Anger and dismay at the public attacks on union involvement in the ALP by a string of Federal frontbenchers boiled over at a firey final meeting of the NSW Labor Council for 2001.
New Opposition leader Simon Crean was put on notice that his handling of the union issue was a litmus test of his leadership and frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon was roundly condemned for an article published in Tuesday's Newcastle Herald.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson said that there was no evidence that the union influence had contributed to the federal election loss in any way.
On the contrary, union support in local campaigns, letter-boxing and fundraising had been instrumental in minimizing the loss of seats.
Robertson said any serious election post mortem would look at the ALP's own internal structures, including:
- compulsory campaign training for all branch officials
- fundraising benchmarks for all branches
- preselection rules to get decent candidates into Parliament
- limited tenure for MPs
- binding MPs to party policy.
"The reality is that the Party should be listening more to us not less to us," he said
Crean on Notice
Transport Workers Union (TWU) State Secretary Mr Tony Sheldon said Simon Crean's leadership days would be numbered if he did not bring his Caucus under control.
"There has not been a policy statement or a single criticism of the Federal government since the election, all we have heard is criticism of the people at the heart of the union movement," Mr Sheldon said.
The Maritime Union of Australia's (MUA) Mr Bob Coombs said the real issue for the Party was not union involvement but the control of the factions. He said the increasing cooperation across the union movement was obviously causing concerns to those in control.
Coombs successfully moved for a forum of affiliated union to meet to discuss the relationship with the Party early in the New Year.
Flak for Fitzgibbon
But the greatest anger was directed at Shadow Resources Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, who was attacked by Australian Workers Union (AWU) Secretary Mr Russ Collision for criticising the requirement that Labor Party members be union members.
Fitzgibbon used the example of his wife, a beautician, who he said would be forced to pay hundreds of dollars to join a union which could of no assistance to her.
Coillison pointed out that the AWU covered beauticians and had taken a leading role in campaigning on safety - particularly skin injuries from exposure to chemicals.
Describing the comments as "somewhat naïve" - he warned that "if they don't like our Party they should go and form their own".
The agreement means that all government call centers and contractors doing work for the Queensland Government will have to comply with the Code. Queensland joins Western Australia and Tasmania in agreeing to the Code.
The Code sets out minimum standards in occupational health and safety, industrial relations and promotes the need for a consultative culture in call centres.
It is based mainly on the Call Central Minimum Standards Code for Call Centres developed earlier this year by the ACTU call centre unions and has been adapted to Queensland standards.
Queensland Trades and Labor Council secretary Grace Grace says the Code will also be used as a blueprint for private sector workplaces.
"The role of unions and delegates has been formally recognised and collective agreements are encouraged," Grace says.
She says call centre unions which include the ASU - Clerical, CPSU, QPSU, CEPU, FSU, MEAA and the NUW will continue to work in the new year to ensure the code is adopted throughout Queensland.
ACTU Calls for Action in NSW, Victoria
Meanwhile, the ACTU has called on the Victorian and NSW Governments to follow the lead of other states in raising call centre standards.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow says state governments are leading the way in raising standards in a new industry that employs thousands of young Australians.
"State Governments spend $6 billion a year on industry subsidies and a lot of that is going to call centres", said Burrow says.
"Taxpayers deserve to know their money is being invested in call centres that care about quality service and quality jobs.
"We need to be diligent in setting standards for the future. We hope that focusing on 'lighthouse' call centres will encourage the rogues in the industry to lift their game.
"The Victorian and NSW Governments have said they support the code in principle. Now that Queensland has signed, the race is on to see which state Labor Government will be the last to act on behalf of call centre workers."
by Andrew Casey
" We were cleaning floors with our feet, wiping rags over the floors. Our feet are not made for working like mops," Nicole Scott, this morning, warned more than 30 room attendants and cleaners on strike at the North Sydney Harbour View Hotel.
Hotel room attendants at the North Sydney Harbour View Hotel, held their second consecutive day stoppage today and were warned at the noisy rally of the consequences of having their jobs contracted out.
The hotel has indicated it is negotiating with Australasian Housekeeping Systems (AHS) to run a cleaning contract, and take off their hands their directly employed workforce.
Nicole Scott, who is currently taking legal action against AHS alleging permanent damage to her knees and feet arising from her work, left the job on workers comp and had to have a number of operations.
" I will go anywhere, talk to any workers, to warn them about AHS. They wouldn't pay overtime; and asked us to work the extra hours for zip. They were tardy in providing the right equipment. It was hell," Nicole told the workers.
" As a result of my injuries I have suffered pain, lost money and lost precious time with my young family because I am unable to get down and play with my children." After leaving AHS Nicole tried other cleaning jobs at schools but found she had to quit because of her injuries.
North Sydney Harbour View hotel strike
The workers at the North Sydney Harbour View Hotel are angry at the Hotel's plan to outsource all 26 housekeeping jobs. If the company does not back down from its plans the LHMU members are threatening to increase their industrial action next week.
The North Sydney Harbour View Hotel ( formerly Centra) is an 3.5 star boutique style hotel, with spectacular views over Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, servicing the business community of the North Sydney CBD.
The Harbour View Hotel workers were bouyed by the win earlier this week at The Crest Hotel, in Kings Cross.
The Crest Hotel management abandoned the tender after LHMU Hotel Union members mounted pickets and protests at their Darlinghurst Rd establishment. Click here to read about the Hotel Union's win at the Crest Hotel .
Gilberto Rodas, the LHMU delegate at the North Sydney Harbour View Hotel, said members were crying along with Nicole when she told of the pain of not being able to play with her children.
" Our housekeepers, who are mainly South Pacific and East Asian migrant women, are solid. They don't want to go through what Nicole has gone through," Gilberto Rodas said.
Gilberto and his work mates handed out leaflets to the guests apologising for any inconvenience during the picket.
The leaflets explained that at the moment they are expected to clean 16 rooms per day and they fear that increased injuries could result from any higher rate of room cleaning.
" We are scared of being injured, and also that your rooms will not be cleaned to the standard you are used to," Gilberto told guests.
Annie Owens, LHMU NSW Hotel Union Secretary, said the members are excited by the support they are receiving from other hotel workers - and workers in other industries.
The LHMU Hotel Union members at North Sydney were surprised by a visit to their picket of construction workers from across the road who wanted to show their solidarity.
The CFMEU and the AMWU union delegates at the 77 Pacific Highway, North Sydney construction site have resolved to fly two LHMU banners at their site until the dispute with the Harbour View Hotel is won.
" Contracting out threatens the job security not just of these hotel workers, but all workers. Your dispute is our dispute," one of the 77 Pacific Highway construction site's union delegates said.
The report, that has drawn fire from workers representatives in Australia, appears on the Department of Foreign Affairs website with a link to BHP-Biliton, credited as the corporate sponsor.
It advocates India as a labour supply for IT work - citing its English-speaking workforce and reduced labour costs as key inducements to relocate there.
It has been condemned by unions and the IT Workers Alliance, while the NSW Government has already rejected its findings.
ITWA spokesman Michael Gadiel says people who have recently lost their jobs in the tech wreck would be appalled to learn the government is encouraging firms to export their work to India.
"The driver appears to be in cutting costs for business rather than looking at the broader national interest," Gadiel says.
The Australian Services Union's Martin Foley says multinational call centres don't need any encouragement to go shopping the world for cheaper labour and reduced costs.
"What we need is a competitive edge for Australian call centres based around our people, our infrastructure and our education system. The last thing we need is our own government taking up the call to export jobs," Foley says.
"Mr Downer should immediately retract and start a campaign to bring call centres to Australia. In the post-September 11 world there exist real opportunities for a stable, well educated and booming call centre workforce like ours."
The test case would seek to increase the maximum payments for workers compensation from the current level of $250,000 to $500,000.
It would then be open to individual unions to pursue the increased benefits on an industry by industry basis.
If successful, employers would be required to take out top-up insurance to cover the extra liability above the minimum contained in the WorkCover scheme.
NSW Labor Council secretary John Robertson says he is seeking legal advice on the feasibility of the claim with a view to launching a test case early in the New Year.
"This action is a direct result of the deficiencies in the current workers compensation laws - that have stripped back the rights of all workers," Robertson says.
"We have argued all along that if the scheme is in crisis as the government suggests, then the burden should be shared equally between employers and workers.
"Given that the government has placed all the burden on workers, we believe this type of direct action though the Industrial Relations Commission is justifiable."
Details of the claim and the union campaign in defence of workers compensation entitlements were contained in full-page newspaper advertisements running across the state this week.
The Interim Report, tabled in the NSW Parliament by Attorney General Bob Debus this week, recommends that the right to email privacy at work be recognized for the first time.
The report calls for email surveillance to be included in a broader privacy regime - with codes for both overt and covert surveillance based on the successful video surveillance legislation introduced in 1998.
Debus says he'll work through the report with colleagues Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca and Police Minister Michael Costa before developing a formal government response to the report.
The NSW Labor Council has been advocating for email privacy safeguards to match the video surveillance laws for more than three years, with the new IT Workers Alliance planning to campaign around the issue over Christmas.
NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca this week introduced the Industrial Relations (Ethical Trades) Bill into State Parliament. The legislation is designed to protect outworkers from exploitation.
Key provisions of the bill include:
- the establishment of the Ethical Clothing Trades Council to oversee the treatment of outworkers and report to the Minister quarterly. It will include industry, union and community representatives.
- provision to impose a mandatory code of conduct if self-regulation fails.
- ensuring outworkers will be deemed as employees under industrial law.
- improved provisions for outworkers to pursue unpaid wages up the production chain.
- greater powers for DIR inspectors to enter sweatshops.
Textile Clothing and Footwear Union State Secretary Mr Barry Tubner says the legislation is a triumph for the FairWear alliance of union, church and community groups who have pushed for the laws for the past two and a half years.
Truckies Make Progress
Meanwhile, Professor Quinlan has delivered his inquiry into the Long Haul Trucking Industry to the NSW Government.
It was commissioned amidst union and community concern that both drivers and the public were being placed at risk by unreasonable workloads in the industry.
The Transport Workers Union (TWU) says it included many positive recommendations including:
- the enforcement of a minimum rate of pay.
- the proposal of a 'safe driving plan' for long distance assignments.
- and the prohibition on time bonuses and penalty payments based on arrival times that induce unsafe driving practices.
Among its key elements is recognition of the need for an Industry Chain of Responsibility to make companies and clients accountable for the demands and deadlines they place on transport workers.
by Andrea Carson
The AWU members voted at mass meetings across Australia to take action after the company refused to commit to security of employment principles in a new EBA.
National Secretary of the AWU, Mr Bill Shorten, said security of employment agreements were the most important provisions in past EBAs at the company's major sites during the past 20 years.
The last agreement expired late August.
