The revelations are contained in an Autonomy Socialisation proposal for the Manufahi Regency prepared by the Governor of East Timor, obtained by and translated for by the delegation.
Outlining a plan to spend US$400,000 in the province promoting the pro-autonomy case (the alternative to outright independence), the Governor specifically targets militia groups as being "community organisations" which should play a role in "educating the public about the details of the autonomy plays".
Militia groups the BRTT, FPDK, Kilbur and ABLAI are all earmarked for funding in the document.
The money would be spent on "socialisation activities" including: traditional activities, trucks and vehicles, and the employment of 150 full-time workers for the campaign".
Labor Council senior industrial officer Chris Christodoulou, a member of the delegation, said the documents confirmed what all the group suspected.
"When we were flying from Dili to Jakarta we were adjacent to Enrico Gutteres, the leader of the FPDK," Christodoulou recalls.
"He was surrounded by what could only be described as Indonesian military intelligensia who were armed with mobile phones, lap-top computers and cameras.
"There was clearly an organised and well-funded infrastructure being developed around the militia leaders."
For a full account of the Dili delegation see Chris's report in "From Trades Hall"
The NSW Teachers Federation says the procedures governing the notification of child abuse allegations to the Ombusdman's Office are so oppressive that teachers will be discouraged from undertaking certain duties.
Procedures released from the Ombudsman require the notification of all allegations of child abuse, regardless of the allegation being proven.
According to hypotheticals outlined in the official procedures, teachers could be subject to a complaint in the following situation: "A child attending a school camp takes ill at night, It is not possible to obtain immediate medical attention. The teacher in charge treats the child with over the counter pharmaceuticals, until the child can be transported to a doctor the following day. An allegation is made by the parent of the child that the teacher neglected the child be failing to obtain immediate medical attention."
The union has also been told of a situation where a parent has alleged "abuse" after their child wasn't selected in the First XV rugby team.
In both cases a record of the complaint would be kept on the teacher's file and could be used to identify the teacher as a potential risk to students.
Teachers general secretary John Hennessy says if the Ombudsman's guidelines are applied in this manner, teachers won't be prepared to put themselves at risk by undertaking out of hours activities.
"Why would you take a music camp or select a football team if it could ruin your career?" Hennessy says.
The Teachers also have concerns with the process of handling complaints under the new legislation, which flowed from the Wood royal Commission.
"Teachers are being suspended under a cloud, being told they talk to their colleagues and then waiting up to 10 months to get a hearing," Hennessy says.
"In trying to stop the abuse of children the legislation is subjecting innocent adults to their own mental abuse."
The Labor Council is seeking a meeting with the Commissioner of Children and Young People to look at the concerns.
The Invisible Minister
Meanwhile, unions are becoming increasingly frustrated with the inaccessibility of Education Minister John Aquilina.
The Teachers Federation still haven't been given a chance to talk pay even though their agreement expired this week.
Working teachers are now seeking meetings with their local MPs, frustrated that the Minister won't engage in any discussion of their pay claim. The Federation's annual conference this week will now consider the Minister's non-response.
And the Shop Assistant's union (SDA) is also frustrated that Aquilina won't meet it to hear concerns about the treatment of apprentices under the Vocational Training Assistance Scheme.
In an issue that dates back to June 1996, young workers in regional NSW are being expected to travel large distance to complete TAFE courses with an allowance of just $11.50 per night.
The Labor Council resolved to bypass the Minister and take the issue up directly with the Premier.
Council secretary Michael Costa says he'll seek legal advice on whether the naming of the Bill breaches the Trade Practices Act as misleading political advertising.
Costa says the title of the Reith laws is clearly a marketing exercise based on the false premise that the anti-union laws will increase pay and improve working life..
"What these laws will do is the exact opposite - they will erode pay and conditions and increase job insecurity, undermining the quality of working life for thousands of Australians," he says..
"We'll be investigating whether, as the taxpayers fund the passage of legislation and the title of the legislation is being used for propaganda purposes, whether this constitutes publicly funded political advertising. If it does, there's a clear argument that the advertising is misleading."
The so-called "Second Wave" legislation was tabled in the House of Representatives this week and will be considered by the Senate later in the year.
Key elements include:
- making it easier for employers to force workers into agreements which leave them worse off.
- allowing employers to put AWAs into effect before they have been approved.
- making it compulsory for the IRC to issue immediate orders stopping any non-protected industrial action, regardless of the merit of the employer's application.
- imposing complicated procedures for postal ballots of members before industrial action can be taken legally.
- stopping unions entering a workplace unless they have a written "invitation" from a member.
The ACTU has been briefing community and church groups about the impact of the changes in a bid to generate broad opposition to the laws before the Australian Democrats determine their passage. Even employer groups are now beginning to wonder if the Reith laws are going too far (see this week's Interview with Roger Boland).
Lawyers Speak Out
Meanwhile, a national group of prominent industrial lawyers who have just completed the first detailed critical analysis of the latest proposals from Minister Reith.
The 13 - page critique has been signed by more than eighty barristers and solicitors in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide. The group intends to appear before the Senate Committee of Inquiry into the proposals and campaign for their rejection.
The spokesperson for the group, Mr Kevin Bell QC says: "The Australian community must realise that the Reith proposals are not merely evolutionary change but would, if implemented, attack several fundamental features of our industrial system, and most particularly its fairness and balance".
Mr Bell gave the following examples:
· The powers of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission are to be further weakened. Guaranteed life tenure for its future members is to be abolished so that, for the first time, it will not have the independence necessary to be a fair umpire. It will be for the government to decide who will get life tenure or only a seven year term. The Commission is therefore liable to become a tool of government.
· The award system will now exist in name only as the Commission's powers to make awards will be further reduced. For example, in addition to the restrictions previously imposed by Minister Reith's government, the Commission will not have power to make awards in relation to transfer between job locations, training or education, accident make-up pay and skill-based classification structures.
· Unions have again been target for punitive treatment. Access to work places will require written request from workers, industrial action will have to be authorised through complex secret ballot procedures and special powers are to be conferred on the Commission and the Courts in relation to union industrial action.
· Workers will have only a very limited ability to ask the Commission to make awards where minimum conditions are prescribed by State legislation. The Commission will usually be required not to deal with a dispute in such a case. In Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia, where minimum conditions legislation is currently in place, the contract of employment, and not the award system, will be the primary basis upon which employment is regulated. In future award protection will normally be out for workers in those States.
