We love a stoush as much as the next political junkie, but the performance of these two in the past week has crossed the threshold into boorishness. In one corner, we have Tony Abbott plunging Australian industry into chaos with his constant attempts to ferment industrial confrontation for short-term political gain and the Federal Parliament into dysfunctional disarray with his commitment to playing the man not the ball. In the other corner, Mark Latham, playing right into the Tories' hands with a misguided determination to fight fire with fire culminating in the 'arse-licker' line that has left him looking crass and humourless.
Abbott has always been a bovver boy, throwing the mud at opponents with a uncontained zealotry born of an unhappy seminary education. Abbott's idea of political engagement is a head-on confrontation, his idea of shrewd, a sledge-hammer behind the back. As for cooperation - has anyone got a dictionary? The difference is now he has responsibility - as the Government Leader in the House he sets the tone of Parliamentary debate; as Workplace Relations Minister he sets the industrial relations climate for the entire economy.
While Abbott is good at firing missiles, he's currently failing to carry out either responsibility. His handling of his Parliamentary duties has left the Chamber in a state of disrepute that is only compounded by Speaker Neil Andrew's bias in the Chair. His constant jibes at the ALP may make good TV, but it leaves the entire institution discredited in the eyes of the public. Which is classic Tory political tactics - take away faith in politics and social change will never flourish.
But that is nothing compared to the damage he is doing to Australian industry, as Bob Herbet pointed out this week. As union and industry work to come up with a plan for the car industry Abbott is on the sideline lobbing grenades - threatening to withdraw federal funds to the industry if it does not go to war with the AMWU. Meanwhile, he continues chipping away at workers rights, introducing legislation to take away the right to strike and ensure that any worker taking industrial action can be personally sued by the employer. It is partisan, indulgent legislation that will do nothing for industrial harmony.
Abbott finally met his match though when confronted with Kerry O'Brien on the 7.30 Report mid-week. O'Brien asked Abbott the question the union movement has been posing for years: Is there any such thing as an acceptable strike? A justifiable strike? All Abbott could come up with was the strike he himself led at The Bulletin while a member of the MEAA. Like all bullies, it is only from his own vantage point that he can recognise an injustice.
As for Mark Latham; we think we understand what he's trying to achieve, but as usual, he seems to be leading with his chin. Some months ago Latham pronounced the time had come for Labor to muscle up to the Liberals. Ever since he's been given an impression of a canetoad on steroids - ugly and venomous and prone to explode. He's turned his invective on targets as diverse as The Chaser, Tony Staley, John Robertson and even Workers Online (we are "the biggest grubs in the labour movement"). Calling the Prime Minister an 'arse-licker' takes it onto a new plane though and while we agree with the sentiments, we can't help thinking Mark is playing into his opponents hands.
As for his claim that he was merely employing the vernacular of his electorate, many would see this as an insult to the people of Werriwa. Already they have been told they're racist - hence Labor should not take a moral position on asylum seekers. Now they're being told they are uncouth as well...
The liberation theologists have written extensively about the folly of the oppressed using the tactics of their oppressors. In this context, the salvo at Howard is a classic case study. Contrary to Latham's defence, the issue is no longer Howard's performance abroad but the nature of the attack. The impact of his intervention is not that Howard is under added pressure to stand up for the national interest, it's that Latham's own leader is under pressure to rein in his loose cannon. Like a peasant with a stone, he has become the villain - and, thus, the tank is justified in rolling over the top of him.
Australia needs politicians with passion and vision. What we don't need are machismo haters who personalise the contest of ideas. So let the battle begin. We say go for it boys: no holds barred and if we're lucky, all that will be left of you will be a pile of hair, blood, bones and a cache of unexploded bombs. Now that would be a real contribution to the national polity.
In a development on the service fee debate, the Australian Workers Union has negotiated an ex gratia payment for its 90 members at Kinnears, which closed its doors this week.
Kinnears 40 workers employed under 'staff' contracts - mainly but not exclusively management - will not share in the package, above and beyond the statutory redundancy entitlement.
AWU national secretary Bill Shorten said the union had negotiated the deal to apply to all workers covered by the Kinnears enterprise agreement.
The AWU also succeeded in having the Industrial Relations Commission order a pending 4.5 per cent increase be factored into the redundancy package - delivering a total $4million package.
Shorten has no qualms about quarantining the benefit to members: " In tough times the people who are in the union have to be our priority," he says.
The AWU is also pursuing several service fee claims at present, a principle that Shorten says is resonating with his membership.
The submission, that directly contradicts assertions by Royal Commission architect Tony Abbott that �there is no evidence that tax evasion is more prevalent in this industry than others� was lodged this week.
In its submission the ATO says the building industry hides up to 40 percent of its income and is twice as likely to have outstanding tax debts as other Australian industries.
After more than 100 days of seemingly partisan Royal Commission evidence from industry participants the Tax Office provides the first substantial, impartial overview of how the industry operates.
It reads like a blow by blow defence of the union case and a slap in the face for highly-paid counsels assisting who have led months of evidence from disgruntled small operators.
At essence, counsels have tried to build a case that the CFMEU uses illegal and innapropriate tactics to stand over minor industry players.
In Sydney, the union has contended it is usually attracted to those companies by the need to defend industry standards from those seeking to cut costs by evading safety, tax and workers comp responsibilities.
Counsel have concentrated questioning on perceived union failings even when witnesses have conceded business failures, phoenixing (rising from the ashes of insolvency in a new guise), and non-compliance with tax or workers compensation obligations.
The ATO goes to the heart of that matter by submitting "there are significant differences in the tax behaviour observed between large clients and the rest of the industry" which it refers to as the "general trade sector".
"The Tax Office view is that levels of non-compliance in the commercial trade services sector are high and widespread when compared with other areas of the Australian community.
"Several promoters of bogus labour hire arrangements have been prosecuted and gaoled. A number of promoters of phoenix arrangements, who are tax professionals, are now under investigation."
It lists the following as "significant" tax compliance issues amongst smaller operators ...
- cash payments not disclosed on summaries
- payments to contractors, and others, not returned as income
- fraudulent claims for GST credits
- the use of bogus labour hire arrangements
- "phoenix arrangements used to evade payment of tax liabilities through deliberate and systematic liquidation of trading entities.
The tax office has 220 staff dedicated to monitoring building and construction and will add another 50 workers to that total during the next financial year. In addition, it has more than 30 staff undertaking casework on its special Phoenix Project.
The latter group has finalised 400 cases in four years and has another 150 pending. Already it has "raised" or "collected" $200 million in taxes and penalties.
According to the ATO, formwork, steelfixing, scaffolding and plastering are "high risk sub-industries" and each is subject to targeted audits.
Under-pressure Builder Changes Story
Meanwhile, Sydney builder Joe Chebaia appears to have been pressured into recanting a claim that hit at the Royal Commission's credibility.
Chebaia, a director of Excell Building Corporation, was the builder nominated by the CFMEU for a safety inspection last week at Commissioner Cole's invitation.
The Commissioner eventually declined to visit the Flemington site, saying the builder had refused permission and, in those circumstances, he had no greater entry rights than an average citizen.
On Tuesday, Chebaia insisted he had never turned the Commission away.
"No way, I told them they were welcome," he told Workers Online. "I was more than happy for the Royal Commission to come onto the site.
Chebaia said the only way he could understand the Commissioner's statement was that "there must have been some mis-communication".
Reports that Chebaia was speaking out sparked a flurry of activity from Melbourne-based commission secretary, Colin Thatcher.
Media manager Rick Willis told Workers Online that Thatcher had flown to Sydney for a meeting with Chebaia, spoken to him by phone and written outlining the Commission's version of events.
Today, Willis rang Workers Online to say Thatcher had finally secured Chebaia's agreement with the Commission's understanding of how events unfolded.
The Cole Royal Commission this week heard evidence that Joanna Gash was a central player in an anti-union crusade which South Coast Labor Council secretary Arthur Rorris said had built a �climate of fear� in the Shoalhaven region.
Wollongong-based CFMEU organiser Peter Primmer told the Royal Commission that Gash made it her business to ring contractors; promote preferred subcontractors and interfere in contractual arrangements.
Speaking outside the commission, Primmer and fellow Wollongong organiser Mick Kane, said Gash had orchestrated an attempt to keep unions out of the Shoalhaven building industry.
Central to her strategy, they claimed, had been the willing involvement of the controversial Office of the Employment Advocate.
"She put the OEA onto me and had them follow me around for more than a month," Primmer said.
"We have no doubt she has used her position to organise Nowra builders against the CFMEU. She has encouraged AWAs and non-union agreements that disadvantage workers in her own electorate."
Kane said Nowra-based Ganderton Earthmoving, who gave evidence before the Commission, had just transferred AWA employees onto a non-union agreement without essentially changing the terms.
Features of the Ganderton non-union deal include...
- 50 hours a week at normal rates
- no accrual of sick leave
- no rostered days off
In earlier evidence, Primmer said there had been an attempt to run him down with a motorcycle and a "boss" had struck him with a steel girder as he went about promoting trade unionism.
Rorris told Workers Online that workers had been intimidated out of making health and safety complaints against employers.
Meanwhile, two men were taken away from the Royal Commission for Federal Police questioning after allegedly threatening another CFMEU organiser, David Kelly.
Mr Kelly said the threat had been made while he was sitting in the Royal Commission public gallery.
The comments - "you'd better watch out for yourself, you'd better be careful" - were directed at him after he gave evidence. They were witnessed by a third party, understood to be a lawyer, who also spoke to Federal Police.
NSW Labor Council secretary John Robertson will also call on WorkCover inspectors to conduct random safety inspections of workplaces.
Robertson says while courts must be allowed to maintain their discretion to issue penalties, guidelines setting upper and lower limits could be imposed by the Parliament.
"While we have strong laws with tough penalties in place under health and safety law, there is a perception that court's are reluctant to hand out the maximum penalties," Robertson says.
"The tragic death of Dean McGoldrick was a case in point," Robertson says. "While the employer was found to be negligent, the court awarded a penalty of just $20,000 - where the maximum was half a million dollars."
And he says WorkCover needs to step up random inspections of workplaces through a dedicated team of officers.
"It's a bit like the philosophies that underlie random breath testing," he says. "It's to encourage people not to drink and drive, because you just don't know where the random breath testing will be."
The summit, called by NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca is also expected to debate the merits of industrial manslaughter legislation.
Several unions are planning to rally on the issue as employers, unions and policy makers meet for the three-day event.
Australian Workers More Likely To Be Injured
Meanwhile, a British safety expert says Australian workers are three times more likely to sustain a workplace injury than British counterparts.
UK health and safety authority Rory O'Neill told over one thousand health and safety representatives attending a Victorian Trades Hall Council conference last week that the reality of the modern workplace presents a myriad of new hazards.
O'Neill accused the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) of hypocrisy over their support for drug testing of workers and rejection of industrial manslaughter legislation.
"What are they scared of? We don't want to imprison all corporate managers, just those whose negligence kills workers," O'Neill says.
He says the Blair Government had finally used existing health and safety legislation in the UK to prosecute employers for manslaughter in industrial accidents. Prosecutions in the UK had recently led to the imprisonment of two employers on industrial manslaughter convictions.
O'Neill says a global body of evidence exists to confirm that unionised workplaces are the safest environments to work in.
Visit the new Victorian OHS Rep site - http://www.ohsrep.org.au
Fed up with government�s refusal to meet its share of an IRC-endorsed wage increase, the Australian Service Union and the NSW Council of Social and Community Services have released a �hit list� showing all the services to be affected.