"In the past we gave a commitment to lift productivity and develop a process for resolving disputes in exchange for BHP giving a commitment to maintain steelmaking in Australia and agree to no enforced retrenchments," Mr Shorten said.
"We have kept our end of the deal, but now after 20 years BHP is trying to use this agreement to break their promise of job security to employees.''
Mr Shorten said that while the steel industry worldwide faced difficult times, it was no worse than the 1980s when BHP gave its first undertaking to stamp out forced retrenchments.
About 6000 AWU BHP steel workers across all operations in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia will, at the start of their shift, stop work for 24 hours on Monday 10 December.
The action will involve about 1200 Victorian BHP steel workers at Sunshine, Western Port, Nunawading, Braeside and Geelong, and about 4000 workers at Port Kembla in New South Wales.
The AWU's Assistant National Secretary Mr Graham Roberts said workers were also upset at BHP's plans to replace its incentive scheme with an inferior model.
"It is only fair that if the company is performing well and its managers and shareholders are being rewarded, than the people who produce the steel - the workers - get fairly rewarded too,'' he said.
The union is also seeking improved wages, guarantees concerning workers' entitlements and long service leave to be available after 10 years instead of the current 15 years.
"To accept BHP's offer to date would be to deliver our members the worst pay and conditions for steel workers in Australia,'' Mr Roberts said.
He said the dispute was now national, and followed 4000 Port Kembla Steel workers in NSW downing tools for 48 hours last month in protest over the company's EBA proposals.
CFMEU national secretary John Maitland says he believes the proposal was a massive breach of civil rights and that there was great potential to misuse such laws.
The Government also proposes to legislate to give ASIO the power to detain without charge and interrogate without the presence of legal representation Australian citizens suspected of having "terrorist links".
"If laws like this were around 20 years ago the CFMEU for example could have been destroyed as an organisation and its leaders detained for financially supporting Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress, who John Howard himself used to call "terrorists"," Maitland says.
Similarly the CFMEU has a strong record of support for the Palestinian people and for the republican cause in Ireland. Both Gerry Adams and Yasser Arafat were once 'terrorists' who in fact went on to win Nobel Peace prizes and be lauded at the White House as visionary leaders of their peoples.
"The tragedy of September 11 cannot be cynically misused by reactionary politicians as a pretext for creating a police state."
A submission to the Tasmanian Legislative Council Select Committee on Impacts of Gaming Machines by the LHMU Hotel Union has questioned the need for expansion of gaming machines in hotels, Tim Ferrari, LHMU Assistant National Secretary said.
The submission advocates some radical new steps that should be taken by government and the industry before further expansions occurs. They include:
· An assessment of wishes of patrons of clubs and pubs as to whether more poker machines are desired or welcome in terms of venue amenity, facilities then available or activities foregone.
· Guarantees should be sought by government, that venues provide an enhanced range of services, facilities, amenities, non gaming activities, events, promotions or venue modifications to maintain or enhance the attractiveness of a venue for non gaming activities.
· Mandatory security requirements to protect employees from trauma, injury or death arising from the increasing attractiveness of such venues to criminals by robbery with violence.
· Hotels being required to state how gaming machine profits are to be distributed in terms of sponsorships, donations to community groups and on improved services and facilities for patrons.
· Additional contributions of poker machine profits to be made directly to the health budget for initiatives to assist people to kick the smoking habit associated with much gaming machine usage.
" On the basis of the statistics available the union is unconvinced that the introduction of gaming machines has done anything to increase employment in the industry," Tim Ferrari said.
" In the process many families and individuals have been turned off going to pubs that resemble a pokie den rather than a comfortable relaxing and friendly place to socalise."
Senior nurse managers, including directors of nursing, are normally excluded from overtime payments because their salaries are set with a view to the overall responsibilities of their job.
NSWNA General Secretary, Sandra Moait, said this traditional arrangement has caused problems in many rural hospitals where nurse managers are often called on to provide clinical care outside their normal working hours.
"Staffing levels in smaller hospitals and the demands of such things as ambulance escorts means clinical nurses are often in short supply, especially on evening and night shifts. Nurse managers often have to fill the gaps and they have not been paid for doing it. This has put a lot of pressure on these nurses and made it hard to recruit and retain senior nurses in rural areas.
"The fact senior nurses can now be paid overtime in certain circumstances is a major morale boost for these nurses and greatly assists rural hospitals. The NSWNA and its rural members are grateful to Craig Knowles and the Health Department for their ready agreement on this matter," Ms Moait said.
Under the NSWNA-State Government agreement, which has now been ratified by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission and will take effect from 1 January 2002, nurse managers can receive overtime payment if they:
· work in a small hospital that does not employ nurse managers to supervise nursing services on evenings, nights and/or weekends;
· are required to work overtime because the hospital has insufficient nursing staff; and
· are required to work overtime to personally provide hands-on clinical care of patients.
The Guild, which covers writers who work in the areas of film, TV, theatre, radio and new media, is also in the process of registering as an industrial organization under the Workplace Relations Act. It has about 3,000 members.
"The Guild is interested in building strong links with the trade union movement," AWG executive director Sue McCreadie says.
New Face at Musos' Helm
Meanwhile, Richard Ruhle has taken over from Shirley Smith as NSW secretary of the Musicians' Union of Australia.
The CFMEU will also provide information to any inquiry detailing problems received from its membership and the public about sub standard work.
CFMEU State Secretary Andrew Ferguson criticised the Government for allowing the situation to deteriorate to such an extent.
"Self regulation and privatisation is clearly not working for consumers.
Our office regularly gets complaints from a public desperate for help with serious problems. Inevitably they say that they feel they have nowhere to turn.
We are sick and tired of politicians privatising things to the detriment of the public. We support a full inquiry into all aspects of the housing industry and the clear failure of self regulation in certification"
Emperor Goldmines are trying to stop the screening of Na Ma'e Na Ma'e - We Stand Until We Die - through their lawyer Sahu Khan.
The documentary by 'Atu Emberson-Bain is scheduled to be screened as part of the CCF Human Rights Film Festival in Suva today.
It was banned from being screened on local television by the Rabuka Government in 1992.
On Wednesday afternoon, Emperor Goldmines lawyer Sahu Khan threatened Village 6 and the CCF with court action by the company if they showed the film.
This film was produced by Dale Keeling and the principal funder was the NSW Labor Council
The title - Na Ma'e Na Ma'e - is the Fijian version of the Maori haka war cry. The movie details the struggles by more than 600 goldmine workers in the early 1990s to establish a union and struggle for basic conditions and wages against Australian company Emperor Goldmines. The ensuing strike is still the longest in the Pacific.
Na Ma'e Na Ma'e was the first film produced in the Fijian language, yet despite the nationalism of the Rabuka years, was banned from screening on Fiji TV by the Rabuka Government. Ironically it details the exploitation of indigenous Fijian workers by a multinational company.
The 50 minute documentary was screened on SBS-TV in 1992 and was exhibited at a number of international film festivals in 1992/93. After it was banned in 1993 sales of the video soared.
Ten years later the issues that provoked Dr 'Atu Emberson-Bain, now a Labor senator, to make the film remain largely unresolved.
by Joel Bassant
The Trade Union Choir, which is celebrating its 10th birthday continues to break new ground with the imminent release of its first CD and its plans for next year which will build on its rich foundation under Rita's experienced guidance.
With the establishment of the Blue Mountain's Trade Union Choir and various others over the past 15 years, Rita's direction promises to maintain the sensitivity and knowledge of Trade Unionism through music, fostered in the choir and conveyed to the public by long-time choir head Tom Bridges.
'I have the belief that anyone can sing, given the right encouragement. So I take everyone in, some have experience and others not outside the bathroom. We learn together,' says Rita when discussing her welcoming method to choir participation, in her past roles and present one.
The choir members are always enthusiastic about sharing a sense of spirit and encouragement through songs of inspiration and hope from around the world, and also welcome anyone who'd like to join them.
The Trade Union Choir meets on Tuesday Nights between 6-8, on level 11 of the PSA Building
(160 Clarence St Sydney). Those who'd like to come along can call:
Cathy Bloch: 9264 9744.
Paula Bloch: 9665 0559.
Send us your predications for what will happen in 2001 in politics, the unions, sport and other fields of human endeavour.
We'll publish the best and come back in 12 months to see who's got the third eye.
See last year's predictions:
There is a a Burma fundraiser this Saturday 8th to celebrate the 10th
anniversary of Aung San Suu Kyi's Nobel Peace Prize. Funds raised will
support the campaign for political prisoners.
It's at Villawood Senior Citizens hall [near railway station], 6.30pm, $15.
Tickets at the door.
International Human Rights Day is on this Monday and refugee activists have a rally and peace festival on Sunday and a "Labor, the unions and refugees" forum on Tuesday night:
SUNDAY 9 DECEMBER : STOP THE WAR ON REFUGEES
Assemble at Hyde Park south near the war memorial at 11.30 for speakers, then march up to Hyde Park north at the fountain to join the STOP THE WAR rally at midday.
March down to Belmore Park (Eddy Avenue) for a Peace Festival from 2-6pm. Music including the Gadflys.
TUESDAY 11 DECEMBER : THE REFUGEE ACTION COALITION PRESENTS AN INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY FORUM:
LABOR, THE UNIONS AND REFUGEES - THE CHALLENGE AHEAD
There is now a real debate happening in the ALP and the unions around the
country about refugees and we hope as many people as possible will come
along and participate
187 Thomas Street, Haymarket
Tanya Plibersek, ALP member for Sydney
Amanda Perkins, NSW secretary AMWU printing division
Ghazi Noshie, Organiser AMWU
Amanda Tattersall, Rank and File Labor for Refugee Rights
Speaker from the CFMEU, NSW construction division
For more information contact Ian on 0417 275 713
Malaysia: Free Tian Chua
Labour activist Tian Chua has been jailed under Malaysia's Internal Security Act (ISA). Tian has a long history of organising workers of all races in Malaysia, was the organiser of the Labour Resource Centre in Malaysia and a main activist in the democracy movement.
Tian was jailed on 10 April 2001. He is in jail because he fights for the rights of all workers. Tian has been listed as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.
Abolish the ISA
The Malaysian Internal Security Act allows the repressive Mahathir Government to jail people for up to two years without any charges being laid and without any form of trial. After two years the government has to present a charge. The Malaysian government uses the ISA to threaten all opposition and to scare workers fighting for their rights.
Support the campaign to free Tian
Letters of support from unions, organisations and labour centres should be sent to:
Australia Asia Worker Links (AAWL)
PO Box 264 Fitzroy Victoria 3065 Australia
Tel: 61 3 9663 7277 Fax: 61 3 9662 4557
Abolish ISA Movement (AIM)
383, 1st Floor, Jalan 5/59, Ptaling Gardens, 46000 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Telephone: 60 3 7784 3525 Fax: 603 7784 3526
Tian would like to hear from you and to know that you are supporting him.
