Bush has just completed a round of pat set pieces preaching the need to raise Corporate Responsibility standards. The trigger of course, is the growing number of corporate collapses where the dodgy ethics of those at the top have played as big a role as the vagaries of the economic cycle. Bush pal and campaign benefactor Kenneth 'Easy' Lay's Enron kicked it off when it was discovered that the company balance sheets were triumphs of creative accounting. Then good ol' boy Bernie Ebbers' World.Com hit the wall when it was learned someone had confused the words profit and loss. Soon it seemed that everyone was getting into the act, cooking the books, maximising share options, giving themselves interest free loans.
But wait; something's gone wrong; the whole stock market starts contracting. The people, it seems, are losing faith in a system that is beginning to resemble a pyramid selling scheme, where the one's on top skim millions and those holding up the structure end up with nothing. Something must be done to stem the tide; the markets must be brought to book. This is a job for The Prez, America's number one statesman bringing some sanity back into the game, unveiling a vision to restore confidence in the greatest racket in history.
George W looks serious when he jibbers about ethics but the markets keep falling. What's gone wrong? Could it be that the man has just a tiny credibility gap? Could it be that a man who sold $1.5 million in stock from a company on which he was a Board member months before it was going to the market and despite a written undertaking not to sell, is not the perfect salesman for a responsibility pitch? Could it be that a man who chooses as a deputy, a chief executive of a company whose accounting practices are under current review from the SEC lacks the moral stature to tell his countrymen and women how to keep their books in balance?
Michael Moore sums up Bush better than we could ever hope to in his scathing homily: 'Stupid White Men' (Regan Books)
"George, I have a theory about why and how all this has happened to you.
"Instead of having to earn it, you have been handed the presidency the same way you've come by everything else in your life. Money and name alone have opened every door for you. Without effort or hard work or intelligence or ingenuity, you have been bequeathed a life of privilege.
"You learned at an early age that, in America, all someone like you has to do is show up. You found yourself admitted to an exclusive New England boarding school simply because your name was Bush. You do not have to EARN your place there. It was bought for you.
"When they let you into Yale, you learned you could bypass more deserving students who had worked hard for twelve years to qualify for admission to college. You got in because your name was Bush.
"You got into Harvard Business School the same way. After screwing off during your four years at Yale, you took the seat that rightfully belonged to someone else.
"You then pretended to serve a full stint in the Texas Air National Guard. But one day, according to the Boston Globe, you just skipped out and failed to report back to your unit - for a year and a half! You didn't have to fulfill your military obligation, because your name was Bush.
"Following a number of 'lost years' that don't appear in your official biography, you were given job after job by your daddy and other family members. No matter how many of your business ventures failed, there was always another one waiting to be handed to you.
"Finally, you got to be a partner in a major league baseball team - another gift - even though you put up only one hundredth of the money for the team. And then you conned the taxpayers of Arlington, Texas, into giving you another perk - a brand- new multimillion dollar stadium that you didn't have to pay for.
"So it's no wonder you think you deserved to be named President. You didn't earn it or win it - therefore it should be yours!
"And you see nothing wrong with this. Why should you? It's the only life you have known"
You said it Mike. George W Bush embodies the American Dream - to be born rich and live life with the reckless certainty that immense wealth brings. Bush is a fine representative of the corporate elites; he is of them and with them. It's just that when the time comes to bring them to some sort of account, he lacks the credentials to raise anything but eyebrows.
John, who refused to give his surname because �I am only 41 and want to keep working in this industry� said he was approached by two Cole Commission investigators and asked to give a statement about his dealings with the CFMEU.
"Sure, I've had my problems with the CFMEU, who hasn't?" he told Workers Online. "I'd been through an unfair dismissal case and didn't think I got a fair go."
John said he told investigators of that incident but when they returned with a typed-up statement, three weeks later, "everything had been blown out of all proportion" and at least two untruths had been incorporated. He identified these as being:
- that the union had coerced him into contributing to its picnic fund
- that if a 36-hour week came into the building industry his company would go under
John said he refused to sign the bodgeyed statement but Commission representatives had been loathe to take no for an answer.
He found their attitudes "threatening and intimidating" and insisted they left his property.
The builder said that three weeks later, he received a subpoena to attend the Commission on June 21. When he arrived in the city he was interviewed by one of the Counsels Assisting who again tried to convince him he should sign the inaccurate statutory declaration.
"I told him the statement had been exaggerated and they had added in bits and pieces that I had never said. Then he asked me if I had been threatened by anyone and I said - yes, by your blokes."
John said, during his courthouse interview, Counsel Assisting had zeroed in on two subjects - the Building Trades Group, and a $1000 donation he had made to the CFMEU picnic fund.
"They didn't seem to understand that was a good deal for me. In return, I got as many tickets as I wanted for my staff and their families to have a day out together. I made the donation and didn't have a problem with it," John said.
Another point of contention, he said, had been compulsory unionism. His company had worked on a project subject to Commission scrutiny and he rejected its claims that workers had been forced join the CFMEU.
In the end, Counsel Assisting decided it was a view the Commission didn't need to hear and sent him packing.
"Look, I honestly don't want to get involved," John said, "but I know a Kangaroo Court when I see one. They are putting these things on builders and telling them there will be no cross examination
"Most people don't know what's right and wrong. I think a lot just sign the statements to try and get out of the whole thing."
The revelations are part of a pattern suggesting the Commission has turned into a politically-motivated "show trial" of the country's largest construction union.
The first hint came when employer Glenn Allan Colquhoun gave evidence before the Commissioner. He explained the modus operandi of investigators charged with delving into "corrupt or illegal practices" across the industry.
"At 11.30am during the course of my meeting with CMG and TL, two members of the Commission arrived. I believe one member was Mr Neil Williamson and I am not sure of the other person's name. Mr Williamson said to the effect: "We are investigating the CFMEU's activity in the Illawarra area and are particularly interested in matters pertaining to (Wollongong organiser) Mr Primmer," the official transcript reads.
Since then other employers have revealed that when they were unable to dish dirt on the CFMEU, they were dispensed with, even if they had evidence of criminal behaviour by other parties.
In a statutory declaration, John Chandler manager of JR Rigging, says the Commission brushed evidence of insurance fraud, stand-over tactics, bogus inspection records and major health and safety breaches because the union was not implicated.
Chandler said he provided proof of structural deficiences in a recently completed sports complex that posed an ongoing threat to public safety but the Commission hadn't wanted to know.
At an interview with two commission investigators in December, 2001, Chandler said he made a series of criminal allegations against big building companies. These included fraud, threatening behaviour, conspiracy and collusion, in an effort to suppress legitimate concerns over construction standards.
However, he declared, it was only when he mentioned unions that investigators became "extraordinarily interested".
"My overall impression was that the investigators were much more concerned with hearing anything about the union than they were with large scale cover-ups by a major construction company," he declared.
Chandler said when he tendered supporting documentation, one investigator told him his story was "huge". But, when he rang the commission four months later, on March 18, he was told it would not be investigating his allegations.
Equally instructive is a letter sent to Construction Audit Services (CAS) by a western Sydney employer after she was visited by Commission investigators.
CAS is the independent auditing firm which often checks the records of building companies before the CFMEU enters into negotiations with them. For some reason it took a pounding from Counsels Assisting the Royal Commission who tried to paint it as an off-shoot of the union, and even suggested it operated out of the same Lidcombe address.
CAS, in fact, is based at Rochdale. Its major clients include Workcover and a national real estate firm. Principals say less than 20 percent of their work is union related.
In a letter to partners, Rosemary Saridakis and Angelo Russo, this employer lays out an increasingly familiar scenario. She says she was interviewed in June by two men who identified themselves as Royal Commission investigators. One was a Mr Greg Alford and the other she knew simply as Richard.
After detailing a number of questions she gets to the one that broke the camel's back.
"Is there anything else that was different in your EBA and to what Rosemary has asked you do?" investigators ask.
"No, in fact I often ring Rosemary up for advice and I have found her helpful and she does not even charge our company for the advice I have asked her.
"Rosemary," the employer writes, "this is where Richard switched off the recording machine and said to Greg: "Well that's not what we wanted to hear."
The National Tertiary Education Union is concerned that the ATN would join with the controversial Danish owned correctional Services Corporation Group 4 Falck in its bid to take on the detention centre contract.
"Universities are public institutions and should speak for the public interest." said Mr Grahame McCulloch, NTEU General Secretary. "As part of this, educational institutions and educators everywhere need to understand the importance of human rights and reflect this in their work."
"Given this, the NTEU would caution ATN campuses against forming alliances with an organisation such as Group 4 and the system of detention in Australia that is perceived to be perpetuating the denial of internationally recognised human rights of asylum seekers."
It was revealed last week that Group 4 Falck had approached Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology's Faculty of Education, Language and Community Services to provide education, recreational and sporting activities to asylum seekers, as part of the Danish security corporation's bid to manage Australia's seven active immigration detention centres.
Members of ATN, the body representing five technology universities across Australia, of which RMIT is a partner, have subsequently been invited to be involved and there are indications that two campuses have responded favourably.
"While we understand the importance of providing educational and recreational services to those in correctional facilities, the immigration detention centres are not correctional facilities and are clearly an inappropriate means of housing asylum seekers," said Mr McCulloch.
"We would question the effectiveness of delivering education services in an environment where all freedoms are taken away. As a trade union committed to social justice, the NTEU would request the ATN network to reconsider any decision to enter into Group 4's bid."
ACTU secretary Greg Combet says the increase in employer contributions from 8% to 9% from the start of this month provides a good base to build on to ensure reasonable incomes for all retired employees in the future.
Combet will told a Senate Superannuation Committee hearing in Melbourne this week that the Government's proposed super legislation would not meet the national need for increased retirement savings.
"The Government should consider measures including tax cuts on all super contributions, a cap on fees and a ban on commissions for compulsory contributions. Encouragement should also be given for increased employer and employee contributions," Combet says.
"Instead of increasing savings, the Government's so-called choice of fund legislation will push up superannuation costs through higher marketing fees by helping expensive bank and life funds to a bigger share of people's super.
"The Government wants to give a tax break to the wealthiest individuals, and do nothing for low and middle-income earners, by cutting the superannuation surcharge for high income earners only.
"Low-income earners who cannot afford to pay an extra $1000 will miss out on the Government's co-contribution, while the benefit will go to the partners and children of higher income earners who pay the amount for them. The co-contribution scheme should be restructured to assist low and middle income workers."
While Abbott was asking big business how it thought entitlements could best be protected, his department was arguing in court that 17 former employees of a collapsed company should not be paid redundancy over unsecured creditors.
The case arose after the employees were refused redundancy entitlements under the Howard Government's GEERS scheme.
As a result, the company administrator sought a judgment from the NSW Supreme Court that he could pay employees their redundancy entitlements as priority creditors.
Abbott's department contested the application, in Green v The Commonwealth, arguing the former workers were not entitled to the redundancy payments.
On July 3, the Judge rejected the Howard Government's arguments and said employees should receive three weeks' redundancy for each year of service as priority creditors.
This week the Government was discussing the issue with business. Abbott said he wanted to protect entitlements and honour promises made in the build-up to the last election with the "least collateral damage to business".
