Bevis has told Workers Online that he accepts that for some workplaces a trust-fund arrangement such as Manusafe will be preferable to Labor's comprehensive insurance model.
But he says he expects that most firms will find the government-backed insurance scheme - where a small levy would be added to superannuation payments - a better option.
"I think those unions that have taken the initiative on those matters deserve to be applauded," Bevis says. "They have actually tried to fill a void that has existed frankly for too long.
"For some firms and for some industries, depending on their worker profile, depending on their cash flow, a trust fund model will actually be better for them and I recognize that.
"But for others they will be better placed and will prefer to have an insurance model, which is why we went down that path.
"So I don't think there needs to be a competition as it were. They are two different models to achieve the same outcome. ... The important thing is that the initiative that those unions have taken and the commitment we have as a Labor Party, achieves the necessary outcome - all workers' entitlements will be protected."
Entitlements Disputes Flare Across Economy
Meanwhile, disputes over workers entitlements continue to flare across the economy:
· workers at MainTrain, manufacturers of equipment for rolling stock on the sate railways continued industrial action which is will threaten rail services next week.
· about 150 Taubmans workers at Villawood in Sydney went on a week-long strike on Thursday in support of an enterprise bargaining campaign. The workers are calling on Taubmans to protect their entitlements by contributing to Manusafe the joint trust fund.
· And 250 workers - members of the ETU, AWU, NUW and AMWU, at Solectron Telecommunications Pty Ltd walk off the job for 48 hours.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson says the protection of workers entitlements is now figuring in all enterprise agreement negotiations.
"Workers have seen the stories of workers in all types of industries - from mining,to textiles to telecommunications - losing their entitlements and they are now taking action to sure it does not happen to them," Robertson says.
"It is an industrial issue and it will mbecome a political issue as the federale elction approaches."
How will Manusafe work?
You can get more information about Manusafe by clicking here.
Give us your views on the Manusafe campaign?
Have you got a story about how workers lost their accrued entitlements went a company went down the gurgler?. Write a note in our Guest Book by clicking here.
The materials - including 100,000 fliers and hundreds of videos will be distributed around workplaces in NSW, as well as other states.
The campaign was launched on Thursday by Labor's IR spokesman Arch Bevis at the Bond's clothing factory at Wentworthville.
They revolve around the theme "Ripped Off" comparing the reality of working life, with John Howard's 1996 pre-election promise that "no worker would be worse off" under a Howard Government.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson says the materials will be an important way of sparking debate within their workplaces about how they have been let down by
Candidates Briefed on Worker Priorities
The launch coincided with a special meeting of the Labor Council, where the all Labor Candidates from Sydney electorates were invited to be briefed on the unions' industrial priorities.
These centre around:
- the failure to provide comprehensive protection of workers entitlements
- the spread of individual contracts
- and the weakening of the powers of the Industrial Relations Commission.
"We want to ensure that Labor candidates are aware of these concerns and what we believe should be the appropriate response from government," Robertson says.
"The Prime Minister has signaled he wants to make industrial relations an election issue - we say bring it on."
Those ALP candidates who attended were:
Laurie Ferguson (Reid), Robert McClelland (Barton), Christine Hawkins (Hughes), John Murphy (Lowe), Adam Searle (Macquarie), Daryl Melham (Banks), John McShane (Mitchell), Fran Tierney (North Sydney), Trish Moran (Robertson), Frank Mossfield (Greenway), Kelly Hoare (Charlton), Nicole Campbell (Bennelong), Ben Carpentier (Mackellar), Meg Oates (Macarthur) and Jennie George (Thorsby).
Jonathan Hamberger has told Workers Online that he has written to Stellar alerting them to their policies of locking unions out of internal discipline proceedings.
In a letter to Workers Online, he writes:
"I refer to an article of 3 August 2001, by Jim Marr titled "Unions Hamburgled", stating that the CPSU Communications union had asked the Office of the Employment Advocate (OEA) to rule on the legality of AWAs for workers at Stellar Call Centres Pty Ltd.
Where an AWA contains a dispute resolution procedure, there is no scope in the Act for the Employment Advocate to set aside that procedure.
However, there is potential for the procedure in Stellar's AWA to be applied in such a way as to prevent an employee from being able to seek representation by their trade union.
I have advised both the CPSU and Stellar Call Centres that, if the procedure was to be applied in this way, then it may be possible to argue that the employer would be in breach of Part XA of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 concerning Freedom of Association.
We have asked Stellar to consider making changes in their procedure to ensure that it is not applied in such a way as to prevent employees being represented by the union."
Stellar call centre has been the target of union anger for its refusal to allow workers to belong to unions. (see feature 'The Black Hole').
The Tesltra off-shoot employs workers on individual contracts at rates up to $5000 per annum less than those paid by Telstra employees doing identical work.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson says it would be better if the Employment Advocate took legal action to force Stellar to comply with the law, rather than "asking" them to "consider" changes.
"This is either illegal or not - if it is, Stellar should be forced to comply with the law," Robertson says.
The members of the Finance Sector Union will formally apply to the Guinness Book of records to recognise the queue of 87 people outside a blood bank on the Central Coast. There was no former record in the category, so the FSU is confident of taking the honour.
But Finance Sector Union state secretary Geoff Derrick cautions that, given the staffing levels at many banks, the record may not last long.
"We have set the benchmark, but we believe that management could knock us off our perch on any working day because of their staffing policies," Derrick says
"The question is whether they will have the guts to go for the record."
Bank workers from 33 branches of three major banks held a 24-hour strike over working conditions and staffing levels.
The stoppages affected the ANZ, Westpac and National Australia Bank branches on the NSW Central Coast on Friday.
The action was part of the FSU's nationwide campaign against the three banks over working conditions and service standards.
Former industrial reporter Ron Fuller left the round in May to take up the position of ABC-TV news chief of staff.
Since Ron left, a series of casuals and general reporters have been forced to fill in, at a time when there has been an outbreak of industrial activity.
The failure to fill the round, has added to suspicions that the ABC news coverage was being influenced by senior management.
Workers Online revealed last week that ABC network editor Mark Henderson had issued an internal edict to tone down its reporting of industrial relations issues.
In the circular he wrote:
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.
Henderson has since told media that there was no general change in policy and that the circular related to the coverage of a single dispute.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson says the appointment of a full-time IR reporter would be one of ensuring that there was no perception of a change in editorial policy.
"The ABC is an important outlet for trade unions and, until now, one of the news organizations that has allowed us to get our side of the story into the public domain," Robertson says.
"I hope that the round will be filled before the federal election as IR is sure to loom as an issue of substance."
Securing The Future Of Australian Public Broadcasting
Meanwhile, on a sunny afternoon last Sunday, MEAA members met at the Sydney Opera House and nutted out the key issues to be addressed to secure the future of Australia's public broadcasting.
Quentin Dempster, ABC journalist and previous ABC Board member, and Peter Carroll, performer and current SBS Board member, led the discussion at the New South Wales Annual General Meeting, chaired by newly elected NSW MEAA President, and Sydney Morning Herald journalist Ruth Pollard.
Critical to securing the future of the ABC and SBS are:
Best Practice Board Governance
· An end to political board appointments, to be replaced by Government appointment of more respected, experienced industry practitioners to ABC/SBS Boards.
Australian Content: Our Stories
· In accordance with its charter a guarantee that the ABC TV increases its transmission of Australian drama. ABC TV currently transmits woefully less Australian drama than the free to air commercial TV stations under their Australian quota requirements;
· Guarantee SBS's TVs ability to produce and transmit indigenously produced multicultural programming.
Re-establish ABC as a major production house
· The ABC must be in a position to develop and foster the new generation of Australian creative talent;
· Increase industry training at ABC and SBS in order to create career paths in both organisations.
Ensure the editorial independence of our Public Broadcasters
· Guarantee an unfetted and well resourced news service. This is the central plank in any healthy robust democracy;
· Secure adequate broadcasting services in the Asia-Pacific region.
Ensure funding for 21st century for Australian Public Broadcasting
· In order that Australia has a dynamic public broadcasting system in the 21st century it must be adequately funded;
· The days of the incompetence of poverty at the ABC and SBS must end;
· Innovative production and programming is nurtured with hard dollars;
· Unshackle SBS from sponsorship.
The Thai-based workers, paid one-third the rate of Australian staff, have been actively organising with the Flight Attendants Association who employed a full-time organiser in Bangkok.
Qantas established offshore bases in Bangkok and Auckland in a bid to avoid Australian wages and conditions and cut labour costs. There is now talk that Qantas is looking at expanding its offshore bases.
But Qantas management have met with the workers and the labour hire company that engages them, ADECCO, warning them that they will not have jobs if they join the Association.
The FAA's Johanna Brem says the actions of Qantas constitute a blatant and provocative attempt to deny individuals their legal right to organise themselves into a union and bargain collectively.
She says that the position is in breach of the International Labour Organisation's Conventions 87 and 98 on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining Rights.
Thre FAA has been backed by the NSW Labor Council which has written to Qantas calling on it to review its strategy of placing non-unionised workforces offshore.
"We are urging Qantas to reconsider its practise of using a third party to regulate the employment of Thai crew and to forge a more productive and less intimidatory relationship with your employees," Labor Council secretary John Robertson says.
by Mary Yaager
Because of the overwhelming amount of submissions, complex reports and material the Inquiry has collected from a variety of sources both in Australia and oversees Justice Shaehan has asked the Premier, Bob Carr for an extension
Justice Shaehan advised the Premier that he did not believe that he would do justice to the task at hand in the time frame provided.
The Inquiry into common law which was due to be handed down today however Justice Sheehan has been granted an extension of another two 2 weeks.
The NSW Law Society welcomes the extension particularly in light of the fact that a very critical report, commissioned by WorkCover and which could significantly influence the Inquiry w has only been made available in the last couple of days.
Rita Mallia Senior Legal Officer with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, said given that critical information has only just become available at this late it is not surprising that the Inquiry has been extended"
Joan Lemaire , Industrial Officer with NSW Teachers Federation said that she is concerned that the Government has not indicated that they will allow a period of time in which the findings and recommendations can be discussed with the unions"
Any attempt to rush through changes without consultation could seriously disadvantage injured workers and this is just unacceptable ' Joan went on to say.
Patricia Fernadez ,Organiser with the Meat Employees Union said there is a considerable amount of angst out there amongst the workers about the outcome this inquiry and delaying this inquiry means workers will have to wait even longer to learn of their fate'.
The major fear of these workers is that they will no longer be able to sue an for a serious injury by a negligent employer Patricia further stated.
The report will now be handed the Governor on the 31st August 2001.
The deal with Origin Energy, a joint venture of Boral and Spotless delivers savings to the hospitals - but at the cost of secure full-time jobs.
The workers are suspicious of the arrangements, particularly because of the climate of security under which th8ey have been negotiated.
The Electrical Trades Union believe 80 maintenance jobs at the four hospitals are to be lost - they are St George, Prince of Wales, Royal Women's Hospital and Sydney Children's Hospital.
They will be replaced with contract labour - despite policy against outsourcing and a minimal cost saving to the Government of $4.5 million over 20 years.
ETU statee secretary Bernie Roirdan says delegates and organisers from the Unions met with the Minister for Health, Craig Knowles, and put to him an alternative plan that would cut maintenance costs by $1.62 million and enhance services.
Roirdan says the various Executives of the four affected hospitals appear to support the retention of in house maintenance services. But he says the Hospital Engineers that have been involved in the outsourcing proposal have resigned or otherwise left.
"This is yet another example of how out of touch and arrogant the State Government has become," Riordan says.
"The Minister and the people of NSW have now lost control over the maintenance costs, energy costs and service delivery standards."
"One would have thought that a Minister with ambitions like Craig Knowles, who appears to have dealt with the Health Portfolio fairly well, would understand the real long term costs of outsourcing, that is, higher costs and decreased services. Can the public of NSW afford to have their hospitals maintained in this way?".
"This is not a fight about using contractors. This is a fight about sustaining real jobs, real wages and proper maintenance standards for what are assets owned by the public of NSW."
Unions are planning a community campaign against the changes and will rally at the Prince of Wales Hospital at 1.00pm, Tuesday August 28.
"The State Public Sector Group of the CPSU negotiated and is a party to the ACU landmark agreement and is now embarking on negotiations to improve parental leave provisions for other workers", says David Carey, Joint National Secretary of the CPSU.
The Union and its State Affiliates will campaign around three issues:
· increased paid parental leave for fathers,
· increased paid maternity leave and
· better right of return to part time work after taking parental leave.
The Union will be including these demands in claims to be served on major state government employers, including health, education, housing and community services. The NSW Public Sector is expected to be the next, with renegotiations of its awards later this year. The Victorian Public Service has claims under negotiation with the Bracks Governmentt.
"The provisions in the Australian Catholic University enterprise agreement are a significant step forward in securing benefits to assist workers to combine paid work and family responsibilities", says Mr Carey.
"All workers should be entitled to these benefits", says Mr Carey. "The Union in the public sector has been the leader in setting employment conditions and the Union intends to keep up the pressure. The Union will be urging Sate Governments and other University Employers to adopt these provisions".
"Australia is only one of three countries that does not have paid maternity leave for all women workers. The Howard Government policy, of leaving these matters to Enterprise Bargaining, has let Australian workers slip behind the international community in this area."
"This is a matter for a fair social policy, not a matter for the Market, where only the strong win" says Mr Carey.
Paid Mat Leave: MEU Wins Round One
Meanwhile, the MEU has defeated an attempt by the Local Government and Shires Association to frustrate the hearing of the Union's claim for paid maternity leave in local government.
A hearing of the Full Bench of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission this week rejected an application by the LGSA to have the claim heard as a test case. The Commission decided that the case should proceed as an industry specific case regarding the provision of paid maternity leave in local government.
The MEU is arguing parity with other public sector employees. Federal public servants have access to 12 weeks paid leave. State public sector workers have had access to 9 weeks paid leave for decades. Few NSW Local Government workers currently have any entitlement to paid maternity leave.
MEU General Secretary Brian Harris said "Workers in local government have been denied paid maternity leave for too long - today's decision means that the Union's claim can proceed to be heard in November this year, as originally planned."
"The outcome enables the Union to move closer toward gaining wage justice for female workers in local government."
The MEU is also pursuing a Council by Council enterprise agreement campaign with recent wins at Leichhardt (12 Weeks) Canterbury Council (9 weeks), Burwood Council (12 weeks) Manly (9 weeks). The MEU urges councils in metropolitan and regional areas to support the Union campaign.
Nurses from Westmead Hospital, Westmead Community Health, Auburn District Hospital and Auburn Community Health, Westmead Children's Hospital, Cumberland Hospital, Blacktown Hospital, Blacktown Community Health and Mount Druitt Hospital all stopped worked for two hours on Friday.
NSWNA General Secretary, Sandra Moait, says the industrial action in Western Sydney will be followed by similar action around the State, unless the State Government commits itself to again making nursing an attractive career option through improved wages and conditions.
