The leaked memo from network editor Mark Henderson, directs reporters to ignore the details and causes of a dispute and focus purely on the impact industrial action has on the public. The memo states:
If we are covering, for example, a dispute in the banking industry, we should focus on whether banks will be closed. That should include details about where and for what period of time.
Details of the dispute, for example rates of pay, are very much secondary and our coverage should reflect that.
If an industrial dispute does not impact on the public, we should be seriously considering why we are covering it.
NSW Labor Council secretary John Robertson has condemned the policy and is calling on the ABC general manager Jonathon Shier to ensure the national broadcaster continues to report industrial stories fairly.
"This is a direct threat to democracy. The Australian public have an absolute right to be fully informed about industrial disputes and make their own minds up," Robertson says.
"If this direction was to be followed, the ABC would not have covered the waterfront dispute, issues of workers entitlements or many of other disputes which inform the political landscape," Robertson says.
The Labor Council says the policy would also pressure workers - taking action to raise public awareness of an issue - into taking more drastic action that would impact directly on the public.
Robertson says the directive - in the current political climate of a looming federal election - was particularly partisan.
"It is a frightening position for ABC management to take, particularly just ahead of an election in which, according to the PM, industrial relations will take centre stage," Robertson says.
"In restricting reporting of industrial issues, ABC management is forcing workers to fight with one hand tied behind their back and misrepresent the causes of an industrial dispute.
"It is a sad day when issues of basic justice are no longer considered newsworthy. But it's not surprising that in Howard's Australia, Howard's hand-picked ABC Board wants issues of injustice in the workplace to be swept from public view."
The legislation that is being pushed through has drawn fire both for what it does contain - as well as it's failure to protect the entitlements of casual public sector employees.
The move has prompted the NSW Labor Council to warn the Government it could "have another WorkCover on its hands" - a reference to the breakdown in process that` led to the picket of State Parliament over changes to workers compensation.
The Public Service Association says it was told this week that the Cabinet had approved the drafting of new Public Sector Management Act in the next two weeks - despite direct opposition from unions during the consultation process.
It has been told the government plans to put legislation before Parliament before the end of the year.
Rewriting the Rules
The new Act would rewrite the rules for employing all public servants, as well as employees of many state-owned corporations, bringing in aspects of the Howard-Reith IR agenda.
This would include undermining job security by increasing the capacity for non-permanent employment by spreading casual and fixed-term contracts. It would also provide the framework to push all public servants onto individual contracts under a future Coalition Government.
The legislation is based on the Premier Department's 'Public Sector Future Directions Discussion Paper" which was circulated in August 2000 and formally rejected by Labor Council and its affiliates.
Entitlements Left Up In the Air
In a formal response to the NSW Premiers Department, the PSA has stated it can not support an extension in non-permanent employment in the public sector until a plan is put in place to protect the entitlements of precarious employees,
"Some employers are known to engage individuals for a period a s38 Temporaries and then re-engage them as casuals," PSA general secretary Maurie O'Sullivan says in his response.
"Individuals may accrue long periods of employment over many years punctuated by employer-imposed breaks.
"Parallels can be drawn between this practice and the notorious corporate employers who at the point of insolvency are discovered to have squandered their employee entitlements away.
"The onus is on the NSW Government as the nation's largest employer to demonstrate its commitment to 'protection of employees' entitlements by addressing the exploitation of its own public sector employees."
O'Sullivan says the Carr Government should explore the establishment of a scheme that would 'catch' non-permanents in precarious employment, either through:
- the long Service Leave scheme that currently applies to workers in the NSW building industry.
- or the union-initiated Manusafe scheme.
Modus Operandi Under Fire
O'Sullivan says the government should not introduce changes until it has reached an agreed position with public sector unions.
"It is extremely regrettable that a State Labor Government - which is the largest employer nationally - should be moving towards a Howard/Reith model of public employment on the advice of senior bureaucrats in the central agencies of the Premiers' Department, Cabinet Office and Treasury," he says.
"Ironically, NSW will have a highly centralised industrial relations system and a deregulated public employment framework."
NSW Labor Council secretary John Robertson says the approach of government negotiators of ignoring union concerns appears to becoming a trend.
"The government needs to understand that while we are happy to consult, we will not sit back idly as they ram Bills through parliament with no regard to our concerns".
"This was precisely the issue that sparked the WorkCover showdown - a long consultation process and then the government totally ignored the outcome of those negotiations. " He says the matter will be taken up directly with the Premier.
STOP PRESS After this article was posted, Minister for Industrial Relations John Della Bosca's office contacted Labor Council with the statement: "the Bill is being drafted for the purposes of consultation".
The FairWear Alliance - supported by Unions NSW - this week released postcards highlighting Tirumph's involvement in Burma - under the slogan "Support Breasts, Not Dictators".
The postcard can be sent to the head of Triumph, David Gow, calling on Triumph to withdraw its operations from Burma.
Tour operators - including Lonely Planet - are also in the Burmese campaigners' sights and face consumer awareness campaigns if they continue to operate in support of the military regime.
The International Labour Organisation has invoked its penal powers for breaching core global labour standards for the first time in its 90 year history over the regime's use of slave labour.
In November last year, the ILO called for all governments to isolate the regime by reviewing their ties with Burma to ensure they are not supporting the continuation of forced labour.
Thirteen Years On...
This week's campaign release coincided with the thirteenth anniversary of the 1988 general strike in Burma, a show of outrage against the oppression of 26 years of military rule.
Thirteen years on, for workers in Burma, trade unions are still illegal. Meetings of more than 5 people are banned. Trade unionists - U Khin Kyaw and U Myo Aung Thant - jailed for 17 years and life respectively for union activities.
Since the general strike that prompted a popular uprising, the military government has cracked down continually against political opposition. Burma's people have never seen realised, the outcome of the last democratic election held in 1990. At that time the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won over 80% of the seats.
The violation of labour rights in Burma takes many forms. In recent years, the practice of forced labour has become widespread in Burma.
Up to 2 million men, women, children and the elderly are used are forced labourers by the military. This work includes, constructing and maintaining roads, railways and dams, building and maintaining Army camps, sweeping roads for landmines, other activities for the personal profit of Army officers, acting as porters carrying ammunition and supplies to the border hills. There are well documented reports of people being subject to beatings, torture rape and summary execution.
Forced labour is also used to support the tourism industry in Burma, such as building roads and hotels for the tourist trade.
International trade unions are backing a renewed call by the ILO to campaign to pressure Burma to end forced labour. For the first time,
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions is calling for us all to:
· Pressure our governments to review policy and relations with Burma
· Ensure that International Financial Institutions do not provide funding to Burma
· Increase pressure on companies that do business in Burma, including supporting consumer boycotts
Companies Refuse Burma Trade
Meanwile, ACTU president Sharan Burrow this week named the companies which had ceased links with Burma in light of the ILO ruling and called on those still doing business to follow their lead.
The ACTU wrote to more than 50 companies operating in Australia earlier this year to seek assurances that they have severed any commercial links with the Burmese junta.
Seventeen have now declared they have no such ties. However, five of the companies, mainly in the tourism industry, have confirmed that they are continuing to deal with Burma.
Her comments marked the 13th anniversary this week of the beginning of the national strike in Burma on 8/8/88 in protest against the military junta's cancellation of democratic elections in the country.
"More than a million people in Burma are now subjected to forced labour on construction projects, many of them for tourist development," Burrow says.
"It's not too late for travel companies and travellers themselves to take a stand against oppression by boycotting Burma."
Howard's Appeasement Policy
The ACTU says the principled stand of the majority of companies contrasted with the Federal Government's appeasement of the military dictatorship in Rangoon.
"When Foreign Minister Alexander Downer met with his Burmese counterpart, Win Aung last month, he emphasised so-called positive developments in Burma.
"The Federal Government must take a much stronger stand to pressure Burma into establishing democratic norms and ending the persecution of its people."
List of companies declaring no economic links with Burma
- ANL Container Line P/L
- Coffey International Ltd
- Foster's Brewing Group Ltd
- Ikea Australia
- Intrepid Travel P/L
- Klinger P/L
- Lloyd's Agency
- Longreach Gold Oil Ltd
- McConnell Dowell Corp Ltd
- M G Kailis Group
- Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd
- Modra Electric Power
- Multiplex Constructions P/L
- New Tel Ltd
- Pacrim Energy Ltd
- Quantum Explosives P/L
- Telstra Corp Ltd
- Totalcare Industries Ltd
The 320 Marrickville workers whose two-week strike stopped the motor vehicle industry, voted to return to work after the company agreed to take out insurance to protect their entitlements.
The Metal Group of Unions - which includes representatives of the AMWU, AWU, ETU and NUW - have warned that they will campaign across the manufacturing industry to ensure that all workers have similar protections.
Australian Workers Union state secretary Russ Collison told the NSW Labor Council that the TriStar dispute has clearly shifted the debate on entitlements. "The question is no longer why? but how? - how do we protect workers entitlements?"
Collision says the actual mechanism - a trust fund or an insurance bond - is of less concern to workers, then the knowledge that they have some form of protection/.
SA TV Workers Seek Entitlements
Meanwhile, the cast and crew of a children's TV show has called on the South Australian Government to back its rhetoric with action over entitlements.
Under pressure from Howard, the Olsen Government this week deserted other states and signed up for the federal taxpayer-funded entitlements scheme.
The Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance in South Australia has now called on both Governments to bail out the cast and crew members of the children's series "Chuck Finn" owed substantial amounts of wages and other entitlements, by Barron Entertainment, now reported to be in administration.
" Barron Entertainment postponed production of "Chuck Finn" last year due to financial uncertainties with hundreds of thousands of dollars owing to cast and crew; debts the company has acknowledged," MEAA spokesperson Stephen Spence said in Adelaide today..
Spence says MEAA has had extensive negotiations with the company on payment but to no avail. "Encore" the industry magazine has now reported that Barron Entertainment is in administration with combined debts of millions of dollars.
"MEAA is concerned that without Government intervention employees' wages and entitlements may never be recovered and has called a meeting of representatives from the cast and crew on 15 August 2001 to develop our campaign for Government assistance." Spence says.
"It is simply not fair that these film workers should through no fault of their own see hard earned wages disappear into thin air. This is yet another of example of why safeguarding workers' entitlements through an appropriate scheme is so crucial."
The Australian Workers Union's TAPS branch has raised concerns after members employed by AGL discovered they were being spied on.
The workers had agreed to have tracking devices installed in their vehicles in 1998 to assist respond to emergencies. At the time AGL management promised that the devices would not be used to track individuals.
But the AWU's Jeff Byrne says that in recent months staff have been disciplined for the use of their vehicles and movements are now being used to validate overtime claims.
Byrne says that while the use of such devices to covertly monitor workers is illegal in Victoria, there appears to be no such provisions in NSW.
Labor Council will raise the issue with NSW Attorney-General Bob Debus, who is currently considering a Law Reform Commission Report into Privacy. It is understood the report would bring tracking devices under the surveillance regime.
Federal Small Business Minister Ian Macfarlane has confirmed the accuracy of the reported plan to remove basic democratic rights and protections for small business employees. Last night Mr Macfarlane said: "The industrial relations stuff is basically in the ballpark of what we have considered."
The Cabinet document includes proposals to force small business employees onto sub-standard, individual contracts that are not approved by the Industrial Relations Commission and are outside the Award system.
"John Howard is desperate to kiss and make-up with small business after the punishment of the GST. This plan represents a further winding back of the basic rights, wages and conditions of working people," ACTU President Sharan Burrow says.
"It comes on the same day that the Auditor General reported massively expensive abuse of politicians entitlements costing taxpayers $354 million a year.
"Small business employees are already working record amounts of unpaid overtime and suffering under record levels of casualisation. This plan will further erode the number of full-time jobs and add to the blow-out in casual work that is cutting into the job security of so many people.
"The Government is setting up small business operators so they can legally avoid paying workers entitlements such as holiday, sick pay and long service leave."
The extent of the likely wage cuts is indicated by the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics labour force data showing union members on average earn 17.5% more - or $109 a week - more than non-union members. Union members are generally covered by collective agreements, not the Government's individual contracts.
The Government's own experts admit in the leaked document that the plan to stop union representatives from visiting small businesses could be "inconsistent with Australia's obligations" under international labour rights conventions.
The NSW Nurses Association this week the voted to run its own Special Case in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to get more attractive wages and conditions for nurses after talks with the Carr Government broke down.
The State Government this week rejected a NSWNA request for the Industrial Relations Minister, John Della Bosca, to initiate an urgent case before the NSW Industrial Relations Commission aimed at improving nurse wages and conditions.
NSWNA General Secretary, Sandra Moait, says Council members are very angry that the State Labor government has refused to seriously address the nurse shortage confronting NSW.
"The shortage has reached a critical point and already led to bed closures and service cuts in parts of the State," Moait says.
"The situation will only get worse unless something is done to again make nursing an attractive career option."
The Nurses will campaign under the banner "What's a Nurse Worth?" and will include:
· the formation of local campaign teams by NSWNA members at each public hospital and community health centre;
· the conducting of strong awareness campaigns in local communities; and
· local industrial action plans that include such things as work bans, rallies and stop work meetings.
"We will also be closely monitoring nurse staffing levels in each facility and identifying vacancy levels," Moait says.
"Where inadequate staffing and nursing vacancies are putting patient safety at risk then beds will be closed.
"If the State Government is serious about providing the people of NSW with safe, reliable public health services then it will take action to get and keep more people working as nurses.
"The Government readily admits there is a unique problem with nursing at the moment, but has so far failed to fully address the issue. It is trying to hide behind a wages agreement, which was negotiated some time ago and never designed to deal with a staffing shortage like the one our health system now faces. The fact is, we have an emergency situation that requires specific, special action."
In NSW public health services, the rate of pay for a general registered nurse is around $70.00 per week less than the rate for physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech pathologists and $100.00 per week less than other professionals such as dieticians, social workers, psychologists and medical technologists.
The Labor Council has welcomed the decision for placing a "legal limit" around structuring employees as contractors.
The court this week ruled that a courier company was liable for injuries its bicycle courier inflicted on a pedestrian, because the courier was an employee rather than an independent contractor.
Workplace Express reports that the majority - Chief Justice Murray Gleeson and Justices Mary Gaudron, Bill Gummow, Michael Kirby and Kenneth Hayne - found that on the basis of the control test and other indicators, the bicycle couriers were clearly employees.
The High Court majority said the Court of Appeal had made "too much of the circumstances that the bicycle couriers owned their own bicycles, bore the expenses of running them and supplied many of their own accessories". "
"Viewed as a practical matter, the bicycle couriers were not running their own business or enterprise, nor did they have independence in the conduct of their operations", the bench said.
The couriers had to arrive at work by 9am or go to the back of the queue for work, they couldn't refuse work, they were required to wear uniforms bearing Vabu's logo, they had no chance to negotiate their remuneration (rates hadn't changed between 1994 and 1998, according to evidence) and had restrictions on when they could take annual leave.
Vabu also had substantial scope to exercise control, because it had control over allocation and direction of deliveries. Couriers had to deliver goods in the manner specified by Vabu and the company's business involved the "marshalling and direction of labour of the couriers, whose efforts comprised the very essence of the public manifestation of Vabu's business".
"It would be unrealistic to describe the couriers other than as employees", the majority concluded.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson says the High Court decision sends the message to employers that they just can't call their workers 'contractors' and strip[ of their legal entitlements.
