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  Issue No 110 Official Organ of LaborNet 07 September 2001  

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Workplace

Coming to Australia


Jagath Banderra recounts his own experience as a new arrival in Australia entering the workforce.

 
 

Jagath in Jakarta

When I arrived in Australia 1990, I didn't have any clue what was happening, in terms of political activism. Not long after, I began to work in the Building Services Industry as a cleaner. As a cleaner, my fellow workers and I had many problems and no one to approach for support. As with many people from non-English speaking background in this type of situation, we would have joined a Union if someone had simply spoken with us and asked.

The time went fast and I managed to get myself a job in a hotel in Parramatta and confronted many workplace issues on my own. After a while, I began to develop an understanding of the issues and political climate of Australia. It took me at least 2 to 3 years to develop the knowledge and an understanding of the Australian political system. I had also heard about bodies such as the ACTU and the Labour Council but I had not seen any sign of unions or of union officials recruiting people in the Parramatta area.

Working in a major hotel

When I started working at Sheraton on the Park in 1994 (then Park Lane Hotel) there wasn't a single union member there even though we had a workforce of about 400 employees. I stated to think why are the unions not here? But we began to act collectively when we had problems. We would talk to each other in an open manner, but still we couldn't found solutions to our problems because at the end of any action we took, we had to confront the Human Resource directors who had the final say.

A lot of NESB workers were isolated in our workplace and we could not find the support we needed. I began to search for help. The LHMU organisers from Haymarket office visited us in 1994- 95 which I was delighted with.

Building up the relationship with the Union

We began to understand what the role of the organiser was and they also stated to be friendly with us and develop a network. My work colleagues and I started to trust the union officials and we would discuss our issues. It was an open and genuine friendship that built up between us. Various NESB workers stated to join the LHMU as we felt the Union would fight for us.

If we are looking to make our unions successful, we need to understand the workers and their work or ethnic culture. To win them over you need to be one of them and be able to understand the issues from their perspective. I am a very strong believer in this approach. It took around 4 years for me to signup to the Union simply because I couldn't understand the Australian System. Also, many workers amongst the migrant community come from different cultures and have different cultures beliefs that impact on the way they view unions. If unions are not willing to try to learn about these cultures and understand them, then we will never win these people over to the union movement.

Amongst these NESB workers there are many whom have been involved in political struggles back in their countries. These members, their enthusiasm and activism can bring better working conditions for the working class of this country and assist unions in their work with different cultural groups.

Cultural Festivals - Key to Success

When I began to work with the LHMU we took part in some cultural events and represented the Union on those occasions. In my opinion, it is these types of activities that help to build the profile and recognition of union amongst theses communities in the long run.

It is good to see the Labor Council starting to develop some resources targeting ethnic communities. They need to be congratulated but still we have a long way to go to ensure that there are results for unions, union members and ethnic communities. These activities need to become regular events that are on going rather than one off events.

Jagath is an Organiser with the Liquor Hospitality & Miscellaneous Workers Union (NSW)


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*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 110 contents

In this issue
Features
*  Interview: Cast Adrift
Ethnic Communities Council chair Salvatore Scevola gives his take on the Tampa saga and the underlying attitudes driving the debate.
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*  Workplace: Coming to Australia
Jagath Banderra recounts his own experience as a new arrival in Australia entering the workforce.
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*  Human Rights: Long Road to Nowhere
Iraqi refugees travel the same tortuous road as Afghans. The refugees on the Tampa have almost certainly endured a similar ordeal.
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*  Immigration: Experience Required
Veronica Apap looks at the many difficulties migrants face in having their skills recognised in Australia.
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*  International: Why Economic Rationalism Isn't
The CFMEUs Phil Davey surveys the wreckage after 10 years of Brazil's Government doing what the free marketeers want.
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*  History: Johnny's Naruan Wet Dream
Rowan Cahill looks at how Australia's preferred refugee dumping ground's history is indelibly linked with our own.
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*  Unions: Getting the Message Out
Caroline Alcorso argues the integration of immigrant workers into the trade union movement has been a central issue in Australia’s post-war labor history.
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*  Work/Time/Life: Driven To The Edge
In the ACTU’S groundbreaking Fifty Families report there is one particularly sobering story. Frank tells how the modern workplace is driving some people to the fatal edge.
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*  Review: Whose Party?
NSW Labor’s century of successes began in 1910, as did the “middle classing” of Labor policy.
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*  Satire: Ethnic Wog Gangs Rape Everyone
People who are white in colour are being raped by people who are not white, an exclusive Chaser investigation found last week.
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News
»  Unions Rescue Afghan Worker
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»  Revealed: Migrants Face Hidden Unions Barriers
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»  FOI Seeks Royal Commission Papers
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»  Long Hours Corrode Family Life Says Study
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»  Medibank Workers 'Feel Bitter Now'
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»  Chronic Stress in Child Care
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»  It's a Steal! Workers Underpaid Since 1991
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»  WorkCover: Bell Rings for Round Two
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»  Transfield Fire Sale Threatens Entitlements
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»  Foot-And-Mouth Heroes Face The Boot
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»  Superannuation Warning to Labor
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»  Bully Casino Locks Out Workers
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»  Bra Wars: US Giant Quit Burma
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»  Sydney's Salsa for Saharawis
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»  Labor Council Revamps Online
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»  Get Ready to Wobble
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»  Activists' Notebook
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Columns
»  The Soapbox
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»  The Locker Room
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»  Trades Hall
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»  Tool Shed
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Letters to the editor
»  Tampa Feedback
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»  Battling the Bullies
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»  Searching for John McNeill, Labor MP
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»  Tom Seeks Family Leave
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»  Spell Check
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»  Injured and Ripped Off
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