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Issue No. 179 23 May 2003  
E D I T O R I A L

The Game’s Up
Research into executive pay commissioned by the NSW Labor Council makes explicit what most of us have suspected for some time: the multi-million packages are a rolled gold rort.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Staying Alive
CPSU national secretary Adrian O'Connell talks about the fight to keep the public service - and the union movement - alive.

Bad Boss: The Ultimate Piss Off
Wollongong workers on poverty-level wages are losing up to $5000 for taking toilet breaks, according to the union representing staff at a Stellar call centre.

Industrial: Last Drinks
Jim Marr looks at the human cost of the decision to close Sydney’s Carlton United Brewery

National Focus: Around the States
If Tampa told us that John Howard circa 2003 is the same spotted rabid dog from 1987, this week’s assault on Medicare confirms it reports Noel Hester in this national round up.

Politics: Radical Surgery
Workers are vitally interested in Medicare, not least because they traded away wage rises to get it. Now, Jim Marr writes, the Coalition Government is tearing apart the 20-year-old social contract on which it was founded.

Education: The Price of Missing Out
University students and their families will pay more for their education following the May Budget, writes Tony Brown.

Legal: If At First You Don't Succeed
Love is wonderful the second time around, goes the famous torch song. But is the same true for legislation? Asks Ashley Crossland

History: Massive Attack
Labour historian Dr Lucy Taksa remembers the general strike of 1917 to put the recent anti-war marches into perspective

Culture: What's Right
Neale Towart looks at a new book that looks at the failings of the Left, while reasserting the liberal project

Review: If He Should Fall
Jim Marr caught Irish folk-rock-punk legend Shane MacGowan at Sydney’s Metro Theatre. He was surprised but not disappointed.

Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Through a distortion in the time-space continuum, we have found a recording showing how people a few years into the future will deal with health care.

Satire: IMF Ensures Iraq Institutes Market Based Looting
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has agreed to monitor the Iraqi economy to ensure that the reintroduction of looting into the economy conforms with free-market theory.

N E W S

 War Declared on Mega Salaries

 Poms Prick Golden Parachute

 Picket Breaks Abbott

 Abbott: Unions are Winning

 Hotel Silences Poverty Witness

 We’ve Lost A Lion

 Nurses Refuse to be Shelved

 Boss Picks Porters’ Pockets

 Left, Right Meet at Sea

 ACTU Prescribes Pan Medicine

 Tycoon Tuned Out

 MUA Clout in Wollongong Punch-Up

 Pusey Roams Dark Side

 Activists Notebook

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
What May Day Means to Me
Reader Marlene McAlear penned this tribue to May Day and worker solidarity.

Solidarity
The Toast
Labor Council secretary John Robertson's toast to the annual May Day dinner in Sydney.

The Locker Room
The Numbers Game
In life there is lies, damned lies and sporting statistics, says Phil Doyle - but who’s counting.

Postcard
Brukman Evicted
ZNet's Marie Trigona reports from the streets of Argentina in the rundown to last week's presidential election.

Bosswatch
The Costs of Excess
Some tall business poppies had their heads lopped this week as the laws of economic gravity applied their always chaotic theory.

L E T T E R S
 Hard Copy
 Bad Language
 Modern Management Theory
 Tom's Revival
 Off the Rails
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Abbott: Unions are Winning


Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott admits unions have frustrated his agenda to de-unionise Australia’s workforce.

In a 20-page submission to Cabinet colleagues, Abbott confirms public servants are turning their backs on AWAs and non-union agreements in massive numbers and, as a result, are winning higher wages than Government would like.

Abbott highlights the success of public sector unions and the failure of his policy in a front page executive summary that bemoans the ...

- "low use by agencies of Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs)"

- "declining level of non-union collective agreements, and

- "continuing trend for agreements to provide pay increases which exceed the average level of pay increases in the private sector ..."

The leaked document concedes the take-up level for AWAs is "minimal" below senior executive level and outlines a remedial strategy that jettisons all pretence of genuine choice.

Abbott recommends a revised policy framework that will force all new Australian Government employees and successful applicants for advertised vacancies to take up AWAs.

In a bid to force down union-negotiated wage increases future certified agreements will have to "reflect the Government's commitment to wage restraint" and be signed off on by relevant ministers, rather than departmental heads.

Further, Government will continue its policy of requiring that any increases be funded from existing budget allocations.

The Minister blames public service unions, the AIRC and secret ballots for his failure to lure significant numbers onto individual contracts.

"Unions are making the form of agreement a threshold issue in negotiations," Abbott tells colleagues. "The strategy invariably involves unions conducting a ballot of employees as to their preferred form of agreement prior to negotations commencing and seeking the assistance of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) where the form of agreement remains an issue.

"Unions have on a number of occasions successfully asked the AIRC to recommend a secret ballot of employees on their preferred form of agreement. This culture of collective decision making does not easily co-exist with the mainenance of professional standards and responsibility."

Abbott draws attention to "several" union negotiated settlements returning members increases of more than five percent, against the September quarter average of 4.3 percent.

CPSU national secretary Adrian O'Connell says most public sector workers are facing their third round of bargaining since legislation changed in 1996.

"They know what works for them and what doesn't," O'Connell said. "People stick with collective agreement because they work and produce fair outcomes for all parties."


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