In the Coogi Goo
Abbott's ducking and weaving comes as news filters through that nearly 100 workers will lose their jobs because of the failure of the Coogi garment empire. Two million dollars in entitlements for another 250 workers, still employed by the group, are in jeopardy.
Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union secretary Michelle O'Neill said she doubted the Government had any intention to deliver on its entitlement promise.
"They haven't done anything since they were re-elected," O'Neill said. "It was clear the business community was opposed to giving workers priority over the banks. What has changed?"
Meanwhile, Abbott's department will dump 67 employees in regional Australia, responsible for developing and monitoring indigenous employment opportunities.
Abbott announced that DEWRSB would close 12 regional offices, including Lismore, Kempsey, Moree, Dubbo, Broken Hill, Wagga Wagga and Wollongong in NSW.
The Municipal Employees Union and the Local Government and Shires Association have agreed to put the members only clause to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.
"Union Picnic Day is more than just a day off or the chance to spend some time with your family," Municipal Employees Union sate secretary Brian Harris says.
"It is a day when we can celebrate with other union members the achievements that your union membership has delivered in the past and will continue to deliver for a better future.
"Despite being a Union Picnic Day the day has been a day off for all council workers however now, following an agreement with the LGSA an application will be filed in the Industrial Relations Commission to vary the Award so that it will only be available to union members."
Australian Services Union members in Qantas attempted to present Travolta with an enterprise bargaining campaign T-Shirt and an invitation to join Qantas' largest union when he appeared in Sydney this week as part of a Qantas promotional tour.
While they did not get face to face with Qantas's corporate gob, they say the offer is open-ended.
"We are appealing to Mr Travolta to support our claim for a better, safer workplace at Qantas, and will be inviting him to take up honorary union membership," ASU Acting Branch Secretary Jennifer Acklin says.
"Qantas workers are working harder than ever before, particularly as a result of the increase in market share following the demise of Ansett. Despite these conditions, Qantas workers have not had a wage increase since July 2000," Acklin says.
"ASU members in Qantas took a wage freeze last year to ensure the success of the airline in the wake of the September 11-induced downturn, but Qantas is now on track to meet their profit targets.
"With an anticipated profit of at least $600 million this year, Qantas should provide a decent wage increase, improve job security, and ensure a better, safer workplace.
"We would welcome Mr Travolta's support for this campaign, and invite him to join us as we fight for better working conditions."
Colonnade Homes had their Dee Why unit development closed down after safety inspections by the CFMEU and state occupational, health and safety authority, Workcover, this week. The state agency wrote out fines and prohibition notices.
But the CFMEU's Peter McClelland says the company is threatening to refer the safety inspection to the Cole Royal Commission, noting the participation of northern beaches organiser Tom Mitchell.
"These people are using the commission to duck their responsibilities on health and safety," McClelland says. "That shonky operators think the Cole Commission is there for their protection just about sums the situation up.
"If the commission had been serious about finding the real crooks in the industry this situation would never have developed."
The original South Australian ruling said that after 12 months continuous service casual workers should be regarded as permanent employees, conferring greater job security, access to unfair dismissal procedures, holiday and sick leave.
The decision, applying to the heavily-casualised, female-intensive Clerks Award provoked a storm of employer protest and an inevitable appeal to the full bench.
Labour Council assistant deputy secretary, Alison Peters, conceded the appeal decision had watered down the "absolute right" contained in the original but argued it remained "a significant victory for security of employment".
The full bench gave employers the right to refuse to convert the status of regular casuals who sought permanency. But, importantly, it imposed on them the responsibility of providing reasons that could be defended before a tribunal.
"The onus of defeating the intention still rests with the employer," Peters explained. "The core decision still says that, in normal circumstances, a casual worker desiring to be made permanent should have that right."
"In effect, over a whole industry, the tribunal is saying casualisation is being abused. People are being treated as casual workers when they shouldn't be."
Labor Council is calling together affiliates to plan a strategy which can build on the success achieved by the ASU in South Australia.
President Sharan Burrow says widespread community support for paid maternity leave proposals now being costed by the Federal Government could lead to a series of reforms to deliver real choice for working families.
"Improved childcare services and carer's leave provisions, reasonable working hours, secure part-time work, parental leave for fathers and greater pay equity for women will all help employees achieve a better balance between their work and family lives," Burrow says.
She says childcare is currently unavailable or unaffordable for too many families. In after-school childcare alone, there is a shortfall of up to 32,000 places nationally. The situation for working parents of sick children is even more difficult.
"Many women working part-time or casually have little or no leave available to meet their family responsibilities," Burrow says.
The ACTU last week announced a plan for 14 weeks paid maternity leave capped at average earnings of $900 a week and funded jointly by the Federal Government and an employer levy.
The Australian Industry Group this week announced support for 12 weeks paid maternity leave funded by the Government to the level of the minimum wage of $431 per week.
The proposals are being considered as part of a national inquiry by Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward, who will report to the Government later this year.
Pathology lab workers in Newcastle, North Ryde, Kogarah and some of the smaller labs across NSW will be joined by couriers and collectors in a protest against the company's failure to properly and openly consult with their workforce and its union.
Mayne Health is the biggest and most profitable pathology company in the state but has come up with a poor wages offer and refused to talk about job security.
"We are living in the most expensive state and the most expensive city in the country but the company has offered NSW workers nine percent over three years," Sonia Minutillo, NSW LHMU executive vice-president said.
"Our union's pathology members interstate have recently secured better wage increases than that on offer from Mayne.
"The attempt by Mayne Health to get a non-union enterprise agreement has simply alienated the workforce - that's why we are getting so much support for this industrial action.
If you want further information about Wednesday's industrial action contact your workplace delegate or Mayne Health union organiser in the office on 8204 7204 or 1800 805 027.
Darwin Casino Workers To Vote On Pay Offer
Meanwhile, LHMU Casino Union members in Darwin will be voting on a new offer from the MGM Grand Casino which would deliver a wage increase of $25 per week for the first year, followed by a 3.5 percent increase for the following two years.
The new enterprise agreement follows several months of negotiations, with the management at MGM Grand Casino. The five star international hotel-casino is owned by the world's no 2 gaming company, the US multinational MGM Mirage.
It employs over 200 people and has over 370 slot machines, a VIP gaming room, TAB, Keno, restaurants, bars, nightclub and conference facilities.
LHMU Casino Union Northern Territory Industrial Officer, Dianne Yali said one of the "a highlight of the new agreement was its consultative measures.
"This new Consultative Committee, with a minimum of two union representatives, will meet bi monthly and provide an ongoing mechanism for dialogue, exchange of ideas and information between management and employees on a wide range of matters."
The enterprise agreement also includes provisions on rights for delegates such as Union training leave and recognises the integral role of the Union.
Commenting on the NSW Government's Drought Relief Assistance package announced this week, AWU state secretary Russ Collison said that farmers were not the only victims of the drought.
"While we welcome any assistance the government can provide farmers, the thousands of seasonal workers who make a living shearing, harvesting and picking crops should not be forgotten," Collison says.
Collison has called on the Federal Government to come to their aid by providing Exceptional Circumstance Relief Payments (ECRP) to rural workers who gain more than 80 per cent of their annual wage through rural work.
Currently the ECRP assistance, that provides interest rate subsidies, income support and access to health care cards, family payments, youth allowance and AUSTUDY, is only provided to farmers.
"Drought effects all the members of a rural community, none more so than the battlers who work off the land to keep farms operating," he says.
Collison says the problems rural workers faced were heightened by the federal government's decision to close Employment National - which has left many regional centers without an operational point of contact for unemployed workers.
Coca-Cola workers in Melbourne this week heard a report from a Colombian Coca-Cola union official, about the murder of workers in Colombia, and the use of the paramilitary to intimidate Coca-Cola workers in that country and in nearby Guatemala.
The Melbourne workforce at Coca-Cola will take solidarity action on Monday to show their commitment to a global Coca-Cola agreement, and to support sister and brother unionists in Colombia and Guatemala.
Colombian unionists will hold a national day of action on Monday demanding union rights
"Our members got upset last week about the silly behaviour of Coca-Cola in taking away our free tea, coffee and milk," the LHMU Victorian Branch Secretary, Brian Daley, said.
"But these allegations of murder, and the use of the paramilitary as an industrial tactic in Colombia makes our problems with the company almost insignificant."
Coca-Cola LHMU members in Melbourne on Monday will wear badges and black armbands to work as a small act of solidarity.
"We'll be asking Coca-Cola management, here in Australia, what action they will take to defend the human rights of Coca-Cola workers in Colombia and Guatemala," Brian Daley said.
Coca-Cola LHMU members heard the report from Carlos Olaya of the Food Industry Union of Columbia about the way the Coca-Cola Company in Colombia deals with its workforce.
Carlos informed LHMU members about :
- the way the armed paramilitary forces pressure union members to renounce their union membership;
- how the company directly or indirectly engaged in intimidation, persecution and allowed falsified testimony into Court proceedings against Coke union leaders and members;
- how the company directly or indirectly helped organise the intimidation of Food Industry Union officials who organise Coke sites;
- the arrangements the local Coca-Cola franchisees use to avoid employment obligations by setting up bogus labour hire companies who Coke then employs labour through.
At the end of the meeting Coca-Cola LHMU members passed a motion condemning the activities of the Coca-Cola bottling company in Colombia, and calling on the Australian Coca-Cola bottler to pressure their Atlanta head office to ensure the human rights of Coca-Cola workers in Colombia and Guatemala.
"Our membership is convinced that workers in Coca-Cola Colombia and Guatemala should be able to organise themselves into a union of their choice freely and without threats, intimidation and violence," Brian Daley said.
"We have called upon the Board of Coca-Cola Amatil here in Australia to provide a report back to its workforce, within a month, about what the Board has done to meet our demands and what changes if any, the Coke Boards' actions have led to at the Coca-Cola plants in Colombia and Guatemala.
"In support of workers at the facilities in Colombia and Guatemala, the meeting of LHMU Coke members resolved to engage in a day of solidarity action on Monday 22 July 2002 when Colombian workers will be in the streets demanding union rights.
"The LHMU Coke members resolved to take all possible action in support of the above demands as an act of continuing solidarity with the workers at Panamco Coke in Colombia and Guatemala."
Labor for Refugees activists must go out and buy the latest issue of Women's Weekly.
Or at least make sure you flip thru it at your local doctor's surgery or the hairdresser!
No forget the recipes.
There is a very long and sympathetic article inside about Refugees by that great free-lance journalist David Leser.
Now that's a straw in the wind.
I am sure that Women's Weekly would not have run this feature if they thought that it was a turn-off for their readers - or might have hit their sales.
While it indicates positive changes in attitudes I must note that the Women's Weekly has not promoted the article on its coverlines - it just pops up as a surprise inside the mag.
Mark Latham says: "The primary purpose of modernisation is to democratise the ALP. That is, to decentralise power within the Party, away from the factions and numbers men and towards the local branches and members."
Funny, all this talk of democracy from a man whom the Labor leadership protected from a pre-selection vote in his own electorate.
I assume Latham's vision of democracy also includes taking power away from the varoius parliamentary Labor Parties and putting it into the hands of the membership. If not then Latham is talking his usual crock of shit.
The test of this is pretty simple. If the recent NSW and Queensland State conferences are any guide, most of the membership of the ALP supports refugees and opposes the detention centres.
