Crew on board the CSL Yarra have been denied food and other supplies by the ship's owners as the stand-off at Port Pirie enters its third day with ship workers refusing to lower the gangway.
Despite winning an injunction against CSL plans to reflag the ship and crew it with Ukranians, the workers have been told to leave the ship on full pay.
Maritime Union of Australia national secretary Paddy Crumlin says that the 17 workers on board are refusing to leave, fearing they will be replaced by Ukrainians straight away.
Crumlin says the owners, CSL, are now attempting to starve the workers off before re-flagging the ship in the Bahamas and employing foreign crew on inferior wages and conditions.
"CSL has denied our members a long-term future, now it is trying to deny them basic necessities such as food," Crumlin says. "Our members, though, are standing firm in defence of their jobs, Australian shipping and the integrity of the national coastline."
Crumlin has also called on the Howard Government to intervene as a matter of urgency to secure the long-term future of Australian seafaring.
"We suspect that the federal government has been more than just an innocent by-stander in this affair," he says.
In particular the unions want Transport Minister John Anderson to answer three questions:
- Have the Ukrainian seaman who will take the Australian jobs been granted access to Australia?
- If so, under what visa conditions?
- What dealings did the Howard Government have with CSL before it made the decision to de-flag and de-crew.
"This smacks of another conspiracy to break Australian shipping," Crumlin says. "It started on the waterfront, but we are determined that it will not end at Port Pirie."
Meanwhile, the Australian Workers' Union whose members work for the
company chartering the CSL Yarra, Adelaide Brighton Cement, has made a
pact with the MUA, with top-level meetings considering support for the embattled crew.
And supporters of the Yarra workers will rally outside CSL's head office in Sydney at 619 Pacific highway, St Leonards on Monday, May 6, from noon.
The MUA will also lobby the Canadian Government over the behavour of CSL, a company controlled by Canadian Trade Minister and Prime Ministerial aspirant, Paul Martin.
CSL purchased the Yarra from the Australian National Line when the former Labor Government privatised the line.
Malaysian labour activist Irene Xavier says proposals, providing for detention without trial and the strip-searching of children, were “uncannily similar” to the first steps her country took in dismantling democracy.
"The arguments for your anti-terrorism bill are almost identical to those put up for our Internal Security Act. When it was passed in the 1960s we were told it would target terrorists and have no consequences for law abiding people. They used the same emotional arguments about dangerous people to get it passed.
"As everybody knows, the people being detained without trial today are not terrorists, they are labour activists and members of opposition political parties."
Xavier and Mabel Au are in Australia at the tail end of an international speaking tour aimed at having Malaysia's Internal Security Act overturned.
In Malaysia, roll-over provisions similar to those in the Howard bill, have been used to imprison people without trial for 20 years. Australian-educated labour activist, Tian Chua, is facing his third year of incarceration, without charge or trial.
Labor Council will lobby federal politicians in a bid to have legislation, which would have allowed for the indefinite detention of protestors during the '98 waterfront dispute, rejected.
Building Trades Group secretary, Tony Pappas, labelled its implications "bloody frightening".
"It will remove our basic rights and civil liberties," he said.
"Those mass demonstrations at Victoria Docks would have been caught squarely within the definition of this Act. It's extraordinary to think, if it happened under this legislation, we could have been punished by life imprisonment."
Pappas is especially worried that the legislation will enter parliament without widespread understanding of its scope. The media, he said, had virtually ignored its implications, despite strong warnings from consititutional lawyers and civil rights advocates.
Pappas urged unionists to "get off their rings" and start lobbying politicians, especially Labor and Green MPs.
He labelled the anti-terrorism bill the "most draconian" legislation ever introduced to an Australian Parliament.
Labor Council spokeswoman Alison Peters said the unfortunate implications for Malaysians was that Prime Minister Mathatir Mohammed would use Australian, Indian, British and US anti-terror legislation to justify retention of his country's Internal Security Act.
All six trade unions with coverage in the NSW construction industry have signed an historic cooperation pact in the lead-up to industry wide wage negotiations later this year.
The pact, coordinated by the NSW Labor Council, commits the unions to working together to build up union strength in the building and construction industries and lays down a process for resolving disputes between unions.
It also explicitly rejects the influence of ALP factional politics within union affairs as grounds for non-cooperation on industrial matters.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson says that while unions need to remember their history, the time had come to look forward and ensure the movement's survival.
"At times unions in this industry have been distracted by ideological differences," Robertson says. "This has clearly undermined our effectiveness as a trade union movement."
"While building and construction is regarded as a union stronghold, the reality is we have less than 50 per cent of the industry unionised. Unless we look forward as one we will never grow as a movement."
Robertson says the test of the pact will be the level of union membership. If successful, it would become a model for cooperation in other industries.
Rank and File Support
CFMEU delegate Rebel Hanlon endorsed the pact, saying workers did not care about what union they were in, just that they were in a union.
Hanlon says the upcoming enterprise bargaining negotiations will be a golden opportunity for workers across the industry to join together and campaign for a better balance between work and family life, better safety and improved wages.
The signatories to the pact are: the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Australian Workers, the Electrical Trades Union, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the Plumbing Division of the CEPU and the Transport Workers Union.
The Labor Council will coordinate an historic mass meeting of delegates from all signatory unions to finalise their EBA claim in July.
AMWU Printing Division delegate Keith Salter, who resisted company directives over which radio stations staff were allowed to listen to, was this week handed a final written warning.
That came after after a peaceful building workers protest against the US-based company's anti-union policies.
Kinkos' American managers, infused with a "boss rules" ideology, have struggled with Salter's success in unionising their Liverpool St shop. When he started work there four years ago he was the lone unionist but density in the workplace now sits at close to 100 percent.
"They had a solicitation and distribution policy which denied us the right to read or think about the union, or football or parties for that matter, at work," Salter explained.
"We beat that through a campaign of public exposure.
"Our biggest gripe now is their refusal to allow us to have meetings. If you can't do that there is not much point in being a member of a union or any other organisation."
Salter thanked CFMEU activists for occupying the shop during a peaceful protest and said his final written warning had come about because "basically, I went to join them".
"It doesn't matter what rich bastard is staring at you, you have to do what is right," he told Labor Council delegates.
Unions, who do an awful lot of printing and copying, noted the Kinkos policy and suggested it would attract ongoing public attention.
Moving support for Salter, his union, and the litigation-threatened CFMEU, Labor Council secretary John Robertson reminded delegates of the company's address - "Liverpool St, right opposite Hyde Park, you know where it is."
Angered by effective union campaigns about Nike’s Asian sweatshops the multinational mounted an advertising campaign in the mid-1990s to tell Americans it was a good corporate citizen.
Sweatshop opponents were shocked by the claims and took Nike to court.
The footwear company had tried to protect itself from the court case claiming the controversial adverts about Asian sweatshops were protected by 'free speech' and did not have to comply with 'false advertising' rules.
But on Thursday the court ruled that Nike's big dollar adverts were not protected by the US Constitution's free speech provisions.
The California court said the ads were about protecting Nike's bottom line, its commercial interests - and as such had to comply with that state's regulations about false advertising.
The court decision opens the sportswear giant to the possibility of a range of costly false advertising court cases.
The majority ruling found that a business enterprise wanting to promote and defend its sales and profits, must make factual, truthful representations about its own products or its own operations.
In strongly worded dissenting opinions, three justices argued that Nike should enjoy free speech protections when attempting to protect its labor record.
Nike's lawyers are now expected to appeal the California court decision all the way to the US Supreme Court.
The court decision is the result of a lawsuit brought in 1998 which said Nike had willfully misled the community about the working conditions of Asian workers in Indonesia, Vietnam and China, producing Nike footwear.
The legal case was one a number of high-profile attacks on Nike over conditions at Asian factories in the 1990s. The sweatshop advocated said that Nike had violated California's false advertising laws when it tried to promote itself as a 'good corporate citizen'.
The campaign workers said Nike knew their workers were subjected to physical punishment and sexual abuse, endured dangerous working conditions, and were often unable to earn a "living wage" despite workdays that could be 14 hours long.
Alan Caplan - one of the lawyers involved in the case - said the California decision meant that a company cannot lie to customers about the labour conditions in its factories in advertising campaigns.
Swarmy G – a.k.a Adam Dunn - was awarded the prize, sponsored by the Labor Council of NSW and its web-based radio station Wobbly Radio, at the May Day Toast this week.
Swarmy G and his cohorts Ay-Sip, Judge and Abuse, wowed the crowd with their energetic rendition of 'May Day, May Day'. They were awarded the prize as one of six finalists from more than 100 entries to the contest. Judges came from trade unions and the music industry.
Dunn is an accounting student, and has been a union member while working as both a storeman and packer and a worker in the hospitality industry. He's now planning to sign up with the Musician's Union.
CD Coming Soon
Announcing the prize, Labor Council secretary John Robertson said the standard was so high that a full CD of contemporary trade union songs will be produced.
"We went looking for the contemporary heart and soul of unionism and found it in the terrific compositions that came in for this contest," Mr Robertson said.
"We intend to forge close relationships with all our finalists and will be encouraging affiliates to call on the performers when they have rallies, fundraisers and other events."
Other finalists were Dogbite, Mahua Cooper, Peter Hicks, Mischevious and the Urban Guerillas.
For the winning lyrics go to: http://workers.labor.net.au/133/d_review_mayday.html
To listen to all of the finalists go to: http://www.wobblyradio.com
Technicians in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Queensland and WA will take part in the industry's first two-day strike in response to an insulting one percent wage offer.
Australian Services Union spokesperson, Sally McManus, said wages and redundancy provision stood between Canon and its 330 technicians.
"All we are looking for is to keep pace with the CPI and the company's major competitors," McManus said.
Canon has said it opposes any general wage increase, promoting unspecified bonuses to be paid at its discretion. Its technicians are already paid less than their counterparts at Xerox.
Their industrial campaign began with a one-day strike two weeks ago.
The test case would establish award wages and conditions for workers employed by labour hire companies.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson says the Test Case would aim to prevent labour hire workers undercutting the wages and conditions of employees of the host company.
"The award would guarantee that a labour hire worker would not receive wages and conditions less than those provided to workers employed in the enterprise in which they are placed," Robertson says.
"Unions recognise that there is a legitimate role for labour hire in enterprises where labour demands may ebb and flow," he says. "But labour hire should not be used as a sly way of reducing wages and conditions that workers are entitled to receive."
Robertson says legitimate labour hire employers have also accepted that there needs to be regulation to prevent the exploitative practices of some of the bottom-feeders."
Unions decided to move on the claim through the Industrial Relations Commission because they were frustrated at the delays the Carr Government had taken in implementing the recommendations of its inquiry into the labour hire industry.
"There has been no movement on this issue on the political front, so we have decided to take the issue on industrially," Robertson says.
Labor Council deputy assistant secretary Chris Christodoulou would be convening a meeting with employers in the coming weeks to finalise the draft award.
Last Friday, the NSW Premier, the National Council Of Social Services and the Australian Services Union wrote to John Howard calling for a commitment to meet the 6.5 percent award increase for people employed by community agencies in places like migrant hostels, womens refuges, alcohol and drug shelters.
The increase would lift the take home pay of a social worker with a psychology degree at Sydney's St Vincent de Paul-run Matthew Talbot Hostel, for example, to almost $500 a week.
Howard has labelled that "generous" and said his Government has no obligation to pay.
Both Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello have dodged the issue and their position won't become apparent until the budget is released.
In most instances, Federal Government picks up a fixed component of the wage bill faced by employing organisations. Failure to pay its share of the increase would leave outfits like St Vincent de Paul out of pocket and lead to service cuts.
Labor Coucil is supporting an ASU campaign that will also target 10 Coalition or independent-held federal seats in NSW.
In a campaign co-ordinated by Labor Council Cultural Diversity Officer, Mark Morey, they will examine anecdotal evidence that councils aren't rewarding employees who bring a second language to their work with the public.
The allowance was won in 2000 as a variation to the Local Government Award, recognising the contributions made by such workers in places like libraries and council help desks.
Councils like Leichhardt, Fairfield and Blacktown are home to significant numbers of residents who use English as a second language.
Morey told Workers Online the MEU audit would test whether "anecdotal doubts" measured up to reality.
"If they do, we will be looking to remedy the situation," he said.
Currently, employment records and correspondence on the matter passed from one private company to another, fall outside Privacy Act requirements that citizens have access to records held on themselves.
Oddly, government employees are allowed view or access their employee records.
"While this anomaly exists, it is a very simple and effective way for an employer to get square on union delegates or activists," Labor Council secretary John Robertson says.
"These files might simploy contain incorrect information and the affected individual would never know, let alone have the opportunity to correct it. More sinisterly, they could be used to eliminate certain people from the workforce.
"The exemption runs contrary to the whole spirit of the legislation. Worse, it undermines the ability of the Act to keep up with new privacy invasive technologies increasingly being used in the workplace."
Labor Council is demanding changes to the Privacy Act, due for review next year, to ensure employees have access to their own files.
MEU officers will swoop on 15 Sydney-based councils to measure compliance with the new community languages allowances.
The union says privatisation would mean job losses and reduced public service.
"What we have here is a cash-strapped administration looking desperately for a cash-cow to balance the books. It's bad economics," national secretary Wendy Caird said.
"At a time of such uncertainty in the insurance industry, it is foolhardy for a government to give up its ability to influence and stabilise the sector."
Estimates that the Government could reap a one-off billion dollar return from the three million member fund cut no ice with the biggest opposition parties.
Both Labor and the Democrats pledged themselves to blocking the sale in the Senate.
State secretary Tony Sheldon said there should be recognition and encouragement for the growing role played by fathers of new-born children.
He said male and female members, employed in the transport industry, would be surveyed in preparation for an industry-wide parental leave claim.