Refuges and outreach services for victims of domestic abuse, accommodation and support services for homeless youth and crucial services for the disabled face closure or drastic funding cuts, with rural areas particularly affected.
Just some of the victims include 32 adults with intellectual disabilities that have been reliant on Southern Sydney's Civic Residential Services organisation. They will no longer be housed or receive a drop of further support.
The Kempsy Women and Children's Refuge will also close, leaving the area without its 24-hour/7 day a week crisis service that once helped women and children escape domestic violence.
Four Marist Youth Care services for homeless young people will be cut in Western Sydney and funding cuts to Kurrajong Waratah's disability service means its respite care unit will be closed, services reduced and high support activities will undergo severe cutbacks.
ASU secretary Luke Foley says the federal government currently owes an estimated $68m to the community and social services sector as part of its share of joint federal/state funding. He says the government must now release the funding as a matter of urgency.
The move signals the end of the Virtual Communities-LaborNet split that has existed for the past three years and hindered the development of a single web strategy for organised labour.
LaborNet - the official home of Workers Online - is a joint venture of the NSW Labor Council and Social Change Online. Unions based on LaborNet include: the ASU, LHMU, CFMEU, MUA, NSW Teachers and the NSW PSA.
The ACTU joins the Victorian Trades Hall Council and the NSW Labor Council as peak bodies housed there. The specialist Bosswatch, IT Workers Alliance and Wobbly Radio sites also call LaborNet home.
NSW Labor Council secretary John Robertson says its good news that the ACTU has come on board and unions can work cooperatively to develop a national web infrastructure.
"It was crazy having the two largest peak bodies with different web strategies; this will mean we can pool resources and deliver more useful online information, tools and services for our members.
ACTU online coordinator Noel Hester say the ACTU will bring new resources and content to Labornet and will complement and boost what is already a fine union initiative.
"Joining Labornet allows the ACTU to take advantage of proven technology developed in consultation with unions over some years," Hester says.
"We believe the ACTU's presence on Labornet creates very good opportunities for collaborative projects with other organisations on the portal. Together we can take union communications on to another level."
Seventy five Australian Workers Union members employed by Nonferral Pty Ltd, a division of Tri-Star Steering and Suspension claim they've been vicitimised for raising safety issues.
The owners of the Wetherill Park workshop locked out the workers for raising safety concerns about forklifts carrying molten metal routinely bumping over potholed surfaces.
Australian Workers Union state secretary Russ Collision says the workers at Nonferral have taken a stand because they refuse to work in an unsafe environment.
"When the concerns were raised, the workers were told to wait 18 months when the equipment would be upgraded," Collison says.
"The companies response has been to lock them out of the workplace - this is not just unacceptable, it is inhumane."
WorkCover officials were unable to enter the site yesterday because it was locked up by management. The AWU is taking action in the Industrial Relations Commission to find the lock-out illegal.
The NSW Labor Council will approach the new owners to ascertain their plans for the airport and how it will impact on the workforce.
LHMU state secretary Annie Owens , whose members are responsible for airport security, says there are thousands of livelihoods on the line with the sale.
"We want to see the airport provide solid, stable jobs for the many LHMU members currently working at that site - and we want to see more jobs made available for our members," Owens says.
The airport was sold this week for $5.5 billion to a consortium led by the Macquarie Bank.
Sale Link to Entitlements
Meanwhile, the Transport Workers Union has called on federal Transport Minister John Anderson to ensure that proceeds from sale guarantee the entitlements of all airline industry workers.
The TWU says that the $5 billion sale of Sydney Airport is an opportunity for the government to ensure 100 per cent of all legal entitlements are paid.
Ansett workers and their families are still waiting for more almost $200 million in redundancy payments following the collapse of the airline last year.
"We need to ensure that what happened to workers and their families at the airport last year never happens again," TWU state secretary Tony Sheldon says.
The three journalists, the SMH's Anne Lampe and Kate Askew and AAP's Belinda Tasker are refusing to reveal their sources after the NRMA won orders in the Supreme Court compelling them to name sources who provided information about matters discussed at NRMA board meetings. The information was subsequently published on the grounds of public interest.
Federal Secretary of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Christopher Warren, says the ability of journalists to receive confidential information is fundamental to a free press.
"Unless people are confident that they can talk to journalists without being identified, the only information the media will receive is a bland diet of press releases and staged events. It will also have a devastating effect on future efforts to expose wrongdoing.
"That's bad for democracy and bad for freedom of speech," Warren says.
Under the Journalists' Code of Ethics, journalists are required to respect confidences "in all circumstances". If the journalists refuse to reveal their sources under examination, they can be held to be in contempt of court. Once found to be in contempt they can be jailed until they purge their contempt.
"Unfortunately, there has been a tendency for the judicial system to increase pressure on journalists to reveal confidential sources over the past 13 years," Warren says.
"Australian courts have to recognise - as courts in Europe and the US have come to recognise - that the principles of freedom of speech involved in confidentiality of sources are essential to the operations of a democratic society.
"In the meantime, the NRMA should withdraw their actions immediately. Journalism's integrity should not be the victim of an organisation's internal conflicts."
Now that Striptease Artists Australia has been granted official union status by the IRC it plans to fight for guaranteed minimum payments per performance.
Currently the industry is in disarray, according to union spokesperson Mystical Melody, who says the growing popularity of tabletop dancers means they get to keep all the tips while exotic stage dancers have to pay a fee for performing.
Melody says this has resulted in some dancers getting as little as $20 for full strips.
She said it was necessary to end the cash-in-hand system to enable workers to receive workers compensation, sick leave and other standard benefits.
The union is now in the process of drafting a log of claims to form the basis of an industry award. Aside from strippers, the award will also cover tabletop dancers, peep-show workers and topless and 'skimpy' bar staff, according to a News.com.au article.
The Queensland Council of Union this week heard from public sector affiliates involved in bargaining and expressed concern that some negotiations were being held through the media, rather than at the negotiating table.
QCU General Secretary Grace Grace says it's was incumbent on the government to negotiate with public sector unions and their members at the negotiating table.
"The QCU Executive calls on the Premier to directly intervene in the enterprise bargaining process in the public sector," Grace says.
"His leadership is needed to resolve these issues in public sector negotiations as a matter of urgency."
The QCU will be seeking urgent meetings with the Premier and Senior Ministers to discuss the current state of enterprise bargaining with government.
New South Wales Nurses Association (NSWNA) assistant secretary Brett Holmes wheeled 122,175 signatures through the Macquarie Street gates of Parliament House in n boxes emblazoned with the words - NSW Citizens Say "Pay Nurses More".
Nurses working in hospitals and other healthcare facilities around NSW have been collecting signatures on the petition as part of their What's a Nurse Worth? campaign.
The petition calls on the NSW Government to solve the State's serious nurse shortage by improving the pay and conditions of nurses.
The presentation comes less than three weeks after the opening of the NSWNA special wages case in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission on 11 June.
The What's a Nurse Worth? campaign was launched in July last year at the NSWNA's annual conference, with the objective of solving the NSW nurse shortage through improved wages and conditions for nurses.
As well as collecting signatures on this petition and running the special wages case, the What's a Nurse Worth? campaign has included public-awareness events in cities, suburbs and towns throughout the State, stop work meetings and rallies at various hospitals and a Statewide public-sector nurses' strike on 18 October 2001.
US wharfies are gearing up to do battle with employers as work contract talks stall over attempts to take away health, welfare benefits and working conditions. The existing contract expires on July 1.
The Maritime Union is pledging its full moral support for its American comrades.
Executive meetings of the world's stevedoring and seafaring unions at the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) in London this month passed resolutions in solidarity with the US West Coast wharfies, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). Both meetings included representatives from the MUA.
Any solidarity action will be two pronged as both dockworker unions and seafaring unions have pledged their full and unequivocal support.
"The MUA and other international maritime unions are determined we will not be stood over by multinationals slashing our job conditions," said MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin.
US employer group Pacific Maritime Association representatives at loggerheads with the ILWU have threatened to lockout workers along the entire West Coast.
PMA is made up of 80 shipping and port companies, including Wilhelmsen Line, Hapag Lloyd, K'Line, Maersk, OOCL, P&O Nedloyd, Zim Lines, COSCO and CSX - all of which also operate in Australia.
Meanwhile, further industrial unrest is brewing in Europe where the European Union Council of Transport Ministers has adopted a proposal to allow shipping companies to replace port workers with crew or private workforces to stevedore their cargo.
The ITF has warned this would create ports of convenience - substandard operations exploiting an unregulated labour market of cheap but untrained, inexperienced and unregistered workers.
Wednesday Politics at Berkelouw
Organised by the Pluto Institute and the NSW Fabian Society.
70 Norton Street, Leichhardt
Wednesday, 3 July 2002
6.30 - 8.00 pm
Citizen or Super Fund Capitalism?
Professor John Piggott
Director of the Centre for Pensions and Superannuation, UNSW, International government advisor
Mark Latham MP
Assistant Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Economic
Susan Ryan AO
Former Minister in the Hawke Government and President of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees.
Dr. Shann Turnbull
Author, Democratising the Wealth of Nations, past President Australian Employee Ownership Association.
Lynn Ralph (Chair)
Chief Executive, Investment & Financial Services Association
Wednesday, 17 July 2002
6.30 - 8.00 pm
Beyond Corporate Globalism: Is Another World Possible?
Launch of the new book from Pluto Press, Protest and Globalisation: Prospects for Transnational Solidarity
Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network.
Lecturer in Social Policy, University of Sydney
Professor of Politics and International Relations, University of NSW
James Goodwin (Chair)
Lecturer in Social Inquiry, University of Technology Sydney.
Electronic Networks - Building Community Conference
July 3-5 2002
Conference topics will include: use of the Internet for advocacy and activism, community building, community service, small business online, community education, government and community relationships, rural and regional online issues and technical issues.
This conference, with over 65 presentations from Australian and international speakers, is supported by ISOC-AU as a practical exploration of the possibilities, successes and complications involved in implementing the slogan - the Internet is for everyone!
More details http://www.ccnr.net/2002
Crisis in Corporate Governance - Ansett, HIH, One.Tel
Sydney Politics in the Pub
26 July 2002, 6.00 pm
Gaelic Club, 64 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills
Hear Stephen Mayne, Publisher of www.crikey.com.au, discuss the crisis in Corporate Governance.
See http://www.politicsinthepub.org for more details.
John Robertson, the NSW Labor Council Secretary says "I think it would be useful to go a step further and actually link executive pay to wages - it would build in an incentive for CEOs to actually increase wages rather than cut them." (Workers Online 21 June 2002.)
I have an alternative suggestion - link wages to executive pay. If 20% per annum increases are good for the CEO, then they are good for the workforce which produces the company's wealth.
Get cracking John.
An ongoing campaign in South Florida illustrates just how far bosses and C.E.O.'s will go to keep the union out of their shops. After a hard fought organizing battle where the workers had to endure vicious union busting tactics, in February, workers at the Mount Sinai-St. Francis nursing home voted 49-37 to join SEIU 1199. Of course, the bosses objected to the election.
On what grounds? Voodoo! They claimed that union organizers and shop leaders used voodoo to intimidate the predominantly Haitian staff into voting to unionise. The regional board dismissed the claim, however, Mount Sinai has recently filed an appeal which probably won't be decided for a year or more. In the meantime, the bosses are gearing up their union busting campaign, firing outspoken supporters, offering benefits to workers who will agree not to support the union, and lecturing the workers on the evils of joining. The fact that the home can use this objection, based on biggotry and stereotypes to buy time to harass, threaten, and coerce the workers into giving up their courageous victory shows just how slanted the NLRB playing field is and also highlights once again management's willingness to employ brutal and disgusting methods to keep workers from uniting.