Will Mark Latham and the rest of the motley crew that pass for a Federal Opposition (in reality capital's second eleven)implement the wishes of the ALP memerbship in support of refugees?
Making membership resolutions binding on the parliamentary parties would be a real step for democracy. That is why it won't happen.
Over the past two weeks I have read in our metropolitan newspapers, much negative criticism of the City of Sydney, and in particular its relationship with its productive employees , a relationship that has been perversely represented by some bitter and resentful organisations , as irretrievably broken down , and I feel compelled to offer a different perspective.
That of a long term employee!
Let me say; I have no recollection of ever, in my years working for the City have I felt, not only such Job Satisfaction , Financial Security , Pride in employment , and a sense of ownership that empowers not only me , but all employees to be relatively autonomous in the delivery of their service to the community .
There has been unpleasant reference to our current General Manager (Sun-Herald14/7/02) and his Industrial Relations team as being an aggressive players. Well from my experience, over many years, and functioning in many roles,including Union Delegate, I have much praise and little criticism for the current management. In fact since the departure of Mr. Greg Maddock, a previous General Manager, the whole management style has changed, with an emphasis on outcomes and not personalities, reward for merit rather than fawning, with an overwhelming sense of pride through this ownership and participation.
The perception of Team Work, which previously appeared to be used as a personal weapon in the removal of those who were different, has reverted back to its true meaning, that of people successfully working together toward a common goal, and reaping the rewards.
Recently, much ado was made about "Kennards Hire", paying their employees a one off bonus for their employees helping out during the hard times; the City regularly rewards its staff for providing superior service to the city.
These rewards being previously doled out in an ad hoc and unaccountable manner, the new General Manager has once again ensured fairness and equity.
While the City is not a Garden of Eden (it could be) , and as one who has experienced the many "tears before bedtime" changes in the City , from the divisive agreement of Competitive Tendering , by the Union over seven years ago , I fail to see any justification for this current criticism.
If Lord Mayor Sartor, successfully moves on to State Parliament, he will leave a legacy which his successor will find hard to live up to.
We all learn from our mistakes and:
While making no comment on the past, today's' City of Sydney management certainly gives opportunities to Australian Aspirations, and I am one of those grateful Australians.
Yours in Solidarity
Is there some Ebola type virus that is all pervasive with the ALP, in which the spine is the specific target of the virus, or it, a case of adult onset Hydrocephalus ? The continued "Flip Flops, by Simon Crean, far outstrip the antics of Bozo the Clown at a Ringling's Brothers Circus Matinee.
Seriously, what was the point in the Wran inquiry, if the ALP, and its traditional power bases cannot accept the intention of the electorate?
This latest back flip on the democratisation of the ALP, is just another syntax error in the litany of ALP sermons to the lost sheep.
While this conversion has, since Keating been contained to Federal Labor, one only needs to have a 2 minute conversation with your average Australian to deduce that many previous safe Labor seats are now on very shaky foundations, with Penrith where I reside being very unstable. This stability being execrated by the popular Faye Lo'Po, a representative who held the seat only through personal charisma?
Already the divisions are being exposed with the power brokers, in typically labor fashion intent in either winning the pre-selection or destruction, this alone almost guarantee a failed candidate, without adding the woes of Trade Union thuggery and tree hugging greenies.
With only months to the next State Election, there is much work to be done to ensure the continued success of the Carr Years, and atrophy, lethargy and association with unpopular organisations will not assist in this victory.
There is a time for tears, but not during hard times:
What is required; is leadership and direction are high profile candidates such as Frank Sartor, who have the determination get tough when the going gets tough.
Not meanderings through the ideological garden led by wishy-washy neurotic Union Bosses who only service on prescription drugs and free counselling services.
by Peter Lewis
While many are arguing about 60-40 or 50-50, you've actually gone further and suggested the whole affiliation of the union movement to the ALP might be a negative for the unions. What's brought you to that way of thinking?
I've suggested that both the ALP and the union movement need to look at the fundamentals as to what's in it for each of us. I come down on the conclusion that there's more in it for unions to be affiliated than not to be affiliated. But having said that, you look around the Victorian union movement and there's a very strong argument that can be made that those unions who are not affiliated are getting better results out of the Labor government than those that are. I've particularly looked to the nurses and the teachers. Now I'm not saying that the only factor that's resulting in outcomes for those unions is their non affiliation to the ALP, but it's one of the factors influencing their achievements and approach to issues.
At the minimum the process of affiliation has to be looked at.The processes of decision making of affiliated unions on ALP matters has to be looked at. The same broad brush of democratisation, that apparently the parliamentary federal leadership is committed to, has to be applied to how affiliated unions make their decisions.
What is it that affiliation brings to the union movement that justifies the ongoing relationship?
In the end any analysis of the levers of the State continue to be critical to working people. That applies even in a globalised and increasingly market-based system that we're operating in now. With the huge changes that have happened in the economic base over the last couple of decades that have radically changed our society and our unions the fundamentals on health, education and quality of life for union members and working people are influenced directly by the state and its institutions. There is, on balance, still more to be gained for working people, by trying to influence the structure and operation of those levers. If union voices are heard, and there are Labor governments with structures that allow that to happen, then there's a lot to be gained for working people. Having said that, unions, if their voices are to be heard, need to look seriously at overhauling the way in which affiliation, and consultation, and input with Labor governments occurs.
So what should unions be expecting in the relationship?
It needs to be much more policy driven. I'm speaking from a Victorian perspective, but my fear is that that template is pretty much the same around the country. Affiliation processes at the moment are predicated, overwhelmingly, on factional control and dominance. Policy outcomes become a very distant second in any of the discussions between affiliated unions and Labor parties or governments.
Bums in seats in Parliament diverts too much of our attention and resources away from the policy outcome for working people. In the same way the union movement's debate has been about organising and refocusing on members and activists and outcomes the focus of the debate has to change pretty soon as to what structure of the ALP is going to give rise to the best activists, candidate and policy outcomes. I think the same principles can be applied to the basis of the affiliation of the unions to the ALP. It should not be about who gets seat in parliament or control of which FEC or factional outcome. It should be about the more basic questions: where are the outcomes for working people? and where are the outcomes for union members? Too much passion and energy gets diverted into parliamentary and factional aspiration, rather than policy aspiration.
In what way do you see factional interests as intersecting with union influence in the party?
I think factional interests and union interests no longer, automatically coincide. It's the end of the Cold War, the ideological content in factions has died (with the exception of the explicitly ideological Grouper Rumps in each state) and what you have are factions based on personalities and fiefdoms. The interests of unions, under the unions@work agenda, should be about organising and trying to take campaigns out to new members and new sectors of the economy. That same leap of taking party changes as being about reinvigorating the ALP, about finding new constituencies and issues has yet to be made in the factions and the ALP.
It leads to the question, isn't there potential for a stronger union voice within the ALP, with fewer voices, if you actually end up with some sort of industrial bloc?
I support the maintenance of a substantial industrial bloc in the Labor party. I don't think the issue of 60/40 is the main debate, A relatively minor change of 50/50, which would appear to be a likely outcome, is one that I believe the union movement can live with. But it is not the main issue. If that were the only change there would no change of any discernible nature to the Victorian factional system. What needs to focused on, is how each of wings of the party relates to one another, makes its decisions and involves both, on the one hand rank and file union members and on the other rank and file ALP branch members. That to me is the main process that's going to lead to policy reconfiguration and a reinvigorated relationship between unions and the ALP. More importantly that is where a reinvigorated policy debate and progressive outcomes are going to come from. To not do so, is to continue the dominance of factional war lords, and the resulting concentration of power in very few hands will see policy quality fall to the background. If we can break open, not abolish, factional control, then I think there's a greater chance for a policy outcome for working people to be achieved.
What's the attitude of your members on the ground
We've surveyed our members as part of the ACTU census of this year. We've added some selective material in there about whether we should be affiliated with the ALP, whether we should be involved in political campaigns, whether we should support community campaigns, such as Australians for Just Refugee programs. We've had an incredibly diverse response. We've had a few wacky racists come out of left field that we didn't know existed. Overwhelmingly we've had a good response to say that we should be involved in community campaigns We should be involved in political campaigns, and despite the fact that clearly a large number of our members and most unions members voted for the conservatives at the last election, we've had a good response about continuing to be affiliated to the ALP. I don't think union officials should be fearful about taking that debate to their members. Their members want to have an influence in government, want to have a decent outcome for health and education, training, and they know the ALP has a tradition in which its going to achieve these things. So, we got a wide range of opinion.
You also mentioned before 'bums in parliament', what sort of service do you think the union movement gets from former union officials who serve in the ALP?
It's patchy, there are some who are fantastic, but as has been the case for over 100 years, there's a lot of parliamentarians who once they get there, very quickly forget their roots, and make a judgement that their support is now based elsewhere. And those people tend to be those allocated by factional heavies to move, quite frankly duds out of the union movement. Sadly, Legislative Councils around the country are littered with them.
Finally, what would a modern union/ALP relationship look like in your view?
One based on wide input of active members into unions and Branch members feeds into a more democratic process of decision making within the ALP. No one is ever going to rid us of factions totally. It would be one that allows union members, in affiliated unions, to vote on key issues of policy and key office holders and one that encourages members to have the debate about being in the ALP and one that delivers for working people and our union constituency. To me, those are the other side of the coin of the renewal strategy that unions, more generally are pursuing. These are the issues which, quite frankly, are much more important than our affiliation to the ALP.
by Jim Marr
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?"
"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.
Australians know little or nothing about the secret war, the guerilla war going on against workers - they have heard very little about the new militancy and terrorist tactics adopted by employers and their managers.
Many Australians will have personal stories about skirmishes or battles in their workplace, or the battle scars from a supervisors ravings and rantings, but they won't connect these incidents with the wider war and the new militancy of the bosses.
And that is in good part because the media has largely withdrawn from covering work issues and the trade union movement.
In Sydney today the main newspaper read in the working class suburbs, the Daily Telegraph, does not have a full-time labour reporter - one of that paper's Macquarie St parliamentary reporters is expected to keep an eye on the industrial round, at the same time as he keeps an eye on State politics, especially the coming election.
The big quality broadsheet paper the SMH has a 'veteran' IR reporter in Brad Norington - but nowadays he seems unable to get anything in that paper unless it is about inter Labor Party-union strife, or some internecine factional battle or election inside a major union.
Even the ABC has in recent times allowed the field of regular reporting of IR to lapse.
Only the news wire service AAP has a dedicated full-time industrial reporter in Natalie Davison. She covers the traditional IR beat - and her copy supplies most of the knowledge about the struggle of working families that is irregularly picked up by the both the SMH and the Daily Telegraph as well as commercial radio in this city.
In recent weeks Natalie has not been available to report on the general IR round because she- like several other industrial rounds reporters - has been caught up with the Cole Royal Commission. This Commission has successfully focussed almost all Sydney, and national media, on lurid allegation about violence in the building industry.
The little space given to work issues completely disappeared while Cole was in Sydney, because the Royal Commission sucked up the daily 'quota' of media space given to IR stories.
While the collapse of the industrial round is the probably most extreme in Sydney it is reflected in most other states. Melbourne though is a little different. In large part, because the ACTU is based in Melbourne, that city has a lot more reporters dedicated to covering the IR round - - full-time.