"Skeleton staffing will be maintained in all facilities to provide necessary nursing care, because we are trying to minimise any inconvenience to the public during this campaign. However, tomorrow's action is a significant escalation of the dispute as, up until now, nurses have mostly been implementing work bans at hospitals around the State. The action indicates the strong commitment Western Sydney nurses have to rebuilding the local public health system.
"NSWNA branches in Western Sydney advise there are at least 242 nursing positions vacant at Westmead, Westmead Children's, Blacktown, Auburn and Mount Druitt hospitals. This is putting enormous pressure on the remaining nurses and the region is on the verge of bed closures and service restrictions to relieve the pressure.
"NSWNA members are perplexed about why the State Government is just sitting back and doing nothing to improve nurses pay - especially at this time of serious shortages, when we are having trouble enticing nurses to stay in or come back to the profession," Ms Moait said.
Western Sydney Area Health Service nurse vacancies: Westmead Hospital 120, Children's Hospital at Westmead 50, Mount Druitt Hospital 20, Blacktown Hospital 27, Auburn District Hospital 25.
The NSWNA has more than 3000 members working for the Western Sydney Area Health Service.
The What's a Nurse Worth? campaign was launched in July at the NSWNA's annual conference, with the objective of solving the NSW nurse shortage through improved wages and conditions for nurses. Despite acknowledging there is a nurse shortage in NSW, the State Government has 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.
The couriers, members of the Transport Workers Union, are victims of a determination that which deems owner drivers as employees. This is despite a separate ruling that they are businesses for the purposes of the GST and must file a Business Activity Statement each quarter.
When the issue was raised last month both the Prime Minister and Treasurer have stated the owner-drivers have nothing to fear from the determination and order the Tax Office to redraft their ruling.
The TWU has now received independent advice from a taxation expert that even with the revision, the status of the couriers is still in doubt.
Six couriers left Sydney Thursday bound for Canberra to deliver letters directly to the PM, Treasurer and Democrats Leader Natasha Stott Despoja demanding the ATO deliver on their commitment to protect courier drivers.
They are due in Canberra on Monday at 11.00am, where they will hold a BBQ on the lawns of Parliament House.
On December, 29, Centrelink sacked Geoff Scott from his job in Wollongong, alleging he had failed to follow agency instructions. It was the contention of Geoff, his union and workmates that he had been victimised for assisting workmates and clients when the office had been under pressure.
The Sydney and Wollongong media quickly dubbed Geoff "the man who worked too hard".
Wollongong workers stuck beside Geoff. Some gave evidence on his behalf before the AIRC. Last week, dozens in offices throughout the Illawarra wore green ribbons to work to mark "Geoff's Day". Interstate colleagues sent emails of support.
On learning of today's reinstatement order, Geoff expressed thanks to workmates around the country.
"It's a relief to be vindicated," he said. "I am grateful for the support my case has received from other Centrelink workers, especially those I had worked with in the Illawarra.
"I'm looking forward to getting back to work."
CPSU national secretary, Wendy Caird, said Geoff's case had to be seen in the context of the current debate over Centrelink breaching procedures.
"We've got a situation, leading up to a federal election, where the Government is trying to hang Centrelink workers out to dry to cover-up for its meanness.
"What happened to Geoff Scott is an illustration of what can happen, in that environment, when a worker is prepared to go the extra mile on behalf of workmates or clients."
Ms Caird praised the "independent umpire" role of the AIRC, and said she hoped its decision would lessen pressure on other Centrelink workers.
by Andrew Casey
" The soldiers are not impressed that their canteen meals are not hot because kitchen staff numbers have been cut back," LHMU Assistant National Secretary, Tim Ferrari said.
" Where once at meal times kitchen staff were serving 80-90 soldiers the staff cuts have been so deep that at meal times kitchen staff are now sometimes serving double that number - one kitchen hand to 160-plus soldiers."
There can be several hundred soldiers and their families living at Puckapunyal at any one time.
Puckapunyal is well known to many thousands of Australians who lived there and were trained there during their army careers - either as volunteers or national servicemen.
" These former soldiers would be disgusted if they saw what was happening to the living conditions of our current service people," Tim Ferrari said.
"To cut corners a supervisor at Puckapunyal's kitchen recently decided to clean it out by using a fire hose, washing out an area where there are dozens of electrical appliances and power points.
" That created an obvious occupational health and safety issue which our members were not prepared to put up with. The company created an industrial dispute over this issue. They seem to be more interested in the bottom line than anything else."
The cleaners - members of the LHMU this week took their first
industrial action against Spotless/Nationwide, the private contractor who won the tender in March 2000.
" They won the contract to service the soldiers on the basis they could undercut the wages of our members.
15% pay cut
" In the 18 months since Spotless won the tender they have cut our members pay packets by 15%, reduced working hours and have recently threatened to reduce the number of full-time staff and cut the number of hours worked by the remaining staff.
" This company has decided to make a profit out of the soldiers by dramatically cutting the level of services at the barracks. For example, ablution blocks, which used to be cleaned out everyday, are now only cleaned out on five days.
"The employer has also threatened the income of employees who complain about their methods. LHMU members will not accept this behavior lying down," Tim Ferrari said.
The local Federal MP, Steve Gibbons, has promised to raise the issues involved in this dispute in Parliament.
"Professor Dennis Else's comments, quoted in the Sunday Herald Sun, echo this union's concern that much more could be done to reduce the horrific numbers of deaths and serious accidents on Australian construction sites," said John Sutton, National Secretary CFMEU Construction Division.
"Professor Else's call for an industry-wide review, with major contractors using their market strength to raise safety standards on construction projects, should be taken up immediately by the Federal Government."
The NOHSC chair's comments followed two deaths in four days on Melbourne building sites and a spate of deaths and serious injuries in NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia this year.
"Professor Else's initiative has provided Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott with an important opportunity to show if he has any genuine interest in the construction industry.
The Howard Government's record on Workplace Safety has been pretty poor so far.
This is the government that decimated National Occupational Health & Safety Commission funding so that national Safety Standards for the construction industry, for example, are still sitting on the shelf unpublished.
Tony Abbott's predecessor Peter Reith made OH&S provisions 'non-allowable' in awards.
Now we have a Royal Commission into the industry with a brief to investigate any "unlawful or otherwise inappropriate industrial or workplace practice" relating to Occupational Health & Safety laws.
"If Tony Abbott has any compassion for the families and work mates of those who have died in construction accidents this year, and previously, let him act now.
"Either set up an independent review of safety in the construction industry, or ensure that the Royal Commission into the Construction Industry seriously investigates the causes of construction accidents and does not simply punish workers who refuse to work in unsafe conditions," said Mr Sutton.
by Andrew Casey
" It is a clear cut victory for union members who stood together to protect their right to annual leave," Yvette Berry, the LHMU Cleaning Union organiser said today.
" It took the AIRC Full Bench less than an hour to chuck out the appeal over the dispute about exactly when a 50 year old Canberra Hospital cleaner could take her annual leave.
" The Commission's ruling that this company was 'unreasonable' in ordering our member to take leave in February - rather than in July when she was to attend her niece's wedding - has been upheld.
" All the members of the LHMU Cleaning Union are rejoicing because it shows what can be done when working people organise themselves into a union, stick together and stick up for their rights," Yvette Berry said
" We are now pursuing our unfair dismissal claim against the company who sacked Mrs Noveska after she left Canberra to fly to Macedonia to attend a family re-union.
Limro Cleaning Services wanted the Full Bench to overturn the previous Commission ruling that Slavica Noveska was fully in her rights to ask to take leave in July so she could attend the family reunion. The boss had order her to take leave in February.
by Andrew CAsey
" Tip Top had agreed to provide an income protection insurance scheme whose costs would be shared 50/50 by the company and employees," Mark Boyd, the NSW LHMU Assistant Secretary said.
" The 1000 LHMU members employed by Tip Top, at their four NSW bakeries, believe the income protection insurance scheme is an essential part of their enterprise agreement package."
Income protection is a key element in the LHMU's latest round of enterprise bargaining.
The NSW LHMU has been involved in enterprise agreement negotiations with Tip Top since June. The last enterprise agreement concluded in July.
" Until just recently we've had some good, constructive negotiations with Tip Top. We thought we were close to coming to an agreement - but then the company went feral," Mark Boyd said.
" We believe the costs of the income protection insurance scheme can be shared - and we know we had a deal on this issue. The company is now denying the deal and wants our members to pay for it by a cut in their wage packets."
by Andrew Casey
Security guards employed by Group 4 Securitas at the Ansett terminal have finally won an agreement, after a six month long campaign by LHMU Security Union members.
" This is a victory for security union members who were prepared to stick by an extended, intensive campaign for better wages and conditions to match the responsibility of their jobs," Terry Breheny, LHMU Security Union Victorian Assistant Secretary, said today.
" The airport security decision has now set an important precedent for LHMU Security Union members.
" The Security Union will make a similar claim for Chubb security workers employed at the other Melbourne airport terminals which service Qantas and Virgin airlines."
Importantly the union members have won acceptance of their paid leave breaks in a decision handed down by Senior Deputy President Lacey of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
" It shows that security guards don't have to accept inferior conditions and inferior pay. If they support each other, work as a union, they can achieve a lot," Terry Breheny said.
The LHMU Security Union has in recent months organised and won the support of nearly 100 per cent of the 140-plus security workers at Melbourne Airport.
Before the LHMU Security Union organising campaign membership had floated at just over 50 per cent at the airport.
These guards are employed by either Group 4 Securitas or Chubb Security, providing screening and security for Ansett, Qantas and other domestic and international carriers at the airport.
The Chubb security guard dispute at the Qantas terminal is due to go before the Industrial Relations Commission again on August 21.
" This fair attracts upwards of 10,000 people from across Sydney with many of the people attending working in industries represented by our union - cleaning, security, hospitality," Jagath Bandara, NSW LHMU organiser said.
" Our union has adopted an active outreach campaign to help members from different communities organise to get a better life for themselves and their families in this country.
" We're hoping our presence there will be a small act of solidarity and support for people struggling to settle down in this city.
" Campaigns to defend and promote the rights of immigrants and ethnic communities in our workplaces are increasingly coming to the fore.
" Our movement supports the issues which are closest to the hearts of working people from the Indian sub-continent," Jagath Bandara said.
" Some of our best members and activists come from our growing membership among the different ethnic communities.
" We are eager to use this as a base for further growth for the LHMU and all Australian unions."
Jagath Bandara is originally from Sri Lanka, worked at a Sheraton hotel in Sydney and is now a member of the Hotel Organising Team in the NSW LHMU.
The union movement in NSW is about to launch a new pamphlet aimed at Non-English Speaking workers explaining the role of unions in Australia.
Recent research for the Labor Council of NSW on unions and the ethnic communities has highlighted the challenges and some new strategies for union organisers.
Interviews for the research report were conducted with workers from Arabic, Vietnamese. Chinese, Filipino, Korean and Indian communities.
The main points from the research showed that what people knew about unions was often based on their experiences in their countries of origin where unions were sometimes less democratic and aligned with authoritarian regimes.
Workers from some of these communities were also worried that if they joined a union they were aligned with particular ideologies which might be risky in their countries of origin.
Some of the cultural groups also did not want to join a union because they felt it might be 'rocking the boat' or 'biting the hand that feeds them'.
The positive part of the research came through when all interviewees said they believed members of their communities would join unions if they clearly understood the role of the union, its functions within the workplace, union collective power and what union dues pay for and the individual benefits one receives.
FairWear Action Planning Day - Sat, 18 August, 2pm
Why are retailers refusing to support the No Sweatshop label? FairWear's Action Group needs YOU to help put the pressure on the big brand names - join the latest action against David Jones.
Feeling creative, energetic or just plain mad about the exploitation of outworkers? Help us plan our latest action against David Jones - one of Australia's biggest retailers, who continue to refuse to support the No Sweatshop label.
We'll be brainstorming slogans, chants, designs, and strategies for action. Come and meet some of Sydney's coolest activists, and eat pizza to your heart's content.
Get off at Museum station or catch any bus to Taylor Square. Ring doorbell on Palmer St.
Julia Murray, FairWear, ph. 9380-9091
SEMINAR ON PRIVATISING DEMOCRACY? THURSDAY AUGUST 30 at 9.00 AM to 1.00 PM
The Evatt Foundation/Pluto Seminar exploring the changing nature of the state, its relationship with citizens and the crisis in governmental legitimacy, PRIVATISING DEMOCRACY? GOVERNMENT AND THE CRISIS OF CONSENT will be held on Thursday August 30 (9.00 AM to 1.00 PM) at the NSW State Parliament House Theatrette.
Speakers include Murray Goot, David Hill, Margo Kinston, Ghassan Hage, Christopher Sheil.
At the conclusion of the seminar, Barry Jones will launch the Evatt Foundtion book, GLOBALISATION - AUSTRALIAN IMPACTS edited by Christopher Sheil.
Bookings are essential:Telephone: 02 9385 2966 or email: [email protected]
Sunday August 26 at 1pm
199 Cleveland Street Redfern
please rsvp by reply email or ph 9698 7235
1pm Gallery Opens for final viewing of Reckonings an installation by a collaboration of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists- Jonathan Bottrell Jones, Ruark Lewis, Romaine Moreton and Nuha Saad, curated by Ihab Shalbak and Rea.
2 pm Between the Space of Living
Place, Race, Ethnicity: Conflicts, Coalitions and Collaborations
A forum chaired by Andrew Jacubowicz with:
Peter Myers: The Third City
The Three Cities of Sydney, wherein the First City was transformed into the Second historic City, and how we can make a new type of urbanism, or Third City, regenerating the elusive First City idea of Œtemporary housing in permanent landscape¹. This talk cites the oyster-shell monument evidence contained in early accounts of Sydney.
Wendy Brady: Lost in Space
Explores the notion of representation of Œcommunity¹ in relation to the built environment and how historians/researchers have responded to the changing sense of Œcommunity¹ in high-density areas such as Redfern.
Joseph Pugliese : Migrant Heritage in an Indigenous Context: For a Decolonising Migrant Historiography
A paper examining the kit recently published by the Australian Heritage Commission outlining how migrants should go about documenting their heritage. Joseph will look at the manner in which this kit reproduces a series of colonial practices in relation to the documentation of migrant history and heritage, and concludes by calling for the implementation of a decolonising migrant historiography that addresses Indigenous history and concerns.
Dr Suvendrini Perera: Resisting Assimilation in the Urban Landscape
A paper examining racialised topographies of the inner city, paying attention to how understandings of the spatial and cultural landscape can reshape both public memory and ways of envisioning the future.
4 pm Spoken Word Performances by Wesley Enoch and Amanda Stewart
4.30 pm Artists = Production
A conversation between the artists and co-curator of the Reckonings installation to tease out the questions the exhibition and project itself raise about Redfern, about reconciliation, politics, poetics and art. It will explore how the ideas, the memories and the dialogues that formed the installation were synthesised through the production. Coversationalists are: Jonathan Bottrell Jones, Ruark Lewis, Romaine Moreton, Nuha Saad and Rea, facilitated by Cassi Plate.
5.15pm Bar B Que
6.00pm Screening of Fight For Your Blood a short film written and performed by a group of Indigenous young people from Redfern who attended workshops with Vincent McManus at The Settlement Neighbourhood Centre. Winner of the Silent Cells Film Festival 2001 and 1st prize at the De Bortoli Riverina Flickers Short Film Festival.