Labor Council will put the issue of parental leave, maternal and paternal, before a meeting of affiliates.
Australia wants the MoU signed, sealed and delivered by or immediately after 20 May. And if that happens, East Timor stands to loose billions of dollars in loyalties from the oil and gas tax revenues in the Timor Sea and thousands of much needed jobs.
However, several members of the elected East Timor's Constitutional Assembly (which will become East Timor's new parliament) now want to delay the signing of the MoU for at least six months--they want a parliamentary committee set up to fully investigate all aspects of the draft agreement. They are mainly from two of the main opposition parties--Partido Democrático (PD) with seven members in the assembly and Partido Social Democrata (PSD) with six members in the assembly.
This latest development arose after they heard legal experts advised them at a weekend seminar held in Dili in March that East Timor should own most of the natural gas and oil field in the Timor Sea.
According to Eusebio Guterres, a PD member of the assembly who attended the seminar, the new East Timorese Parliament has to ratify any agreement signed. He believes all members of the assembly must be fully briefed before making that decision.
Eusebio, is a lawyer and former director of the Labour Advocacy Institute of East Timor (LAIFET).
'The MPs cannot make a sound and correct decision that would benefit the people of East Timor, unless they fully understand the issues involved. That is why we need a parliamentary committee to review submissions from the oil companies, lawyers, economists, geologists, engineers, scientists and other consultants,' Eusebio said.
'Parliament must not be used just as a rubber stamp,' he added.
It appears most assembly members have been kept in the dark and have very little understanding or knowledge about the MoU--only a handful of people were involved in the negotiations--most of them foreign UN advisers to Chief Minister Alkatiri and Foreign Minister Horta
The seminar was also told by a leading oil and gas engineer, Geoff McKee, and the former head of US oil company Uncoal, John Imle that it is possible and possibly less expensive to build pipelines from the gas fields of Bayu-Undan and Greater Sunrise to East Timor then to Darwin. These information had been made available to senior members of the United Nations Transitional Authority (UNTAET) and the East Timor Transitional Authority (ETTA) for the past two years.
At stake is $US50.4 billion of potential tax revenue from the three oil and gas fields in the Timor Sea--Bayu-Undan (US$12.4 billion), Greater Sunrise (US$36 billion) and Laminaria/Corralina ($US2 billion). In addition, if the gas were to be piped onshore, it would create an estimated 4,000 jobs and billions of dollars in industrial spin-offs.
The MoU is largely based on the 1989 Timor Gap Treaty with Indonesia. It established a Zone of Co-operation (ZoC) to divide up the oil and gas resources between Australia and Indonesia on a 50:50 split in Zone A of the ZoC. It favours Australia because it uses the continental shelf seabed boundary rather than the medium-line (half way) boundary between the two coastlines.
Bayu-Undan falls inside Zone A. However only 20% of the eastern gas field of Greater Sunrise is inside Zone A--the remaining 80% is in Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)--so is the western oil field of Laminaria/Corralina.
In drafting the MoU, the medium line boundary was not applied. And to add to the disadvantage of East Timor, Zone A is retained as the Joint Petroleum Development Area (JPDA). But instead of a 50:50 split, Australia agreed to increase East Timor's share to 90%. This means East Timor is entitled to 90% of Bayu-Undan but only 18% of Greater Sunrise under the 90:10 revenue split, but no revenue from Laminaria/Corralina.
However, if the medium line boundary is applied--the whole of Bayu-Undan would fall inside East Timor's EEZ. And if East Timor than applies the eastern and western lateral boundaries, at least 80% of Greater Sunrise and 100% of Laminaria/Corralina would fall inside East Timor's EEZ.
'We want the maritime boundaries between East Timor and Australia settled by an independent arbitrator. After that is done, we cam discuss the formula for revenue sharing,' Eusebio said.
Eusebio also refutes Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's claim that Australia has been generous to East Timor and he is correct in saying so.
The oil field of Laminaria/Corralina which should belong to East Timor has began production--providing US$300 million in tax revenue for Australia in 2000 and US$350 million in 2001.
As can be seen, for the past two years a total of US$650 million has been siphoned off from East Timor. In other words Australia's generous contribution to East Timor has been paid for by money which rightfully belongs to them. And as the years go by it would be East Timor contributing to Australia's coffer rather then the other way round--where is the generosity!
Eusebio and his colleagues are worried if the MoU is ratified, East Timor might not be able to revisit points of contention at a later date.
Their concerns are shared by three eminent international law specialists--Professor Vaughan Lowe from Oxford University, Christopher Carleton from the UK Marine Hydrographic Office and Australian barrister, Christopher Ward.
In a legal opinion released on 22 April 2002 they stated: 'It is important that East Timor be fully advised prior to entering into any agreement that defines the limits of its rights over the seabed, even a "temporary" or provisional agreement, because any such agreement may materially affect East Timor's long-term entitlement to the resources of the seas and seabed off its coasts.'
The full legal opinion with a detailed map can be found on the website: www.gat.com/Timor_Site.
In helping to draft the MoU, UNTAET has failed in its duty of care. And in turn, Australia has take advantage of East Timor's lack of experience and knowledge.
It must not be forgotten that it was largely due to the UN's and Australia's initial inaction that led to over 75% of East Timor's infrastructure being destroyed in September 1999 by the TNI sponsored militia violence.
Had Ian Martin, the then UNAMET head of mission and the UN taken a tougher stand with Indonesia, and had Foreign Minister Downer and his Department not withheld vital information, the destruction of East Timor might have been avoided. Let's not forget Downer was still talking about 'rouge elements' when Dili began to burn in early September 1999.
Australia and the UN must therefore make amends with East Timor by providing them with the best possible deal.
"When I saw the Palestinians with their hands tied behind their backs, young men, I said 'It is like what the did to us in the Holocaust," Yarkoni told Army Radio.
" We are people who have been through the Holocaust. How are we capable of doing these things?"
The 77 year old said she understood the Israeli reserve soldiers who have refused to serve in the West Bank and Gaza, and revealed that one of her sons-in-law is among the nearly 500 who have signed letters refusing to serve.
On May Day there were 41 Israeli conscientious objectors in jail for refusing to serve in the occupied territories.
Generations of fans throughout Israel have listened to Yaffa's voice . Whenever troops marched into battle she would follow them in fatigues raising spirits with patriotic Hebrew songs.
But her words last week were deemed so offensive that her union has called off a planned tribute which had been planned for two years.
The head of the union is quoted in the LA Times as saying it was forced to make the move after members of the public flooded its offices with complaints and returned tickets purchased for the event, and after sponsors canceled financial support.
The union leadership's reaction has caused a furore inside the union about the right of artists to freely express themselves.
A campaign in support of Yaffa Yarkoni artists' freedom rights has been mounted. You can send a protest note by clicking here on the Israeli Union of Performing Artists website.
The Israeli daily Maariv ran an opinion poll which showed the Israeli public is hostile to journalists, politicians and artists who use their voices to question the government in a time of crisis.
The Maariv poll asked whether it was appropriate to cancel the performance honoring Yaffa Yarkoni after she spoke against Israel's policies in the territories, 55% said it was.
Gidi Gov, a well-known pop singer, announced that he was quitting the Israeli Union of Performing Artists because they had canceled the tribute to Yarkoni.
Moshe Tene, manager of the Tzavta Theater in Tel Aviv, announced that the theatre would hold its own tribute to Yarkoni on May 15.
"I'm already receiving phone calls from artists who want to perform," Tene said. "But I'm also receiving phone calls from people who say they will never set foot in my theatre again. People are growing less and less tolerant. This happened to Yaffa last week, to Beilin ( a former Justice Minister) the week before. People and their opinions are being boycotted. Artists are afraid."
Gidi Gov said that he was not scheduled to sing at Yarkoni's tribute but that he will certainly attend the Tzavta evening to show support for the singer.
"She sang to the soldiers in every war," he said. "Her songs are the songs from my childhood. She is an elderly woman now, and she said what she thinks. Maybe many Israelis think the same way, although they would not say it in these ways. But it doesn't matter to me what she said, it matters to me that she had no protection."
The organisation A Just Republic, is organising a Conference entitled "WHY AN AUSTRALIAN REPUBLIC SHOULD HAVE A BILL OF RIGHTS".
Australian citizens have no protection of their basic rights and freedoms and in spite of the NSW Government holding a Bill of Rights Inquiry in 2000/2001, no State or Territory Bill of Rights exists. There is currently a Bill of Rights Inquiry being held in the ACT.
Please join with us to support a public debate on this issue.
Date: Saturday 1 June 2002
Time: 1pm - 4.30pm
Venue: Tom Mann Theatre
136 Chalmers St Surry Hills (near Devonshire St entrance of Central Stn)
Speakers: Tony Maher, National President, Construction, Forestry, Mining & Energy Union (Mining & Energy Division), Paula Abood, Migrant Community Worker, Tony McAvoy, Aboriginal person, Barrister
There will be a refreshment break followed by discussion and a question time.
Entry: Free of charge (donations welcomed).
Contact: Nizza Siano (02) 9327 3423
Peter Murphy (02) 9211 4164
I am forming an interfaith group to assist a group of Arab Berber refugees in North West Africa, with all forms of assistance. If there has ever been a group of forgotten people from a forgotten war, this is them. These poor souls have been living in tents as refugees in the Algerian Sahara Desert since being driven from their homeland of Western Sahara by an armed Moroccan invasion in 1975!
Please visit the Western Sahara Online website at http://www.wsahara.net and then contact me if you may be interested in your group or you as an individual in helping to form an interfaith group to assist the Sahrawi refugees. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and please do contact me with comments or questions.
Asian women worker activists speakout on Anti-terrorist laws
Friday May 3, 6:30pm A public meeting at Newtown Neighbourhood Centre (King St Newtown)
Organised by Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific and Smash Racism.
Irene Xavier (Formerly detained under Malaysia's internal security act, currently organising women workers.)
Mabel Au (Program coordinator, Committee for Asian Women)
Tim Anderson and Paula Abood discussing the proposed Australian anti-terrorist law and how to fight it.
Theme will be to link the anti-terrorism law currently before Parliament with the Malaysian internal security act.
Irene Xavier is a labour activist working with women workers since 1978. She was involved in
various struggles to organise women workers in the electronics sector to form and lead a national trade union. The Malaysian government has refused the formation of this trade union.
Founded Persatuan Sahabat Wanita together with other activists in 1984. This support group for women workers has worked on several issues such as retrenchment, health and safety, labour rights. In 1987 she was detained under
the Internal Security Act for 355 days. Is currently involved in the women workers movement in Malaysia as
well as in Asia through CAW as well in the stuggle for civil and political rights in Malaysia.
For further info contact Kathy on 0408 413 850
We keep being asked to feel sorry for medical practitioners. They do not want to work in country towns because their is nowhere to spend their huge incomes, state schools are not good enough for them and they bemoan the costs of insurance that are now the norm for everyone
Maybe the Australia Medical Association needs to ask why this country has such high rates in the incidence of preventative deaths and injury damage done to people in the care of Australian medical practitioners.
Maybe there is a need for promotion of medicine as a helping profession alongside medium income earning professions like social work, physiotherapy. psychology and naturopathy,
Academic high achieve lusting after high financial returns could be encouraged to become full time stock brokers specialising in pharmaceuticals ,medical insurance and research. Becoming a sports star or acting celebrity are other options.
Hippocras who believed that "Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease" should not be cloned.
The M1 Alliance writes this open letter to NSW unions to request their involvement in further May 1st demonstrations.
In Sydney, in the face of heavy police intimidation, around 1200 people joined both the blockade of the offices of ACM and later the Unity Rally and march from Martin Place.
Support for M1 came from a broad range of groups including the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, Progressive Young Hazarias, The Wilderness Society, Refugee Action Collective, PNG Solidarity Collective, Sydney People Against a New Nuclear Reactor (SPANNR) and Action for World Development. The M1 Alliance had good relations with the union May Day Committee, and the FSU and a number of other unions participated on the day. The NSW branch of the NTEU actually endorsed M1.
It is of great significance that there is a growing number of young people involved in such protest who see organised trade unions as a very important and powerful vehicle for change. In fact, the loudest applause at the Unity Rally came after Sean Chaffer from the MUA and May Day Committee spoke.
M1 recognises that coming out in protest on May 1st is fundamentally about showing our solidarity with working people around the globe and we look forward to developing these alliances in the future.
In a world where corporate interests increasingly take precedence over real social needs, a growing anti-corporate movement has risen to respond. The strength of this movement has been its unity and diversity as major protests continue to mobilise a huge range of people against the negative effects of corporate-led globalisation.
It is against the negative impacts of corporate-led globalisation privatisation, environmental destruction, attacks on unions, crippling Third World debt, increasing social inequality, the imprisonment of refugees that M1 protesters have come out in their thousands.
For millions of people the day to day struggle against the effects of corporate-led globalisation fundamentally takes place in the workplace and not just in Nike sweatshops.
When WTO agreements effectively force the lowest common denominator in terms on wages and conditions onto working people, a global response is required. This requires raising the issues associated with corporate-led globalisation and spreading them as far and wide amongst ordinary people as possible.
A show of solidarity and strength on May Day is a very important part of that process.
Millions of people and hundreds of unions around the world marched and protested this year on May 1st from Melbourne to Zimbabwe to France to the Philippines to Chile.
The M1 Alliance encourages NSW unions to become more involved in the May 1 day of action and wish to make clear our desire to work with you in any way to make this possible for next year.
Long live May Day.
Firstly, I would like to congratulate and thank all the people responsible for contributing to and publishing Workers Online. It has quickly become my conviction that those Australians who don't read it (i.e. most) will never understand the important issues that are continually reshaping our society.