Mark Phillips, the Herald Sun's full-time industrial reporter gets, almost on a daily basis, one, two or three traditional IR copy about stoppages and disputes into that paper - it is hard to understand why his working class readership are more interested in these issues than Sydney's Daily Telegraph readership who - in marketspeak - have similar demographics.
An inkling that the retreat from industrial reporting may also be on in Melbourne might be read into the fact that at The Age this round has recently dropped from being a two person round to a one person round. Paul Robinson is now left by himself to keep an eye on these issues - but at least he is getting more copy into his paper about the travails of working life, and less about internal union disputes, than happens at the sister Fairfax paper in Sydney.
And let's not talk about that other Fairfax paper the Australian Financial Review, where in recent months they seem to have gone from two roundspeople to zip.
The legendary metalworkers union leader Laurie Carmichael once used to enthusiastically tell his militant union delegates not to read the Daily Telegraph, not to buy the Herald Sun, but get the AFR and read it on the way to work if you wanted to know industrial relations, and get a fair and balanced account of what was happening and what the bosses were thinking.
This retreat from coverage of the industrial round is part of a worldwide media trend. In the USA media observers say the retreat began in the late 60s - so that today the AFL-CIO claims there is no more than a dozen labor reporters nationally.
And most of the reporting of unions and their membership is buried in the back part of the paper as part of the business pages because in the USA labour is reported as a cost-input, rarely as a human story about the tragic lives of low-paid workers trying to live in the heart of the beast.
Up till the start of the Accord era, here in Australia, the industrial round was considered one of the plum beats for journalists - especially ambitious young journalists would brawl with each other to get an opportunity to report Brother Ducker's words.
To get ahead in the media you had to have 'done' industrial reporting.
Well into the early 80s, on the 7th floor of the Sussex St Labor Council's office in Sydney, there was always a hive of media activity in the cubbyholes the journalists occupied as part of the IR press gallery.
When I first joined the IR gallery, as a cadet reporter in the mid-70s, the SMH had three people covering the round; the now defunct afternoon tabloids ( The Sun and The Mirror) had two each; the Daily Telegraph had at least two and sometimes three people on the round; The Australian had one or two; AAP had one person and a second person got attached when the round was busy; the ABC had one full-time TV industrial reporter and one full-time radio industrial reporter and another reporter when things were busy - and there was always one or two commercial TV and radio reporters using the spare cubby hole laughingly called an office.
Industrial reporters would regularly scurry up to the 10th floor to door stop Ducker, Unsworth and McBean to get the latest on an industrial dispute - just like the door stops we now see outside Parliament House in Canberra. ( Though there were a hell of a lot more gruff words and f*ck offs when Barrie or the two Johns didn't want to talk).
At the Thursday night weekly Labor Council meeting at least half a dozen mainstream journalists were there ( plus the Community Party's Tribune journalist) to covering proceedings.
There were then two pubs, on the corner of Sussex and Goulburn Streets, after hours ( wink wink ) you could catch union officials from the Left in one pub, and union officials from the Right in another - many a half sodden journalist would nearly get run over as they crossed Goulburn St going from one pub to another to pick up the tribal stories.
The Sydney IR gallery was replicated in Victoria where, amongst the wonderful old architecture and furniture of the Lygon St Trades Hall, there was an IR reporters gallery where - I jealously noted - the media offices were larger and better appointed than those in Sydney.
Once industrial power became centralised in Melbourne, with Bill Kelty at the epicentre of the Accord, the NSW Labor Council was seen to be sidelined and irrelevant. The Sydney IR gallery quickly died - though the Melbourne Gallery survived, almost intact, for a few more years.
When the centralised Accord era came to an end, industrial relations became decentralised and the relative importance of the ACTU disappeared, but the Sydney IR Gallery was never revived and re-created. The Gallery was dead - and the IR round is now coughing and spluttering.
During this period the nature of work and workplaces changed dramatically - from big workplaces to miniscule workplaces, from manufacturing and resources as the dominant employer to the service industries as the job creator.
It was also the time when the importance of the daily newspaper as the primary source of news dived dramatically, to be replaced first by TV news - and now increasingly by the short commercial radio news bulletins which need to tell sometimes complex stories in seconds.
The media big wigs watched these changes and watched union membership dive, the power of unions rapidly diminish and - probably after a bit of tea leaf reading with the aide of the marketing department - decided their readers and their viewers and listeners were just not interested in learning about unions and strikes any more.
Now even the ABC and the AFR seem to be going down the same track.
Important stories are just going unreported. And the less working people and their unions appear in the media the less relevant we seem to the community.
We all know the line - which comes first the chicken or the egg.
Very few unions in Australia put the time into getting media attention for their battles - let alone their victories.
Few unions factor a media strategy into their organising campaigns - the media is always an afterthought
Union such as the AMWU can still, relatively easily, get a hearing - but it is not because of the human crisis facing their membership but rather the cost on the economy, and business people, that comes from a large manufacturing dispute involving their members.
In smaller states - especially where union power is still strong, and membership is relatively high, and there is a State Labor Government and the competition for media space is less aggressive - some unions are still getting more than a modicum of news coverage.... or at least better than what we see in Sydney.
But there are so many qualification here you can see that if one or other of these struts disappear the coverage of union issues in those States will also quickly dissipate.
Some American unions are slowly building a new strategy of getting, not their union leaders, but their members to talk to the media about the real, stark and personal issues facing working people - providing the human interest stories that the media craves.
The Justice for Janitors campaign run by the Service Employees International Union has been a particularly good example of pushing members, rather than union officials, in front of the TV cameras.
These workers are getting viewers pulling out their hankies as they hear stories of poor immigrant women trying to make a go of it in LA or NY - and the violence sometimes meted out as they try to stand up for themselves.
It doesn't always work.
The AFL-CIO is loudly complaining at the moment that an expensive exercise of having a Senate inquiry - organised by Democrat Senator Ted Kennedy - listen to dozens of workers complaints and harrowing personal stories about America's unfair anti-union laws went largely unreported.
While the Senate inquiry was on the BIG industrial story reported by almost all media was the labour dispute involving the millionaire members of the Major League Baseball Players Association.
Here in Australia we don't (yet) have this culture of union activists and delegates speaking out and giving the personal human interest story which lies behind almost every dispute.
The collapse of the industrial round means unions need to work out alternative strategies of getting their story into the media.
Instead of just developing a relationship with the now almost non-existent industrial reporter, and ringing them up to give them a news tip, ( no not about some dinner with Simon Crean talking about internal labour movement stuff) unions need to develop relationships with other reporters on other news rounds.
Health reporters should get the industrial angle to their round. Entertainment and tourism industry reporters should get to understand the travails of workers on their beat.
And they shouldn't be just talking to the union leadership but also to our 'expert' members, the health worker, the casino worker, the child care worker and the shop assistant who can give real life examples, and interesting personal stories to the media.
The drop away in union membership has stopped. We can perceive a slight growth in our numbers.
As the organising model, now adopted by unions around the country, wins more members and more power in the workplace, we can hope, and expect, the media to give working people , their workplaces and their unions more coverage, more space in their pages and more time on the airwaves.
The growth of working peoples' power and respect in the workplace will deliver more media column inches - but union organisers can help it along by incorporating media strategies into their organising campaigns which will deliver the voice of members across the media airwaves into the lounge rooms of the people we want to organise.
by Tara de Boehmler
These days between 25% and 50% of workers are likely to experience bullying at some time during their career - a situation that has prompted NSW Labor Council and the Workers Health Centre to begin drafting a workplace bullying policy.
The policy is sure to be welcomed by one victim who this week decided to go public with her plight. Marion worked as a welfare officer in Australian correctional centres for more than 10 years before becoming a victim of bullying herself.
Marion says her supervisor began a campaign of bullying and intimidation against her after she failed to complete an additional task she was given, apparently due to a lack of time and resources.
Immediately pulling in the facility's acting governor and the acting chief welfare officer, Marion says her supervisor ensured he had the weight of the department behind him when he confronted her about her 'inability' to follow his instruction. Their joint confrontation - dressed up as a mediation session - left her little hope she was in for a fair hearing.
Soon after, and amid escalating demands being placed upon her, Marion says she was ordered to relocate her office. She was ordered to move to part of the prison where she would be the only worker present on most days and which came fitted with only a fire alarm to ring in case she needed assistance. Aside from that, it was largely just her and the inmates, she says.
Marion says her ongoing treatment by this stage had eroded her faith in the internal complaint mechanisms and left her with little choice to go external - to her union and WorkCover - with her concerns.
She lost her appetite, was unable to sleep and dreaded going into work. But she says two of the worst things were not knowing whom to turn to for support and feeling as though nothing she could do would change the workplace culture enough to stop it from reoccurring in the future.
Marion is now on stress leave while, for the person who initiated the bullying - her direct supervisor - business continues as usual.
There is nothing unusual about Marion's situation, according to the Workers Health Centre's Peggy Trompf. Peggy has heard so many bullying horror stories that she has now started working in conjunction with NSW Labor Council to come up with a policy to try and weed out bullying behaviour from Australian workplaces.
Peggy says a firm policy on bullying is desperately needed to let all employees - from the heads of organisations down - know that they are equally bound by legislation that leaves no room for harassment.
It would outline a clear set of steps for victims, perpetrators and employers to take when bullying situations arise, outline responsibilities, and help people identify what does and does not constitute bullying behaviour. It would also ensure a consistent and appropriate approach is taken in dealing with the problem, without causing yet more harm to the victim.
Peggy says the policy would be adopted by individual employers through the enterprise agreement process, enabling it to be enforced in the IRC.
What is certain is that current measures commonly used by employers are not working. One of the most common of these, mediation, simply cannot work, according to PSA Industrial Officer Andrew Wilson.
"Mediation offers employers an opportunity to avoid taking responsibility for workplace bullying," Andrew says.
He says employers often want to see bulling as being a "mere disagreement between employees at work."
"That way it is the responsibility of the employees involved and not the organisation," he says.
Mediation involves an independent person sitting down with people who have some form of disagreement to assist them to resolve their differences. The mediator will usually meet with the opposing parties separately at first before convening a meeting where they are bought together. Mediation is voluntary and relies on the goodwill of the parties to succeed.
Andrew says mediation presumes that the fault for the disagreement lies relatively equally with both parties. Yet "bullying cases are characterised by the fault lying overwhelmingly with one party."
"It can be extremely traumatic for victims to be bought to the same table as those who have bullied them to talk about it, especially if the face accusations they are lying or that their work performance was not up to standard," he says.
Andrew says bullying is best addressed through disciplinary action or intervention aimed at behavioural change. "Professional counsellors who challenge bullies about their violent and inappropriate behaviour have a role in dealing with workplace bullying. In some cases this has lead to a bullying-free workplace. However when such intervention is not successful, bullies need to be disciplined".
NSW Labor Council and the Workers Health Centre's bullying policy aims to ensure this vital step becomes part of the process.
The last fortnight may well prove a turning point for working Australian women and their families. Probably for the first time in our history, paid maternity leave is a page one story.
Following the launch of the ACTU's model for paid maternity leave, there's been a chorus of support across the country from a diverse and powerful range of lobby groups.
Peak employer bodies such as the Australian Industry Group are telling the government it's not only economically achievable, it's also socially desirable.
The Federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party Malcolm Turnbull has taken the idea even further. He says career structures that don't recognise that many women are also mothers, are simply discriminatory.
Sisters, we hope we are on the cusp of a change that could open up a much broader examination of the way women are accommodated in the workforce, or more accurately, not accommodated.
In the year 2002 women expect to be treated equally.
But for all our modern expectations, it could just as well be 1962 when we examine the average workplace.
The way work is organised has not kept pace with a massive shift in the nature of families or the structure of the workforce. The majority of Australian workplaces are just not women friendly!
In terms of pay rates, hours, entitlements, maternity leave and basic childcare provisions, women - especially those with children - are very poorly accommodated.
There is still no such thing as equal pay. Women earn on average 67% of male earnings. That's 271 dollars less per week. Even in industries dominated by women, the gap is as wide as 54%. Women earn less across every single occupational group.
One reason for this enduring gap is that women have been marginalised from full-time work.
The percentage of women in full-time jobs has remained the static for 25 years, while growth in casual and part time jobs has rocketed. Nearly 30% of the workforce is now made up of casual workers. About 55% of all casual jobs are held by women, and more than 80% of them are part-time. That means all too many women receive no paid sick leave or annual leave, and enjoy no job security beyond the next shift.
During the 90s, 87% of the net jobs created paid less than $26,000 a year. More than half of those paid less than $16,000. You can bet your bottom dollar most of those jobs belonged to women.
With a growing proportion of low paid jobs, the two-income family is becoming a matter of necessity rather than choice.
On average women earn around 40 percent of the family earnings. Little wonder the decision to start a family is increasingly decided by economics. The lack of paid maternity leave for most women makes that choice even harder.
One of the most concerning trends is the decision to return too quickly after the birth of a child because economically the mother has no choice.
The loss of her income is simply not an option for the family.
This was borne out in a recent survey of 350 workers at a cosmetics company reported just this week in the Age.
Nearly 30% of new mothers went back to work at the company when their babies were between just 4 and 6 months old because they couldn't afford the luxury of staying at home.
Paid maternity leave would ease that pressure. Australia and the United States remain the only two countries in the OECD that still fail to provide it. So far, all we offer women is the right to12 months, unpaid leave. Our research shows many women would appreciate at least 18.
For women who choose to or are forced to return to work for economic reasons, access to decent, affordable childcare is a priority. Again this is not properly acknowledged with adequate funding of places or wages for childcare workers. Childcare is increasingly unaffordable at around $200 per child. Even where subsidies cut this in half, $100 per week per child out of a low wage means the majority of women with young children are working for very little take-home pay.
A new stress is emerging to complicate the working arrangements of women. Working women, often with young families, are increasingly looking after aging parents.
Many women find they are not entitled to carers leave or any other sort of leave, because they are employed as casuals. If they do have access, five days a year is rarely enough to split between the needs of children and parents.
Underlying all this is a fundamental lack of control over working hours.
Last year the ACTU commissioned research into the working lives of fifty families.
Among the women we interviewed, there was a sense that achieving a sustainable, even enjoyable, balance between work and family was unrealistic. There was a serious personal cost for those locked into long working hours and a serious professional compromise for those who opted to drop back to part-time, casual work.
The example of Wanda, a postal manager and mother, describes her life as a daily, double shift. She says:
" I've had fairly heavy health problems in the last two years, and I think it's because, if you take a typical day for me, I'm getting up at 5.30, getting lunches ready, getting the kids ready. I do all that before I get to work. I've got 20 staff here, I'm looking after them all day and then I pick up the kids around 6.30 and then it starts again. Got to get the tea ready, empty the lunch boxes, sit down with them with their homework. I don't actually sit down to relax until 9.
If you can get a happy balance between work and personal life you're pretty lucky. I think it just doesn't happen in the real world. Mine's just a chaotic life and probably the worst thing you can do is learn to live with it."
Long hours are regarded as an unchangeable fact of life for many workers including flight attendants, postal managers, public servants, teachers, strappers, journalists, paramedics and doctors.
Australia has the second longest working hours in the OECD, with the latest figures from the Bureau of Statistics showing that working hours have increased by two hours in the last year alone. On average we're working more than 42 hours a week. A quarter of the workforce is chalking up more than 50 hours. These hours would be illegal in Europe.
The greater the proportion of long-hour jobs in any labour market, the more female carers are forced onto what's called "the mummy track", which further entrenches disadvantages for women in the workplace.
"The mummy track" steers women into jobs that are regarded as second class: lower status and lower paid. Dropping back to part-time work is perceived as a demotion of sorts, a "downward" choice.
Sonya, a senior public servant, described her feeling of being compartmentalised for having cut back her hours, and the need to go back to working long hours to get her career back on track.
She says: "Having gone part-time its now like I'm in a certain compartment. There is certainly a change towards me, a perception that I'm focused on my family and not my career. I'm aware that if I wanted to get my career back on track, I'd have to go full time again. There's absolutely no way around that."
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
There's no question Australia needs to modernise its approach towards working women and the balance between work and family.
Work and family policies have to be developed to ensure families have a reasonable standard of living. We have to ensure both mothers and fathers are able to combine the raising of their children with gainful employment.
Policy responses need to integrate industrial relations, family, population and labour force policies. As a community we all need to take greater responsibility in recognising and providing for the needs of children.
The ACTU has identified 4 key phases or milestones in the lives of working families. The first is the birth of the child, followed by care in the early years. Next is the transition back to work, usually for the mother, and finally the challenge of managing work and family.
All of these require a range of flexible working and leave arrangements if we're to address some of the disadvantages women are facing.
Maternity leave is the first cab off the rank. And all the signs indicate the current groundswell of public demand will force the government to act on this issue sooner rather later. The only question is what kind of paid maternity leave scheme will be adopted.
The ACTU believes 14 weeks paid leave should be provided to all working women at the minimum wage rate of $431 a week, paid by the Commonwealth. With 45% of women earning less than $500 a week, it would cost employers very little to make up the shortfall.
In the case of women earning closer to average weekly earnings, (around $900 dollars a week before tax), the Commonwealth's contribution plus an employer contribution of less than one dollar a week per employee would be enough to match their earnings.
Small business would not be required to contribute.
The ACTU estimates that this model would give 87% of working mothers their full pay for 14 weeks leave.
All this at no extra cost to the federal government. In fact the ACTU's scheme would be 100 million dollars cheaper than the current baby bonus, which entitles low-paid women to less than ten dollars a week.
The ACTU model is modest compared with countries like Britain which is about to adopt 26 weeks maternity leave. It makes you wonder what Australian governments have got against motherhood.
CARING IN THE EARLY YEARS
The next phase for working families is caring for young children. For some mothers this will mean remaining at home. Others will choose to take up part time or return to full time work, often because they need the money.
Either way, those choices must be better catered for.
Those who stay at home currently have the right to 12 months (mostly) unpaid leave. However around half of those caring for babies do not return within 18 months. There are several reasons for this.
Many couples feel 12 months is not long enough in the initial phase of caring for a child, so one parent is forced to drop out of the workforce altogether.
Many would prefer to be covered by a longer period of maternity or parental leave. The ACTU believes maternity or parental leave should be extended to two years, offering women better job security and providing an opportunity for fathers to be involved in the care of young children.
Family payments must support this sharing of roles and at the very least, the current family benefits assumption of the single bread winner model must be revised.
This would also better reflect international standards. Two-thirds of OECD nations provide more than 52 weeks leave a year. A third provide more than two years.
Another reason women don't return after 18 months is the lack of flexible full time, part time or casual work. Unsuitable work, rigid hours and scant leave provisions make it difficult to accommodate family life.
To cap it off, the lack of good quality, affordable childcare is still out of reach for thousands of families. Some mothers have no choice but to remain at home.
The quality and cost of existing of existing childcare places is a major concern for working families. Staff-to-child ratios vary from state to state. Staff turnover is very high, around 30% a year. Long day care centres are reporting difficulty in attracting and retaining staff. Wages are low and opportunities for career development very limited in the childcare sector.
The ACTU believes increased childcare subsidies are required to provide quality services that are affordable for families and staff who are properly qualified and properly paid.
Childcare unions are working with the ACTU to develop work value and pay equity claims on behalf of childcare workers. New classifications incorporating a genuine career structure will need to be funded to avoid costs being passed onto parents.
TRANSITION BACK TO WORK
The next phase for many women is the transition back to work. Around 50% return to work within 18 months with the majority of women returning before their child is aged four. Most would like to return part-time, however this is not an automatic right. The ACTU believes it should be.
Quality part-time work is an essential element in a package of choices that ought to be available to modern families. The European Directives provide some good principles on which Australian Governments could base legislation.
MANAGING WORK AND FAMILY
Successfully managing family and work is difficult in a system where parents are entitled to just five days paid leave a year. The ACTU believes a more flexible approach is required. An increase in carers leave and a more flexible approach to the use of total leave accrued is necessary.
In Britain, working parents are entitled to a maximum of 13 weeks unpaid leave until their child reaches the age of five. This leave comes on top of paid, annual leave and can be taken in blocks of four weeks. In addition, working parents are also entitled to unlimited, unpaid emergency leave. Low-income earners are eligible for family assistance during these periods.
In the United States, workers are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid emergency family leave, every year.
Some companies in Australia are offering employees leave in addition to their holiday entitlement, paid for by a slightly reduced salary. This enables planning around family responsibilities such as school holidays. The model is often referred to as the 48/52 package.
The ACTU believes the British model and others should be thoroughly examined.
Control Over Working Hours
Control over working hours is often identified as a high priority by working mothers.
There are two policy options worth examining. The first is giving workers a choice in rostering, which is being considered in two Australian states. The other is a right to request a change in working hours to care for a child. This is being adopted next year in Britain.
Unions and workers will be able to bargain around both these options if the ACTU's Reasonable Hours Test Case is adopted by the Industrial Relations Commission next month.
The School Years
Many parents who recently returned from school holidays will be able to tell you there is a severe shortage of childcare places in many areas of Australia.
In after-school care alone, the government's own advisers have recommended an increase of 32,000 places. With the rising costs of childcare and child development places, we know that too many families are missing out on necessary support. The government has responded with no increase in funding in this year's federal budget.
The Commonwealth spends over $16 billion in family support payments. The range of payments is confusing and a number of the payments actively discourage families from making certain choices. Some, such as the baby bonus scheme, are inequitable and regressive. Others such as Family Tax Part B discourage female labour force participation. There needs to be a wide-ranging review of these payments to ensure consistency between work and family policies and support for the choices families make.
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS COMMISSION
The Industrial Relations Commission should have a role in encouraging the industrial parties to implement work and family-friendly policies.
The Commission should be required to ensure that awards contain effective, innovative provisions that help workers combine work with family responsibilities, including provisions on flexible hours of work.
The Commission should be required to closely examine if proposed agreements positively assist workers to combine work with family responsibilities. In particular, the Commission needs to ensure that flexible hours provisions pass the no-disadvantage test - so no worker is penalised in seeking to balance their pattern of work with family considerations.
In conclusion, let me repeat that policy responses need to integrate industrial relations, family policy, population policy and labour force arrangements.
Managing work and family in twenty-first century Australia requires the development of a new framework of rights and obligations. Unions have identified workplace changes which are flexible, respect the choices that families make and recognise that parental participation in the workforce varies depending on the family composition and the age of children.