"Employees rights have been built up over 100 years of collective struggle," Robertson says. "The High Court has recognised that these right can not be easily wiped out just be changing the formal title of a worker."
by Sarah Roberts
Clause 61 of the University's Enterprise Agreement requires that before an academic can be dismissed he/she is entitled to a hearing before a Committee where he/she can respond to charges of misconduct or unsatisfactory performance.
In January this year the University dismissed Dr Ted Steele, an Associate Professor, without following those procedures.
Dr Steele was dismissed after he refused to withdraw statements reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that he had been instructed to alter students' marks.
In finding in favour of the Union's interpretation of the Agreement, Her Honour said:
"I conclude that subcl 59.2 of the Agreement does not authorise the termination of an employee whose employment is subject to the Agreement without the Vice-Chancellor taking the steps in cl 61 of the Agreement."
The Union's victory is an important victory for Australian academic staff and for the public interest: without the protection from arbitrary dismissal enshrined in Enterprise Agreements, staff would be fearful to express unpopular or controversial views. Without these protections, the very idea of a University as 'critic and conscience' of society is undermined.
The unfortunate part of this case is that it has been the Union which has had to establish this principle against the opposition of the University management.
University of Wollongong NTEU Branch President Ron Perrin called on Wollongong Vice-Chancellor Gerard Sutton to consider his position carefully, following the decision.
"The Vice-Chancellor has, by his arbitrary actions in breach of our Agreement, brought the University into disrepute," he said.
Her Honour has not yet made any formal orders in relation to breaches, penalty or compensation, allowing the parties five days in which to either reach agreement or apply further to the Court.
The decision is available on the NTEU website by following the links from http://www.nteu.org.au.
Sufferers report symptoms including extreme pain, tinnitus, (constant ringing in the ears), vertigo, burning sensations and degenerative hearing loss.
"Although these loud and high-pitched tones can affect anyone, the problem is exacerbated when using a headset, and call center workers are those most often affected by acoustic shock", Vivette Horrex from the of the Communications Electrical Plumbing Union said.
Vivette, who attended a conference on acoustic shock this week, will be calling on call center employers to introduce measures to prevent acoustic shock.
Vivette said " it appears that the latest technology of sound shields, which will soon be available, will help to overcome the problem of acoustic shock by limiting the output of headsets to an acceptable level, thus removing the high pitched sound".
"A consultant for Telstra has documented 300 cases of acoustic shock and the problem is well known. Our union will make sure that our members are provided with these shields once they are available", Vivette further stated
"Some call centers have particularly high rates of acoustic shock and the union will be calling for these centers to be properly designed and implement the use of the headset amplifier, ie sound shield, to reduce the risks", Vivette went onto say.
For further information go to http://www.hearing.com.au
CFMEU state secretary Andrew Ferguson says the problem arises because the major contractor on a building site has no responsibility for behaviour of smaller sub-contractors - who are notorious for evading their obligations.
Ferguson says the current system encourages principal contractors to engage shonky contractors because they are cheaper, thanks to avoiding total tax requirements of 46 per cent (six per cent payroll, 10 per cent workers comp and 30 per cent group tax).
He has asked the Labor Council to seek the Premier's intervention after failing to convince Treasurer Michael Egan to take steps to toughen the laws.
"The law should require a principal contractor to ensure that sub-contract companies they engage are registered for payroll tax," Ferguson says. "This same requirement should extend to group tax and workers compensation.
Ferguson says this should be backed by sanctions - such as the liability for unpaid taxes being placed on the principal contractor.
"If this requirement is introduced we will reverse the current incentive which is driving non-compliance," he says.
Sick Tax System
The CFMEU has numerous examples of payroll tax evasion. On the DPWS Campbelltown Hospital project built be Multiplex, contractor Emerson was engaged to do the formwork.
Ferguson says the director of Emerson, Greg Harkin, had been associated with numerous failed companies that had left behind millions of dollars on each occasion in unpaid group tax, workers compensation premiums and payroll taxes. Millions more had been owing to small businesses for work undertaken.
"We have members, many of whom worked on the Campbelltown site owed $750,000 in lost wages, holiday pay and other accrued entitlements," Ferguson says
"This situation is incomprehensible and reflects poorly not only on the industry but the incompetence of the State government authorities," he says.
by Andrew Casey
Workers at both breweries will meet on Monday morning with a threat to escalate the disputes hanging over both companies because of the failure to make any reasonable offer to their workforce.
" Our members at both breweries will discuss the possibility of ratcheting up the disputes on Monday," Peter Tullgren said.
The Boags brewery - which was recently taken over by the Filipino multinational brewer San Miguel - is involved in its first industrial dispute in 15 years because the company proposal would see the Tasmanian workers paying for their own wage increases.
Boags brewery workers are angry because the latest, revised offer, from the company actually seeks to reduce the pay offer last made by the company.
The Cascade brewery - which is owned by CUB - is refusing to budge on a pay offer which would see Hobart workers get a pay increase below those of their CUB workmates in Melbourne and Brisbane.
The CUB CEO, Ted Kunkel, who was on his first ever visit to the Cascade brewery site in Hobart this week was greeted with union bans and union members wearing badges saying they were not happy with the company's pay offer.
LHMU Industrial Officer, Peter Tullgren, said the Boags workers in Launceston were being told by the Manila based management that their wage increases had to be traded off for increased working hours and a discounted wage increase.
" Negotiation with Boag representatives - who are being controlled from afar - is always frustrating but it is doubly frustrating when the good industrial record of Boag workers is being put at risk.
" If San Miguel wants to be a good corporate citizen then they must get used to dealing with Australian workers and providing Australian wage standards - they should not expect to force down our wages and working conditions to those of Filipino workers," Peter Tullgren said.
Referring to the separate dispute at Cascade Mr Tullgren said the company should not act as if it was an overseas multi-national manipulating isolated local workers in a colony.
" Tasmanian is part of Australia - we are not a foreign country with foreign workers. The company is refusing to put the same offer to our members as they have put to other CUB and Foster brewery workers."
The Marion Street Theatre will close its doors before the end of the year if it does not receive emergency bridging finance after the collapse of the company, which had pledged the theatre $250,000 this year and $350,000 for 2002.
Theatre general manager and MEAA member Michael Huxley briefed the NSW Labor Council on the theatre's problems, warning its closure would lead to the loss of 70 full and part time jobs and leave a whole in the local community.
Huxley says the Carr Government should step in to support a theatre that has adopted its preferred arts policy framework by securing private funding that made it wholly self-reliant.
"This highlights the need for government art policies to consider a safety net for those companies which endeavour to seek private funds but end up in crisis through no fault of their own."
by Liz Phillips
Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary Grace Grace said it is important to know the industrial and legal context that labour hire employees work in to develop strategies.
NSW Labor Council secretary John Robertson will also report on the Labour Hire Task Force Inquiry in New South Wales.
"We are utilising every source available to ensure greater job security and working conditions for labour hire workers," Ms Grace said.
"There are about 400 different labour hire companies operating in Queensland and only a small proportion are paying the correct wages and conditions," she said.
"We have received information from various unions across industries that labour hire companies are used to undercut wages and conditions in existing workplaces," Ms Grace said.
"This is totally unacceptable. The end result for Queensland workers is that some labour hire companies are bringing everybody's wages and standard of living down," she said.
Originally formed to fill positions for companies in an emergency situation, labour hire companies have moved into filling all positions in a company.
"This one day workshop will ensure Queensland unions have the best strategy to tackle one of the fastest growing employment sectors in Queensland," Ms Grace said.
"It will also help identify if a push for a change in the legislation is needed to adjust to the changes in Queensland workplace structures," she said.
"The issue has become that large that for the first time this year the ATO's Tax File Number Declaration form has included labour hire as a type of employment category," Ms Grace said.
NSW Minister for Transport Carl Scully says homelessness is an issue that concerns us all greatly.
"Many homeless people interact with the StateRail network on a daily basis.
"I am keen to ensure that StateRail is doing al it can to treat homeless people with the respect and care they deserve.
The Terms of Reference for the inquiry, to be chaired by NSW MLC Janelle Saffin, are to "assess the current methods for dealing with homeless people on the State Rail network and to advise the Minister for Transport in possible improvements that can be made."
The Taskforce will include representatives of State Rail, NCOSS and the Labor Council of NSW. Recommendations are due to be presented to the Minister on October 1.
Is there such a thing as the Australian union Organiser of the Year? There is now. And it could be you. If not, you may be the Delegate of 2001. Or perhaps you were involved in the most outstanding Workplace Campaign of the year. These are just some of six new annual union awards to be presented at the inaugural Union Awards Night to be held in Melbourne during ACTU Executive on November 27.
"This night is for the hundreds of brilliant union organisers and workplace activists who are the source of all our successes," said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.
"We are proud of our hard-working organisers and delegates and we want to give them the recognition they deserve. This is an important night because it builds on the success and popularity of the ACTU Congress Awards. I'm looking forward to what will be a great night of entertainment focusing on union pride."
Maybe you know some of our unsung heroes who are overdue for recognition - perhaps for the inaugural Jennie George Award for contribution to women's advancement in unions.
Now is the time to start scanning newspapers, radio and TV for likely candidates for the Media Quote of the Year, sure to be a hotly contested category. As debate heats up in the lead-up to the Federal election there will be no shortage of opportunities for some perfectly crafted put-downs, beautifully executed beat-ups and marvellously apt metaphors.
Nominations close on October 12. You can choose from any or all of the new categories:
Ø Delegate of the year
Ø Organiser of the year
Ø Jennie George award
Ø Best workplace campaign
Ø Best communications strategy
Ø Best media quote by a union leader or union member
Send your nominations - and the reasons behind your choice - to Gina Preston at the ACTU:
Post: 393 Swanston Street
For information about ticket sales, contact Sharon Gibbard on 03 9663 5266 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fundraiser for Western Sahara
Featuring Babalu, Metro Flamenco and Soiree...
Babalu... this 8-piece band is one of the most popular Afro-Caribbean acts in Australia at the moment
Metro Flamenco...'the hottest flamenco dance ensemble to appear in Sydney's underground scene'
Other music includes Soiree and there' s a DJ as well...
Money raised will be used to bring a Saharawi woman out to Australia on a speaking tour to help gain support for the struggle of the Saharawi people, who have been living in Refugee Camps since 1975 when Morocco invaded their country. Polisario is the liberation movement fighting for Western Sahara's independence.
Thursday 6 September 8pm Harbourside Brasserie
Tickets: $15, $10 students/concession
Enquires: Stephanie Brennan 9320 0042 or 0411 239934 or Natalie Joughin 8204 7251 or 0425 214618
Organised by the Western Sahara Alliance and the Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA)
Moving Forward: Reparations for the Stolen Generations Conference
Where: University of NSW
When: August 15-16
Bob McMullan, Federal Shadow MInister for Aboriginal Affairs
Senator Aden Ridgeway (Australian Democrats)
George Erasmus (President of the Canadian Aboriginal Healing Foundation)
Dumisa Ntzebeza, former Commissioner on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Justice Joe Williams, Chief Judge of the NZ Waitangi Tribunal
Brian Butler, Social Justice Commissioner, ATSIC
Dr William Jonas, HREOC Social Justice Commissioner
Elizabeth Evatt AC, formerly Australia's representative to the UN Human Rights Committee
Further details and registration brochures are available from the HREOC Website (www.humanrights.gov.au) or from Bryce Nimmo or tony Westmore on 9284:9830 or 9284:9612
Refugee Action Network
This is to announce the first meeting of trade unionists in Sydney who want to built a network of support amongst unionists for the closure of the refugee detention centres and to fight against the racism which the policy of mandatory detention encourages.
In the last year the courage and organisation of the detainees and the hard work of activists outside the razor wire have brought public attention to the mistreatment of refugees. In the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) we feel we are gaining ground and beginning to set the agenda. The next strategic step is to put maximum pressure on the ALP to abandon its bipartisanship with Ruddock and Howard on this issue. We don't believe it is possible to have nicer mandatory detention, nor that it is right to discriminate against refugees because they are desperate enough to risk coming here by boat.
RAC has already received good support from the ACTU, Labor Council and from a number of affiliate unions, however until now we have been thin on the ground and need to do some consistent work, such as raising money, education work via journals and speaking at delegates mtgs and conferences, and putting specific pressure on the ALP.
If we can build a network it will mean that future events (e.g. the planned free the refugees rallies around the country in the fortnight before the election) will be much bigger and more politically significant.
A draft agenda for the meeting is:
(1) the progress of the campaign so far
(2) the centrality of unions to the campaign's success
(3) strategic brainstorm!
People who feel uncertain about how to tackle some of the issues (e.g. "illegal workers", "queue jumping") are welcome to come along and share their ideas and questions with everyone else.
This needs to be the start of turning mostly passive support into active mobilisation, so please let anyone else who may be interested know about the meeting, including to any relevant lists (but please consult so as not to cross post).
Details of the TUFRR meeting are:
>next Tuesday 14 August at 6pm at the Teachers Federation, 23-33 Mary St, Surry Hills (near Central Station, between Albion and Reservoir Sts)
>meet in the bar (around to the left) then upstairs (one of the meeting rooms on level 1)
Please reply to me here if you would like more information (including a copy of RAC's 4 page fact sheet)
In solidarity Bruce Knobloch for RAC Sydney
The Evatt Foundation and Pluto Press Australia jointly present a half-day seminar exploring the changing nature
of the state, its relationship with citizens and the crisis in governmental legitimacy.
When: Thursday, August 30, 2001, 9.00 am to 1.00pm
Where: NSW State Parliament House Theatrette, Macquarie Street, Sydney
Prof. Murray Goot, Department of Politics, Macquarie University
David Hill, former CEO State Rail Authority, and former
Managing Director, ABC
Margo Kingston, Political Commentator, Sydney Morning Herald
Dr Ghassan Hage, Department of Anthropology, University of Sydney
Dr Christopher Sheil, Visiting Fellow, University of NSW
About the Seminar:
For over a decade now public utilities such as water and
telecommunications have been subjected to either internal
corporatisation and the cult of managerialism, or subjected
to full or part privatisation. Further government reforms,
especially the new enthusiasm for mutual obligation
'compacts' as part of the mechanism of government suggest
that the practice of democracy is undergoing far-reaching
transformation. The rhetoric of mutual obligation now masks
the heavy and unequal burden of 'good' behaviour being
imposed on welfare recipients, while the responsibilities of
government bodies, political representatives, the business
sector and the community are barely articulated, let alone
At the same time analysts are sensing a growing disaffection
amongst voters for government in general and politicians in
particular that may lead to a crisis in consent.
• What are these reforms doing to the idea of the 'public'
or the 'public good'?
• How much of these reforms have the people consented to?
• Is a language of contractualism being imposed on people's
relationships with government?
• Who are being excluded from governmental power?
• Are we seeing now a process of democracy being privatised?
See over for the Seminar Program
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The bottom line for Michael Crosby is: When will the "Australian version of the organising model" lead to a 5% or even 1% increase in union membership? will it take one year, five years, a decade? how much money is being spent on the model in the meantime? are there other alternatives being pursued? or, are all the Australian union movement's eggs in one basket? are the lack of results being disguised by slogan mongering, solidarity conjuring "class war" ideology?
Give me the much criticized Accord over ideological purity any time! I was one of Kelty's minor critics. But on occasion I think he disliked me almost as much as Michael Costa. But despite any criticism of Kelty I might have had I never varied from the view that Kelty was one of the best thinkers and strategists the union movement has ever had. As opposed to the one-dimensional meat and potatoes fare served up in Michael's letter, he seemed to understand that the world is a highly complicated place and that the union movement had to be involved at all levels of social and economic activity.