Music by Frances Williams and Rocky Carbine & South West Syndicate.
StandUp (a community group from Redfern) has organised
a rally at the head office of Leonie Green and
Associates one of Australias biggest Job Network
providers for 10am Thursday August 30.
71-77 Regent Street Redfern.
Leonie Green and Associates has been accused of
manipulating the privatised Commonwealth Employment
Service system to create phantom jobs and received up
to $400 000 of 'success' money that should be going to
The Federal government has now announced a public
enquiry into the system. StandUp wants to let the
Howard government know what the Redfern community
thinks of a system that preys on the vulnerability of
unemployed workers and exploits those that can least
StandUp has fought for and won the retention of
Redfern Centrelink last month and is looking for help
and support from all other individuals and
organisations that believe workers deserve dignity as
much when they are looking for work as when they have
StandUp meets every 2nd and 4th Wednesday in South
Sydney Rugby League Club Chalmers Street Redfern.
Our next meeting is at 5pm Wednesday August 22.
Contact [email protected] or 0407 58 22 00
Was I dreaming when I thought I saw Bob Carr screaming hysterically about Democracy on the day the Trade Union movement organised a picket of the state Parliament just 3 months ago. Am I dreaming now when I read that Bob Carr is the subject of claims that his party has been subverting democracy by trawling through the oppositions files.
Could it really be that a man who calls himself a Labor Premier and yet is furiously selling off our
railway systems, hospitals and public schools not to mention cutting the legs out from under injured
workers is now caught out defending claims that he can't match the standards he sets the workers of this state.
Now that's not Democracy.
Bob McMullen the previous Shadow Minister for IR is smart enough to know that 70% of the population would rather have money spent on Health and Education than tax cuts that fill the pockets of big business and politicians. The NSW branch of the Australian Labor Party is now a liability for the trade union movement in NSW and will serve only to drive away new members.
If we want democracy in this state we now really do have to take it to the streets because we know we
can't get it from an undemocratic structure like the NSW Parliament.
Roll on CHOGM
United Firefighters Union
I wonder if in Australia, the casual teachers have thought that they should be represented by the Teachers´ Federation at the same status the permanent and full time teachers enjoy. Is it possible that further to day by day be hoping to be called by some principal, to be often abused by the students and exploited by other colleagues (some time entitled just with the same denigrated status: casual teachers ) the Federation does not offer to them the importance that the most socially disadvantaged teachers require? I came from Chile after have been sacked from the public system ruled at that time on military fascist legislative guidelines, but even in that condition, there was a special department in the Democratic Teacher Federation to help the teacher rejected by the system. Here the teacher marginalised by government representatives whatever the reasons, has now furthermore to suffer abuse and discrimination of her/his own peers in the workforce, to experience the indiffer!
ence from the professional body representatives. Which are the differences between the social conditions and the workplace ethical atmosphere that teachers of the so-called by some arrogant politician "bananas and bastardised republics" face in comparison with the so-called industrialised republics´ workers in this time? According to my own experience almost nil!
If other casual teachers are facing similar experience and would like to stick together, please contact me.
Casual Spanish Teacher
Well in some ways it proved my point appearing in its unspelt form my hot headed response to a middle class letter going right over the heads of most workers put me in my place and highlighted the view ,what in the hell s this bloke doing on our page?.
Any night you may find me late home spending hours compiling reports to the rank and file I serve and sending e mails to many different places.
Then home to my own PC to print out what I can distribute from this page to the rank and file.
About 60 hour weeks , I am no saint , no middle class dreamer for workers rights , my union fights for and ensures we get those rights.
Its more what unions or some of the members of some of them are not doing that concerns me,reith is a rude word in my house , he could not rely on the water in my bladder to help should he catch on fire, but I owe it to my union and everyone's union to tell him so in a decent manner.
Kicking the hell out of his car?are we mad? My solidarity is not for such half witted acts that damage the whole movement and our great white hope the federal ALP.
People who should be in unions are not ,they see us all in this light.
The left has often done extremely well be the movement as a whole , and got plenty of support when needed but this is a crime against the workers , its bloody stupid, and a betrayal.
Unions need to use the net, promote it in the ranks, every delegate should always sell his union always be on duty and on display as a trade unionist act like one always.
My union cut ties with Carrs Fifedom over workcover we stood for the most Important people in the world ,workers.
In truth I challenge weakness in others we should be solid now make the battle shorter, next ALP conference will see more VW,s parked near the town hall , motions to free the mice from rat traps will flood the floor.
Shirts showing the very best of the communist world [ dead ones] will be on show but is it good for the workers?.
This poorly educated worker knows we too must change to survive, we must get on board a third way stay solid with workers but think a bit more like the 78%who are not yet union members.
I cannot spell, wear singlets, say what I think rather to honestly, but I know and have proved service gets members , my workplace went from 70%membership [ a government department ] back to 100%and will stay there.
Three magic words get union members ,service, service service.
And buy your own, I cant offered Chardonnay
by Peter Lewis
Arch Bevis with Parramatta ALP candidate David Borger
Both sides of politics are looking at using industrial relations in the Federal Election but with different emphasis. How do you see IR being played out?
I think industrial relations has the potential to be a significant issue in this election. I think workers from one end of the country to the other know that the system that John Howard has put in place is no longer the fair system that they have been used to, and they are feeling the brunt of it, because it is not fair, because the field has been tipped very heavily one way and because the umpire has had its powers taken away from it. They are finding life at work much harder. Their standard of living is deteriorating, not improving, and all of that leads to a powerful political dynamic.
I think at this next election there is a real opportunity for Labor and the labour movement to make headway.
I've got to say the recent TriStar dispute put a lot of that into focus too, because people saw their workers trying to get what every worker in Australia wants, and for their trouble, all they got was abuse and attack from this government - even told by the Minister. So I think that very much crystallized the issues for many Australians.
Howard is trying to use the union movement as his trump card. Do you think the unions are a plus or a minus for the ALP?
I think Howard has fallen into the trap. I mean, he is often painted, and I think correctly, as a person of the Fifties - the 1950s that is - and he took the same attitude to industrial relations. He is in trouble politically and he is falling back on the time honoured approach of Liberals before him - bashing unions in the hope that somehow that causes people to move away from the Labor Party.
I think the dynamics of all that have changes for the sorts of reasons just described. I think the public support for unions is now at a high level. People, whether they are in unions or not, want to know that there is a unions system in place to protect their interests. They want to know, whether they are in a union or not, that there is a fair system of industrial commission operations.
The unions would have a much greater percentage of the workforce as members, if the system was fairer and if people did not think they would be victimized for joining a union, and what has happened under the Howard Government is that they have developed a culture where people are afraid to be in a union - notwithstanding the fact that they support them.
At the moment we are seeing a real outbreak of industrial unrest - quite a lot of strikes occurring right across the economy. As somebody who wants to see himselfs get elected into government, do you sometimes wish the unions were toning down their activity at this stage of the political cycle?
There is always a risk in politics, particularly with the way in which the general media report these matters, that a strike will be painted in the way in which John Howard wants to - and that is very much as an attack upon the Labor Party. But I think that depends on each case, and increasingly depends on how things are being conducted.
I mean, people saw what happened to the workers at OneTel; the workers at HIH; they have seen what happened at TriStar. And the public support was very much with the workers in those situations.
Now at TriStar that was a very high profile industrial dispute. The government tried to politicize that as much as they could. They even told the employers not to negotiate and not to compromise. So they wanted this dispute to run on and on. And the public saw through that and the public also understood that the workers are entitled to have their wages and long service leave and other things protected. I don't think the Government got out of TriStar the sort of public spin that they were hoping for, and I think that that does herald a different attitude in the Australian public's mind about these things.
As somebody that comes out of the Union Movement, do you feel that your orientation has changed from your time as a union official to your time as a candidate for the ALP?
I think orientation certainly has. I mean, it is a different job. I am a member of a union. I hope always to be a member of a union, and clearly I am proud to identify myself as a unionist. But my job as a Minister in a Beazley Government is not to be a union official. It is to be a Minister. It is to put into place a fair and decent system that operates for all Australians and helps advance the living standard for all Australians. It is a different job.
But the core values that I grew up with - that I lived with as a union official - are still with me, and I can't imagine that they will ever leave me.
With that background, what has been the hardest call you have had to make in negotiating through and devising the industrial relations policy you will take to the next election?
I don't feel there has been any fundamental derogation from those core principles. I reject the view that being a unionist and adhering to those sorts of principles is somehow counter-productive to the good of the economy or the profitability of enterprises. Frankly, I think they go hand in hand. I don't see that there is a tension that is there. I think there is a false tension that is sometimes developed in the media perception, and I guess it would be fair to say that not everybody who is a unionist would share my view on that. There are certainly some people who probably have an attitude that was more in vogue in the Fifties and Sixties, and do see a potential tension. I don't. I think the prosperity, the security of employment, the right for people to organise collectively - all these things are intertwined in a progressive and democratic and productive economy.
You know, it is interesting when you look around the world at the different systems, all the studies that have been done on these issues show that systems that are based on collective negotiations - on union representation - are just as productive - and according to some of the research - more productive - than those systems which try and deny workers the right to organize.
So it is not as though one of them promotes good economic outcomes and the other doesn't. I think they work hand-in-hand.
Let's talk about some of the specific themes that we are talking about in the campaign the unions are launching. On entitlements, Labor has promised comprehensive entitlement protection, but they are not adopting the Manusafe Model. Why is that?
Manusafe is a trust fund model which is a totally legitimate scheme, and there are a number of trust fund models that operate already in different industries and in some companies, and there is nothing at all wrong with a trust fund model, but Labor took the view that in establishing a national system to cover all workers, trust funds are not going to be preferred models for many, and we have adopted an insurance based scheme which, unlike a trust fund model, has a much lower annual premium to operate. That commitment we have is to a national scheme. It is a commitment to cover all workers' entitlements. It will guarantee those entitlements are paid out quickly, so workers don't have to wait for the company assets to be sold. The insurer will take on that responsibility. And at the end of the day, it will produce for all workers the security and comfort that they should have, that if they are unlucky enough to find themselves in a company that has gone belly up, they will at least get all of their money back.
Programs like Manusafe and the other trust funds that are operating will operate side-by-side with that. Firms that are participating in those funds obviously won't have to contribute a second time to our national scheme and I think for most employers, they will find the national scheme a far better option.
Could you understand concerns of unions who have set up these trust funds, fearing that their employers are just going to want to go for the lower cost option and just opt into the insurance scheme now?
I think those unions that have taken the initiative on those matters deserve to be applauded. They have actually tried to fill a void that has existed frankly for too long. Now for some companies and for some industries a trust fund model will be preferred. The disadvantages of a trust fund is that you have got to put more money in each year to get it going. The advantage of a trust fund is that in the long term you can actually have a situation where the fund is self-funding. That is, after a period of time you don't have to put any more money in it. The interest that the fund earns is enough to pay for the ongoing demands on the fund.
So for some firms and for some industries, depending on their worker profile, depending on their cashflow, a trust fund model will actually be better for them and I recognize that. That is fine. I have no difficulty with that whatsoever. But for others they will be better placed and will prefer to have an insurance model, which is why we went down that path. So I don't think there needs to be a competition as it were. They are two different models to achieve the same outcome. One will be preferable in certain circumstances, and that is fine. The important thing is that the initiative that those unions have taken and the commitment we have as a Labor Party, achieves the necessary outcome - all workers' entitlements will be protected.
You have also promised to increase the powers of the Industrial Commission. On a practical level, how would a dispute like TriStar have been conducted differently under your changes?
One of the things that stands out in the TriStar dispute is that not only did the Government not put in place a system to protect the workers' entitlements; and not only did they attack the workers for trying to get a decent outcome; but under their system, when this dispute occurred and went to the Commission, the only thing the Commission could really decide was whether or not the workers would be allowed to continue their strike. Because the Commission has had its powers taken away from it by Peter Reith and John Howard and Tony Abbott, the Commission doesn't have the power to decide whether or not, for example, the company should contribute to Manusafe or an insurance bond, or anything at all. It is not one of the allowable matters.
We intend to remove that restriction from the legislation, so that the Industrial Commission will be free to deal with these sorts of cases, and if necessary, arbitrate them on the merits of the arguments in dispute. Unfortunately the Commission no longer has those powers.
One of the big differences with TriStar would have been the opportunity for the umpire not just to say you can or you can't strike, but for the umpire to have a look at the substance - the areas of dispute - and if necessary make some decisions about it.
On individual contracts - what is going to happen to people who are already on AWAs?
We will abolish AWAs from the legislation, so that no new ones will be entered into. For those who are currently on an AWA, they will cease to operate during the life of the next parliament. Now for most of them, that will be the normal expiry date, but there has been some evidence given to us that in some places companies are trying to sign up as many people on AWAs now, before the election as they can. Of course, these are secret document, so we don't have access to that detail, but in Government, if we see that evidence then we will also need to state a date after which they will all cease to operate. And that will be a date that gives people plenty of time to make alternative arrangements.
In the formulation of this policy, have you had any thought, talks or regard to the attitude of the Democrats, presuming they maintain to hold the balance in the Senate? AWAs for instance were something they agreed to. What are the prospects of them changing their view?
We have been very mindful of what may happen after the election with the passage of Labor's legislation through the Senate. That has not changed our view of what we think is right. Our legislation will enter the Parliament as we believe it should be passed. At the end of the day I recognize that we are going to have to negotiate with the Senate to get that legislation through.
I am confident that we will get the vast majority of our legislation through, and notwithstanding some of the public comments that have been made by some of the Democrat Senators, I am also confident that our views on AWAs will succeed as well. The evidence is overwhelming in relation to AWAs. These are instruments that were designed by Peter Reith and John Howard, simply to undermine the rights of workers to organize and get decent outcomes.
And the proof is in the pudding. Average workers on AWAs today are getting $55.10 a week less than they would if they were on a collective agreement like a union agreement. There is no doubt why they have been put in place, and I think when the evidence is put before the Democrats I would be confident that we will get their support.
This isn't an official ALP IR launch today. Are their other issues of policy that you are still looking at releasing in the lead up to the Federal Election?
I hope, in the not too distant future, to release our Industrial Relations Policy. Part of the difficulty with the timing of all that, is the guesswork on when the election campaign is. We certainly got a detailed policy document from our National Conference last year and from that we have a very clear election manifesto in industrial relations. Some of that has been set out already in speeches by myself or by Kim Beazley, but we would like to get a coordinated policy launch in the not too distant future. That is a matter for the Campaign Committee's tactical planning at the moment.
And finally, in terms of the election, what is your gut feeling?
I think this election is going to be close, and I have held that view for a long, long time. I believe that the last three weeks are going to decide who wins the election. That 10% of the population who decide in that last three weeks what they are going to do, will decide whether or not we have another three years of John Howard, or whether we have a change for the better. I think the way things are panning out at the moment, we have probably got our nose ahead, but that is all it is. This is going to be a fight right down to the wire.
So what can working people do to help Labor get over the line?