The ACTU and unions are committed to industrial and political campaigns to ensure genuine workplace policy reform.
Twenty-first century workplaces must become more women-friendly.
Speech to the third annual Victorian Women's Summit
Edmund Barton Centre, Melbourne
On Thursday night Tony Blair sat down with his union critics at the downing St dinner table and tried to smooth over the ever increasing ructions - the unions were threatening to cut off an important Labour campaign financial lifeline if he wasn't prepared to listen.
Here in Australia the Sydney Morning Herald was able this week to give us intimate details of the what was on offer, to eat, at the dinner that Simon Crean had this week with his union critics.
The crisis of confidence between the unions and the British Labour leader, and the unions and the Australian Labor leader, may have been on the same scale but- either because no media was good enough, or they just didn't care to snoop - we don't know how sumptuous the meal on offer was at Tony Blair's dining table.
But we do know that the meeting was called because of a heightened sense of crisis with Downing Street insiders described it as a peace making effort aimed at the key people who help raise most of the Labour Party's finances.
However the labour movement in Britain tonight is still in turmoil because one of Tony Blair's key union allies has, it seems unexpectedly, been booted out in a union election, by an ex-communist left-wing rival.
After four recounts the Amicus union's general secretarty, Sir Ken Jackson, still it seems does not want to accept the election result - and is expected to put up a legal challenge to stop the takeover.
The key power people in the Labour movement are holding their breath because Amicus, is Britain's biggest private sector and traditionally the rightwing rock on which moderate Labour has withstood the challenges from the left throughout the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s.
John Edmonds, the leader of the big general union, the GMB, said that the Amicus vote was part of a swing away from New Labour occurring across the union movement.
And the shock election result comes close on the heels of a huge national strike this week by one million council workers - it was the first such strike by council workers since the infamous "winter of discontent" dispute of 1978-9 which brought down a Labour Government.
The council workers strike was deemed an outstanding success because many of the people involved in picket lines and street demos were taking part in their first ever strike and were feeling exhilarated.
With signs reading "Mums Army - for us to stay you need to pay" pinned to their shirts and clutching Unison and GMB placards, they cheered as speaker after speaker berated the government over its 3% pay offer.
The exuberance of the tens of thousands who took part led to widespread talk of a new mood of militancy, with working people prepared to use their industrial muscle in a way they have not done for decades.
Already the British media are talking darkly of a 'summer of discontent' with more strikes on the horizon - including London's famous Tube where workers stopped, today, for 24 hours causing havoc in the British capital.
And commentators are saying it is because of this sudden air of crisis that Tony Blair is now offering a much wider open door to his union allies than has been normal under his New Labour government.
Thursday night's dinner with Blair was described as a "peacemaking" meeting at his Downing Street home. The British PM used the meeting to discuss the lengthening list of union demands, including the extension of workers' rights and the threat of withholding financial contributions, unless the private-public partnership programme is scaled down.
The Labour Party , is struggling to control its reported $26 million overdraft, and does not wish to jeopardise the substantial funding from the unions - especially as some have already started withdrawing cash from Labour MPs they see as hostile.
Last week the RMT transport union dumped its support for a raft of key Labour MPs - including the Deputy PM, John Prescott, because they would not sign a union pledge opposing further privatization of transport - and calling for a campaign to re-nationalise some rail lines.
Both the Times and the Guardian splashed across their Thursday morning front pages details of a supposedly secret document which would see the Blair Government grant extra rights for British workers, including broader rights to strike.
The two newspapers - and then the other media - hyped up this document as a knee jerk, secret deal, by the leadership of the Labour government and the TUC, to try to head off a new wave of militancy by a growing band of new, dissident, anti-Blair trade union general secretaries.
The TUC head, John Monks, angrily denied the Times and Guardian's talk of secret deals saying that reports of some kind of secret campaign or document on employee rights combine exaggeration and inaccuracy in equal measure.
John Monks pointed out that the TUC document comes in the context of a new enquiry into workplace laws recently established by the Blair Government.
"What has happened is simply this. The government was elected on a manifesto that committed it to review the working of the Employment Relations Act - clauses in that act permit review of certain aspects of its operation," John Monks said/
"Since then the TUC has been formulating its response. This began with a debate at our Congress last year in full public view
"Earlier this year the TUC began drafting a detailed response to the government's review.
" This document was agreed at the TUC Executive on June 19th, and posted on our web site earlier this month. A short summary of our policy has also been made available on a leaflet "modern rights for modern workplaces" which has been widely circulated including among MPs.
"In due course a formal submission will be made to the government.
"The document was not on the agenda at yesterday's meeting of the TUC executive, nor has the TUC at anytime discussed Labour Party funding.
" This would be entirely inappropriate as the TUC is not affiliated to the Labour Party, nor are a majority of our affiliated unions."
Most of the British media did not predict the defeat of Sir Ken and are rushing hard to get to know what they are labeling the 'virtually unknown' who has won the leadership of the UK's second biggest union.
Derek Simpson, the new leader of Amicus, is a 57-year-old is a former Communist who has been a Labour Party member for the past 10 years.
He described himself to the BBC yesterday as a "lieutenant of the Left" who would not be offering Downing Street "blind allegiance".
He says that while he is not a Blairite, he is not anti-Blair.
How radical a path he will be able to take Amicus is much debated because he will have to continue to deal with a union executive which is still dominated by right-wingers loyal to Sir Ken.
Despite that Simpson joins a growing list of recently elected Left-wing union leaders prepared to challenge the New Labour values of Prime Minister Blair.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT rail union. He led yesterday's 24-hour strike on London Underground over safety under the proposed public-private partnership. He has also led a series of high-profile stoppages over pay at half a dozen train companies on the national network.
Mick Rix of the train drivers' union Aslef. He has been highly successful in playing train operating companies off against each other in an attempt to drive wages up. He believes the disputes have showed that there should be national pay bargaining in a renationalised rail system.
Billy Hayes of the Communication Workers Union. Mr Hayes has challenged the introduction of competition at the expense of the British Post Office - curiously called Consignia. He wants the monopoly over letters that the state-owned company holds to be preserved to protect his members' jobs.
Andy Gilchrist of the Fire Brigades Union. Later this year he could be leading a national fire strike - only the second in the history of the union. Mr Gilchrist is demanding a minimum of $A 90,000 for his members and a new automatic pay mechanism to set wages.
"We saw the car, we thought, parked opposite a few doors down for several days and nights before its occupants made formal contact - always an FJ Holden, cream one day and green or grey the next, drawn from the fleet of nondescript saloons Security deployed to advertise their anonymity...What they were hoping to observe we could not say - we automatically assumed the phone was tapped and mails intercepted, but such crude and obvious attentions were peculiar even for the bumbling bloodhounds of the state machine...
Two burly replicas of all the pork-pie hat and double-breasted suit brigade I'd seen for years at demonstrations or on the furtive fringes of the crowd in the Domain...We'd like to see a Mister Milliss - is he in? they asked, as if they did not know already...Yes, I'm Bruce Milliss, what can I do for you? They introduced themselves - one was from ASIO, the other from the Federal Police...They had a summons for him to appear before the Royal Commission on Espionage, when it resumed its hearings in a few days' time. He took the green wax-sealed subpoena from them with distaste and put it down unopened. I'm not a spy, he said in icy dignity.
Of course, of course, they hastened to assure him, there was nothing so they understood to draw that inference, but it would seem that he was ... mentioned somewhat: ...Then at the door he swung around and gazed at them directly. Why do you do these things? he asked. The ASIO man looked at him blankly for a moment, then at his colleague. It's our job he shrugged. We went back to the dining room where my mother waited, tense and nervous. What was it Bruce? she asked, the Petrov business? He nodded, and recounted what had happened.
She knew as well as he did that the poisoned atmosphere was bound to claim him with its farrago of concocted facts and falsity and filth, the web of innuendo, slander, smear and outright frame-up spun insidiously in the last eight months since the Russian renegade had fled to so-called freedom with his phoney files for an option on a chicken farm and pay-off of five thousand pounds, but when the blow at last descended all her old intrinsic sense of decency was once again outraged. The scoundrels! she exploded, with a spluttering echo of my father's own reproach, How can they do such things? ...
Only a week before the drama broke the Sydney Morning Herald, worried by the anti-Menzies drift, predicted with an ominous clairvoyance that he'd need to pull a pair of rabbits from his famed top hat to stay in power: now the magician took a curtain call with both bunnies safely in his hands ... I used to go along occasionally to watch proceddings from the crowded public gallery as Lockwood vehemently proclaimed his innocence, alleging forgery and frame-up - I want a trial by jury, not by inquisition! I have been smeared throughout the country as a man who'd sell his homeland for a gift of brandy: it's a dirty slander! - and as Evatt fought the greatest case of my career, capping a lifetime during which for all his twists and turns defence of democratic rights had always been his hallmark, grilling the shifty, mumbling turncoat and his nervous wife in his nasal monotone, probing the subtleties of typing and calligraphy on which the charge depended, then laying his counter-accusations of direct political conspiracy to damage both his party and himself, while the judges interrupted every second word more like protectors of the Petrovs or their advocates than sober and impartial arbiters of truth and when he was about to make his allegations stick peremptorily debarred him.
Free of his intimidating presence they resumed their hunt ... While the hue and cry continued the Commissioners directed their devout attention to what they called the small fry of their star performer's other documents, the Moscow letters, numbered A to F, and another series ciphered simply G. This latter was the set in which my father's name purportedly appeared. He was among the first of many minor witnesses arraigned in this switch of tack from deep concerns of state to settling old political scores. ... On the stroke of ten the three inquisitors themselves filed in, clad in a solemn extra-mural mufti of identikit black jacket, waistcoat and immaculate striped trousers. We rose in deferential silence as they took their seats to start - so they complacently informed their audience - the seven-fourth performance of their record-breaking show.
...Owen, the Chairman, bald and aseptic, with a pencil-lined moustache and ferret-faced behind his beady spectacles, precise and peppery of speech as he sorted out with Windeyer [chief prosecutor for hire] some problems of procedure caused by the lengthy illness of their alcoholic Russian star; on his left was Philp, from Queensland, pompous and verbose, sprawling back in supercilious detachment from such petty practicalities though never especially noted for his restraint in other circumstances, let alone impartiality - Even if Petrov said in court that he had lied and fabricated all these documents, I still would not believe him! he declared on one inglorious occasion - and on the other side the South Australian Ligertwood, a beetle-browed but dull and plodding beadle with an even stronger bent for hounding witnesses and bullying their counsel if the humour so engaged him."
Bruce Milliss was called to the Commission supposedly to help with the mystery of a document that someone called Sadovnikov, first secretary of the Soviet Embassy was supposed to have written. Pape, leading for the prosecution had some fairytale about the document going between various embassy staff over the years. The penny dropped for Bruce when Pape read out the instruction that was on the top of the document from the Moscow Centre -"Communicate the additional materials and well-founded conclusions in relation to the following ... with a list of names commencing with BRUCE MILIS - progressive labour supporter, secretly assisting the Communist Party. Enjoyed the confidence of Chifley. Resided and had a trading company in the town Katoomba.