Just thought I would drop you a line to let everyone know the good news from the Pilbara.
On Friday 21st June at approximately 5pm ,the word came through from the industrial commision that the 500 workers who refused to sign individual agreements had won there case (again!). They were entitled to back pay from november 2nd (the original decision!)plus BHP-Bs 'spin' on the award was effectivly thrown out the window.The 'big' pay rise and super our men and women will be receiving is well deserved as we are now entering the third year of this dispute.
So take heart every one who are still on that road. Stick together and support each other and don't forget to include your families on what is happening as this is their future too.
Best regards,in unity
Tania Williams (ASP- Action in Support of Partners -Hedland Branch)
What utter hypocrisy and regurgitated bile as vented by the salivating media ostensibly eager for battle story between a fortuitous fornicator and a parliamentary prattler.
The member for Werriwa, Mr. Mark Latham, certainly expresses the thoughts of many, if not the majority of Australians in the usage without redundancy and through the descriptive and malleable language of the Anglo-Celt. A language adopted and embraced by the many waves of immigrants to Australia both English speaking and non-English speaking, creating a dialect/s much more colourful and full of allegory than any other dialect of English, as spoken by Anglo-Celts. This richness of culture probably being derived from the manner in which Australia was originally forcibly populated at the birth of its European influence and nurtured by the generations of common folk who emigrated to and now populate this land.
While there are a few dynastic families in control of some factions of labour politics , they are put to shame by the behaviour of those in the Liberal Party , who have assumed a born to rule stance that in comparison would make Louis XIV , the Sun King appear humbler than Father Damien of Molokai.
This arrogance of the Government "Cup Cake Bovver Boys" once again being displayed through their vilification of the common man because of the manner in which he speaks, this pseudo subtle attempt at silencing genuine dissent expressed in good faith, is a reminder of terrible deeds done during the Spanish Inquisition by those who believed they were touched by God, the Priests, Abbot, Bishops, Cardinals via their secular henchmen least they taint their hands with the blood of the innocent.
On the demise of the Inquisition, this behaviour being embraced by the Jesuits an order formed as the political arm of the church, with its tentacles spread across the globe, and there certainly appears to be more than a passing semblance to their tactics and those displayed by the government front bench.
Perhaps some meditation or visualisation as to how the reformations dealt with recalcitrant priests including many an Abbot , may assist the Member for Werriwa, in his honourable crusade ,or if he could by means foul or fair, procure the Abbots' copy of Libro Nero this may offer some advice on dealing with the evil ones ?
From a personal perspective, I am now enamoured by Representative Lathams' bravado, and unreservedly retract any previous criticism previously cast, and I now await the consequences of his final and pivotal attack on the enemy of the common man* as he, in the flamboyant style of T.E. Lawrence, as he charged the Turkish Columns, giving the command: - "No Prisoners" totally and utterly destroys the enemies of the people, and in doing so becomes the new praetorian centurion of the labour right.
Of course students of history will be aware of the postulated reasons as to why Lawrence had a personal hatred for his enemy, and it would be interesting to compare these reasons with the rationale for the hatred expressed by the Member for Werriwa for his enemy.
Remember Mark: No Prisoners.
If I may on behalf of Simon, who has so far stuck to you like vegemite to a blanket, just offer you these brief words of empowerment;
"Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."
Red Martyrdom** (Vow of Obedience)
"See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." (Mt. 10:16-20)
*Used in the Generic sense of Humanity.
**Not necessarily for Comrades.
Reverend Tom Collins
Universal Life Church
Och Mark! Just forget all this bull and ram it up them!
Maybe I missed something last week but I really did think I heard Tony Abbott saying Mark Latham should curb his tongue when he speaks in the Australian Parliament and conduct himself in the same way the Liberal/National Party do!
Perhaps this means Abbott wants all employers exempted from 'unfair dismissal' laws. Perhaps it means Abbott and his 'Ultra Conservative' boys club should get bipartisan support in slandering High Court judges In conspiring to send mercenaries into factories to bust unions, bugging union phone lines to run election campaigns or just plain framing unionists for opposing the theft of jobs and replacement with labour hire companies.
Six Victorian unionists were this week indicted on charges of 'creating afray' and 'threatening murder' after an incident at the Victorian office of Skilled Engineering an organisation the sets itself up as an employment broker selling workers to employers on a day to day basis.
Following some very forthright negotiation between the two parties the police were called and the altercation settled. Now over eighteen months latter Tony Abbott has succeeded in having these unionist charged and threatened with long spells in jail. No doubt this particular matter will be raised in Tony Coles 'Spanish Inquisition' into the CFMEU.
How much more lunacy will the Australian population put up with before John First Strike Howard and Lou Abbott will be seen for the charlatans they are.
What are Labor Council's expectations of this week's safety summit?
The expectations are that they'll be some strategies put in place to ensure greater compliance, with the law. We'd particularly want to see strategies that deal with employers who don't comply with occupational health and safety legislation. The end game is to ensure the law work so that here are less accidents and deaths in the workplace.
What are the sort of examples that are coming to your attention of the practices that are breached in the OH&S Act, what are some examples?
Construction is a classic example of a high-risk industry and there are regular serious injuries and sometimes death. While the industry is dangerous, it is also riddled with employers who regularly flout the law. There's a whole range of other areas in manufacturing, warehousing and distribution where you see lifting injuries, recurring injuries. At least anecdotally there's a correlation between the law-breakers and where these injuries occur.
There are also issues associated with getting injured worker back into the workplace and rehabilitation. This was the government's focus through the last round of workers compensation reforms but the jury is still out on how effective this has been. There's got to be some significant strategies put in place to see those changes implemented, so that workers are able to go back to work.
More generally, we want the government to look beyond running expensive and glossy ads and put more resources into prevention. Whilst the ads might make people feel good, the reality is that on the ground, I don't believe much has changed.
How can one make safety a priority for employers when they are faced with conflicting pressures like cost and competition?
Well, I think, there's got to be an incentive and it's got to be an economic one. That means looking at things like performance-based workers compensation premiums, where good performers are rewarded and incentives are greater to have a safe workplace than to ignore safety.
I also think government can improve the policing of safety in the workplace. The fact is that workplace safety isn't given the same regard as monitoring driving on the roads. I think there ought to be a unit within WorkCover that actually goes out and randomly inspects workplaces. It used to be the case but as we've moved more towards the deregulated model of Occupational Health and Safety, risk management, risk assessment for the employers, we are seeing areas where safety is declining. I think there's still a role for government to be actually out there policing and monitoring these things and they ought to be considering that.
There's no random safety checks at the moment?
Well, the argument from WorkCover is that there are but the reality is that there's insufficient staff to deal with the issue. When people ring up and ask for matters to be dealt, it is sometimes difficult to get something done in those areas. I think that's just a reflection of the attitude of governments over the years of all persuasions, moving more towards the deregulated model of workplace safety.
That might be very politically popular with some people, but the reality is that many workers in this country find themselves working in more precarious safety situations than might be the case if employers knew there was a chance that a WorkCover inspector was going to or could, attend a particular workplace at any given time. It's a bit like the philosophies that underlie random breath testing. It's to encourage people not to drink and drive, because you just don't know where the random breath testing will be. Well the same sorts of philosophies and approaches ought to be applied to workplace safety. There ought to be random inspections by WorkCover inspectors so that employers just don't know when or where they're likely to be.
The other part of the equation of course, is penalties. The government over the last period has significantly increased the fines that can be labelled against employers but there is still the issue of actual criminal sanctions. That was an issue at the ALP conference and its one that unions and the party are grappling with. Where do you stand on it?
Well, I think that there needs to be more done. One of the problems with penalties is that it's always after the event. Now whilst there's an economic incentive for potential prosecution, the fact is there aren't sufficient prosecutions being carried out. That's not necessarily a reflection on the people who do that for WorkCover, I think its more a question of resourcing. There ought to be more done with prosecutions, there ought to be greater publicity of those prosecutions so that the messages are getting out. The fact is that if there not well publicised they don't have the effect they ought to have.
I think many employers just look at what the maximum fine is and we discover that far too often the maximum penalties are never applied. I mean I think the classic example Dean McGoldrick, that young apprentice who died in the construction industry, my recollection is the company was fined $20,000 for a death. It's just absurd.
I think the government should do things like implement guidelines for those prosecutions. I mean they have sentencing guidelines for a whole range of areas now and I think it's a strategy governments could consider, where they actually establish in conjunction with the courts, guidelines for these sorts of penalties prosecutions and the penalties that ought to be applied. That would still give the courts a discretion, but clearly there are an agreed set of guidelines as to what the discretion ought to be and what the level of penalties should be.
What about the push for an actual crime of industrial manslaughter?
Well, I think that there are obvious difficulties with the current provisions that exist. There's conflicting views as to whether or not you can or can't be prosecuted for manslaughter because of a workplace death. I think those issues need to be clarified. Our advice has been up until fairly recently that there is capacity under the Crimes Act for prosecution. The disappointing thing has been that nobody's been prosecuted that I'm aware of for manslaughter where there's been a death in the workplace. I think the government needs to take a whole range of steps in the direction of ensuring that those prosecutions do in fact occur where there's a death in the workplace.
They are the sorts of things that will have an impact on people because employers, once they know they can potentially go to jail are going to be a lot more focused on workplace safety than they currently are for fear of those things. The fact is that law and order and the whole agenda behind it, is very much about increasing the sorts of penalties and particularly incarceration to drive crime down. I think manslaughter or a death in the workplace is a crime, and government ought to be adopting the same sorts of strategies to those crimes as they do for the other law and order issues that they're running around talking about.
September 1, there's new laws in place that means that there is an OHS committee or an OHS rep in every workplace. What impact do you think that will firstly on safety?
Well providing these people are properly trained and allowed to operate effectively without living with fear or intimidation, I think it could make a huge improvement to safety. Workers generally know where the safety issues are so there's a huge potential there to drive the level of accidents down. If it works properly it has the potential to make significant difference to workplace safety.
Polling still finds workplace safety one of the real big ticket items in terms of worker concerns. Do you think unions have done enough to work with the issue to organise workplaces?
Probably not, some unions do it better than others but on the whole, probably not. I think part of the issue is that occupational health and safety is seen as a very specific issues because there's a lot of technical detail associated with it. It's not an area that most organisers are familiar with, and I think that we need to doe more about training fulltime officials, organisers, and rank and file activists, in their rights and their responsibilities in regards to occupational health and safety. I think this new regulation provides us with an opportunity to do that. We are initiating, through the Labor Council with Mary Yaager, a whole range of training packages for officials and rank and file delegates and activists around this whole area: what their rights are, what their responsibilities are and the opportunities that that presents.
It's 12 months almost to the day since the workers comp dispute boiled over outside parliament. A year on do you see the environment for unions to work around OH&S issues has improved, got harder, stayed the same?
I think the new regulation, by all accounts, provides a better opportunity. But like all these things I think the proof of the pudding is always in the eating, and at the moment it remains to be seen. I guess you might need to ask us in another 12 months. There were some improvements that we got out of the government, and the fact is the Act is not as bad as when it was first introduced. In regards to occupational health and safety, I still think the environment itself is still pretty much the same, it might change, and the potential is there after September with the new reg.
Industrial manslaughter is the big issue on the minds of unions and they'll be rallying in Bathurst this week to make their point: employers will not take workplace safety seriously until someone is sent to jail for their contribution to a workers death. It's a contentious issue: NSW Industrial relations Minister John Della Bosca says the powers to bring criminal charges against an employer already exist. Unions ask, why then has there never been a prosecution?