As a member of the Labor party residing in the third safest Federal Liberal seat in Australia (Bradfield) it is of course impossible to get a proper cross section of views from my immediate neighbours.
However I do my little bit by publishing a modest website www.julianchancock.com in which I try to reveal as much as possible of what is really going on in this, the lucky
country, and to provoke people into looking beneath the
superficiality and bias of the mainstream media.
Currently I am concerned that Simon Crean, while I think he has done an excellent job in ensuring public awareness of the fraudulent behaviour of the Howard Government, might push the Labor Party into eternal oblivion if he continues to pursue his current policy of weakening the Trade Unions' role in the party.
Already some unions have cut off their support for the Labor Party. There has been talk by some Trade Unionists of forming a separate party. If this were to happen, and if people who voted for such a party did not direct their preferences to the Labor Party, then Australia and Australians would be at the mercy of the lying, unscrupulous Fascist Liberal Party.
The disgraceful belligerent and violent behaviour of those cuckoos who continue to suck on the public teat ,and then mutilated the body which provides this teat , as displayed by these vandals in the Sydney May Day protest , has no place in our society.
The deliberate attacks an our police by these delinquents can no longer be tolerated , our police should now be trained and permitted to use all tools available to law enforcement services , including Tear Gas , Defensive Use of Baton and Shield , and Plastic Bullets .
The protection of the people being the only criteria during these sieges carried out by violent criminals posing as concerned citizens participating in at best, civilised protest and at worst justified civil disobedience.
As one who has participated in a myriad of forms of protest and civil disobedience in various countries and continents,involveing issues from Ulster to Uganda I find my self choking on my words , when I hear my own call for the harshest application of Law and Order,to be visited on these rabid rats , and a temporary suspension of our democracy to acheive the common good.
If we refuse to apply self discipline and regulation in our manner of protest, then those with more extreme agendas, than have already been revealed, will gain control through a campaign of fear. So! These ferals must be stopped, and that is why we must empower our Police Force.
Zealously one can even comment , that even Comrade Costa , once a leftie from way back , has also condemned this anarchy , our Police should be given a free reign with these termites of our society .
Was it that old Glebe Boy , Premier Askin , who said ?
"Run over the Bastards"
A friend who recently stayed with me on a trip to Sydney regaled me with this fabulous story about her workplace social club's Mother's Day raffle. I thought I'd share it with other WOL readers as you may appreciate her sentiments.
My friend is one of 3 women doing administrative work at an industrial manufacturing company with a workforce of about 200. The social club of the company is the pet project of the boss. The activities of the social club are determined by the boss and associated goons and funded by the workers.
The workforce was called to a general staff meeting on Tuesday morning where the General Manager made an announcement about the social club's (compulsory) Mother's Day raffle. The prizes for the raffle were proudly presented to the meeting. The first prize was an espresso coffee machine. The second prize was an iron.
My friend raised her arm and asked if there was any head gear to go with the second prize. Her suggestion that the social club might like to contact the footy show as they had been plugging head gear a fair bit lately received a sharp rebuke from the General Manager for the seemingly dissenting comment and she was asked to explain herself. She proposed that in the absence of a third prize for the raffle the social club might like to consider getting a chain - appreciating that all mothers like to be chained to the sink.
Then she added that if anyone gave her an iron for Mother's Day she would beat them about the head with it and went on to explain how she thought that sending any of her fellow workers home with an iron for Mother's Day was a cruel and unusual punishment. She explained that her enquiry about the head gear was simply motivated by her concern for the welfare of her fellow workers. Attempting to end on a positive note she proposed that the social club should ensure that there was an iron as a prize for the social club's Father's Day raffle.
My Name is Ed Nicholles, I am the grievance officer for the Fraser Valley West Local (739) of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
I am also a member of our International Solidarity Weekend planning committee.
Every year we meet with our Sisters and Brothers from the Seatlle Local of the American Postal Workers Union, we hold educational seminars and a Solidarity building social event which is usually a picnic, this is open to members and their families.
We alternate yearly as to which side of the Canada / U.S. border we hold this event.
This year is our fifth year and we are holding the event in Vancouver British Columbia on August 24 & 25.
We have discussed inviting members of other Postal Worker Unions from other countries to join us in our celebration of Solidarity.
Unfortunately our funds are limited and we are unable to sponsor participants from other countries this year, however this is an open invitation to any member of your affiliates that may be visiting our area to join us at the seminars and / or picnic.
For further information please feel free to contact me at Nicholles@union.org.za
or if in the area ring me at 604-220-5223
by Peter Lewis
This week we've seen young people on the streets at M1 protests, but it won't have much to do with the ALP. Has Labor lost it's edge with young people?
I think the basic thing is that Labor is still getting the lion's share of young people's votes. We know that 18-24yr olds are still voting for us, massively ahead of any other party. But I think we have lost our position compared to previous generations. We have certainly lost a lot of our primary vote amongst that age group. There are a lot of visible issues that young people care about, particularly globalisation and the environment, that seem to catch young people's imaginations, where we don't necessarily have a presence. However we've actually got quite a lot to say and should have a stronger presence on some of these topics.
Young Labor does not exactly have a cool image - has it been the professionalisation of the Party that you think has lead to that situation?
No, look I don't think it necessarily is to do with that. It depends a lot on the issues that are the really "hot" issues for a generation and I guess people talk all the time about young people protesting against Vietnam and how that captured people's imagination. However there are quite different issues that are around now and it's not so much the changing attractiveness of the Party because of who's in it, I just think that we need to re-address how we are looking at the issues that young people care about.
What about an issue like asylum seekers, has Labor's handling of that, in your view, been damaging to it's appeal amongst young people?
I think it's been a damaging issue in the community generally. It's not necessarily one that young people are more passionate about than others. All indications are that there is a lot of diversity amongst young people on this issue, just as there is in the rest of the community, about how we should go forward. But my view is that we can afford to listen more to young people and we need to accept that political parties are not the places that young people voluntarily come to all the time to express their views. We need to actually make sure we are going out to them more and we have to do that through different forms of communication, not just through the newspapers or the nightly news because that is not necessarily where young people are getting most of their information.
Do you think organisations like Young Labor, which are basically models of the grown up Party, are the right forum?
I think there is plenty of scope for Young Labor, along with the rest of Labor, to re-think how it's structured and whether it is attractive for young people in the way it operates. The only thing we should be careful of is we don't want to have young people too far removed from the main body of politics, because their views need to be heard by politicians of whatever age. We also want to make sure that there is an effective way to do that, whether it's through Young Labor or through other structures.
What sort of other structures are there?
Well I mean that's why we're actually going through this review of the Party and the sorts of things that I've been proposing is looking at issues based forums or branches rather than geographical ones, for example. It is young people in particular who are interested in the environment or are interested in globalisation or interested in rights for young workers. They are things that they would be able to meet and talk about with others who are similarly interested. We need to build a good conduit then for any decisions or views that come up in those forums to be passed on to the Party as a whole.
How's that proposal gone down since you've raised it?
Well the Hawke/Wran review hasn't reported yet so I guess I don't know whether it will be something that's included, but we've certainly got lots of feedback on it! A lot of people are interested in being able to meet and talk about issues that they care about and are passionate about rather than sit through what can often be a bit tedious in branch meetings. There certainly seems to be a lot of evidence and anecdotes around that young people would rather organise and talk over issues rather than other types of structures. So I think it's our obligation if we want to be relevant to the next generation to be out there finding what those issues are and organising forums and opportunities for young people to talk to Labor.
Within that model how difficult or challenging would you see getting these sort of structures up and running issues without being consumed by the issues of factionalism and pre-selection that seems to have strangled the local branch structure?
Trying to re-think our internal structure, so that you can actually be organised around issues, does take quite a lot of change because for over a hundred years we've organised ourselves based on local geography. And the branch meetings have always been a mix of local issues and voting at the local level as well as the bigger picture things that people might have been interested in. But I think that as a national Party we can't afford to say that local politics is the only thing we want people to be interested in.
I wouldn't want that to be taken as me thinking it's not important, there are lots of reasons that many local issues are important. But we need to have a bit more breadth and encourage people to join who aren't worried about a local toxic dump or aren't worried about the local primary school and want to put their energy into international affairs or some other issue that we legitimately need to have a role in. It's going to take a lot of work to determine a new structure, such as: how will people meet, if they are going to need to be on the internet, are we going to want to be able to have forums every six months because people will have to travel further. It does create a fair number of challenges, but I don't think ones that are beyond us.
As the person responsible for youth affairs within the Crean Shadow Ministry, how difficult is it to get your agenda listened to in a time when we've got an ageing population and the political parties might by necessity have to really pitch themselves at an ageing demographic?
Well I think that the problems of the ageing population are ones that have got a lot of good coverage and attention and certainly a lot of my colleagues are acutely aware of it. But I think when we go back to some of the basics, which is why we have lost some of our primary vote amongst young people. The 18-24yr olds we're talking about make up about 10% of the population and we are talking about a time when elections are won or lost by 1% or 2%. Some energy being put into the way that we reach young people is something that has got a big electoral impact. Quite apart from that I think my colleagues are just as aware as I am that the next generation are the ones that we need to actually be winning over because we need to deal with the future. Children and young people may only be something like 20% of our current population, but they are 100% of our future. So we can't afford to ignore them, and I don't think any of my colleagues believe that they can or should be ignored.
You've also got responsibility for children what are your priorities there?
My priorities as the new spokesperson in this area is to actually look at what it is that families, and young people in particular, really need and can expect from Government. We've very much segregated a lot of our children's services in different states and between different levels of Government and I think that it's actually got to a point where we have to go back to the start and ask - why is it important for children in their earliest years to have support - why is it important for their health and well being - what impact does it have on their future developments? There's actually now heaps of research on the value of investing in these very early years of a child's development and the impact it can have in their later life.
So what I'm trying to focus on is the way the mix of children's health, maternal and child health, child care and other children's services fit with the rest of our concerns about how you balance work and family. Another big question is how these services tie in with the industrial relations system.
You've also been, as a young women in Parliament, involved with the Labor Women's Network and they met last weekend recommending remedial action in some states to raise the number of women in Parliament. Can you see scope for similar quotas for younger people as well?
I think that we have to constantly be vigilant if we want the Labor Party to be progressive and representative of the community. We have to always be looking at whether we've got a good mix of people in Parliament, whether it's young people, whether it's women. I think some more attention needs to be given to people of different ethnic backgrounds and there's even a debate, which is healthy to have, whether we all come too much from one section of the community. If we don't keep challenging and asking those questions, we can get complacent. I don't think that's happened yet, but it's good for us to keep pushing the boundaries.
One of the more interesting, vaguely political stories this week was the voting out of the Big Brother house of the Young Liberal and Young Labor's claimed some credit for that. How important is popular culture in getting a political message across?
Well of course it is important, but I think it's actually much more difficult to try to penetrate in a serious political way. As politicians we shouldn't take ourselves so seriously that we aren't prepared to be involved in commenting on those sorts of things, but on the other hand you can't always be expected to be up with every popular culture issue.
One of the things that I worked on during the recent Youth Week was a report containing the views of nearly 3,000 young Australians about the issues that they were most interested in, the things they enjoyed doing most, and what they would do first if they were Prime Minister for the day. This report was presented to Simon Crean on the final day of Youth Week. In terms of what they enjoyed doing most, the things that rated the highest were sport, socialising, music and dancing, and I think there is a message in that which is we mustn't dismiss these as non-political issues. I think there are actually ways to be able to use the things that young people are interested in to help get our message across.
But I also think the report provides some ideas about some things that we can explore a little bit more, like the need to provide more decent sporting facilities, both to meet their recreational needs and to help in preventing young people getting into all sorts of trouble. Everyone always thinks it's always politics versus the things that are more fun. I guess we have to try to make politics a little bit more interesting but at the end of the day we're still concerned about a lot of serious issues and we think that young people are too when they come to actually place their vote at the ballot box.
Well on that note, the challenge for Labor looking forward to a younger demographic is to wrap the traditional Labor values and Labor story into a contemporary context. Have you gone through that process in your mind, what does Labor mean to the new generation and if so, what is that message?
It's going to be something that I will probably be developing and revising in my mind every time I talk to another group of young people because it's not an easy thing to do and I don't think I have the answers for it yet. But what I am interested in exploring a bit more are the issues for the next generation of young people that are going to be different, and particularly the trends that we're seeing amongst young people - fewer having children or having children later, putting off buying houses or not being able to buy houses, often not making decisions about permanent partnering until much later. All those factors signal that there are new issues facing young people and obviously a lot of it's also driven by their working environment, casualisation, contract labour all those sorts of things.
Labor needs to be talking about what it is that we can deliver for young people who are in that position. We can't ignore a big group of people who have different needs to people of similar age from previous generations. So I'm looking at these issues and hoping that we can have a debate about where appropriate public investment should be made. I think we've increasingly lost perspective on why governments spend money on public infrastructure such as universities and child care centres, especially under this Government where they're very much into providing support directly to an individual person or family.
I actually think for this next generation we have to re-make arguments about why it's worthwhile to invest in a whole lot of public programs and what that would deliver. It's probably a debate that is a currently a fair way down the track, but I would like to play a role in helping articulate and promote
The building industry pact signed this week heralds a new era of co-operation in an industry that has for over a century been a major area of demarcation disputes. It is also another example of the key historical role of peak councils in ensuring the long term good for the union movement as a whole.
In Australia and Great Britain the clash between unions and groups of workers in the late 19th century has been termed a clash between the Labour Aristocrats and the New Unionism. The aristocrats were the skilled tradesmen and craftspeople such as stonemasons, carpenters, engineers and printers. These have generally been seen as less militant than the unskilled who began organising at the time. These skilled workers had a long history of organising through craft guilds (these dating back to at least the 1600s in England). These imposed strict limits on entry to trades and long apprenticeships for those who did join. These craft traditions were breakdown by the Industrial revolution as new manufacturing techniques made them impossible to sustain in the face of factory production and mechanisation.