· Small businesses will also have an important existing right taken away. Independent contractors such as truck drivers will no longer be able to ask the Commission to review the fairness of their contracts.
Mr Bell said that "the proposals will ensure that unions get tied up in red tape so that they are not able effectively to represent their members. Special new forms and procedures have been introduced for notifying industrial disputes, engaging in industrial action, holding secret ballots and obtaining access to work places, to name but a few examples".
"At a time when government is trying to reduce red tape for business, it is increasing it for workers and their unions".
Mr Bell said that the Reith proposals were undoubtedly in breach of Australia's obligations under at least two treaties of the International Labour Organisation. "The Committee of Experts of the ILO recently recorded a formal finding that the existing Workplace Relations Act was in breach of ILO law. Minister Reith has responded by proposing amendments that will make the extent of the breach worse."
"Australia once had a proud reputation for fairness and equity in industrial relations. Now it ranks with those nations who do not observe their international laws."
by Dermott Browne
The 190 page report, tabled this week, claims that public-service managers were put under pressure to cut staff numbers quickly, and consequently gave little strategic thought to the future of their workforces or their departments' ability to perform their duties. The report also point out the cuts have a disproportionately effect on Aboriginal and Torres Strait staff and disabled staff.
The Government has yet to respond to the report.
The CPSU has welcomed the report, saying it vindicates its opposition to the Howard Government's massive downsizing and highlights the negative effect these cuts have had on the Public Service's ability to retain experienced staff, deliver services and provide policy advice.
Assistant National Secretary of the CPSU, Doug Lilly, said, "This report confirms that the Government's cuts to the Public Service have gone too far. Public Service staff, and the community, deserve a better deal."
The CPSU has called on the Government to use this report as an opportunity to move away from downsizing and embrace more creative ways of keeping the staff needed to provide accountable and accessible public services.
"We would be happy to see the Auditor's call for a strengthened redeployment framework taken up by the Government and we look with interest to a response from Minister Kemp." said Mr Lilly.
At a glance:
ANAO Report into Public Service Redundancies:
- Many agencies have put their on-going performance and essential corporate knowledge at risk by focussing on the short-term financial gain of 'letting people go'.
- The loss of experienced staff and the proportional rise of staff with only two years or less experience may effect the ability of the public service to conduct its business.
- The highest proportion of staff retrenched were aged 50 or over, and had more than 10 years experience
- There have been a disproportionately large number of retrenchments among disabled staff and Aboriginal and Torres Islander staff
- Recruitment to the Public Service is at its lowest level in 10 years
- Expenditure on staff development tended to fall during periods of staff reductions
- Agencies need to monitor and evaluate staff reductions more close to ensure they can still deliver services and identify any unintended effects.
- Agencies should "improve the level of support" they provide to those staff remaining in the organisation following a round of redundancies
The members of the CFMEU building division entered the Jeans West city store and removed all clothes apart from their hardhat, a skimpy pair of locally made boxers and a cheeky grin.
Lunchtime shoppers and TV crews gathered as they flexed their hard bodies and held a banner proclaiming "I'd rather wear no clothes than be clothed with exploitation".
The action was organised by FairWear, an alliance of churches and unions, committed to ending outworker exploitation. Campaign convenor Lisa Addley says Jeans West is one of a shrinking number of Australian companies refusing to sign the code.
Jeans West claims that because all its manufacturing is done offshore, there is no point to signing. But FairWear argues that even firms importing goods have a moral responsibility to ensure they had not being made with exploited labour.
Under the Homeworkers Code of Practise, a signatory undertakes to take responsibility for the labour behind their labels, including ...
Retailers who have signed the code include: Best and Less, Big W, Brown Sugar, Coles Supermarket, Daimaru Australia, Davenport, David Jones, Dotti, Events, Fashion Fair, Gowings, Jacqui E, Jag, Jasprop, Just Jeans, Katies, K-Mart, Lowes Manhatten, Maggie T, Myer Grace Brothers, Neat'n'Trim, Najee, Pelaco, Portmans, Rockmans, Roger David, Saba, Scuttle, Sussan, Suzanne Grae, Taking Shape, The Clothing Company, Westco Jeans, Witchery, Woolworths.
They join about 75 manufactures who have signed the code, including the following retail outlets: Anthea Crawford, Brian Rochford, Carla Zampatta, Consolidated Apparel, Dara Star Fashions, Diamond Cut, GA Fashions, General Pants, Hadfom, Hot Clothing, Hot Gossip, Kenwall, King gee, LA Shirts, Lisa T-Shirts, Mont Adventure, My Garment, paddymade, Physico Clothing, Ranier, Resort Report, Review, Sheriden, SF Corporate, Sportsgirl/Sportscraft, Table Eight and Trent Nathan.
Big name manufactures who have also signed up include: Berlei, Bonds, Holeproof, Hot Tuna, House of David and Sara Lee Intimates.
And four retailers have gone all the way and signed a Deed of Co-operation with the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union. They are Australia Post, Country Road, Ken Done and Target.
FairWear encourages consumers to choose brands and retailers outlets from this list when buying clothes.
by HT Lee
The CFMEU Construction and Forestry Divisions, Australian Workers Union, Municipal Employees Union, Australian Services Union and the Rail, bus and Tram Union used the ALP's Country Conference to oppose competitive tendering which the Carr Government currently favours.
Transport Minister Carl Scully told delegates he was in favour of outsoursing jobs. And according to him the CFMEU, AWU, MEU, ASU and PTU have narrow views - the future lies in competitive tendering which was going to happen regardless of what the unions thought.
Other issues of contentions were the use of body hire and workers compensation. Both these issues are interrelated with competitive tendering and will cost jobs in the bush.
Competitive tendering means the shedding of permanent jobs in the bush especially in the RTA, RSA, FreightCorp, State Forests and Local Governments.
These jobs will be tendered out to the lowest bidder. The companies getting the jobs will be those using body hire labour.
Workers employed by body hire companies are casuals and are supplied on a daily basis. The workers are not paid proper award wages and miss out on entitlements such as workers comp, sick leave, long service leave, redundancy payments and on the job training - workplace safety is also threatened.
The unions called forstrict regulations on the use of body hire. The CFMEU Forestry Division pointed out that :"the social and economic well-being of rural and regional communities depends on the maintenance and creation of safe, secure, well paid jobs, not the unregulated, precarious employment offered by labour hire."
