|Issue No 105||03 August 2001|
Letters to the Editor
War of Words: Crosby Goes Botsman
Peter Botsman, Tool of the Week in Issue 104, isn't going to criticise the "union movement for gratuitous or self seeking purposes". He is going to criticise us "from outside the fold" - presumably for our own good - or perhaps in the interest of those seeking to turn the Australian Labor Party into an imitation of the US Democratic Party.
To have any credibility with the union movement, Peter Botsman is going to have to demonstrate at least some grasp of the issues confronting unions. He attacks the organising model because "it's about a defensive older style industrial unionism." Gee, that's useful. But I do have to ask, who says? What's the evidence? Where's the research? Indeed, I'm interested in what the definition for his "Organising Model" is. (Be careful, Peter, it's a trick question. You may not have caught up but Australian unions have been developing and refining their own home grown version of the Organising Model over the past six years.)
Indeed, where is the evidence for the pronouncement that we need to link up with "people (especially younger people) working in and starting up small businesses in some constructive way."
Research from ACIRRT commissioned by the ACTU and the Labor Council, shows that our areas of potential growth lie in quite different areas.
The union movement you criticise is largely not there any more. Yes we still have our troglodytes who think that getting a Labor Government will solve all our problems or the way to get new members is take them around the back of the shed and thump them until they join - but they are very few and far between. The 2 million members we have now are virtually all volunteers. It's the biggest organisation in the country and its made up of working people who are willing to fork out quite significant sums of money to be members. That's your problem. That's why the ALP needs to keep them in the tent. Whatever the percentages, we will represent for the foreseeable future a huge proportion of voters and their votes determine who holds Government - as they did most notably in 1996. Neither Kim Beazley nor Al Gore's successor can ever hope to get close to winning unless they have a substantial proportion of our members prepared to vote for them.
Neither can you write off our leaders as union bosses out of touch with their membership. Both ACTU and Labor Council - as well as individual unions - spend large amounts of money every year commissioning research to make sure that what they are saying reflects what members think. Organisers are now trained to ask questions and listen rather than just put out a party line. Strategy is informed by research into not just what members think but also by research into community attitudes generally and the changing shape of the labor market. We can tell your views are misguided because we have the research on where the most easily organised non-members are.
We have tested our organising techniques over the last six years and we reckon they work. We need more organisers and more money to make real inroads into the non union workforce. But that will happen given time.
Twelve unions have signed onto a longitudinal study of delegate and organiser attitudes over the next three years to track the degree to which their efforts are successful. The study is being conducted by researchers we trust, who have been engaged with us for some years in testing our ideas and strategies and who we know have the interest of working people at heart.
Other unions are mid way through a major research project on the effectiveness of particular trade unions. The unions concerned have welcomed them into their organisations - again because they trust the researchers.
In the union movement we understand that we are in the middle of a class war - not of our making but declared on us by most employers and our national Government. We will fight that war and I suspect win, because we are using every possible survival tool available to us. We are taking casualties. Some of our activists are losing their jobs. Some of our staff are burning out. Others are hanging in but putting real pressure on their families. We lose some battles and the way in which members are paid and treated at work in some cases goes backwards. In that context, forgive us if we fail to be amused by erstwhile friends taking cheap shots.
We all wish the Whitlam Foundation well - with that glorious name how could we do otherwise? But its Director needs to think carefully before denigrating an institution so critical to the fight for fairness in Australian society.
ACTU Organising Centre
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.
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.
View entire latest issue
© 1999-2000 Labor Council of NSW
LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSWURL: http://workers.labor.net.au/105/letters1_one.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005