Patmore notes that the New Unionism seems to have its origins in the London Dock Strike of 1889 when large groups of semi-skilled and unskilled workers such as dockworkers, gas workers and seamen formed unions.
The unskilled may have been more militant but Hobsbawm attributes more radicalism to the apparently moderate skilled trades as they were the driving forces behind peak bodies such as the TUC and Labor Councils (in Australia) and the Labor parties.
Phelps-Brown in his classic study of British industrial relations notes that the rapid spread of the new unionism across the British isles brought with it many short stoppages as the economy expanded and workers gained more bargaining power. The trade cycle downturn led to fewer but longer stoppages in many industries where unions grew. Union headquarter were not usually the initiators but workers on the ground struck to protect wages and the position of their union (demarcation). The settlement of demarcation disputes was a big factor in setting up federations of unions and the TUC, and in Australia the labour councils. One of the major roles of peak bodies quickly became the settling of demarcation disputes. The conflict between unions in occupations such as engineering and shipbuilding was fierce, as were the clashes between skilled and unskilled workers. The federation of the large numbers of unions that developed at this time was often in response to these disputes that could not be arbitrated and the co-operation between apparently conflicting small unions engendered by their discussion at higher levels.
New unions developed at this too because the older unions refused to have anything to do with the newer unskilled workers.
The control of entry into the trade was the reason the first unions were organised by occupation, not location. Class differences between the aristocrats and the other workers meant refusal to even associate with other workers in one workplace who were not of the same trade or who were unskilled.
Trades Councils were formed to help maintain the situation of the skilled workers.
The demarcations had been against the new workers, but the new forms of organising amongst the unskilled meant that the new general unions recruited across industries. The older unions also began to change at this time. The new unions also were the ones who adopted Marxist and socialist views of the structure of society. The older unions seem to have been the ones in the UK who developed the Labour Party. The way that that these decisions were taken has influenced the shape of British unions ever since, as the unions became independent minded and clannish not industrially based or influenced so much by central councils. The Australian experience was from the late 1880s of industrial and general unions developing and the craft rigidities and extra wages for crafts not so apparent. They did not have the aristocratic advantages of British unions, could not enforce the indentured apprenticeships of the British crafts unions. Technological change labour shortages and productive reorganisation up to 1890 also had a big impact on craft margins.
The Labor Council has throughout its long history constantly been involved in demarcations, and in a sense it is the reason it and other peak bodies were established. The Council was a key player in getting the first Inter-Colonial Trade Union Congress going in 1879 and further congresses up to 1898. The major organising initiative of this congress was the Australasian Labor Federation (ALF) whose aim was the unification of working class organizations on the political and industrial level. The Council actually became the Sydney District Council of the ALF in 1894. This move came just as union organising peaked and went into rapid decline during the Depression so ALF existed in name only. The ALF history is a complex one of different factions within the union movement, just the sort of thing the current building industry pact is aimed at overcoming.
Its also the first form of the idea of the One Big Union (OBU) that was later pursued from different angles by the IWW, the AWU and led to the formation of the ACTU in 1927.
In the 1900s and 1910s the Labor Council urged amalgamations between rival unions, who were often all affiliates to avoid demarcations. This was the case with various unions of tobacco workers (successfully) and in the metal trades (unsuccessfully).
That the Labor Council was seen a key player is clearly shown by the fact hat unions persisted in seeking affiliation despite knock backs and political rivalries. This key role has remained to today, as the signing of the building industry pact illustrates.
The Labor Council also attempted to keep demarcations in check by refusing affiliation from groups who they saw as having adequate coverage from existing members.
The TUC, like the Labor Council in NSW, attempted to overcome many of these problems. The TUC and the Labor Council equally saw the importance of stressing an overall purpose of workers organizations, rather than just emphasising narrow sectional interests which was a cause of demarcation. Walter Citrine played a major part in the TUC General Council's inquiry into the structure of the trade union Movement, requested by the 1924 Congress at Hull, and the results of which were presented by the General Council in a report to the 1927 Congress. In the interim, Citrine had written a crucial memorandum on the question of structure.
Citrine saw the defects in trade union structure as:
(2) competition for members,
(3) unions offering different rates of contributions and
benefits for apparently the same services,
(4) demarcation of work, and
(5) lack of a co-ordinated policy."
By 1924 a number of "main principles" of good trade union practice had been established and formed the terms of reference of the TUC Disputes Committee when considering union disputes over membership.
BUILDING INDUSTRY CONFLICT
In general labouring unions the demarcations also came up, an interesting development given that Councils were set up to help these general trades get unions for these sectors. One of the unions that formed out of the battles in the building labourers was the forerunner of the BLF, who broke away from the United Labourers.
The best-known story of the massive conflict in the building industry is of course the battle between the BLF and the BWIU in the 1960s and 1970s. These conflicts were shaped around ideological differences between left wing parties (the split in the Communist Party into the SPA, CPA-ML and the CPA).
The building industry was a critical sphere, and the Building Trades Group within Labor Council had long operated independently and with much stability. A big change in the leadership of the BLF changed things dramatically, and actions on Green Bans brought the differences into public view. Other major differences between the BWIU and the BLF was question of accident pay that led to the BLF invading Labor Council, who were seen as favouring the BWIU on this issue.
The activities of the federal office of the BLF eventually led to the demise of the NSW leadership, and then to the demise of the BLF itself, and the BWIU effectively took over, becoming the CFMEU a little later. These moves to amalgamation were in line with the ACTU amalgamation push, begun in the late 1980s. It was also in line with the century old Labor Council approach to these kinds of disputes, and the reason for peak council establishing in the UK and Australia. The prestige of peak councils enabled them to be an influence with unions, and effectively operate as "the Parliament of Unions". The "parliamentary role" thus arose from demarcation disputes, and ensured an ongoing role for peak councils with unions, and strong influence with industrial tribunals and governments as the effective voice of the labour movement, as Citrine set out clearly in his prescient comments of the TUC in the 1920s.
`Function must determine structure', I wrote, `and that type of organization which will suit the minimum needs of a union's own members will not necessarily be best for the attainment of all the broader objects.'
The rise of peak councils in adjudicating between unions has seen this focus on broader objects as the major reason for their existence. The building industry pact of this week is the latest example of the Labor Council acting to ensure that the good of the union movement overall must take precedence over the factional warfare between rival unions.
Ray Markey. In Case of Oppression: the life and times of the Labor Council of NSW (Annandale, NSW: Pluto Press, 1994)
E H Phelps Brown. The Growth of British Industrial Relations (London: Macmillan, 1965)
Greg Patmore. Australian Labour History. (Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, 1991)
Derek H. Aldcroft and Michael J. Oliver, Trade Unions and the Economy: 1870-2000. (Aldershot, Hampshire and Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2000)
Six months ago, trouble erupted on the concrete alleyway outside Woolloomoolo's historic Mathew Talbot Hostel. Neville rushed to the disturbance, pinning a deranged man to the ground while workmates attempted to contain flailing arms and legs.
For an hour and a half they struggled as welfare worker, Sam Gooch, rang for police assistance. They are still waiting.
It wasn't a typical evening at Matthew Talbot but nor was it unique.
The St Vincent de Paul-run hostel, with its 132 beds, 20 for the intoxicated, is the place of last resort for Sydney's homeless male population.
It attracts men beset by alchohol, drug and gambling woes along, increasingly, with those tormented by serious mental health issues.
Matthew Talbot not only fails to attract the attention of police but also a Federal Government baulking at financing its share of a 6.5 percent wage increase handed down by the IRC.
The Vinnies meet the bulk of operating costs but Federal Government, which uses the service to pick up the increasingly slack in its welfare and mental health nets, contributes a fixed percentage of the wage bill.
Until now, that is. While the NSW Government will meet its share of the increase won by the Australian Services Union, Federal Treasurer Peter Costello is ducking and diving.
He is holding out on a rise that would lift the take-home wage of Gooch, a 27-year-old with an honours degree in psychology, from $450 a week to around $500, after she pays HECS fees.
Gooch has worked at the hostel for two and half years. The people to whom she is closest, wonder why?
"I love the job and I love the men too," she explains.
"I'm looking for an internship but I'm in no hurry. The people I work with here are great but I'm usually so tired and stressed-out when I leave that two bottles of wine seem a better option than sitting down and writing out an application.
"In the end, I will have to go because of the financial situation. It's getting to the point where my Dad is going to turn around and say - 'you're a big girl now, it's time you started buying your own groceries.
"That's how tight it is and that's the honest to God truth."
Gooch used to pick up a couple of overtime shifts in a bid to cover more than her $300 rent but soon became run down.
Little wonder. Matthew Talbot's welfare workers have core case loads of 22 clients but that figure is inflated by casual visitors with problems that can't be ignored.
Not only does the hostel provide lodgings for men in crisis but it throws open its doors, between 6am and 6pm, to those wanting a shower, a meal, somewhere to wash their clothes or just watch a bit of television.
This all-welcome philosophy brings its own problems.
When as many as 400 men, down on their luck, queue for a meal you can imagine the disagreements and where they might lead.
Only two support workers supervise meals and Gooch concedes it is they, rather than the social workers, who cop most of the aggro - at mealtimes or just manning the front desk.
Desperate men know it is the welfare workers who might be able to prise open a door at Centrelink, the Housing Department or a medical centre.
This work, though, brings dilemmas on an almost daily basis.
Gooch can sit down with a man, desperate to retrieve a life stolen by gambling and drink, and agree on a plan to stave off eviction. Likely as not, she will turn up the next day to find he has cashed in his dole cheque at an all night boozer up the road. Hope and good intentions have disappeared down a slot machine, and it's back to square one.
Should she okay another 14 days accommodation, fearing that when push comes to shove, the pokies will win again?
Who benefits from our easy access to alcohol, gambling and credit and what responsibilities do they have for picking up at least some of the pieces?
How long will she put her own ambitions on hold while friends and family subsidise something the Federal Government doesn't regard as a priority?
"That's the real problem," Gooch says. "It is hard to stay motivated to do a good job when you know your work isn't valued.
"Honestly, some of these men have more disposable income than us.
"What people like John Howard don't seem to understand is that most of the people doing my job are paying HECS. When they're helping keep a place like this going, on low wages, it's ridiculous taking $50 out of their wages every week.
"We can make $50 go a long way. We've learned how to do it."
If it wasn't for the goodwill of employers, aware of the conditions under which staff go to extra lengths, she says, she would have left long ago.
Gooch has a simple challenge for Costello, Howard and anyone else who doubts she deserves to take home $500 a week.
"Come down and see for yourself," she says. "We have big people who come and have lunch with the men for a publicity thing but that's not what I mean.
"Stick around for a couple of weeks, meet the men and see what a shortage of affordable accommodation means for so many people then tell us what you really think."
In the third week in April 2002 seven NSW Union leaders signed an inter union construction industry pact and in doing so they redefined what is possible in the practice of multi union campaigns. In my view this is an extremely significant development and has the potential to redefine the boundaries for what is possible in the practice of contemporary unionism in Australia.
The idea of union pacts and solidarity arrangements between unions is an idea as old as the union movement itself. We have historically understood at a very deep level that more unity is more powerful than less unity.
Despite this few would argue that we been particularly unified as a movement over the last 20 years and at various time we have been far from it. Yet there has never been a time when we have needed to be more unified.
On this background it is difficult to overstate the significance of the 2002 Building and Civil Construction Industry Pact. It really is an extraordinary leap forward in the practice of contemporary unionism and the leaders involved in signing the pact deserve acknowledgement for their stance.
The Pact works on several levels. At it's most basic level the pact commits unions to old fashion principles of solidarity and touch one touch all.
But the Pact goes much further requiring unions to value diversity of opinion. You really have to pause for a moment to let the significance of this sink in.
In NSW we not only have a left and a right faction, but you also have deep divisions within both the left and the right. The Unions in the NSW construction industry have a history based in each of the sub factional groupings. The parties in fact take this issue head on and specifically agree to keep factionalism out of the picture. Signatories include the ETU and the TWU, the CFMEU, AMWU, PGU, AWU and the Labor Council of NSW.
So how do you leave behind years of factional battles, court battles, industrial turf wars and keep divisive ALP based factional battles out of your campaigns? The answer it seems is simple - you just agree that you are going to do it and then commit yourself to making it happen.
What I hear you say 'we will just wait and see what happens'? Well consider that visiting unionists from oversees are often perplexed by our factional structures. It's not like this in other parts of the world so why shouldn't construction union in NSW choose real dialog and unity over division?
The real insight here is to see that the Pact reverses our normal approach to campaigning. So instead of saying 'given what we have to work with what can we do', the Pact starts with the bold question 'if anything were possible what would we do?' By asking the question assuming anything was possible, then the real barriers to unity are placed under the spotlight. The breakthrough in the construction industry has occurred because unions have agreed to consciously remove barriers to unity from their campaign.
For example, the parties have agreed to leave the past issues such as mistrusts, dislikes and petty jealousies in the past and to move forward around goals such as "building a fighting force for union members".
If during the course of the campaign a past issue arises, then according to the Pact concerns around this issue will not be honored because such concerns may prove to be a barrier to building the movement in the construction industry. Can it really that easy?
The Pact also codifies the standards of behavior that unions expect from one another. For example Union secretaries commit to honoring their word. That is doing what they say they going to do when they say they going to do it.
Equally importantly, unions commit to follow a dispute settlement process if an issue arises. In other words, it's possible to make a mistake and get back on track by being responsible for what you have done. So the construction unions have created a much needed rule book.
