|Issue No 2||26 February 1999|
Smells Like Collective Spirit
By Peter Lewis
NSW unions took the message "Don't Get Screwed" to young workers over the summer, establishing a striking presence at all the big music festivals.
Young officials and delegates set up stalls at HomeBake, Survival Day and Sydney's Big Day Out, distributing information about unions, workers rights and other issue that affect young people.
Unions represented at the festivals included the Eletrical Trade Union, the Maritime Union, the Australian Workers Union, the CFMEU the Public Service Association, the Fire Brigade union and the Misos (LHMU).
Labor Council's Peter Zangari says the reaction to the union presence was good with punters particularly interested in what unions are doing about youth wages.
"A lot of the people at HomeBake and the Big Day out have the type of jobs where they feel the effects of junior rates," Zangari says. These include jobs in the restaurants, hotels and shops who are paid according to their age up to 21 years.
More than 1,000 signatures were collected for a petition opposing junior rates which will be submitted to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission's inquiry into the retention of junior rates.
The Howard Government wants to renege on the timetable established by the Keating Government to eliminate age-based discrimination from industrial awards. But unions argue employers should be more interested in a worker's skill than their age when setting wages.
"The petition is one way that young people can make their views known to the Commission," Zangari said.
More importantly, the stalls have established a foothold for unions in youth culture, which Zanagari believes should be consolidated upon.
Ideas for future festivals include a competition for a trade union song, CD giveaways on the day and personal appearances at the stall by supportive rock stars.
Statistics show many young people are staying away from trade unions, often because they are in casual and part-time work. But Zangari says a good union can be of value to these types of workers too.
"What we're discovering is that, regardless of the type of work you do, people do want someone standing beside them in the workplace," he says.
"When you are in your first job, you don't know what your rights are and, even if you do, it is pretty difficult to take the boss on.
"Our message is that being a member of a union means you have someone you can turn to who knows the score and will make sure you are not on your own if things turn nasty."
The union presence at the festivals builds on the fledgling alliance between progressive politics and the music industry which was forged during the federal election.
More than 200 bands including big names like the Whitlams, Superjesus, Regurgitator and the Cruel Sea signed up for the Howard's End campaign, playing anti-Howard gigs in the lead-up to the October ballot.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005