Sure he failed and made mistakes on a number of fronts, but they were failures that came of having grand strategy, over-stretching and perhaps being too insular at the top. He too needed to listen to his critics even the ones he didn't like or disagreed with completely. Bill sometimes mistook criticism as disloyalty and it wasn't that.
But why is it that when things get tough and hard, and murky and complicated, like some knee jerk reaction, we have to conjure up a class war? trot out the same old shibboleths? does it make our dwindling numbers feel better? What does "fighting a class war" mean? Does it mean that the union movement is fighting a class war between employers and employees? If so what are the unions obligations to the underclass, to the nation and to other labour movements in less fortunate countries beyond a facade of solidarity? What is the union movement's obligations to work for a macro-economy that supports growth and falls in inequality? What is the union movement doing to work with the one million unemployed apart from offering Kevin Brennan and UNEMPA one small room up at the Queensland Trades and Labor Council building? Is it because they can't pay dues that they're not an important part of the class war? Are they not core union business? What happens when unions win victories that favour their own minority membership over the interests of the broader working community?
It was a mark of the Accord years that Kelty at least put all of these issues, in one form or another, centrally on the table and had considered responses to them. All the opinion polls say Labor lost its own grass roots support because Kelty and Keating reached too high. But everyone is missing the point if they think that we need to go back to some solidarity culture to ensure that support comes back and they are certainly missing the boat if they think this is a way of winning new members.
John Howard has gone backwards to the future and so it seems has the Australian union movement. It seems the union movement wants to use the MUA victory, the current controversy in the building industry as talisman for strategy? No matter how sympathetic you are, those victories are no substitute for an alternative vision of the future. I don't hear it coming from you Michael nor any of the leaders.
But you are right to suggest I am six years out of touch. But from where I and so many outsiders sit, you feel like saying, hey the war is over. It's okay you can come out of the jungle. You can throw off those rags and get into new clothes. The air is sweet, the sky is blue. There are other fights ahead, but there is no need to fight the old ones.
Sure everyone with any compassion and sense of history supports justice on the waterfront, but no matter what the historical and ongoing importance of the waterfront to the Australian union movement we are talking about thousands of workers in a workforce of millions, in a world of power which just not reducible to a bi-polar class power.
The reason I keep talking about small business is that it would create a new culture of organising and thinking within the union movement. At its best the AMWU was and is about creating value from manufacturing to preserve high skilled, high wage jobs? It is also important to be thinking about creating value in areas which are highly labour intensive? Including in social wage areas as Mark Latham and I have argued. Michael, your reply is pretty cynical and bunkerish. We have our own Australian "organising" model and we are using researchers to target those members we think we can get and which will bolster our ranks. It reads as if you are suggesting young people and small business employees are either to hard to organise or not worth the
Also Michael recommended bed time reading Chapter 6: Organising an International Perspective in that old tomb Unions 2001 from six years ago. It takes you beyond the Americans and the Australians to the union movements that represent 80% of national workforces and don't have to use that tired old concept of the union movement as the biggest membership based organisation in the country as a screen to disguise what is a falling membership base?
What the hell does "trusted" researcher mean? Does it mean trusted not to tread on any union leaders toes? Does it mean trusted not to stray to far from the ideological line? Not to go to far from the jungle? Not to release too much truth if it hurts? Is a trusted researcher one that is not free to mention that union numbers are down and that union control of State Labor conferences has not been adjusted accordingly?
After Michael's letter I hear John Robertson read out his survey of the change around in community attitudes to unionism and you think when was that survey commissioned, just after a prominent dispute like Onetel where the CPSU did have a clear media and ideological win? Is it just a public relations stunt?
The demise of the Evatt Foundation and the tragic failure to release what I am sure was a highly creditable report on the GST is testimony to the fact that the union movement must play it absolutely straight with research. You do no credit to ACIRRT to say that they are trusted researchers. They are simply the best labour market researchers in the country. But then perhaps the union movement needs to even more clearly let that work speak for itself and lets not ever create a culture where people are afraid to question and debate the results of any organisation's research, no matter how well respected they are.
Jamie Galbraith's visit to Australia for the Hawke and the Whitlam Institute opened my, and no doubt, many other peoples' eyes to the need for an alternative, post Keynesian macro-economic strategy of the kind that Bill Mitchell up at the University of Newcastle has espoused for many years.
That's very hard work to develop, very hard work to administer properly, it requires a lot of education and training and discipline on the part of the union movement as well, if it is to be successful. Have we come so far from the union movement that once would have invested in these ideas? Or will the union movement just fight street battles defending its last bastions of representation, picking off new membership targets as they come, regardless of the big picture?
The debate over the Third Way continues in Australia, with Mark Latham's latest book "What Did You Learn Today?". The reception of this book, along with "The Enabling State", was appropriate for a traditional Left wing ideology that continues to be sidelined.
The Old Left in the Labor Party, especially the Ferguson clan, continues to berate people such as Latham, claiming that Latham is playing both sides of the political fence. This only suggests that such critics are in total denial of their ideological shortcomings.
It is about time that people recognised the value of voluntary welfare work, and the private-public partnerships that can make a real difference to alleviating poverty.
It is true that Church organisations can drive the welfare dollar much further than the traditional Government department. Unfortunately, instead of trying to save the welfare sector by creating a sense of community in poor areas, the traditional left bags any private involvement in poverty alleviation.
The Left is continuing to advocate the failures of Government departments. The fact is, poverty programmes of the old "big government" kind do not work. They do not work because the only way to lift living standards is to lift productivity. The best way to do that is by encouraging private initiative and savings among poor people, rather than throwing money at problems that don't go away. Government is best used as a facilitator for community work, rather as an active agent that is usually out of touch. I would like to see the usual critics of any original thought put more emphasis on relevant responses to new ideas, instead of brushing off good ideas and calling for more government programmes that won't work.
LOOK LETS JUST UNDERSTAND NOT ALL THE RANK AND FILE EVEN BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND GRANT BELCHAMBERS THE THIRD WAY.
AFTER kIMG ETS BEAT IN THIS ELECTION [ALREADY LOST]AND WE GATHER TO ASK WHY JUST AS WE DID AFTER WE LOST GOVERMENT .
I WILL TELL AS A VERY CLEARLY UNION MOVEMENT OWNED PERSON WHY WE NEED TO CHANGE.
UNIONS HAVE TO INFORM ,TEACH AND GIVE A VOICE TO THE RANK AND FILE.
THIS PAGE NEEDS TO ATRACT PEOPLE .
NOT DRIVE THEM OF CURRENT POLICY SEEMS TO FAILTOTALY TO UNDERSTAND WORKERS THINK FOR THEMSELVE NOT LINEING UP TO CHANT PRE WRITTEN MOTIONS BUT SURPORT THIS MOVEMENT BECAUSE THEY BELEIVE IN IT.
NOT IN ACTS OF VANDALISM ,NOT IN PRE ELECTION ACTS OF BARSTRADRY THAT CLEARLY CUTS OUR TESTICLES OF BY KILLING kIMS CHANCES BUT BLOODY IRON WORKERS, ROADWORKERS, CAR WASHERS ARE PEOPLE,UNIONISTS.
DO NOT EXCLUDE THEM .
AS THE PRETENSIOS LEFTS vw LEAVES FOR THE NORTH SHORE WINE GLASS IN HAND REMEBER THE WORKERS ,THINK MOST OF YOU ARE WANKERS.
GET DOWN AND DIRTY WITH THE REAL WORKING CLASS.
REITH & ABBOTT'S WORLD - The Deregulated Labour Market
Do you have a can do attitude?
Are you self-motivated?
A High Achiever?
A Person who Likes-A-Challenge?
Are you someone who like to belong to
A Fast-Paced work environment?
Who is Professional?
The type of person who like to give 110%.
Then we want from you:-
Your total Loyalty and Commitment.
Your Professionalism and Initiative.
In return we want to:-
Pay you as little as possible,
For as much work as possible,
With as few conditions as possible.
We want to be able to discard you without penalty,
After all that you have to give us
Is no longer enough.
If at all possible we would prefer
That you do not belong to the Union
Champion your rights,
Stand on your behalf,
Give you strength in numbers.
Long live the
(Geoffrey Peck)Copyright 2001
U Thein Oo
What is your story about how you came to be Justice Minister in Burma's Government in exile, the Washington based, National Government of the Union of Burma?
I was elected in the 1990 Parliamentary elections as a representative of the National League for Democracy (NLD). Our party won a landslide victory with 82 per cent of the popular vote, winning 392 of the 485 seats contested. Our General Secretary is Nobel Peace Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest at the time of the election, in fact she still is today, and the military regime then called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) for spurious reasons, barred her from standing in the election.
The regime refused to transfer power to the NLD the winning party and prevented us the 485 elected MPs from convening the People's Parliament. Due to the frustrating situation of having won an election and not being able to take up our mandate, a ten person committee of elected MPs including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, convened a Committee Representing the People's Parliament (CRPP). This was done with the express authority of 251 MPs.
Prior to this in 1990, we the elected members decided to establish what came to be known as a parallel government, and we did this in Karen state within Burma - near the Thai border. In fact it was to be the government, until the transfer of power took place. The military dictatorship that is SLORC and now the SPDC exercise power unlawfully and illegitimately according to both Burmese domestic law and international law.
Our mission was to inform the international community of the real situation in Burma and to seek the international community's support. We did this from our base in the Karen State, being forced to flee yet again in 1995 after the Burmese military overran the Karen National Union headquarters. Most of us went into Thailand and some eventually went overseas, and an NCGUB office was established in the U.S.A. at Washington D.C.
As Burma is such a closed country how do you communicate with your colleagues inside?
We have to use messengers - mainly traveling across the border, on foot, to communicate with each other. Some means we obviously cannot discuss.
The impression in recent months has been the regime is looking to lift the house arrest on Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi and sounding more open to a move to democracy. Is that what you see happening?
So long as she remains under house arrest you cannot talk about a move towards democracy. She is not allowed outside her compound and she has no right to speak to her own party members. We can see a little improvement, because of the international pressure that is building, particularly with the International Labour Organisation's resolution that imposes sanctions against the regime, but as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi herself says, it's not just her: there are still about 2,000 political prisoners in our country, with only about 150 have been released. So there are still many people who are being held, slave labour is still endemic as is human rights violations, particularly against the ethnic people, with women and girls being raped by soldiers, with villagers being forced to be porters for the army, and entire villages are relocated.
People in Burma are scared, fearful to speak to their families and friends. So people talk about some good things that the regime are doing, but most of the prisoners they released should not have been imprisoned anyway, and their gaol terms had expired. Why should we reward the military dictatorship for simply undoing what they should not have done anyway. When Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is in a position to speak to us and the international community then we can rightly judge whether or not there are any real moves towards democracy in Burma. Besides the SPDC talk about moving to disciplined democracy, what does this mean, you either have democracy or you don't, no matter what country or nationality, or ethnic background, or race, or culture you are from.
Do you think the recent moves by the ILO to impose penal provisions against Burma have had an impact on the regime?
Yes, an enormous impact. The ILO decision is very important and very effective to change the attitude of the regime - they do listen to the international community because they desperately crave legitimacy. they can only get this through the international community, by which they stand condemned, as the United Nations General Assembly resolutions for the past ten years demonstrate, plus the resolutions from the United Nations Commission of Human Rights, that also condemn the military regime for gross human rights violations. The UN did not appoint a UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Violations because the military respected and promoted human rights, quite the contrary. They really don't care about opinion inside Burma because they think they can control the people, (they can to a large degree their actions but the internal resistance has been sometimes subtle, at other times direct, but constant and anyway they don't control their hearts, but outside they have little control over. The ILO decision is very dangerous because they can't control it - and they need business investment. Even before the ILO decision the fact that they have foreign reserves below US$50 million, the kyat, local currency, has an official exchange rate of 6 kyats to US$1 and has skyrocketed to up to 900 kyats to US$1 at times, and it is the unofficial rate that prevails, their gross mishandling of the economy which has been criticised inside by business people and ASEAN, that has marked them as a pariah and risky regime.
If ILO activity stops investment, it becomes very dangerous for the regime because people inside Burma hear about it and see that people can stand up to them. Inside Burma there are no trade unions- they control this.
The actual ILO resolution calls on member countries not to deal with the Burmese regime - what is the extent of western companies currently operating inside Burma?
There are many foreign companies, with Singapore the largest investor, and some Australian companies as well, also some big infrastructure projects - like roads, bridges, electricity and mining. There are also travel companies that are making money from trading in Burma, including QANTAS or its subsidiary. Some companies have however decided not to go into Burma until the political system is more democratic, others have gone in and left due to human rights considerations and others have left after realising how difficult it is to do business there.
What constructive steps could Australia workers take to help the people in Burma?
The main objective is seek the assistance of the international community and to bring pressure to bear on the countries that want to treat Burma's SPDC like a regular government and also to lobby those multinational companies operating inside Burma that benefit directly or indirectly by the system of slave labour, thus ignoring the ILO decision. There is also a United Nations resolutions that I have spoken about. It's fine to pass resolutions on the international stage - but they need to be implemented to have any real meaning. It's very important for our country and our people. I would like to ask the Australian people to follow this position.
Other practical actions I would ask the trade union movement, its members and the Australian Government and community to take include the following.
First, get the Australian Government to immediately cease funding its human rights training programme that it currently has operating (AusAID has contracted it out to Monash University's Castan Centre. The Australian Government sees it as a positive engagement, but its only positive for the military regime that uses it show that they are concerned about human rights. It is a waste of the Australian community's money.
Secondly, support the ILO resolution by asking the Australian Government as an ILO member to comply with the resolution.
Thirdly, write to the ILO and tell them that you support their action against Burma and that you don't want the resolution lifted until it can be independently confirmed that the practices of slave labour and porterage have stopped.
Fourthly, support the United Nations General Assembly resolutions regarding Burma that call for a number of actions by the military regime including the cessation of human rights violations and respect for the 1990 election mandate, etc.
We also need supporters to write to both the Prime Minister John Howard and the Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer asking them to support the United Nations General Assembly and other United Nations bodies resolutions regarding Burma and also ask them both to take positive action to facilitate the restoration of democracy and the rule of law to Burma. Ask them to also give support to the 'talks' process by not accepting that the military is moving towards negotiations until Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of her own volition is able to say that talks are happening, etc.
Also write to those Australian companies who are doing business in Burma, pointing out that they are profiting by the use of slave labour, and ask them to withdraw their operations from Burma, until democracy and the rule of law is restored.
And they can write to the three most senior figures in the military SPDC Senior General Than Shwe, General Maung Aye and Lt-General Khin Nyunt, calling up upon them to cease their practice of slave labour and porterage, to cease all human rights violations, to immediately release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, U Aung Shwe (NLD President) and U Tin Oo (NLD Vice-President) from house arrest, and all MPs and other political prisoners unconditionally.
Work with the Trade Union movement in Australia who know what is going on and involved in a global campaign.
I know this is a lot, but anything thing you can do no matter how small can make a big difference to the lives of my fellow country men and women, and to giving dignity to all of us.
I would like to thank the Mr John Roberston NSW Labour Council Secretary and Ms Sharan Burrow President of the ACTU for the wonderful support that they are giving to the people of Burma. Given their already huge responsibility to their own people, I on behalf of the democracy movement am even more grateful.
One day not two far away, I hope to stand side by side with our friends in the Australian community to work to improve the loves of all of us in this vibrant region of ours.