Send your letters and postcards to:
Kamunting Detention Centre
Taiping, Perak, Malaysia
For more information visit the 'Abolish the ISA Movement' website at http://www.suaram.org/isa/index.htm.
Treaties, Self-Determination and Australian Indigenous Peoples
December 17th 2001,
Education Lecture Theatre 351,
University of Sydney
Session 1: Treaty
Dr Mick Dodson
Stephen Gageler SC
Professor George Williams
Assoc. Professor Paul Patton
Session 2: Rights
Prof. Larissa Behrendt
Dr Peter Sutton
Dr Gaynor Macdonald
Dr Hannah McGlade
Dr Tim Rowse
A post-graduate workshop on the major issues of the Conference will take place on Tuesday 18th 9.30-12.30 in Education Boardroom 551 (Education Bld Manning Road). Free. Limited numbers -please register.
For further information and to register for the conference or workshop, please contact
ph: (02) 9351 2399.
This conference has been organized by
Paul Patton, Duncan Ivison, Desmond Manderson
Philosophy Research Cluster
The University of Sydney
My apologies to Tim Harcourt for inadvertently placing him on the Right (see Workers Online http://workers.labor.net.au/118/c_historicalfeature_neale.html
Poor self-editing on my part. My intention was to use his defence of positive interventionism to boost exports and the good employment approach of some exporters as a way of arguing for a comprehensive industry policy. The right see this as heresy, a position Tim does not hold.
I was absolutely gob smacked when I read the article "Union Journo on Death List" in issue 121 of workers online.
As was pointed out in this article, Australia has welcomed these Terrorists as has been verified by the recent visits of Gerry Adams, Martin McGuiness and David Ervine, two members of the IRA and one member of the UVF.
Mr Ervine a convicted terrorist was also very critical of our policies on the refugee crisis while he was here, and appeared much more compassionate to these boat people than he ever was to Roman Catholics while a member of the UVF.
As there has been a ceasefire for quite some time, and assassinations by Loyalists are almost negligible since the murder of Billy "King Rat" Wright, one must question, why on earth would someone like Paddy be on the death list of an Ulster Loyalist Organisation?
As can you can see from the photograph, even Gerry Adams, has been made an honourary member of the "Lenny Murphy Memorial Flute Band", a loyalist marching band from the Shankill Road, a loyalist enclave in Belfast.
Also , although I am aware of the association between the Sydney soccer team "Northern Spirit", and the Scottish "Glasgow Rangers ", I really am curious as to what the association between the Socceroos in Uruguay, and the Loyalist Paramilitaries is, but having said that , I think Paddy is overreacting and he should be able to sleep well at night with the knowledge that Australia is still safe from the political baggage of all terrorists no matter what their creed or colour.
I have a suspicion, that "Paddy Gorman", just might be a very common name in Ireland, and there has been wee mix up. So dinnae be an egit Paddy - and just get on with your life, defending the rights of the worker!
The review in the latest "Workers Online" of Anthony Burke's book about "Australia's security obsession" was accompanied by an odd coincidence. The review appeared only a day or so after the death of Gordon Freeth, a Liberal Party Minister of External Affairs who was monstered by the DLP in the lead up to the 1969 federal election. This was because Freeth had the temerity to downplay the alleged deadly threat posed to Australia by the presence of a few ships from the Soviet navy in the Indian Ocean.
Freeth's discomfiture was compounded when he lost his Western Australian seat in the election. He and his DLP nemesis may be gone but Australia's obsession with foreign threats remains as lively as ever.
I live in a semi-industrial street. Every day I see employers breaching basic occupational health and safety guidelines.
On my way to and from work the story is the same.
At work, (I'm employed by the NSW government in the electorate of the Minister for Public Works) there is "no money" to renovate an aging building or repair hazzards. Yesterday the cover on a large fluorescent light fell from the ceiling and shattered, narrowly missing some people standing nearby.
What is the Carr government doing to make workplaces safer? Nothing!
What is it doing to contain workers' compensation costs? Punishing the victims of employer negligence.
I have just finished examining the changes to the statutory workers compensation provisions in the new Act passed last week in relation to permanent impairment claims.
I am not a lawyer, but presently work on behalf of injured workers for a law firm, and previously worked in the coal mining industry for management in an Insurance Risk role. At that time I was a member of the Aust. Collieries Staff Assoc. I have always given strong support to injured workers.
How could the workers of NSW allowed themselves to be so thoroughly screwed by the legislative changes. Not only have Common Law rights for negligence gone out of the window, but the statutory scheme for permanent injury has been totally gutted.
As many other more eminent persons have previously addressed the common law issue, and, in reality, it applies to very few injured workers, I would like to speak to the more common issue of permanent injury (sections 66 & 67).
The amendment to s.66 contained in the Workers Compensation Legislation Further Amendment Bill 2001 takes benefits for permanent injury compensation back before s.16 of the 1926 Act.
By way of a hyperthetical example under the present legislation;
- trip-over at work, buggered-up shoulder; say 20% permanent loss of use of dominant arm. Lump sum compensation (s.66) would be $16,000, together with aditional compensation for pain & suffering, being over the present threshold, say a further $9,000 to $12,000 depending on age.
TOTAL LUMP SUM COMPENSATION $25,000 TO $28,000.
Under the new s.66 provisions now passed, a whole of body (WOB)assessment of a 20% loss of the dominant arm would probably equate to approximately 5%. But the guidelines for WOB assessments have not yet been released and I am only guided by the AMA guidelines for motor vehicle accidents in this regard.
But for a 5% WOB assessment, the benefit is:
TOTAL LUMP SUM COMPENSATION $6,250
with no ability to claim for pain & suffering, loss of amenity of life, stress etc unless the permanent impairment gets above 10% WOB.
The injured worker after 1/1/02 is, with a stroke of an executive pen, worse off by approximately $20,000 in lump sum compensation for his/her injury in this instance.
And that is without passing any comment on the quality of the Doctors who are going to be providing binding assessments under the AMS system to resolve claims of this nature. That is another story.
I have never before in my 19 years of working with injured workers, from both sides of the fence, seen such a tradgedy as this present legislation which has now been passed by Parliament.
And the new provisions in relation to commutation stink as well, but that is another story as well.
I would be pleased to speak to this topic further if requested.
The TRAINS OF TREASURE exhibition of 26 panels was developed during 1985 and concentrates the lives of railway workers and the part they played in the history the history of the railways in Australia.
Each panel is based around a poem, song or subject significant in the history of Australian Rail. The exhibition has recently been updated with an extra panel and by replacing the original cassette tapes with CDs
Trains of Treasure ONLINE
The exhibition and the songs and poems (including transcriptions) can be viewed (and listened to!) online at:
Trains of Treasure on CD
Trains of Treasure and its companion Railway Voices are now both available on CD from the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU)
The CDs offer a generous sample of the work of Brian Dunnett and Denis Kevans in unearthing a remarkable body of Australian railway song and poetry dating from Frank the Poet's Company Underground (1837) to David Peetz' Fatal Train last year.
CDs cost $25 (including post) each
83-89 Renwick St
Redfern NSW 2016
Phone: 61 2 9310 3966
Fax: 61 2 9319 2096
email: [email protected]
A Tuckpointer is more than someone that just points (grooved mortar joints) with a thin ridge of fine lime mortar or putty. The also repair/restore/replace masonry, cleans new/existing masonry, caulks everything, apply water repellants. A Tuckpointer is the reason a new brick building looks the way it does.
As for the question are there any Tuckpointers still out there? The answer is yes. Check with your local masonry institute or with you local Bricklayer union hall. Tuckpointers are the backbone of the masonry restoration industry. Not to mention the caulking. A GOOD Tuckpointer is worth his/her weight.
As for the statement of a "thin ridge of fine lime mortar or putty". If you intend to have a Tuckpointer do some repairs I recomend that you get referrals, not everbody that calls themselfs a Tuckpointer is qualified to match the mortar in color, texture or make. There are a lot of issues that factor in this equation. If you have any more question please feel free to Email me at [email protected]
Thank you for your time.
CLASS TITLE: BTS MASON/TUCKPOINTER
OCC GRP: 6.3
BASIC FUNCTION AND RESPONSIBILITY
Skilled work on a journey level in the installation, maintenance and repair of masonry structures and road surfaces. All work is subject to spot checking and inspection for conformance to specifications and accepted standards of the trade.
Construct, maintain, and repair structures using masonry materials. Plan layout, mix bonding materials, shape and lay stone, brick, tile, and other masonry material using appropriate bonding agents.
Repair and finish joints between stones or bricks of masonry structure. Plan layout, remove existing bonding materials, mix and apply fresh bonding agent.
Set forms, embed necessary reinforcing materials, pour and finish concrete and asphalt surfaces to specified textures.
Break up existing masonry structure using power and hand tools.
Install tile on floors and other areas following design specifications. Prepare surface for tiling by cleaning, filling holes with appropriate material and spreading adhesive base.
Set up and dismantle scaffolding and staging, install drain tiles, waterproofs underground masonry surfaces, applies sealants, cut openings and utility access holes in masonry surface as required.
Smooth and finish surfaces of poured concrete floors, walls, sidewalks, or curbs to specified textures, using hand tools or power tools, including floats, trowels, and screeds.
Remove rough or defective spots from concrete surfaces, using power grinder or chisel and hammer and patch holes with fresh concrete or epoxy compound.
May mix cement, using hoe or concrete-mixing face machine.
May direct subgrade work, mixing of concrete, and setting of forms.
May break up and repair old concrete surfaces, using pneumatic tools.
Finish ornamental stone facings and surfaces of concrete structural products.
Fill holes with grout or mix to repair imperfections in structural panels, floors and roof slabs, and ornamental flowerpots, using sponge, trowel, chisel, and hammer.
Mix cement, aggregate, and coloring by hand and fill mold to match specifications of product being finished, using trowel, tamper, and scraper.
Polish stone facings to lustrous finish, using polishing machine or apply acid solution to stone facing to remove excess facing mix around stones, using brush.
May perform or assist in performance of any of the following: preparation of cost estimates, preparation of material orders, maintenance of records and preparation of reports.
Observe and enforce all safety requirements related to equipment operation.
Due to necessary fluctuation of workloads in the skill area, an incumbent in this class may be required, on an occasional basis and according to need, to perform duties outside his/her trade area. Normal safety requirements, scheduling and the most efficient use of staff and equipment are taken into consideration in such assignments.
Clean, maintain, safely operate and properly store all tools and equipment.
Perform related duties as assigned
Direct supervision is received from a designated supervisor. Oral and written instructions are supplemented by plans, drawings or blueprints.
May instruct and/or guide personnel assisting in work.
A high school diploma or an equivalent combination of education and experience from which comparable knowledge and abilities can be acquired is necessary.