I have always been a great believer in the power of people to talk to their workmates. To make sure that literature is distributed. We are never going to compete with our opponents in the mass media activities, and we seldom have the sort of editorial support that they can regularly get. The strength of the labour movement has always been in its people on the ground. So whether it is helping out on information stalls; whether it is door-knocking; whether it is talking in the lunchrooms - these are all important things that have helped us to get across the line in the past and I think they will be important this time too.
The union movement in the Industrial Age evolved as the institutional response to the imbalance of bargaining power in the workplace. It was the structure through which labour negotiated with capital. Tribunals and laws were developed to set minimum wages and standards and trade unions were the official entity that represented the interests of workers. It was almost like a machine,: input the ambit claim, pull the lever and out come an economy-wide wage increase.
But now the structures are breaking down. And it's not enough to blame hostile employers and a Conservative Government. It was, after all, the Keating Labor Government that started the push towards enterprise bargaining. It recognized that the structures that Labor had built over the previous years would no longer serve the interests of workers in a networked economy.
The movement has now been in this precipitous decline over the last fifteen to twenty years, that's been so obvious and yet unions have - on the whole -- stuck their heads in the sand and done nothing about it, or very little. In Australia there's been this incredible sense of drift where we could see what has been happening everywhere else, but we still had a Labor government in power that was softening the blows, globalisation and neo-liberalism going on.
There were small changes made, there were some things done that were useful like establishing Organising Works, others that were probably counter-productive like the creation of superunions by forced amalgamation. But there was no major turnaround - there was still a decline. Why hasn't there been any change? Why is there a stagnancy or paralysis? Why is it so difficult to move those organisations towards a changing economy and a changing workplace.
The reasons for the decline are well-known. The move away from blue collar and manufacturing jobs towards the service industry and the decline of large organisations where unions traditionally flourish are largely out of the union movement's control. But as the Information Age rapidly approaches we have sat like kangaroos in the headlights, maintaining the same unwieldy structures that we have always had and cultural problems that have left individual unions paralysed. Even today, many unions are led from the top down, they have leaderships that are authoritarian - which is an obstacle to change.
You've also got unions with very progressive leaderships that understand what the problems are, and what changes are required, but they are confronted with a workforce and culture with their organisation that will not accept any change. They have skills and experience that are no longer relevant. A lot of those people working as industrial officers or organisers are actually wannabe lawyers. They want to be able to put on a suit, go down to the Commission and save workers. That's what they want to be, that's what their career aspirations are, that's what their training and experience is. But we are confronted with that situation where that is not what the organisational needs of the unions are. What a union needs is people who can relate to members - who can go out and understand what their situation is. Who can identify the issues and the leaders in the workplace who can drive those issues. The system we've been operating under, that historically has delivered a lot of good things for workers, is now an Achilles heel for us because it has produced this particular organizational structure.
The Organising Response
There is a change happening though. A huge amount of effort was expended over the last twenty years, except it just wasn't expended in useful ways because there wasn't that issue of looking at new ways of working. The ACTU leadership at its most senior level embrace an organizing culture. He's dramatically cutting the IR side of the ACTU and investing a lot in the communications, campaigning and marketing side. Let's hope that over the next two or three years that it will pay dividends.
The organising approach does match the dynamics of network technologies to the extent that it is about flattening the structures within trade unions to bring the institution closer to the individual members.
In a union, you've got your organisers, they're your front line, they're the ones making the decisions. You admin staff and senior officials should be setting the environmental controls, and providing political nous so that the organisers can do their job. Instead the organizer is regarded as a low level, low status position. Unions are very hierarchical with all power resting in the full-time elected officials. You get this information log jam and organisational paralysis around that individual. This is propped up by the industrial and legal officers who generate 'important' decisions for the leadership, often involving legal action and large sums of money.
Democratisation of the organisation is crucial for any union. There's lots of things about IT that may be overstated - but one thing it does do is bring out a lot of the issues about what needs to be done. One thing the Internet's done brilliantly is bring out the need for two way communication and having interactive capabilities between lots of people and unions. One thing that IT is going to do for unions is confront them all the time about their lack of democracy within their organisations, because people are going to talking to you all the time.
The rise in job insecurity is a great opportunity for unions - let's make no bones about it. It's just that unions are tending to oppose the shift that has created the insecurity rather than looking at ways of helping members thrive in the new environment. But think about it strategically: in a situation where you are likely to move around in small enterprises, what is it that gives you a sense of continuity? In the past it was the enterprise like IBM or DJs, where's the continuity now? The identification of a worker can no longer come form the transitory engagement with a company.
This is an invitation for the union movement to step up to the plate and offer workers an identity. And not just and identity, but also a network that will help them move from job to job. APESMA and the Nurses Assoc. probably are of the best examples around at the moment - a hybrid union professional organization that provides advice and protection but, more importantly, a sense of professional identity to the kind of work. Critically, these unions are providing the infrastructure to assist people to move around - providing the infrastructure for mobility.
This stretches our traditional notion of what a union is. In the current industrial age sense a union is an Industrial Organisation of employee registered with the Industrial Relations Commission. In the information age a union is a network of people doing a similar job across workplaces. The unions' role extends from the traditional industrial role, to organising, professional support and assisting people to change jobs.
There are a large number of unions that are effectively still looking at their members in the same places that they looked for them ten or twenty years ago, they were under that rock then, but of course they are in totally different places now. It's all about the idea that people will join a union if they're asked and there are issues out there in the workplace that you can organise around - if you actually do it. But they do have to be asked, they're not going to come running to you, but they are totally open to the idea.
The Finance Sector Union a few years ago were fighting all their industrial battles around the big banks and insurance companies, but they realized that they weren't taking account of the fact that a lot of workers were disappearing out of the industry...they were going into new types of financial sector organisations. They've turned around, and over the last couple of years, aggressively trying to recruit from call centres and other places, but it took them a while to realise it and the horse had nearly bolted before they realise that their membership was going down significantly.
Things can be turned around but it means that union have to change, they have to recognise that if they are sitting on a declining sector, they have to have a growth strategy. They also have to look at what there members needs really are; rather than just what they appear to be. For instance rather than promising job security, which a union cannot deliver, unions can work with employers to ensure that employees skill are kept up-to-date. If an employee has portable skills which they can take from job to job then the need for job security is diminished.
Limits to the Organising Model
But how do you organise a worker in a workplace where there are no issues? Where the employer treats employees well. A smaller organisation, where the work might have a personal relationship with the employer, where the worker might hold shares in the organisation, where they're well treated, where they're learning, where they realize they're employable elsewhere and can leave any time Is there a role for a union in this kind of workplace, or should unions continue to focus in on workplaces where there are bad employment practices?
The problem for unions is that there are organisations like that, and they're a growing sector - unions are now confined to 20 per cent of the private sector, so it's unlikely, working for a union that you would ever hear about this kind of organisation. Working in a union, the only people that ring you up are in workplaces where there are problems. There is the risk that is unions are consumer with looking at all the bad employers in front of them - and they are still there in numbers -- that the rest of the world might be moving on. There is a growing segment there, that does have a different approach to their employees, and unions need to find a constructive role to play in this kind of workplace.
Let's say you've got a workplace which is bad. The boss is treating the employees badly, they're unhappy - they turn to the union. The union campaigns in the workplace around issues. It doesn't work at first, but the employers behaviour is so bad that the union has lots of good issues to organise around, eventually the union successfully organises the workplace. The employees, now unionised stand up the employer, the employer recognises that unless it changes its style then there will be continual confrontation and it won't be able to make money. Eventually management changes their approach.
What happens then? What should the union do? There are two ways to go - the union can still scratch for issues to campaign around, and try to keep the workplace in a state of confrontation or the union can recognise that they can't keep the workplace as active and as angry as it would be if the employer was still providing them with issues. People want a conflict-free work environment, they are naturally conflict averse. People want to live their lives, get on with the job but if there are issues there then they are prepared to stand up and be counted. They'll become less confrontational? Hopefully as management changes the means of resolving the conflict will become less confrontational.
Where does a union go from there? We have canvassed the role of unions in helping people in the transitions between employment and it is a really unappreciated and under-done one. Unions need to be looking at forming their cooperatives of members - they're own labour hire firms. They also need at looking at sharing information between members. Workers who are in the union could be sharing valuable information such as job opportunities, current rates they charge (to ensure they are not undercutting each other), information about the good and bad employers, useful training courses, even good accountants and lawyers. The notion of the union as the network needs to be explored in far more detail - particularly in the context of the increase capacity that IT advances provide.
Unions also need to look at broader social issues on behalf of members - and that doesn't mean broader social issues like foreign aid to Mozambique - as much that's important. But there needs to be advocacy on like social infrastructure for employment, things like long service leave for casual and transient workers. I think superannuation has been a genuine and great success for the Labor movement, and I think we need to look at using that model in other places, as much as you might disagree with other achievements of the Labor movement in the 80s.
Is it still about capital and labour?
Is that an industrial age dichotomy? Yes and no.
There's a plethora of situations in workplaces, some where management has too much power, others where the union/employees have too much power. There is an optimal power balance between the employees and management, one that involves mutual respect and recognition of respective roles. This get particular interesting when the labour has invested in the capital or the capital has invested in the labour - both of which are occurring increasingly - this changes the whole dynamic of the relationship.
Employee share ownership and investment by worker pension funds have changed the face of capital. What happens to a workforce when their own futures are tied to the prosperity of their employee? In many start-up companies, share options make up a substantial part of the remuneration package. But even in traditional jobs, it is not unusual for a union-controlled superannuation fund to have a substantial stake in a company employing its members. How can we separate the forces of capital and labour here?
Now let's look from a management perspective. Increasingly the management task has become to manage a set of assets which are not physical - that are mental. If you are going to be a good manager in this world - if you are going to make this leap, there will still be physical assets but they will be less than they were in the past. And they are always replaceable. In fact, they go out of date in six months.
What is a modern company now? I've got a friend who works for a magazine. They all work in a room - one single room, not too large - all desks facing each other. There's no capital at all in there. It's just computers worth nothing. The real value in that organization is the human capital. You must invest in it through training - and you need to maintain it by providing opportunities for individuals to keep them engaged with the organization. Ultimately this adds to the stability of the organisation. It becomes a lot more difficult to buy and sell an organisation like that because you can buy and sell capital but can't buy and sell the people as easily.
All of which is to illustrate the point that while there is still a relationship between capital and labour, they are no longer necessarily a dichotomy. Rather, they exist in relationship to each other.
The Orchestra Pit
This is a really important anecdote that sums up this new wave of management philosophy that really creates a quandary for unions. There is a guy in the US who writes in the Harvard Business Review called Ely Mintzberg, who is Professor of Management at Montreal and NCED and Fontainbleau in Paris, and he talks about the role of the manager as being as an orchestra leader. If you look at an orchestra, everyone has to play their instruments to virtuosity, and it's their talent and their skill that's making that instrument play. The orchestra leader has to figure out how to make them play together (tempo). The leader also needs to work out how to motivate the orchestra get the most out of each individual.
It's not just about developing their skills, it's their creativity. I think creativity is a real key word in the whole thing. Stepping out of my union role and back into my project management role. I think it's absolutely vitally important to maximise people's creativity and your ability to contribute - it's giving them room to maneuver there - it's giving them space to be able to do their own thing. You resource them and then you give them an area which they can work with that's actually going to allow their creative juices to flow and actually do something. And I fail to see how you can do that in an environment or climate of fear or control...
In a Tayloristic environment there is no room for creativity. In fact, it's undesirable. In an Information Organisation the opposite is true. If we look at management and labour as being two halves of a coin, rather than competing things, without the individual creativity of the orchestra players, the orchestra doesn't exist. But equally, without the conducting of that orchestra leader, and without the motivation that goes on behind, they can't work together in a way that makes an audience cry. And that's what you are after. You are after excellence by matching labour and management. New managerial theory then says that management needs to synergise its employees rather than direct and control employees. You are a team leader, you are not a team dictator. A football coach.
And this leads us to an even starker question: if workers aren't engaged in a class war, why should unions be?
According to Our Theory ...
This is an area which is really important, which is where a partnership between the labour movement and government needs to go when Federal Labor gets back in power. We need to look at a much grander project about work infrastructure. If you like, re-inventing awards. Re-inventing a National system. But there are things other than wages and job security that we need to have as our priorities in the new economy.
This is not about trying to remove job security, wages and conditions as important issues for representation, they'll stay there and they should be national issues as much as workplace issues. When I talk about partnership between the labour movement and government I actually think that on a series of issues small business, as distinct from old style large businesses, benefit by having common infrastructure/standards. If there are awards, lets say - providing a base standard, if there is superannuation, if there are training guarantee levees, those sort of things, that actually helps small business because somebody else can't get a competitive advantage over you.
The best model for that kind of partnership is the building and construction industry. Mobile long service leave ought to become a national scheme, independent of a particular employer, for instance. The next round of battles, I think, is as a series of savings accounts. One of the ways you entrench them, so conservative governments can't axe them, is you make them bodies private account, like superannuation. Is really hard for the conservative government to get rid of superannuation because all these people, who have five thousand dollars in the kitty, which is just theirs. Same with the sick leave account and long service leave account and various other sorts of accounts. In the construction industry it would be virtually impossible to unravel that infrastructure, because every worker appreciates it and employers appreciate it.
So what does all this mean for unions? One of the roles for unions I think is to help remove the blocks to that kind of activity going on. That's where workplace-wide infrastructure, let alone country-wide infrastructure, is an important part of doing that. Because if you get rid of frustrations and potential areas of dispute, like common conditions, like base wage rates, like making sure they have access to education - which are social negotiation issues - then you can get on with the job of actually working as an orchestra.
So then the unions' role shifts from becoming focussed around industry-wide campaigns or job security or wages and conditions, to identifying points of conflict that actually hold back the organisation. Helping the managers and the employees find the issues which are causing problems to the organisation and solving them. The union takes on a problem solving role - teaching employers how to treat their employee decently.
So, we could promote a model of unionism there. Where unions assist both the employees and the management. But unions would need to have an understanding of organisational structural issues as well. More so than perhaps they have now. And I don't mean understanding from the point of view of how it impacts on the workers but from the point of view of how the environment the workers have to work in is going to be best for those workers. Which also means economic issues and so on. I think that's more important.
Three Tiers of Unionism
The basic tier is operation within the workplace. Which is an orchestra leader rather than a dictator model to management. The second tier is cultural infrastructure for enterprises and workers, which facilitates and supports mobility without it being a disaster for workers - and that's the benefit for management as well. And the third tier, which is something which is only just beginning to be recognised, is that when you are an educated person, once you've got above a couple of layers of Maslow's hierarchy of need, then the money side over all is less important. It's recognition and fulfillment. An important reason people go to work every day is because it's an important social environment in your life. It's where they make friends. It's where they have a sense of community and unions can help build that sense of community.
Rampant individualism is one of the biggest problems over the last 10 to 15 years in terms of politics and social policy - but also it's got economic consequences as well. It's not a good economic thing. It's destructive. It breaks down cohesiveness in the workplace. It breaks down team work. It breaks down that important social aspect of work, which produces better and more productive workplaces.