If we have a dark and a light side to our movement maybe we could characterize it as being made up of passion and optimism on the one hand and resignation and cynicism on the other. What is striking about the Pact is that its authors have struck a bold statement for the former over the latter. It's a statement about who we are and what we are about and conscious decision to break from the past.
If six boofy blokes from the NSW construction industry led by the Labor Council of NSW can generate an inspirational initiative like this Pact, then the challenge is on for all unions. I mean where can't this be done in a multi union campaign? Isn't it the new standard?
The Building and Civil Construction Unions Pact
The parties to this Pact acknowledge that the unions involved in the Building and Civil Construction Industries have an on going responsibility to improve the wages conditions of employment and the safety of building workers in their industry. It is recognized that the best way to achieve this objective is to strengthen the unity of the building unions and to continue to enhance our organising capacity. This unity is essential in the context of the escalating attacks on worker and trade union rights.
In November 2001 the Labor Council of NSW facilitated a meeting of Building and Civil Construction Unions. A consensus emerged at the meeting that the current generation of union leadership stand for the following objectives:
· the increased unionisation of building and construction and associated industry workers,
· building a fighting force of union members, and
· the empowering building and construction workers to actively own their unions.
The workshop discussed at length past divisions amongst unions in the NSW Building and Civil Construction Industries for example issues such as;
· right and left
· hard and soft
· the influence of ALP politics, and
· other historical differences
None of these influences were seen to have sufficient weight within the current environment to prevent the Unions entering into this pact for the greater good of the trade union movement and rank and file building workers.
Commitment to the Pact
The Unions choose to sign this agreement and in doing so;
· commit to working strategically and co-operatively towards achieving common objectives,
· commit to valuing the diversity and the independence of each of the unions,
· commit to actively support the building and strengthening of each of the other unions
· commit to the resolution of disputes in a manner consistent with other commitments made, and
· commit to not allowing ALP politics, "left, right, hard, soft, etc" to interfere, undermine or act as a barrier to co-operation.
What is required of the Unions involved
Touch one touch all
1. Accepting and acting on the basis that the pact has at its heart the old union motto of touch one touch all
2. Valuing diversity of opinion
3. Accepting that such unions have separate democratic processes, histories and cultures
4. Resolving differences of opinion and valuing the need to work as a collective of unions
Acting at all times with integrity towards one another
1. Honoring your word
2. Not publicly attacking or denigrating each other
3. Following an agreed dispute settlement procedure where there are differences between unions
Campaign and Resources
1. Committing to the allocation of additional resources that will support a number of campaigns in the Building and Civil Construction Industries which are designed to meet the objectives set out in this Pact. These campaigns will focus on improving the quality of life of workers and their families by:
§ securing quality "time out" from long working hours;
§ demanding employers provide workers with adequate time off for them to participate in community affairs;
§ demanding greater Health & Safety in the workplace;
§ proactively exposing employers who do not comply with employment or employment related laws;
§ increasing active union membership;
§ improving wages and conditions via enterprising agreements.
2. A commitment of time by the relevant union decision makers to ensure that the process is fully backed by their union decision making processes and members.
3. The relevant union secretaries (or their nominee) available on a regular basis to consult and co-ordinate agreed campaigns.
Should a disagreement arise between unions involved in this Pact the following procedure will apply:
1. In the first instance disputed matters will be discussed between the affected parties, ie. Delegates, Union Officials, Union Secretaries etc.
2. If the matter remains unresolved the parties shall refer the matter to the relevant union secretary(or nominee) for resolution.
3. If the matter remains unresolved, the parties shall refer the matter to the Labor Council who will facilitate a process aimed at resolving the dispute.
The parties commit to acting with good faith towards each other throughout this procedure.
As a consequence of the undertakings given by all the Unions signatories to this Pact, it is agreed that the Unions will support the establishment of Building and Construction Groups via the Trades and Labor Council's in regional areas.
Warnings by civil libertarians and the ACTU last week that proposed Australian laws to counter terrorism could see routine political and industrial activity proscribed, should come as no surprise.
The Liberal Party has had a long flirtation with laws that would place Australia on the road to a police state.
In 1950 the new Liberal government of Prime Minister Robert Menzies introduced a Bill to dissolve the Communist Party of Australia (CPA).
Not only would the Bill outlaw the CPA, but also ban other organisations, and imprison individuals, believed to be prejudicial to the laws and defence of Australia. Banning also entailed the confiscation of assets by the government.
The government only had to be 'satisfied' of the guilt of the targeted organisation and individual for the law to take effect.
During the 1950s in Australia the term 'communist' was a general term of abuse and vilification used by conservatives to describe people and organisations to the left of the Liberal Party, irrespective of whether or not they were communists or sympathisers.
Trade unions that did not toe the Menzies industrial line, especially those in the essential services, were prominently in the frame.
When a High Court challenge to the Bill by the CPA and ten trade unions found the legislation unconstitutional, Menzies put the Ban proposal to a referendum.
The Australian people narrowly rejected the Ban in 1951. The scales were tipped against Menzies by the courageous and consistent civil libertarianism of ALP leader Dr H. V. Evatt who campaigned at great personal and political cost against the Ban.
Undeterred, Menzies and his apparatchiks subsequently made great use of the Crimes Act, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), and Arbitration Act amendments, to hound, persecute and prosecute the political and industrial left.
In 1952 Cabinet rejected as too controversial draft legislation to introduce the death penalty for a new definition of 'spying' under the Official Secrets Bill. The contentious legislation would have permitted wide powers of search and arrest without warrant. The provisions regarding 'onus of proof ' basically gave the authorities the whip hand; virtually a matter of guilty as charged.
No matter. Avoiding public scrutiny and debate, Menzies and ASIO secretly went ahead with plans to intern untrustworthy migrants and native-born leftist radicals and trade unionists should the opportunity present itself in the form of a 'national emergency'.
Initially 750 people were listed for internment in holding camps, but this eventually blew out to 16,660 people. The plan was still on the books during the early 1970s.
At no stage were any of the many European Fascists and Nazis who came to post-war Australia ever considered for internment, not even the bona fide 'war criminals'.
Fast forward to 1969. John Gorton is the Liberal Prime Minister, and Nigel Bowen the Attorney-General. The Vietnam War is in full swing, and a growing and robust anti-war movement is confronting the Liberal government and its slavish adherence to American foreign policy.
In an attempt to curtail the anti-war movement, Bowen's legal hacks come up with draconian curbs on free speech, including hefty fines and prison terms of up to three years. Proposed legislation makes it easy to ban public demonstrations, and it becomes a crime to criticise government policy, government Ministers, and friendly foreign governments (like those of the US and South Vietnam).
But it is late in 1969. The Liberals are gnawing away at their own innards with factional fighting, and they are facing a Federal election and an increasingly critical electorate.
So Cabinet quietly slips the proposed legislation under the carpet; it is considered too hard to sell.
Roll on to the aftermath of 11 September 2001. The 'War Against Terror' is in full swing, and Australia again slavishly follows American foreign policy. On the home front John Howard is in the chair with his plans to counter 'terrorism' and ride roughshod over democratic niceties. John worships at the shrine of Robert Menzies who knew how to get things done. It looks like being a matter of 'here we go again' as the Liberals do a Dorothy and take Australia down the police state road.
These conferences are unusual in the ALP because , in theory, any woman party member can go (in practice the women who go are those who can afford the time and the money to attend). That makes them quite different to other ALP Conferences that are more formal with elected representatives. The conferences are a great and necessary forum for women to build their political skills and to get issues of particular importance to women properly considered and debated. While decisions taken at the Conference are not binding ( some cynics amongst us reckon this is a problem with other more formal party forums as well!) they do have a great deal of influence in determining ALP policy and practice.
So, what do ALP women want?
1. More Women Politicians
We want more ALP women elected to our parliaments. To be precise we want fifty percent of all ALP politicians to be women. The ALP currently has a rule requiring thirty five percent of our ALP parliamentarians to be women. In NSW we're not there yet, in fact we have a fair way to go in the Legislative Assembly (with neither faction covering itself in glory). So fifty percent looks very optimistic but as (just over) fifty percent of the population it's a very fair claim that's long overdue. We can now expect a lot of hand wringing and gnashing of teeth by blokes who might miss out on a seat if this target is adopted.
As a supporter of more women pollies I do also want to make the point that targets and loadings are not in themselves sufficient. We need training, support and fair and open party processes that don't reward women and men for rorting the system. We also need to replicate the National Labor Women's Conference here in NSW - a forum where any woman member in the state can participate and develop her political skills in a woman friendly environment. We used to have such a forum but it was abolished over a decade ago. Some of us (and a growing number at that) want it back.
(As an aside it was pointed out at the dinner to celebrate the centenary of the establishment of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission that seven out of twenty five Commission members were women. That's better than the twelve out of fifty five women ALP pollies in the NSW Legislative Assembly).
2. A Woman for National President of the ALP
We want more women politicians and we want more women through out the ALP's structures. Its time for a woman National President. After all, its been a bloke for the last 100 odd years and now its our turn. Even the NSW Branch of the ALP is doing its bit with Ursula Stephens taking up the Branch President's role later this year (am I the only one who finds it ironic that to get a woman Branch President we have to vote for a man first?). Now, if the NSW Branch can do it, surely it can't be too hard at the National level.
3. Women to have a say on Conscience Votes
The ALP National Executive has set up a sub-committee to investigate appropriate processes and circumstances for ALP politicians to have conscience votes. This sub-committee is all men. They sometimes just don't get it! (I must say it is hard to have to go to women's conferences and time and again call for representation of women at all levels of the party structure). Given that women's reproductive capacities have in the past often been the subject of conscience votes it does seem fair to have women added to the sub-committee and that's what we want.
(I won't even attempt to answer the question of how we can deal with the apparent conflict between having a party platform and individual choice by those representing the party in parliament on how they vote - that's definitely for another day).
4. A universal system of Paid Maternity Leave
This is an idea whose time is well and truly here. Its not a question of whether it should happen but rather one of when it will happen and how. The Conference was clear that this is an issue of equality for women in the paid workforce and that we want the ILO Convention minimum standard of 14 weeks. The ALP federal parliamentary leadership support it so that's a good start. Even Alan Jones thinks it's a good idea. Now all we have to do is convince the Federal Government.......
5. Quality Affordable Childcare (and better pay for childcare workers)
Paid Maternity Leave is only one part of securing fair and equitable work and family practices. Childcare is another element. Increasing numbers of women with young children work whether by choice or necessity and this number increases as their children grow. Working parents need and deserve quality, affordable childcare. Childcare workers need proper recognition for their vitally important skills and expertise through fair pay rates - not something they have now. This means that governments must recognise the importance of this work for Australian society and fund childcare properly.
6. Pay Equity
Women in Australia earn on average 11% less than men and this gap, which was narrowing, has stalled. The NSW Industrial Relations Commission has adopted a pay equity principle to address this issue. The Queensland and Tasmanian tribunals have similar principles. These are great initiatives and need to be expanded to other jurisdictions. We must do more however, to deal with issues such as over award payments which are outside the tribunals' jurisdiction and a major cause of difference between men's and women's pay. There also needs to be strategies to reverse the trends to individual contracts and increased casualisation as these also affect the pay outcomes for women.
7. Recognition of the importance of trade unions
The Conference had no hesitation in recognising the significance of trade unions for working women and reaffirmed the importance of the link between unions and the ALP. This followed a stirring speech by Sharan Burrow at the conference dinner who pointed out that if the ALP wanted to know what people were thinking they should talk to union organisers and officials who were working day and night in workplaces and in communities talking to workers and their families about their concerns and their hopes for the future.
8. An end to mandatory detention
There was strong support for better and more humane treatment of asylum seekers. This recognised the need for health and identity checks and for such checks to take the minimum time possible. Asylum seekers should then be released into the community while their claims are assessed. This is an issue that will not go away while people throughout the world face war and persecution. Australia must show it is part of the international community and respect basic human rights for all.
These are only some of the issues dealt with over a very busy two days and there are certainly many other things that women want (a fair few of us wanted dessert at the conference dinner for example). This is not a bad list to be working on as a start - the challenge now is for women to organise to ensure we get what we want and what we deserve!.
Around 400 "M1" protesters gathered outside the Sydney offices of Australasian Correctional Management, who own and operate the refugee detention centres, on May Day this year. Numbers were significantly down on the 5000 people who blockaded the Sydney Stock Exchange as part of last year's M1.
The blockade of the offices began as a peaceful demonstration, but turned nasty after several protesters allegedly threw hundreds of marbles under police horses, which caused several police officers to be injured. The melee continued with one protester throwing a firecracker under the horses and more protesters throwing horse manure at police.
The protesters who gathered outside the ACM office at around 7.30 am also disrupted many workers in the surrounding areas who had to get to work as early as 5.30 am to enter their workplaces. Several unions received reports of their members unable to attend work, as they were unable to make alternative arrangements for childcare or transport.
However, on a lighter and more positive side the traditional May Day toast took a new format this year as a "Toast & Jam", with the announcement of the Wobbly Radio "Union Song" competition winners. Over 500 unionists crowded South Sydney Leagues Club to partake in the toast and to listen to sets from the competition finalists and winners hip hop act "Swarmy G." with their song "MAY DAY/MAY DAY"
The scene was much more peaceful in Melbourne with 8,000 unionists joining with the M1 Collective in a "Unity" Rally outside of the Building Industry Royal Commission in Collins Street.
Victorian Trades Hall Secretary Leigh Hubbard told the crowd that he wanted to see May Day established as a public holiday.
An amusing and confusing May Day took place in the Top End. Only about 20 protesters "blockaded" Coonawarra Naval Base in downtown Darwin which is used as a temporary processing center for refugees. Whilst the 20 demonstrators didn't make a huge impact in the news they managed to cause two car accidents and one near miss after trying to attract attention to their action on a busy intersection.