The loss of jobs through " voluntary" amalgamations of regional councils was also raised at the conference.
Local Government Minister Harry Woods claimed amalgamations would lead to the growth of local government. The MEU refuted that claim and pointed out the Victorian experience has seen massive job losses in the bush.
MEU organiser Steve Hughes said there will be a loss of services and jobs especially in the bush. Amalgamations will lead to the halving of jobs in areas such as the administrative and engineering sections.
However, the bush will be affected more because " there are not many opportunities for jobs in rural communities and they can' t go somewhere else like cross the street for a job. Once they are gone opportunity goes and people will leave the bush area."
The Minister for Education and Training John Aquilina was also grilled on the question of the collapse of apprenticeships in NSW and the failure of the Labor Government to address this problem.
According to CFMEU Construction rural apprentices have been given a raw deal: "The Department of Education has been systematically closing technical colleges in regional NSW in recent years to the detriment of both employers and apprentices who are increasing required to travel long distances for block release technical training."
The unions demanded Minister Aquilina address these problems and increase the travel and accommodation expenses of apprentices doing block training.
A historical step in union solidarity was taken when the amended resolution on the social audit was successfully moved by the CFMEU and seconded by the AWU.
Unless Carr addresses the concerns raised by the unions at Country Conference a collision course between the unions and the Carr Labor Government at the State Conference in October seems unavoidable.
Members of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) are concerned about the increasing use of VDU technology, with proposals for each worker to monitor six screens simultaneously at the new CityRail Blacktown control centre.
It says the close monitoring required is leading to eye fatigue amongst members and has also flagged concerns about the way the Control Centre has been designed.
The RBTU is worried that an informal agreement that all workers would receive half hour" eyestrain" break every two hours is no longer being honoured by CityRail management
While CityRail has a screen based safety policy for data entry workers, the union fears that this is not appropriate for people intently watching six screens at the one time.
"The screens a signaller are required to monitor are very detailed including things like network maps, track circuit, signal and point numbers, crossovers and warning information," RBTU signallers president Shane Astley says.
"All this is displayed in an array of colours that would not be out of place on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise."
Labor Council industrial officer Mary Yaager has stepped into to help the signallers and is organising a WorkCover inspection of the new control centre to develop safety guidelines for the Centre.
As the Carr Government this week delayed the transition of private underwriting of the troubled scheme, Costa gave his personal backing to a proposal to break the scheme into smaller industry funds.
Underwriting of the Scheme was to have been transferred to private insurers on October 1 this year, as recommended by the Grellman Inquiry, called in 1997 to look at ways of rescuing a scheme which had been bleeding since the Fahey years.
But the Workers Compensation Advisory Council, made up of union and employer representatives, asked for a 12 month deferral on the grounds that insurers were pushing for higher premiums and benefit cuts, while expecting an upfront profit.
Costa says the next 12 months provides an opportunity to look at more imaginative ways of dealing with the issue, particularly in light of the rapidly changing nature of the workplace.
He says a proposal by the CFMEU, to establish an industry scheme which tailors the collective of premiums to match the structure of the industry may have broader merit.
"This scheme may have gone as far as it can go," he told this week's Labor Council meeting. "It's was a great scheme for the Industrial Age but the complex nature of the new labour calls for an alternate approach."
"Breaking the WorkCover monolith into smaller industry-based tailored schemes will give a greater focus on OH&S, compliance and injury management.
"It's too difficult to do this effectively at an aggregated level."
Trade unions will now meet to look at pursuing alternative models for workers compensation."
Workers at AGC voted to accept the non-union deal 62 per cent to 38 per cent despite a vigorous union campaign to reject it and seek a better deal.
But FSU state secretary Geoff Derrick says the union is heartened by the inroads it made, after starting with just three per cent of the members.
The ballot was important to the FSU because AGC is the only wholly-owned finance company to offer lower wages and conditions than those paid to bank employees. the union had argued for parity given the merging differences between AGC and Westpac staff.
While the deal entrenches a lower rate for AGC, Derrick is confident the bank will put broader plans to set AGC wages as the benchmark on hold.
"If the bank struggled this hard to get the deal through what was effectively a non-union shop,m I think it will now be very reluctant to try to push this type of agreement in areas where the union is more active," Derrick says.
Derrick says the union was always behing the eight-ball in campaigning against the deal: "We were effectively ambushed,. As soon as we became acitve the employer pulled on the ballto and we ran out of time."
He says the FSU was also hindered by federal laws that allow an employer to release a document, immediately open a ballot which lasts 14 days to approve a n agreement which last three years.
"We come away stronger in AGC than ever before," Derrick says, "It's given us a platform and a profile. We've identified a number of workplace issues such as hours of work and the pay system, which we will work with our members to pursue within the company over the life of the agreement."
The next key date for AGC staff is October when workers will submit to performance assessment in order to get a pay rise. The FSU will be ready to assist, Derrick says. "We understand this sort of pay system and the inconsistencies that can flow from it.
by Paddy Gorman
The CFMEU appealed to the Federal Court to uphold a ruling by Commissioner Hodder last year that the illegally sacked Gordonstone mineworkers should have preference of employment when the mine reopened.
The company appealed Commissioner Hodder's decision before a Full Bench of the Commission, which upheld the appeal by a 2-1 majority.
The Federal Court ruled the Full Bench of the Commission had erred in law in quashing Commissioner Hodder's decision, but said that under Section 150 of the Workplace Relations Act, it did not have the power to quash the Full Bench of the Commission's decision.
The Federal Court also ruled that the Commission was wrong when it registered a non-union Certified Agreement involving secretly recruited employees hired by a Rio Tinto $2 shelf company. The Court ruled that this Certified Agreement was void because it was registered before the business was operational.
CFMEU Mining and Energy Division General President Tony Maher welcomed the Court's quashing of the Gordonstone non-union agreement. 'It is an important precedent in stopping Rio Tinto and Patrick-like companies using shonky $2 companies to rip workers off".
Tony Maher said that while the CFMEU had won the case 'hands down' in the Federal Court, the illegally sacked Gordonstone miners were robbed of justice by the combined effects of a legal technicality and two serious legal errors of the Industrial Commission.
"The Federal Court ruled that the Full Bench of the Industrial Commission got it wrong when they quashed Commissioner Hodder's decision and they got it wrong again when they allowed Rio Tinto's $2 shelf company to register a Certified Agreement.
