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  Issue No 11 Official Organ of LaborNet 30 April 1999  




Labour Review

What's New at the Information Centre

View the latest issue of Labour Review, Labor Council's fortnightly newsletter for unions.


21 APRIL 1999

  • Australia's Young Adults
  • Individual Bargaining: research sheds light on workers' attitudes
  • With the Community Behind us, we can't lose
  • Wage Dispersion
  • A Bit of Restraint Required
  • Work, Time, Pay and Gender: a European Union study

Australia's Young Adults

The Dusseldorp Skills Forum has recently released its report on Australia's youth, with alarming findings about the increasing inequalities in Australian society, particularly around opportunities in the workforce.

The rapid changes in recent years in the nature of work has particularly hit young workers, with 300,000 young adults continually disadvantaged in the labour market. This has manifested itself in the following ways:

  • A drop in real earnings of 20% since 1976
  • More casual work
  • More part time and temporary work
  • An increase in low skilled job offers

The research also shows that the harshness of the labour market has a larger impact on 20-24 year olds than teenagers.

The report follows up the Forum's report of 12 months ago, Reality and Risk. The reports present a uniquely informed and challenging portrait of Australia's young people.

The reports conclusions point to the need for comprehensive strategies of assistance and support for young Australians to be developed by governments, local communities and employers, together with young people themselves. The need is for a social partnership, encompassing these groups and thus looking at social, economic and labour market policies together, avoiding compartmentalisation.

(Australia's Young Adults: the Deepening Divide: a national perspective on developments that have affected young adults during the 1990s/ Dusseldorp Skills Forum, 1999)

Individual Bargaining: research sheds light on workers' attitudes

Even Mark Textor couldn't hide the fact high levels of support for the role of trade unions in Australia, particularly amongst young people. The research was commissioned by Peter Reith and presented to a meeting of the state and federal Labour Ministers Council. They surveyed 100 people, 33% of whom were union members. Details of what Textor claims the survey revealed are discussed in this article.

Textor's report says that opposition to individualised bargaining is based on employees feeling of inadequacy in communications skills and thus the feeling that they will be taken advantage of. Self esteem is claimed to be the major determinant.

Other parts of his research indicate how unions do play a role in this process. The responses to questions about feelings on unions gave answers indicating that unions enhance self esteem and the quality of work life considerably, are an important source of information and help workers feel a sense of personal security because "they are not alone". 93% of young people (16-34 in this survey) and 78% of older people held positive perceptions about unions. (Workplace Change; February 1999)

With the Community Behind us, we can't lose

Laureen Lazarovici looks at example of union and community coalitions in various US cities where thet are showing that good jobs (well paid and secure) can make strong communities. This part of the AFL-CIO Union Cities programme, which was launched in 1996 through more than 130 central labor councils. The programme provides a strategic framework to help union and community groups come together. It does not just work through peak bodies, but with local church groups and union locals in various industries (hotels, catering, food processing).

One good example was in Morganton, North Carolina, where parishioners of the St Charles Church collected food for striking workers from the poultry processing plant, many of them Guatemalan immigrants who had voted to join the Laborers Union. The church has become the unofficial headquarters of the workers and the church people and workers have carried out repairs to the church. The union has sponsored a soccer tournament, second language classes for both English and Spanish only speakers, and a citizenship workshop.

(America@work; vol. 4, no. 4, April 1999)

Wage Dispersion

In our last issue we highlighted the trend to increased earnings inequality overr the past quarter of a century in Australia. The trend is exemplified in the data collected by ACIRRT on wage trends in enterprise agreements which shows average annual wage outcomes varying between 24% increases and 0.7% increases. The data they have analysed on workplace agreements (AWAs) backs up this view, generally showing a low number of agreements (25%) which provide for any wage increases during the life of the AWA. (ADAM Report; no. 20, March 1999)

A Bit of Restraint Required

Employees are often required to sign restraint of trade clauses which require them to give an undertaking not to compete with the employer when they leave their position. The legality of such clauses depends on the facts. The NSW Court of Appeal finding in Barrett &Ors v Ecco Personnel Pty Ltd (NSW Court of Appeal No CA 40586/96, EQ 2628/96, 24 November 1998) found that former employees had breached such clauses, even though they had merely responded to an approach by a client of their former employer, rather than initiating the contact.

The client had become dissatisfied with Ecco (a blue collar labour hire firm) and had approached Barrett to take over the business. The case turned on the meaning of the word "solicit". It was not a defence that the former client had made the first approach. The issue was whether the person entices away his or her former employers clients, regardless of who makes the initial approach.

(Employment Law Update; newsletter no 144, 15 April 1999)

Work, Time, Pay and Gender: a European Union study

Job flexibility has been put forward as one of the cures for employment and economic ills and as one way of approaching equal opportunity for men and women in working and private life.

A study in EU Member States shows women over represented amongst the flexibly employed, accounting for 83% of all part time workers, 70% of family workers and 50% of temporary workers. Flexible working time was essentially a response to the drive for long term competitiveness and market efficiency, rather than an attempt to address the needs of working families.

Other studies discussed in this article:

  • that women's share of paid and unpaid work is generally mush higher than men's.
  • women's time is much more structured than men's, both at work and at home, and this has consequences for the question of reducing working time, a big theme in Europe and Australia.

(Equal Opportunities Magazine; no. 7, March 1999)


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 11 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: The Young Republican
Jason Yat-Sen Li stole the show at the Constitutional Convention with his community consultation compromise. Now he faces a bigger challenge, convincing Australia to vote Yes.
*  Unions: ACTU Moves on the Republic
The ACTU Executive has endrosed the Australian Republic -- but it's given Howard's Preamble the short shrift it deserves.
*  History: And A Hundred Years Ago
Just as it was a hundred years ago, it is important that trade unions and their members are actively involved in the current republic debate.
*  Reader's Forum: John Passant
A Workers Online reader explains why he'll be voting "no".
*  Review: Mountain Men and Women Framed
Working Lives, a history of working people from the Blue Mountains, looks back to illuminate future challenges.
*  Labour Review: What's New at the Information Centre
View the latest issue of Labour Review, Labor Council's fortnightly newsletter for unions.
*  International: Performers on the World Stage
Australian performers know better than most the importance of identity, self and place. That's why they are committed Republicans.

»  Unions Challenge: Reclaim the Republic
»  Freeloader Legislation on the Agenda
»  Unions� New Years Eve Plea
»  Skill Shortage Leads to Tiling Crisis
»  Apprentice Chefs Get Fairer Share of the Pie
»  Rail Workers Strike for Passenger Safety
»  Living Wage Sparks New Activity
»  ACTU Endorses East Timor Action
»  WorkCover Troubles Can�t Hit Injured Workers
»  NSW Young Labor Turns 50!

»  Guest Report
»  Sport
»  Trades Hall
»  Piers Watch

Letters to the editor
»  Computer Decision Can;t Be Taken Lightly
»  Unionists Return From Timor
»  Latham Misses the Marx
»  Help Another Student

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