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Issue No. 156 11 October 2002  

Work and the Meaning of Life
The high-profile case of Kamal El-Masiri takes the debate over the intersection of work and family onto an altogether higher plane.


Interview: The Wet One
NSW Opposition industrial relations spokesman Michael Gallacher stakes out his relationship with the union movement.

Bad Boss: Like A Bastard
Virgin Mobile is sexy and funky, right? Well, only if those terms have become synonyms for dictatorial or downright mean.

Unions: Demolition Derby
Tony Abbott likens industrial relations to warfare and, like a good general should, he is about to shift his point of attack � from building sites to car plants, reports Jim Marr.

Corporate: The Bush Doctrine
For the powerful, consumerism equals freedom, and is all the freedom we need, writes James Goodman

Politics: American Jihad
Let�s get real. The origins of modern Islamic terrorist groups are in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Langley, Virginia not Baghdad, argues Noel Hester.

Health: Secret Country
Oral history recordings are an inadequate tool in trying to find out what happened to Aboriginal stockmen and their communities on cattle stations in Northern Australia, writes Neale Towart

Review: Walking On Water
On the 20th anniversary of the first AIDS-related death, Tara de Boehmler witnesses the aftermath of losing a loved one to the illness in Walking On Water.

Culture: TCF
Novelist Anthony Macris captures life on the shop floor in this extract from his upcoming novel, Capital Volume II

Poetry: The UQ Stonewall
The University of Queensland has sought to join the ranks of union-busting companies like Rio Tinto in trying to sack the president of the local union - and made the mistake of thinking they were dealing with an array of acquiescent academics.


 Muslims Snubbed in Discrimination Laws

 Workplace Racism Rife Post S11

 Mad Monk�s World In Turmoil

 Qantas Directors Bust Wages Freeze

 Deregistration on Cole Agenda

 Aussie Wharfies Save Farmers

 Victorian Libs Block Pay Rise

 Dad�s the Word For Steelworkers

 Funeral Workers Dig in Their Heels

 Unions Expose Truth Of McDonalds� People Promise

 Gay and Lesbians Workers To Meet

 VTHC Urges Compassion For Colombian Refugees

 New Zealand Workers Win Paid Parental Leave

 WorkCover Inspectors Off the Road

 Mine Guards Shoot Own Workers

 Unions On Call For Working Young

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
I Walk The Line
American civil rights leader Jesse Jackson has weighed into the Hilton Hotel dispute with this special message to the workforce.

Mekong Daze
Union Aid Abroad's Phil Hazelton fires off a missive from Laos where he is spending a year working with the community.

Month In Review
Bush Whackers
It was a month where the world teetered on the brink of peace, no thanks to the leader of the free world, writes Jim Marr

The Locker Room
The Laws Of Gravity
Phil Doyle goes looking for the fine line that separates sport from an exercise in time-wasting

Snouts in the Trough
It�s AGM season in the corporate world, and deal after shady deal is being exposed as highfliers treat company accounts like the proverbial honey-pot.

Songs of Solidarity
There has been a proud history of pro-worker tunes dating back to the early days of the 20th century, which will be continued in a new CD, writes Dan Buhagiar.

 Who Is Farmhand?
 Direct Voting Rights
 Iraq is a Gobalisation Issue Too
 Letter to George Dubya
 WTO and Schools
 Casual Thought
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Work and the Meaning of Life

The high-profile case of Kamal El-Masiri takes the debate over the intersection of work and family onto an altogether higher plane.

While the images of a young Muslim man in traditional dress taking a stand for his right to observe his religion makes great media, the issue of how much of one's life should be sacrificed for a job is much broader.

The manager at TPG, whose intransigence created this week's storm is just the worst case of management, freed of the constraints of the central wage system, acting as if they have some sort of divine right to rule their workforce.

We've heard the arguments on how enlightened companies are providing family friendly policies like workplace-based child care, extended parental leave and home work.

Conservative politicians may be happy to shine a light on the companies - typically in the profit-bloated finance sector - that embark on these programs, but talk of compulsion gets short shrift.

That's why the Prime Minister will not even countenance a right to paid maternity leave. One could only imagine his attitude to enshrining a Muslim's rights to pray.

At the heart of this debate is the question of the very nature of work and whether it exists separate to or integrated with the rest of one's life.

The traditional position has been that the eight hours of work was a separate chunk of life - it was governed by individual rules that treated all workers the same.

That position was trashed by labour market deregulation, with its assertion that businesses should be judged on their own special circumstances and not be bound by universal rules.

Unions and their members have played their part, accepting enterprise bargaining and embracing new rules of employment in the interest of creating stable and secure jobs.

But employers are now being asked to come to the party and make good their flexibility rhetoric - taking the same principles that justified special deals for enterprises, to their employees.

In Kamal's case the issue seems a no-brainer. He was prepared tot take ten minutes off his lunch break to pray in the afternoon. No loss of productivity and less time away from his desk than the average smoker.

The rejection of this deal is a breaking of this supposed consensus where employer and employee are equal agents, who can sit down and negotiate fair outcomes between themselves.

Of course, that's always been crap and without a union - that much-denigrated 'third party' - beside him, Kamal would by now be looking for a new job.

This is not an issue about race or religion; it is a story of management prerogative and a worker prepared to stand up for his basic rights to be the person he is while at work.

Peter Lewis



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