"What sort of a system is it when workers are recognised as right in law and yet are allowed to become the victims. We will be examining all our options and will be consulting the labour movement as this decision has implications for all workers," said Tony Maher, who called on Rio Tinto to cease victimising the sacked workers and employ them.
For the remainder of 1999 there are also special mid-week packages for just $150 for a full cottage. Available for union members and their families.
For more information contact Dave or Margaret on 9974 4141 or fax them on 9974 1328.
On the 25th of June I was one of the twenty five workers who went on strike. We were joined with Union members and supports as we set up a picket line out the front of Hyde Park Plaza Hotel.
When we first got the news the hotel was going to outsource the housekeeping department, we had no idea what to do. We turned to the Union for guidance and support and we received much more. Trade Union Training Australia organisers Troy Burton and Rebecca Reilly were inspirational.
When we called for help, they came to our aid. They were there for us right from the beginning. They gave us lots of support and reassurance. They listened to our problems, answered our questions and through them we tried to come to some kind of compromise with the hotel management. We are truly grateful for there efforts and continuos support.
I would also like to thank the people who came and helped us set up the picket line, especially those who arrived at 7am in the freezing cold and stayed to support us through out the day. Although Mirvac decided that they would withdraw the threats of the workers termination just after 11am on Friday, I would like to thank the people who rallied together at noon to give us support, we did appreciate it immensely.
It was great to see so many people behind us in our fight for Mirvac to sit up and listen to us. We won our fight that day and I believe that we also won respect from the management of the hotel as well.
With the union at our side I believe that Mirvac will now continue to listen to us and take us seriously.
Thank you everybody we appreciated all the help and support we received.
Sir or Madam,
It was with great interest I read the two News Articles in ISSUE 19 25th June 1999: NO SHIP IS AN ISLAND by Zoe Reynalds.(MUA Media Officer) & HOW SWEDE IT WAS (DR ERIK ECKLUND).
My how times do change! pigs arse. The M.U.A. has to be commended and all power to them,for winning "Workers Compensation Rights" for the Russian Seafarer Nicoolai Abramkin.But with the commendation to the MUA I must also give them a blast from the past and to the present.
Since leaving School the only thing I ever wanted to do was go to sea,and to some extent this still apply's to myself today.I left school at fifteen and after working at various jobs for a few years,I decided to try and join the (what was then)the Seamans Union.On my first application it was clear I wasn't,for reasons only best known to the Union wanted.I made several overtures to the Union to no avail. Being a committed Socialist this left a very bitter taste in my mouth,and I was
resolved to my situation and future.
Some short time after my last attempt to join the Union, I discovered there were non Union Ships operating out of the Port of Adelaide,I consequently gained a berth on one of these ships a two masted ketch, still operational under Sails,good training for a novice.
After serving on the Ketches for some time,I managed to secure a job on another ship to further my career.Little did I know at the time, It was a ship under the control of the Seamans Union.Whilst standing on deck one day I was approached by a member of the Seamans Union,who demanded to see my Union Book of course shock horror I wasn't a member.I offered to join as was my dream, but NO get off the Ship NOW.No not back to the Ketches my job was now gone.
Of course this is all history now,and some thirty years have passedsince I have had contact with a Maritime Union.Until the Patricks dispute.Being even after my early contact with the Seamans Union a staunch Socialist and good Union man,I manned the barricades at Freemantle to help in the dispute,after all thirty years had passed and they let bygones be bygones.
Whilst standing with an MUA organizer one evening at the barricades drinking a cup of tea, and reminiscing about the old days, I said in passing "You know I wouldn't mind going to sea again" He replied "Well you'll never get in this Union mate" I guess some things just never change.MUA here to stay.with whom I ask? not with me obviously.
Oh and by the way,Im still willing to join and yes at least I know Peter Reith dosen't tell porky's all the time.???????????
I cannot believe in this day and age there are people who do not understand their responsibilities as citizens in a democracy. I am referring to a letter in the most recent issue questioning the compulsory nature of taxation.
Does this person not need infrastructure? Does this person not need or use our roads, schools, hospitals or legal system? If so, who does s/he expect to pay for this? At a time when it is so evident that smaller government can only take Australia back, I find it disturbing that someone could question its very existence.
Yours in Union,
by Peter Lewis
Let's start with Reith's second wave. You're on the record as warning it goes too far. How so?
It's not so much about going too far. However AiGroup has a number of concerns about some areas including the prohibition on project agreements for the construction industry, the new requirement that parties have to pay to seek assistance from the Commission to settle disputes, the removal of long service leave from the list of allowable award matters and we are wary about the onus to be placed on employers to eliminate closed shops. In respect of the latter issue though, the actual wording of the Bill has largely removed the concern.
Are you concerned that there are ideological elements to these reforms which may not be rooted in the practicalities?
I think some of the proposed changes are tinged with ideology but what political party doesn't run on ideology?.
What about the first wave of reforms that have already passed?
As a general proposition we think the 1996 changes work well. The changes to awards, the bargaining process changes have worked fine. Where it hasn't worked for us is in relation to the levels and incidence of industrial action in Victoria. We've argued strongly for some strengthening of those compliance provisions - section 127 hasn't worked that well in our experience; access to protected action has allowed some unions in Victoria to abuse it. Essentially because of the Victorian situation we have argued for the stronger compliance provisions; if we had an environment in Victoria more like the one in NSW, then it may be that we wouldn't have pushed as strongly for those changes, if at all.
At one level it must come down to: what is industrial relations there for? From the unions' perspective it's there to help equalise the bargaining position between employers and employees. How do you see it?
On a theoretical level, we say the current act has struck just about the right balance between the interests of capital and labour. We are pushing for some tougher measures in compliance because of renegade unions in Victoria. Apart from that and other measures in the Government's Bill which largely amount to fine tuning, the balance is about right. Unions and their members now have a statutory right to take industrial action in support of enterprise bargaining claims - a right they never had before 1993, so there is a better balance between competing interests.
How has globalisation impacted on that equation and the relationship between unions and employers?
It's led to a situation where employers and employees have to take more direct responsibility for their actions rather than rely on centralised control of the wages and IR system. This has led to significant increases in productivity much of which can be attributed to a more flexible system based on enterprise bargaining. As far as relations between unions and employers are concerned, in most cases I think they are very good and it is more a mature productive relationship. Unions in manufacturing and construction in Victoria are the exception.