Between 45 and 50 workers are killed each year in construction industry accidents that could have been avoided if the boss had put the required safeguards in place. Meanwhile the farming sector is losing an average of two workers per week. AWU president Mick Madden says penal provisions are needed. "Given that there are two deaths every week on Australian properties and the farmers seem to just accept this as part of life we need to send a clear message i.e. a 'wake up call' to them that this is not," he says.
2.Compliance, Enforcement and Prosecutions
It's fine to have safety laws, but are we enforcing them? When a workplace hazard is identified and the employer notified, it is expected the situation will be rectified expediently and in line with existing safety legislation. But many unions find the reality is often far less straightforward. Employers are routinely setting up new companies to escape having records of past industrial accidents used against them and there are insufficient legislative measures to stop them for repeatedly cutting corners on worker safety. CFMEU state secretary Andrew Ferguson says trying to get a prosecution against someone who blatantly and continually breaches OHS legislation is a massive ongoing problem in the building industry and in many other sectors. "When an employer is in effect guilty of causing injury or murder through their premeditated and willful disregard of safety laws, they should be prosecuted appropriately," he says.
3.Workload, Working Hours and Pace of Work
The combination of excessive demands placed on workers and an expectation of working extended hours can cause a range of stress related conditions, accidents, and sometimes death. MUA assistant secretary Sean Chaffer says fatigue is the "number one issue" for machinery operators. "Our guys operate and drive heavy machinery for long periods of time with no breaks in between. They want to know why the RTA has recognised fatigue as a major factor in road fatalities saying 'Stop, Revive, Survive' and yet we are in the same if not worst position," he says.
Stress caused by excessive workloads can also result in a range of other disorders. The IEU's Sharon Tobin says teachers are particularly prone to stress-related illnesses due to burgeoning class sizes, increasing expectations placed on teachers, and the absence of a cap on working hours. Tobin says it is not unusual for teachers to work between 50 to 60 hours a week. The IEU is currently dealing with the issue by negotiating shorter working hours on a school-by-school basis and holding seminars throughout NSW to increase awareness of the problem among teachers.
4. Violence and Bullying
Many employees go to work each day with the constant threat of violence or bullying hanging over their head. Bullying can result in stress, psychological injury, muscular skeletal conditions, immune system breakdown, stomach conditions and other stress related illnesses. Peggy Trompf from the Workers Health Centre says OHS authorities find it difficult to "pin down" and investigate bullying claims, especially when it is perpetrated by a supervisor. Workers fear repercussions such as losing their job or worsening the problem. NSW Labor Council and the Workers Health Centre will be establishing a committee to develop guidelines and policies for unions and Trompf says the Workers Health Centre hopes to provide a venue for a bullying support network that was mooted at a recent bullying seminar.
In the legal and health industries the threat of violence has been long recognised as a serious problem regularly encountered on the job. Drivers, bank and retail workers are also on the frontline when it comes to dealing with violent members of the public but because they work in largely privatized industries do not have the same entitlement to workers compensation, according to the TWU's Scott Connelly. He says that in the cash and transit industry alone there has been half a dozen hold ups in the past four months. The TWU is currently pushing for comprehensive counseling services to support victims of crime and workplace violence in the transport industry and for security cameras to be used "more as a safety measure and less as a disciplinary tool". It is also focusing on the 'chain of responsibility' for workplace violence, making clients responsible for setting unreasonable demands on workers that put them in danger.
5.Work Design, Work Practices and Equipment
Old and damaged equipment, poorly designed facilities and insufficient training in how best to use equipment can all lead to injury on the job. But old facilities are not the only ones to be poorly designed, according to the Nurses' Association's Trish Butrej. She says some new facilities are also having poor design built into them. Butrej says the problem is partially caused by a lack of clear guidelines for building design. Meanwhile the AMIEU's Patricia Fernandez says it is not unusual for meat workers to turn up to work on a Monday and be greeted with entirely new equipment, which they are expected to use without sufficient training.
6. Slips, trips and Falls
Slips, trips and falls can happen in almost any industry but for building workers the problem is particularly deadly. One of the most well-known cases in recent years is that of young apprentice builder Dean McGoldrick who lost his life after falling from a rooftop devoid of appropriate fencing or scaffolding. This is an ongoing issue for the CFMEU, which requires catch scaffolding to be used to protect building workers and people walking below building sites.
7. Manual Handling
Any worker required to move heavy or awkward objects is vulnerable to back pain and muscular strain. Workers need to receive training in the safest methods of lifting and need to be supported by appropriate equipment and assistance where necessary. The Nurses' Association's Trish Butrej says manual handling issues are closely tied with equipment and facility design and layout, but says it is also a staffing issue. She says two or more people are often needed to manually lift patients and also to use equipment but poor staffing arrangements can leave health care workers alone with the task. However, she says things are "gradually starting to improve". Aside from the safety benefits, she says organisations are increasingly realising how effectively managing manual handling risks can save significant sums of money in the long run.
8. Exposure to Hazardous Substances
With 44 workers dying each week from exposure to hazardous substances, Labor Council's safety watchdog Mary Yaager says this remains to be the "number one killer" in workplaces. Yet Yaager says she visits worksites on a regular basis and employers are still blas� about this issue, continuing to let workers be exposed to asbestos and other carcinogenic agents. "If anyone were to witness the horrific way that a person suffering from asbestos related lung cancer dies, (they virtually choke to death), they would not be complacent about this issue," she says.
Part of the problem is that workers are not trained in the risks associated with using chemicals. "Just last month a worker was thrown from a silo after the chemicals he was adding ignited causing an explosion and he received severe burns to the top half of his body," she says. NSW Labor Council will be calling on the government to mount a major campaign around this issue, concentrating on enforcement and the need to prosecute employers who breach the laws.
9. Accreditation Systems
The growing practice of outsourcing government responsibilities is continuing without appropriate checks on contractors' OHS records. Building Trades Group secretary Tony Papas the group will be pushing for an Industry Accreditation/Registration System to make it easy to identify who is taking their OHS and workers compensation responsibilities seriously. He says contactors who blatantly breach OHS laws should be expelled from government contract works. "There are so many dodgy contractors out there who are getting government contract work when they clearly they should not," he says. Under the accreditation system, government contractors' practices would come up for review on an annual basis.
10. Not Enough Power For Safety Reps/Employees
Finally, if safety representatives were given the legal power to issue provisional improvement notices at dangerous worksites, many workplace accidents could be avoided, according to the AMWU's Doug Rowland. "I am all too often called out to situations where avoidable accidents have occurred simply because employers have not acted quickly enough to correct safety issues," he says, adding that employees often tell him they have been trying to get things fixed for months. He says NSW is one of the few jurisdictions where this power has not already been put in place.
The Royal Commissioner seems to want building workers to surrender the right to stay alive on the job. Perhaps he should acquaint himself with the way workers have had to campaign for any protection from danger at work for two centuries.
The current economic doctrine of letting the markets rule is re-asserting itself in the occupational health and safety area, after a brief interlude from the early 1970s to now where the rights of people to their lives and health was at least partially to the fore over the rights of companies to make a profit no matter what the cost.
Neil Gunningham pointed out in Safeguarding the Worker that the conflicts between manufacturers and advocates of factory reform in the 19th century which shaped early factory acts, are the same sort of conflicts that continue. Employer's claimed then stringent legislation would result in factory closures, widespread unemployment and threats to withdraw investment. It wasn't true then and isn't true now. Tony Abbott trots out the same sentiments about unfair dismissal legislation.
Most Australian laws have been modeled on British legislation. The first attempts to regulate work in the UK was the Regulation of Chimney Sweeps Act of 1788. Factories legislation was born in 1802 with the aim of protecting children in the form of the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act. This restricted their hours to 12 per day on 6 days a week. This didn't help all that many children however, as the enforcement mechanisms were severely lacking.
Working class agitation for better conditions began to get broader middle class support from 1815 (after the Napoleonic wars) and the next major legislation came in 1833 - the Factories Regulation Act. This actually managed to establish an Inspectorate to enforce the legislation. The working class was also agitating for the 10 Hours legislation and greater protection of children. The other major English social movement, the Chartists were also nearing their peak of influence at the time. Some larger manufacturers had introduced some measures of their own at the time, which no doubt was helpful in getting reforms through.
The guarding of machinery was omitted form the act after opposition from manufacturers. The importance of laws on this was to be seen through the streets of English manufacturing towns. Engels in his description of 1844 described conditions as "like living in the midst of an army just returned from a campaign." The emphasis had been on protecting children, not safety for all at work.
In 1844 the Act was significantly reformed. This extended conditions beyond cotton mills and placed limits on women's hours at work. The conservative press expressed support for the laws, with broader concerns in mind - "Tell the British labourer that he must fight all is battles and make all his own conditions without help from the State, and what sort of feeling is he likely to have towards the State".
Biggins sees this reformist legislation as the beginning of the end of laissez-faire capitalism. The state could now legitimately interfere in the workings of the market. The earlier laws were seen as an extension of the Poor Laws, as a way of getting the working class accustomed to factory discipline. The 1844 laws seemed to signify that the working classes accepted the industrial system, but were now working to change it in their own image.
In Australia the first legislation was coal mining legislation in 1854 in NSW. This came about because of union action throughout the Newcastle coalfields. In manufacturing, Victoria was the major manufacturing colony and agitation in clothing factories was the catalyst for legislative action. Whilst there was no official union there was considerable public outcry and a campaign through the Ballarat Courier for and by sewing girls. The Supervision of Workrooms and Factories Statute was enacted in 1873. Again it focused on limiting the number of hours of women's employment, and to regulate ventilation, cleanliness and sanitation. Smaller employers sought evade these less than onerous regulations.
Unions were made legal entities in the 1880s in Australian colonies. This was in response to the growth of the union movement, and factory legislation was an important focus of union action.
The Melbourne Typographical Society was a major force in early action (see Jim Hagan's history of the Printers Union). They were concerned to protect their own trade as much as anything else, but they did seek to limit children's hours and control apprenticeships. Also women in clothing factories had a well-publicised strike in 1882 that received broad support. Eventually the Victorian Parliament passed the Factories and Shops Act in 1885. It was much diminished by opposition from manufacturers, but it did set the basis for much later legislation.
Biggins notes that "the Act prohibited employment of children under 13 years of age in factories, limited working hours of women and people under 16 years to 48 hours per week, and included provisions for cleanliness, ventilation, sanitation and adequate working space." 1896 amendments were aimed at "sweated labour" and were the result of agitation by the Anti Sweating League, with support from unions (driven by their opposition to Chinese labour).
In fact the legislation was based on the English 1844 legislation, and was the guide for all legislation until the shift of emphasis brought in by the Robens Committee Report of 1972 in the UK, which has been the model for British and Australian law since that time. Gunningham says there are "striking parallels between the NSW Factories, Shops and Industries Act of 1962" and the 1844 UK law.
The safeguarding of workers up to 1974 is based exclusively on "the economic convenience of the employers" and the laws are "patently incapable of preventing industry from externalizing some or all of its safety-related costs and passing them on to injured workers and society generally." (Safeguarding the Worker p74)
The Robens Committee in the UK took the approach of removing preventive legislation and regulation, which prescribed precautions to be taken, in favour of what is called "enabling" laws which set out general duties and establish mechanisms for fleshing out these duties at the workplace level as technologies and industrial practice allow. Robens and his Australian followers made the assumption that apathy was the main problem in the OHS area. The feeling was that employers and workers have common interests in preventing accidents and needed encouragement to work together to solve problems. Gunningham feels strongly that this is the fundamental flaw with this approach - employers often "do not have an interest in minimizing work hazards." With employers able to externalise costs it is cheaper to allow accidents than to install safety equipment or do safety training. Safety and profit are not on the same side of the fence, and its up to unions to keep safety in the forefront.