There needs to be a re-fostering of collective environments and unions have got a contribution to make to that in the workplace. Let's face it. A company that has good managers - it's keeping its workers happy, it's providing them with purpose and meaning - people are going to probably accept lower wages in exchange for better purpose and better work environment and better management.
Whereas a company that still keeps the old model - that's got the confrontational command and control - that doesn't allow its employees self expression - that doesn't look after the interests of its employees - it's going to have to buy them off. The only way it's going to hang on to decent people is to pay them hideous amounts of money. And they are going to lose their competitive advantage over the smart company that's got its employees happy.
Unions will always have a role in fighting the excesses of the bad employer. But it may have an even brighter future working in partnership with the good employees. To be able to play both roles is the movement's key challenge. To chose which card to play means getting closer to the shopfloor. The organizing approach puts unions on the right trajectory to get here. But in a networked society it's only a first step - how they handle the power that collective strength gives them will ultimately dictate their long-term success.
This chapter is based on discussion involving the authors, Social Change Online director Sean Kidney and the ACTU's Noel Hester.
This week's ground-breaking agreement by the Australian Catholic University (ACU) to grant staff up to one year's paid maternity leave provides a long overdue focus of public attention on the reluctance of Australian workplaces generally to move into the 21st Century. The ACU's decision stands in strong contrast to the refusal of the Howard Government to provide any leadership in ending the still widespread unfair treatment of women workers in Australia, especially those women with family responsibilities.
Australia now performs very poorly compared to the rest of the industrialised world in terms of women's position in the workforce. The underlying cause of this disadvantage is the lack of support for women struggling to balance their working and family lives.
Maternity leave is a key element in this pattern of neglect and discrimination. More than 70 per cent of Australian working women do not have access to paid maternity leave at all. The minority of women who do have paid maternity leave rights are entitled to less than the best public sector standard of 12 weeks paid leave. This compares with 26 weeks in France, 16 weeks in the Netherlands and Vietnam, 14 weeks in Germany and Algeria and 12 weeks in India, Mexico and Indonesia.
Australia lags in several other measures of family friendliness in the workplace. A new report (Balancing Work and Family Life: Helping Parents into Paid Employment) from the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows Australia has the lowest level of employment of single parents (mainly women) of young children in the developed world. Just over 30 per cent of Australian sole parents are in the workforce, compared to rates of between 60 and 70 per cent in most European countries and north America. The OECD says in the report that "it is important that there is a sufficiently high employment rate for this group, because of the danger of loss of contact with the labour market, and decline in human capital".
An International Labor Organisation (ILO) study (Breaking through the Glass Ceiling: Women in Management) released this week reported Australia has the lowest level of female managers of all industrialised countries, with just 1.3 per cent of executive positions held by women, compared to 5.1 per cent in the United States. On this score, Australia ranked last of 41 countries. The study also showed that the women who are in Australian management positions are paid on average 12 per cent less than their male counterparts, despite having more education and formal qualifications.
The value of women's work in Australia has never been properly recognised. Australian women workers are on average paid $166 a week less than men. Official statistics show the wages/gender gap has widened under the Howard Government. Australian Taxation Office data released in June shows the average taxable income for men in 1998-99 ($34,460) was more than 46 per cent higher than for women ($23,599) - an increase of more than one per cent since 1995-96. Recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show that the gap between male and female average weekly pay packets increased from $158.40 in May 1998 to $166.10 in May 2000.
On top of this, women experience far higher levels of job insecurity than men. This is partly because women occupy 68 per cent of all part-time positions and 70 per cent of all casual positions in the Australian workforce. As a result, Australia has the highest proportion of female employment in part-time work of any OECD country except the Netherlands. Unemployment figures from the ABS last week suggested a more alarming development, with women accounting for two-thirds of the 79,000 full-time jobs which were lost last month. The Federal Government's plan - revealed in a leaked Cabinet submission last week - to allow even greater casualisation of the workforce by exempting small businesses from award protections will only make this situation worse.
The Howard Government confirmed its indifference to the insecurity of many working women when it opposed the ACTU's application for a Parental Leave Test Case in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission earlier this year. In May a Full Bench of the Commission rejected the Government's arguments and granted a new right of 12 months unpaid maternity leave for up to two million casual workers.
Similarly, the Government has ignored recommendations from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission that it fund research on international maternity leave policies. The ACTU proposes that the Commonwealth properly investigate the various models of maternity leave used overseas, including different funding options involving employers, social security and insurance systems. The findings of such an investigation should be used to develop a comprehensive maternity leave system for Australia, using as a basis the ILO's international standard of 14 weeks paid leave. The Howard Government's refusal to take even these moderate and reasonable steps towards ending the unfair treatment of women employees with family responsibilities will not be forgotten at the ballot box later this year.
Holidaying Wollongong student Neville Collis was so elated at news he had scored a fulltime job that he blew his cash on a slap-up meal at a Brisbane restaurant.
Twelve months later, the reality of life with call centre operator Stellar has dampened that enthusiasm.
"When I got the phone call I was thrilled," he recalled, "I had been studying at TAFE for nearly four years and had debts to pay off and, from the interview, the job sounded great.
"Now ... I still like the job and the people I work with, but the company I can't stand."
From the day, in June 2000, that Stellar offered successful applicants "non-negotiable" AWAs it was clear their operation would be anti-union.
CPSU Communications Union organiser, Naomi Arrowsmith, first made it inside the door in June. Prior to that, three separate letters about grievances raised by members had failed to elicit a reply.
Inside, in Stellar's own words, MST (mean service time) "drives" working life.
MST refers to the average time an "agent" spends answering public enquires - in this case for Telstra directory or Yellow Pages services.
When Stellar started in Wollongong staff were given a target MST of 25 seconds, then 20. At the time of writing it had fallen to 18.3 seconds..
Workers who fail to meet those targets are subject to disciplinary procedures. When one asked if it was true those who spoke for longer would be sacked, management posted this reply on a noticeboard - "...there is no simple yes or no response to this question...".
But the real sting in the MST tail is its capacity to reduce work, in the year 2001, to something Charles Dickens might have recognised.
At computer screens, every action is timed to the 10th, sometimes the 100th, of a second. Workers are allowed nine minutes of "health breaks" - toilet breaks to you or me - per day. Prior to union intervention they had to raise their hands and get supervisor approval.
Agents have fielded calls from people contemplating suicide and looking for counselling. One was "disciplined" for spending 20 minutes with a desperate caller. Traumatised, she took time off work and paid for her own counselling. Stellar's line - if you can't attract a supervisor - hang up.
Before the recent introduction of computerised answering, agents recited set lines - "Telstra," they would claim somewhat disingenuously, "this is Mary/Matthew/Marjorie, what name please?"
The pressure of MST, however, caused many to ditch given names and the likes of Dee, Tas, Fox, Bee and Da, were born.
"I was Dee," Claire Daniels admitted, "you can't get much shorter than that. When I was doing it, my service times fell by nearly two seconds."
Soon after opening in Burelli St, Wollongong, workers started joining the CPSU. A meeting at the nearby Oxford Hotel elected Collis, Daniels, Paul Stolk and Claire Cuthbertson as workplace delegates.
The response was predictable. Stolk, formerly a security supervisor, has been demoted and disciplined - "I was on a seconded manager programme until the shit hit the fan," he explained.
Collis was disciplined over his MST, then suspended for a week after being accused of "sledging the company" during a phone call. He wound up in Wollongong Hospital with severe migraines and high blood pressure after a showdown at which he was forbidden union representation.
On April 28 the 23-year-old was on the mat again charged, in the words of the company handbook, with "soliciting for an outside organisation".
"I don't deny it," Collis said. "I was handing out flyers about a union picnic but I only did it in the walkway to people going to and from the lunchroom."
Neither Collis nor his colleagues are disheartened by a slow response to union overtures.
"Some people think they have got us on AWAs so there is not much the union can do," Collis explained, "with others it is just fear. They feel that if they join they are going to be victimised and, to be honest, I don't blame them.
"But it doesn't stop them being good people. On the nightshift we look after one another. Most people support what we are doing and let us know what is happening."
Collis, the son of a plant manager and a nurse, was raised in Dapto believing that ideals like democracy and a fair-go stretched into the workplace.
He traces most difficulties at Stellar back to AWAs and insists that view is shared by the majority of his workmates.
"We hate them, pretty much all of us. They take away our rights and leave us with nothing," he said.
Daniels backs him up: "Under this set-up I am earning $2 an hour less than I was getting as a shoppie five years ago.
"When we started we were told AWAs were not negotiable. The implication was, this is your agreement - you sign it, or you don't and see you later."
They know a rort when they see one in the Labor Party and that's why Stellar's employment practises will feature in this year's federal election campaign.
ALP strategists head-hunted CPSU Communications Union members to tell their stories in advertising that will screen in the lead-up to polling day.
Labor will concentrate its fire on AWAs (Australian Workplace Agreements) but the whole Stellar set-up is testament to the John Howard/Peter Reith/Tony Abbott strategy of building an underclass, whilst cutting official jobless figures.
Key issues raised by Stellar's policies include ...
· Australian Workplace Agreements
- Stellar used "non-negotiable" AWAs to undercut established rates paid to people answering directory services and yellow pages enquiries
- Stellar workers got $10,000 a year less, on the core rate, than Telstra employees doing the same work; they received inferior penalty rates and were denied the 17% annual holiday loading. All-up, Wollongong fulltimers received about $15,000 a year less than those employed by Telstra.
- Unions are barred from the premises.
- In spite of the Workplace Relations Act, Stellar workers have been denied advocates of their choice, being permitted only "a fellow worker" as a witness during disciplinary procedures.
· Contracting Out
- Telstra has contracted out its directory services to a subsidiary to defeat entitlements owed to workers
- The company sacked thousands of its own staff, handing over call centres so Stellar could pay their replacements a base rate of $12.01 an hour
· Transmission of Business
- A vexed area of law supposed to prevent companies contracting out for the purpose of defeating the terms of industrial instruments
- In late 1999, the CPSU won a Federal Court decision ordering Stellar to apply Telstra wages and conditions to its employees, effectively over-ruling their AWAs
- Stellar refused and its appeal was upheld by the full bench of the High Court. It's ruling, essentially that call centres were not Telstra's "core business", makes workers in most industries vulnerable.
- The union is considering further action but is hamstrung by already substantial legal costs, not an issue to Stellar, backed by the billion dollar resources of parent company Telstra.
- Underpinning the whole issue is the Howard Government's determination to privatise Telstra
- Already 49% privately owned, Australia's most profitable company has changed its focus from community service to shareholder enrichment.
- Workers are being sacked in their thousands and rates for jobs, such as those performed by Stellar, are being slashed to curry favour with the sharemarket.
· Stellar was established in May, 1998.
· It is a joint venture between Telstra and giant US call centre operator Excell Global Services
· For Telstra, it operates call centres at Robina (QLD), Wollongong (NSW), Adelaide (SA) and Joondulup (WA) to handle phone cancellations, directory services, pay phone, yellow pages and billing enquiries.
· The company signs contracts requiring it to have "the look and feel" of a Telstra operation.
· It refuses to apply Telstra wages and conditions to employees.
· Since early 1999 all staff have been employed on AWAs.
· NOTE: Since this article was completed, Stellar, under considerable union pressure, has increase wage rates by four percent.
These articles first appeared in The Works, national magazine of the CPSU.
by Rowan Cahill
The Conference will be held over the weekend 22-23 September, at the Women's College, University of Sydney. It promises to be a memorable and enjoyable event.
Commemorating the significance of the wide ranging social and political movements, and industrial struggles, of the period, the Conference will focus on Sydney and NSW.
Prominent activists in the major mass movements of the turbulent decade have been gathered by the organisers. The panellists and speakers, some 40 veterans of the period, will explain events, and reflect on their long-term social and political ramifications for Australian society.
The program has been arranged into five sessions with eight panels, providing time for introductory talks, questions/comments from the floor, and discussion between panellists and attendees.
Registration fees are $80 for both days; $45 for one day. Concessions are available at $40 and $25 respectively. Registration includes all-day coffee/tea, substantial buffet lunches, and Saturday evening wine/snacks.
Registration: Dr Beverley Symons, Secretary, Sydney Branch ASSLH, 23/68-74
Liverpool Road, Summer Hill, 2130. Enquiries: (02) 9799.6943 or (02)
Source images courtesy of ALP & ABC
Labor's Knowledge Nation statement commits a Beazley Government to rebuild the national broadcaster so that it can fulfil its charter and become Australia's premier cultural institution. The fine sentiment in the report of the Knowledge Nation taskforce shows Labor at its best, but the specific recommendations about the ABC - little more than a restoration of funding - also expose a traditional weakness - the ALP's uncritical approach to the reality of how public institutions like the ABC operate. We need an imaginative policy response to the challenges facing public media in the twenty-first century. Nothing less than widespread structural reform is is needed to free the ABC to be the cultural catalyst envisaged by Labor
The conservatives are a known quantity - the Howard government has been a vindictive vandal, hell bent on terrorising the ABC. Since coming to power the Coalition has used savage funding cuts, political bullying, a stacked board and a hand -picked Managing Director to purge the national broadcaster of many program -makers, corporate memory and the ethic of public service. ABC television has never looked worse, and Johnathon Shier has failed on his own criteria of ratings, which are in free fall, dropping by 20% in June. Rather than proceeding from the bottom up and encouraging program makers outside and within the ABC to invigorate on-air content, Shier has played corporate war games, shifting Generals around his big board, replacing the old commanders with his own loyalists, and then replacing them when his 'big board ' didn't work. He is absolutely caught up in old models of control and has strengthened the top down management culture -albeit on higher pay. A great opportunity to reform the ABC from the ground up has been squandered in a game of executive roulette, while we endure yet another repeat of Fawlty Towers.
I think we can expect more of the same from the Conservatives.
ALP party policy pledges a Beazley Government to restore 'adequate' funding on a triennial basis to ensure quality is maintained and Australian content levels are maintained at an 'appropriate level'. Good stuff and necessary if the ABC is to recover from the Coalition's savage cuts and comprehensively serve all Australians, but not very visionary - more like the Adequate Nation. The platform's promises - that Labor will not introduce advertising or sponsorship and the ABC will be kept free from political interference - while comforting, are all about conserving the status quo. The past record of the Hawke and Keating Governments suggests we need to be very cynical about both funding and fuzzy guarantees of independence
But Knowledge Nation places the ABC in a paradigm of cultural change, a key driver of the knowledge economy and a nation builder. The ABC is "the quintessential Australian portal" :
"To be an intelligent country, boundaries have to be pushed and the conventional wisdom challenged. Commercial networks do not seek to do this, and the ABC cannot do it well enough in its current emaciated state."
However fine ambitions to challenge conventions are diminished by an uninspired policy mindset: "The task requires the existence of a well-funded and independent national broadcaster. The most effective way to achieve this is to adequately fund the ABC."