Why do you say this leads to increased productivity? Why do you think its good not to have the third party in the system?
I'm not saying there shouldn't be third parties. I think unions and employer organisations have a legitimate role in the IR system, so I'm certainly not suggesting the elimination of third parties and I include the industrial tribunals in that. What I am saying is that given the world economic environment, Australia is far better off with a system that relies on the enterprise to determine the level of wages and employment conditions with an award safety net to protect the low paid. A centralised system in the Accord environment may have been appropriate for the times. The world has moved on and so must the IR system. In my view we will never go back to a centralised system whatever political party is in power. Economic imperatives and globalisation will not allow it.
From an employers' perspective, what are the valuable things that unions offer?
I think the most valuable service is collective representation. For example, many employers in manufacturing and construction would prefer to deal with employees collectively, through their union, rather than on an individual basis. A good illustration of that is the fact that 1.3 million employees are covered by collective agreements while only 50,000 are covered by individual agreements, that is AWAs. That is a story in itself. Ninety per cent of collective agreements are made with unions representing their collective membership. So the preference is for collective arrangements. Having said that, employers are increasingly becoming fed up with the mindless militancy of a small group of unions and are exploring ways of either creating alliances with more moderate, responsible unions or dealing directly with employees.
So you don't think the benefits of an AWA for a big employer are that great?
I think there is a mixed role for them - an important role but I don't think even the Government would suggest that the purpose of AWAs was to replace collective bargaining. AWAs tend to suit a small business or small groups of employees in big business. AWAs are also proving very useful for single purpose arrangements such as the cashing out of accrued leave entitlements. AWAs are an important option which Ai Group supports.
Your organisation was one of the main beneficiaries of the Accord. Five years on what is your evaluation of the Accord?
I've got a more positive recollection of the Accord than many people of that era. We achieved a lot of good things in the metal and engineering industry in award restructuring and training and in containing the growth of real wages at a time when it could have gotten away from us if it hadn't been for joint commitment to broader objectives. The Accord was appropriate for the time. That is no longer the case. As I said before, the world has moved on and there will be no return to an Accord.
Do you see a path to decentralisation that doesn't leave workers left behind?
We cannot afford to leave workers behind for reasons of social and economic cohesion. Any system regulating wages and working conditions has to pay particular attention to those in weak bargaining positions. That is why a fair and just safety net is so important. Whether that safety net should in the future be awards is a moot point but there must be a proper safety net.
Beforethe last federal election, the ALP came out with a policy which attempted to wind back the clock to some extent. What would employer groups be looking for next time around from Labor?
I think employers did see the last policy as winding back the clock and going back to the Brereton legislation. There was no support within the business community for that. Hopefully the ALP is reviewing its policies in that respect and will bring them more up to date. I think they'll have to face up to the reality that the current legislation is just about right. If they endorse that, they'll probably get reasonable support from business. I don't think the business community, overall, is looking for a radical second wave of legislative change. I don't think they're looking for a Big Bang New Zealand approach. I think the general view among our members is that it's about right. They don't want a Des Moore-type radical deregulation approach over the next few years. Evolutionary change? yes. But not to the extent that it gets out of kilter the balance between capital and labour. Minister Reith has raised the idea of the Corporations Power - we have to look at that, if only to get rid of the enormous baggage that goes with the Conciliation and Arbitration power and its implementation. For 100 years, the implementation of that power has become so distorted that it's a mess. If Corporations Power can clear that out, but at the same time, as the Minister has proposed, maintain the Industrial Relations Commission, which still has a proper role to play in settling dispute and in setting minima, then that must be seriously considered
What about issues like job security and contracting out. Do employers feel any sort of responsibility to workers?
There's been an enormous shift in employment patterns from full-time employment to the use of more casual labour and part-time labour,. A lot more employers are using independent contractors and labour hire companies to do their work. You can understand unions' concern when you have 28 per cent of the Australian workforce on casual work. I have a personal concern about the social implications of that number getting any bigger. What the solutions are, I don't think the Australian Industry Group has found those yet. Amongst employers as well there is some concern about Australia having the highest incidence of temporary employees outside of Spain. but the enormous competitive pressures on employers and the need for flexibility is pushing them more and more to these alternate forms of labour.
You think they're doing this reluctantly?
They're doing it because they don't see any other alternatives. Some are doing it because they see the costs of employing full-time labour as too high. In small business there is still the concern about unfair dismissal laws. We've just done a regional survey of our members and unfair dismissals still comes up as a primary concern: that if you take someone on the law makes it hard to terminate their employment. they see it as being easier to take a casual on or got a labour hire firm to do it for them. It also gets rid of concerns about annual leave, long service leave and sick leave and the like. It makes it much easier for an employer if someone else has that worry
Given this mindset, and your personal concerns about the impact of precarious employment, what needs to happen for business to engage with those broader issues?
One thing would be a more constructive dialogue between employer organisations and unions and I don't think either side has really put enough effort into generating that sort of dialogue. Simplistic solutions proposed by some unions like increasing casual loadings to deter employers from taking on casuals or reducing working hours or setting up costly trust funds to allow for portability of employee entitlements will only worsen the problem. What is needed is a rethink of our whole approach to work, education, retirement and family and the linkages between these.
Finally, gazing into your crystal ball 20 years, how will industrial relations be conducted and will there still be unions?
As I said earlier, the change in our industrial relations system is distinctly in the direction of more decentralised arrangements. We have come a long way in a relatively short space of time but there is probably some more distance to travel. I would say though, not all that much farther if the Government is successful in getting its latest changes through the Senate. Looking out 20 years is a long time. In five to ten years, the system we have will, I think, be more a refinement of the existing system than a radically different one. As for unions, I do not think there is any doubt that they will still be around. Take New Zealand for example,. Even after massive deregulation the more forward-thinking unions, unencumbered by ideology, have survived to the extent that 80 percent of collective agreements are still negotiated by unions as bargaining agents.
Since the 1960s waves of migrant women - Italians, Greeks, Lebanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Laotians - have been welcomed to Australia with an offer of impoverishing, debilitating work in Australiaís clothing and textiles industry.
The homeworker's is a hidden world of work, whose subversive influence is spreading in an age of deregulated and globalised industrial relations. Fair Wear, a network of churches, community groups and unions, is campaigning for a living wage for homeworkers, and for their right to work in a safe and healthy environment. Yvonne, a Sydney homeworker, is just one of many thousands that Fair Wear is trying to help.