To make things more bizarre Country Liberal Party Federal Senator Nigel Scullion attended the rally and proceeded to lecture the protesters about "hijacking" May Day. The Conservative Senator went on to say "May the First is all about celebrating the work that the trade unions have done historically to ensure we've got the 35 hour week, we've got good working conditions, we've got rights for women in the workplace. That's what May the First's about." - Is he aware of what party he represents?
More than one million people demonstrated nationwide in France against far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, four days before a presidential election run-off that pits Le Pen against incumbent conservative Jacques Chirac.
The incredible show of unity and opposition to politics of division and racism dwarfed the counter-rally of around 15,000 people in Paris in support of Le Pen's National Front. Many commentators predicted violence between the demonstrators however this was not to eventuate.
The Government controlled All China Federation of Trade Unions awarded four entrepreneurs for being "model workers". Traditionally on May Day the Communist party controlled unions have honored humble blue-collar workers who have been nominated by the trade union bureaucracy.
Over 5,000 police were in action across London anxious not to have a repeat of last year's violence mainly cause by small anarchist groups. Over 6,000 unionists attended the Trade Union Congress rally in Trafalgar Square which is an amazing increase in numbers from last year's TUC rally which only attracted 500 people who were mainly union officials.
Meanwhile across Greater London thousands of anti-corporate activists engaged in a range of activities highlighting the various campaigns which brought them together.
With discussion across the globe about the role of May Day in the new millennium veteran British socialist and former Labour MP Tony Benn argued that the new alliances between unionists and anti-corporate activists is a positive "May Day is a very ancient festival and today it has become linked with people who object to the brutality of global capital. It really comes down to whether you want to run the world yourself or have it run by Bush, Blair and the Pentagon."
Over 1,000,000 Cubans filled Revolution Square in Havana to celebrate May Day, a Cuban Public Holiday. Elian Gonzalez joined Cuban leader Fidel Castro on the main stage where Castro delivered his customary speech condemning the US Blockade on Cuba which has been in place since 1963.
Amid the now regular May Day riots between German far-right nationalists and ultra-left anarchists one of Germany's largest unions IG Metall has called a strike for 50,000 of their members in the manufacturing sector on 6 May. The call for a strike was overwhelmingly backed by a secret ballot of union members.
Tens of thousands of workers rallied in downtown Seoul demanding the establishment of a five day working week. Despite the presence over 15,000 riot police the demonstrations in the main were peaceful.
10,000 unionists rallied in Jakarta despite the sweltering heat wave that has hit Jakarta over the last week. The workers represented over 50 independent unions that have emerged in Jakarta in the last few years following the fall of the Soeharto regime.
Indonesian union leader Dita Sari told the rallying workers "Our interests are the same: social welfare. This day is about workers, tycoons, factory owners, the Indonesian government and the international community." Sari was imprisoned for several years under Soeharto for organising workers.
The trade union movement in Israel is threatening to call a general strike to protest the government's plans to make working families pay for Sharon's war against the Palestinians.
The Sharon Government released a Budget, which called for an 18-month national wage freeze, the cutting of a whole range of social welfare benefits and the raising of taxes.
The Histadrut - the national trade union centre - has given legal notice that a general strike will be called within a fortnight to protest the Budget.
The focus of the general strike will be opposition to the push to freeze wages, but the protesters will also be attacking the extraordinary social welfare cuts - such as the 25 per cent cut to child allowances, which will hurt the large working class families in both the Orthodox Jewish community and the Israeli-Arab community.
Amir Peretz, the Histadrut chairman, described the proposals as the Sharon government opening up a new war-front to "fight against its citizens."
Since the Histadrut announced its opposition to the wage freeze the government has already begun rolling back plans to legally mandate the pay freeze.
But while the treasury has dropped the idea of imposing a wage freeze in 2002 and 2003 by legislation; it will now try to negotiate such a freeze with the Histadrut trade union federation.
Since the second Palestinian Intifada began, now nearly 20 months ago, the economy of Israel has been stagnating. As the key tourism and hospitality sector has collapsed unemployment has risen sharply among both Israelis and Palestinians.
Almost all of the Palestinian workers who used to go daily to work inside Israel proper have been locked out of their jobs causing massive impoverishment inside Palestine Authority territory.
Miftah, the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, estimates that some 257,000 Palestinians are unemployed due to the border closures with 64 per cent of the community living below the poverty line.
The construction industry in Israel was dominated by Palestinian workers from the PA territory, while more than 10 per cent of the workers in the Israeli tourism, agriculture, manufacturing and mining industry came from the Gaza strip or the West Bank.
Israeli employers have tried to replace the Palestinian workforce with cheap labour imported from Thailand, the Philippines and large swathes of Africa - at the moment more than 10 per cent of the workforce in Israel is made up of these guest workers.
The guest workers have been used by both employers, and the government, to dampen wage campaigns. Pressures to cut back the guest worker program to employ local Israeli and Palestinian workers have been vocally resisted.
But with unemployment in Israel reaching levels not seen in a decade the pressure to create more jobs for locals - and to cut back the guest worker program will only intensify.
The threat of a general strike has been announced just as the Histadrut leadership is facing rank-and-file elections - which are scheduled for mid-June.
Cynics might say that the legal notice of a general strike might be an election ploy by the group now controlling the trade union movement - to show union members the leadership is prepared to fight Sharon.
Maybe a 'reason' will be found over the next 14 days for the withdrawal of the legal notice of a general strike.
Certainly the social costs of the war and the spiraling levels of unemployment can be expected to be a major agenda issue during the Histadrut elections.
Party lists contest these elections with almost all political groupings putting forward a trade union ticket.
The Israeli media gives these elections a status almost equal to the general elections because the Histadrut is a political and economic power centre that occasionally rivals the government in its influence over the country's public life.
Just under half the union rank-and-file register a vote, and during the union election campaign regular polls are published of union member attitudes to the different tickets .
On the night votes are counted television stations break into programs to update the results.
It is as if Sharan Burrow, Greg Combet, John Robertson, Leigh Hubbard, Grace Grace, Lyn Fitzgerald, et al had to put themselves forward for elections before Australia's two million union members.
And party lists are established to contest the nationwide union election with candidates and tickets drawn from the Socialist Alliance, the Greens, various Trot groups, through to the ALP, even the Liberals and the old-DLP.
Then on the night the result is shown Kerry O'Brien would run an ABC special giving a blow-by-blow account of the voting results from each regional labor council, state labor council and the ACTU.
Israelis refer to Histadrut headquarters in Tel Aviv as The Kremlin - and until the mid-1990s the Israeli Labor Party had firm control of this institution, which provided finance, logistical support, candidates and policy ideas to Labor.
But a break away Labor Party group, called Am Ehad( One People), whose founders were traditionally more doveish, successfully beat the Labor apparatchiks who controlled the Histadrut in the mid-1990s.
In succeeding elections the Am Ehad group have maintained control of the union movement.
The 'reform' group has radically restructured the Histadrut in a drive to make the Israeli trade union movement a 'pure' labour institution.
Over the last six years the Am Ehad group have got rid of the daily Histadrut controlled newspaper, Davar; they sold off many of the companies and co-ops the union movement owned and, most importantly, they have hived off the union health agency which dominated the Israeli medical establishment.
Relations Between the Histadrut and the PGFTU
Relations between the Israeli and Palestinian trade union centres - the Histadrut and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions - have run hot-and-cold.
The Brussels-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions is working hard to get the two national trade union centres to work together.
If there ever was a time for the popular slogans of international working class solidarity to be put into practice this is a crucial moment.
In fact there are strong rumours of meetings being organised, in third-countries, between Shaher Sae'd, General Secretary of the PGFTU and Amir Peretz, the Histadrut chairman - with the hope that these two trade union institutions can act as a 'back channel' for wider national negotiations.
However if they have occurred under the auspices of the ICFTU - neither the Brussels organisation, nor the two trade union groupings, are prepared to openly discuss these meetings.
Since the Oslo Accords a number of national trade union centres have put a lot of time, money and effort into trying to build bridges between the Israeli and Palestinian trade unions.
Though some of the work from the Japanese and Norwegian trade union movements has had some effect, they have always resulted in only small steps towards co-operation.
Certainly Shaher Sae'd of the PGFTU has been darkly critical of the Histadrut for breaking off relationships between the two trade union centres after the outbreak of the intifada.
" The are no relations any more. Since the beginning of the intifada, maintaining links has become an impossibility. Histadrut have not obliged the agreement that we signed together, it was broken off from their side," Shaher Sae'd is quoted as saying in January on the ICFTU website.
The PGFTU has long criticised the Histadrut for not campaigning hard enough to ensure that Palestinian workers are treated equally with Israeli workers - in both pay and working conditions.
The Histadrut responses - about the skills base of the Palestinians and the social wage responsibilities of the union centre for the non-Israeli workforce - can be, at best, characterised as a fig leaf for their inactivity.
The need for solidarity between the Israeli and Palestinian trade union movements ( as well as the unions of Jordan and Egypt ) will dramatically increase as Israeli companies make use of the peace process by moving labour intensive companies - especially from the textile and food sectors - 'off-shore' .
There are already examples of Israeli companies using the weaker labour laws and the lower pay rates in Palestinian Authority areas as well as in Egypt and Jordan to increase their profits.
The well-respected Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem in 1999 documented in a 57-page report the way Israeli bosses have used to their advantage ( and to the disadvantage of both Palestinian and Israeli workers) the loopholes in labour laws. B'tselem criticised the massive human rights violations of Palestinian workers.
In 1995 an agreement was signed between the PGFTU and the Histadrut. The agreement stipulated that the Histadrut collects trade union agency fees for Palestinian workers employed in Israel, and remits half of the sum collected to the PGFTU.
The other half was to funds trade union representation of Palestinian workers employed in Israel. The agreement established a liaison committee made up of senior officers from the two national union structures.
But the agency fee agreement has never been implemented with the Histadrut still holding on to monies collected since 1996.
Questioning the PGFTU as an independent trade union
The relationships between the Palestinian and Israeli trade union centres was always tenuous - in part because the 'trade union' nature of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions ( PGFTU) has been severely questioned - even inside the Palestinian community, especially from the secular Left elements.
There is deep concern that the models being followed by some of the trade union leaders is closer to the ideology of Stalinist trade unionism - where unions and their leaders are not there to represent members but to act as an arm of the State and enforce, and control, on behalf of the State, the work practices of their members.
Most of the PGFTU officials are political appointees from different Palestinian groupings. There has not been trade union elections for about 15 years, though there have been a few exceptions with elections held in local unions and workplaces.
In 1996 Arafat's Palestinian Authority forcibly shut down the PGFTU, because they feared it might establish an independent character and structure, apart from the corrupt patronage system of the Fatah.
The shutdown of the PGFTU was the one of the excuses used by the Histadrut not to implement the 1995 agreement to pass over the trade union agency fees .
And the monies have still not been paid even though the PGFTU has now been re-established, and is accepted by the international trade union movement as part of the ICFTU.
The Palestinian Authority's banning was a clear violation of the basic human right of workers to organise free and independent unions.
However the leadership of the PGFTU was not strong enough to fight for their own rights as representatives of working people in independent trade unions who from time-to-time will, necessarily, confront the Palestinian authorities on behalf of their grass roots membership base.
The revived PGFTU saw the creation of a dozen or so new industry unions representing hospital workers, manufacturing workers, white-collar workers etc.
However the creation of these new unions has again been caught up in the political patronage processes of the PA, with control of each union divided up between a variety of Palestinian political factions.
Arafat's popularity among the Palestinian working class was in steep decline before the Intifada because of anger about corruption inside the PA .
The workers were especially angry about the way the misuse of worker entitlements paid by Israeli bosses to the PA.
Social wage monies paid by employers into health insurance and unemployment insurance for working families regularly 'disappeared', or was not available when families actually needed money for medicine or to pay for periods of unemployment.
Ironically Arafat has been saved by Ariel Sharon from the rising anger of Palestinian workers about these corrupt practices - because the war on the territories has re-ignited his hero status among an increasingly skeptical working class.
by Tara de Boehmler
The event began unofficially with a group rendition from the floor of 'Solidarity Forever' so moving that many pitied the first contestants to take to the stage. But stringed retro-poppers Mahuia Cooper made light work of the task with their song 'Union'.
Its "union is our pride" chorus sounded like it was made to provide the backdrop of a television campaign promoting union values in the workplace. It conjured images of a workplace utopia filled with smiling faces belonging to a happy, well-rested, well-paid, appreciated, safe and secure workforce basking in the glow of union wins.
Later in the night class act Dogbite sounded a call for joint action on the union workplace dance floor with their song 'Clout'. A simple request for fair wages, paid maternity leave and some holiday pay was punctuated by the observation that those who stand alone have no clout, hence the title.
Aussie rock outfit, the Urban Guerillas, brought back wistful memories of the days when pubs and clubs throughout the land were falling over themselves to support local talent. Their energetic performance combined with the catchy lyrics contained in 'Touch One Touch All' made them a natural crowd pleaser and yet another force to be reckoned with in the competition stakes.
One act that did not appear to place crowd-pleasing activities at the top of their daily 'to do' list was Western Suburbs hip hop rap act Swarmy G. Sprouting slogans accusingly to the bewildered audience about substance abuse, stepping on dirty syringes, plastic MCs, bad drugs and violence on the streets, Swarmy G then announced on a brighter note that he would f**k the blues and move on with nothing to lose.
But then, just as some members of the audience looked like they were also getting ready to move, Swarmy G rooted everyone back into their seats with their powerful union finale 'May Day, May Day'. Artfully rapping in a broad Australian accent about serious issues facing struggling workers, Swarmy G easily whipped the crowd into a sing-along, fist-waving frenzy for the song's chorus "May Day, May Day solidarity is here to stay". Ending the number with the assurance that "your voices won't fade away" Swarmy G made it instantly clear there could be only one winner on the night ... them.