Four years actual work experience and training including the equivalent of apprenticeship or vocational training in the trade.
Ability to read blueprints, plans, and drawings.
Skill in maintenance and use of tools, equipment and materials of applicable trade.
A person working in this classification will need on a daily basis, to be able to:
Grasp, lift, maneuver, rotate, and otherwise use small to large trades tools and equipment.
Grasp, lift, carry, and set down heavy (50-80 lbs) objects.
Grasp, turn, twist, pull, push, lift, and otherwise move equipment, controls, parts, etc.
Visually assess maintenance, construction and repair needs.
Climb and work from ladders, stairs, and scaffolding.
A valid driver's license may be required.
Senator Kate Lundy
What will the election result mean to the IT industry?
I think there is a real turning point confronting the IT industry. For many years they have struggled under the Coalition, who have had no real insight or no understanding of the importance of us growing our own IT industry. The industry has been subjected to absolutely absurd IT outsourcing policies that have done more to undermine our local capacity and promote the interests of multinational companies.
And now we are confronting a situation where the government, reinforced by Treasury, has the view that it is just fine to be a consumer of technology and not necessary in fact to be a producer. This has a number of flow on effects.
One, looking at some of the big economic measures like the IT trade deficit, mean we are effectively overriding what we earn in exports from a whole range of traditional industries including gold and wheat and wool and so forth. We could actually be building up a sustainable sector in what is still a very important enabling industry sector. The other influence of that is our community capability to use information technology. We know we are good users but it is not being put to good use in employment terms.
And the latest business regarding the Howard Government's advocacy of outsourcing to other countries I think just reinforces the whole concept that they are happy for Australia to become a branch office of multinational companies at the expense of growing our own businesses; having the research and development here; developing an entrepreneurial culture; fostering innovation; and having some economic credibility as a country participating in a globalised economy.
They are the sort of things you would expect a Liberal government to actually support - particularly the entrepreneurial culture. What is the response from IT entrepreneurs that you speak to since November 10?
You are quite right. The mindset of entrepreneurs in IT is not exactly the antithesis of what the Liberal Party is all about, so I think from their part - those individuals - there is a lot of confusion, frustration, anger. They think the political party that should naturally represent them has just completely lost the plot in supporting the interests of the big end of town at their expense.
I think there has been a real chasm emerge between entrepreneurial thinking people and what the Liberal Party is actually saying and doing. Too slowly those individuals are actually realizing that the political party that they would assume would be their natural orientation has actually done very, very little, and has indeed worked against their interests for the last five and a half years.
How has the tech wreck changed the lay of the land over the last 12 months?
The tech wreck has done a number of things. One, it allowed all those people that had been the tech skeptics - who had all written their articles before the actual market crashed - to claim vindication of something they didn't understand in the first place. There was a lot of "I told you so's" racing around the place, with I think, very little thought into understanding what in fact the bubble consisted of.
So, from my perspective, I think there has been obviously a reality check, but also a consolidation of what technology means to society - that it certainly isn't something that is going to go away, or that is beholden to the corporate sector, or indeed the market. It is something that is as much a means to an end for many people in the social environment, in a work environment, in an education environment. And those people who have kept their eye on what technology is for, i.e. a means to an end, are setting about finding their technology solutions in ways like they did before.
What has changed is that you now need a compelling reason to look at the Internet and information technologies to do something better than the way you could do it before. People aren't going to explore it just because someone thinks it is a good idea, or that there is money to be made. There has to be a compelling reason, and I think that is going to have a consolidating effect on why people use technology in their day-to-day lives. Whether it is in a workplace, at home, at school, in their business.
You were one of the key architects in the Knowledge Nation document. Are you disappointed at the way that was received by both the media and the broader public?
I certainly was in terms of its launch. I felt that the document itself warranted a much deeper analysis than it actually got in the media. I think that the concept of the Knowledge Nation embodied far more than just the knowledge economy and what would change in our economy, and sought to tackle, I guess the foundations of how a future society is going to actually be constructed - and went back to basics like education and the environment as forming part of that foundation for an equitable society in the future.
And I think a lot of that pretty heavy philosophical stuff about the future was completely ignored and it was all too hard for a decent level of analysis. I also think that our messages could have been a lot sharper and I think it is a level of the immaturity and the inability of the Coalition to grasp the debate, that the only way they could deal with it was to ridicule the whole concept.
What has that process taught you about getting new ideas out in a political context?
I guess the way that I have always approached that is to talk about things as they evolve, and actually participate in the public policy debate as ideas emerge and evolve. There is no doubt there is a time for sharpening up the actual policy solution for a given problem, but there is a real need to generate a strong and meaningful momentum around new sets of ideas as they start to form a cohesive message.
And I think that is what happened with the Knowledge Nation. The Party tried to package it up in a way that detracted from what was a really very strong and conceptual school of thought about what needed to be done about Australia's future. I guess we were responding to a market, if you like, or to demands and expectations of the public, that was looking for big news. Part of our strategy was less about whom we were actually trying to communicate with and the people through which were the means of communication, i.e. the media strategy perhaps overrode our dialogue with people, and the people we were actually trying to reach and talk to about this.
So how do you think you can keep those ideas as part of Labor's ongoing platform, without it being regarded now as old policy next time around?
That is a big part of the challenge. There is no doubt the concepts, policies and philosophies that underpin the Knowledge Nation are valid, and certainly in the way this government is shaping up, arguably more so, in how we approach the future.
I think part of it is to engage in a wider conversation. A lot of people have expressed to me the desire to participate in the whole Knowledge Nation development process. So I think there is a fantastic opportunity for us now to indulge in a much wider conversation and build on that philosophical base that is about putting people and their ideas at the forefront of where our future lies, and start putting in place the ideas that will build the foundations to sustain that, and give Australia a genuine shot at being a sustainable society and economy.
Where do you see the new areas of IT policy debate over the next three years?
Looking within my sphere of responsibility and interest, there is a lot that has changed about why people will use technology and what the motivation of allowing it to become part of their lives is. And I think how government actually manage people and support people through that transition is going to be incredibly important, particularly if we want to preserve what is so great about the internet, which is the fact that it is not a controlled environment. Its actual strength is its openness and how we actually create some compelling reasons for people to want to participate in that communications environment, without actually falling into the trap of thinking that there is some sort of superfluous ubiquity in delivery of "a service" that will force everyone to like being online.
I think whatever we do in terms of government service and delivery, or in terms of cultural content online, needs to be meaningful but not contrived or controlling or manipulative in its presentation.
The other thing about closing the digital divide, which is one of the hugest social challenges, I think a level of intervention that tackles the issue from the bottom up is within the capability of your public policy in Australia. One, because we are a small enough population to be able to tackle that question, and two, we have got a challenging enough geography to make those solutions meaningful to other countries who are facing the same huge social dilemma. Part of that of course, is why would people want to use the technology, as well as the actual question of access. So, it is about access, but it is about confidence and participation as well.
Finally, the NSW unions have just established the IT Workers Alliance. What input can you see a representative body like this having into ALP policy?
It is incredibly important because with so much IT policy you hear it from the corporate perspective, or from the industry perspective, or from the organized community advocate's perspective. We desperately need to hear from the practitioners' perspective - the workers - the people who are engaged in this stuff in their day-to-day lives - because their perspective is almost like the missing link in public policy at the moment.
We talk about knowledge workers. We associate IT workers with knowledge workers, but not every IT worker has got a quality existence, so we need to keep challenging what are the sorts of jobs that we are creating for the future, and the sort of work that people engage in and enjoy and get stimulation from and financial reward from. And the only way we are going to not delude ourselves that every knowledge job is a quality job, is to talk to those people themselves and get continual feedback and input about their experiences in the workplace, and how that impacts upon their social lives and their quality of life.
by Linda Carruthers
Their story and the behaviour of the employer is an excellent illustration of the Orwellian lie at the heart of the 'freedom of choice' mantras directed at workers by the real elites who actually do run this country.
In 1997, the interstate passenger operations of the former Australian National Railways (ANR) were privatised by the federal government and sold to GSR/Serco. Serco refused to collectively bargain with the unions representing the workers and required every 'new employee' to sign a three year AWA as a condition of employment.
In the three years 1997-2000, these workers received 0% per annum in wage increases, whilst the rest of the rail industry received between 3%-5% for the same period.
In July 2000, just before the expiry of the original AWAs, the RTBU, representing the passenger attendant classifications met with Serco to seek negotiations on a collective agreement to replace the soon to expire AWAs.
After two meetings Serco informed the union that they would no longer negotiate with the union and would commence issuing a further round of AWAs on the basis that
"Our workers (sic) are quite happy with AWAs-they don't want a collective agreement"
The new AWAs 'offered' 3% in wage increases over the three year life of the 'agreements' all of which were of course, in identical terms. If the original employees signed the AWAs they would in effect have received annual increases of 0.5% for six years!
So much for the improved 'wages' that AWAs are supposed to represent!
To add injury to this insult, the workers were threatened that if they didn't sign the 'offers' (note there was no negotiation on the terms offered), their jobs would be offered to someone else. After the union obtained a court injunction, Serco withdrew these offers, and issued new ones, in the same terms, this time threatening that if they were not signed, then employees would be placed back onto the minimum rates award.
In the meantime, the union circulated a petition to the workers, requesting Serco to recognise the choice of those who expressed a desire to be covered by a collective agreement. Serco's response to the petition, which was signed by over 70% of the workforce, was to dismiss it as not being a true representation of the worker's views.
The RTBU then obtained a decision from the Commission that a ballot of the employees' views be conducted by the industrial registrar to ascertain their views. A secret ballot was duly conducted, and 57% of the employees returned a ballot. Of those not one employee marked a cross beside the choice of AWA.
Despite this overwhelming result, Serco continues to argue that employees who do not wish to be covered by AWAs must continue to sign them, on the take it or leave it basis that is their usual approach.
Put simply, despite the so called 'choice' set out in the Objects section of the Workplace Relations Act, there will be zero choice for employees when it comes to being covered by AWAs. No matter what their employees say, employers it appears are the only group free to make a choice of industrial instrument.
The foregoing account of a contemporary workplace struggle, is not about 'union power' nor is it a story of 'well paid, aspirational blue collar workers'-it is a story of a group of working men and women (half of whom are casuals), struggling to have their choices recognised by a large employer who treats their express desires with contempt.
It is also a neat example of the great lie at the heart of the conservatives' industrial relations agenda Choice, unless it produces outcomes favoured by management, will not be tolerated.
Perhaps some of those erstwhile latter day converts in the ALP to the notion of the disappearance of class politics from contemporary market societies might like to comment. Better still, they might like to stop wasting time trying to square the circle, and put forward some plan to ensure that the 21st century does not end up being like the 19th century after all.
