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  Issue No 2 Official Organ of LaborNet 26 February 1999  




Trades Hall

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.


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 2 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Checking the Spellar
We talk to a former union official who is now a minister in the Blair Government about the difficult relationship between New Labour and the labour movement.
*  Unions: Working It Out
NSW trade unions have embraced a movement-wide campaign to deal with the vexed issue of ensuring workers have a life.
*  History: Remembering The Eveleigh Railway Workshops
The Eveleigh railway yards have a rich history which your average commuter would never imagine.
*  Review: Opening Tanner's Australia
Lindsay Tanner's new book offers a frank and forthright view of the future for Australia.
*  Campaign Diary: Carr And The Unions
No-one would accuse the Premier and the labour movement of being bossum buddies, but their fortunes are inextricably linked.

»  Revealed: Reith Defies Own Pollster To Bash Unions
»  What's Going Down at Gordonstone?
»  VSU To Stop The Music
»  Employment Advocate Dines Out, But Not A Sausage For Workers
»  Union Interpreter Translates The Word “Exploit”
»  How Much Can A Koala Bear?
»  Botsman Shifts North To Tame The Rednecks

»  Guest Report
»  Sport
»  Trades Hall
»  Piers Watch

Letters to the editor
»  No Fan of Piers
»  Don't Be Glib
»  EMILY's List International Women's Day bash

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