U Thein Oo is Justice Minister NCGUB, Chair of the Burma Lawyers' Council and Co-ordinator of the Human Rights Documentation Unit
The last few weeks have demonstrated conclusively to the Australian people a few things about this minister and this government. They remember his comments a month ago on Four Corners, when he told the world that people who are in poverty are there by choice. He said:
But we can't abolish poverty because poverty in part is a function of individual behaviour.
His view expressed to the Australian people was: when you find yourself in poverty, remember that you made the choices. He then went on and enumerated some of them.
The Australian people found that out in the last month. But there is another thing they found out in the last week. As workers in this land, they want to have their rights protected. They want to know that their entitlements are going to be there if the company goes belly-up. They know that they now have two choices: they can have Stan Howard running the company, or they can have Kim Beazley as Prime Minister. Australian workers now know that that is the only way their wages are going to be secure if the company becomes insolvent. To date, the only people in Australia who have had their entitlements fully protected are the workers at National Textiles-the special 'Stan-alone' top-up; the one-off payment to Stan Howard's employees. The government have dodged questions about that all week.
Unlike the minister at the table and the former minister, on a number of occasions I went to National Textiles and visited the workers and spoke to them and their families. They were not statistics, they were people. Many of them had worked in that industry and for that company all their lives. Their total life savings were their accrued long-service leave, annual leave and redundancy pay and the very modest house that they lived in. Those were their total life savings. If they had been able to get only the payment of this government's employee scheme, those workers would have got well under one-third of the entitlement that was due to them. Their life savings were evaporating in front of their eyes.
Another thing that the past couple of weeks have demonstrated to us all is that the minister has a lot of trouble telling the truth. He has a lot of trouble telling the truth in this chamber, and he seems to have greater difficulty with it outside the chamber. Let me remind people of one of the comments he made a little while ago here in the chamber at question time when dealing with Australian workplace agreements. The minister was at pains to tell the parliament that if you are on an AWA, you are actually better off. 'You get more money on an AWA,' he said.
Of course, in the next question he immediately found out the truth of the matter, which was that the average Australian worker on an AWA today earns $55.10 a week less than they would if they were on a union agreement. If the minister cannot tell the truth here at question time, in answer to a Dorothy Dix question that was prepared in his office, what hope is there that he is able to adhere to the facts or to tell the truth when issues like TriStar come along?
Not telling the truth would have been bad enough, but the minister set out to fuel the fire. At every opportunity over the last week, this minister has simply opened his mouth to change feet-from one disaster to the next. He attacked those workers as being guilty of treason. The headline in the Australian was 'Car strike treason to spread'. The minister alleges that those people are guilty of treason-for what? It is because they were on strike. They were stopping the operations of that company and, the minister would say, causing problems in other parts of the car industry. He knows, even with his limited knowledge of industrial relations, that those workers were taking totally lawful action in accordance with his legislation. More than that, they were taking action not only in accordance with his industry legislation but also in accordance with what he said they should do to protect their entitlements.
The minister might remember this document, Protection of employee entitlements on employer insolvency. It is subtitled 'A rebuttal of Labor's supposed alternatives'. It took them 18 months, with the whole government bureaucracy behind them, to produce a critique of our policy, which the minister knows is not ManuSafe. He knows that to be the case, and throughout question time today he made comments to the contrary. In the document that he released, knowing that their scheme is flawed and to try and cover himself, he said:
"The government scheme is a safety net scheme and does not preclude the adoption of additional measures by particular employees and employers."
That is precisely what those workers did. They took this government's advice: 'If you want to protect your entitlements above our shoddy little bargain basement scheme, this so-called safety net, you've got to go out there and negotiate it company by company'. And do you know what? You cannot get it arbitrated. Under this government's industrial relations laws, the Industrial Relations Commission cannot make a decision.
Here is the rub: the government give you a second rate scheme which, for most people, gives them a small percentage of what was all theirs to begin with. That is what they give you for your entitlements, and then they say, 'But if you want more, go and negotiate it'. But then they put in place an industrial relations system that does not allow the umpire to give it to you. The only way you can get it is to exercise your rights to collective action. That is exactly what the workers at TriStar did, in accordance with the law that this government put down. For their trouble in taking this minister's advice earlier this year, following the legislation that the government had put down, they were charged with treason and told they were traitors.
The minister might like to make a journey up to TriStar next week and have a talk with the workers. I will tell him what sort of reception he will get. I know what they said about him when they met last weekend. He thought he was going to fix the problem by threatening them. The response of the workers at their meeting on the weekend was anger towards this minister. His behaviour towards them was as inflammatory in the dispute as the issue that caused it in the first place-and his failure to apologise to them is a disgrace.
I suggest that the minister test my veracity on this to see whether I am telling the truth. Go up there next week, Minister. Go up there and confront those workers at TriStar. I will come with you. You and I together can go and talk to the workers up there. I am sure that management will not object. I am sure Dougie Cameron will not object. The minister and I can go up to TriStar next week and let us see what the workers say to this minister about the way he has conducted himself.
In fact, let us see what management says about the way he conducted himself. Not content with inflaming the situation by telling these people that they are guilty of treason, he then turned around and said to the company, 'Don't negotiate. Don't compromise'. Now, there is a novel approach for a minister trying to solve a dispute-'Don't negotiate'. I cannot think of a precedent of a minister, supposedly acting as the honest broker in a dispute, telling one side of the argument, 'Look, don't talk to them. Don't compromise'. He then tells the other side, 'The only way this is going to be solved is if you back down and give up on what you want'.
If the company had taken the minister's advice, we would still have the dispute today and the workers would still have no protection. That is what the situation would be today. I suggest that next week the minister and I find time in our diaries and make that trip. It will be an education for you, and you need it, because you rightly referred to the fact a minute ago that there are many people in this parliament who know more about industrial relations than you do. And there are.
Probably everyone in this parliament knows more about industrial relations than does the minister. However, the minister's approach to the job is novel. It is a novel approach to the job to commence your presentations to audiences of business executives by telling them that they all know more about the subject than you do. Your message has got through. They actually understand that. If they did not understand it before this week, they sure do now. However, I think that the message got through before this week. In the recess, I visited a great many business functions and organisations, at which business executives were in attendance, to talk about industrial relations.
At one of those gatherings, which I am happy to say was sold out two weeks before the event occurred, they were at pains to point out to me that many more people had come along to listen to me than came to listen to you at a similar function. That might have something to do with the fact that you stand up in front of them and tell them that you haven't got a clue what you are talking about. I was a little surprised at one of the gatherings when one of the senior executives said, 'You know, I was at a thing about two or three weeks ago and he still started out by saying, "Everyone in this room knows more about industrial relations than me," to which people shook their heads and asked, "Why is he in the job?",' Minister, that is a question all workers in Australia are entitled to ask, and the answer is that you should not be in the job.
This is not just a critique from the Labor Party or the trade unions about your behaviour. Let us have a look at the behaviour of the minister as reported in an editorial in the Age earlier this week which was headed 'Tony Abbott and his entitlements'. It said: "Mr Abbott seems to believe that all industrial action is wrong, even though his laws allow it, and that no union is capable of acting decently. He appears to see his role as being the nation's chief union basher."
That editorial of the Melbourne Age got you in one. The editorial went on
to talk about the issue in dispute and said: "The government's proposed scheme, which caps payouts at $20,000 and hands the bill to the taxpayers, seems inadequate and the Labor states are probably right not to sign up to it."
Dead right. They had made the correct decision on that. The Financial Review also found it amusing that you should rail the way you have at workers doing no more than following your laws and your plan for how they should secure their entitlements. It said: "Tony Abbott, the self-confessed new boy of workplace relations, may call it a crime against the national interest or industrial and economic treason, but the strike which has shut down Australia's car making industry is entirely consistent with the law and logic of our enterprise bargaining system."
If the journalists understood that law, it is a fair request that the minister should understand it as well, but you have exhibited no evidence that you understand any of it.
Let us turn to the issue of the protection of those workers' entitlements. As I said, you put out a report on the various options. I assume you read your report. So you know that your claims in question time today were totally false. The report talks about Labor's scheme and I felt like we had been flogged with the proverbial wet lettuce after I had read it. After 18 months, you have not been able to find any hole in the scheme.
I was heartened in that context to see what the Australian newspaper said in the middle of this dispute in their editorial on 4 August 2001. Having described the problems in the industry, the government's half-baked scheme and the claim by the union for ManuSafe, they said: "Against this background, Labor's proposal to levy a 0.1 per cent surcharge on the existing Superannuation Guarantee system looks more and more attractive. At a minimal cost to employers, it would create a scheme that is simple and can use existing administrative infrastructure. It would offer most workers comprehensive protection that existing schemes lack."
The editorial writer in the Australian understands where the protection is for ordinary Australian workers. As you cannot understand the legislation, Minister, you might at least try reading some of the newspapers; you could pick up a few clues.
The government have urged on these workers a system that is divisive and disruptive. That is your system. You have urged on the company a practice where they should not negotiate, even though under your system we supposedly have a negotiations framework. What has been the result of that? As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the company, under pressure from this government, decided they would not sign up to ManuSafe. Had they signed up to ManuSafe, they would have had to pay out $174,000. That is the manufacturing workers scheme; it is not our scheme. It is a trust fund model, which is a legitimate model.
Indeed, there are other trust funds that operate in a range of industries, and there is nothing wrong with that model. Instead of doing that, they signed up to an insurance bond. So it is not a trust; it is simply an insurance bond. At least in the trust fund model, the money is there to come back out, but this is an insurance bond. Instead of paying $174,000 a year, they are going to pay $700,000 a year. Of course, if we were in government, they would have a national scheme, and they would pay $11,600.
I think this is no contest. I say to the minister and to those opposite that, as the weeks and months unfold and as employers understand that your system requires this to be replicated not just in the manufacturing sector but in every company in the land, they will very quickly come to understand what the editorial in the Australian said. The future for Australian workers to have their entitlements protected is with a Beazley led government, which will legislate to fix this mess, and it will do it early
in the next term.
This is a transcript of a censure motion against Tony Abbott moved in Federal parliament this week
The New Stage
In the Industrial Age most organisations were structured vertically, each process complimenting another to deliver the most efficient output. The organization itself resembled a production line - a logical series of steps in an engineered process. Network technology is changing this by taking many of the traditional cost incentives of vertical integration out of the equation. In its place we see a more disaggregated entity; where the old lines of production have been replaced by disperse networks of specialist providers, contracted from without to fill a specialist part in the production process.
We're seeing a narrowing of the bands of competencies that an organisation specialises in. The managerial principle of "core competencies" means that a company makes a decision about what areas they are to specialise in and then focuses its energies around these activities. The principle is that you do less - but better because you attention is tightly focused.
All other areas, that are "non-core" are outsourced to another organisation that specialises in those areas. As the digital revolution makes communication between organisations more cost effective, particularly over large distances, the issue of "control" is not as much of a problem. Instead of control you have constant interaction between the various collaborators.
The net result is the narrowing of the functions of organisations and a decline in the overall size of the average firm. People talk about working in "layers" of a process now, rather than owning lots of different components of the process. Take Nike, for example, it doesn't do its own manufacturing any more, it doesn't even necessarily do its own design work, its doesn't do its own retail or distribution, it only manages the brand and marketing. It manages, if you like, the customer relationship.
The same model is going to apply in every area of endeavour. Banks are the classic organisations that are open to attack because at the moment they are deeply vertically integrated organisations. What's happening now is that a whole series of services provided by banks are being outsourced. Commonwealth and NAB have already outsourced their entire IT functions - a pretty dramatic shift for the workers in those areas. They are being outsourced to specialist companies who maintain relationships with large organisations and do support work for them.
The Brand Manager and the Outworker
In the future you're going to see corporations employing people who are just brand managers, and who outsource virtually everything else. Yahoo for example, which is a pure brand play, doesn't have long tentacles into the production or delivery process. Instead Yahoo has 300 content partners who deliver content to the Yahoo Website to make it as good as it is.
You'll start to find that model adopted for more traditional production processes. GM, for example, has already changed their relationship with suppliers. They've just moved to global tendering, whereas in the past they only had around 20 suppliers that they worked with closely. Then they decided to throw it open through their website so people in China or Turkey could bid for the same contracts that those suppliers in Deerborne used to get before - now that's got pretty dramatic ramifications for a whole range of things including workers, in those supply chain companies. I don't think it's quite so bad as it first looks, but nevertheless it is a major change.
The problem for the big companies is that if they become nothing more than a brand, they become vulnerable to areas they have no control over. Nike becomes vulnerable to attack as a brand by the practices of its supply chain companies. For example, by outsourcing to get the cheapest labour in Sri Lanka or China it jeopardises its image as a happy, healthy, supplier of sports equipment. The problem is, if consumers get upset with the company's workplace practices and say "Nike has a problem", the company finds they have formally ceded control. In this way the deliberate strategy the company originally had to avoid responsibility on their part is coming back to bite them.
There's a whole body of literature about the customer relationship being the primary asset of any organisation. Not the workers even, which some would still argue is more important. Certainly not the productive capacity or the investment capital. There are real problems with this perspective, for example a balance sheet, that is compiled each month is all to do with hard and fast equipment, there's nothing the balance sheet which gives one the value of the workforce. At the moment if you invest in the staff it's a write off of expenditure that doesn't contribute, in an ongoing sense, to the benefit of the company in terms of accounting standards. Equally the customer relationship isn't valued. "Good will" tries to approximate it, so Coca Cola for example has a valuation - but you're stretching the edges of accountancy to do it.
All those things are going to change, because the customer relationship in a wired world is completely different - there's a just single click for a customer to move away. This makes the customer relationship more vulnerable, but also more critical - because in the mass of information, people will go to brands they know but they will abandon them quickly if they have to. So how you manage that customer relationship, to make it work, becomes important. The reason why Amazon is triumphing over other kinds of retail sites in the States, just in terms of the numbers of people using it (although it's still yet to make a profit) is because it has invested a huge amount in the customer relationship side of it. It invests, invests, invests, in really good quality letters, emails, service, a whole range of things. Commerce on the web is going to be customer driven, far more than it is able to be in the more traditional forms of endeavour.
The New Worker
In the future you are unlikely to be employed by a major brand. People who work for the big brands will become a minority. Workers will be employed by service companies whose relationships are with the big brands. You'll get a significant reduction in the workforce employed by major organisations while at the same time you'll get an aggregation or increase in capital control by those major organisations. The industrial age firm, which was heavily vertically integrated, which had very broad bands of competencies, is now transforming into a network of organisations each with narrower bands of core competencies, but working in synergy with each other.
The workers who find their functions outsourced from an Industrial Age organisation are at the hard edge of the transition, they're the ones who bear the brunt. Industrial Age firms operated on the basis that you stayed with that firm for your working life, you put in the hard yards during your most productive years and the firm keeps you on in your less productive years and you'll be looked after until your retirement. That has all been changed for these people mid-way through the game.
This is not just about the manufacturing sector or the textile sector, it's about hi-tech workers as well. It you look at how software is now being developed in India, then it's a massive warning to the rest of the world about work conditions. There are six major institutes in India that educate software developers. Those six institutions are set up, well resourced and well funded by the Indian government. Every year there are one-hundred thousand applicants for three thousand jobs. This is the occupational choice for young Indians, the brightest, the cream of their intellectual capital. So you have three thousand people every year coming out of these institutions - and they will be working for what a cleaner would be getting in Australia.
The question that emerges is - while this is Information Age work, is it an Information Age model of work? Or is there also an industrial age IT sector? There were IT companies around in the seventies and eighties, mainly writing software and a lot of that software manufacture is shifting to a place like India, where you've got a highly educated workforce in a low wage economy and a crucial component above everything else, for the IT sector - they speak English.