The recent dispute at Tristar was more than a dispute about the inadequacy of current arrangements to protect the legitimate entitlements of workers when the companies they work for go broke. The dispute is also more than a conflict over the adequacy of the Federal Government scheme versus alternative employee entitlement protection schemes. Though this issue is fundamentally important in its own right, the Tristar dispute is one among many conflicts which reflect a breakdown over the last decade (or perhaps longer) of the relationship between employees and employers in Australian society. The dispute also, and once again, highlights the questionable and unhelpful role of conservative governments in industrial relations.
Most of the disputes in the last few years can be seen in a similar light - the MUA/Patricks waterfront dispute, the National Textiles dispute, the One Tel collapse and the BHP dispute on the Pilbara - reflecting fundamental changes which are happening in the employment relationship. The employment relationship can be understood as comprising a set of overlapping contracts: the legal contract, the psychological contract and the social contract, and change has occurred in all three.
The employment relationship is typically understood in terms of the formal, legal contract of employment. Guarantees about the terms and conditions of a worker's employment are found in a number of legally enforceable documents - the common law contract of employment, the award, the enterprise bargaining agreement as well as statutes of the state and federal governments. There is therefore an array of material for the lawyers to get their hands onto, and yet this hasn't prevented the sorts of disputes mentioned above. If anything, there has been a growth in the number of disputes about the legal nature of the employment relationship. For instance, in various companies' attempts to move workers from one sort of employment contract to another, in companies' attempts to change who, legally, the employer is, and quite absurdly, disputes about the legality of the dispute, rather than the underlying cause of the dispute.
The growing focus on the legal aspects of the employment relationship has tended to overshadow the other two levels at which the employment relationship is played out - or, if you like, the two other forms of employment contract. One of these is between the individual and their employer - which is sometimes referred to as the psychological contract, and the other is between Australian workers as a group and employers as a group - sometimes referred to as the social contract.
The psychological contract refers to the reciprocal expectations of individual workers and their individual employer and includes the whole pattern of rights, privileges and obligations between worker and organisations. These are aspects that are not explicitly written into the legal contract - but are brought to the relationship by the employees and the employer. In the past these have included expectations of a long-term job, of a career, of support and encouragement at work. Employers on the other hand may expect more in terms of work effort, flexibility, commitment and loyalty. In essence, these implicit expectations on both sides are encapsulated in beliefs about fairness, trust and delivery of worthwhile employment relationships. There is a growing belief amongst researchers that the psychological contract has broken down, often due to changes introduced by organizations and their failure to meet their obligations, especially in terms of job security and career prospects.
The experiences and expectations of the individual are grounded in the norms and expectations of society, which leads to third type of contract - the social contract. The social contract refers to the 'rules of the game' accepted at the social or community level, the rules which employees, their representatives, and employers are expected to understand and follow. Generally the social contract encompasses community ideas and expectations such as the right to decent jobs and good conditions, the right for employees to have some say in their workplace and the right to be able to bargain collectively. It certainly includes the right to know who your employer is, and that your accrued entitlements are not going to be squandered by your employer.
These three contracts are interlinked; they represent three degrees of contract, and should not be regarded as means of separating or diminishing the employer and employee relationship. When they start to unravel at one level, for example at the social level, then they also begin to unravel and break down at the psychological and legal levels, just as we have witnessed in Australia in recent years. So, what should be done? There is a need for more public debate about all three forms of the employment contract. There is a need to more fully understand what workers, employers and our society expect from the employment relationship, and likewise, what they expect to give to that relationship. There is also a need to re-examine the part to be played by governments at the societal level, to recognise that government has an obligation to all citizens in society, not just to a few.
Questions about fairness, equity, justice, security, stability and democracy at work are basic concerns of all citizens and people have a right to know if these areas are being respected and protected. At the moment it doesn't look like it and it is therefore time to address these less tangible entitlements alongside the more tangible ones of pay and leave that Tristar and other disputes have highlighted.
Marian Baird is a lecturer in Work & Organisational Studies, University of Sydney
Human rights and social organisations, trade unions, members of the National and International Human Rights Campaign Against Privatisation and the Criminalisation of Social Protest repudiate and condemn the vile assassination committed on our comrade and friend AURY SARÁ MARRUGO and
We urge the national Colombian and international community to demand that the Colombian government puts an end to the genocide that is being committed against trade union leaders in Colombia.
1. On Friday 30th November 2001 AURY SARÁ MARRUGO, President of the Cartagena Branch of the oilworkers union USO was at 8.35am travelling from his home to the USO office in Cartagena, accompanied by his bodyguard ENRIQUE AREYANO, in their car registration number CGS 897. He
was stopped by several armed men from three vehicles (blue and grey cars and a red van) who forced him to get out of his vehicle and took him off to an unknown destination.
2. On 3rd December 2001 the self named Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) [lit. United Self Defence of Colmbia] admitted having trade union leader AURY SARÁ MARRUGO in their power and they demanded the presence of Camilo Gómez, High Commissioner for Peace. According to this group
which communicated with the Commissioner through the internet, the union leader "... has been found guilty of multiple crimes by the tribunal, including kidnapping, cattle robbery, extortion and terrorism". They
assured that "We are only disposed to hand him over to you in person in one of our camps in the jungle and then you will explain to us what you are really doing as Commissioner".
3. At about 10.30am today, 5th December 2001, as humanitarian actions were being taken by USO to liberate the comrade, AURY SARÁ MARRUGO was found dead along with his bodyguard.
4. This vile assassination of our comrade adds to the detention by order of the Special Attorney 241 in Bogotá on 16th October, one day before the national stoppage that USO had prepared to protest against the violation of the human rights of their members, the following USO leaders:
* LUIS VIANA ex-president of the USO refinery section, who is now retired, in Santa Marta;
* EDGAR MOJICA president of USO Bogotá, in Bogotá
* RAMON RANGEL Human Rights and Peace Commission of USO;
* JAIRO CALDERON ex-leader of USO Barranca currently in the
administration of state oil corporation Ecopetrol;
* FERNANDO ACUÑA ex-presodent of Fedepetrol and sacked by Ecopetrol;
* ALONSO MARTINEZ worker at Ecopetrol who was displaced due to death threats, an activist also detained in Bogotá.
5. Previously there were the assassinations of ARTURO ESCALANTE MOROS in the town of Tibú in Northe Santander Department. That same day FERNANDO LERMA a temporary worker at the oil refinery in Barrancabermeja, Santander Department, was assassinated.
6. Moreover there have been constant death threats and murder attempts on HERNANDO HERNANDEZ, who is the National President of USO. Several other leaders of the union have been followed. In May 2001, EDGAR MOJICA, President of the Bogotá Branch of USO and DANIEL RICO,Vice-President of FUNTRAENERGÉTICA and Press and Publicity Secretary of
USO's National Executive Committee received threatening telephone calls at the office of USO's negotiating commission and at the Bogotá USO headquarters, where it was announced that there would be attempts on their lives if they continued with trade union activity. The suspects
who made the calls identified themselves as members of the "Capital Block" of the self styled AUC.
7. In June and July 2001 USO leaders in Bogotá reported to the authorities that they were permanently being followed by individuals on high capacity motorcycles, and that this surveillance continued in the immediate vicinity of the trade union office and the Ecopetrol headquarters from several vehicles, particularly by men in a grey Toyota
van without number plates who carried hand guns and rifles.
8. Then the report of death threats on the USO leaders lead the Bogotá police and the special security unit SIJIN to carry out a risk study, which concluded that it was urgently necessary to set up a security scheme for the threatened leaders. This consisted of a vehicle to move around in, two bodyguards that they trusted, arms, bullet proof vests, communications, and walky-talkies linked into the system used by trade unionists and human rights defenders. However nether Ecopetrol nor the Interior Ministry provided the necessary guarantees for the security of the threatened leaders. On the contrary the persecution grew worse and has reached the dramatic point of these two terribly sad murders.
a. That the Colombian state suspends whatever order of execution or assassination, arbitrary detention, forced disappearance that its officials are intending to carry out against the lives and security of leaders of the Unión Sindical Obrera - United Workers Union and other
trade unionists and human rights defenders in Colombia.
b. That investigations are set in motion to identify and punish in exemplary fashion the intellectual and material authors of the assassination of AURY SARÁ MARRUGO and his bodyguard ENRIQUE AREYANO as well as the other assassinations and forced disappearances against trade
union and social leaders in the country.
c. That all necessary operations are carried out to arrest members of the Autdefensas Unidas de Colombia who admitted publicly that they had AURY SARÁ MARRUGO and ENRIQUE AREYANO in their power.
d. We demand that the Colombian state guarantees the free exercise of trade union activity, and the promotion and defence of human rights by the different social, union and human rights organisations, in which USO is included.
e. That the results are given publicly of the investigations into those responsible for the genocide against the working class, the trade union, social and human rights activists and leaders.
Colombia, 5th December 2001
FREEDOM OR SLAVERY:
Brother Toilers, vote for Freedom,
For your own and children's weal.
Strike out "Yes" today when voting,
And the fate of "Traitors" seal.
As we are invited to celebrate the Centenary of Federation in 2001 we are also implicitly invited to forget that many Australians objected to the terms of the nationhood inaugurated one hundred years ago. The advertisement placed by 'Nozim' in the Melbourne Age on 3 June 1898 captures the spirit of the labour movement's often fierce opposition to the Constitution Bill presented at colonial referenda in 1899-1900.
Nozim's anonymous and defiant appeal for a 'no' vote does not focus on specific objections. It is a protest of the marginalised and excluded, a voice of those left out of the process of political change, but aware that their fate was fundamentally tied up with the outcome. The essays in Working the Nation reflect a belief that it is vital for Australia, as it considers another fundamental redefinition of national identity through the republican debate, to recall the forgotten voice of the marginalised - a voice that still struggles for recognition and so often responds to change with suspicion and apathy.
Labor Opposes 'Fetteration'
The 'no' vote advocated to the Australian working class by the labour movement was based in a belief that their claims to citizenship had not been adequately recognised in the Constitution Bill. The Labor Party and the unions were sceptical of the promises being made about the benefits of Federation, and were rightly suspicious, as subsequent history proved, of the political structures being put in place under the Bill. The labour movement believed these structures perpetuated elite resistance to working class political demands. A resistance symbolised in the creation of an undemocratic Senate, a national version of the conservative-dominated upper houses in the colonial legislatures - and now armed with a new barrier to reform: 'states' rights'.
As Victorian unionist William Trenwith, the only (unofficial) labour representative told the 1897 Federal Convention: 'if we vote for greater power for one citizen than for another, we shall be putting chains upon the legs of the citizens in the larger states in this commonwealth.' It was these chains the Victorian labour movement newspaper Tocsin had in mind when it tartly described the terms of the Constitution Bill as 'fetteration', a 'Fatman's trick to dam back the ocean of Democratic state legislation on co-operation, banking, insurance.'