My father's lip curled up in unconcealed contempt. So this was how they'd fitted him! Enjoyed the confidence, progressive labour, secretly assisted...Destroy the Chifley legend, he remembered, taint the Labor Party by association with the Reds through the memory of it's present leader's predecessor, even by using small fry like himself, the plot was so transparent, flimsy, obvious. And the deliberate faulty spelling of his name to lend the thing an air of clumsy authenticity, the past tense used in a missive written, it was claimed, while he was still living in Katoomba ...
Well, if the game was frame-up, falsity and forgery they'd get no satisfaction out of him, they'd find that two could paly the artful dodger trick. ...As we filed out through the doorway Richards [deputy director of security] - who had sat impassively throughout the morning following proceedings - pressed close behind us almost on my mother's heels, as if incredibly to pick up if he could some stray remark or casual indiscretion. My mother bridled. This was the final straw she could bear, the last indignity she'd suffer from such scoundrels. She turned on him in open fury. WOULD YOU STOP SHOVING ME? she thundered in her most imperious tones. He took a flustered step away and mumbled an apology. She swept out past him with her head held high. ...
Then suddenly my mother grasped my father's arm and kissed him quickly, shyly, but with a tender passion on the lips like a young adoring bride and they walked off hand in hand like lovers, out of the courtyard in the sunshine into Oxford Street; I strode along beside him on the other side, proud like her to know this man and claim my kinship with him.
The pantomime continued for some months more, though it was clear the judges would have liked it to go on for ever: as Christmas came around they even sent out greeting cards as if it was a lifetime institution and held a merry party where they fraternised with the prosecuting counsel, ASIO officers and none other than the Russian renegades themselves, as guests of honour, who were reported to enjoy themselves immensely with the lady radiant in her recently acquired Australian suntan. Between festivities they nabbed a bunch of journalists for having been a bit leftwing in former years, dragooned some writers and the odd aberrant academic for reluctance to conform and even served a warning to a few MPs that they were not immune. The wharfies stopped the port, marched up Taylor Square and staged a burlesque of the show inside and all but stormed the courtroom when a couple of their number were arraigned, and a seaman's union secretary abused them roundly for their ignorance of Marxist theory while his members cheered and whistled from the gallery till they were unceremoniously ejected."
Such were the joys I guess. Nowadays you'd bee hard pressed to find a journo who needed to be brought into line though, judging by the way the mainstream press is repeating verbatim what ever slander is told about the CFMEU.
Roger Milliss. Serpent's Tooth: an autobiographical novel. (Penguin, 1984)
by Tara de Bohmler
In a nutshell: CIA spy extraordinaire Jake Hayes (played by Chris Rock) is mercilessly gunned down while on a mission to save the world as we know it.
Fortunately for the CIA news breaks of an identical twin brother, Kevin Pope (allegedly also played by Rock).
Unfortunately he is from the 'wrong side of the tracks' and getting killed while spying for the US Government is way down on his 'must do' list.
Fortunately the CIA pre-empts all this and - in between sheltering Kev from the truth - feeds him a load of old cobblers about his future being safe in their hands. Plus there is a small matter of $25,000 being on offer for successfully completing the mission.
But money does not un-maketh the bad boss and no amount of remuneration would excuse the lack of respect this kid receives on the job. Kev is largely left on his own without a clue - or even a bullet proof vest - while terrorists seek his scalp. Meanwhile, this movie is supposed to be funny.
It does deliver a couple of good one-liners and the acting is faultless but it is so full of tired old clich�s no one really needs to see the film to know what happens next. The car chase scene is good for the first fifteen minutes. The 'running against the clock' scene works for a while. Kidnapping the girlfriend works in every other movie so why not this one?
But there is one scene that says it all. Sitting in a park near the very start of the movie Kev is playing a game of chess when his girlfriend rings. Suddenly he feels the game has gone on for long enough. Leaning forward to his opponent he moves all pieces from both sides around the board until he has finally checkmated his way to victory. Lets face it, he says, it would have happened this way anyway. Then he asks for $20.
Watching the movie inspires the same feelings of dejavu - along with a strong desire to press fast-forward through much of the 'action'. For this reason alone, it might be worth waiting until Bad Company comes out on video. Personally I'd rather the $20.
Then there is also the small matter of the US Government's recent announcement that it intends to recruit at least 4% of American's citizens as spies (no this is not still part of the movie plot). Presumably these would be the domestic style of spy that we currently recognise as nosey neighbours.
But armed with the support of the US Government and a clear brief to find terrorists and report them, who knows in what sticky situations they might find themselves in the line of duty.
The trouble is that if too many folk see Bad Company, the US Government might have a little trouble trying to recruit people able to swallow the bait. Heavens forbid that folk may suspect the US Government could treat them with the same disregard shown to Kev. Even worse: they might expect a wage.
In order for America to save the world as we know it, now might be a good time for Hollywood to re-focus the propaganda on this issue.
one out of five stars (a must not see movie)
I remember a fellow, once called Honest John,
A leech and a lawyer, his good name has gone,
He steals from the sick and the old and the poor,
And most of the voters are begging for more.
But I am one of the old chums but I don't vote for you
May the flying cows crap on all those who do.
I remember John Howard when he first came to power,
A Napoleon, a colossus, the man of the hour,
Long knives in his service, and no time to sleep,
As he hacked his way to the top of the heap.
I remember the docklands and gauleiter Reith
He smiled like a rat or he snarled through his teeth,
He trained a foul army of treacherous swine,
But he failed, and he faltered, and he ran out of time.
I remember a Bishop, self-seeking and bold
A possible leader, cast out from the fold
A welfare utopia that encountered a hitch,
And kerosene baths from blonde Bronwyn the witch.
I remember Phil Ruddock and his camps of despair,
And the tormented children held prisoners there,
History must mark him for the worst kind of fate,
Flaming hell, if there is one, must be lying in wait.
I remember Tony Abbott, a fellow to fear,
Liberty and justice have no place here,
He'll slash and he'll burn, and his time will come,
And he's much further right than Attila the Hun.
I remember Daryl Williams and his grizzles and fights
To crush freedom of speech and destroy civil rights,
His sly secret police, with fresh sharpened claws,
Will arrest without charge and detain without cause.
I remember Costello, he lurks in the wings,
Bean counting and cunning he quietly sings
An anthem for you John, a requiem, a dirge,
He'll be cock of the walk at the next bloodless purge.
But I am one of the old chums but I don't vote for you
May the flying cows crap on all those who do.
I am one of the old chums but I don't vote for you
But the truth is there's no one to give my vote to.
While everyone now seems to agree that the question of union control of party forums is a red herring, the real question is what responsibilities elected Labor MPs carry.
Are they elevated to elected office by dint of their own intrinsic value or are they merely custodians of a workers' movement that created the party they represent more than 100 years ago?
The answer to this question is integral to any renegotiation of the relationship.
If one takes the view that these are brilliant individuals who have achieved office because they are talented and wise, then it would be fair to give them freedom to set their own course into the future.
If one takes the broader historical view and recognise Labor MPs as representatives of the movement, then they must carry certain obligations into the Parliament.
Like adhering to the policy of the Party they are elected to represent, even when it may not be electorally popular. Like championing policies consistent with trade union values, even at the risk of losing a few dollars in corporate sponsorship. Like treating trade unions as partners in policy, not headaches to be side-stepped and avoided.
The problem with the current reform agenda for many in the union movement, is that the call to break ties come from those who have taken the most from the union movement; who have been shoe-horned into seats on the back of the factional deals that they now purport to undo.
It's like the ethos of people born wealthy who then profess a firm belief in the rights of the individual over the society - they turn their backs on the structures that have given them their privileged position.
The current project seems to have become more about how to make 'brand ALP' most electable, rather than making the Labor product as good as it can be.
John Button copped all sorts of flak this week for his essay on the future of the ALP, not least for the headlines that had him calling on the Party to sever ties with the union movement.
But maybe this should be the starting point of a new relationship. Let's go back to first principles and work out why it is that the relationship exists in the first place.
Let's look at the experiences abroad where social democratic parties are independent of organised labour; let's see what happened when the Swedish union movement severed all ties with the political party it created; let's see how the British movement has fared under Tony Blair's New Labour.
If on the evidence it is determined that the relationship should continue, then let's lay it out clearly: what is expected of the ALP, what is expected of MPs, what is expected of union leaders and what is expected of the rank and file.
If there's going to be a New Deal, the union movement and its leadership must be partners in the process not victims of the outcome.
The ALP makeover has to work for both wings of the movement, to create a vessel that flies politically and industrially.
And if Simon Crean succeeds in forging a New Deal it should be recognised that it is not the unions he has busted; but the ideological void within the political wing of the movement that made his predecessor unelectable.
I was recently called to defend my position as a union organiser at the Cole Royal Commission (Royal Circus). This is my first experience in any Royal Commission.
I was shocked to find that statements and evidence given was of such a poor standard it would not have been accepted at a normal court, industrial commission or at the Chief Magistrates Court (CIM). People would say anything at all with no witness or supporting evidence.
The old tale of not letting the truth get in the way of a good story.
Commissioner Cole even helped give evidence and assistance to Mr. G. Campbell (employer who gave statement involving myself) in the evidence box. The only trouble was the story Cole was telling was not the truth.
This circus is not interested in fraud, tax evasion/ minimization or any of the problems that we know and see every day in the building industry. Not interested in security of payment to subcontracts. We have had two Royal Commissions into the building industry in 10 years and the most serious issues have not been addressed!
For example, Mr Pyers from the Housing Industry Association said in evidence
"Are you able to tell the Commissioner what proportion of members of the Housing Industry associations in New South Wales and the ACT pay their employees strictly in accordance with relevant awards?
-I wouldn't be able to give you an exact percentage in relation to that. A significant portion, if not the vast majority, of our members build single dwelling houses and those who operate in what might be described as the housing sector of the industry certainly pay their employees on an independent contractor basis. But I would be unable to assist in relation to the exact percentage who pay in terms of awards.
This is tax fraud and evading employees statutory entitlements!
The likely amount that employers in the cottage industry in Australia are defrauding the taxation department is approximately one billion dollars a year.
I included Mr Pyers evidence in my statement to the Circus and asked the counsel assisting if he wished to ask me any questions about Mr Pyers evidence. Dr Collins (counsel assisting) shook his head in the negative.
The only real conclusion I could come to as a result of this experience is that the Royal Circus is not interested in tax fraud, tax minimization, or trying to solve the problems associated with the building industry. Rather it is an $80 million exercise to deregister the CFMEU or endeavor to get parliament to pass legislation making it very difficult for a union to operate.
* Terry Kesby is a CFMEU Organiser. He organizes in the "off site" area - workplaces such as joineries and glass factories. This is his first article for Workers Online.
"If I had my time over again I would never be a fast bowler. It's not worth it." - Harold Larwood, English Cricketer
When I was a young lad and started showing an interest in Australian Football I was lambasted by my father who argued that Rugby League allowed a man to represent his country.
Even putting aside the fact that no one in our family was ever going to represent Australia at Rugby League, no matter how many games we played in the Penrith juniors, this statement always struck me as somewhat
Coming hot on the heels of the World Cup, League's attempt to provide international contest proved to be something of a dud. For as long as I can remember this has always been the way.
For over a generation Australian sides have belted the living crap out of all comers, except for the odd loss to the Kiwis in the wet, and those games affected by jetlag due to Australia's reluctance to stand up to international terrorism.