But while Swarmy G might have fairly won the union anthem competition, there is potentially a much broader win to be garnered by all. The union movement is the natural champion of the live music scene. Like so many workforces ruthlessly slashed away at by corporate led globalisation and its Siamese twin economic rationalism, live music has also been squeezed out of venues throughout the state by clubs and publicans chasing pokie machine profits over patron satisfaction.
Numerous talented musicians have had their means cut off and their voices muted as a result. Meanwhile the union movement holds many events that could be boosted by the inclusion of Australia's talented, diverse and terminally ignored live acts. Wobbly Radio's union anthem successfully highlighted the unlimited potential that could be tapped into by consciously forging a stronger alliance between social justice politics and the Australian music scene. Should the event start a wave, the future for all parties will look the brighter for it.
CD featuring top entrants coming soon.
by The Chaser
After appointing himself planetary spokesman for poor people, Bono's dedicated himself to the cause through simplistic half-hour lectures on charity. While his only contribution to the world has been to make himself and multinational record companies fabulously wealthy, Bono is reported to believe the lectures will somehow end world famine.
"For many years, my people and I have felt ignored," said Eric Mbeke, 13, of Ethiopia, with what later proved to be his last breaths. "But now that Bono has taken up our cause, we know that not everyone is ignoring us, just the people who are in a position to do something about it."
The U2 singer says his motivation is simple - to live up to his name. "I call myself 'Bono', which means 'good' - but how good am I really if there's someone out there who doesn't have enough to eat?" he asked. But while many have dismissed his efforts as tokenistic, the respected anti-famine group Oxfam has applauded Bono's halting of his touring commitments to lobby world leaders. "Bono's efforts have touched people all over the world," a spokesperson said. "The cancelling of U2 concerts is only a small step towards making the world a better place, but you'd have to admit it's a great start."
by David Peetz
The ast fortnight has revealed further evidence about our treatment of fellow human beings and our treatment of the truth. If you want to do something about it, you could start by adding your name to the petition calling for a royal commission into the government's treatment of asylum seekers ( http://www.PetitionOnline.com/ausrefug/petition.html ). In the meatime, we reflect on a name...
you were named for the carved stick used to launch spears
to bring down kangaroos
and feed tribes,
as a child I thought of you
as a great place
in the midst of the wild desert
where wondrous things took place;
where massive flames from rockets
lit up the red sand
and launched this land into space.
as the people poured off the boats from lands far away
and into the factories
and onto the mountains to build grand hydro-electric visions
and we lauded their courage.
you showed the world
that we looked outward, beyond our shores,
you showed the world
we looked forward to an exciting
Woomera, why have you changed so much?
I cannot recognise you now.
Is it really you, or has someone secretly killed you
and stolen your identity?
now the people trickle off the boats from lands far away
into your camp,
that is a prison by another name
- no worse -
hidden from wondering eyes.
we don't want their skills to build grand new visions,
we despise their courage.
and you show the world
how inward-looking we are,
you show the world
how we look backward to times long best forgotten.
what does your name mean now, Woomera?
something to launch fears?
to bring down a nation's spirit?
to feed the maggots of hatred that gnaw at a national character?
Is it really you? Who has done this to you? Who?
Here were a couple of hundred political extremists making life hell for ordinary workers - be they the bank workers forced to get to work at 5am or the police officers facing physical danger from juvenille tactics. They have 365 days to choose from, why take our's?
These were not 'May Day protestors' as portrayed in the media, they were the remnants of S11, who induced media attention on the threat of violence - including the outrageous message that they were being trained by the Intifada
The tragedy of M1 is that many in the union movement have sympathy with the issues driving the protests: we have taken a public stand of the plight of asylum seekers, we do work hard to blunt the excesses of the corporates and of course, we support trad union rights.
It's just that their tactics are so counterproductive. It's immature politics that only ends up marginalising the public; the actions of people acting without a constituency, thumbing their noses, not just to authority but to the history of the Australian working class.
There are no doubt many well-intentioned and motivated people within the M1 movement and they should not be condemned en masse. But they really need to think about what they are trying to achieve from this orgy of self-indulgence.
If they want to smash the state, good luck. If they want to bring about meaningful change in a Democracy, they should rethink their tactics.
The irony of the affair was that the M1 debacle took place as the union movement proper took further steps to broaden their appeal.
The union anthem contest, won by a 24-year-old rapper from Campbelltown, Swarmy G, was a successful attempt to find new ways of reaching people who are not in the movement. The media response was overwhelmingly positive.
Meanwhile, building unions joined forces to turn their back on generations of ideological differences and get their house together in the interests of their membership.
The choice is to mainstream or marginalize our message. Inducing media interest with the threat of violence is not what May Day is all about. Indeed, it is an insult to its' history.
I am Irish and I am so often patted on the back and told that the Irish people are remarkably a very big part of Australia and are very welcome and very recognised and very respected in this land. I am told that just on half the nation has some Irish blood. I am so often complimented about the standing of Irish people and Irish heritage in this nation. However, happy though I am to be hearing such, I want to make it very plain and very unambiguously clear that, be it the Irish people or any other nation whose people have come to Australia, there is one people in this nation who are above all the praise of latecomers. There is one people, of many nations in Australia, who have a place in this continent which is indelible and can never be superseded and which has endured over two centuries of attack and hostility and every obscene method of extermination. I speak about the people who are the premier people of this nation, whose mother is the land of Australia. I salute and I acknowledge and I defer to the Aboriginal people of Australia.
I am delighted that the trade union movement today so strongly supports the Aboriginal people and Aboriginal movements across this nation.
Right now, we are watching in many areas of the nation a failure of major industrial enterprises to abide by their obligations to their employees. I speak particularly about the major industries who refuse and fail to pay entitlements to their employees. We listen to daily broadcasts of trade unions being lambasted because they want security for their members, particularly in cases of redundancy and retirement. Can anybody in this room now tell me what is wrong with a trade union putting its foot down and saying we want guarantees, not just verbal diarrhoea but water-tight guarantees that employees, who are members of trade unions, will be given their entitlements? Equally, we watch proposed legislation being cast around the place making it so easy for businesses to sack people for any reason, not just a good reason or for something nasty, but any reason the employer wants. It does not really matter whether the business is small or enormous. What does matter is that right is right and fairness is fairness and there is no reason whatsoever why a small business should be entitled to unfairly dismiss an employee any more than a major business should.
The international scene in some areas is a very sad scene. It is sadly necessary but pleasing to see that the ACTU has issued a strong condemnation about conditions in the Middle East. The trade union movement is against no nation expanding and improving itself within its own boundaries, but the trade union movement cannot, should not and, indeed, I hope will not go silent whilst any nation goes past its own boundaries to render the people of a neighbouring nation into virtual slavery. Were there to be another Adolf Hither here tomorrow, I, and no doubt everybody in this room, would rise against such a thing and such policies and we would take a stand as did our forebears some 60-odd years ago and we would abhor and try to counteract the incredible obscenity of the death camps and the concentration camps. Equally today should we condemn the refugee camps of Palestine, because they are forced to remain as refugee camps. Today the refugee camps in Palestine, or what is left of the refugee camps, house three generations of people, most of whom don't know what an ordinary free street is. Palestinians are born in, they live in and they die in refugee camps. It is obscene that the people who were so oppressed 60 years ago should today visit that same oppression and slaughter on their neighbours. I reiterate that the trade union movement is not against any nation within its own boundaries but we strongly condemn generations being held in abject poverty and in ignorance of what reasonable life is all about.
The Australian government in Canberra has sat by and watched this international obscenity take place. So has the Government of the United States. Clearly the value of life in one place is not equal to the value of life in another place. Such statements can easily be borne out by looking at the people who are today incarcerated in isolation and in unspeakable and inhumane conditions in the most remote parts of Australia. We watched an election being fought on a compendium of lies and demonisation of people. We have since seen the greatest display of Sergeant Schultz since "Hogan's Heroes". They all know nothing. And the saddest of all things surrounding this human obscenity has been the failure of the Federal Labor Party to take a stand that is clearly and widely different from the stand of the Coalition Government. Ladies and Gentlemen, Comrades, beyond any doubt I want to make clear my admiration for the splendid stand that John Robertson and his colleagues at the Labor Council have taken on the question of the ill-teatment of refugees. John has been in many debates in many forums and his support for those oppressed people is nothing short of magnificent and contagious and courageous. John, you have the admiration of the free world and particularly of the oppressed world. It is indeed so sad that the Labor Party could not come out in the same unambiguous way as the Labor Council has come out and taken a stand, not just for democracy as a title of living, but for the freedoms and the decencies and the human rights that are the birth right of every human being and should be bestowed by democracy. It is so sad that the Labor Party could not have adopted the stand that the NSW Labor Council has adopted. You see, Ladies and Gentlemen, Comrades, the Labor Council is populated by and is run by and administered by trade unionists and is not beholden to politicians of any shade or tint. Today, pretty much across the entire world, trade unionists and their members are the advocates for and are the guardians of freedom. Trade Unions take on Governments on every continent when services and rights have been cut back, just as the trade unions in NSW continue to take on Governments of all persuasions in this State. I honestly do not think that it has been remarkably successful for political parties to be dominated by Members of Parliament. Such a scenario gives the perception to many people that they have been excluded from party in-put. There is every good reason to have trade union people become active in the senior ranks of the Labor Party and it is for such reason that I have decided over very recent days to offer myself as a candidate for the presidency of the NSW Labor Party. I am not a politician and if for no other reason than that then I should be elected by a massive majority. A non-politician need not be locked into the political web and more capably can represent all members and help eliminate the factionalism that has such a draining impact on the Labor Party. It is very difficult for a politician to oppose what that politician's government has in the pipeline. The politician is part of the Government whereas a trade unionist at the helm might or might not agree with the Government's political line and if he or she should disagree then it is much more acceptable for a non-politician to attack a political party than for a politician who is a member of that political party to attack the party.
Indeed, it is time for politicians in this nation, for political parties in this nation, to stand on issues of principle and not be guided and goaded into off-the-cuff policies to suit the shock-jocks and the parrots of the radio stations, and if the politicians themselves cannot realise their moral deficiencies in this area, then it is incumbent upon the trade unionists, who may be members of political parties or who may be active in the political scene, to make it clearly known to all politicians that they are there in their parliaments at our behest and it is very much time for humble members of political parties to have a say in the germination of policies and in the keeping of policies by their political parties.
This scenario is exemplified by the Pacific Power controversy in NSW. There is a clear and there is an unambiguous Labor Party policy that no part of electricity shall be sold to the private sector. That policy is being defiled by the Government in NSW. I say now that it is folly for any government to give or to sell to the private sector the vital necessities of life. Electricity is one such vital part of life that should be maintained and guaranteed by the Government. Do you want One-Tel to be the electricity supplier? Do you want Christopher Skase (we are not even sure if he is dead) to be in charge of the water supply? Do you want Alan Bond to be in charge of oxygen?
NSW is a splendid State but the clear signs are that the people that really go out of their way to put the Government into power in NSW are feeling very disenchanted and excluded.
I should perhaps now congratulate John Brogden in ascending to the leadership of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. He is given to us as a potential custodian of our tranquillity. He comes to us with references as to his liberal openness, with a non-conservative political agenda in the areas of drugs and euthanasia, etc. This is all very fine to advertise the man as a liberal. Those people are fine until you mention to them something about a trade union and then they shit themselves. They have no time for collective bargaining. They want every man and every woman to be under an individual contract, where dog will eat dog and human beings will undercut and under-price a weaker human being. It is the finest example of social Darwinism. In the animal kingdom we accept the survival of the fittest but we as humans expect a bit more from each other. This is not the philosophy of the Opposition in NSW or of the Government in Canberra. They would sell their own mothers and fathers for an extra shilling.
At the present time in Australia, we live with the shame of a Federal Government that has a computer for a mind and a cash register for a heart and which most disgracefully and brazenly wants to get rid of the Australian Shipping Industry. Shame, Shame, Shame. In many parts of the world, the Australian Government is seen as shameful and can I say that it is sad that the Labor Opposition cannot be more forceful in denouncing the actions of this Government. However, the trade union movement is not afraid to stand against it and now to John Howard and Phillip Ruddock and Peter Costello and their ex-mates Michael Woolridge and Peter Reith and all the other clawing, and greedy bastards of their ilk, the trade union movement sends one message. It is beware, beware of the risen people and above all beware of the rising people and do not think for one moment that we would not take back that which is ours, which you have taken from us and which you refuse to give back. Do you think to conquer the people of Australia? Do you think that your laws, that are legal, but unjust, are stronger than life and stronger than the people's desire to bargain collectively and their desire to be free? Beware, down there in Canberra, all you who have harried and held, all you who have bullied and bribed, tyrants, hypocrites, racists, liars.
Kerry Packer is fond of a punt. He loves gambling on things like horses, cards, people's lives and his son's fascination with large breasted models. (One can only assume that Mrs. Packer weaned young Jim too early.)
In fact the Goanna is so fond of a punt that he has his own personal direct line and operator at the NSW TAB.
The man who would casually drop enough dosh to feed, clothe and house a suburb for some time is an impatient man, and not one to be trifled with. He is not to be kept waiting. The hotline is there so he doesn't have to wait.
Imagine if he had to call Centrelink! It would reduce the man to a shivering wreck, as it has done with countless others.
This Column has it's own personal TAB operator, but his name is Don and he works at the Blue Mountain Hotel in Lawson.
Either way it all works out to the same scenario if your horse runs fourth, like my tips invariably do.