Labour was unrepresented at the federal conventions of the 1890s, when these structures were created. Faced with the Federation referendums in 1899-1900, many workers felt they were only being asked for their opinion after the key decisions had been made. Decisions taken, as Federation historian Helen Irving conceded in a debate on the Centenary of Federation, by 'white middle-class bearded men who were strutting on the parliamentary stage'. Perhaps this is why, as Irving continued, 'a complex combination of dependency and mistrust' of politicians 'has led to a situation where the great political achievement of the 19th century and the early 20th century in Australia is under something of a cloud of suspicion.'
Labour movement hostility had the effect of making Federation architects like Alfred Deakin, Charles Cameron Kingston and Henry Bournes Higgins all the more determined to ensure that the new nation offered tangible benefits to the working class: a determination manifest in Deakin's New Protection and the tariff barriers to imports implemented by Kingston as Trade Minister. Attracting working class support was also a vital motivating factor behind the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act (1904), which Higgins did so much to design as convention delegate and federal politician, and to implement as President of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
The Immigration Restriction Act (1901) allayed labour movement fears that Federation would be a 'piebald fetteration', as a Tocsin poet feared in 1899, imagining that anglo-celtic workers would be chained in competition with 'The South Sea man, the Chow, the Black, likewise the Japanese', in the hunt for jobs. Most importantly, immigration restriction protected the white working class from 'racial contamination', as Federal Labor leader John Christian Watson baldly described the first principle of Labor's demand for a White Australia.
Introducing the Bill in 1901, Attorney-General Deakin responded to this 'instinct of self-preservation'. Deakin acknowledged an appeal for citizenship and inclusion with sharply regulated limits: to reassure white workers of their legitimate place in the nation, non-anglo-celtic peoples had to be excluded and indigenous Australians denied citizenship.
Women were acknowledged as citizens, with equal voting rights granted in the first Commonwealth Franchise Act passed in 1902, although a fully meaningful citizenship was effectively denied by their marginalisation in the workplace. As Rae Frances notes in her Working the Nation contribution, 'Gender, Working Life and Federation', the formulation by Justice Higgins in the 1907 Harvester case of the living or family wage of seven shillings per day was designed to secure the role of the male breadwinner, supporting a wife and three children. Subsequent decisions handed down by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court entrenched a bias towards the needs of male workers at the expense of women, as the Court gradually adopted a practice of paying women 75 per cent of male wages. In some cases the Court awarded equal pay rates, knowing that this practice would encourage employers to hire men instead of women.
Labour History and Federation
Although Labor had been substantially left out of the process of creating the Constitution, labour history played a role in appropriating Federation to the Labor cause. The Immigration Restriction Act initiated a process by which Labor came to support the Australian Settlement, as the policies of tariff protection, compulsory arbitration and White Australia are sometimes described. Robin Gollan's Radical and Working Class Politics (1960) typified the Old Left interpretation of Labor's positive role in helping shape the terms of the settlement through 'liberalising and democratising the constitution.' Bede Nairn's Civilising Capitalism (1973) stressed the Labor Party's role in 'making Federation possible' - acknowledging, in a rather back-handed way, that while the Labor Party was unhappy with the terms of Federation, it would not, at least in New South Wales, cripple the enterprise. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but an interpretation that also stressed Labor's positive role in nation building.
This relatively clear line of interpretation fragmented into the more critical interpretations of the New Left, which criticised the Old Left for failing to define concepts such as class, ignoring issues such as racism and not developing an alternative historical methodology. Humphrey McQueen's A New Britannia (1970) could find little good to say about the Australian Settlement, the Old Left or the labour movement generally. Terry Irving has argued that the colonial bourgeoisie dominated the Federation movement and it never became a popular cause. He notes 'that while some Labor leaders supported the federal movement, the Labor press revealed widespread indifference or suspicion.'
Working the Nation reflects the complex heritage that has evolved from both Old and New Left interpretations. An overview chapter by Stuart Macintyre outlines Labor's efforts to fashion an effective response to Federation during the 1890s and its attempts to come to terms with its brief - and unexpected - experience of power in 1904. Macintyre concludes in 1914 as Labor assumed the wartime responsibilities of national government - 'the curtain's fall on wide-eyed expectation', as Macintyre describes the collapse into militarism and the devastating split over conscription.
War and domestic crisis certainly exhausted the first rush of enthusiastic nation building. That ending could also be symbolically defined by the defeat of Labor's referendum proposals in 1911 and 1913. Deakin had played an influential role in fashioning the terms of Federation and the expressions of federal power. As opposition leader in 1911 he played a strong role in defining the limits of that power by vigorously campaigning against Labor's plea for effective control over corporations, trade and industrial relations. Implicit in the referendum campaigns was a conflict over citizens' rights. Labor believed it lacked the power to comprehensively 'civilise capitalism' on behalf of its supporters. Deakin believed the 1901 Constitution amply defined the individual's rights. The 1911 referendum revealed that the inclusive promises of the Australian Settlement were undermined by a fundamental Labor/non-Labor divide over the state's role on behalf of the citizen, and the needs of national government versus the rights of state governments.
Four sections follow Macintyre's overview, exploring key themes - Issues, Institutions, Place and People, a structure designed to demonstrate the relationship between the general issues at hand and the particular experience of community and the individual. Ray Markey's paper, 'Federation and Labour', clarifies an important theme of Working the Nation: the importance of locality and the myriad individual stories in the making of Federation. As Markey argues, 'local loyalties were as important as, and largely constructed, those of nation, class or party.' National policies to raise living standards and protect jobs were played out in communities like Lithgow and manufacturing shops like Eveleigh, and in the efforts of individuals to fight for the rights of the unemployed, and the right of women to decent workplace conditions. A brief introduction to each section highlights the important themes of the papers.
Working the Nation holds the mirror up to who we are now. We have not resolved the treatment of the unemployed. We continue to fight over terms of international trade. We continue to dispute workplace rights - freedom to unionise resisted by the employer's freedom of contract - freedom of unfettered management. We continue to categorise some Australians as unworthy of the full benefits of citizenship - aborigines, gays and lesbians, the 'working poor'. A remnant of White Australia lingers in the isolationism of One Nation.
The debate about who we are and how we define our citizenship will never be finally settled. If a meaningful citizenship is to be carried forward into an Australian republic, it must acknowledge the aspirations of the marginalised - a similar demand for inclusion that animated 'Nozim's' appeal for freedom in 1899, but liberated from the imaginative 'fetteration' of race and gender exclusion. The heritage of Federation continues to both trouble and inspire the instinct for change. A story that played out in the complex ways described by the contributors to Working the Nation.
This article is based on the introduction to Working the Nation, Working Life and Federation 1890-1914, an important new study by leading labour historians on the impact of Federation on the labour movement and working life during the period 1890-1914. Edited by Mark Hearn and Greg Patmore, Working the Nation is published by Pluto Press and is available directly from the Labour History Society for the special price of $29.95 including postage. Contact Margaret Walters at [email protected] to purchase your copy.
Experts call it the human genetic information age, a period with unprecedented potential to both SAVE and WRECK lives. According to the Australian Law Reform Commission and the Australian Health Ethics Committee's joint community consultation issue paper 'Protection of Human Genetic Information', released earlier this month, a balance must be found between safeguarding genetic technology from discriminatory misuse and using its enormous medical and scientific potential.
The public debate paper raises a number of ethical questions concerning the use of genetic testing for pre-employment screening and for reducing employer's exposure to both workers compensation claims and increasing premiums.
In February the federal Attorney General asked the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) and Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC) investigate what type of regulation would be required to safeguard the future use of human genetic samples and the information these contained. The two federal agencies were asked to specifically consider the protection of privacy, the protection from discrimination and the establishment of ethical guidelines for the world's best practice in using genetic information. The joint inquiry is considering these three themes in relation to a number of contexts in which genetic information may be applied, including workers compensation and workers compensation insurance. Assisted by a recently established Advisory Council, consisting of medical, legal, public administration, employment and insurance experts, the ALRC and AHEC established a three stage, 16-month, framework for the inquiry.
Genetic Testing for Employment
In the latter stages of the 20th century medical and psychological testing of job applicants became common place throughout Australian workplaces, with some employers also including mandatory drug screening. This trend is why civil liberty and employee groups believe it is just a matter of time before genetic testing is also a matter of course in the workplace. However, as Dr Breen, Chair of AHEC says, it is a matter of identifying potential misuse and then legislating against it, rather than viewing it is as inevitable.
"At this stage it is more of a case of potential misuse rather than actual misuse," Dr Breen said.
Genetic testing for employment may only be of theoretical concern in this country at present but there is abundant evidence of increasing societal apprehension surrounding the issue. Perhaps a lack of any real knowledge about the subject fuels these fears.
"The Australian public needs to form a greater understanding of the issue and become educated on how employers may seek to access genetic information," The ALRC's Associate Professor Brian Opeskin said.
Further technological developments, making it easier and cheaper to genetically test employees and job applicants, but no present legislation to safeguard against such, have alarm bells ringing.
There is widespread community concern over employer's powerful potential to misuse genetic information. In Australia a Sydney Morning Herald internet poll found 93.5% of respondents wanted the Government to ban genetic testing in the employment, insurance and banking sectors until detailed legislation was in place.
A 1998 United States national survey found a similar trend, with 85% wanting employers prohibited from testing for, or obtaining, genetic information. Of those polled 36% said they would refuse genetic tests and 27% would definitely refuse genetic tests if employers and insurers could access the information.
"There is the potential for employers to want to genetically test employees and there is nothing to stop that happening now. The community wants, in fact demands, legislation and ethical codes of conduct be put in place as soon as possible," Associate Professor Opeskin said.
Two types of genetic testing for the workforce
The two types of genetic testing which have direct applications to Australian workers are genetic screening, which is conducted just prior to an offer of employment and genetic monitoring, conducted routinely during employment.
Genetic screening involves testing a job applicant so 'high risk' individuals can be identified and excluded from an employer's workforce. The testing may be 'susceptibility screening', which identifies a gene, or genes, that may in to which the person operates. Secondly, the testing may involve simply screening an individual to identify potential genetic disorders, unrelated to the workplace, but which may lead to future workers compensation claims.
This type of genetic exclusion is not unknown. Indeed, it is only the actual testing which is new. In the 19th century 'visible' testing was commonplace in many labour intensive industries. For example, once it was proved labourers exposed to tar, creosote and other petroleum based products had a significantly increased rate of developing skin cancer - and pale skinned workers were at even greater risk, it was common practice for fair skinned people to be rejected from any petroleum based industry.
More recently, a United States laboratory was found to be testing its administrative staff for sickle cell anaemia, pregnancy and syphilis, without the workers knowledge, or consent.
In workplaces where exposure to hazardous substances is routine, ongoing health monitoring is standard OHS practice, or should be. However, combining this with regular genetic updates poses some serious privacy and anti-discrimination issues. Making it even more complex is the fact genetic monitoring can, and probably will, save lives.