I disagree that simply turning the funding tap on will transform the ABC into a catylist for the Knowldge Nation. Labor policy is silent on how a conservative bureaucracy like the ABC suddenly becomes boundary pushing, or diverse, or more importantly how independence from government is achieved. A future Beazley Government needs to boldly grasp the opportunity and join with the community that clearly values the ABC in re-making the National Broadcaster, reforming its structure to enable it to be as relevant and inspiring for citizens in a new century of audience and information. diversity.
While Shier and the Coalition have wounded the ABC, it is no secret to those of us who have worked there that the organisation suffers from long term problems that have hampered its ability to live up to its potential, to reflect a changing and diverse society and to win the hearts and minds of new generations. I write as a former member of the ABC Advisory Council and an ABC TV program-maker of nine years who agitated through my union for change within the ABC culture. The problem is a hierarchical industrial age management structure that closes the ABC off to cultural change in the broader community and even among its own workers. Sundry managers exert too much control over content, wasting scarce resources and stymieing creativity. The ABC chain of command defies corporate gravity - obtusely vertical and hierarchical after a decade of information industries moving to flatter management. Meanwhile a paternalist public broadcasting culture blinds gatekeepers to audience diversity and to new grass roots cultural energy.
The effects are worst in TV, reflected in choice of programs commissioned, and the middle brow and monocultural standards to which they aspire. ABC Television's failure to win significant youth audiences, now extending into adults up to 40 threatens the ABC's long term viability. For people under 40 the electronic media are absolutely central to the formation of a sense of belonging to a national culture at all. ABC TV's inability to engage younger citizens threatens our sense of national cohesion.
The ABC's problems are bigger than the Coalition and Shier and will outlast them unless Labor, perhaps in cooperation with the Democrats and Greens act with vision. It is important that Labor, and the broader left, is not just reactive to assaults from the right but run with a positive agenda attuned to our changing society. Labor governments traditionally put great faith in the institutions of the state, but they could do with a bit of scepticism about Qangos like the ABC. All institutions need constant inspection to determine if they are still fulfilling their purpose. The ALP, because it cares about public institutions, should be interested in how they can better achieve social democratic goals. Imaginative reform of public institutions like the ABC is the radical alternative to the crude dualism of market forces or a sentimental clinging to the status quo. Labor must ask two questions: is the ABC as an institution fulfilling its charter; and, if we are serious about being a knowledge nation, what might be a better paradigm for public media in the future?
From Industrial to Information Age Institutions
Any reform of the ABC by a social democratic government should adhere to the principles of democracy, diversity, creativity, accountability and efficiency. In the past, Labor's instincts have been authoritarian, many of the ABCs structural problems stemming from the cult of managerialism that gripped many public institutions under the Hawke and Keating governments, only to be exacerbated under the Coalition. This is a kind of internal privatisation that combines internalised market forces and costs savings with a top down re-structure that gives all power to bureaucrats and accountants. Rather than producing lean, mean machines responsive to consumers, the result has been intensification of the old-fashioned civil service hierarchy under the new corporatism, but with the quality of service and public accountability often reduced. ABC radio, while not immune to managerialism, was exempt from the worst excesses because of the hands-on and immediate nature of its medium. But in television the combination of an old- style public service nomenclature with managerialism's elevation of the accountants produced an infertile hybrid not unlike the Soviet Union in its dying days.
The managerialism that infests the ABC must now be undone and a greater degree of trust and power be extended to both content producers and audiences. Having so dramatically committing itself to shepherding Australia into the new information economy Labor must jettison its own attachment to industrial age models.The challenge is rethinking the public sector from the midst of the information revolution. Industrial age corporations entering a new century have to change the top down way they have traditionally controlled their assets.This is the creative policy detail so far missing from Knowledge Nation.
Summary of measures
Overall Labor should consider a fully public inquiry along the lines of the Dix Inquiry that set up the current corporation in the early 1980s. Is a Board selected behind closed doors the best or only way to involve citizen's in the National broadcaster's decision making process? Why should either the government of the day, or a managing director and an appointed board be able so wilfully to toy with a basic public asset? Surely this is a matter for Parliament or a proper public inquiry where the ABC's stake holders - the public - can debate the issues?
I don't claim to have all the answers but a program for structural and operational reform might include:
The most important change is to ensure that the ABC is not simply a plaything of the government of the day and that the Managing Director operates as a democratic public servant and not an autocrat. This requires a change in the appointment of the Board and in the powers of the managing director.
* the Board should be chosen by two-thirds vote of parliament to break the political cronyism that currently infests appointments.
Board members should be assessed on their media experience and commitment to the principle of public media. Given the current Senate Inquiry into the selection of the ABC Board, the Labor Opposition's position on this matter will soon be explicit.
* the powers and profile of the ABC National Advisory Council should be increased.
This is the place for community representatives without media experience who represent the audience. Accordingly the Council's selection process should be made transparent and egalitarian. The State Advisory Councils , abolished in the early nineties, should be re-established.
* The powers of the managing director need to be decisively curbed, and the role of editor -in-chief be delegated down.
What is the Managing Director doing pulling a Four Corers episode? Its like the ehad of Kellogs worrying about every packet of Corn Flakes. There is an extremely professional Executive Producer and a Head of News and Current Affairs and a Head of Legal to make these decisions
Despite Alan Ashbolt's description of the managing director as a king, he or she is simply administering the ABC in trust for the future. A tyranny, whether benevolent or despotic, is an inappropriate form of management for a creative cultural institution.
* flatten senior and middle management and re-invest the money saved in creative and production staff.
As a precursor to reform the new Labor government should conduct an audit of the increase in senior and middle management and the dramatic increase in SES salaries as compared with program -makers and content budgets under the Coalition's watch. SBS runs perfectly well on a small and efficient executive service and so can the ABC.
oa diminution in the control its senior and middle management exert over in-house content creation by creating autonomous program-making units.
The production of content should not be a matter for the Head of television or the SES but be up to Executive Producers and Producers who should be trusted to do their job. At their best Four Corners and Double Jay, had freedom within their budgets to do their own thing and the results were fantastic. The best content comes from creative friction between program makers and management.
Many ABC managers, famous within the organisation for frustrating programming, actually do see themselves as Hollywood execs - moguls in cardigans. The ABC spends a lot of time and money making its TV boring : chopping, changing, re-cutting and rejecting Television is not a hospital - no one will die if risks are taken. Radio is a case in point where the nature of the medium -low tech and immediate - escapes meddling and the results are good.
* a greater accountability to audiences by program-makers. Meaningful indicators are needed to measure the ABC's success with different audiences rather than executive's instincts or crude ratings designed for advertisers.
The audience should be central to what the ABC does - it isn't. There is no formal obligation on ABC management and program makers to consult the audience about the trends of its programming or to test particular program options. Taxpayers and consumers have a right to say how their cultural dollars are spent. Currently these institutions are run as if they are the property of the managers who impose their own tastes and definitions of 'quality'.
Consultation across audience demographics must be made mandatory on television program makers during the program bids process and after programs go to air. The ABC needs to understand the interests and tastes of its audiences in their diversity rather than in mass numbers. Audience testing should be a transparent process, carried out against agreed benchmarks. The audience research section of the ABC should be boosted to carry out this task.
Audience research can sharpen programming. In the late 80s I consulted widely for the ABC National Advisory Council on Attracting a Youth Audience, and the findings confounded the instincts of program makers. Youth is wrongly homogenised by boomer youth-niks, but is in fact a diverse group and more so today. Young people don't just wish to watch programs about youth -in fact, like adults they actually enjoy genres - as our friends in Hollywood well know. Young males, for example enjoy war and action , crime/thrillers, horror and sci-fi. Hence Hollywood blockbusters like Gladiator, Crouching Tiger and Tomb Raider. When did the ABC last do a horror story?
* a move by television to a narrow casting approach that perceives the audience in its diversity.
The audience should not be imagined as a mid 20th century mass market, but as a diverse group of interests, views and aesthetics. Less Howard's mythical mainstream and more a delta. The ABC remains a fairly monocultural, middle class, middle-aged Anglo-Celtic institution. This is what John Howard meant when he slyly referred to the ABC as: 'Our enemies talking to our friends'. As well as contravening the ABC charter, this narrowness stultifies our public culture. The ABC needs to genuinely reflect Australia's cultural diversity - in terms of class, generations, regions, aesthetics, ideas and especially ethnicity in both programming, on air talent and recruitment.
* This necessarily entails more than one TV network and an appropriate funding increase.
There are five radio networks. ABC TV cannot serve Australia's diversity with only one TV channel. Labor is right to champion the ABC as a player in the multi-channel digital environment.
o widen the ABC's recruitmnet base through a federally funded traineeship program open to school and university leavers annually from a wide variety of back grounds.
Much ABC employment is through a contract system where diversity principles and advertising requirements are ignored in favour of a 'mates' system that limits the talent pool. A program for Indigenous trainees under David Hill provided space to a new generation of Aboriginal film makers.
* complete transparency and diversity in program outsourcing
Intersection with outside community is a good thing, but with independent film makers and storytellers and not just with the commercial sector. But outsourcing needs to be governed by legislated rules and benchmarks and be transparent to the public and parliament. It matters less where and how programs are made than that the public commissioning is spread equitably and those taking the money are accountable.
The rigidity of the in-house system has meant that working outside, as an independent, is often the only way to get together an appropriate team with different ideas. Outsourcing is usually held up as a panacea but outsourcing often delivers more of the same from the same small talent pool The broadcasting and film -making industry is very incestuous, creative, journalistic and management personnel swishing around the various quangos - ABC, SBS, FFC, Film Australia, AFC and into and out of the big commercial operations. These days the cultural energy is in the cottage industry.
* in addition to guaranteed triennial funding, special hands off Federal grants for special initiatives, such as TV Dramas about Australian history, or Online Initiatives.
Government initiatives can make a difference. With the Whitlam government's encouragement, ABC radio embarked on a radical experiment to create a contemporary music station for young people. The station was to give space to overseas, and especially Australian music not given airplay by commercial radio locked into top 40 play lists and advertising. The station sought to recognise diversity among young people, and to intersect with the independent music sector. It is now a matter of record that 2JJ was at least midwife to the vibrant Australian music scene of the 1980s and 1990s, and as 2JJJ was an agent of cultural renewal for generations of young Australians in the areas of comedy, art and politics.
... Recycling and repackaging of ABC owned content within the community, through the internet, educational institutions, ABC retail outlets and other vectors so that the ABC and taxpayers realise a true value on investment.
The ABC spends millions on programs, which then wallow in the archive rather than being re-packaged for other uses by the Australian public. Many critically acclaimed ABC-produced documentaries have never been repeated. At present the middlebrow criteria employed by ABC enterprises ensures that only the most obvious material is merchandised, while the smart content sought by the Education sector is shelved.
The new ABC Content Rights unit should implement strategies for recycling and niche- marketing intelligent ABC content (including research, interview transcripts and camera tapes) to the education sector both here and in the Asia/Pacific through internet study guides, videotapes, CDs and books. The ABC should also make its extensive back catalogue of programs available to the public on a fee to view basis through a museum of sound and image.
ostrengthening ABC Online as a legitimate network through Charter amendment and additional funding.
The public newspaper Labor has always wanted and a vital resource for a Knowledge Nation.. A Beazley Government should explore specific grants for internet projects to ensure that the public sector maintains a leading edge in the medium that may well dominate this century.
Vision for a Post-Broadcast era
Partisans from right and left are locked in an ideologically-driven struggle about old-fashioned models of mass communication, at a time when we need to be considering far-reaching reform aimed at re-invigorating the public media for changed times. Given its ambition, the Knowledge Nation taskforce is strangely silent about the challenges facing Australian media. In the case of the ABC, Labor has so far failed to articulate an alternative vision of how public media might operate for a changed Australia, in which diversity is the central fact of life.
We are entering the post-broadcast age, where broad-casting to mass audiences is being replaced by narrow-casting to niche interests. In the post-broadcast world, the coerced majorities of broadcasting fragment. The industrial model with its two standard products, 'high' versus 'low' culture, is already starting to split up. (2) What you now get is cultural multiplicity
All the evidence shows younger people are watching less and less free to air TV. What they are watching less of is mass model media, that looks to common denominators. A multiculture is not so much about ethnic difference a subcultural difference. The old 'quality' public sphere, massaged into being by the broadsheets and the ABC, does not really hold for younger people and is unlikely to a sthey enter middle age.The big problem for the ABC is less about 'youth' than how it caters for younger adults up to age 40 who are different. The 'loyal' ABC viewer is making way for the discriminating conditional viewer, who makes an individual choice from the array of media options at their disposal - the internet, books, videos, games, pay TV, radio, cinema, chat lines, magazines, and commercial TV- on the basis of personal interests and passions. Media that seek to treat the under 40s as one group, to attract them on the basis of what they are assumed to have in common, will have no audience - its about serving and providing access to the public as diverse groups. Its also about being playful with the medium of TV, in the way that SBS, 2JJJ, Foxtel and even Channel 10 are. Sadly, ABC current affairs and documentaries still believe they can use television to reveal hidden truths, whereas younger audiences see the media as part of a landscape of untruth.
The ABC is narrow in its treatment of class and ethnic difference. The ABC remains the great defender of British culture in Australia and persists in maintaining a colonial deference to the BBC as the benchmark for quality. More generally, ABC culture adheres to an old idea of Australian nationalism, where white Australians speak for the nation, and migrants and 'ethnic' Australians speak for their own groups and usually only about migrant and 'multicultural' issues.
The opposing view argues that Australia is now ethnically diverse at its core, and the idea of what is the national culture is being contested - an unfolding story that the ABC, despite the existence of SBS can no longer ignore. Likewise the ABC is good at exhibiting working class individuals and communities as subjects with problems to be diagnosed or eccentricities to be celebrated, but always they are presented as 'the other' to an assumed middle class audience.
The trouble for the Labor Party is that the ABC gives most of us what we love - sober, abstract discussion of public affairs; BBC dramatisations of classic literature; truly intellectual radio programs; and bucolic soaps that buy into our childhood memories. But it is important to think about our fellow citizens who are left cold by this model of broadcasting. Surely it's not post-modern pretentiousness to suggest that we take into account Australians with different tastes, icons, knowledge, humour and dreaming?
Kim Beazley's emphasis on the 'Knowledge Nation' makes getting public media right in our own policy a priority. While a reform agenda for the ABC may not seem like a vote winner, once we return to government the vandalism of the Howard years will make rebuilding the ABC a national priority. As we rebuild it is imperative we look forward rather than backwards.
Tony Moore is Publisher of Pluto Press
A version of this article is published in For The People, Labor Essays 2001
I am sitting on the 7th floor of the CUT building, in downtown Sao Paulo. I am being awed by numbers.
Im chatting with Sandra Rodrigues Cabral, CUT´s effervescent Director of Communications.
She tells me CUT has 3,500 unions affiliated, representing 9 million union members. She tells me these unions combined have over 1000 media officers employed, producing over 1000 different journals.
Her job is to co-ordinate this. To facilitate information flows between these journals and journalists.
I think of my friend Peter Lewis at Workers Online. I wonder what he would think of co-ordinating 1000 media officers. Would this be a vision of heaven for him, or a vision of hell?
Brazil and Australia have similar problems with media concentration. Where we have Packer and Murdoch, Brazil has just seven families that control virtually all the media, as well as much land and industry.
