||Issue No. 182||13 June 2003|
The Dead Couple
History: Nest of Traitors
Interview: A Nation of Hope
Unions: National Focus
Safety: The Shocking Truth
Tribute: A Comrade Departed
History: Working Bees
Education: The Big Picture
International: Static Labour
Economics: Budget And Fudge It
Technology: Google and Campaigning
Review: Secretary With A Difference
Poetry: The Minimale
Satire: Howard Calls for Senate to be Replaced by Clap-O-Meter
The Locker Room
The Dead Couple
Harvester Man and his stay at home wife was the model for most of the last century's labour relations: the idea that every worker had the right to an income that would satisfy his and his family's basic needs.
It was based on the Harvester Judgement that established the Living Wage that would be the battleground for National Wage Cases for 80 years. The Commission would impose across the board wage increases based on the cost of living, ensuring Australia truly was an egalitarian nation.
That was until the mid-80s when TINA seduced the world. Margaret Thatcher's infamous dictum 'There Is No Alternative' elevated economic fetishes like 'productivity' and 'efficiency' above the needs of workers.
TINA flashed her eyelids and the Harvester Man keeled over in the face of financial deregulation, privatisation of public assets, contracting out of core services and the growth of global corporation.
There's no doubt TINA delivered on her promises to corporate world, providing a momentum for hyper-profits that made their captains incredibly rich, but left normal workers wallowing in the Three I's of inequality, insecurity and work intensification.
But, as acirrt's research confirms, for Austraian workers the seduction was nothing more than a come-on.
The vast majority of jobs that TINA has created have been casual, jobs with no security and no entitlements to leave. Meanwhile the shrinking pool of full-time workers work longer hours, the overtime predominantly unpaid.
TINA's pressure is not just being felt at work; its spilling over into the family where working mums and dads juggle their responsibilities with increasing panic as their work and home lives collide.
TINA is killing the community too; membership of all organisations is down - which is hardly surprising when workers finish their days too tired to get up from in front of the telly.
The call to arms from this week's conference is to recognise TINA for the brazen hussey she is, show her the door and start rebuilding our working lives.
In the minds of Australian workers TINA has already gone; and the research presented from surveys and focus groups confirms Australian workers are seeking a leader to bury her.
The agenda for ACTU Congress that Greg Combet unveiled this week to address labour market fragmentation is an important circuit-breaker and places the union movement at the centre of this shift to start again.
Indeed, many unions are already addressing the issue - through industrial agreements that recognise the rights of long-term casuals and contractors; and in test cases to defend secure employment.
But where there is a real void is at a political level. While the Howard Government may be able to sail into office by defending our borders through the symbolic issue of boat people; it still sleeps with TINA.
Last election Howard tapped the sentiment of Australian workers to his own devices; but his free market economic ideology will never address their underlying issues.
It will take more than tinkering around the edges and will require serious political will; from the graveyard of workplace models we need to build a vision of work that strengthens communities, rather than divides them.
But if any political party could articulate this vision into a coherent workforce policy, it wouldn't matter who was leading them; they'd be a shoe-in to win the next election.
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