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Issue No. 142 28 June 2002  

Safety First
This week's Safety Summit, called by the Carr Government, is a timely opportunity for the union movement to put occupational health and safety into a contemporary perspective.


Interview: Safe as Houses
Labor Council secretary John Robertson outlines the union movement's priorities in the lead-up to this week's Safety Summit.

Safety: Ten Steps to Safety
On the eve of the NSW Safety Summit, Workers Online went looking for the ten biggest workplace health issues and what needs to be done to address them.

History: Staying Alive
Neale Towart winds the clock back to discover that contemporary arguments that regulators should stay out of workplace safety and let the market do its business are nothing new.

Unions: Choose Life
While Commissioner Cole struggles with the concept of unions trying to improve workers� wages, out in the real world, bosses daily thumb their noses at safety authorities, as Jim Marr discovers.

International: Seoul Destroyers
The rise and rise of the Korean national football team in the World Cup competition was more than matched by the rise and rise of the number of imprisoned Korean trade unionists.

Corporate: Crash Landing
Did Ansett workers� productivity really crash Ansett? Jim McDonald weighs up the evidence.

Activists: The Refusenik
At 20, Rotem Mor has spent more time analysing how he will live his life than most people twice his age. A month in prison and another 18 serving in the Israeli army saw to that.

Review: Dumb Nation
Michael Moore's new book, 'Stupid White Men' exposes the rorts behind the Bush presidency with bitter humour, writes Mark Hebblewhite.

Poetry: Helping Out The Rich
From proposals to 'deregulate' (ie raise) university fees, to attempts to restrict workers' right to strike in the name of 'genuine' bargaining the Government's rhetoric about helping out the battlers is wearing just a bit thin.


 Redundancy Bonus for Members Only

 Tax Office Backs CFMEU Case

 Lib MP Named in Cole Commission

 Sentencing Guidelines for Safety Breaches

 Revealed: Costello�s Hit List

 Virtual Cold War Over

 Safety Lock-Out Enters Second Week

 Unions Seek Talks With New Airport Owners

 Journos Attacked by NRMA

 Strip Bosses Face Dressing Down

 Beattie Called Into Bargaining Impasse

 Nurses Deliver Largest Ever Petition

 US Braces for its Own Waterfront War

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Back to the Future
McKenzie Wark argues that the future of the book relies on the future of a sphere of public debate.

Chain Reaction
The Big Australian discovers a uranium mine it never knew it had, a corporate fraud sparks a worldwide market plunge and the price of investing ethically.

The Locker Room
Three Colours Blue
After a World Cup that saw post-colonial cultural theorists chanting 'we beat the scum one-nil' on the Terraces of Inchon, it was the natural order of things that prevailed, writes Phil Doyle

Poll Positioning
Unions Tasmania secretary Lynne Fitzgerald gives an overview of the State Election called earlier this week.

Week in Review
The Weight of Office
Apart from the Teflon John, power walking at his own pace, would-be leaders everywhere turned in shockers as Jim Marr discovered.

 Link Wages to CEO Pay
 Voodoo Unionism
 Good News from the Pilbara
 Go Mark, Go
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Crash Landing

Did Ansett workers� productivity really crash Ansett? Jim McDonald weighs up the evidence.

When Ansett collapsed, Prime Minister John Howard, was quick to blame work practices. Commentators from the right wing think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, supported that view. The IPA's Alan Moran, for example, argued that "union muscle" strangled "the goose that lays the golden egg."

An examination of airline industry productivity measures shows that Ansett employees in fact significantly increased their productivity during the 1990s. Ansett revenue per employee, for example, grew an outstanding 25 per cent between 1992 and 1998. Two other industry measures indicate that Ansett workers' productivity growth during the 1990s was twice as great as in Qantas for the revenue from passenger kilometres travelled per employee and three times that of Qantas for the available seat kilometres per employee.

In addition, the collective agreements during the 1990s had set out agreed protocols for changes in work practices. These resulted in agreements on specific flexibilities with the Transport Workers Union and other unions.

It was other factors that crashed Ansett. Ansett had too many aircraft types leading to higher operating and maintenance costs. Where Qantas had three types on the major routes, Ansett had seven, including dedicated freighter aircraft.

News Corporation and TNT, joint owners of Ansett from 1979 to 1996, failed to either streamline the fleet or invest in upgrading aircraft during the 1990s. When Air New Zealand bought out TNT in 1996 and News Corporation in 2000, it had no additional funds to invest in Ansett, and when Ansett faltered neither the New Zealand nor the Australian government were prepared to prop up the airline.

But, Air New Zealand had no clear strategy in place, either. It hollowed out the Ansett management structure, transferred all of the major management functions across to Auckland, and left Ansett without leadership for more than six months. ANZ management appeared little interested in building on the company's achievements as a result of the "Reach Out" program on customer focus and the agreements with the unions.

There were a lot of accusations against ANZ for skimming off Ansett resources but it was not in their interests to kill Ansett off. ANZ had wanted a presence on Australian trunk routes for years and Ansett provided that opportunity. However, Air New Zealand executives appeared to have no comprehension of the requirements of, and sensitivities required for, managing a foreign workforce, had no clear strategy for positioning their airline in the unified aviation market in Australasia, and little appreciation of Ansett as a national brand.

The principal issues faced by Ansett during the past decade or so were managerial problems. The critical incident was the grounding of the Boeing 767 fleet by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in Easter 2001 on account of Ansett maintenance breaches. CASA identified a range of managerial breakdowns. These were symptomatic of the long-standing managerial malaise stretching back to the 1980s.

In the event, the allegations by some commentators, the Prime Minister, and others that work practices and the unions killed off Ansett are cruel and unwarranted attacks on a workforce which has lost employment, whose entitlements may still be under threat, whose livelihood has in many cases disappeared, who demonstrated over long periods that they could have collective interests and strong affection and loyalty for their company, and who had demonstrated significant improvements in productivity during the 1990s. These do not come from poor work practices. Against the standard productivity benchmarks in the industry, the Ansett workers had proven their mettle.

Jim McDonald is Senior Lecturer in Industrial Relations in the Faculty of Business, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba


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