These seven families own many politicians, who grant them ever more electronic media concessions. They crush independent journals and progressive newspapers- the seven families forced a CUT sponsored newspaper out of the market just a few years ago.
But CUT is fighting back. Sandra outlines ambitious plans to build a daily electronic newspaper which can be accessed by affiliates and others, a sort of hyper-Workers Online. She nominates problems with affiliates feeding information quickly enough to the central body as her number one headache.
Creating an electronic forum to do this will make things easier.
CUT is also doing some interesting political work. It has placed itself in the centre of Brazilian resistence to neo-liberalism. CUT is in formal alliance with the MST (profiled last week) and a host of NGO, student, green and feminist organisations that use a muyriad of methods to defy the multinational agenda wreaking such havoc with their respective constituencies.
In 1997 CUT helped mobilise affiliates for a march by this alliance on the national capital, Brasilia, which drew 100,000 people and electrified Brazil.
CUT are also enthusiastic contributers to the World Social Forum, held in February in Brazil.
CUT in Sao Paulo is 7 floors of frantic activity. Perhaps Ive been on holidays for too long, but I felt exhausted just watching the pace of work.
It was great to spend some time with overseas unionists, to hear about the differences and similarities between our fights.
CUT is bigger than anything we have in Australia, but we fight the same fight against the same elites- we have everything in common.
by The Chaser
The Premier has become frustrated by continual references to the Sydney suburb Cabramatta as "the drug capital".
"If there are going to be any capitals then they clearly have to be halfway between Sydney and Melbourne," said Bracks. "Capitals must be equally inconvenient for all people to get to."
Bracks announced a new competition for architects to design a new city.
"To keep our drug capital consistent with Canberra, we will only select entrants who use a compass to design the city," said Bracks. "We hope that if we put in enough roundabouts people may become too dizzy to use drugs."
Politicians from Canberra have pointed to huge drug problems in Canberra, and suggested that it should be a natural place to be the drug capital. Drug use advocates have objected to the capital being in close proximity to the political capital, and wish to keep the drug users away from persons of unsavoury character.
Victorian residents have reacted with shock to Brack's statement.
"I must be wrong, but this seems like Bracks' own idea and not just a continuation of Kennett's policies," said one shocked Melburnian.
South Australian Premier John Olsen also entered the debate suggesting that it should be built at a mid-point between Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. Unconfirmed reports suggest he may not have been making a joke.
At lunch in Tokyo on 6th July 1999, the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, spoke to an audience of Japanese business representatives about globalisation.
'Economies wishing to grow and provide more and better jobs and higher living standards must become more flexible and competitive globally,' he said, ruling out what he implied was the only alternative: 'We do not have the option of dropping out of the world economy.' This is Australia's official policy on globalisation in a nutshell.
'Globalisation, however,' Howard acknowledged, 'is creating deep social pain and political costs as sensitive sectors are opened up to outside competition and go through difficult adjustments.'
This is Australia's official concession to the critics of globalisation; a concession accentuated on this occasion in order to acknowledge Japan's concerns about its protected industries.
'The human costs are hurtful and governments have a responsibility to help people through the process,' allowed Howard. 'Calls for protection are understandable,' he bowed one last time, 'but they are self-defeating.' It followed, the prime minister said, as he usually does, that it is up to governments and businesses to spread this truth, and to maintain the momentum for trade liberalisation, through both the regional body, the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum, and the globe's central trade agency, the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
There is more to the Australian government's policy on globalisation than this, but not much more. The high-water mark in the Howard Coalition government's policy development in relation to globalisation was probably its 1997 White Paper on foreign trade and investment, which acknowledged the effects of new technology, the increase in global financial flows and the growth of transnational corporations.
Other more informed and variegated official analyses of globalisation have been issued from time to time by, for example, the Reserve Bank, and there are also domestic contexts within which the term has been officially invoked in ways that convey different kinds and shades of meanings. Yet none of these usages cuts across the central article of faith propagated in Tokyo. Globalisation primarily features in Australia's national policy as an expression of the classical economic theory of free markets and free trade: 'globalisation', the prime minister summarised at the World Economic Forum in Melbourne on 11 September 2000, 'is simply an extension of the tendency throughout human history towards increasing specialisation and trade.
Unlimited economic competition, Australia's official theory holds - in an undistinguished domestic and international perspective - is the most effective way of weeding out inefficiently utilised resources in firms, industries, nations and the world, no less.
Losses here will be source of gains there, which will produce a better outcome all round. A 'balance of gain' will be produced by further specialisation within the national and international divisions of labour. The responsibility of governments, as the prime minister told Japan's business leaders in 1999, is to spread this good word among citizens, to lobby regional and international authorities in support, and to help people overcome, at least to some extent, difficulties they may have adjusting. The prime minister concluded the substantial part of his 1999 Tokyo address by urging Japan 'to accept its responsibility to show leadership in progressively opening up its economy and demonstrating faith in an open world system'.
The official Australian perspective on globalisation is strikingly narrow. If we ignore the actual term 'globalisation', which is unquestionably novel, and, perhaps, leave aside the insistence that there is no other option, the prime minister could have been speaking not in Tokyo in 1999, but virtually any time since Australia was colonised in 1788, which was twelve years after the publication of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. More trade will raise living standards, claims Howard, because, as liberal economic theory explains, resources scrapped as a consequence of competition will be reallocated to other more productive activities, and this will yield a net gain in production. Only two amendments need be made to the classical doctrine to accommodate the present. Firstly, free trade has been given a powerful, new five-syllable name, and secondly, there is a notable absence of doubt, not only about the doctrine's verity but also about its progress, which is compulsory, no less. Other policy extensions and embellishments can be found in the riddled landscape of government policy documents, and we may also imply various official stances from particular policies, or the lack of them. Governments are not geometric figures. An Adam Smith-style perspective is, however, Australia's 'core' policy.
The official Australian perspective on globalisation is deeply unsatisfying. Those with only a passing interest in the public debate on 'globalisation' will know that it is a term that harbours many important issues, issues that go well beyond the limits of even the government's most expansive policy statements: from globalisation's effects on the distribution of power, wealth and risk in society through to the endangerment of the world's languages and climate. And those who have become acquainted with the burgeoning, daunting literature on the subject will know that 'globalisation' is nothing if not pregnant with important questions, demanding questions. The questions go to the usefulness of the nation-state as an instrument of economic policy to protect and improve living standards, to the future viability of national labour organisation, to the need for new public accountabilities to be placed on corporations, to the potential for different political and administrative forms of internationalism ¾ to the possibility that we are living through the construction of a qualitatively new or postmodern form of world capitalism and social life. This book brings together research, expertise and opinion on a selection of these issues.
SMITH, MYTH OR MARX?
Fleetingly consider only some of the questions that may be raised within even the narrow terms of Australia's July 1999 call for Japan to allow more international competition in the interests of an open world system. The presumption of a domestic gain to Australia from a more open Japan economy immediately begins to become problematic when we notice that six of the fifteen largest firms, which export goods from Australia, are subsidiaries of Japan-based companies. The presumption of a local advantage becomes even more uncertain when we notice that these six firms are also among the world's largest transnational corporations, with a combined annual revenue of about $740 billion, which is more than the total capital listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, and about a third more than the gross annual value of the Australian economy's entire production. Theoretically, lower Japanese tariffs may well result in a measurable net increase in global wealth, but it is impossible to guarantee a benefit for 'our' economy in this context. After the benefit is distributed, the final result may be lower living standards for Australian labour ('to become more flexible and competitive globally'), higher dividend payments for international shareholders, and an exacerbation of the 'imbalance of gain' between social classes around the world. This is an era when 'competition' is less between firms for nationally repatriated returns from a country's specific endowments, and more between denationalised firms for the highest rates of return based on corporate decisions determined in a globally organised financial, investment, production and distribution context. From this perspective, perhaps John Howard is right when he said that 'we' do not have the option of dropping out of the world economy. Perhaps 'we', in our capacities as governments or citizens of nations, have nothing at all to do with the options any longer. Perhaps our only remaining operational capacities are to labour and consume.
But this is to get ahead of this book's arguments. The point is that globalisation is a larger and more complex subject than is allowed, not only by the prime minister, but also by most contemporary Australian politicians. The dimensions of the questions that globalisation has prompted have resulted in a prodigious output of intellectual work. Even five years ago, the authors of a major book on the subject felt that they could partly excuse themselves from reviewing the literature 'because it would be a never-ending enterprise given the scale and rate of publishing on the topic'. There has been no sign of any slackening in the number of globalisation books appearing in the meantime, and several have become international bestsellers. Likewise, the term has exploded into general journalistic use. Indeed, to say today that writing on globalisation has itself become a global industry is to mouth a cliché. In contrast to the official Australian perspective, so vast and diverse are the questions raised in the literature that it is probably true to say that the only settled aspect of globalisation is the consensus that the word itself is still a new part of the language.
Recognising the newness of the word is not to say that older anticipations of globalisation cannot be found. On the contrary, as Australia's official perspective implies, one of the sources of the sense of inevitability attached to the government's view is the fact that the idea of unlimited trade can be traced so readily from at least the time of Adam Smith. Although he recognised the significance of nations in practice, Smith directed his market theories precisely against nationally sealed economic policies, which he held to be self-defeating. Liberal economic theory was built upon the idea of individual people and firms maximising their gains and minimising their losses in a market, which had no necessary territorial dimension. We may impute to Smith a smaller, more comfortable sense of economic scale than exists today by referring to his own sensibilities, his national and social context, and the nationally based illustrations he used throughout his famous book. Yet his theory could not but imply, at its limit, a world market. 'A merchant, it has been said very properly,' wrote Smith more than 200 years ago, 'is not necessarily the citizen of any particular country. More explicitly, and with the advantage of evidence from another 70 years of history, Karl Marx positively anticipated globalisation, fully expecting that the quest for constantly expanding markets would propel capitalism 'over the whole surface of the globe'. Marx's sense of the inevitability of this process was, of course, famously exceptional. 'It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere', he and Friedrich Engels wrote of capital in The Communist Manifesto in 1848. All nations will be compelled to embrace capitalism, they forecast, 'on pain of extinction'. The progress of capitalism creates, they wrote so presciently over 150 years ago, 'a world after its own image'.
Just as globalisation was anticipated in at least some theoretical senses by both Smith and Marx, so we can also readily trace anticipations in practice. In the 60 years between 1720 and around the time when The Wealth of Nations was published (and Australia was colonized), international trade more than doubled in value (as measured by the European statistics of the time). In the next 70 years, which covered the period of both the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution, and which take us up to the time when Marx and Engels wrote their famous pamphlet, the value of international trade increased threefold again. Within just 20 more years (1850-70), trade increased more than another two and a half times. This last period ¾ 'the Great Boom' ¾ laid the foundations for an increasingly interdependent world economy, and was followed by a nearly continuous, if less spectacular, period of expansion and interaction that extended through to the eve of the Great War.
During this time, almost all the globe became known to the expanding industrial powers, and the technologies that had facilitated the Great Boom ¾ the railway, the steamship and the electric telegraph ¾ were joined by the telephone, the phonograph, the cinema, the motor vehicle and the aeroplane. These innovations continued to shrink the world's time and space, while mass migration and urban population growth allowed for the establishment of the mass consumer market for mass production and the mass media. In this view, the two world wars, and the Great Depression that fell between them, can be retrospectively reduced to temporary setbacks in the march of progress. Industrial economic development was marked from the beginning by fluctuations, recessions, depressions and upheavals, and the scale of the catastrophes between 1914 and 1945 was so unprecedented that world economic interaction stagnated and even regressed. Nonetheless, after World War II, the increasingly dense network of global flows quickly resumed its earlier growth path.
Understandably, the readiness with which this history can be assembled as a continuous if uneven and periodically interrupted story of technological change, economic growth and interdependence, has encouraged the view that globalisation embodies little more than the continuing expansion and interlinking of the world economy ¾ the official view proffered by Australia. Against this historical background, globalisation can be interpreted as having no inherently defining characteristics at all; as being no more than a currently fashionable term for continuing quantitative change of a longstanding kind. Indeed, so compelling can this history seem that a major sub-theme, primarily concerned with limiting interpretations of globalisation, partly by making comparisons and drawing parallels with the 1870-1914 era, has emerged in the literature. The conjunction of powerful theoretical anticipations and a lengthy, readily composed, compelling historical story has also led to many of the contemporary debates about globalisation becoming confused by the term itself. Ironically, it is now just as easy to find liberal and social democrats who are prepared to call globalisation a myth, as it is to read of Wall Street bankers declaring that Marx was correct. John Howard will never declare himself to be a Marist, but the penchant for vulgar economic determinism is now a pronounced characteristic of the political right.
What, then, is globalisation, and what, if anything, should or can we do about it? Given that the debate is not just about more international trade, what does differentiate the present era from the past, and what are the social, environmental, economic and political implications of those differences? In what sense, if any, can globalisation be accepted as inevitable, and what should be the role and policies of government in relation to it? What have been or will be the consequences of globalisation for Australia, both as an empirically identifiable territory and as a coherent and effective nation-state? What are globalisation's Australian 'impacts'? This book does not pretend to supply definitive answers to these questions, but it does insist that the questions are important. In raising them, the book's aim is to help broaden the Australian public debate about globalisation.
Globalisation - Australian Impacts is publisked by UNSW Press
Broadly speaking, it is absurd to oppose globalisation. Far from being an economic policy invented 20 years ago, globalisation in fact describes a process of human interaction that has gone on for at least 5,000 years.
From the time humans first crossed continents, to the building of colonial empires, almost all recorded human history is a narrative describing globalisation. Through globalisation we have raised living standards, bridged cultural divides and taken our knowledge of ourselves and our world to new planes of understanding.
The point of protesting at meetings where the rich and powerful gather is, therefore, not to turn back the clock, but to redefine what we as a society want from this thing called globalisation.
Far from the ideals of international understanding, rather than nationalism, that gave rise to the United Nations in 1945, we are now entrenched in a system of corporate globalisation.
By this I mean the mostly unelected elite who are responsible for maintaining the conditions of the world's three billion people who live on less than $2 a day.
This elite includes the big, bad multinational. For a lucky few in the shareholder societies of the US, Australia and other OECD nations, these companies spread their ever increasing profits amongst shareholders.
These groups sit at the top of a very obvious pyramid of power in our society. The unelected elite several thousand decision-makers rank first. The benefits of their decisions flow to the shareholders - roughly 5% of the world's population. And beneath them, respectively, are the increasingly powerless citizenry of first through to third world nations.
The powerless are right on our doorstep. Look beyond Asian sweatshops, and you will see 330,000 Australians working for less than $2 an hour as fashion outworkers as evidence of this.
While it maybe easy to dismiss such statistics, it is far harder to ignore people willing to physically mobilise to protest around these issues.
What's more, protests 'against globalisation' aren't just an indulgence of middle class guilt by students with time on their hands. Increasingly, the people at s11, m1 and Genoa style protests are those who are direct victims of corporate globalisation, or ordinary people sick of being dictated to by powerful people who act like they know best.
