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Issue No. 199 10 October 2003  

Those of us preparing to protest US President George W Bush’s visit to Australia must tread a fine line – between condemning the policies of an illegitimate president with a dangerous agenda and damning an entire nation.


Interview: No Ifs, No Butts
Rugby League Professionals Association president Tony Butterfield on his battle to deliver a collective agreement for NRL players.

Unions: National Focus
In this month’s national wrap: Noel Hester meets a heavy hitter talking up open source unionism, truckies front the suits at Boral’s AGM, tales of corporate bastardry and Medicare birthday revelry.

Industrial: Fools Gold
Unions have thrashed out a string of protocols with the NSW Labor Government. Some, now, are questioning whether they are worth the cheap, imported paper they are written on, reports Jim Marr.

Bad Boss: Bones of Contention
Byron Bay chicken boners have nominated thier boss for a Tony after seeing their entitlements plucked.

History: The Gong Show
In late September the South Coast Labour Council (SCLC) celebrated 75 unbroken years championing the rights of workers in the coastal Illawarra region 80 kilometres south of Sydney, writes Rowan Cahill.

Politics: The Hawke Legacy
The election of the Hawke Labor government twenty years ago holds some salient lessons for today’s Labor Party, writes Troy Bramston.

International: Sick Nation
As Australia celebrates 20 years of Medicare’s universal health coverage the crisis facing American workers in need of medical care is a useful reminder of what we’ve got – and what we stand, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Closed Minds
Philip Mendes looks at the political influence of right-wing think tanks, their financial backing and asks why the left hasn’t been able to get its ideas out there.

Review: Mixing Pop and Politics
He's had relations, with girls from many nations... but Billy Bragg seems to like us Aussies as much or even more than any of the others, writes Pádraig Collins.

Poetry: One Size Fits All
There once was a man from the Lodge - Who tried hard, our poems, to dodge... Resident bard David Peetz is back!


 Rail Whistleblower Attacked - Again

 Royal Con on Tape

 Call Centre Stumps Umpire

 Breakthrough for Email Privacy

 Harbour Sell Off Sparks Occupation

 Harvey World Travel Locks Up Tour

 STOP PRESS: Telstra Drops Out

 Workers Voice Gets Hard Edge

 Employees Disable Hard-Ball Bosses

 Canberra Eyes Crash Windfall

 Bush Whacker - Dubya Fingered

 Assault Costs Education Department

 Uni Workers Stand Up To Feds

 Thousands Say No to Cole

 The Town that Struck

 Activists Notebook


North By Northwest
Phil Doyle returns from up north, where he survived on nothing but goodwill, good people and a great big orange bus.

The Soapbox
The $140 Million Patriot
It would be hard to imagine a steeper slide from hero to zero than the experience of Richard Grasso, the now-deposed head of the New York Stock Exchange. writes Jim Stanford.

Bush's Bad News Blues
The Bush Administration is cooking up a new campaign 'to shine light on progress made in Iraq', writes Bill Berkowitz.

The Locker Room
A Tale Of One City
Phil Doyle gazes into the crystal ball for signs of life, and finds that somewhere the horses are running in the wrong direction.

With Banners Furled
There is no better account of the glory that was the annual Labour Day marches than that given by Kylie Tennant in Foveaux, her fictional account of life in inner Sydney in 1912, the year she was born.

The Westie Wing
Our favourite Macquarie Street MP, Ian West MLC, reports on the world of NSW politics.

The Cancun Wash-Up
The dramatic collapse of the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico, last month has been followed by a deafening quiet from Geneva, Brussels and Washington, writes Peter Murphy.

 On The Waterfront
 An Honest Job
 Letter From America
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Call Centre Stumps Umpire

An up-and-coming cricket umpire has had dreams of a first class career stumped by a La Trobe Valley call centre that won’t give him Saturdays off.

Bjorn Hoekstra’s talents in the middle saw him given a first-class call-up by cricket authorities but TeleTech’s Moe management had other ideas, even though the required leave had been cleared through the company’s Melbourne head office.

The decision by local TeleTech management comes amidst claims of staff money going missing from a social fund, management blocking child care proposals, and an attempt to force employees onto AWAs.

The plight of TeleTech workers came to light as the ACTU blitzed more than 70 call centres nationally.

The effort of a cricket umpire from the battling La Trobe Valley to reach the highest level of the sport in Australia is an outstanding achievement. First Class umpires can go on to officiate at test and state level.

Hoekstra had arranged time off through the company's human resource managers in Melbourne but local management refused the employee's request for Saturdays off.

Local TeleTech management is also opposing a move by the Moe Council to place a childcare centre in the facility which TeleTech shares with the Department of Community Services and a university.

Staff are also trying to trace where money paid weekly into a social club has gone. Staff are currently unable to account for or locate funds from the social club. The social club's treasurer is the local TeleTech manager.

The attempt by TeleTech to pressure its employees onto AWAs is an attempt to avoid meeting the conditions of the Contract Call Centre Award according to Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) organiser Gail Drummond.

"TeleTech management are putting their head in the sand hoping we will go away," says Drummond. "We are not going away."

A majority of staff at TeleTech's Moe facility are union members.

"They know its normal to join a union," says Drummond. "TeleTech are trying to avoid being a part of the Contract Call Centre Award, which would give employees penalty rates and better conditions. Well we're going to make them a part of the award."

TeleTech's Moe operation, which employs around 400 people, has had a staff turnover of 25% of the La Trobe Valley's population in the last two years.

The ACTU week-long organising blitz on call centres - dubbed the sweatshops of the 21st century - involved activities ranging from mass meetings, petitions to management, stop work meetings, wearing stickers to BBQs and more.

As well as the CPSU the main unions involved included the Australian Services Union, the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union, the Financial Sector Union and the National Union of Workers.

A Call centre Hotline set up by the ACTU recorded complaints including unpaid training, harassment and bullying, petty time-keeping and performance monitoring and humiliation when unrealistic targets for sales and call times not met. Call centre employees called for the right to be covered by the new Contract Call Centre Award - offering pay rises of up to $1,000 per year, the right to join the union and the right to permanent status for long term casuals.

The ACTU Call Centre Hotline is 1300 365 205

"The stories we've heard this week show the need for better regulation to achieve decent minimum standards in the call centre industry," says ACTU campaign coordinator Belinda Tkalcevic. "It's been amazing to hear the relief in people's voices when they realise the union can help them resolve problems at work."


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