The CFMEU represents workers in mining and construction, two industries where there is a greater risk than most that workers won't make it home at the end of the day. Keeping building sites organised and making sure that OHS standards are met and enforced earns them the ire of the Royal Commissioner, Old King Cole. He wants a construction industry unhindered by unions who import such extraneous concerns as the life of the workers on the job. He won't get it.
(Next week we will outline the development of OHS laws in the 20th century, with more detail on how Robens style reform has been introduced in Australia.)
Neil Gunningham. Safeguarding the Worker: Job Hazards and the Role of the Law. (North Ryde, NSW: Law Book Co, 1974)
Breen Creighton and Neil Gunningham (eds). The Industrial Relations of Occupational Health and Safety (Sydney: Croom Helm, 1985), especially chapter 2 by Gunningham and chapter 4 W.G. Carson.
David Biggins. The Social Context of Legislative Reform: Part 1 Nineteenth century origins of health and safety legislation; in; Journal of Occupational Health and Safety - Australia and New Zealand, vol. 9, no. 3, 1993, pp217-22
Lord Robens. Safety and Health at Work: report of the Committee 1970-72. (London: HMSO, 1972)
John Mathews. Health and Safety at Work: a Trade Union Safety Representatives handbook. 2nd edition (Annandale, NSW: Pluto Press, 1993)
P.B. Beaumont. Safety at Work and the Unions. (Beckenham, Kent: Croom Helm, 1983)
We've all heard of South American death squads, right? Well, Argentinian-born Serge Saliadarre and Chilean off-sider, Vridmar Vega, are the exact opposite.
The pair learned their trades around Sydney building sites before becoming CFMEU organisers. The mission they've chosen to accept is protecting the lives of people in the building industry.
It's 11.50am when concreter Saliadarre and carpenter Vega don hard hats and announce their presence at a residential development on the corner of Marlborough Rd, Homebush.
60 Marlborough Rd is one of a number of apartment buildings going up in an area where small builders cut corners to turn a quid. It's up the road from the union-nominated site Commissioner Cole declined to visit last week and even closer to a development shut down by state safety regulator, Workcover.
The pair walk on site to discover two Workcover inspectors already checking paperwork in the shed that passes for an office. They exchange pleasantries.
Saliadarre introduces himself to the builder. He's a muscular young man with a pony tail escaping the confines of his hard hat. We'll call him Jon. He studies the proferred right of entry permits and nods.
Jon's confident. He's paid $3,500 to a private safety consultant to cover his backside.
Saliadarre asks for the name and shakes his head. He takes the builder aside and warns his consultant is the same individual responsible for the sites mentioned above.
In the interests of efficiency, Saliadarre and Vega decide to join the Workcover men on their inspection.
The atmosphere is good. Counsels assisting Commissioner Cole might baulk at some of the language but, hey, it is a building site and it's all good natured.
The lunchroom and portable toilet get the thumbs up.
"Hey, they've even got toilet paper, bloody amazing," Saliadarre reports.
The older Workcover inspecter lays down his credentials as a practical sort of bloke, explaining that amenities give him a good idea of what's coming.
"Everyone's got to eat and everyone's got to take a piss," he explains. "If they can't get that right, you're usually in trouble."
There's a few problems in the basement but nothing too dramatic - loose material lying around, that type of thing.
Saliadarre is less than impressed by the combined effect of three water-filled pits and short, open stair cases leading down from the unfenced permimeter. He takes the builder aside.
"Jon, the last thing you want to do is come in here in the morning and find a kid has fallen in there. When we go home, these places make great playgrounds."
Workcover is more direct.
"Get those pits covered, mate, and make sure there's some physical barrier on the stairs."
Jon doesn't need to be told twice. He's on the mobile. His labourer is down in a matter of minutes, putting boards across the pits.
Outside, there are queries over a hoist with unprotected moving parts and no fencing, not to mention four sharp steel posts erected at the bottom of another stairwell.
Workcover: "Listen mate, you've got to put caps on them. Someone trips here and these things go through a shoulder or take out an eye."
On the way upstairs, Jon tells us he's putting up 27 units.
On the first floor there's only tape protecting the perimeters. Vega says it's not good enough, the boss reckons it is.
"Honest Jon, these wouldn't hold Jack Shit," one of the Workcover men intervenes. "We don't want to get emotional and I'm not being picky but that is not protection."
On the way to the next floor we encouter a spaghetti junction of electrical cables. There's a bit of toing and froing, some are removed and others untangled.
It's a long way down from the second floor and nobody is impressed by a link chain, the sort of thing you might use to tie up a domestic dog, being used as perimeter protection. Worse, it's just hooked over a nail.
Saliadarre and Vega tell Jon it's not on.
Workcover informs him it's writing a fine. Not only would "Jack Shit" go straight through but, under pressure, the chain swings out past the edge of the floor.
"Fair go," one of the Workcover men says, "this wouldn't work if it was fastened with bolts".
There's discussion over a number of things but the atmosphere is still cordial. Jon's getting a bit ropey, cursing out the private consultant, wondering why he ever bothered.
Vega comes over all conciliatory, says it's better than 90 percent of the jobs he visits.
"It's clean," he explains, "for residential developments this place isn't bad at all."
Saliadarre takes a tumble on the next set of stairs, crashing down on his right shoulder.
"Health and safety," he grumbles, trying to flex the unwilling limb.
Then we're up top. The view is great, across to the Olympic Stadium and straight ahead to a big area of green that developers and builders are hungrily eyeing off.
Closer, though, it's not so pretty. As soon as you get up the concrete stairs, there's an unprotected drop to a courtyard. Over to the left, there are big gaps in the perimeter scaffolding. Where the scaffolding does stand around the edges, there are no kickboards, leaving gaps of anying up to half a metre at the bottom.
Open stairways and rooms below the roof are completely unprotected, no handrails, not even taping.
Vega and Saliadarre are backtracking on their earlier assessments. They tell Jon so. He argues it's highly unlikely anyone would slip through the gaps where the kickboards should be.
"This is bullshit, mate, honestly, you can't have blokes working up here," Saliadarre says. He launches into a story about a young bloke he worked with in 1998, who went through a hole smaller than that left between the edge and the scaffolding. He fell three stories and was " bloody lucky" only to break both elbows.
But, Jon argues, nobody works up here, anyway. Points for trying but floor markings and strings leading from stacks of bricks tell a different story.
"Look, it's not just your workers," a Workcover man intervenes. "You've got to have kickboards. What if someone kicks a brick or drops a trowel? How would you like to be walking down the street, minding your business?"
Jon throws up his hands. It's a fair cop. He recounts his own tale of how, only a fortnight ago, a mate fell two stories on a site in Bankstown and wound up in hospital.
Back in the smoko room, the Workcover inspectors start writing out notices.
Jon takes Saliadarre aside and tells him his father is starting a job nearby. He asks the union official if he would call over, run his eye across the site and give his Dad a few pointers before he gets started.
Saliadarre is made up.
"Better if we can sort things out before anyone is put at risk," he says.
"As an organiser," Vega explains, "most of our time is taken up with safety. We have been here three hours and we will be here for another two or three days before we even try to recruit a member or discuss an industrial issue.
"That's the way it is in this industry, unfortunately, but it would be immoral not to make safety our priority."
The union men stick their heads back around the corner to see what Workcover is up to. They're imposing one fine, writing improvement notices and, most importantly, a notice prohibiting work on the roof until safety improvements are made.
Saliadarre emphasies the point to the builder. "Please Jon, nobody up there," he pleads. "Nobody up there until it's safe and fenced off. We don't need any more accidents and nor do you."
Jon gives his word.
The point, for a Royal Commission charged with investigating "illegal and improper" activities in the building industry is this. At sparrow's fart, the following day, there are more than 20 brikkies up on the roof in direct contravention of the Workcover prohibition notice.
Investigate that, Mr Commissioner!
by Andrew Casey
As voices around the world became soarer and soarer cheering on the Korean underdog team the host country's government has used the cover of the World Cup championships to arrest and jail another twenty-three trade unionists.
The latest batch of arrests puts the score for the total number of imprisoned trade unionists in that country to 52.
Just before all the tumult and the shouting dies down union activists around the world have held protests and demonstrations in front of Korean consulates to tell the Korean government that they have not been able to completely hide their anti-worker activity.
Thursday June 27 had been declared International Day of Action in solidarity with Korean workers.
Key international union groupings such as the Metal Workers Federation, the Public Sector International and the Food and Hotel Workers International asked affiliates around the world to organise co-ordinated protests on this day.
In Sydney more than 80 union members - mainly organised by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union - met in front of the Korean Consulate in Martin Place where they were addressed by John Parkin of the AMWU, John Robertson from the NSW Labor Council and Ian Cohen, Green MP.
The key role of the AMWU in organising the Sydney rally was appropriate because only this week, more than 20 unionists at Korea's largest heavy industry firm, Doosan were targeted for arrest, including Kim Chang Keun, the President of the Korean Metal Workers' Union (KMWU) a member of the Korean Metal Workers' Federation (KMWF).
A strike which started at the end of May at Doosan has hit the company hard costing it, according to some reports, more than $A400 million in business.
Because of the strike it has not been able to ship heavy equipment that it produced for various overseas projects, including a desalination plant in the United Arab Emirates, and for overseas clients, including General Electric of the United States.
Rather than sit down and negotiate, the company has stepped aside and allowed union leaders to be targeted by police for beatings and arrest.
This is a regular industrial tactic in Korea when talks between the company and union members collapse riot police are called in to bash protesters and drag away key union leaders.
To avoid the violence union leaders and activists have regularly claimed sanctuary in Catholic Cathedrals where the police - in this increasingly Christian country - dare not enter.
From inside the walls of the Cathedral the union leaders seek to negotiate a final agreement.
Union Has Win Setting Up Political Party
To try to change this confrontational style of industrial relations one of Korea's national trade union centres - the militant left-wing KCTU - launched earlier this year its own affiliated political party - the Democratic Labor Party (DLP).
In local government elections - just completed - it won a significant base of support making it the third largest political grouping in Korea.
During the June 13 local government elections, the DLP won 8 percent of votes nationwide - pushing out some older more traditional parties and marking a new milestone in Korean politics.
Emboldened by the party's performance in the local government elections, the best showing by a progressive party in Korean history, the DLP leader Kwon Young-ghil announced he wanted to unite all progressive forces against what he calls "neo-liberals" in the run-up to the presidential election slated for Dec. 19.
Kwon, a former journalist and labour union leader, ran in the 1997 presidential election as the candidate of People's Victory 21, the predecessor of the DLP. At that time his party managed to earn only 1.2 percent of the vote.
"The election result points to the fact that a growing number of the Korean people have begun to regard progressive forces as an alternative to a political establishment tainted by corruption scandals and endless partisan struggles," Kwon told local media outlets.
Kwon attributed the success of the DLP to its wide support base among young voters, the working class and the underprivileged.
"The DLP is the nation's first genuine progressive party deeply rooted in people of lower social strata and local grassroots organisations," he said.
The DLP was founded in 2000 as a political alliance of organisations representing labourers, farmers and intellectuals, including the militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. Kwon was a former KCTU chairman.
The party's calls for socialist policies and dissolution of the chaebol conglomerates, has made the new union- created political party a target for conservative parties.
