Workers Online
Workers Online
Workers Online
  Issue No 122 Official Organ of LaborNet 07 December 2001  




.  LaborNET

.  Ask Neale

.  Tool of the Week

*  Interview: Reality Bytes
Labor's IT spokeswoman Kate Lundy on how a third Howard Government will hurt the IT industry.
*  Unions: My Way or the Highway
Since 1997, workers employed by Serco/Great Southern Railways, have been locked in a struggle with their employer to have their choice of industrial instrument recognised.
*  Legal: Three Degrees of Contract
Marian Baird argues there is a need to more fully understand what workers, employers and our society expect from the employment relationship.
*  International: Bogota Terror
The assassination of a Colombian unionist has prompted international outrage.
*  History: Freedom or 'Federation'?
Mark Hearn and Greg Patmore argue that the journey to federation was not a one-way street.
*  Health: Wearing the Right Genes to Work?
Matt Brooks tracks the DNA trail to discover genetic testing in the workplace is already here.
*  Satire: Demidenko Releases New Book About Her Life As Afghan Refugee
Controversial author Helen Demidenko has written a brand new novel based on her gripping true life experiences as an Afghan refugee.
*  Review: Can Blinky Bill Save Unions?
Neale Towart browses the kiddies' shelves to find an Australian icon with a union-friendly message.

Union Activist Blinky Bill

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Contracts do their Work

Unions Raise Labor Stakes
The Australian Labor Party (ALP) should reform its own internal structures and look at the quality of political candidates before making any moves to dilute trade union influence in the Party, the NSW union movement has warned.
[ Full Story » ]

Standards Breakthrough in Call Centres
Workers in Queensland call centres are celebrating the Beattie Labor Government's decision to endorse the industry Code of Practice.
[ Full Story » ]

Hotel Cleaners Told: Bring Your Own Mops
When a Sydney company won a tender at the Blacktown Travelodge to run a contracted-out operation to clean guests’ rooms it took more than ten months before the workers were supplied with mops.
[ Full Story » ]

Corporate Giant Sponsored IT to India Report
A contentious federal government report calling on Australia firms to export their IT jobs to India was sponsored by multinational giant BHP-Biliton sponsored.
[ Full Story » ]

New Front in Battle for Compo Rights
The NSW Labor Council is planning to run a test case in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to increase the level of workers compensation benefits through the award system.
[ Full Story » ]

Progress in Email Privacy Push
The union push for email privacy in the workplace has received a boost with the release of a long-awaited law reform Commission Report into surveillance.
[ Full Story » ]

Christmas Progress on Sweatshops, Truckies
The Carr Government has made progress on two key areas of union concern with ground-breaking legislation on outworkers and the release of a report into the dangers of long-distance truck driving.
[ Full Story » ]

BHP Steel Workers Fight for Security
About 6000 Australian Workers' Union (AWU) members at BHP Steel will walk off the job this week for 24 hours after a breakdown in enterprise bargaining talks.
[ Full Story » ]

Union Concerned At New ASIO Powers
The head of a major union this week expressed concern today at proposals by the Federal Government to radically increase ASIO powers to seize assets and records of Australian organizations in the wake of September 11.
[ Full Story » ]

Workers Call for Patrons Before Pokies
The LHMU Hotel Union has called for pokie venues to put more back into communities before more gaming machines are introduced.
[ Full Story » ]

Overtime Deal Helps Rural Hospitals
In a significant breakthrough for many rural hospitals, the NSW Health Minister, Craig Knowles, has agreed to a New South Wales Nurses Association request that overtime be paid to nurse managers in short-staffed small hospitals.
[ Full Story » ]

Writers in New Chapter for Unionism
The Australian Writers Guild (AWG) has become the newest affiliate to the trade union movement, officially joining both the ACTU and the NSW Labor Council.
[ Full Story » ]

CFMEU Backs Standards Inquiry
Australia's main Construction Union is supporting calls for a parliamentary inquiry into building standards in NSW.
[ Full Story » ]