Maybe, like the loss of manufacturing, the flow of the mechanistic IT work to lower wage economies is inevitable. In which case high wage countries like Australia need to focus at the creative/high value added end of the IT industry. Furthermore, we have to create a way for low wage economies to become high wage economies, maybe the shift in the coding industries to India and Russia is an appropriate way to provide workers in those nations with access to greater wealth.
That emphasises the need for a robust education and training system at all stages of work life. We need to be able to ensure that all our workers can have access to education, at a variety of levels, in both institutions and the workplace to improve their skills and enterprises. Most importantly we need to allow them to have portable skills so they can move around as enterprises get chopped and changed. We're going to see the total destruction of whole enterprises, the creation of new enterprises, and there are going to be many many more small enterprises then there are now. That's going to mean that people are going to have to change their jobs, or re-think their jobs many times over. It's going to be really hard, a lot of anxiety, and we need a system that supports that. We need a welfare and social security system, but we also need an education system that actively goes out to those people and engages them during those phases, rather than just saying, 'ok you're retrenched'.
The New Employment Relationship
In the industrial age you had an approach towards your work, education and career where you went and got your education at an early stage, and after that you were told that you had all the formal knowledge, you never had to learn anything again. You'd go and work for a firm and perform a fairly repetitive for the rest of your life. Once you became good at your job, your job tended not to change, you became fairly rigid and you got this attitude that you didn't have to learn any more.
So these people in an information age context are finding themselves ill equipped to deal with the emerging economy. An information age worker is somebody who has grown up recognising that the industrial age approach doesn't work and has developed the skills to transcend it. The younger generations that have seen their parents laid off, and realised that there was no loyalty from firms anymore have realised that in the new environment you have to continue to learn throughout your employment and ensure that you are expanding your opportunities in remaining in a particular job. So an approach to young people that you might see out there is to go and work for a company provided that they are getting something (other than wages) out of it, and if they don't think they are then they'll leave.
This is clearly a different mindset from industrial age thinking that workplaces and education institutions catered to dealing with a particular task in a modular kind of fashion - the Taylorist model. The whole of society was structured around that. So in a new climate there's a vast array of jobs that require more thinking - that's what it boils down to.
A whole lot of mechanical tasks are being automated, the last twenty-five years have seen a dramatic increase in automation already - at the base manufacturing process. Everything from mining equipment to textile looms are now automated to the nth degree. The kinds of enterprises that are flourishing are enterprises that rely on the intellectual or mental effort of their people. Whether it be call centre staff that are required to actually relate to someone, as opposed to just answering questions, they are supposed to be psyched up to provide good customer service. Whether it be hospitality industry workers, an area where the relationship is critical, whether it be software workers who have to think about there job and derive innovative solutions, rather than programming of tasks in a linear way. Whereas typing pools are disappearing.
This all leads to a very important, and at first, not easy to understand change in the experience as a worker. It means that enterprises are asking workers to have a sense of ownership of what they are doing, to not be totally alienated from their output.
There are currently some extraordinary inconsistencies during this transition period. How is it possible that an organisation like Anset could try to conceive, or empower its workers to have a sense of ownership about the company and then not let a union delegate send out information over the companies email system? There is a mismatch between the culture that they are trying to engender with their employees and their management culture. These organisations are happy to engage in the rhetoric of the new economy and new management, but they really don't put it into practice, the management still has an industrial age mindset. They want to dress up as new age, but only as a tool to rid the organisation of unions so they can be freer to go back to their old ways, unhindered. There's a genuine climate of fear in workplaces that is not at all conducive to creative thinking and lateral thinking you need to be a productive worker in the information age.
To understand this you need to look at the transition from an industrial age organisation and an information age organisation. Because in an industrial age organisation the value is invested in the capital and equipment and the people are, for the most part, expendable and interchangeable. In such an organisation each employee will have a minute, well defined task which they are required to perform repetitively. The workers have no value because anybody else can simply be slotted into any role. In an information age organisation each worker has a unique role, defined by the capabilities of that person. They are not so easily replaced because they have created their own role. The value of the company is linked the quality, skills and outside relationships of the people working for it.
Information is Power
There's another new dynamic: a structured hierarchy tends to aggregate power at the apex - all information has to flow to the centre, where all decisions are made. You get an information log jam because often the information can't get in or out fast enough, leading to organisational paralysis. Whereas if you let the organisational structure flatten out, you get decisions made closer to the ground, so not all of the information has to flow to the top of the structure, only the really important stuff. In the modern organisation, employing good information workers, they have to be able to recognise what is routine, or minor and don't need to go upstairs, and what decisions need to be made by a person, higher up, who has access to a broader pool of information and therefore a broader perspective. The person at the top is free of the day to day clutter associated with running the place and can properly focus on larger issues. It's command and control, versus, a disaggregated organisation, a structure versus a network. You've still got the person at the top of the organisation, and they still have power, but the extraordinary power they have in the industrial age model has been exchanged for influence.
The freeing up of information has interesting flow-on effects as well. We have at the moment this extraordinary thing in this country where a whole lot of companies have realised "Oh God, our workers don't think we are doing anything good for society, we've got to do something about it." So Westpac and AMP have set up foundations to give money to charities. Now that could well be a red herring because they are not actually changing the sense of work of individuals within each work unit. But what's going to happen in the long run is that people are going to want to try and change the day to day basis and belief in their work.
In IT companies now - the dominant thing you hear people say is "We're going to change the world." Now, a lot of that is utter crap! But curiously enough what they are trying to tap into is a kind of altruism - not just potency but also altruism - on the part of young, highly educated workers who want to feel they can make a fortune plus do good. Marrying of the idea of having a productive work life economically with also a productive work life socially, is one of the future challenges for management. This is now becoming, interestingly enough, a standard part of the US management literature - the importance of addressing what you are doing in your workplace and making sure that it's credible and real.
It's also about trust. Workplace relationships, whether it's between employer and employee or between different companies - all require elements of trust. This has been an issue that has raised challenges for the trade union movement. The 'trust' argument was basically ridiculed during the Weipa dispute where Rio Tinto used the argument as a justification for moving workers onto individual contracts. As ACTU advocate Bob Hwake observed at the time: it comes across as 'psycho-babble'. Yet, there is also a kernal of truth: where you've got an increasingly educated community - and not just university educated, but also you've got an increasing uptake of education in the workplace. You've got a set of new management theory that started in the US but it's moving through. And you've got a set of people whose needs are becoming a lot higher. In this context, unions need to shift their focus to those higher level needs if they are going to appeal to that highly educated workforce.
Management Mindsets and the Textiles Experience
Many companies adopt the rhetoric of 'trust' but they don't actually embrace it themselves. They have the rhetoric of a new management style but the philosophy of the industrial age. They do not embrace it realistically, instead they have a ruthless bottom line attitude towards business and their allegiance is to shareholders rather than their employers.
That actually holds their organisation back. If they actually properly embraced the theory as well as the rhetoric then their organisation would move ahead. There are some Australian examples. Lend Lease has adopted this business of purpose over the last 20 years and has now become an enormously successful company on the Australian scene. Their managers would argue that their "humanist" approach to employees has been an important part of their success. There are cruder examples. People like Body Shop and so on, who have tried to make their whole organisation a marketing tool.
Now, that doesn't mean to say that bottom line situations aren't important. At the end of the day financial considerations have to be a critical indicator for any organisation.
You are going to get the best if you take a humanist view of your workers. That is, that if something is going wrong it's probably how you are managing your worker - as your first thought. In other words, you are not getting out of them - is your first thought - and that doesn't mean people don't get fired, because sometimes management has to accept that I don't have the skills to get the best out of that person. And that's something enterprises need to accept. But that's very different to saying "That f....ing worker is a lazy bastard."
It's a totally different mindset. An example: in the late 70s that's exactly what happened in the textile industry. Bradmill decided, under competitive pressure from Chinese mills - we have to reduce wages. And the government helped them with this. That is, the Fraser Government initially, and the Labor Government eventually too. The gist was: We've got to grow. We've got to wipe out all the other competitive players to be able to be a global player (which is the NAB argument in Australia in the banking industry), because big enterprise will succeed, so therefore we can reduce our cost of production. It's the only way we'll compete. We need to keep a lid on wages and a range of things like that.
Bradmill doesn't exist anymore. It disappeared anyway. Because in fact, what actually happened, was the way to make money was to pay workers more and to get more creative input out of them. Because the other thing that was going on at the same time was an increase in wealth of the consuming public in Europe and the US and they wanted a high level product. They didn't want a cheap, bland product. They didn't actually want Chesty Bond T shirts anymore. So the textile industry in Australia went down the chute quite quickly, and it wasn't just because of the abolition of tariffs. Delaying the abolition of tariffs would have just simply delayed the demise of the Bradmills of the world.
The companies that did come up in Australia were Mambo and their ilk, which are high value added textile companies which require thinking workers in the design processes. Now I have to say, which might spoil the argument, is that Mambo then sent all their production to China. But nevertheless the brand that arose had a different area of creation of wealth. It is a different sort of textile company.
There was a shift in the core competencies of the company too. Because in the industrial age the core competencies of the textile firm were the actual weaving of the fabric so there wasn't as much intellectual effort put into what went on the fabric, what designs there were. Whereas Mambo said, rather than "we are a textile weaving company", it changed its core competencies to "we are a textiles design company". Well, they are actually a lifestyles company.
There are two countries where production wasn't shifted offshore to the world's leading textile countries - Italy and Germany. And in Italy, rather than have large enterprises, there was a growth of small enterprises, and what the government stepped in and did was set up cooperative industry schemes, including marketing schemes. It was owned by the small businesses, but it was originally initiated by the government and got some tax breaks accordingly. Cooperative selling schemes; training programs for workers were all put in place.
Today, there are some flourishing small companies that are on the second and third tiers and fourth tiers of the production process. And this has led to two things: One is enormous flexibility by the brand names, so they can turn out a whole new line of clothing a week from design. They don't do it themselves, they farm it out to all the small enterprises. A lot of them are family companies in the Prado region of Italy - the manufacturing estate of Italy. It's high value added manufacturing. No one does Chesty Bonds - they all get done in China. But they do the production of the really high quality sweaters and shirts in Prado. 'Prado' now adds more to the value of Australia's wool clip than Australia does from the grass up because they are doing high value added, thinking approaches to production.
International Solidarity and the Trouble with Seattle
This leads into a broader discussion on global trade and what individual countries can do. At the moment this debate is polarized between the free traders and those who argue that developed countries should impose standards like labour laws and environmental codes before they'll trade with the developed world. The disrupted Seattle became a flashpoint for that debate and a symbol of the challenge of Globalisation. The protestors, mainly from the developed world were effectively arguing that the developing world should be locked out of trade until their countries adopted Western social benchmarks. Yet these benchmarks can not be reached until the countries reach a mature point of development. So what should come first?
At the same time you've got the Chinas and the Indias entering their industrial age, who are actually on the verge of making the jump to the information age from the agrarian society within a very short time-frame. Is it in our collective interests to halt this transition, or facilitate it - even at the cost of local jobs? If we decide on this course, we have to accept they'll have lower labour costs. Their country is at a very different level of development. The cost of living is different. So it can't be about wages -= but it canm be about things like the right to organize and bargain collectively, so that those workers can maximize their wages and minimize the extent to which they undercut workers in the developed world.
The challenge for the union movement is to force governments to take control of the World Trade Organisation process in a manner that extends this free trade-closed world dichotomy. And they have got to do it with a generosity of spirit that allows people in Third World countries to get the jobs that are going around, to help people in First World countries that have been locked into an industrial age scenario to make the transition, because they are the losers when a plant shuts down and moves to the Third World. You've got the winners in the Third World who are getting more wealth but you have got a set of losers that have to then be in some way compensated.
If unions don't make this transition to taking a different approach to what the workplace means in First World countries, they are going to effectively do over Third World country workers. They have got to make the transition in a way that works and get government to help facilitate the transition rather than stop it. A lot of unions I think are in a stop mode still. And it's not going to go anywhere. Membership numbers will continue to reduce.
Workforce in Transition and the BHP Closure
Take for instance, the closure of the Newcastle steelworks. In a scenario like that where you are seeing the industrial age structure shut down and shift to the Third World, or shift offshore. You have a whole community - identifiable communities - that are left washed up as a result of that. There's got to be a social contract is what you are saying. There has to be a responsibility towards those people. If you are saying the shifting of those jobs was natural and had to happen, then you have also got to say, well what are you going to do about those people. Well, the union movement then has a role in ensuring that those people are protected, that they are reskilled and help to find new jobs in new industries that will be more durable.
The free market won't deliver this, but unions other agents of change within our system - like community organizations - must fulfill the role. You have got the Hunter now that has really pulled in behind the Newcastle steelworkers and as a community - as a geographic community and also as a union movement. So the challenge is how you facilitate transitions rather than block them
The thing that worries me more is not bottom line driven competition by markets. What worries me more is the lack of that. I think what's more harmful to workers is monopolies. BHP had a steel monopoly in this country, and that led to an ossifying culture. There is no way that steel is necessarily unprofitable, but BHP invested a huge amount in infrastructure and didn't bother to update that infrastructure. They had one stab at it in Rooty Hill, where they put in a new, modern steam plant, but it was small fry compared to the Smorgens, the only competitor in Australia, who put in small scale, highly flexible production - and that can be quite profitable. So what we are actually seeing is BHP 20 years too late, taking its capital out of old style manufacturing enterprises to put in new areas they should have ages ago. And one of the reasons they took so long was because there wasn't much competition in the Australian market.
What Does it Mean for the Workers?
Let's get to a conclusion. What we are talking about is the acceptance that in a new economy it is educated and informed people, that make a difference to enterprises. That's a significant paradigm of change. There is a whole lot of things that will flow from that.
There are challenges for managers because you cannot treat someone who is highly educated, highly informed in a command and control manner. In the past people were ruled by limiting information - keeping people ignorant. That's much harder to do in this sort of economy. You have to therefore work with your workforce in an entirely different way as managers. You have to look for enterprise, motivation, leadership, orchestration - all of that - as distinct from directing them. We also need to look on a societal basis and a global basis at the kind of cultural infrastructure that will support the growth in the economy that will come from those sort of workers and we need to look at what will allow third world countries to make that transaction faster too.
For this reason, a social agenda for WTO is required. But not one to protect jobs in the first world. There is a really important difference: rather than blocking change, we need to share the fruits of the whole concept of being a different sort of worker - and it will be a 20 to 50 year transition we are about to go through.
The other challenge for educated and informed First World workers, is to better understand their own workplaces. They need to be informed about what's going to happen with their company and their industry. And they'll need unions to offer them objective advice about what's going to happen to help manage the transition from workplace to workplace, rather than telling me to be scared because my job is going to disappear. If I am a typical workers, I will most likely be fired sometime in my lifetime for reasons out of my control. But I'll want to know in advance. I'm not going to find out about that much from management, I'm more likely to find out about it from a union, so I need that access to objective intelligence.
These transition services will probably be provided by unions and by government to allow me to make those changes, which will be important because there will be a lot of small companies and no big companies, and you can't stay in one small enterprise for more than a few years. For no other reason than it just gets boring. So I will want to move - let alone the fact that they are going to go bust all the time in a changing economy. Now, that means that we let the commercial sector get off itself and f... us all around if it wants to and go broke and rise up from the ashes. And that's important too. We do not try and protect individual enterprises, as governments have traditionally done. We let them rise and fail and concentrate on making sure the workers don't get crushed in the process.