Yvonne pushes the fabric beneath the needle, hammering out a neat seam along the length of material she will shape into a fashionable mauve blouse, which will soon catch the eye of young women in boutiques and department stores. They will pay nearly $100 to gratify an image of themselves captured in its tempting sheen. A sub-contractor will give Yvonne $6.50 for each of the 400 blouses she has made over the last two weeks. ìAlways the pay is no good.
Yvonne has worked from home in the decade she has been in Australia, and her new life as a clothing industry homeworker, or 'outworker' - a term which for too many employers is code for 'somebody else's problem'. Home is in the bayside Sydney suburb of Sans Souci, a wistful french expression which means 'without care'. Yvonne's Sans Souci home and workplace rattles to an impatient clamour of trucks and cars, and has no view of the serene bay. Yvonne cannot afford to be without care. She has a family to support, and she must work.
Twelve hours a day, six days a week, Yvonne stoops and peers to follow the cloth disappearing along its line of becoming fashion, steady and straight and without error. "I can do different garments very quickly - shirts, nightdresses, polo shirts", she proudly explains. Today, she double stitches the shirt front and carefully works around the collar. "Very hard", she smiles.
Yvonne spent five years making polo shirts for "a big company". She made good money, she says, up to $10 an hour. But then the big company went overseas, like so many others that have moved offshore or into corporate oblivion, driven into decline, in part, by the humble and unwilling competition of Yvonne and the army of women like her - about 300,000 at the last count. Yvonne went from serving the big company to half a dozen sub-contractors touting piece work for fashion houses and designers, and always driving down the rates. "I get very, very tired, but must work longer, because the pay gets lower".
Over the last few years her pay per hour has dropped from $10 to $7, and often falls to $4 or $5 per hour. Sometimes she is paid by the garment, like the blouse she is making today. Recently she was paid $3 an item for a dress which retailed for $149. Like most homeworkers, Yvonne knows the value of her work. She just doesn't see it in the hand. Between the contented customer and Yvonne looms a scrum of industry players - retailers, wholesalers, contractors - who all have one thing Yvonne lacks: more power than she has. More clout, more hype, more front, and in the chase for the dollar, they just push Yvonne out of the way.
Fair Wear is trying to push back on behalf of Yvonne, and the thousands of homeworkers like her. Over the past two years Fair Wear has lobbied clothing and textiles industry firms to sign up to the Homeworkers Code of Conduct, requiring retailers to check that garments have been manufactured ethically, and requiring manufacturers who use contractors to keep appropriate documentation and pay homeworkers to an award standard. As Fair Wear campaign worker Lisa Addely observes, "if they are doing the right thing they should have no hesitation in signing - it's just a statement of their legal obligations as employers".
So far, over one hundred companies have signed the code; hundreds more have not, including Jeans West, Supre, Kerry McGee, Nike Australia, Motto and childrenís wear retailer Osh Kosh B'Gosh. Fair Wear's creative persuasion has included protests outside stores - particularly in major city retail centres like Sydneyís Pitt Street Mall. During the recent Fashion Week in Melbourne, Motto held a fashion parade which unintentionally featured four 'models' who appearing in their underwear, declaring that they would rather wear nothing than be clothed in exploitation. The stunt was a big hit with the media, but not with leading fashion designers. Only one, Saba, has signed the code. Lisa is not disheartened, smiling at the memory of Motto's embarrassment, and mulling over future tactics. "I think we might build on that one".
Signing them up is hard enough; enforcement is the next big problem. As Rita Lai, a former homeworker and an activist with Asian Women at Work, (a community based support group) says, "you can get companies to sign the code but you canít control the sub-contractor". Or, as Lisa adds, "people don't give up profit margins easily." A problem that Fair Wear and the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia are trying to address at both the Federal and State level.
In March the Australian Industrial Relations Commission upheld a TCFUA application exempting three key provisions of the Clothing Trades Award from the award stripping process (reducing awards to 20 allowable matters). The provisions specifically protect homeworkers rights. Itís a result that the TCFUA sees as critical to maintaining a public spotlight on the right of homeworkers to receive the benefits of award entitlements, as NSW TCFUA Secretary Barry Tubner told the Commission. "The 'invisibility' of outworkers' work has not only made enforcement of award and statutory conditions more difficult, it has also prevented proper consideration and analysis of the work done by outworkers".
Lisa Addley was present at 'workplace' inspections conducted by the Commissioners during the case. Lisa felt they were on "a very steep learning curve. They were quite shocked at the conditions faced by homeworkers." Presented with compelling union evidence of the mistreatment of homeworkers, the employers adopted a ìstrategyî of shamefaced silence. The AIRC decision noted: "the unchallenged evidence before us shows that exploitation and unlawful and unfair treatment of outworkers in the industry still continues".
The TCFUA and the Labor Council of New South Wales are also urging the NSW Government to reform the state's industrial laws, including regulation of contractors, and the right of union entry to home based workplaces. Premier Bob Carr has said that he will need "strong arguments" to persuade him to adopt the Labor Council's proposals: he could have a chat with Yvonne. In fairness, the NSW Government is developing a program to support homeworkers, particularly in the area of enforcing award compliance - although itís hard to see how any strategy can work without effective regulation of sub-contractors.
A small number of homeworkers - the more assertive and skilled - play the sub-contractors at their own game, turning down work, forcing the sub-contractors to pay a higher rate for their valued skills. It's a grim echo of pre-arbitration, nineteenth century industrial bargaining, where the 'fittest' survive - while the many struggle. It's a reminder that we live in a time when unions are forced to fight to stop provisions being stripped from awards.
Yvonne has at least found a network of people willing to help her; many like her have no help at all, and work longer hours, are paid less, endure chronic work-induced pain in the back and the limbs, or whose eyes have finally failed under the strain. Rita Lai has no doubts about the solution to this cycle of exploitation. "The government should do something to protect the outworker". For that, you need a government that listens.
Meanwhile, Fair Wear steps into the breach. Lisa says Fair Wear is currently preparing a uniform campaign, targeting schools, employers, sporting clubs and indeed unions. Where was the uniform made? Under what conditions? Has the manufacturer/retailer signed the Code of Conduct? "It's a big industry", Lisa says, and it's a big job mounting another ambitious campaign. Anyone who wants to assist the Fair Wear campaign (in any aspect; Fair Wearís campaigns often rely on volunteer help) should contact Fair Wear on the numbers listed at right. Lisa also urges us to remember that every consumer is complicit in the system that perpetuates the homeworkerís lot; the only way to improve it is to check the label of the garment youíre purchasing, and seek out retailers and manufacturers who have signed the code of conduct.
