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Issue No. 145 19 July 2002  

Two Wings Flapping
The one element missing from the current debate about the relationship between the labour movement and the ALP is any discussion about what's in it for the unions.


Interview: In The Tent
The Australian Services Union's Martin Foley on the dilemma facing trade unions affiliated to the Labor Party.

Bad Boss: The Desk Nazi
Everyone�s mail is on the money this week. Yep, Australia Post, courtesy of the born-to-rule attitude so beloved by the Workplace Relations Minister has been nominated for the Tony Award.

Media: Hold the Presses
The withdrawal of mainstream news outlets from the reporting of industrial relations is playing right into the bosses' hands, writes Andrew Casey

Workplace: Putting Bullies In Their Place
Ever wonder where the schoolyard bullies from your formative years ended up? Chances are they are still making someone�s life hell in an Australian workplace today. Even worse, one of them might be your direct supervisor.

Industrial: Women and Work
The last fortnight may well prove a turning point for working Australian women and their families, argues ACTU President Sharan Burrow

International: Whine and Dine
The political and industrial wings of British labour are at each other's throats, reports Andrew Casey.

History: Black Adder
Old King Cole had good tutors. Roger Milliss captured the style of conservative government witch-hunts in Serpent�s Tooth, his cathartic apology to his father, Bruce.

Review: Bad Movie
While the search for Australia's worst boss is well underway, Joel Schumacher's Bad Company seems to point the finger squarely at the US Government - albeit accidentally.

Poetry: I Remember
Dermott Ryder knocks our Resident Bard off his podium this week with a little ditty about a bloke called Honest John


 Builder Blows Whistle on Kangaroo Court

 Alarm Over Unis in Detention

 Unions Spark New Super Push

 Abbott Trips on Entitlements - Again

 Picnic Day for Union Members Only

 Memo: John Travolta - Come Fly With Us!

 Cole Comfort to Bodgey Builders

 Unions Eye SA Casuals Victory

 Burrow: Paid Mat Leave Just First Step

 Mayne Warning � But Will They Listen?

 Drought Relief Should Extend To Rural Workers

 Coca Cola Action Bubbles Globally


The Soapbox
The Royal Circus
CFMEU organiser Terry Kesby gives a first hand account of his experience before the Cole Royal Commission.

The Locker Room
Bravely Running Away
Phil Doyle is bewildered by the Australian Cricket team�s reluctance to join John Howard�s War On Terror.

Nothing Exceeds Like Excess
As the world market lurches under the weight of its own amorality, regulators and business lobbies are locking horns over the need for more rules.

Week in Review
A Share of the Action
Sharemarket jitters produce mea culpas from the magnate set but, as Jim Marr discovers, loyal followers in the Howard administration aren�t likely to join the chorus any time soon.

 Make My Week!
 Real Reform
 Hooray for Frank!
 Reform or Die
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Bad Boss

The Desk Nazi

By Jim Marr

Everyone�s mail is on the money this week. Yep, Australia Post, courtesy of the born-to-rule attitude so beloved by the Workplace Relations Minister has been nominated for the Tony Award.

When you're looking for a Bad Boss it is easy to be depressed by harrowing tales from Sydney sweat shops; the stand over tactics testified to at the Cole Commission or hard-nosed mongrels who put workers lives at risk to squeeze out an extra buck.

Sometimes, though, it's good just to kick back and recognise the rank-and-file Bad Boss. There are hundreds of them all around the country who help unions organise every day through incompetence or arrogance, rather than malevolence.

We were looking around for someone who's worst crime was an attitude from another time and place when, true to form, Aussie Post delivered.

Anyone who doesn't know about the pictures on the desk scandal that bubbled over at the Lonsdale St, Melbourne, call centre must have been either in a coma these past seven days or tracking down an item of lost mail in a country without access to English language news services.

In brief. Some anonymous line manager, apparently overawed by an imminent visit from a head office luminary, decided the call centre needed to be tidied and this would be best achieved by unilaterally imposing a limit of three personal items per desk.

Cori Girondoudas sighed and got rid of most of her footy posters. Imagine her surprise and indignation to return from a rostered day off to find her supervisor had removed a framed photo of herself and some friends because she had been displaying four, rather than the officially decreed, three personal items.

Cori, to her immense credit, took umbrage and did something about it. She restored the offending photo to its position of honour and rejected one, two, three and then four demands for its disappearance.

Australia Post took the sledgehammer to a nut approach, denying her two pay increments, an effective fine of $3000.