This chapter based on a conversation with the authors, Social Change Media director Sean Kidney and the labour web activist Noel Hester
There's an old saying that goes never believe everything you read in the papers. But while this cynicism towards the media is ingrained in our society, the printed word still exerts an amazing influence on Australian politics and culture. As much as we'd like to believe that we are immune from the biases and agendas of our motley collection of tabloids and broadsheets, their influence on our attitudes and views are undeniable.
Now, for those of us who are unionists this is not good news. I'm not going to claim it as fact, but there's a widely held belief amongst many that the union movement cops an unjust and unfair hiding in the mainstream press. If this is true, it's very damaging. For many in the wider community their only exposure to the union movement is through the press, and you tell me any person who has the time to sit down and read a wide variety of papers all the while critically analysing what they are taking in. Net result, unfavourable coverage = unfavourable attitudes towards our movement.
This problem can be especially pronounced in the cases of high profile disputes, such as the recent Tristar saga. With reams and reams of diverse coverage spewing forth every day, I got to wondering just how the dispute was being presented to the casual observer. Was it a hatchet job, or was it indeed that journalistic Holy Grail, 'fair and balanced coverage''To help determine this I decided on a little experiment and to make my task manageable, chose the coverage of four influential dailies and how they presented the important issues on a defining day of the dispute'.
The papers: The Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and the Financial Review
The day: August 3rd- This was a perfect day, Howard was visiting Mitsubishi in Japan, the strike was starting to bite car manufacturers, and negotiations had reached a stage where all the issues were tabled and decision making was at hand. 'In short there was a huge range of important issues that needed to be covered, any failings on the part of these publications would therefore be obvious'.
The aim: To find out how fair and balanced was the coverage? Did it differ much in each publication? And if so why? Remember, each paper is staffed by professionals with access to same information, it's what they do (or don't do) with it that is the key.
So what form did the coverage take? Read on, the results are quite eye opening.
The Australian- The Oz's coverage was by far the most comprehensive, and balanced. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a union love in, but all sides were aired. While one opinion piece criticised unions for their support of tariffs for the car industry, another piece detailed the story of a Tristar worker enduring financial hardship for a principle he believes in- that working people are entitled to decent (and secure) entitlements.
In another example, an article detailing the negative flow on effects of the strike sat next to an expose of Tristar's corporate structure that acknowledged workers fears that the company was set up to fail. There was no doubt that the Australian had done its homework, it even went as far as to question the numerous false rumours of Mitsubishi's imminent demise. If the other papers were this balanced, my faith in our print media was about to be restored.
The Daily Telegraph - In the wake of recent positive union coverage I was confident about the 'Tele'. Ten seconds later things were back to normal. Their coverage consisted of a very unfunny cartoon lampooning the AMWU, an opinion piece by Australian Industry Group Chief Bob Herbert (complete with crocodile tears) slamming Manusafe and an article entitled 'How 350 workers can cripple a $17 billion industry'.
Unlike the Australian there was no effort to understand why the unions had taken this course of action, and no comment on the appalling record of the coalition in regards to workers entitlements. Did the Tele not have access to information on Tristar's dodgy structure that was presented by the Australian? I have no problem with the paper detailing the effects of the strike on the automotive industry, but why focus on the industries lost revenue and ignore the plight of the Tristar workers? When you consider the Tele's coverage as a complete package a very obvious pre-determined agenda appears. After reading this issue would a casual observer even know that these workers were so worried they felt they had no other option but to strike? No chance in hell.
Sydney Morning Herald: Like the Telegraph the venerable SMH went with the Mitsubishi angle. One front- page story to go. Title, 'Strike puts Mitsubishi at risk'. But unlike the Tele, the SMH did make some attempt to explain the workers grievances, even going as far as to quote the AMWU's Doug Cameron on both Tristar's intransigence and the antagonism of the Federal Government and their mates in the Australian Industry Group. It also presented a wider range of figures. While tabling the number of automotive workers inconvenienced by the strike, the Herald also pointed out that 900 workers had lost $9 million in entitlements in the last year due to company collapses.
This coverage was supported by a secondary article on page 2 detailing the history of the dispute, and explaining the 'just-in-time' system of parts delivery. After rightfully noting that this system does provide unions with a useful tactical tool, the writer went on to mention the very pointed absence of Tristar General Manager Mr Vincent Kong from negotiations. With the limited space they devoted to the story the Herald could not have conducted the comprehensive coverage that was presented by its competitor The Australian. This said, they did make an attempt to at least mention the many different facets of the dispute. While Telegraph readers were left thinking that this was just a story about greedy unions, the SMH at least presented the issue as what it was- an industrial dispute encompassing a wide range of important facets.
Financial Review - Strangely, only one article on the dispute graced the pages of the Fin on this day. Provocatively entitled 'Threat grows as PM slams strike' it focused solely on Howard's outrageous claims that the strike could cause Mitsubishi to pull out of Australia altogether. In the space of a couple of hundred words, Howard's laughable claims were quoted, the views of the Australian Industry Group on Manusafe were presented as gospel, and a statistical picture of the damage car makers were facing was tabled.
No quotes from union officials were offered and no examination of Tristar's less than reassuring corporate structure was undertaken. Instead, the Fin decided to insinuate that the AMWU was using its 'leverage' at Tristar to bully the company and hold the economy to ransom. They didn't even bother to mention that the workers were extremely afraid that their entitlements would not be honoured by Tristar.
This coverage can only be described at best as narrow and at worst blatant scaremongering. Funny thing is, do you think the Financial Review's business savvy readership would for a minute believe Mitsubishi would pull the plug on its multi million dollar operations due to legal industrial action by 350 workers? Didn't think so.
The Wash-Up And so the great experiment came to an end. While I acknowledge that it wasn't perfect, I would like to reaffirm its one major advantage. With its limited focus upon a day where a number of important issues came to a head, incomplete or biased coverage could quickly be discerned.
Sadly, our print press didn't do too well. Only the Australian truly took the time to present all facets of this complex issue. The SMH did make an attempt, but were obviously content to wrap their coverage in eyegrabbing rhetoric about the fate of Mitsubishi. And as for the Tele and Financial Review? Well, considering the vast resources of these papers, their limited and pointed coverage was very disappointing. All I can say is that on this evidence, those of us who claim severe bias and selective coverage have had their case strengthened.
Finally, amongst all the gloom, we must also ask whether this limited exercise has any lessons to impart. I believe the answer to be yes. As unionists we need to be proactive with the media. If you see biased coverage, write and complain. Don't be scared to ask why their competitor managed to tackle an issue that they ignored. You may not get published, but you'll keep them on their toes!
Mark Hebblewhite is a MEAA member from Sydney
To travel to Burma, is as some say, to enter a time warp. It is a beautifully enchanting country, a land of golden pagodas, the most famous Shewdagon, which dominates the capital, Rangoon. Covering 56 acres it is a constant hive of activity, providing sustenance to many and solace for all, who live in fear of Burma's military rulers.
Justice Rajsmoor Lallah, previous United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Violations in Myanmar (the name that the military changed it to) said in his report to the 41st session of the United Nations General Assembly 1999: "...at the very worst, we are faced with a country which is at war with its own people, at the very best, it is a country which is holding its people hostage..."
Burma is flanked by Thailand, India, Laos and China, stretching to the Cocos Islands in the Andaman Sea. It is mountainous, heavily forested, has a huge delta area, abundantly fertile, awash with natural resources, and home to a people with 135 language groups. Ethnic nationalities people comprise over 30 per cent of the nation's 50 million people.
Burma's armed forces, the Tatmadaw, in one guise or another have ruled Burma since the 2nd March 1962 when General Ne Win Army Chief seized power. Burma has been racked by civil war since independence (1948) with the military Burma's greatest obstacle to peace and prosperity. General Ne Win, now over 90 years, still psychologically dominates Burma's politics. Apart from the SPDC's troika of Senior General Than Shwe, General Maung Aye and Lt-General Khin Nyunt, and international mouthpieces Lt-Colonel Hla Min and U Win Aung, the other most dominant political force is Burma's internationally respected Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Nobel Peace Laureate and a member of the Companion of the Order of Australia.
So feared is she by this macho military, they keep her prisoner in her home. She doesn't have guns, or an army of over 450,000 men, or 10 newly acquired MIG 29s, or military support from China, Singapore, Israel, Pakistan, and over the years Germany, Poland, Russia, the former Yugoslavia. She has what the military never can; the love and the respect of the people and political legitimacy. The National League for Democracy (NLD) of which she is the General Secretary, in the 1990 elections won 392 seats of the 485. The military backed party, the National Unity Party (NUP) won 10 seats, with the remaining 83 won by democratic and ethnic based parties and independents.
Burma is ruled by a 19 member military elite called the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). The SPDC announced that they will now transmit through MRTV-3, programs designed to show neighbours the true story about Burma.
MRTV-3 won't show the following:
-the country is bankrupt , over half of the primary school aged children are malnourished, Burmese children take 9.5 years to complete 5 years of primary school, universities have been closed for 9 of the last 12 years, infant mortality rate is 79 per 1,000, 2,000 political prisoners languish in gaol, entire villages are forcibly relocated, villagers sometimes shot and killed, women and girls raped and sometimes murdered, half the nation's budget is spent on the military, 85 per cent of heroin on Australian streets comes from Burma, that the military (also known as a narco-dictatorship) stay afloat because of the drugs economy.
They say that the drugs are the work of the insurgents, that it is an international problem, (annual production is around 2,000 tons, with cultivation and production having both risen over the last decade) but it is all done within a framework of political agreements and financial dealings forged by the military SPDC, most notably Lt- General Khin Nyunt, also the boss of the feared and all pervasive 'Military Intelligence Services' (MIS).
Drug barons live in Rangoon, dominating the business and property world, running legitimate businesses, all with the blessing and involvement of the SPDC. Burma has the status of a money laundering nation (see OECD commentary) and is rated as the world's most restricted economy. Not a good signpost to investors, nor is the fact that they nationalised the businesses of 2 foreign companies, Mandalay Brewery is one.
MRTV-3 won't show you footage of slave labour that is systemically carried out by the armed forces, the portering where people are plucked out of their lives, particularly the ethnic peoples in villages, to carry provisions for the Tatmadaw. This barbaric practice gained the attention of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) who for the first time in its history, passed a resolution that called for its member countries to impose sanctions against a member country, Burma.
We know that slave labour is wrong and morally repugnant to humankind, affecting all workers, denigrating our most valued contribution, our labour. We must oppose this practice on each and every occasion we are confronted by it in any form, even in our neighbours backyard where it is most extreme.
So should we visit Burma yet as tourists? The answer is no. It can only help to prolong the rule of one of our region's most harsh and brutal regimes.
If you would like to do your bit to stamp out slave labour and restore the rule of law please contact me on 02-92302235 or 0418-664001 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Janelle Saffin is a member of the NSW Legislative Council and an Executive Member of the Burma Lawyers' Council (BLC)
Brazil has a long and proud tradition of mass social movements that we in Australia hear little about. But the 16 year old, several million strong MST (Movimento dos trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra literally Landless Peasants Movement) will not remain unknown for much longer- even in far away Australia.
The MST has generated massive media interest, featured on the front cover of TIME magazine and electrified the Americas with its militant land occupations. These occupations have rocked Brazil to its foundations -and provoked a brutal reaction from authorities.
In Brazil 50% of the farmland is owned by just 2% of the population. Often this land is unused by the big landowners, left idle whilst millions of landless rural Brazilians literally starve, or work as modern day serfs for the big landowners.
It is this outrageous situation that spawned the MST. They have pioneered a radical tactic which directly challenges notions of property MST affiliated communities simply move en masse onto farmland not being utilised by the rural elite, take it over, build a co-operative based community and farm the land.
In their 16 year history the MST has settled over 200 000 families on land previously owned by one person or family. They have "liberated" areas equivalent to 7 million hectares.
This achievement however has been at a terrible cost. Brazil's Police, infamous for brutality against the poor -even to the extent of wholesale murder of street children in Brazils big cities- have massacred MST communities several times.
The most infamous caes was in the Northern jungle state of Para, where on April 17 1996 Police surrounded MST families participating in a march on the state capital, Belem, killing dozens and summarily executing 13 wounded who could not escape.
A trial of the 155 police involved in this massacre is still to take place.
Hopes are high however that this time, with international scrutiny very strong, some measure of justice may come from Brazils notoriously corrupt judiciary.
The MST today continues to evolve to confront present realities. The MST, perhaps more than any other social movement in the Americas, has invested heavily in national, regional and global alliance building. They were one of the drivers of the recently concluded and hugely successful World Social Forum, held in Porto Alegre, Brazil. MST is developing relationships with progressive elements within the churches as well as small farmers whose interests often run parallel with landless peasants.
MST is also developing relations with Brazils rapidly growing Green movement. The common cause in this relationship is opposition to Genetically Modified Food, which mobilises Greens because of its health and environmental implications, whilst concerning rural workers because it challenges the economic sustainability of traditional farming methods.
The MST has also recognised that their is a need to educate rural workers in the rapidly changing nature of global capital. The multinationals that control global agriculture are rapidly moving into Brazil, and so an ambitious plan has been launched to train 20,000 militants nationally to better understand the nature of the beast they are increasingly confronting.
The MST in their history have provided a measure of hope to Brazils landless poor. Their radicalism can be seen as reflective of the reality in Brazil, perhaps without many lessons for Australias farming sector.
Then again, perhaps the working poor of the Australian bush shunned and written off in the cities as Hansonite rednecks- could gain from employing a little MST radicalism against the agro-monopolies that dominate the industry in Australia...
Keep an eye out for the MST. They will be around for a while yet.
Who is the Imperialist?
The campaign for political and human rights in Burma has strong support from Australian unions. This continues a tradition of support for the peoples of South-East Asia that includes opposition to the Vietnam War, and, in what was a major leadership role, the ban on Dutch shipping after the Second World War.
In 1947 the Waterside Workers' Federation (WWF) Federal Council received an appeal from Indonesian trade unions:
"We appeal to all democratic and peaceful peoples everywhere, and especially to the working class in all countries of the world, to boycott all that is Dutch in all harbours, stores, roadways and other places throughout the world, in the event of the outbreak of warfare in Indonesia."
Menzies denounced the ban (he was opposition leader at the time), as did the mainstream press. The ALP government supported the Indonesian Republic in the UN.
The boycott was international in scope and the most widespread international action any Australian union had been involved with. Rupert Lockwood estimated that a total of 559 vessels were held up over a 4 year period.
Jim Healy remembers that the mood just after the end of the war was a sigh of relief and relaxation, but he reminded union members and returned soldiers of a new fight coming at a public meeting in Sydney, in the smoke-filled room mentioned above.
"No doubt you soldiers are very glad to be back in peace, and we are very happy to welcome you. But for the workers here there is another fight coming."
"Indonesia is calling, calling for our help, for a black ban on all Dutch ships. They call on us to stall the armada with which they would start a new war in the Pacific. Haven't we had enough of war?"
The roar of approval from the men and women was his answer. They broke up into groups, talking, organizing for the job ahead.
The WWF responded by black-banning Dutch shipping in Australia. The ban began in Brisbane and spread around the coast, except for Melbourne where the Groupers controlled the union. The ACTU and 30 other unions supported the ban. Indonesian troops in crews walked off Dutch ships and Indian, Chinese and Malayan seamen also refused to crew them
Wharfies and seamen made sure these seamen had food, clothing and shelter, setting up the Waterside Workers Camp in Centennial Park.