The OHS Case for Genetic Monitoring
Periodic examination of the gene's of an employee exposed to harmful substances will help determine how much change is taking place to them as a result of their work environment. This change is referred to as "modifications' and these include chromosomal damage and molecular mutations. When such modifications are clearly visible via genetic monitoring the employer should take preventative action by relocating the employee within the workplace, or removing them from it altogether. This is a positive example of genetic monitoring, according to Dr Breen.
"There are potentially enormous benefits of genetic testing in the workplace. People genetically predisposed to certain conditions can be advised to avoid working in certain environments detrimental to their genetic make-up."
Post Chernobyl Russia has utilised genetic monitoring by testing children of workers used to clean up after the nuclear meltdown. Researchers found these children suffer seven times the mutation rate of children whose parents were not exposed to high level radiation. Genetic monitoring will continue to determine if these children's offspring show further mutations and the ongoing health implications this poses for Chernobyl workers' future generations.
The case against... conditional and disability discrimination
Discrimination, on any basis, is not new in Australian workplaces. Employers have been found guilty of discriminating against both employees and job applicants in relation to a number of conditions and/or disabilities which include colour blindness, psychiatric conditions, neurological conditions, epilepsy, RSI, prosthetic limbs and HIV/AIDS.
And it has already been established genetic testing has been used for discriminatory purposes, as Dr Breen explains: "There have been well documented cases where genetic testing was used to indirectly discriminate against particular ethnic groups, as certain groups carry a higher incidence of a particularly pre-determined condition."
If employers are allowed to genetically test their workforce, it is argued, the potential for discrimination is infinite. People, otherwise healthy at testing, may show signs of future susceptibility to a certain disease or disorder. The latest scientific evidence suggests there is no direct correlation between having a genetic susceptibility to a certain disease or disorder and actually developing it, as Associate Professor Opeskin outlines: "A genetic pre-disposition to some kind of condition does not necessarily mean a person will automatically suffer that condition at a later stage. There are multiple genes involved and very few situations are definite. It is all a case of probability and risks."
However, try telling that to an employer, civil libertarians argue.
The major concern is despite the Commonwealth's Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) which stipulates all individuals should be treated alike, except where their circumstances are so 'materially different' they justify different treatment, genetic testing will make it increasingly possible to identify a material difference. In fact, identifying a genetic material difference between one human being and another is limitless.
Workplace Relations Act
The Commonwealth's Workplace Relations Act 1996 (WRA) stipulates an employer can not determine an individual's suitability for work based on race, colour, sex, religion, physical or mental disability, birthplace, social origin and so forth. However, the employer may do so when one of these renders the employee unable to fulfil the 'inherent requirements' of the job.
This exemption is even broader than the DDA's and again, has both negative and positive aspects. One of the most obvious negative implications is unscrupulous employers may utilise genetic testing to provide evidence of a disorder that renders an individual as unable to fulfil the role's inherent requirements, where none could be found conventionally.
On the positive side, genetic testing can indicate future health problems and better determine an individual's ability to fulfil a position's inherent requirements.
It is feared employers in the future may use genetic information to minimise their workers compensation premiums. An unscrupulous employer could screen their workforce, identify possible health risks based on both general genetic information and specific genetic information highlighting employees most at risk to their particular work environment - and dismiss them.
Alternatively, employers in the future may seek to obtain waivers of liability from those employees identified via genetic testing as susceptible to future health problems, or may argue such liability was implicitly waived by the fact employees who knew they were 'at risk' chose to work regardless.
It is also possible for insurance companies providing workers compensation coverage to pressure employers to genetically test their workforce, so as to 'weed out' susceptible individuals from their workforce.
Both Norway and France have imposed stringent restrictions on genetic information, with bans on any form of genetic testing for employment already in place. Fellow European countries, Spain, Netherlands and Denmark have legislated against genetic testing unless there is an unambiguous health requirement for the job or where genetic testing is required to ensure the adequate protection of an employee's health in the workplace.
However, The United States, the United Kingdom and Australia are still grappling with the widespread implications of legislating for the genetic information age. The US has been particularly slow to act, considering the Sante Fe Railway Corporation was found guilty by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently of undertaking workplace genetic testing of their workforce for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) or RSI.
The Last Word...
There are numerous other issues regarding genetic testing which have not been outlined here, including privacy implications and an individual's right to know, or not to know, as the case may be.
The issue, because of its complexity, not despite of it, is of vital importance to us all and one which Australia has taken a pro active role in addressing. This must be a good thing for both Australian employers and employees alike. Perhaps the last word should go to the AHEC's Chairperson, Dr Breen who believes the matter is a difficult, but achievable balancing act.
"It is crucial Australia achieves the best balance to protect against the misuse of genetic information, while maximising the health and scientific benefits which will flow from this amazing technology," Dr Breen said.
Matthew Brooks is Editor, Compensation Week (CCH Australia Ltd.)
The book outlines her harrowing childhood growing up in Kabul, and charts her treacherous plight from war-torn Afghanistan all the way to her gullible publisher's office in Brisbane.
"It was very difficult for me to write," the author confessed from under her veil. "It just evoked so many painful memories for me of the last time I tried this hogwash. But I'm quietly confident that this time I'll get away with it."
Dame Leonie Kramer, on behalf of the Miles Franklin Award judging committee, has already remarked on the book's "wonderful honesty." She said it was rare to find such emotional truth in Australian literature.
Demidenko's novel has also been awarded the prestigous and lucrative Victorian Premier's Prize for Literature, whose judges dismissed the recent announcement of Peter Carey as the winner as "another most unfortunate typo".
Helen (Mohammed) Demidenko said she expects to start work on her next novel, titled "Aboriginal Dreaming: Memoir of a Stolen Child", just as soon as she finishes her Ashes tour diary.
Blink Bill the Activist
Blinky Bill Remembers Nutsy's Birthday by Sally Farrell Odgers does get the message of "the workers' united, will never be defeated" across.
Blinky and his mates confront the problem of excessive hours, the reasons for absenteeism and the trap of individual contracts. And they overcome them. Absenteeism is a sign of unhappiness in the workplace. Excessive hours are creating "the overworked Australian". Contracts of employment have become increasingly onerous. The ACTU has begun a case in the Federal Commission on the issue.
This story, not one of the original Blinky stories by Dorothy Wall, but part of the new series produced by Yoram Gross Film Studios and screened on ABC some years ago, we find something that Tony Abbott and the ABC Board Member Michael Kroger would definitely see as more ABC bias.
There is a bit of problem of gender bias. Nutsy is grumpy because no-one apparently remembers her birthday. Blinky, Flap, Splodge and Marcia can't make a cake because Nutsy is the only one who can cook (although I guess this could be interpreted as them being the kitchen hands and Nutsy being the 5 star chef in the Australian bush). However Flap stumbles upon a concert tent and thinks he has the answer. The trouble is when they roll up the owner, Captain Possum, informs them that all the performers are ill. Blinky and mates offer their services, crucially for one performance only. When the performers hear this we realise that there is more going on than meets the eye. A brief look between all four reveals much!!
When Blinky brings Nutsy along to see the show and the "sick" performers hear the cheers, we find them suffering even more as they fear for their jobs. Old Donny the Dancing Dog exclaims "Out of Work! At my age!" He, Plodge and the wonderful Madam Melba resolve to take joint action. After a pitched battle with water and custard pies Blinky and friends find out why the performers were all "ill".
"We had to pretend to be sick, darlink," says Madam Melba. "We never had any rest, no days off. Captain Possum works us too hard!"
"Tell him you want a rest," said Blinky.
"We have contracts," said Donny gloomily. "He could turn us out."
"Yes - now he has you as replacements!" cried Madam Melba.
"No he hasn't!" grinned Blinky. "We told him one performance only! Now you tell Captain Possum you want new contracts, or you'll leave the show!"
The Captain, of course, agrees.
Solidarity Forever, and not just amongst native marsupials, the dog and a mouse are included.
Start your kids on the collective road. Great illustrations too.
WHITHER THE ALP?
Federally, and also in the State sphere, some mischievous sections of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) appear determined to distance their party from the trade union movement and thus by logical extension, working people generally. This recent round of undignified smoke-screening after yet another election defeat is symptomatic of a party that really began losing its way long ago in ignoring party policy in unabashed pursuit of economic rationalism, corporate sponsorship and deregulation in worship of globalisation. In short, the political wing of the ALP sold its soul in a shameless attempt to be make itself acceptable to the financial markets, treasury moguls, and their so-called "new aspirationists" of the Australian upper-middle class who now mingle on the emerging affluent urban/rural interface of our larger cities. They neglectfully forget that the ALP was formed by trade unions to help realise the basic and collective aspirations of the working class and fail to see the sizeable insult to these people inherent in this 'pop' terminology.
Extraordinarily, trade unionists are by some circuitous logic now being blamed for Labor's defeat. 'The Labor Party must modernise. It must review its relationship with the unions', is the mantra currently being proffered by the party's elite. Whatever the real reasons for their electoral losses, it is nothing but delusionally dishonest to include this relationship with the trade union movement as a contributing factor. In fact, analysis of the recent election defeat and the five week campaign suggests just the opposite. Much to Labor's disgrace, intrinsic domestic issues vital to its core constituency such as the cascade of massive job losses of recent times; the incessant casualisation of formerly full-time jobs; lock-outs and baseball bat industrial relations; the continuance of low wages in female-dominated occupations; the stripping back of Award conditions; and the incremental loss of workers' rights under the Howard government were not elevated by Labor as crucial issues during the campaign.
The ALP failed to promote the core concerns of the very people who have historically been that party's major source of funding, the very people who provide the army that staffs its polling booths, the very people who comprise the majority of its membership. This party needs to remember that the union movement is the only bridge to this nation's largest grass roots movement,consisting of over two million paid up members.
If, during the election campaign, the ALP was silenced on these issues by the fear of being accused by Howard, Costello, Reith and Abbott of being too close to trade unions and thus quailed at pursuing the Coalition's atrocities in the field of industrial relations and job security, then the ALP lay diminished by its own cowardice. If this is the case, then the ALP has finally lost its ability to claim relevance to working people. Place this weakness alongside the Carr government's assault on the rights of injured workers to fair compensation and you have a clear pattern emerging that must cause workers to question the value of contributing their hard-earned money or their valuable time to such a timid and treacherous cartel. For all working people it is time to question the value of their money, either through membership, donation, or via union affiliation, funding such a pernicious organisation.
Of course, it would be much more beneficial for both working people and the Labor Party if the ALP were to responsibly and boldly re-assert its historical function as the political wing of the trade union movement. The alternative to facing up to this responsibility and exerting this boldness will inevitably be an ALP decimated by lack of funding, support, and membership as workers look to other entities more representative of their needs and humble 'aspirations'. The union movement can always find within itself a well of talented advocates. The question for the ALP is can it really find a new mass constituency? The ALP will soon find its irrelevant candidates challenged at elections by people more appealing to its historical constituency.