"It's a free country", insists Mr. Reith's Employment Advocate. Yvonne's freedom is a room awash with cloth and off cuts, reams of pockets and collars, wads of designer labels, symbol of the glamour industry. Yvonne works alternatively at two machines upon which she seems unable to throw sufficient light. Lamps probe mantis-like at the needle, and she squints in their yellow glare. Above her, utilitarian fluorescent tubes have overtaken an exhausted, globeless chandelier. Behind her, a handwritten timetable, in her native chinese, details the intricate steps she must take to unite all the disparate pieces into somebody elseís dream. Soon, there will be another timetable.
This article was first published in WorkSite, the journal of the Lloyd Ross Forum
by Rosemary Webb
The Railway Refreshment Rooms (RRR) covered a mixed group of workers. Most of them were women and effectively casuals on 48 hours notice.
In 1938 organiser and ALP activist Eileen Powell (ARU) with ARU Secretary Lloyd Ross, and Flo Davis (HC&REU) won the first comprehensive award for the Railways Refreshment Rooms. Before 1938 only the Hospitality, Caterers and Restaurant Employees Union were covered by an award which dealt with Refreshment Rooms conditions. However, this award did not allow for the specific conditions of food service on trains.
Eileen ran a long campaign for the 1938 award but she wasn't the first to fight for better conditions for RRR workers. Between 1923 and 928 these workers had direct access to the Australian Railways Union (ARU) Executive through their own honorary elected officials. In 1923 a new Divisional Organisation was established by the Union. The re-organised RR Division consisted of 'All members other than salaried officers in the Railway Refreshment Rooms Department', such as porters, who were male and classified as 'usefuls', and those who worked in the Refreshment Rooms.
CJ Starkie was elected Divisional Secretary for the RRR in 1923 and Miss AF Graham was elected Divisional President. Starkie was a Railway employee - a porter at Petersham, and member of NSW Branch Council. He was a union activist for the RRR and the Illawarra line before becoming RRR Secretary. Miss Graham worked in the Central Railway Refreshment Rooms. In 1924 she was elected lady delegate of the ARU at ALP conference. Assisting them were the ARU's paid full-time organisers, all men, who reported on conditions uncovered during country tours. Secretary of the Union from 1924 to 1935 was Arthur Cashman, a UK shop steward before joining the ARU.
Responses to Union representations demonstrate the urgency of a full and specific award for these workers. Endless abuses are reported in the Railway Union Gazette and in the Divisional Secretary's correspondence.
Issues included:accommodation (often sub-standard and a compulsory cost for rural RRR workers whether or not they needed or used the accommodation provided by the employer); hours, overtime, split shifts, long shifts, late hours; occupational health & safety; understaffing, lack of relief;lack of response by management to periods of heavy demand;harassment by sub-managers, (often married couples posted as sub-managers to country stations); pay and job classifications; restoration of free tramway travel for female employees (repeatedly refused); access to members, and the wearing of union badges at work; and permanency.
All claims related to these grievances were resisted by management, frequently in person by Mr EP Hunt, General Manager of the Refreshment Rooms. Hunt continually refused to negotiate with the union and was the subject of numerous
complaints by Starkie. In July 1924 he responded on a disability claim for 'staff sleeping in tents at Yass': "in my opinion, the accommodation as provided is preferable to the indoor room. The tent in question should have been properly boarded before use., and, when this work has been effected the staff in question will be transferred back to the same. Under these circumstances no allowance will be entertained as referred to by you."
Occupational health and safety was an ongoing concern - almost every issue of the journal reports deaths or accidents. Miss Madge Herring of the RRR died in 1926 when hit by a truck when returning to duty at Central. Her funeral was reported at length in the Gazette, with names and description of a long funeral procession of fellow-workers.
Through the Gazette the union constantly promoted awareness of the Workers Compensation Act. There were some wins. Mrs Madge Moodie, of Central RRR lost two joints of the forefinger of her left hand in the bread-slicer.. The employer offered her payment for the days she had off work - at best a few pounds. Instead, the hearing awarded L120, midway between 90L for the loss of a joint and L150 for the loss of a whole forefinger. Starkie used this win in the Gazette to strengthen his health and safety awareness drive.
Real pay rates were low for the women, even against the 'norm' for that time of slightly more than half the adult male wage. The spread of shifts made it hard for workers to top up earnings with other work. In 1923 Mr Sherwin, Secretary of the HCREU gave evidence in the courts that in the Railway Refreshment Rooms, the shifts for a '3/4 day waitresses' were 11.45 am -7.45 pm. He was defending a member who had 'gone wrong' - presumably 'topping up' her wage by stealing. He raged: 'What position is open to a girl before 11 am and after 7 pm , when she is faced with a possibility of eight hours work during that period?'
RRR officials were not always backed by the organisers. In 1926 Starkie was angered by interference from an organiser. Miss Mitchell at Central Railway was forced to pay for on-duty breakages - organiser Davis had compromised with management, agreeing that she would pay, undercutting Starkie's position on non-payment. (It was a continuing grievance that such payment was arbitrarily deducted from wages). Starkie, Miss Graham, and later Eileen Powell and Lloyd Ross seem to have been the only ARU officials between the wars who consistently stood against management.
The plight of RRR workers was constantly before the Railway Commissioners, the Public Works Department, the ARU executive, and the labour movement generally through the medium of the Labor Daily. Constant contact between the workers, their Divisional officials Starkie and Graham, and the organisers kept issues on the boil. The downgrading of this level of representation after 1928 led to a deterioration in conditions.
Starkie's campaign was relentless, but management culture did not change. On 25 /1/26 the Public Works Department wrote in response to a union deputation two month earlier. One issue put had been classifications, another overwork - too many tables per waitress at Central Railway Refreshment Rooms, and thousands of extra meals served since the seamen's strike began. On classification the union did have a win. Starkie had demanded reclassification at the Central Station wine bar.