International Organising For Day Of Protest
The preparation for this international day of action for the release of imprisoned trade unionists in Korea, was put together jointly by the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) and the Public Services International (PSI) and endorsed by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).
It was also actively supported by Global Unions such as, the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) and International Federation of Building and Wood Workers (IFBWW) who joined in the campaign, calling on their affiliates to take part in the action.
The KCTU asked for the international support and requested supporting unions to organise protest rallies and letter writing.
In Sydney AMWU activists handed out letters to people passing the protest and asked them to sign them to show support - several dozen signed protest letters were taken by a union delegation and handed into the Sydney Korean consulate.
Unions in more than20 countries took part in the co-ordinated day of action.
Apart from Australia there were protests organized in Germany, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Japan, South Africa, Sweden, USA, Mauritius, Belgium, Japan, France, Mozambique, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Denmark, Switzerland, Ukraine, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Austria, the Philippines
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union produced thousands of leaflets and posters about the trade union repression in Korea and the June 27 international day of action, distributing them to workplaces around the country.
Apart from the Sydney demonstration the AMWU organized protests in other cities in front of major Daewoo or Hyundai dealerships.
The union also produced a special leaflet for the Korean community to distribute at the major sites where Koreans gathered to watch the World Cup semi-final between Korea and Germany in the June 25 evening.
Workers' World Cup Campaign
The June 27 International Day of Action brought to a culmination the international World Cup campaign for the release of imprisoned Korean trade unionists which was an initiative of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.
The ICFTU promoted an innovative internet-based awareness campaign highlighting the reality of modern Korea.
The ICFTU internet campaign included the production of a popup poster telling viewers "Our Team Won't Be at the World Cup". This poster was put out in 15 different languages and adopted by a considerable number of union websites, as banners or "pop-up".
Action in Korea
In Korea, the KCTU and its member federations, including the IMF-affiliated KMWF and the PSI affiliated Korean Government Employees Union (KGEU, declared illegal by the Korean government), joined in the global action with a series of solidarity vigils on the eve of the international day of action.
On the eve of the international day of action, KCTU, KGEU, and the People's Alliance (a broad coalition of people's organisations) held a vigil at the Myongdong Cathedral in solidarity with the imprisoned trade unionists.
The main rally will took place at 3 p.m. at the Jongmyo Park in downtown Seoul followed by a march through the main streets of Seoul to the Myongdong Cathedral. Similar rallies were held in six other cities across the country.
Korean unionists sidelined in prisons:
� Dan Byung-ho, KCTU president
� Jeong Yong-cheon, chairperson, Korean Government Employees Union (KGEU) - Central government branch
� Lee Kyung-soo, chairperson, KCTU Choongnam Regional Council
� Bang Hyo-hoon, organising director, KCTU Choongnam Regional Council
� Lee Seok-haeng, former vice-president, Korean Metal Workers Federation (KMWF)
� Han Seok-ho, organising director, KMWF
� Kim Seong-gahp, Daewoo Motors, KMWF
� Kim Il-seup, president, Daewoo Motors, KMWF
� Kim Jeong-gohn, president Daewoo Shipyard, KMWF
� Oh Se-wook, Daewoo Shipyard, KMWF
� Kang Bong-woo, Daewoo Shipyard, KMWF
� Jeong Byung-kwon, Daewoo Shipyard, KMWF
� Lee Min-hyung, Daewoo Shipyard, KMWF
� In Young-soo, KMWF Choongnam Branch
� Yoon Min-reh, Signetics, KMWF
� Im Young-sook, Signetics, KMWF
� Lee Jin-seong, Daewoo Motors, KMWF
� Yoo Hee-yong, KMWF Choongnam Branch
� Kim Jeong-bae, Doosan Electronics, KMWF
� Kim Joon-ho, Doosan Electronics, KMWF
� Jeong Cheol-woo, Doosan Electronics, KMWF
� Noh Yong-joon, Hanjin Heavy Industry, KMWF
� Lee Jae-ho, Daewoo Car Sales, KMWF
� Han Sang-dae, KT-Contingent Workers Union, Korean Federation of Transportation, Public & Social Service Workers Unions (KPSU)
� Shin Tae-bong, National Social Insurance Workers Union, KPSU
� Kim Young-joon, National Social Insurance Workers Union, KPSU
� Kim Woon-yong, National Social Insurance Workers Union, KPSU
� Im Seung-joo, Korean Power Plant Industry Union, KPSU
� Oh Seung-soo, Korean Power Plant Industry Union, KPSU
� Jeong Yoon-ji, Korean Power Plant Industry Union, KPSU
� Cho Joon-seong, Korean Power Plant Industry Union, KPSU
� Lee Young-woo, Korean Power Plant Industry Union, KPSU
� Kim Soon-seup, Korean Power Plant Industry Union, KPSU
� Lee Ho-dong, Korean Power Plant Industry Union, KPSU
� Kim Jin-young, Korean Power Plant Industry Union, KPSU
� Im Seung-kyu, Seoul Subway Workers Union, KPSU
� Yeum Ki-yong, Korean Health and Medical Industry Union-Ulsan Branch, Korean Federation of Hospital Workers Unions (KHMU-KFHWU)
� Lee Mi-ja, KHMU Ulsan Branch, KFHWU
� Chang Young-jin, Korean Federation of Taxi Workers Union (KFTWU)
� Kim Yeun-kyung, KFTWU
� Kim Ho-gohn, KFTWU
� Choi Choong-koo, KFTWU
� Kim Jeong-hee, KFTWU
� Min Byung-mo, KFTWU
� Jeong Bong-seok, KFTWU
� Park Sang-yong, KFTWU
� Moon Sang-min, Seoul Clerical Workers Union, Korean Federation of Clerical and Financial Workers Labour Unions (KCFLU)
� Kim Kyung-hwan, National Union of Mediaworkers (NUM)
� Kim Byung-hak, Taekwang, Korean Chemical and Textile Workers Federation (KCTF)
� Kang Seong-cheol, KCTU Dismissed Workers Struggle Committee
� Nam Kyu-won, KCTU Dismissed Workers Struggle Committee
� Song Soo-keun, KCTU Dimissed Workers Struggle Committee
Some notable unionists wanted for arrest:
� Cha Bong-cheon, president, KGEU
� Lee Yong-han, general secretary, KGEU
� Cha Soo-ryeun, president, KHMU-KFHWU
� Kim Chang-keun, president, Korean Metal Workers Union, KMWF
� Lee Dong-ik, KCTF Ulsan branch
Imprisonment Is Only The Tip Of The Ice-Berg
Thousands of other unionists are subjected to other forms of legal action, apart from imprisonment and being wanted for arrest.
1,797 unionists are subject to legal action, summoned to appear before the police for questioning. Some of these unionists may also be issued with warrants of arrest, leading, eventually to imprisonment.
Employers have taken court action for damage claims amounting to 125,427,800,000 won for industrial disputes at 32 enterprises. As a result, bank accounts of unions have been frozen by court orders while bank accounts, assets, and wages of individual union leaders and activists have come under court control.
A total of 2,560 workers have been subjected to disciplinary action by their employers, ranging from warnings and suspensions to dismissals.
6 leaders of the newly formed Korean Government Employees Union have been served with dismissal orders for their role in the formation of the union. 26 leaders of the Korean Teachers Union are currently dismissed for the various collective action undertaken by their organisation.
Thousands of other unionists in South Korea are subjected to other forms of legal action, and many have lost their jobs for forming a union in their work place.
The arrest and imprisonment of unionists in South Korea is a flagrant abuse of fundamental workers' rights.
Show your support
You too can show your support for this international activity by sending a protest letter to President Kim Dae Jung at the following address:
Mr. Kim Dae-Jung
The President of Republic of Korea
Seoul 110-820 E-mail: [email protected]
Republic of Korea Fax: +82-2-770-0347
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
by Jim Marr
Rotem's website http://www.geocities.com/rotemmor sets out the following personal prescription...
- I am committed to act upon my truth as I have found it to be, and constantly create possibilities that stem from that truth
- I am committed not to judge a person by actions he has made in the past
- I am committed to recognise those places where I have not been true and share them with others
- I am committmed to share the truth as I see it with others so they may take from it what they desire for themselves
- I am committed to listen to all people and recognise the power that lies in their truth as if it was my own
- I am committed to constantly explore my truth and allow myself the possibility of a dynamic truth
- I am committed to do as best I can to support and help any person who requests so
There are thousands of people in Israel who say that Mor, and those like him, should be committed.
Undeterred, he will begin a speaking tour next month aimed at convincing Australians they should question and challenge the policies of his country's military-dominated Government.
He wants to meet Palestinians while he is here, to develop relationships, and build bridges that might lead to just solutions to the problems confronting their homelands. A practical first step, he suggests, would be to seek invitations to address schools with large Moslem rolls.
"Undoubtedly, me and other Israelis have to make those links. Talking, understanding each other, that's where this issue begins and ends.
"I will talk to anyone and I will listen to anyone. If a guy from Hamas wants to be my friend, that's fine. If we make a strong enough bond then he won't be a guy from Hamas any more.
"Our main message, though, is that there is more than one voice coming out of Israel. There are many voices with different ways of approaching the conflict.
"Some, for example, argue that ending the occupation is the goal. I don't believe that myself but, obviously, it would be a good place to start."
Raised near Jerusalem, Mor spent four years in Canada where his father worked for a Zionist organisation. Slowly, he began questioning the accepted political wisdoms he had grown up with.
But it wasn't until he was drafted on February 15, 2000, that he confronted them head on.
After 18 months, feeling more and more like an imposter, he did the increasingly-thinkable, requesting a release from the Ministry of Defence, on grounds of conscience, and sending copies of his letter to the UN, Amnesty International and Israeli Peace Groups.
That action cost him a month in prison and five more, reporting to base then going home, while the heirarchy tried to sort out its dilemma.
"I had personal issues about the way you were treated in the army but, more importantly, I was concerned about what was becoming of my country," he explained.
"As a citizen, I am very concerned about what is happening in the territories right now and what happened, historically, in Lebanon in the name of Israel.
"As a soldier, I am worried about the occupation but I am also worried about the power of the military. You look at its influence on the Israeli Government, public companies and private companies.
"I didn't want to serve political fanatics and I didn't want to serve the Settlers, so I made my decision.
"Besides, I wasn't a very good soldier. I wasn't awful but I wasn't very good either.
The highlight of his military career, he says, came with an unexpected promotion to sergeant. It took authorities a week to discover the computer error.
Mor says while the "refusenik" stance isn't popular in Israel, it is gaining some acceptance.
There is a difference, he says, between the general response and the specific attitude of individuals he confronts with his reasoning.
He, and other "refuseniks" are supported by Israeli groups New Profile and Yesh Gvol, which can be translated literally as "there is a border" or colloquially as "enough is enough".
Since arriving in Sydney he has linked with Jews For Just Peace, the group organising his speaking tour.
There has, however, been a personal cost.
Mor's family, like those of most Israelis, has strong military links. His brother and father still hold defence force ranks.
He came to Australia, two months ago, because his family was here but it wasn't until they returned to Israel that he agreed to mount the public stage.
"Politically, it was easy once I made up my mind but, personally, it was very tough.
"Some of my family accepted what I had done because the accepted me for me but my Dad was a little bit harder," he admits.
But he is buoyed by growth in the Refusenik movement. Hundreds have quit the armed forces to face prison and other sanctions. More than 1000 younger compatriots have indicated they will resist the draft.
Eventually, Mor wants to go home.
"I'm doing this because I love my country and its people," he explains. "I care what becomes of us and our neighbours. If I didn't, I would just start a new life and forget about the place."