Most Saturdays have the qualities of the classic mug punting experience. By race eight I am usually wishing I had Robbie Waterhouse's mobile so I could get on even money favourites at a hundred to one. But not being a mate, and not residing in Fiji for health reasons, I don't stand a chance.
The NSW racing industry took a dim view of mates rates in the punting caper, giving Tommy Smith's son in law the boot for reasons that are perfectly clear to themselves.
That's the sort of mean spirited actions that infest these conservative times; a bloke tries to help out a mate and he gets canned for it.
It's as unAustralian as Piers Akkerman.
The Wayne Carey soap opera rolls on, with the latest development seeing him written out of history, or at least a kid's novel. The publishers said he was no longer a positive role model for Australia's kids. I'm scratching my head to think when he ever was.
Now he's going to be a positive role model for the North Wagga Saints.
Local footy needs some positive role models.
There are more spectators, players, St John's Ambulance people and screaming parents involved with junior and suburban footy, in any given code, stumping up and down the sidelines than you will see passing through the turnstiles at any of the so-called elite levels of these sports on any given weekend.
What sort of coverage does this lifeblood of the community receive from the media? About as much as I get a return on the nags three-fifths of stuff all. Then we read anguished hand-wringing articles in the broadsheets about the dearth of community in these troubled conservative times.
Well, Einstein, if you keep sending signals that something is unimportant and of little consequence then it shouldn't come as a surprise when people start to believe that this is the case.
Community footy deserves a better run from the media especially from cable TV which has shows about the elite players hairstyles for chrissakes, but zip about the foundations upon which it is all based. That is unless Wayne Carey or someone from Big Brother gets involved.
The mild autumn weather has been a godsend for the various winter codes, and those shamelessly exploited volunteers that are up at sparrow fart on the weekend to keep the whole shebang going at the community level.
Pretty soon winter will turn up with its mates and it'll be all beanies, scarves and mud runners...and most of life will still be six to five against.
Phil Doyle remonstrating with the goal Umpire
TabCorp Chief Hits Jackpot
The gambling industry has created mind-boggling wealth to the outgoing managing director of Victoria's Tabcorp. The SMH reports that TabCorps announcement this week to buy back it's own shares pushed the value of shares up and up past $12. The decision couldn't have been better timed for outgoing managing director Ross Wilson who has 3 million options exerciseable at $10.18. . Wilson is now $4.89 million in the money on those options and faces the prospect of a buyback supporting the Tabcorp share price. And that's not including his shares. Wilson is up $36 million on his 3.74 million ordinary shares, even once he's paid back the interest-free loan of $8 million he got to buy them. With $41 million-odd in the pocket he should have a fair-to-middling retirement when he departs in August.
Crime Does Pay?
The big banks may cop grief for closing branches and cutting services but investors who have backed the banks over the long term are sitting on truly outstanding gains. The Commonwealth Bank hit $5.86 in October 1992, and is now 5.6 times higher, at $32.87. Westpac was pushed down to an almost surreal $2.74 in the same month of 1992 and is now six times higher, at $16.51. National Australia Bank shares were as low as $5.09 at the end of 1990, and closed Friday at $35.50, seven times higher. Shares in the ANZ are also seven times higher than their $2.78 low in October 1992. To put it another way, in about a decade shares in the Commonwealth, Westpac, NAB and ANZ have doubled, doubled again, and then risen by 40 per cent, 51 per cent, 74 per cent and 75 per cent respectively. And that is capital gain only: the banks have also been producing solid dividend streams for their investors.
Big Mac Index Shows Aussie Lags
The Economist magazine has just released its latest Big Mac index showing the Australian dollar was the worst performer among the world's "rich" countries. The light-hearted index compares the cost of a Big Mac in 120 countries. It is used to calculate whether a nation's currency is at its "correct" level. The Australian dollar's value was found to be 35 per cent undervalued against the US dollar. In the US Big Macs cost $US2.49. In Australia they cost $3. The Canadian, Japanese and New Zealand currencies also did not fare well, but performed better than the Australian dollar. We reckon there's scope for a similar index based on the wages Maccas workers earn - watch this space for more.
Lights Go Out At Bulb Factory
The last light bulb made in Australia has rolled off the production line at a factory in Newcastle. The Electric Light Manufacturers Australia (ELMA) plant last week closed after 70 years of operation, because it is unable to compete with cheap imports. ELMA announced the closure in February and plant manager Mike Gill says since that time, the company has been busy trying to find other jobs for its 220 employees. Long-time employee Danny Grigg says the closure should send a message to people to support Australian-made products. "Australians are going that way that they're closing down all over the place and it's a shame that it's had to end this way, but everything's moving offshore," he told ABC.
Patrick Purchases Ansett Terminal
Suspicions that Chris Corrigan is planning world domination - or at least an integrated transport network - were confirmed with news that has Patrick Corp made its first purchase from the collapsed Ansett group. Corrigan this week picked up the failed airline's international cargo division. Ansett's administrators say the 86 workers employed in the Ansett International Cargo Holding operation will be offered jobs with Patrick Corp. The deal will strengthen Patrick Corp's cargo stronghold, linking its national road, train and dock movements with the lucrative air cargo industry.
Media Mega-Merger Bombs
The much hyped AOL-Time Warner has burned $US54.2 billion in the first quarter of the year, the biggest quarterly loss in US corporate history. The loss was reflected by new accounting rules and a slide in the value of the merger of AOL and Time Warner, a corporate marriage that created one of the world's largest media conglomerates. The huge loss, equal to the gross national products of countries like Uruguay or Bulgaria, was expected but reflects a stunning reversal for the media giant. Losses for the quarter were $12.25 per basic share.
NRMA Smashes Dissident
And finally, spare a thought for a little guy chasing the big guys. Long-standing NRMA member Bill Snodgrass organised a resolution to require directors elected from 1999 to disclose details of their election funding - a resolution supported by 69.9 per cent of the members at the AGM last year. But first NRMA took him to court. Snodgrass represented himself, but the judge hearing the case suggested he get legal representation. Snodgrass then won his argument that he be permitted to put the resolution to the meeting. NRMA appealed - and lost the appeal. Snodgrass's appeal costs came to just above $40,000. NRMA's reported costs were more than $200,000, according to BRW. NRMA was ordered to pay Snodgrass's costs. Six months after the action, Snodgrass - who won not once but twice in court - is still owed his costs. His lawyers offered to settle for $39,737, he says, but NRMA refused, insisting that his costs be assessed by the court.
We should be used to it but, fair dinkum, the double standards of hands-off administrations never cease to amaze. The born-again deregulators in Australia's Federal Government are a case in point, never demurring from regulation when there's a chance of preventing a worker getting a fair go...
The battle to save Australian jobs on the coastal trade escalates as Canberra washes its hands of any resposibilities towards Australian seamen. CSL prepares to lower the Australian flag on the Yarra so it can be flagged in the Bahamas and crewed by Ukranians.
The Howard administration has presided over the destruction of the Australian fleet which has fallen from more than 100 vessels to less than 45 since deputy PM John Anderson took over the transport portfolio and openly encouraged foreign flagged ships.
As Tony Abbott pushes for greater deregulation of the labour market, Rio Tinto exposes an extended digit to the rules as they currently exist. The minerals giant continues to ignore judicial orders to reinstate Queensland and Hunter Valley coalminers, shut out of their jobs since 1998. At least three will never go back, they've died waiting since the first reinstatement order was made.
Sweat shops flourish as immigration and safety regulations go unenforced. Had a look around Canterbury or Marrickville lately?
Meanwhile, under-resourced unions such as the CFMEU and TCFUA are left to try and police immigration and workplace safety as best they can.
Just to make it more difficult, Abbott tosses a wish list of regulations, designed to further limit the rights, effectiveness and resources of worker organisations before the Senate.
His latest batch of proposals seeks to limit union funding; make industrial action virtually impossible in many industries by requiring a tribunal order then a secret postal ballot; bar multi-employer bargaining; make common claims illegal; and further restrict rights to contest unfair dismissals.
Government's refusal to set up an effective mechanism to protect workers' entitlements results in a stand-off at Walker Exhausts, South Australia, which threatens motor vehicle production nationwide.
Dubai Pete would be proud of his protégé as the Mad Monk throws verbal hand grenades from the sideline. His best efforts fail to prevent the company reaching an agreement that sees long service leave protected and, potentially, saves taxpayers millions of dollars.
You have to admit that, at least, they're consistent. Peter Costello picks up the anti-worker baton and lowers the bar with one of the Government's most mean-spirited actions, dodging its share of a 6.5 percent wage increase awarded to men and women employed under the Social and Community Services Award.
We're talking about people, employed by community organisations that take up the slack for Government's failure to take responsibility for mental health and social welfare issues, providing disability services, running halfway houses and places like Sydney's Matthew Talbot Hostel.
While Government baulks at an increase that might lift the take home pay of psychologists working with the nation's most disadvantaged to $500 a week, it resists any call to limit rewards for those who cause the problems in the first place.
Outgoing Tabcorp managing director Ross Wilson, responsible for taking the organisation into pokies in a big way, stares down the barrel of a $41 million golden handshake. At Wilson's end of the specturm it works like this - the company you're in charge of gives you an interest free loan of $8 million to buy 3.74 million shares then, generously, buys back its own shares, pushing the price through the roof. Even though you're required to pay back the original loan, it's still a cool $33 million bonus, mimimum.
Jodee Rich and Brad Keeling's shenanigan's continue to take up valuable court time. They, of course, restricted themselves to $7 million apiece before One.Tel rang off but James Packer, for one, is spewing. Canberra's only reaction, however, is to suggest the abolition of unions' rights to seek community standard severance deals, under which the CPSU gained entitlements for the One.Tel crew.
Everyone's favourite corporates, the banks, are doing rather well out of the deregulated economy. They don't even theorise about trickle down as Westpac and the ANZ announce billion dollar nett profits on the back of drastic staff cuts and branch closures.
With HIH still chugging away in the background doctors cancel private surgery in the wake of the collapse of the country's biggest malpractice insurer. The Government, which conned hundreds of thousands of Aussies into private health insurance with promises of pegged fees, suggests it might be the ideal time to remove any public influence on the industry by flogging off Medicare Private.
But, hey, don't worry they're going to regulate so that, on security issues, Australian citizens can be held indefinitely without legal advice and children, as young as 10, may be strip-searched. It emerges that journalists, doctors and priests may be jailed, under proposed security laws, for refusing to divulge information sought by ASIO.
The president of the Law Council, name of Tony Abbott believe it or not, argues the bill offends fundamental civil rights.
As the Howard Government continues to extract maximum political capital from it's duel commitments to border protection and the war on terror, Anderson has been doing his bit to make out coastline an 'Access All Areas' zone. As Transport Minister, he is charged with enforcing the Navigation Act, in particular clauses that provide for shipping services between Australian ports to be serviced by Australian ships with Australian crews. It is in this capacity that he holds the power to exempt foreign lines from these provisions - and it's a power he's been exercising with increasing regularity.
Since coming to power, the number of Continuous Voyage Permits issued by the Howard Government has tripled. In fairness it was a trend that began as one of the excesses of the Hake-Keating Labor government's fetish with economic fundamentalism, peaking with Laurie Brereton's decision to sell of the Australian National Line. Ironically, the ship at the center of the current stand-off, the Yarra, was built with taxpayers money and was part of that fire sale. But if Labor got the ball rolling, it is Anderson who has done nothing to stop the shipping industry becoming a floating tax evasion scheme, with vessels registered in small nations controlled by dictators and employing crews on Third World conditions suckling millions of dollars out of the Australian economy without putting a cent back in.
This is about more than seafarer jobs. For a government who wants to rev up Defence spending to meet the real or imagines threats on our doorstep, the decimation of the merchant navy is extremely short-sighted. In times of war, it is the Australian merchant fleet that has been enlisted as supply vessels to the navy. It happened in WWII and in Vietnam, the contribution of the merchant navy was invaluable. Indeed, in the USA, the country our economists would have us mirror, the national merchant fleet has actually been strengthened by both the Clinton and Bush administrations. Under the Jones Act the US Government subsidises US shipping, because it realizes that it is an essential part of its arsenal. To give up the merchant navy to ships of other nation's is akin to outsourcing our Defence Forces to the Panamanians or Liberians.
Meanwhile, evidence is building that these same Flags of Convenience ships are responsible for the bulk of the illegal importation of drugs and hand-guns which ravage our towns and cities. And if you care about the Great Barrier Reef, you'd have to wonder about the wisdom of allowing rust buckets from a tin-pot dictatorship chugging up and down the coast.
So no one should kid themselves that the 17 seafarers' holed up on the Yarra at Port Pirie are an isolated incident. For generations mariners were the globalists of the working class, now they are fighting to protect our borders from its worst excesses. Make no mistake, if third world workers can run our coastline on inferior wages and conditions, there'll be no stopping businesses bringing them further into the economy workers on road, rail, service sector, rural sector, building sector and IT, the list is endless. Until we become a shell nation, dominated by the shell corporations that have stripped themselves of assets and run a global auction for the cheapest contract labour.
It's a grim outlook for the future and one that raises very real questions about national security in all its complexity - not just a few hundred sad and degraded souls seeking a lifeline. Black Jack McEwan, the Country Party leader who dedicated his career to protecting Australian jobs would be spinning in his grave. Anderson has betrayed his party and his people.
That point was made by Meg Smith from the National Pay Equity Coalition at a forum on paid maternity leave in Sydney last night.
She said funding from general taxation would require a .04 percent lift in revenue.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward told the gathering a paid maternity leave regime was becoming inevitable.
The PSA's Jo Tilly spoke about trade union campaigns and some of the deals that had been won. She said her organisation would be pursuing ILO standards on paid maternity leave and on the job health care during pregnancy.
Submission to HREOC on paid maternity leave close on July 12.