The conservative parties could inflict no more cunning nor grievous damage upon the ALP than to convince it to desert its working class roots in the aimless search for political relevance among the fickle "new aspirationists". These 'new aspirationists' have no fixed political allegiances or historic ideological base and will assuredly swing with interest rate movements and/or transient issues. To look to capture them as a loyal constituency is a mistaken exercise. They are a demographic group that will remain myopically insatiable, ever switching their votes to the highest bidder. This is not a stable foundation on which any political party should entrust its future, lest it desires only sporadic existence.
History reminds us all too well how Robert Gordon Menzies spectacularly exploited the contemporary divisions within the ALP during the time of the DLP incursion and the ALP split of the 1950's to languidly ensconce his conservatives on the government benches for more than twenty years. By going down this path of redefining its relationship with the trade union movement, Labor is surely encouraging salivation among the conservative parties as it falls for the old "three card trick" by mindlessly fracturing once again in post-election confusion.
To seek to broaden the party's base is necessary and understandable. To alienate its core constituency in the process would be self-defeating. It needs to be much smarter, more loyal, and, in the first instance, to reconnect with Australian workers. Without the support of trade unionists the ALP will assuredly become an irrelevant political rump in pitiful search of real meaning. Yes, we need each other, but the ALP needs the trade union movement much, much more.
Mark Paloff is Secretary, Illawarra Sub-Branch of the Fire Brigades Employees Union (FBEU)
'The Gods are still angry,' Prime Minister John Howard said to his Employment Minister Tony Abbott after the third cricket test against the Kiwis ended in a draw in Perth.
'We haven't have much luck in the sporting field since 10 November,' Abbott replied.
'Yes, yes I know and you don't have to remind me of that.'
After the Wallibies lost their test matches to England and France and the Kangaroos to England John Howard summoned Abbot, his mad monk, to see what could be done. Abbott had suggested to Howard to make scarifies to please the Gods.
'I took your advice and sacrificed our Sports Minister Kelly and what's her name...that Minister for Caged Hair...'
'You mean our Celestial Virgin the Minister for Caged Care?'
'Yes, yes, Caged Care, Caged Hair, what difference does that make, they all sound and look the same to me...the Gods are still angry after I made those two sacrifices...we still got beaten...our Socceroos went down to Uruguay...'
'And we lost the Davis Cup to the French,' Abbott interrupted.
'Yes,' Howard mourned, 'Tony Mundine lost his title fight for the first time as well...oh! what a week, what a fortnight.'
'But I thought Mundine was un-Australian and we shouldn't be supporting him,' Abbott tried to remind Howard.
'Your are right, the Gods must have made a mistake there...they must have thought he is still one of us.
'We cast him adrift to some island didn't we?' Howard continued.
Abbott nods his head in agreement.
'We must do something in the sporting field or we will become the laughing stock of the world. What can you suggest Tony?'
'This has become a national disaster and we must approach this problem in a bi-partisan manner...,' Abbott tried to explained.
'You mean we must talk to the opposition and get their agreement as to what to do next, to please the Gods?' Howard snapped.
'Yes,' replied Abbot.
'And how can that be done?' Howard inquired.
'Well, you have made your sacrifice and its now up to the opposition to do theirs...you must ask the Leader of the Opposition Simon Crean to sacrifice their sacred cow the 60:40 union rule,' Abbott said with a smile.
'By God, you are right, you are indeed a genius...Costello couldn't have come out with that one,' Howard said as he pick up the phone, 'I'll better give Simon a ring now.'
'Simon, Simon, mate, mate, the Gods are still angry with us and I need your help to please them again...and unless we do so we will not win in the sporting field again. We didn't beat the Kiwis in the test match today...and if the Gods are still angry with us...think what could happen next year...Auckland might even win the NRL...and what a national disaster that would be.'
'I know, John, I know, I have just got a phone call from a very excited Helen who claimed that had it not been for the under-armed decisions of the umpires, they would have won that test match. The Gods are indeed smiling on Helen and the New Zealand Labour Party...why aren't they smiling on me and the ALP?'
'Its not you or the ALP I am concerned, its us...all of us...the Gods have stopped smiling on us since 10 November...that is why we have been slaughtered in the sporting field...we must make another sacrifice to the Gods.'
'And how can I help?'
'I have sacrificed the Minister for Caged Care. You wanted her sacrificed before the election and I have now complied with your wishes...I have even thrown in Sports Minister Kelly as an additional good measure but the Gods are still angry. I have done my bit...its now up to you to do yours by sacrificing your scared cow the 60:40 union rule.'
'That's a very high price for me to pay...what do I get in return for this favour?'
'I'll make sure the mad monk will not send in the dogs after Tanner,' Howard replied.
'But John, your have sent in the dogs before...remember the warfies?'
'That was Peter Reith and he is no longer with us...he has gone off to play with his toy soldiers and phone cards, hah! hah! hah!...I promise no dogs... cross my heart and all that...it's a core promise...,' Howard tried to convince Crean.
'Just think Simon, if we fail to please the Gods, Auckland could win the NRL next year and what would Helen say to you?'
'I know John, I know...she would be gloating at us in general and at me in particular...what a nightmare that would be...leave it to me John.'
'Thanks Simon...I am sure the Gods will be pleased and will once again smile on us.'
The Evatt Foundation has recently given their website a make-over http://evatt.labor.net.au. The new site features information on the foundation, their latest papers and upcoming events. This is a great tool for all Labour theorists.
APHEDA Christmas Cheer
APHEDA, the Australian Union Movement's overseas aid agency has launched its annual Christmas fundraising campaign. Check out their website for more information http://www.apheda.org.au.
It's all about Respect
Racial Respect Australia is an organisation which is working to turn the tide of intolerance and hostility towards Australians of Aboriginal and Asian backgrounds. Their website located at http://www.racialrespect.org.au has plenty of information on their activities and how to get involved.
Organising Tools Online
Advocacy Online http://www.advocacyonline.net is a UK based company which specializes in providing online resources to campaigning organisations. They have some interesting ideas and tools which would be valuable to the Australian union movement.
Inside Indonesia is an Australian based magazine which focuses on the democratic movement in Indonesia. The magazine was founded during the Soeharto era and is continuing to cover the latest news and issues inside the Indonesian political system. Inside Indonesia's website is located at http://www.insideindonesia.org.
Korean Activist News Online
A new Korean news service (in English) has been launched called Base 21 http://www.base21.org. The website which is not too different from LaborNET has features and news updates on all the latest events in the Korean Labor, Green and Activist communities.
Chinese Labour Movement
Chinese Labour Watch http://www.chinalabourwatch.org is the website of a network of union activists inside PR China and is administered by a fraternal organisation in the US, the site features news on current struggles inside China and on the fight for Democracy.
Another website on the Chinese Labour Movement is the China Labour Bulletin http://www.china-labour.org.hk run by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions http://www.hkctu.org.hk. The China Labour Bulletin is the better of the two websites for more information on current disputes and debates in the movement.
East Timor Government
Just out of interest this week I stumbled upon the new website of the East Timor Government http://www.gov.tp. With formal independence expected to be declared in the early half of next year a Government infrastructure is slowly being build up. The website features information on Government Departments and the Constituent Assembly which will form the new Parliament after independence.
Now, we all expect our Foreign Affairs Minister to keep up good relations with other countries, but we suspect that giving them our jobs might be taking things to extremes.
Whatever, Downer's gushing release of a report about India's thriving software industry should send alarm bells ringing through Australia's technology industries and workers. India's software marketers are everywhere, but we would expect our government to exercise some judgment.
Australia software developer Tony Healy points out several naive parts of
Why the DFAT report is a D Minus.
1. There is an extraordinary naivety in purporting to advocate benefits for business, yet not being aware that software development is also a business. What the report is doing is pushing the short sighted interests of one section of business, being dumb old-boys business.
2. There are large numbers of smart Australians for whom software development is the business, and they're asking why a pro-business government would attack a business that's essential for future national prosperity. Even the conservative Australian Computer Society questioned the report on 2GB.
3. Many IT disasters can be traced to communications problems between business and IT departments. Such problems would be exacerbated by moving development and IT offshore, and will increasingly have more drastic consequences as additional services and data are entrusted to online systems.
4. In defending the report, its author said that Australians are good at producing ideas, and that cheaper programmers will make it easier for these people to build businesses. This is wrong.
i) There's no evidence Australians are better than other nations at producing ideas. Our patents per population are much lower than comparable countries.
ii) The notion that important new technology ideas will be produced by people outside the technology community was a popular myth perpetrated by business schools and shot down in flames by the dot.com bust. In the US, the term "MBA business plan" is used derisively to refer to a particularly worthless technology business plan. We don't want MBA business plans in Australia.
iii) The people who produce worthwhile and valuable ideas are the people who understand technology. There will be fewer of these people in Australia if our development work is shifted offshore.
5. Another defence the author gives is that the car industry imports parts from overseas, and that by analogy programming is just a car part. This defence is flawed in failing to understand that software development is an important strategic business. If the government offers substantial incentives to keep car plants in Australia, why doesn't it do the same for software developers?
6. In cultural terms, the report is a biased attack on a particular industry segment, IT and programming, that's too new to have started defending itself. Why, for example, does the report not advocate using cheap Indian lawyers and accountants?
7. The Indian software industry is extremely aggressive in marketing itself, for which it receives strong government backing. It has been doing this since the early 1990's, and has embarked on a new round of aggressive marketing recently. The DFAT author has been sucked in by this marketing. It's as simple as that.
8. Banks such as ANZ have been using Indian firms since the late 1980's but only for routine stuff, and with very strict controls for quality reasons. The DFAT author has misinterpreted their description of "routine" as applying to all programming, which is wildly wrong. On top of that, of course, I would prefer that even routine programming was done locally.
The irony of the position should not be lost: the party of entrepreneurs is kicking its core constituents in order to suck up to big business.
Interestingly enough, the Department of Foreign Affairs report carries an interesting little credit at the bottom of the page "thanks to our sponsor BHP Biliton'. What this? A government report with a corporate sponsor? See: http://www.dfat.gov.au/publications/india_new_old_economy/index.html
What should be exported to India is not Australian IT jobs, but Australian IT products and expertise, and the culture of fairness and respect for workers' rights that contributes to the high standards of living in first world countries.
Efforts to help workers organise collectively and raise baseline wages and conditions have begun through Union Network International and will become increasingly important for all IT workers over the coming months and years. But Downer's corporate-backed intervention does nothing to promote these type of venture, instead equating inferior wages and conditions with competitiveness.
Downer is a Tool for endorsing this report and he's a bigger Tool for not even realising the damage he was doing to Australian workers.
© 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/122/print_index.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005