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  Issue No 105 Official Organ of LaborNet 03 August 2001  

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Satire

Obituary: Mr Rob Cartwright - Captain of Industry

Extracted from The Chaser

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.

 
 

The Chaser

Cartwright's passing is all the more poignant in that he died doing what he loved: an Australian Workplace Agreement that he had been attempting to negotiate with his children's nanny discharged accidentally as he beat her over the head with it, killing him instantly.

Never a stranger to controversy, Rob became well-known in industrial circles for his prowess in achieving radical change in an organisation with little or no financial pain to anyone in senior management.

The summit of his commercial career was at the helm of the Moving People Onto Individual Contracts function at Telstra, one of Australia's largest employers. He, and the team that he assembled there, managed to make history in the 2 years in the job, moving more Australians onto individual contracts than has ever been achieved before or since in a single employer.

This task is all the more breath-taking when it is realised that in his negotiations with individual employees, he was armed with little more than control over the worker's working conditions, health care plan, incentive structure, pay levels, future livelihood, promotion prospects and access to non-pay terms and conditions such as child-care and dental benefits. With only these delicate tools, he nonetheless managed to migrate a significant proportion of Telstra workers away from controversial "collective agreements, that were preventing those workers from participating fully in Telstra's labour cost reduction programs.

The breakthrough that Cartwright engineered represented a quantum leap in the then little-known field of Moving People Onto Individual Contracts, lowering Telstra's HR costs and allowing the company to fund the provision of loss-making services in marginal seats at a much more acceptable gross margin that had been possible before - something that Industrial Relations Minister described as giving "myself, and the rest of the Government, a frisson of near-sexual excitement".

It was in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission that his greatest talents would be revealed. By his own admission, as neither a lawyer nor an industrial relations specialist, he nonetheless showed a ready grasp of what was expected of him by the Howard Government in appointing him.

He was famed for his willingness to embrace the issues, to balance up both sides of the questions and then to write long, impassioned judgements that one of his colleagues on the Bench famously referred to, in a lyrical mood, as "an etude on the theme of the employer's pain".

His exquisite sensitivity to the difficulties faced by employers never failed him. In more than 100 judgements, he revealed in each a separate and individual reason why management ought to prevail, often uncovering arguments and legal reasoning in an employer's favour that even their own counsel had failed to uncover in their submissions.

Rob Cartwright is survived by Telstra, Rio Tinto and a likely string of lucrative consultancy contracts. We are all diminished by his passing, but none more so that the AIRC, which was doubly bereft, being already diminished by his presence.


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In this issue
Features
*  Interview: Whose Advocate?
Employment Advocate Jonathon Hamberger argues the case for his organisation's survival and reveals his secret union past.
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*  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
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*  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.
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*  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.
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*  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’.
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*  History: Hard-Earned Lessons
Art Shostack looks at the legacy of the landmark strike by PATCO air traffic controllers 20 years ago.
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*  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
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*  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.
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»  Activist Notebook
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Columns
»  The Soapbox
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»  The Locker Room
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»  Trades Hall
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»  Tool Shed
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Letters to the editor
»  War of Words: Crosby Goes Botsman
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»  Tri-Star - Just In Time to Blame
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»  Just a Tip
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»  Concerns About Members Equity
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