Given that League is hot property - outside of Queensland and the northern half of NSW - in Papua New Guinea, the eastern suburbs of Auckland, obscure parts of England's once industrial north and France's agricultural south-west I don't think that cosmopolitanism is its great strength.
Which is probably why the Australian Rugby League team was wary of the big broad world before their clash with England over the off-season.
Now the Australian Cricket team faces a similar test of character, with the upcoming test-series against Pakistan, scheduled for October, under something of a cloud.
Ruddock says it's safe over there, but Australia's cricketers - led by 'Quickie' McGrath and that great lover of poetry and red wine, Shane Warne - would beg to differ.
The ACB has also voiced its concern.
Someone is lying, either Phil Ruddock or the Australian Cricketers, or maybe both.
It would be a strange thing indeed if it's safe enough for those who came here looking to get away from the madness, but not for those who exhibit all that is strong and manly about this great land.
In these militaristic times maybe it's time for that great lover of cricket, John Howard, to show some leadership on this issue.
Australia's partner in the War On Terror, Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf, said he would personally intervene to pressure the Australian cricket team into touring.
Musharraf, while declaring his national team was the best in the world, said he would contact the Australian government to ensure that the tour would go ahead as originally planned in Pakistan.
Pakistan already seems to have accepted it has lost home rights for a tri-series one-day tournament between Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand slated for August-September.
The Pakistan Cricket Board said it was awaiting the green light from Australia and New Zealand to shift the series to Kenya.
Talk about playing away!
The man who is like John Wren but with a better publicity machine, Eddie McGuire, is going to find it increasingly tough to defend his 'old mate' Brad Cooper as the HIH debacle drags on. It's a sign of the times that a corporate collapse is the lead story in football circles mid-season.
I guess if you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas. Stay tuned for a Locker Room exclusive on that great Magpie loving Sydneysider and friend of football, Brad Cooper, next week.
We'll also turn our attention to the Commonwealth games, where we remember all those sports men and women that died so that we could keep China British.
Phil Doyle - looking for someone to smear his blood on late in the third quarter.
ASIC Targets Management Greed
Australian Securities and Investment Commission chairman David Knott has called for an end to management greed, asking boards to avoid short-term pay-offs in rewarding executives. Knott says the structuring of executive payment packages was an affront to good corporate governance. He says executive options should be expensed in company accounts and that disproportionate option issues were an affront to shareholders. He also noted that all countries should be committed to ensuring that options tied to remuneration packages were properly accounted for. (Source: AAP)
Brokers Eye Register For The Bad Boys
The stockbroking maxim "know your client" could be turned on its head if a radical proposal to make information about advisers more easily available is implemented. The Securities and Derivatives Industry Association has formed a working group to examine a proposal that would allow employers, and possibly the public, to search the register before taking on an adviser. Variously described by broking sources as a "rogue traders register" or an "undesirable advisers list", the proposal is based on the US model, which makes professional information about advisers publicly available. While the idea is still in the conceptual stages, SDIA policy executive Doug Clark said the present system made it difficult for members to get comprehensive information about individual brokers. (Source: SMH)
Business Group Urges ACCC Curbs
But talk of greater regulation does not wash with Australian business. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry this week attacked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, claiming its use of the media is aggressive, damaging to firms and should be strictly limited by a code of practice. In its submission to the review of the Trade Practices Act, ACCI has lashed out at the ACCC's use of the media to enforce the act. Such behaviour needed to be constrained by a code of practice, limiting the ACCC's ability the use the media, the ACCI said. (Source: The Age)
Good-Time Guys Enjoy The Good Ship HIH
Far more than an insurance company, HIH appears to have been a benevolent society for young men on the make. According to evidence before the HIH Rroyal Commission this week, Brad Cooper, a Rodney Adler protege who ran an HIH subsidiary, scored $250,000 for his club, Collingwood - weeks before the insurer went belly-up. The money was paid, with no firm arrangements in place for its use, when Mr Cooper was running for election as a club director as part of the team of his mate, Eddie McGuire, the Collingwood president and a Packer protege. With HIH struggling in the six months before it collapsed on March 15 last year with debts of $5.3 billion, deserving creditors were sent chasing up many a dry creek gully. Meantime, what Mr Martin termed "rivers of money" were flowing to Mr Cooper, a man the QC described as "less-deserving" precisely because he was in debt to HIH at the same time he was being paid millions by it. (Source: SMH)
Rivkin Faces Insider Trading Trial
Flamboyant Sydney stockbroker Rene Rivkin was this week committed to stand trial on one charge of insider trading. The high-profile broker was taken to court by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. The commission alleged Rivkin bought Qantas shares just hours after being told by the head of the now defunct airline Impulse that it was likely to merge with Qantas. Counsel for the corporate watchdog, David Yates, SC, told a committal hearing today in Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court that Rivkin bought 50,000 Qantas shares just hours after speaking to Impulse Airlines owner Gerry McGowan. Rivkin must now face a jury in the NSW Supreme Court on a date to be fixed. (Source: AAP)
Lights Off At Opentel And Spike
And a couple of dot.com fairytales came to end this week with two long-suffering dot coms, Spike Australia and Open Telecommunications, laying off around 260 staff between them. Web designer Spike - which was placed in the hands of insolvency experts Ferrier Hodgson last week - sacked most of its staff at noon yesterday and by 3pm had closed its doors. Less than an hour later, one-time Packer favourite Open Telecommunications told the stock exchange it was also in the hands of administrators. Its 200 staff were stood down pending the outcome of a creditors' meeting next week. (Source: SMH)
Well, blow me down, and tickle me with a feather duster ... "executive remuneration linked to share prices can lead to an unhealthy preoccupation with supporting a company's share price and too heavy a focus on short-term performance." This might be as obvious as the nose on a seasoned wino's face to the average Joe but, coming from the boss of the Australian Secutiries and Investments Commission, it is being treated as a flash on blinding insight. Mr Knott is one of a number of business "players" addressing himself to the issue of corporate governance.
While big business continues its whinge about the prospect of the ACCC having some powers, the Australian Consumers Association says they should be strengthened. It fingers the Commonwealth Bank, GE Capital Finance, Colonial State Bank, St George Bank, Primus, Orange, Microsoft and Gator.com for forcing consumers into unfair contractual arrangements. It points out that Colonial State Bank consumers can be deemed in default of their home loans if they are late paying off a credit card bill.
Two out of three insurance companies within the doomed HIH Group were insolvent fully two years before the whole outfit went tits-up, leaving$5.3 billion in bad debts, according to evidence at the HIH Royal Commission.
On the subject of Commissions Royal, we wonder what Old King Cole makes of a Master Builders Association plan to lower insurance costs and give consumers increased protection. Cole has set himself up as something of a champion of the under-capitalised, marginal industry player, railing against CFMEU efforts to ensure compliance with tax, workers comp, safety and a host of other liabilities. The Master Builders Association is negotiating with insurers to create a non-protit corporation offering discounted insurance to builders, subcontractors and developers with "exemplary" records. Under the proposals, members would have their work inspected and they would be required to undertake education on codes, practises and occupational health and safety. In short, to make the thing work it seems it will not be open to the chancers, phoenixers and tax rorters relied on so heavily by counsels assiting the Cole Commission. A suspicious mind, with a limited grasp on industry reality, might even see it as compulsory unionism by the back door.
Here's another humdinger by way of homily. Get this - corporations focus too much on their bottom lines and need to pay more attention to community and enironmental concerns. Says who? Well, Leon Davis actually and he is the chairman of Westpac. Yes, you're right, Westpac is a bank and a bloody big one at that.
They're beating their breasts and wringing their hands about corporate governance over in the US as well. Amazing what a bit of a glitch on the old stockmarket will induce in champions of deregulation. Trouble with old George is that nobody takes him seriously which, given that he is a wholly owned subsidiary of US Inc, is probably not all that surprising. Now those pesky journos are raking over the whole Harken business again. Bush was a director of Harken, a member of its audit committee in fact, when he decided to sell his entire holding for $US800,000 ($4 a share), barely two months before the price went into free fall. Those shares now trade for 40 cents a piece but the Securities and Exchange Committee absolved Bush because the price went up for one day, after he sold.
Corporate scandals move one block closer to the White House with news that vice president Dick Cheney had been party to allegedly illegal accounting practises by his oil company. Cheney stays mum about corporate wongdoing, refusing to answer all inquiries about his tenure as CEO at the oil services giant, Halliburton, a position he held until 2000. But Devid Lesar, Cheney's successor, informs Newsweek magazine that the VP had been "fully aware" of accounting formula that counted projected revenue as earned profits, obscuring the true picture of company finances from shareholders.
Analysts Merrill Lynch reveal that if US corporations were compelled to tell the truth by including stock options as costs, many would suffer massive hits to their bottom lines. Such a bookkeeping change would reduce reported earning across the country by billions of dollars with more than 100 companies suffering declines of more than 20 percent in their reported earnings. Internet seach engine, Yahoo, for example would have seen its earnings per share turned from plus 10 cents a share to a loss of $1.47. According to Merrill Lynch, 42 percent would have been carved off Dell's earnings, 35 percent from AOL Time Warner and 22 percent from Microsoft.
Still, reassuringly, Cheney and Bush have a cunning plan. They want to recruit more than four percent of their country men and women as citizen spies. The extraordinary plan, known as TIPS, or the Terrorism Information and Prevention System, would leave the US with a higher percentage of citizen informants than the former East Germany when the Stasi was at the peak of its powers.
TIPS informants are being primarily recruited from those whose work gives them access to homes, businesses or transport systems. Posties, utility employees, truck drivers and train conductors are amongst those being targeted. Civil liberties groups warn that, in conjunction with the Patriot Act passed earlier this year, there is potential for abusive, large-scale, secret investigations of US citizens.
Federal Reserve boss Alan Greenspan catches onto the reality of unregulated capitalism, albeit a bit late in life, informing a Senate committee that "infectious greed" has gripped the nation's business community. Dr Greenspan professes to being "deeply distressed" to learn accountants are ratifying dodgy figures because he always banked on their integrity. "I was wrong," he confesses. "The incentives overcame the good judgement of too many corporate managers. It is not that humans have become any more greedy than in generations past. It is that the avenues to express greed had grown so enormously."
Meanwhile, back in Australia, the champions of economic deregulation in the Howard Government, refuse to back down on internationally-challenged regulations that see asylum seekers thrown into detention centres. After 12 and 13-year-old Woomera escapees take refuge in the British Consulate in Melbourne, it emerges that while they were holed up in the South Australian desert with their mother and siblings, their father was living in Sydney under a temporary protection visa
Finally, building industry unions are understood to be taking lessons in direct action from Nigerian village women holding 700 Chevron Texaco employees hostage at the giant Escravos oil terminal. The 600 women, aged 30 to 90, are threatening to strip naked if the American multi-national does not hire local labour and devote some of its profits to developing their run down communities. "Our weapon is our nakedness," says Helen Odeworitse, a representative of the women in the seven-day-old protest. Some Nigerian tribes consider displays of deliberate nudity by wives, mothers or grandmothers an act that shames those at which it is aimed. No comment has been received from the mainly American, British, Canadian and Nigerian oil workers on the protest front line. Labor Council secretary John Robertson says building industry workers are watching Nigerian developments with "mounting interest".