Stan Moran and Tom Nelson from the WWF, and Hughie Grant from the Boilermakers took a rail carriage full of these Indian seamen to Canberra to the Indian High Commission office. This forced the payment of wages that the Dutch shipping companies had withheld from the seamen. A further demonstration outside the Dutch company KPM offices in Sydney was later held to make sure the agreement gained in Canberra was honoured.
The Dutch held over 300 Indonesians in a concentration camp near Casino, NSW. Jim Healy led a campaign for their repatriation.
The camp was a Dutch base, and in September 1945 Indonesian people who were in the Dutch army served notice on Dutch officers that they be discharged into civilian life., pending repatriation to the Republic and that there deferred pay be handed over. A few days later the Dutch Commandant paraded the men and surrounded them with soldiers with machine guns. The Commandant then interned the Indonesians behind barbed wire.
The action by the Indonesians at Casino and at various other sites in Australia in support of Independence actually preceded major action in Indonesia itself. The actions were particularly important as these troops were to act as the first line in the Dutch effort to stop the independence movement in its tracks. As Lockwood says, these troops, unarmed and totally removed from the republican command in Indonesia, could claim the first military victory for the Indonesian Republic.
It wasn't a happy camp with overcrowding and inadequate food, and the Dutch vented their anger at the potential loss of their colonial territory by treating the inmates poorly. A food strike in 1946 led to an inmate, Tazan, being killed, and another, Lenkong being wounded. Arthur Calwell, as Immigration Minister was trying to end the overstretching of the extra-territorial powers that had been extended to the Netherlands East Indies government in exile. He made heated protests to the Dutch and sent a strongly worded cable to The Hague, demanding the closure of the camp, even threatening that if the Dutch didn't free the prisoners then the Australians would take action remove the guards. Calwell's actions had the desired effect.
Tom Nelson saw the bans as a first major move for a peace movement, as it was the first decisive action against war in the post-war era. It was also the first success for the many anti-colonial independence movements that grew rapidly after World War II. The Burmese independence movement was one of these.
Lockwood saw the Indonesian Independence movement as lucky. Lucky that their move and the support for it such as the shipping bans was successful, as by the time the Hague Agreement was signed in 1949 US foreign policy towards any supposedly communist movements was set. The Korean War was the first example of the lengths they would go to, and Vietnam wasn't far behind. The US also refused to recognize the People's Republic of China. The attitude to Sukarno's nationalists was hostile from the start, and included support for various separatist movements. Sukarno mollified them a bit by crushing out some left-wing forces early on.
The UN, set up after the war and in which Evatt played a key role, was keen to support the rights of newly emerging nations. The US actions after the success of the Indonesian Independence Movement was the sign that dreams of real sovereignty and the end of colonialism were just that as far as the big powers were concerned.
The actions of the WWF fro 4 years spurred the Chifley government in its support for the Indonesian people, and played a big role in shifting the perceptions of Australia held by many people in South-East Asia.
Chifley's comments from opposition in 1949 were a belated summing up of the reasons the wharfies and seamen had instituted the bans in the first place:
"The Labor Government realized that 80 million Indonesians could not continue to be governed by 10 million Europeans whose sole interest in Indonesia was to extract from the country as much wealth as they could and give in return as little as possible."
Recording It All
The Wharfies, the Seamen and 13 other Australian unions sponsored a film, Indonesia Calling that played a role in defeating Dutch censorship and in informing Australians about the trade union campaign for Indonesian people. The Commonwealth Censor banned for export on the grounds that it might offend a friendly nation, The Dutch!! The film was smuggled into Indonesia aboard a repatriation ship and given a lot of publicity in the republican press. The filmmaker was a Dutchman, Joris Ivens who had been brought to Australia to film the Dutch re-occupation. Immediately the republic was proclaimed, he breached his contract with the Dutch, and, illegally using his equipment, filmed the Australian boycotts and demonstrations and the mutinies by the Indonesian and Indian seamen. Peter Finch did the commentary.
The most detail is in Rupert Lockwood Black Armada (Sydney: Australasian Book Society, 1975)
A summary is in Margo Beasley Wharfies The History of the Waterside Workers' Federation (Sydney: Halstead Press in association with the Australian National Maritime Museum, 1996)
Victor Williams The Years of Big Jim (Lone Hand Press, 1975)
Also Tom Nelson The Hungry Mile (1957) has a short section on the issue.
Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA is assisting eight projects for refugees and migrant workers from Burma on the Thai-Burma border. These support medic training and mobile medical clinics, vocational training for refugee and displaced communities, schools for refugees as well as support to information and education-based radio programs for Shan and Karen speaking migrant workers in Thailand.
Projects with refugees on the Thai-Burma border include:-
· Women's vocational training and support for children living outside family structures at the Umphium Mai refugee camp - sponsored by the Australian Education Union
· Vocational training program with the All Burma Students Democratic Front - sponsored by the Australian Nursing Federation, Victorian Branch
· Mobile medical teams for displaced people with the Burma Relief Centre
· Radio training with the Migrant Assistance Program, providing Shan language programs for migrant workers in Thailand
With the continuing repression by the SPDC inside Burma, over 350,000 refugees have fled Burma, living in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, over 136,000 of them on the Thai border. (BBC Update 10/7/01). The border region is virtually a war zone with frequent military operations against the refugees.
The Umphium Mai Refugee Camp
Life in the refugee camps is harsh, uncertain and lacking in many basic services we take for granted. The Umphium Mai Refugee Camp is situated 40 kilometers from the Thai city of Mae Sot in the Tak province. The terrain is hilly, with little vegetation, and the thousands of people living here struggle with severe cold during the winter months.
Through this project, the Karen Refugee Camps Women's Development Group (KRCWDG) is supporting school aged children living outside of their family structures - these children may have lost parents in the conflict or may be living outside of the family for other reasons. The group supports their education and integration into the community through providing basic necessities along with particular educational activities. These are children who are marginalised within the camp and may not otherwise have access to education or other social support.
A number of the women working with the KRCWDG are young, and have spent all of their lives in refugee camps. Their energy and optimism are remarkable. The project provides training opportunities for these and other isolated young women in the refugee camp. They are the future leaders of their community. Workshops have been conducted in office management and typing, leadership training, English language training, repatriation and refugee issues, human rights, reproductive health, HIV education and landmine awareness. Through such workshops, women are brought together to discuss their issues and to encourage each other in their work. Through the project, some women have had opportunities for internships with other Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA partner organisations working on the Thai-Burma border to further develop their skills.
Vocational training with ABSDF
Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, with funding support from the Australian Nursing Federation - Victorian Branch, is assisting the All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF) to deliver basic medical training to paramedics at Wei Gyi refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border.
With no government spending on health for refugees living in the border region, the training of community health workers is considered a priority.
The training is conducted by the All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF), a student activist organisation formed in 1988 and a key member of the democracy movement for 13 years. These students have lived in border camps with makeshift buildings, lacking medical professionals and medical supplies, and experiencing a shortage of food and insufficiency of clothing to combat the cold seasons. Since 1988 the student leaders have been taking care of members and families in various camps through health, education and supplies departments. They also provide medical services to communities displaced by the Burmese military's operations in the border areaas.
Although they have some medical set up, there are insufficient skilled medics to extend the health care and education programs in areas where there are many ethnic people with little education and awareness of health care; or to deal with health problems as a result of poverty and the impact of the world's longest running civil war. This project aims to address this shortage of medical services, to upgrade people's living standards, and to provide for the health care needs of the people.
Training in the Wei Gyi student camp near Mae Sariang - Mae Hong Son province (Thailand) began in September 2000. The curriculum covers anatomy and physiology; nursing care; obstetrics and gynaecology; microbiology; public health; surgery; curative medicine and child care
After the six months theoretical training, the paramedics will undergo a further six months supervised practical work before being assigned to work in a number of camps and communities in the border region.
The training was delivered by doctors who work in the Mae Tao clinic in Mae Sot (a clinic also assisted by Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA) as well as by senior medical students who were forced to flee Burma as refugees.
YOU can directly help
You can assist these refugees and migrant workers and their families fight for their rights to freedom, justice, the right to organise and a decent standard of living by joining Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA's work. Join the Global Justice Program by making a monthly, tax-deductible donation of $10 or more, or make a one-off donation. Ring today on (02) 9264 9343 or email on email@example.com
Link to APHEDA website
by The Chaser
The Australian fugitive convinced a court in Spain that he wasn't fit to attend his burial, due to deteriorating health.
Mr Skase said he'd prefer instead to be buried offshore, in the same place he's buried all of his assets.
His shock death has saddened thousands of Australians, who relied on his capture and conviction to retrieve the millions of dollars they invested in Qintex.
"It's taken me ten years to recover from Qintex," admitted one cheated investor. "Bit by bit I've had to save and put all my funds into a safer stock. Unfortunately that stock was One.Tel."
As the one-time owner of Channel Seven, Skase was further maligned by Australians when he decided to keep Donnie Sutherland on the air. He was also responsible for pinning the network's success on a puppet called Agro.
Creditors said yesterday they will continue to hunt for Skase's missing fortune, but fear it may all have been blown on authentic "illness" paraphernalia.
Some sceptics have even suggested that his death itself was faked, a claim Skase has denied from his new home in the Dominican Republic.
Majorcan hospital staff confirmed last night that Skase had died of a rare form of cancer which people don't find tragic.
"The cancer caught up with him much more quickly than the Australian authorities did," one doctor observed. "Maybe they should appoint that tumour the Minister for Justice."
Burma is a surprising country. Boasting emerald-green rice fields, a multitude of tropical flowers and fruits, and brilliantly painted temples and shops, it is awash with colour. Most Burmese, men and women, continue to wear longyis (sarongs)decorated in striking patterns, and children run around with sweet-smelling sandalwood paste smeared on their faces. A carefree cheerfulness seems to characterize the people, but if you mention 'democracy' or Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, people freeze.
The majority of the country's 50 million inhabitants are farmers. In the rural areas, oxcarts are still the primary mode of transportation, and television sets remain a luxury. Rangoon, the capital, is dominated by the shimmering golden Shwedagon Pagoda, although new high-rise hotels and office buildings have begun to clutter the view. The capital's markets and teashops bustle with activity, but the universities are often quiet. They are shut down for months or years at a time whenever student protests occur.
Burma has been under military rule since 1962. In 1988, pro-democracy demonstrations broke out nationwide, shattering the silence that had characterized political life for so many years. Students, professionals, civil servants and even some soldiers took to the streets to celebrate their new-found freedom. But after six weeks, the military was able to re-establish control, in part by promising multi-party elections for a new government. In 1990, the National League for Democracy, led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced chee), won a landslide victory, and change seemed imminent. But the regime refused to transfer power and instead began arresting some of those who had been elected. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi herself had been put under house arrest in 1989.
Ten years later, Burma was still under military rule. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had been released from house arrest in 1995, but when she continued to demand a transfer of power, or at least a dialogue about it, the military regime began restricting her movements and harassing members of her party who refused to resign...
It is not without irony that I have selected Living Silence as the title of this book. Burma is such a vibrant and lively place, yet so many subjects are off-limits or only talked about in whispers, behind closed doors. People in Burma are reluctant to speak up because they are living under the seemingly omnipresent surveillance of military intelligence personnel and informers. Those who act against the regime risk torture, long-term imprisonment and being treated as outcasts for life. To protect themselves and their families, Burmese participate in creating the silence that constrains many aspects of their lives.
Moreover, although the regime now allows foreign investment and tourism, it denies outsiders access to areas where human rights abuses are rampant and insists that what damaging information does get out is unsubstantiated. The regime has tried to muffle Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the most prominent critic of the regime, by frequently cutting her phone line, restricting others' access to her house, and blocking her from traveling outside Rangoon.
To recognize other voices besides that of the military regime, I have followed the pro-democracy movement in using Burma rather than Myanmar. Although in Burmese 'Bama' and 'Myanma' are used interchangeably for the name of the country, the choice of names in English has political connotations. The military regime unilaterally changed the English name of the country to Myanmar without consulting the country's citizens.
Despite the regime's stifling of its citizens' creative potential for so long, Burma is not the same place today that it was in the early years of military rule. Because of their liberating experiences during the 1988 pro-democracy movement and their increasing awareness of far better living conditions in other countries, Burmese today are less willing to accept the regime's claims that military rule is necessary. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has provided focus and leadership while a vocal opposition movement in exile has helped make Burma much more of an international issue than it ever was in the past.
At the same time, Burma has drawn international concern because of its status as one of the world's top heroin producers, along with Afghanistan. Burma is also rapidly becoming a key amphetamines producer, with the drugs flowing out of Burma and leading to rising addiction rates in neighbouring countries. Along with the expansion of the drug trade has come a worsening HIV/AIDS epidemic, with high infection rates not only in Burma but also in other countries in the region. Many governments have sought to work with Burma's military regime on these issues, but with limited success.
Obedience is a Habit
Some activists have argued that the military is habituating people into silently obeying as part of a strategy of disempowerment. Control through humiliation is often used by the regime. Political prisoners with their heads covered are frequently ordered to jump or bend down as if there were obstacles along the path when in fact there are none. In the interrogation room they are told to pretend to ride a motorcycle, including making 'vroom vroom' noises all the while.
Even ordinary civilians face similar kinds of humiliation. Daw Sanda explained that to impress a government minister who would be passing their town on a train, the local authorities ordered all those living on both sides of the track to repaint their houses. 'Those who didn't do it,' she said,' had to pay fifty kyat. Those who couldn't pay were sent out on to the train track to jump like frogs.'
U Po Khin, a farmer who became a labour organizer, talked about how the military has made regular, and sometimes arbitrary demands on citizens, so that eventually people don't even think about protesting. He gave an example of how some villagers were toyed with in Sagaing Division. The military officers said they were going to repair the road that linked the towns of Kalaymyo and Tamu. They ordered the villagers to collect stones and firewood, clear a site, and make tar. After the villagers had complied, the battalion withdrew. The tar spoiled, and all their work had been in vain. Later, the military officers came again and said this time they really were going to repair the road and made the villagers collect everything again, without any payment.
The villagers were told to pile all the supplies on one side of the road. When the officers reappeared later, they ordered the villagers to move everything to the other side of the road, and then again to the first side. The villagers had to do what they were told, no matter how capricious the demand.
U Po Khin explained that sometimes the demands are for money rather than labour. For instance, businessmen in Rangoon and Mandalay have no choice but to buy tickets for military-sponsored functions or to make donations to military-sponsored charities, because if they don't, they may find their business activities hindered in all kinds of ways. U Po Khin concluded that, with time, 'When one man in an army uniform stands in front of your house and says you have to pay this amount of money, the house-owner has no thought of complaining or asking, "For what?" He doesn't ask, he just gives it.' U Po Khin said that when he and his colleagues asked the villagers, 'Why do you give this money? You have the right to refuse. You have the right to question,' they answered, 'Oh, they are from the government, how can I?'
U Po Khin's colleague, U Tun Shein, added, 'To refuse a government order, we need a gathering. If only I refuse, I will be punished, it is sure. If we can collect the people, we can refuse. If there is an organization, it will be successful. But the government knows about that. That's why they do not allow freedom of association.' With no independent unions allowed, individuals feel overwhelmed by their helplessness in the face of the powerful military organization.
Raymond Tint Way, a Burmese psychiatrist who now lives abroad, put it in psychological terms. He said, 'People have regressed under military rule. They have become more dependent. They have had to endure so much hardship that they have become "immunized" to it. They can handle and cope with it. There are positive and negative consequences: they survive, but they don't overthrow the regime.'
