industry case study by the authors found that after successive restructures there was a high incidence of "survivor syndrome" and reduction in organisational commitment among employees. The change program had broken employees' "psychological contract" with the bank.

Retaining and building skills were key factors in an organisation's ability to grow.

Downsizing always led to a loss of skills, but if companies failed to monitor their skill sets during change processes, they faced the risk of "dumb downsizing".

Dumb downsizers: downsizing organisations which both cut their head count and rely on contingent labour, leading to severe deskilling. These firms de-skill the most, and tend to be concentrated in manufacturing. it working for Australia?, by Peter Dawkins and Craig Littler, July 2001

Surveillance and the Low-trust Workplace

Persistent, intrusive surveillance of a workforce is likely to lead to a sense of insecurity, loss of trust, inhibition, stress and discontent. ACIRRT's Betty Arsovska told a privacy briefing that workplace surveillance was sending a message to employees that 'We don't trust you'.

Given the findings of a recent US survey, this could mean a lot of unsettled workers. The survey showed:

· 78% of US companies monitored their employees in some way;

· 63% monitored internet use;

· 47% stored and reviewed employees' email messages;

· 15% viewed employees by video;

· 12% reviewed and recorded phone messages;

· 8% reviewed voice-mail messages.

Rather than surveillance, management should be looking to create a positive workplace culture, because the moral costs of surveillance may far outweigh any benefits.

Privacy: Getting the Balance Right

Darren Gardner, a partner with Cutler Hughes & Harris, told an ACIRRT briefing that while there was strictly speaking no 'right' to privacy in common law, employees did have the expectation of being treated with decency and dignity at work. These 'rights' included being left alone; quiet enjoyment of their work; not having personal matters disclosed; and tolerable working conditions.

Video surveillance, and email and internet monitoring, may cut across those rights. But employers too had rights - to protect property and persons; monitor employees' performance; improve customer service; protect against false workers compensation claims; promote occupational health and safety; monitor production; and staff training and development.

Getting the balance right is important.


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 105 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Whose Advocate?
Employment Advocate Jonathon Hamberger argues the case for his organisation's survival and reveals his secret union past.
*  Politics: CHOGM: What Should Unions Do?
Activists Peter Murphy and Vince Caughley kick off the debate about what is the appropriate action ot take when CHOGM leaders meet in Brisbane
*  E-Change: 2.1 - The Changing Corporate Landscape
In the second part of their series on the impact of new technology, Peter Lewis and Michael Gadiel try to understand the new corporate playing field.
*  Unions: Hamburgled
Jim Marr reports that the Employment Advocate has been handed a chance to salvage some credibility by cleaning up anti-union practices in the call centre industry.
*  Economics: Privatisation: The Dangerous Road
Frank Stilwell argues that the corporate collapses of HIH and One Tel are potent reminders of the downside of ‘people’s capitalism’.
*  History: Hard-Earned Lessons
Art Shostack looks at the legacy of the landmark strike by PATCO air traffic controllers 20 years ago.
*  International: Political Prisoner
Greenpeace campaigner Nic Clyde, facing up to six years gaol in the United States for taking part in a non-violent protest, speaks exclusively with workers Online.
*  Review: Seven Pubs and Seven Nights
Labor Council's newest recruit, Susan Sheather, shows she respects tradition by going in search of the perfect bar
*  Satire: Obituary: Mr Rob Cartwright - Captain of Industry
In all fields of endeavour, there are those who command our respect through their sheer commitment to excellence. One such titan was Rob Cartwright, whose chosen field, the obscure HR discipline of "moving people onto individual contracts" lost its greatest practitioner and champion late last night, following a tragic self-inflicted accident.

»  Paradise Lost – Insurers Kill Workers' Camp
»  Entitlements Betrayal at Centre of Car Crisis
»  Piggins Pledges Support for Building Workers
»  Legal Win for Wharfie Widows
»  Unions Call for Dropping of Greenpeace Charges
»  Jubilee Marches On Despite G8 Debt Fatigue
»  Cleaner Sacked For Visiting Aging Parents Overseas
»  Bracks Plans Curbs on Assembly Rights
»  Big Gain for Weight Loss Workers
»  Qld Wage Increases Welcomed
»  Protecting Children, Protecting Jobs
»  Child Labour Fine on McDonald's
»  Call for Colombian Inquiry Into Murders
»  Activist Notebook

»  The Soapbox
»  The Locker Room
»  Trades Hall
»  Tool Shed

Letters to the editor
»  War of Words: Crosby Goes Botsman
»  Tri-Star - Just In Time to Blame
»  Just a Tip
»  Concerns About Members Equity

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