Imagine waking up one morning and finding that the entire world had gone mad. There's an imposter in the seat of government and having a social conscience is out of vogue. What would you do, fight back? Can one person really change the world?
There's an old saying that goes something like this, 'If you can't manage to laugh about a bad situation, you'll probably end up crying'. Professional shit stirrer Michael 'The Awful Truth' Moore has taken this idea one step further. He's decided to take the piss: out of everything. Stupid White Men is a call to arms from a man who no longer recognises the world in which he lives. While many conservative critics profess to love their country, Mike goes beyond spouting the empty rhetoric of truth, justice and free speech, he lives it.
For over a decade, Mike has been a thorn in the side of conservative hypocrites, religious bigots and corporate bullies of all types. His only weapons in this holiest of crusades have been the truth and a large dose of irreverent humour. In Stupid White Men Mike again applies this winning formula with great success as he attempts to unravel the bizarre state in which he find's his beloved homeland. Mike starts his expose with a stunning secret, the world's problems can be traced directly to one group of obnoxious troublemakers: stupid white men.
Now before I go any further I need to explain a few things to those of you unfamiliar with Mr Moore. Mike's no dummy, and he doesn't really hate those of us who were unfortunate enough to be born as household variety white guys (Moore himself is one I might add). By pointing his rather chubby finger straight in the mirror, Mike is making the point that all of us are responsible for fighting for social and economic justice. His real beef is the hypocrisy and vested interest of governments and corporations who exist for themselves and not the community. The fact that these institutions are more often than not run by a common demographic, middle aged conservative white men, just shows how far the malaise has penetrated society.
In Stupid White Men, Mike questions almost every aspect of contemporary society. He begins with the hypocrisy of George W Bush's illegitimate presidency before offering chapters on tackling the corporate assault on conditions and wages, the cancer of racism, a failing education sector, environmental irresponsibility, foreign policy lunacy and repressive law and order campaigns.
The real beauty of this work is how Mike deals with these serious and exceedingly complex issues. The method is bait and switch, with the aim to get the reader thinking about issues he/she may never have considered.
The bait is biting wit, which is the perfect tool to engage an apolitical reader. In 'Kill Whitey', a chapter dealing with the injustices faced by African American citizens, Mike offers his 'Survival tips for black people'. These include placing a life-sized inflatable white doll on your passenger seat to avoid racial profiling while driving and shopping exclusively on the Internet to avoid shopkeepers who will immediately suspect you are going to rob their store. Mike also offers some unique ideas for improving relations in international hotspots. In the case of Northern Ireland, he suggests converting all Protestants to Catholicism (the benefits include more sex, a greater number of religious holidays and free wine on Sundays). For North Korea, he suggests bringing movie buff and repressive dictator Kim Jong II to Hollywood in order to keep him busy while his country climbs its way out of its economic slump.
But Mike is not all fluff; his outrageous humour is designed only to open the eyes of the politically unaware. I mean imagine a person reading Mike's book that had never thought about racism. They sure won't be forgetting it exists after reading 'Survival Tips For Black People'. Sometimes preaching isn't the best way to get your message across.
So Mike now has the reader rolling in the eyes, what does he do next? Simple, he backs up his arguments with cold hard facts and eye opening personal anecdotes that also serve to expose the lunacy of conservative ideology. And these aren't boring statistics that will send readers to sleep. These are more titbits of information that will have you questioning what kind of world we actually live in. One of the most powerful anecdotes is Mike's chance meeting with an airline pilot. Here he learns that many new pilots only earn (US) $13,000 a year. And that's before expenses are deducted. For me, that one piece of information provides a more powerful example of corporate greed than any well meaning academic work on corporate globalisation could hope to offer.
And it doesn't stop there, in Stupid White Men the hits just keep coming. For example, did you know that?
- In terms of temperature change, the earth is halfway towards a major natural catastrophe? Keep in mind that the last Ice Age was caused by a temperature shift of only 9 degrees;
- Are you aware that since 1979 the richest 1 per cent of the American population have seen their wages increase by 157 per cent, while the bottom 20 per cent are now making $100 a year less (adjusted for inflation) than they were at the beginning of the Reagan era;
- Maybe you'd also like to know that since 1985 the world's richest 200 companies have seen their profits grow by 362.4%. Their combined sales are now higher than the combined GDP of all but 10 nations on earth.
I could go on for ever, but I think you get the point. And as if anticipating the rage his expose of a corporately controlled world would create, Mike has made sure to include positive ways in which ordinary workers can fight back. Stupid White Men includes a veritable library of contact details that will allow his fellow Americans to lobby till their hearts are content.
Stupid White Men ends with an exploration of an issue highly relevant to Australian trade unionism today: the creation of a third political force. In an effort to explain why he supported maverick Greens candidate Ralph Nader is the 2000 Presidential election, Mike argues that the Democrats have failed to offer a truly progressive alternative to the Republicans, and therefore no longer deserve the support of progressive people and organisations. He argues for the creation of a third political force that will represent ordinary people and not the puppet masters of the corporate world.
As someone who believes that pissing out of the tent is preferable to pissing in, I'm not totally convinced by Mike's plea for the creation of a new progressive political force. In fact, it sometimes sounds like Mike is trying to convince himself that he did the right thing in supporting Nader now that George W. Bush is causing havoc from the oval office.
I do however have to admit that his methodical destruction of the myth that Clinton was a progressive president is impressive and thorough. In showing that slick Willy was no better than George W Bush in areas such as the environment and job protection, Mike asks a very poignant question. 'What's worse, getting blatantly screwed by conservatives or having a knife stuck in your ribs from so called progressives who mouth social justice but ape the Tory opposition?'
With a vigorous debate raging in trade union circles over the policy direction of the ALP, Mike's comments are just as relevant to readers here as they are to Democrat voters in the States. So whatever your position on this contentious issue, Stupid White Men will provide you with much food for thought.
There's no doubting that Stupid White Men is a great read for any trade union activist. This said, it is not aimed at the politically aware. So here's what to do to ensure Stupid White Men reaches its real target. After you've read and enjoyed Mike's book, pass it on to a friend or family member who has no interest in politics. After they've read this hilarious tome, you'll have recruited another believer to the cause.
Mark Hebblewhite is an MEAA member from Sydney.
by David Peetz
So, if it's not the workers who the Government is helping out, whom is it? For our answer, we look again to that master of maestros, Irving Berlin, and what he said about 'Putting on the Ritz'. For the tune (reprised by Taco), scroll down http://www.perfessorbill.com/index1.htm.
Have you seen the well-to-do
Totting up a debt or two
With their noses in the air
Saying taxes just aren't fair
High hats and fancy collars
Aristocrats with lots of dollars
Paying tax is a crime
They want a wonderful time
If you're blue and you don't know
where to go to Why don't you go
where Boss Man sits
He's helping out the rich
Poorer types who don't have a coat,
whingeing, griping they can't cope
give him the shits
He's helping out the rich
You're just not a million dollar trouper?
Then he'll fall into a trance-like stupor
If you're sick from old paella
that's thick with salmonella
He won't twitch
He's helping out the rich
But if you're like a 1950s chappie
With a yacht you'll make him very happy
You'll declare it's simply "top-thing"
to be there, take part in swapping
Strike break tips
He's helping out the rich
If you're poor and you don't know
where to go to Don't bother going
where Boss Man sits
He's helping out the rich
...helping out the rich ...
In many unions, Occupational Health & Safety is a back-water, something divorced from the day-to-day activities of industrial negotiations and the forward looking organising agenda.
But talk to workers, and it's the issue at the forefront of their minds. A recent poll of CFMEU members, for instance, found 71 per cent believed protecting workers' safety was an important union service - way ahead of wages and conditions
That's why there's been such resonance in the union's resistance to the Cole witch-hunt - by campaigning on health and safety the CFMEU has actually thrown down the gauntlet to the Commission to address life and death issues, rather than Tony Abbott's self-serving rhetoric.
It's also why last year's battle for workers compensation in NSW was such a passionate one - and ironically, out of the ashes of that conflict, come opportunities to move forward and reinvigorate work health and safety.
Upcoming changes in OHS legislation NSWgive extra impetus to this push - the requirement that all workplaces have a workplace safety representative provides a golden opportunity.
Where unionism is weak the safety rep structure provides a way in. Where unions are already strong these new structures are a way to engage members with campaigns that actually mean something
And it's not just about safety on building sites - its about sustainable workloads, reasonable hours, bullying and victimisation - it is above all, about the humanity of any given workplace.
It's about factories and hospitals, schools and shopping centres, chemical labs and coal mines; it doesn't what colour collar a worker wears, they have a legitimate expectation for a safe workplace.
There is a lot of science in OH&S but there's nothing scientific about mobilising workers around their basic right to earn a living without ruining their bodies through lax safety, poor work practices or unsustainable targets.
Perhaps the time has come to mainstream work safety - recognise it's a hot issue for workers and therefore fertile ground for organising.
How ironic it would be, if amidst all the complexity of the modern workplace and the nightmare of labour market deregistration, the simple demand for a safe workplace becomes the rallying call for a new generation of unionists.
I think we are all a bit tired of the new, new thing, of the idea that somehow the next technology is the one that is finally going to make the future arrive. I want to suggest, to the contrary, that the internet is only now starting to appear in its true colours, now that it is some 20 years old. It is not a bridge to the 21st century. It's a bungee jump into the 18th century.
To put it a bit schematically, the 18th century was when a few things came together. One was the printing press. This was really a very cheap and reliable technology by this time. A second thing is a certain degree of freedom from state control. A third was a very weak and leaky copyright regime. A fourth was a network of distribution, the post. Put these things together, and what you got was that magic thing we call a 'public sphere'.
We are all used to the high peaks of literature that poke out through this era. It's when novels were fun. Its when political and social thought really gets cracking. But what we forget is the great mass of popular literature, the diatribes, the libels, the letters -- all the network of things that make a literature great. There can be no literature without the post office.
Well, I think we're back in the 18th century again, only better. This time around, the public sphere isn't just for white men in tights and wigs. Its for everyone, at least potentially. We have the undergrowth, the network of writing that is in my mind more important than the few beached whales of great literature that we remember from the 18th century. It was more than that -- it was an ocean of thought.
The things is, we may lose this neo-18th century public sphere just as surely as we lost the first one. The consolidation of so-called intellectual property law, the narrowing of the cultural forms for use of the internet, the commodification of its spaces. It could get rather bleak. Communication is culture. The design of the vectors along which information flows sets a limit to the kinds of culture and society that can bloom along it.
I think writing is most interesting when it takes into account, at the level of the text, the things that are going on in terms of distribution and archiving, or in other words, at the level of the vector. The 18th century version of enlightenment was both a theory and a practice, a way of thinking and a means of communicating. We're right in the middle of a flowering of just this kind of comprehensive writerly culture. You don't see it reflected all that much in the old print world, but its there, informing it. There's still a reason to write and publish books. I publish a book series, media.culture books. Graham's new book Future Forward is in that series. But like all the books I publish, it is informed by the networks of communication that the internet makes possible.
People wonder what will happen to the book in the internet age. I have two answers. One, the book will always be with us. It's a really convenient vector. On the other hand, the book really disappeared completely about 10 years ago now. Now there are no books at all. Authors, editors and publishers all work digitally, with computers. The book is now a computer print out to read on the bus or the bog, or to give as a present to someone you want to impress.
The future health of the book depends on the health of this neo-18th century style public sphere, where ideas can move freely and cheaply. Books are already in a large part the beached whales tossed up by this very energetic ocean, the internet. So if you want to save the whales, preserve the seas. Keep information as free as possible, both in terms of access to archives, the liberty to use them, and the liberty to become your own favourite author, editor and publisher.