Living Silence (Zed books) will be launched at Gleebooks on Saturday afternoon. It is on sale at Gleebooks, Readings and other bookshops for $39.95. It can also be ordered directly from Astam Books by phone (02) 9566-2440, fax (02) 9566-4411, or online at http://www.astambooks.com.au
I took great care to note the Employment Advocate's advice to unions (published in WOL Issue No. 105) as to how they might grow and prosper in the future.
I was touched to read that the Employment Advocate had once been a union delegate, and sometimes found it hard to convince people to join unions.
I was deeply impressed by his view that the future of unions lies in providing 'better services' to members.
Above all, I read his views about his role and the duties of the Office he occupies with a mounting sense of......how does one say this.....incredulity? amusement?
Seriously though-as an appointee of the then Minister of Industrial Relations (Peter Reith) one would expect Hamberger to defend the current industrial legislation, not least because of the role and remuneration it provides him. Silly to bite the hand etc etc;
However, it is a good idea if you are called on to defend a position in a public journal such as WOL, that you either brief yourself on what the legislation actually provides/requires/mandates or otherwise, assume that readers of the interview may understand just a tad better than you give them credit for, what precisely it is you are called upon to do. Hamberger's failure to do either simply erodes even further his credibility (if that is possible) with those who have suffered under the regime he administers.
Let's cut to the chase.
Taking his advice to unions first about how they should be providing 'more services' (unspecified) to their members.
While we are not told what services unions should be providing I think we know what the services are he believes they should not provide-starting with representation of individual members in relation to grievances, either individual or collective.
We know he doesn't believe in those kind of services because we are aware that he has approved Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) that explicitly prohibit employees from being represented in a grievance by any one other than another employee of the company.
Those same AWAs also helpfully stipulate that in the event that such a grievance is not settled, the decision of the Director, Human Resources will be 'final'. So obviously, employees can't properly expect that their union will be able to provide those kinds of services if they are employed pursuant to the industrial instruments he is responsible for approving.
What about training workers in how to exercise their 'rights and obligations under the legislation' as Hamberger put it in the interview. Well, we know that the Workplace Relations Act explicitly excludes 'training' as a matter upon which the commission may arbitrate. So I guess employees and their unions will just have to wait until employers decide that that is OK. In the meantime....well I guess we just have to wait until our EBA expires and then see if we can persuade the employer to even negotiate with us on it.
However, thanks for the tip mate.
Perhaps he means services such as collective bargaining representation? Oh no that can't be right, because Mr Hamberger knows that the current legislation omits completely to incorporate rights of employees to collectively bargain, doesn't he? In fact he knows (doesn't he?) that the AWAs he loves so well simply could not operate if employees had the explicit right to collectively bargain.
Perhaps he means that unions should survey their members on AWAs to find out if they actually want to collectively bargain and then somehow, they will get that right because they have actually expressed a preference for one type of industrial regulation over another. Well that can't be right either, because we know of an example where 70% of employees on AWAs explicitly requested their employer to bargain with their union upon the expiry of their AWAs and the employer told them to put it ........well you get the picture.
Perhaps he means that unions should turn their minds to acting as 'Bargaining Agents' for people who are.......ahem.....required by the employer to sign an AWA? Unfortunately for the erstwhile 'service' conscious union who is out there acting in an appropriately entrepreneurial manner, you could have the Full Court of the High Court bargaining for you-the fact is that when you offer for employment or you are offered an AWA by your existing employer, there simply is no requirement that the offer be amended or changed in any way, unless the employer agrees.
The fact is you either accept what is offered, or you don't get the job if you are a new employee or you will not get a pay rise/promotion or job security if you are an existing employee who has been offered an AWA.
Perhaps he means unions should offer low interest loans to members because that is a service workers will need by the time the Employment Advocate has finished with their pay and conditions
Now let's consider the 'new opportunities' the current system provides employees that according to Mr Hamberger, they never had before.
For employees who find that their jobs have been contracted out, or their enterprise privatised or sold off, they have a great new opportunity to calculate just how much worse off they will be under the AWAs the new employer will offer.
They can start with their old EBA rate, discount down to the minimum award rate and then turn to Mr Hamberger's website, check out the template AWA posted there, and calculate exactly how much worse off they will be when the employer puts together the remuneration package in the ways helpfully suggested by Mr Hamberger and his committed team!
The helpful advice to employers on how to package remuneration and hours in ways which strip out penalties, overtime and the like, and which includes 'performance bonuses' on a team or individual basis is usefully provided in the form of a 'template'. How handy for the stressed employer who just can't think up how they can do it better. What an example of individually tailored remuneration packages providing real choice to the shop assistant, railway worker, labourer, call centre operator and their well paid, secure, protected and powerful ilk.
Yes folks, there are indeed many new opportunities for workers that were never there before. Take the one about the new opportunity to get closer to your employer. Yes unlike before, when an employer was required to negotiate with you collectively about your rates and conditions, and when the silly old unions represented your views about proper rewards for your increased work and productivity, we now have the opportunity to wait for a pay rise, and wait and wait and wait until ...... well until our employer decides he/she wants a closer, more 'personal' relationship' with us.
What an opportunity that is!
We get to consider an AWA which does away with all those messy rights to representation, guaranteed pay increases, protection of conditions and a measure of job security, and we get the opportunity to just, well, 'Do It!' It is a wonderful thing and an opportunity that many workers have considered and .... well, they just don't seem to see it in quite the light that Mr Hamberger does. Ask union members in BHP and the banks.
Ah but look at how Mr Hamberger strenuously defends the right of workers to belong to unions. That bit just choked me right up! What a right that is under the regime he administers. A right to pay union dues, whether or not the union is legislatively permitted to assist you or not! Wow, what a bargain. The fact is Mr Hamberger let the cat right out of the bag on this one, when he helpfully opined that employees join unions 'for pragmatic reasons'.
They sure do.
Those reasons include the right to be represented, individually and collectively, the right to dignified treatment at work, a measure of job security and the right to share in the fruits of their work, skills and productivity. Unfortunately as Mr Hamberger well knows, the current system is explicitly designed to ensure that unions are unable to do that for workers forced onto AWAs, and in the case of newer industries where AWAs have been introduced at the time of their development (like the Call Centre industry), the Act is designed to explicitly prevent union growth and collective employee rights. Let's ask the (ex) One-Tel workers, shall we?
Please don't insult our intelligence Mr Hamberger, and don't assume that only union members know what you are up to.
Let's have a survey of workers (union and non union) and ask the straight forward question-which organisation do you think best protects your rights as a worker-a trade union (if you were a member) or the Office of the Employment Advocate? Of course the survey would have to include a note for all those employees who have never heard of Mr Hamberger or his Office, and for those that have heard of him and his Office ......well no explanation required really!
Finally, if a Labor government is elected later this year, it can only be hoped that his Office is abolished, but not the employment of the hapless public servants whose contract of employment includes doing his bidding. In Mr Hamberger's case though, I would not recommend any unilateral termination of his contract. Why should we all have to pay so that he can get a big pay out ahead of the expiration of the term stipulated in the contract?
No, I think it would be far better and more rewarding for all those workers he has so assiduously protected and defended, if he were sent to a (small) office somewhere in regional Australia, say Port Augusta, Launceston, or perhaps Port Hedland, and required to write at the rate of 250 times a day for the life of his contract-
I am a very important and powerful man-I protect workers every day by screwing unions, and I screw workers every day by helping the biggest and ugliest employers in the country rip off pay and conditions from workers who need protection. Every day, in every way, I will try harder and harder to do better.
NZ's Michael Campbell
You would think footy players, given so many of their backgrounds, would have interesting thoughts about life but no, it appears that since Super League, they don't have any thoughts at all, unless, that is, an issue immediately affects them or their bank balances.
Okay, under Steve Waugh, the cricketers haven't been too bad but definitely not in the class of former Liverpool team-mates, Robbie Fowler and Steve McMenamin, who wore suspensions for lifting their red shirts to tv cameras and revealing logos proclaiming "I Support the Liverpool Dockers".
Now don't get us wrong. We're not suggesting that every dingbat who kicks-throws-hits a ball should be out there pronouncing on matters of state - far from it.
But, once in a while, it would be nice to come across evidence that our sports people are more than just self-centred athletes.
It is especially encouraging when the likes of Fowler and McMenamin enter controversies for the purpose of identifying with their fan base.
It's what the Newcastle Knights did, under Englishman Mal Reilly, when they visited a CFMEU picket line on the way to the 1997 grand final.
And, it's essentially what golfers Michael Campbell and Greg Turner have been doing over the past month.
They threatened to boycott this year's out-sourced NZ Open because organisers are charging fans $500 a head for a tournament that normally costs $50. The slug will help offset the $NZ5 million appearance fee going to Tiger Woods, but Turner and Campbell argue, it will also prevent the majority of ordinary golfers from attending "their" Open.
Campbell, reluctantly, came to an agreement after organisers agreed under-16s could attend for nothing. He remains critical of the concept and has pledged to put any prizemoney he wins into junior golf or his favourite charity.
Turner stands firm on a concept he has labelled a "corporate wank".Campbell and Turner are interesting fellows.
A couple of years ago Campbell turned up to a swish Gold Coast pro-am with his Dad and then NZ Council of Trade Unions president, Ken Douglas, as his guests.
Turner is even further "out there".
His brothers are poet and former NZ hockey player, Brian, and outstanding Kiwi opening bat, Glenn, whose Indian-born wife, Sukhi, is the Green mayor of conservative southern city Dunedin.
Turner, courtesy of his golfing prowess, pens a column in a weekend paper which, often as not, is given over to lacerating New Right economics and philosophies.
One NZ Herald commentator had this to say about his opposition to Open 2002 Ltd's pricing structure.
"Is there a parallel between the change in the management structure of the Open and the privatisation of certain erstwhile state assets? If there is, it would provide Greg Turner with a reason to want nothing to do with it.
"Indeed, given the wide dissemination of his political views, it is surely the most likely reason for his stance."
JUST in case you hadn't heard, Robbie Waterhouse will be fielding at tomorrow's Rosehill gallops.
There are all sorts of issues about Waterhouse's return from 17 years in exile that have adminstrators twitchy. Not the least his warning off for prior knowledge of the Fine Cotton ring-in and his close relationship with leading trainer Gai Waterhouse.
Issues of corporate governance, however, do not by-and-large determine why people do or don't go to the races and, right now, they aren't going in droves.
TAB moves to drain the sport of colour have led to a grey betting ring where none of the satchel swingers takes anything remotely resembling a chance.
When Waterhouse last fielded he and his father were known for backing their instincts, taking a chance, leading the market.
Whether or not they want to or, indeed, can afford to in the current climate is doubtful.
It might be long odds but, with Sydney racing on its uppers, it is a gamble that has to be taken.
ABC's Public Record
Following the launch of the Victorian Trades Hall Council LaborNET site http://www.vthc.org.au, two Victorian Unions have also launched LaborNET sites. The ASU-MEU/Private Sector Victorian Branch http://www.asuvic.org and the ASU Victorian Services & Energy Branch http://www.asuvic.asn.au are the latest members of the LaborNET family and more significantly the first unions outside NSW to join LaborNET.
Across the Tasman
One of the unions leading the fight to re-unionise New Zealand is FinSec, the equivalent of our Finance Sector Union. FinSec's website, located at http://www.finsec.org.nz, is obviously being used by the union as a part of their organising strategy. A part from the usual news and views the site is specifically targeted at Call Centre Workers and I.T. Workers. It's a well designed and attractive site (I particularly like the flash intro) and well worth checking out.
Unions & Burma
The Federation of Trade Unions-Burma has a website located at http://www.tradeunions-burma.org. The peak body is currently in exile, however several of its' executive members are currently imprisoned in Burma. Also the majority of its' affiliates operate underground inside Burma. Check out the site to find more info.
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has set up a Burma Campaign section on their website. Located at http://www.icftu.org/focus.asp?Issue=Burma&Language=EN the campaign area features information on the history behind Burma, campaign information and the latest news.
The Public Record
In the lead up to the federal election unions will be thinking about their election strategies and a site like the ABC's Public Record will be a valuable tool. Located at http://www.abc.net.au/public the site feature news about upcoming political events, info on all elections, transcripts of interviews with political leaders, analysis and much more. This is a fantastic site and demonstrates what a valuable public resource the ABC is.
Northern Territory Election
In little over a week the Northern Territory will be going to the polls. To find out about Territory Labor's campaign check out http://www.nt.alp.org.au.
If you have any sites you want Paul to review email him mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
As the Tri-Star workers, their representatives and their employer spent the best part of a fortnight trying to resolve a dispute that highlights all that's wrong with the Howard IR system, it was left to the Mad Monk to turn up the rhetoric. And it did it with his manic sense of understatement that calls a spade "an implement that should be used to hit workers over the head".
Abbott's behaviour highlights the dangers of combining a big mouth with a closed mind. By sounding off without properly understanding the process of industrial conflict resolution, the Minister ended up looking like a boof-head.
From the start the rhetoric was red-hot opportunism and red-hot divisiveness. 'Industrial and economic treason' the Monk cried out to any who would listen. 'A load of crap' the Australian Industrial Relations Commission replied in a ruling that seemed to be specifically targeted at Abbott, stating, as it did, that the workers had in no way acted illegally.
As the parties got down to the hard work of negotiating a fair outcome for all, Abbott was again on the sidelines yelling for the employers not to give in until the union "capitulated". Surprisingly, it was a line only followed by parts of the media who - though normally expected to bash the unions - recognized the legitimacy of their claim to protect their entitlements. There was actually a reasonable public debate being conducted, weighing the relative merits of the trust fund and the insurance bond model. But there was general acceptance that the Howard Government's safety net model was inadequate.
It was this element that was decisive in the political - though not the industrial - conduct of the dispute. On the one hand you had the Howard government trying to run the union-bashing cliche that it drags up whenever it feels under pressure. It was the Beazley opposition that was actually debating the policy imperative of protecting workers entitlements.
Abbott's performance in Question Time this week was rvintage tub-thumping propaganda from the "union power" mantra, the railing against "labor mates" and reference to the workers as "the metalworkers" - a brazen attempt to tap into the perceived retro connotations of that term - event though they had long been members of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.
The irony was that when the dust finally settled, both parties walked away with something they could live with. The unions with entitlement protection for their workers, the employer with the insurance bond model over the Manusafe scheme. The only one looking like a loser was the one who had taken the 'winner-take-all' approach - Abbott. He alone, misunderstood the process and came out with nothing. Where most saw the dispute as an issue to be managed and resolved, Abbott saw it only as a political opportunity to be exploited.
The point Abbott has missed in his political education is that the Minister charged with Industrial Relations' job has been to rise above the political to resolve disputes in the national interest. That's been the role of IR ministers since the system was established - to leave behind partisan position and help the parties find common ground, intervening before the independent umpire to argue the constructive line. Instead, Abbott was pushing harder than the bosses. And he can barely wait to dust off and do it again.
Of course, the problem is that Abbott doesn't even believe in the system, he wants to tear it down. To have such an ideologue in this position is an affront to 100 years of history, 100 years that had developed a system of industrial relations that placed cooperation over conflict. Of course, this has all unraveled over the past five years and Abbott's custodianship merely exposes the system as the farce it has become. There might be a place for Abbott in a hard line conservative government like Howard's - maybe as press secretary - but his presence in his current portfolio is downright destructive to the national interest. He's bad for workers and employers and he's a liability to the Howard Government.
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LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSWURL: http://workers.labor.net.au/106/print_index.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005