Mining Company Moves To Ban Fiji Film
An Australian mining company has successfully blocked the screening of a film in Fiji – critical of its operations and funded by the NSW Labor Council.
[ Full Story » ]

Unions Choir Sings Up Storm
Music can inspire people to look at the bigger picture and of the various problems we face, and through music we can contribute positively and joyfully to peace and change,' says The Sydney Trade Union Choir's new conductor Rita.
[ Full Story » ]

2002: Where to Now?
Next week's issue of Workers Online will be the last of the year and we want you to be part of it.
[ Full Story » ]

Activists Notebook
All the latest details on actions, workshops and conferences for anyone interested in labour politics.
[ Full Story » ]

Letters to the Editor
  • Apology to Tim Harcourt

  • Tom is Gobsmacked

  • Who was Gordon Freeth?

  • More Compo Feedback

  • Trains of Treasure

  • The Great Tuckpointer Debate Revived

  • Editorial

    The Real Debate

    The current debate about union influence in the ALP goes a long way beyond the simple formula for voting at Party conferences.

    While the 60-40 rule has become the flashpoint, Labor faces a more fundamental crisis of philosophy that is challenging its egalitarian heritage.

    At the heart of this debate is the new political orthodoxy - that we have become a society of 'aspirational' voters.

    Now if 'aspirational' means that people merely want a better life, then you'd have to ask what all the fuss is about. Unions have been the vehicle for workers who aspire for greater security for 100 years.

    But I suspect there's more loaded into the term than this. The 'aspirationalist' that I think the strategists are talking about is someone who aspires to claw their way to the top of the heap; more interested in attaining wealth than sharing it around.

    They make their political choices on the basis of what's in it for them - and fail to recognize themselves in a broader social context. In short we are talking about greed.

    In this prism, Labor's on a hiding to nothing - the aspirationalist is looking to get ahead, so it's the Liberals credo of individualism that will naturally prevail.

    They live in a society where they see the gap between rich and poor increasing and the political parties polarised into a debate about how to increase the wealth (the Liberals' traditional stomping ground) or how to relieve the worst of the poverty (Labor's patch).

    Labor is left with two choices - to become closer and closer to the conservatives (as has occurred over the past decade) or to begin to formulate a response to the changed environment consistent with our core collectivist values.

    By opting for the former, Labor must turn its back on its history - cut union influence and remake itself as an American-style small-L liberal, free enterprise party: laissez-faire with a bleeding heart.

    But reconnecting with its collectivist roots, as embodied in the union movement, may be a better way forward for Labor.

    This reorientation would spark a more profound debate about distributing our collective wealth and developing strategies to increase the pie but also share it, rather than allowing the current Darwinian struggle to prevail.

    Working together we could search for new ways to spread prosperity to create a base level of prosperity, a Living Wage, the promise of a family life without needing to work 50 hour weeks just to survive.

    Smart people have always recognized this - smart people across the workforce realized their best way of surviving in a harsh land was to pool their resources. That's why they formed the union movement.

    Unions today are a threat to New Labor because they represent the counter-argument to the political quick fix. They seek power, not for power's sake, but to be exercised for a collective good.

    Ben Chifley nailed it many years ago when he said the ALP "must fight for what it believes is right, whether it brings electoral success or not".

    As the bruhaha over 60-40 plays itself out, let's not get caught in the fine print. The real debate is over whether we are sucked into buying the 'aspirationalist' line and the degree to which we are prepared to junk our ideals to win their fleeting, fickle allegiance.

    Peter Lewis

    PS No Workers Online next week, but sit tight for a bumper Christmas edition on December 21.


    Soapbox Lockerroom From Trades Hall Toolshed
    Soapbox lockerroom trades hall Toolshed
    Whither the ALP? The Gods Are Angry Paul Howes' Week on the Web Downer's Sticky Wicket



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