|Issue No 2||26 February 1999|
SCG Ushers Do It Standing Up
By Peter Lewis
This is not a junket. Repeat. This is not a junket. We are at the World Series Cup final at the SCG to collect valuable information about the ergonomics of ushers' chairs.
We must observe the workers when the ground is at full capacity. The fact that this involves getting access to the Members Stand while the Australians battle England is something that none of us can avoid.
We meet a WorkCover inspector, a members of the SCG Trust's management, a staff representative and MEAA organiser Lindsay Varcoe as Adam Gilchrist takes to the Poms's opening attack.
The issue is a serious one. The 240 ushers and security staff who are required to stand for long periods have requested WorkCover and the Labor Council investigate appropriate seating in some areas.
Think about it. Try standing in the one place for up to four hours.
We circle the ground, inspecting the various work stations as top order wickets fall; through the members stand, private boxes, into the Brewongle and even then commentary box where a surprisingly fit looking Ian Botham squeezes past.
WorkCover inspector Roger Fairfax notes the seating provided as Varoce and Labor Council's OHS officer Mary Yaager quiz workers about their shift cycles.
SCG Trust events manager Tom Packer leads the group around, offering suggestions about how each post could be improved. "I want a fair outcome", he insists.
Rotating shifts within defined work teams is one way the Trust ensures workers aren't stranded for long periods in places where they must stand.
At most posts, commonsense prevails. Fold-down chairs are suggested, to ensure that the ushers are always in a position to get up quickly to deal with patrons.
By the time Bevan is rescuing the Australians with a customary knock, the group have reached broad agreement on most of the issues.
Which means there's little to do but retire to the Members Bar and talk to Varcoe about organising.
The SCG is not your average workplace. For a start there's a big circle of grass in the centre of the office where household names write sporting history.
Its also a workplace where all the staff are casual employees, who work long hours at high intensity on match days.
And most suprisingly, it is a casual workplace with high levels of union membership -- an estimated 70 per cent membership -- and an active workplace consultative committee.
There is a strong commitment to the union amongst the ushers, many are semi-retiredworkers who spent their working lives as members.
Up in the Brewongle stand there's John, who was a member of the AMWU before taking redundancy, and says he works at the SCG "for beer money".
He worries that not all the ushers are members but says the MEAA's high profile is making inroads.
Varcoe says he attends as many events as he can get to, walking around and talking to the ushers and letting them know he's the union representative.
"You may not get people to sign up the first time, but as you become more familiar your chances of recruiting improve," he says.
He also says the changes to federal laws which have made life more difficult for trade unions, have, perversely, been a great bargaining chip for him.
"One of things Reith did was to outlaw union rules that forced members to give three months notice before they resigned.
"Now I tell prospective members to give us a try, they've got nothing to lose and if they don't like the product it's easy for them to pull out."
MEAA and other unions are building on their recruitment in sporting arenas through their involvement in the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
With big job opportunities on the horizon, they believe there is a big opportunity to promote union membership during this period.
If that means attending more big sporting events they can bank on Workers Online's ongoing support.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005