My parents for instance, don't know how to use an automatic teller machine. It's not because they're stupid, they simply don't like the idea of being told that they must change yet another aspect of their lives because it suits someone else's bottom line. My parent's attitude probably make's their life harder, but it is their democratic and symbolic response to an ideology that doesn't make room for them and doesn't care about their ideas on how the world should work.
The genius of capitalism is that thus far it has proven democratic when under threat. It has demonstrated an ability to constantly change and re-configure to accommodate the disaffected just enough to buy their approval or silence.
Corporate globalisation is by its nature, undemocratic. It can't take into account what the little people on the ground think or want. Sometimes it can't even take into account the thoughts of world political leaders. And that will be its downfall.
It's time for democratic globalisation.
The cynics no doubt want to see protesters detailed alternatives rather than slogans, conjured from the comfort of first world lifestyles.
The simple response to this is there are no simple answers. It will be a long time before you see alternative visions for the world being served up in sound bites.
It also is unclear how these protestors, who come from diverse backgrounds, could present such a vision when they are uniformly and automatically labelled 'anti-globalisation'. And judged accordingly.
What is clear, however, is the first step to addressing the concerns of those disaffected by corporate globalisation is to recognise the problem - its lack of democracy.
Ryan Heath is the NSW President of the National Union of Students
Moss wants his Foxtel
When I hooked up to pay tv in June - after years of resisting the lure - I was behaving just like the predictable consumer I like to deny I am.
The Foxtel marketers could have checked off my age, my income, my family situation, my interests and laid short odds about closing the deal. And they would have been dead right about the final trigger that overcame my ideological resistance - the promise of saturation coverage of my favourite sport.
I did not welcome the Murdoch/Packer takeover of AFL coverage which was announced earlier this year. But that was the event that delivered me to Foxtel, even though AFL coverage will not kick off until 2002.
Now, almost three months into our contract, could I recommend Foxtel, purely for the sport? The answer depends on what you call sport.
In Britain the dominance of soccer as a national sport - across regions, cultures and ages - guaranteed Murdoch success in pay tv from the day he bought exclusive rights to the Premier League.
But Australia has no equivalent. Australian rules football is the strongest winter sport, but large and important groups of fans prefer any of three competing codes. And cricket might be our biggest summer game - despite the indifference of almost anyone who didn't grow up playing it - but no pay tv provider has been able to win consistent dominance in cricket coverage. When Australia toured India, Foxtel had the rights. The Ashes tour is on Optus.
General sport media in Australia - like Channel Nine's now defunct Wide World of Sports or the magazine Inside Sport - have limited appeal because there is a limited audience for general sport. Archetypal events like the Olympics aside, the large majority of fans are interested only in their own specific sports.
You can check out Foxtel schedules on the internet and see how much, if any, of the coverage on the two general sport channels coincides with your interests. If rugby league, motorsport, golf, boxing and wrestling excite you, then you will like the look of Foxtel in 2001. My preferences run to AFL, tennis, cricket and the odd bit of horse racing. (Though I admit an embarrassing attraction to American wrestling, when stumbled upon.)
Foxtel's current AFL coverage is pathetic. They produce just one 30 minute program per week based around team selection on Thursday nights. Chaired by the talentless Steve Quartermaine, the panel's only bright light is rising coach Brian Royal.
Next year, Foxtel will become, with free-to-air Channels Nine and Ten, the official AFL broadcaster, showing three games live per week and the rest as replays. But there's more - a dedicated Foxtel channel will show nothing but AFL 24 hours per day all year round. The announcement did not make clear whether subscribers would be forced to pay extra to watch AFL, but my bet is that is exactly the plan. And with that we can expect a big influx of talent and resources.
They'll get my money.
But here's something to keep in mind next time you see the pay tv operators lobbying for a culling of the anti-siphoning list. When pay tv wins the rights to live coverage of an event, they often won't show it live in deference to the needs of free-to-air channels, and that applies even when the free-to-air broadcaster is not providing live coverage. The worst example I've come across is Foxtel's plans for Friday night AFL coverage from 2002. Channel Nine in Sydney and Brisbane will show a delayed replay of Friday night games from 11pm or later - a classic case where pay tv could have filled the gap, as Optus has until this year. But Foxtel will not broadcast the Friday games live because this would reduce the audience for Nine's replay.
Foxtel seems to have the tennis locked up. Since June I've enjoyed the French Open and Wimbledon - and the US Open starts at the end of this month. Live coverage with few advertisements and less bullshit from the commentators make Foxtel's tennis coverage a winner.
There's plenty of boxing on Foxtel - but if you want to watch Mundine or Tzuyu, it's overpriced pay-per-view. The regular coverage provides ammunition to those who would outlaw the sport - not on the grounds of safety, but of taste. The revolting sleaze of Jeff Fenech is omnipresent. The commentators build up c-grade Australian fighters as they pummel a seemingly endless line of desperate Philippinos who you imagine would never be allowed an upset.
It might be argued that American professional wrestling is officially no longer a sport since the promoters admitted the events are 100% staged. But wrestling remains the most popular sport among young US males and it's not hard to see why. As a child I was transfixed by Australia's World Championship Wrestling and its villains Tiger Singh and Killer Kowalski and the obese Haystacks Calhoun. Racing home from playing rugby league for Marist Brothers, I spent every Saturday for years watching grudge matches where the fighters might be tied together by a nine-foot leather strap and locked in a cage until one pleaded for mercy. Foxtel's wrestling coverage comprising Smackdown, Metal and Raw is War might have bigger budgets and more glamour, but it's the same gig.
Then there's Foxtel's Sky Racing channel, which broadcasts all TAB races with a brief betting update prior to each event. That's a big plus for punters who can't or won't spend their Saturday afternoons hanging around the local TAB.
Of course, Foxtel has plenty of non-sport channels - about 30. It's true they broadcast 90% crap, but the remaining 10% still leaves you with a lot more choice than free-to-air offers. The movies are the biggest winner at our place - this Saturday we can watch uninterrupted Hitchcock's Rear Window and Family Plot, followed by Vadim's Barbarella.
Pay tv is a bit like a mobile phone. You can get by without it for years, but once you sign up you're hooked for life.
Peter Moss is a Director of Lodestar Communications
Terminating Injured Employees by Anthony Powter and Sam Kennedy
For a termination of an injured employee to be legal:
· dismissal must be for a valid reason
· the worker must be allowed to respond to any reason relating to their capacity or conduct
· the employer must follow rehabilitation policies and procedures in a fair and reasonable manner
· the worker must be given reasonable notice of dismissal
· dismissal must not be harsh, unjust or unreasonable
The article outlines the federal and NSW legislation, and outlines the case of Harvey v Blayney Abattoirs (1994), where An employee was dismissed whilst undergoing rehabilitation and was reinstated by the NSWIRC.
(CCH Australian Industrial Law Update; newsletter 7, July 2001)
Privacy Act Amendments
Ron McCallum recently highlighted the need for stricter privacy laws ans policies in the workplace, saying that Australian laws, despite recent amendments, still lag behind European standards.
Recent amendments to the federal Privacy Act, to take effect from 21 December 2001, are designed to protect personal information. This article outlines the scope of the changes.
(CCH Australian Industrial Law Update; newsletter 7, July 2001)
Casual Employees: a long-term problem for employers? by Peter Punch and Mick Shield
The Dymocks' Case in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission overturned the view that a casual employee with less than 6 months service on a "regular and systematic basis" had no right to access unfair dismissal provisions of the NSW Industrial Relations Act. The result is that the facts and circumstances of each case have to be taken into account. For example, a period of work on a casual basis for an employer that is less than 6 months may, in some industries, not be regarded as employment "on a casual basis for a short period."
A recent move by the full bench of the AIRC to refer a case about casual employment to the Federal Court to determine the validity of regulations about unfair dismissal and casuals with less than 12 months service could also improve the position of casual employees.
(CCH Recruitment and Termination Update; newsletter 28a, 2 August 2001)
Court Identifies New Transmission Argument
Justice Catherine Branson, in ruling on a transmission of business, indicated that the court could partly rely, when trying to determine whether a transmission has occurred, on the IRC's acceptance that a business was a single business for the purpose of registering an enterprise agreement.
In her ruling, Justice Branson for the first time indicated that the Court might be able to partly rely - when determining whether the "business concerned" had been transmitted - on the Commission's acceptance of the status of a business as a single business for the purposes of registering an enterprise agreement.
"In my view, the phrase 'the whole or a part of the business concerned' in par 170MB(2)is intended to refer to the whole or a part of the 'single business, or a part of single business' referred to in par 170LI(1)(b). That is, in the circumstances of this case, the 'business concerned', within the meaning of par 170MB(2)(c) of the Act is the operation of the [coal washery]".
However, she instead used the test set out in PP Consultants and found that
the part of the business operated by a contractor retained the same character as it had under the original employer and owner.
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union v Henry Walker Eltin Contracting Pty Ltd,  FCA1009 (2 August 2001)
Unemployment, Job Insecurity and Health
Three papers from a conference held last year in Newcastle on unemployment. These papers look in particular at health effects. Unemployment imposes considerable social costs on society and on individuals, many of which don't appear in standard national accounts figures.
Elizabeth Harris and Mary Morrow look at the evidence of the impact of unemployment on the health of the unemployed, their families and society and provide strong evidence for a causal link between unemployment and ill-health.
Stephen Morrell, Andrew Page and Richard Taylor examine the link between unemployment and youth suicide. Then Philip Bohle, Michael Quinlan and Claire Mayhew extend the analysis to the effects of job insecurity. This is important because the numbers of workers who hold insecure jobs far outnumber the officially unemployed.
(Economic and Labour Relations Review; no. 12, no. 1 June 2001)
No Case to Answer: Productivity Performance in the Australian Construction Industry by Phillip Toner, Roy Green, Nic Croce and Bob Mills
The CFMEU commissioned this study in response to the Productivity Commission report that claimed high levels of union membership is bad for productivity levels in the industry. The recommendations of the Commissions' report are seen as leading to an exacerbation of structural features in the industry that will further constrain productivity growth. The study finds that the Australian construction industry is within the top three OECD countries in terms of construction output per employee.
(Economic and Labour Relations Review; no. 12, no. 1 June 2001)
Trends in Income Inequality in the 1990s
National income inequality increased between 1990 and 2000. Changes were primarily due to strong growth in incomes among those at the top. Census data and tax office statistics between 1986 and 1996 shows growing regional inequality with above average growth in the incomes of individuals in the most affluent 10% of postcode areas.
In response to these and other statistics, the ACTU is seeking to move beyond the Living Wage case to assist low paid workers and argues that there is a case for tax relief for low-income families through a GST rollback and targeted income tax relief, possibly a tax credit system.
(Trends in Income Inequality in the 1990s/Ann Harding: paper presented by the Business Council of Australia 'Future Directions' Seminar, 13 August 2001. NATSEM Conference Paper no. 6, 2001. Social Action issue 218, July 2001)
Fitness for Duty - Recent Legal Developments by Jim Nolan and Kylie Nomchong
Medical examinations have long been a pre-requisite but preemptory testing for a variety of conditions throughout a workers career often without any manifest signs of unfitness are becoming a feature of many workplaces. The most controversial is random drug testing, particularly in the mining industry. Many regard this kind of testing as the precursor of genetic screening and more controversial interventions in the workplace.
(ACIRRT Working Paper no. 69; http://www.econ.usyd.edu.au/acirrt/)
For those born after 1970, Gomer Pyle was a 60 s TV icon, the homespun, all-American country boy who went to boot camp to be turned into a man. But no matter how much the Sarge bawled him out, Gomer remained Gomer, someone who believed in the virtues of goodness and niceness, even as the world threatened to blow itself to bits.
A parallel life is the only explanation of how a doofus like Larry could ever become a federal minister. Here is a bloke who honestly thinks the world is a nice place, charged with responsibility for coordinating the Howard Government's response to all the ills that befall society.
And like Gomer, when things go bad, Larry shrugs his shoulders and says 'well Golly!" He was doing it this week, when it was revealed that unemployed people - including those with physical disabilities - were being thrown of social security for minor breaches of their agreement with Centrelink.
The 'crimes' that these people committed including failure to turn up to an interview - even where they had not received their letter of notification. It had all the trappings of a harsh and punitive policy pandering the popular prejudices of 'dole bludgers' - along with finding a nice little way of cutting social security costs. It's mean, it's counter-productive and it reflects a system that has lost sight of its reason for being.
Reader Laura Macfarlane drew our attention to Larry's excrutiating performance debating Cheryl Kernot on the 7.30 Report this week over Centrelink's breaching policy. As Laura observed: Larry proved himself a master of political rhetoric when he said something along the lines of 'at least we have policies...Labor doesn't have any policies'. Brilliant".
What Anthony did was to play the politician. No crime in that. But when an issue of such substance arises its not enough to say - "well, look at what Labor did" as Larry kept trying to do. In such a situation a real politician would actually address the issue - that's what they are there for. The real test of a politician is, when the heat is on, to be able to play sincere - and fake it genuinely. Larry can't because, despite being a third generation Member of Parliament, he lacks the basic skills of a local councillor.
Seasoned Canberra observers say that Larry is constantly vying with Jacqui Kelly and Bronwyn Bishop as the most hopeless member of the Howard front bench. Whenever he approaches the dispatch box in Parliament, even his enemies cringe. The bollocking he received from the PM over his handling of the impact of the GST on caravan parks is legendary - when the pressure of the parkers got too much, Anthony unilaterally announced that it was something the government would need to address. Howard was Red Hot - he's the only one who does the back-flips around here!
And on the campaign trail the following titbits from the Richmond campaign, giving further weight to his nomination for the Shed:
* At a recent 'Friends of the ABC' rally Larry got up and spoke, and in a speech strictly limited to five minutes, spent the first four enthusing about all of the ABC radio programs and personalities that he really liked, while the crowd bayed for blood or at minimum an explanation for the outrageous funding cuts inflicted on the ABC.
* Larry has also been quoted as saying work for the dole is not a training scheme, it was never meant to be a training scheme. (Because in an electorate where there is over 18% unemployment in some areas, people on the dole are obviously just not trying hard enough and need to be punished...)
* Larry's greatest attack on ALP candidate Jenny McAllister is that she is a union organiser. That is all he ever says in the media. This is despite the fact that he has recently advocated a dairy farmer's union. Shit sheets are constantly circling the electorate about Jenny's union communism.
But the final word on Larry must go to the SMH's cranky old Alan Ramsay, who this week gave Anthony such a touch up, that he made the Tool Shed feel like an amateur sledger.
"Larry Jnr has as much feel for politics as a cat. To watch him on 7.30 report ... was to see a minister utterly out of his depth. He simply has no business being in politics, let alone Howard's ministry - or anybody's else.
"Nor would he be if his family name was anything but Anthony. To see him floundering, with his clichés and his political slogans, in a portfolio s sensitive as Community Service was to see a travesty of government every bit as profound as Bronwyn Bishop and that ghastly smile trying to rationalise the disgrace of her aged care regime."
And so it went. As Gomer himself would have said "well Golly!"
© 1999-2000 Labor Council of NSW
LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSWURL: http://workers.labor.net.au/107/print_index.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005