Speech to the Sydney Writers' Festival by Pluto Press Culture Series Editor, McKenzie Wark
BHP Sells Forgotten Uranium Mine
BHP Billiton has sold a uranium mine it did not know it owned - the Smith Ranch mine in Wyoming, US. It was inherited by South Africa's Billiton on its takeover of Canada's Rio Algom in 2000, just ahead of Billiton's merger with Melbourne's "nuclear free" BHP last year. The operation has now been acquired by Canadian uranium group Cameco for an undisclosed sum. BHP Billiton says the sale completes its "exit from uranium production as part of its planned divestment of non-core businesses". (Source: SMH)
WMC To Ramp Up Olympic's Output
It remains to be seen whether BHP's "exit" from uranium means the group is a non-starter in the expected tussle for ownership of WMC's Olympic Dam mine after WMC's demerger in October/November. Olympic Dam is a world-scale copper and uranium producer. Aggressive expansion plans were outlined by WMC chief Hugh Morganlast week at the group's Melbourne annual meeting envisage a multi-billion-dollar expansion of the Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine in South Australia. Under the plans uranium production would also more than double, to 8000 tonnes a year, making Olympic Dam the biggest uranium mine in the world. But faces the challenge of first finding buyers for the radioactive material. (Source: SMH)
The Price of Sin - Just 0.7 Per Cent
Does virtue pay? Not as well as sin - but not as far off as some would have you believe - according to a new study from the University of Melbourne's Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation. It found that investors who steered clear of tainted industries when choosing where to park their money sacrificed returns of about 0.7 percentage points a year. The report, purportedly Australia's first comprehensive analysis of SRI, measures the effect of removing shares in companies that operate in so-called "sinful industries" - alcohol, armaments, gaming, pornography and tobacco to name a few. (Source: The Age)
MIM Scores From Peso's Plunge
MIM has revealed a depreciation of the Argentine peso will boost full-year profit by $80 million. The profit increase reflects MIM's ability to deduct against taxes most of the increase in the value of its peso-equivalent debt for its half share in the Alumbrera copper-gold mine in Argentina. An additional benefit comes from the fact that MIM pays its costs in peso yet earns US dollar revenue for Alumbrera's production. In the past six months the value of the peso, which was once pegged against the US dollar, has depreciated by about 40 per cent. MIM still owes around $US179 million on Alumbrera, which is a key part of its copper division. (Source: SMH)
CSR Chair Gets Golden Handshake
CSR's departed chairman Ian Burgess received a "retirement allowance" of almost $528,000 last year, the building materials group's annual report shows. While such payments to non-executive directors are now frowned upon in corporate governance circles, CSR made the payment after Mr Burgess, also a former AMP chairman, retired on May 1 last year, plus a $102,986 payment to another non-executive director, Robert McLean, who retired in July. The group saw several executives depart during the year, with executive director Jim Osborne leaving with a payment of almost $1 million while former construction materials boss Chris Barry received $904,000. (Source: SMH)
Bush: Big Business Excesses Hurting Markets
United States President George W Bush says a few bad apples in the corporate barrel have harmed confidence in the US business world and financial markets. His comments came after news of a sharp downturn on the New York Stock Exchange and another major corporation, pharmacy chain Rite Aid, charged with criminal fraud relating to manipulation of profit reporting. Mr Bush says the weakness in US markets is centred around terrorism and security, but there is also distrust of big companies in the post-Enron environment. Bush says people have to have the confidence that the leadership has got the shareholder and employee in mind when they make decisions. (Source: SMH)
WorldCom Scandal Hits World Markers
To prove Bushes point, the Australian share market has fallen sharply with key stocks affected by another financial scandal in the United States. WorldCom, the second largest long-distance telephone and data services company in the US, has been accused of fraud. The company admitted breached accounting standards by showing it was making a profit when it was in fact making a loss. WorldCom has sacked its chief financial officer after uncovering improper accounting for more than $7 billion. The company is already under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. (Source: ABC Online)
Enron Hid Profits During Energy Crisis
And more revelations of the practices of failed energy trader, Enron, which used undisclosed reserves to keep as much as $US1.5 billion in trading profits off its books during the California energy crisis. The enormous reserves, which would have doubled the company's reported profits, were hidden in late 2000 and early 2001 as energy prices soared in California and politicians accused trading companies like Enron of price gouging. The former Enron officials said that the company swelled the reserves in hopes of damping the political firestorm. (Source: The New York Times)
Was it ever going to be anything else but the auld firms in action in the end?
This column hoped that Renaldo's knee, which is somewhere near his nose, would come back to bite him in the ass in the Semi Final - if only for the free kebabs that would ensue as Australia's Turkish population went into delirium. It would prove that Attaturk WAS the man of the last century. The upsets were glorious.
I blame Silvio Berlesconi for Italy's plight. The Azzuri were symptomatic of the decadent complacency that holds the west in thrall. The corrupt arrogance of the over-confident stares world football in the face as Australia now forgets about soccer for another four years.
"Thank you New South Wales, You were more like a Queensland crowd tonight," said a gracious Queensland captain Gordon Tallis after his side won the State of Onanism for 2002 on a technicality.
The post match festivities descended into a farce as some overpaid media poonce joined the sponsor on stage after a bit of typical Queensland humility and humour.
Andrew Johns looked like he thought it was all about as funny as a dead baby's doll.
Arrogance also brought the Blues undone when the work-experience winger
tried to plant the ball one handed in the corner. This effort resulted in a try by that thug Webcke up the other end.
While the Rugby refs have been copping a caning Bill Harrigan came in for praise from hairdressers everywhere. Sure he lets the game flow - by not penalising players for grabbing blokes about the head in the tackle.
Speaking of tackle, Wayne Carey has been linked with the Swans as part of their youth development policy. The old Royboy himself Paul Roos has taken over the driver's seat after
Rodney Eade went out to the gap and Plugger rang his superannuation advisor.The Swans could always bring along some of the talent running around each week for the Redbacks in the local Sydney AFL. Players like Luke Jarjoura, Marty Brewster and Lewis Roberts-Thompson are the champions of the future.
This is homegrown talent that really could shape Sydney as a club, not just a team. But that would mean Sydneysiders embracing the unknown, and it wouldn't help cheer up poor Wayne Carey now would it?
Phil Doyle - losing in straight sets in the opening round at Wimbledon
The Tasmanian State election will be held on July 20. The Tasmanian electoral (Hare Clark) system provides for five 'multi-member' electorates with five House of Assembly members elected from each electorate. The current State Labor Government has 14 members, the Liberal Party 10 and the Greens 1
Unions Tasmania (the Trades and Labor Council) has identified an election campaign agenda comprising the key issues for Tasmanian working people. These issues are grouped under the general goal and theme of "Fairness at Work."
All political parties and individual candidates have been asked to respond to proposals on fair wages, secure jobs, reasonable hours of work and flexibility in working time. Wages are generally lower in Tasmania than elsewhere.
State Governments can play an active role in advocating higher wage outcomes. Unions Tasmania wants the parties to commit to a number of wage and income targets identified by the statewide Tasmania Together process and to making a separate and active submission in support of higher wages during national safety net review cases.
There is a growing division between workers who are in secure, career-oriented jobs and the increasing number of casual and part-time workers whose jobs are often precarious
29.3 per cent of Tasmanian workers are now employed as casuals. Unions Tasmania wants to know how the political aspirants will go about bringing more security of employment to the Tasmanian workforce and ensure that employee entitlements are protected.
Like the rest of Australia those Tasmanians with permanent full time work are working longer and longer hours. All parties have been asked to demonstrate how their policies will combat the pressure to work excessive hours and how flexibility in working hours can be introduced to support those workers with other responsibilities.
A further plank in the Unions Tasmania election platform is legislative support for the rights of worker's representatives in the workplace. Tasmanian political parties have been asked to show how their policies will provide practical support for fairer collective bargaining at the workplace level.
At the 1998 State election Unions Tasmania had a formal agreement with the ALP on what the Government would do after the election. However at this election there is no formal agreement.
On receiving party and candidate responses (or lack thereof) Unions Tasmania will publicise the results to Tasmanian workers.
While the Bacon Labor Government is widely expected to be returned the Tasmanian electoral system has a tendency to surprise. Thus the parties' attitudes to the Unions Tasmania agenda could be critical to the outcome.
Like any Labor Government - union movement relationship we have had our ups and downs with the Bacon Government.
It is now up to each party to demonstrate how their policies will advance the cause of working people.
Canberra saw Her Majesty's loyal oppositions slide further into the zone marked disarray. In the washed-out-pink colours, Simon Creen was smacked about the melon by schisms in his Victorian power base and would-be, if-he-could-be, Mark Latham, generated more heat than light. As the sharemarket stumbled, again, workers around the country breathed sighs of relief that their incomes weren't dependent on Latham's "aspirational" share portfolios.
Meanwhile, over in Democrat-land, the girls were locked in another unedifying hissy-fit. Meg wrote off Natasha, again, reminding us of the golden rule - honoured only in the breach - that former leaders should, if possible, be neither seen nor heard.
No wonder the Teflon John is hanging out the prospect of a double dissolution.
There are rumbles in Liberal-land as well, however, even if they remain low and distant. Peter Costello has kept his belly-aching to himself but Tony Abbott is looking to the unions to give him a boost in the ascendancy stakes.
Abbott's double-pronged approach centres on standing over the Senate to pass unfair dismissal legislation, while greasing the wheels of the Cole Commission with $60 million of our money.
Abbott's Commission was treated, this week, to reports of a six-year-old telephone conversation; an anti-CFMEU employer, virtually conceding union claims that he had been ripping off Workers Comp, tax, and doing a bit of phoenixing for good measure.
Call us simple if you want but sometimes it seems the Abbott formula can be summed up thus: Royal Commission + Unfair Dismissal = Early Election.
On a more serious matter, would-be Aussie rugby league skipper, Gorden Tallis, throws a wobbly of gargantuan proportions to see off Origin for another year. Tallis directs expletives, and a finger, at a section of the Sydney crowd after the series decider ends in an 18-all draw.
More importantly, in a brilliant piece of tactical leadership Tallis crows in every interview about Queensland's series victory. The line is followed by every other Queenslander who addresses the subject and is so successful that Sydney radio broadcasters also award the series to the northerners.
We at Workers Online were perplexed so ran the actual results past a panel of leading mathematicians. Having wrestled with the core equation, NSW 1, Queensland 1, Draw 1, they came up with the proposition that Origin 2002 had in fact been drawn.
We all know that business leaders have become de facto political leaders, deciding national policy and in the case of transnationals, international polices but, gee, some of them are naughty.
Hot on the heels on Enron, giant US telco, WorldCom, is found to have been engaged in devious accounting practices. Caught inflating cash flow by something around $8 billion it reacts with typical leadership, announcing plans to axe 17,000 jobs.
WorldCom's doubtful future sends shockwaves around the financial world, including Australia where, take note Mr Latham, $10 billion is wiped off the local market in 24 hours.
George Bush, would-be leader of the known universe, gives his unique take on democracy and national independence with a lecture to the Palestinians on how they might finally cash in on UN resolutions about their entitlement to statehood.
The cornerstone, according to Bush, is dumping elected leader Yasser Arafat for someone more to American tastes. Apparently unmoved by the fact that Arafat got a vastly bigger share of the Palestinian vote than he managed in the US, Bush ups the ante by saying vital aid will also be withheld unless his demands are met.
To their credits, US allies around the world, including Australia, the UK and France, distance themselves from Bush's latest takeover bid.