Now any normal, rational organisation would have put up its hands when the union, in this case the CPSU, got involved. But not Australia Post.

Even when national television, talkback radio and British news services were buzzing with the story, a spin doctor called Gary Highland, kept hurling buckets of fuel on the blaze, by insisting on management's right to rule.

We could go on about this debacle but why bother when Joe and Joanne Public have spoken so eloquently. Here are edited highlights from an avalance of message supporting Cori ...

"The Australia Post incident appalls me to the point that I don't know what more to say - it's just too obvious to anyone in the industry how typical this is of the culture within a lot of our call centres ... Gary Highland (is that his name?), the representative from Australia Post on ACA tonight, ought to be ashamed to put his face on TV like that. He is the laughing stock of all ex-call centre staff, such as myself. He epitomises and represents so many others like him."


"Manager just wanted to reflect himself/herself in a good light to superiors who were to visit the workplace - how trite! Daresay ther manager would get a highly effective for performance management as well as a bonus!!!!"


"I am writing to express my outrage at Australia Post's treatment of Cori Girondoudas. However I am not surprised at it. Until Februrary 2001 I worked as a postie at Fitzroy Delivery Centre.

"We had one incident where a worker was taken into the manager's office for arriving at her work station one minute late, we were threatened with disciplinary action for refusing to work escessive overtime due to understaffing ... "


"A childish and out of date style of management by a narrow-minded Australia Post manager, with a very negative attitude towards organisational goals ... "


"I am writing to show support for the call centre worker that has been financially penalised by displaying a photo of her friends. As a call centre worker that came from a Customer Service Centre I am amazed at how monitored, supervised and controlled this environment is ... "


"Australia Post, wasn't it formerly called the PMG - Poor Management Guaranteed - and it continues the tradition."


"I've got 25 photos on my desk so I'm expecting a $25,000 fine any day now. Maybe I should bring in a photo album and put it up although I'd probably have to sell my house to pay for the luxury."


"Where do these management types come from? How to embarrass your company without really trying. Workers need unions to keep some kind of sanity in the workplace ..."


"The situation where an employee can be penalised for displaying a photo of friends is both bizarre and anti-social. It speaks volumes for the culture that Australia Post is pursuing ..."


"Aussie Post is absolutely mad! Disciplining people for snapshots at their desk??!! Are you so insecure about your own authority that you would resort to this level of pigheadedness?"


Vancouver, Canada.

"The woman who has been docked $3000 in increments is obviously the focus of all this at the moment and my heart goes out to her, but I am most concerned at the policy in place at Australia Post."


"I thought that little prick from management made a fool of himself on TV last night!!"


"When I read the article in the paper I was so incensed I rang the Melbourne office and demanded that my message of complaint be sent to the manager responsible and said how sorry I was that Australia Post was a monopoly so that I couldn't withdraw my custom."


"What a joke Australia Post is, instead of harrassing a staff member over such a trivial issue as personal items on her desk why don't you concentrate on lifting the service and staffing levels within Post Offices ... ?"


"This whole issue is childish and churlish in the extreme, talk about dehumanising the workplace."


We could go on, and on. However we do feel the following comment from Jorgen Gullestrup, state secretary of CEPU, could do with a bit of amplification... "While the Plumbers Union often have discussion with members about removing pictures from the walls, who they claim are happy snaps of their partners, Australia Post has gone several steps too far."

In the wash, Cori got her increments back and Australia Post and the CPSU agreed to hammer out a policy on the display of personal items. Given the Mad Monk's track record, it is probably a settlement that will again see him beseeching employers to stand up to their workers.

Thinking outside the Boxall

Workplace Relations secretary Peter Boxall's non-union bargaining push, highlighted in last week's Bad Boss column, hit a brick wall today when it was revealed more than 90 per cent of DEWR staff voted against his proposed new agreement.

The "convincing" result follows several months of bargaining high jinx, including a management attempt to jack up the 'yes' vote last week by 'spamming' staff with personalised e-mails.

The CPSU's Jenness Gardner is pleased with the result, but says she is now focussed on getting DEWR back to the bargaining table and "nutting out a workable agreement."

"You would have to say there is not a lot of grey area in this result. We are hopeful that DEWR management will get the message," said Gardner.

According to the CPSU, staff rejected the sec.170LK agreement for a range of reasons including a relatively low pay rise, lack of access to the AIRC for dispute resolution, cuts to remote localities allowances and problems with retention provisions.

The CPSU is seeking a prompt meeting with management to develop a way forward.


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