Management admitted: "Females employed in wine bar at Central Station (who) are paid the same rates as Counterhands ... L2.12.6 per week . .... are required to serve nobblers of wine at 3d and 6d from automatic measures, and to sell standard bottles of wine, but they are not required to posses the same skill as Barmaids at hotels or at other refreshment rooms.(We) have, however, approved of the employees concerned being paid the minimum Service Award rate for a Barmaid"
On the other hand, there was no relief for overwork. Management added a threat: 'As a matter of fact it would be possible to materially reduce the existing staff if days off and holidays had not to be granted'. Remember that this 'existing staff' was on 48 hours notice.
Shifts and unreasonable hours were raised repeatedly. Commissioners preferred to have women working at cheaper rates than to staff night shifts, or close refreshment rooms earlier.
Starkie repeatedly accused the employer of breaching its duty of care. In April 1926 he complained that the Central Station Cafeteria was 'a meeting place of many undesirables and is not a fit place for females to work in at late hours, ........ the place should be closed at 11 pm..', he wrote. Management replied 'the cafeteria serves a very useful purpose, especially in connection with trains arriving between 5 and 6 am'.
Management also refused to close Milsons Point Station Cafe before 11.30 pm, alleging that late closing at Milsons Point was justified to cover 'theatre traffic, etc', (and) that no complaints have been received from the staff concerning the matter...'. Staff at risk of arbitrary dismissal were not going to take such complaints to managers.
The Union was constantly obstructed from speaking to workers. In 1923 Hunt warned on 'Interviewing Staff': "only accredited representatives are permitted to visit Departmental premises, and then only for the sole purpose of collecting Union dues, and such visits should be confined to the meal hour on pay days, or the meal hour following pay day (in cases where employees are paid after the meal hour), and then only when the representative has first obtained permission from the local officer as to time and place suitable for such purpose."
Organiser Harry Melrose reported in 1926 that at Molong he interviewed 'Railway Refreshment Rooms girls, also basket boy' who all promised to join up. He 'had to then get permission of manager to speak to them a couple of hours later'. When he did get to speak to them, he 'discovered that they had been got at saying they "had to see their mums first".'
The union constantly pushed for permanency. In 1925 Starkie requested transfers to permanency, under continuing service conditions - that employees with more than 12 months service be switched to permanent staff, with a waiving of the age limit and with no need for a new medical examination. The Department refused, claiming parity with 'similar establishments outside the service'.
Starkie tried everything for the RRR, including improving the award. At least one unsuccessful application for a variation was put in those years. He also used all networks available to him as an active member of the labour movement - he wrote directly to Jack Lang, harangued ALP Caucus, and addressed the ALP Women's Central Organising Committee. Kate Dwyer of the Women's Committee was so incensed by what Starkie told them in July 1926 that she wanted a Royal Commission into the RRR.
Two years later the RRR division was submerged into the Traffic Division. Starkie did not nominate as the new Division's Secretary. It appears he was rolled: 1928 State Conference condemned Comrade Starkie for failing to obey a 'request' to attend conference. Miss Graham similarly was not appointed to the new executive. Did union politics do in the RRR workers? Whatever the background, the RRR suffered when Starkie went.
The story graphically shows the essentials of successful organising - maintaining industrial momentum, and locking the employer into an award. Without those award variations, loss of their prime agitator in 1928 was a disaster for RRR women. The years between CJ Starkie and Eileen Powell were an industrial wilderness for the Railway Refreshment Rooms. It was to be another 10 years before adequate protection was achieved.
Rosemary Webb can be at - mailto:[email protected]
by Patricia Ranald
Negotiations on the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, described as a legal charter for Multinational Corporations, collapsed in October 1998. The MAI had been under negotiation for three years by 29 governments of the world's richest industrialised countries, members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The negotiations had been conducted on a confidential basis with little publicity until 1997, when the draft was leaked on the internet. Once it became public, local, national and international union and community organisations linked through the internet to expose it to public debate. These campaigns resulted in media discussion and parliamentary inquiries in several countries, including Australia, which contributed to the collapse of the negotiations.
The MAI has now been placed on the 1999 World Trade Organisation agenda.
The MAI was promoted by the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD, consisting of representatives of some of the world's largest transnational corporations. It was drafted in the forum of the governments of the wealthy countries of the world, those from which most transnational investment comes, but was to apply to the global economy.
The governments of the developing countries, which represent the majority of the world's people, and those which benefit least from the global economy, were
excluded. They would then have been under pressure to sign the agreement after the negotiations in order to attract transnational investment.
The MAI was specifically designed to increase the mobility of all forms of investment and financial transactions, and to prevent government regulation of them. Its language was revealing: it referred to MAI "disciplines" being applied to governments. It used a very broad definition of investment, which included all forms of investment and financial transactions.
The MAI went further than other trade and investment agreements because it applied to all forms of government legislation except those specifically exempted. Even the listed exceptions were regarded as "non-conforming measures" which might be rolled back over time.
Transnational investors had to be accorded "national treatment": any legislation which favoured local investment, limited levels of foreign investment or required them to contribute to local development could be regarded as "discriminatory" (OECD, 1998, 13).
Under "investment protection" clauses, transnational investors could not be "impaired" from "operation, management, use, enjoyment or disposal of investments by unreasonable or discriminatory measures" (OECD, 1998, 57). This, combined with the legal powers of corporations to sue governments, (see below) was an unacceptably broad restriction on government policy and legislation.
Under the proposed dispute resolution mechanism, corporations could challenge laws which were inconsistent with the agreement and/or sue governments for damages (OECD, 1998, 70-71). This provision represented a huge increase in the legal powers of corporations over governments. The only similar provision for corporate action against governments is in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Under this provision, corporations have sued Canadian and Mexican governments for damages of tens of millions of dollars over environmental laws which they claimed damaged their investments.
The MAI draft proposed a 20 year commitment: once signed, governments could not withdraw from the agreement for 5 years, and after withdrawal, commitments were still binding for 15 years (OECD, 1998, 105).
The OECD has guidelines on conduct for multinational companies, environmental regulation, human rights and labour rights, based on United Nations conventions and agreements in these areas. After lobbying from unions and other non government organisations, there was reference to these in the draft agreement as voluntary goals, but they were not included as legally enforceable clauses. (OECD, 1998: 7-9, 54-56, 96).
In the course of the MAI negotiations, some business organisations and governments, including the Australian government, consistently refused to consider legally enforceable rights in these areas. Thus the MAI expanded legal
rights of corporations over governments, but placed no corresponding legally enforceable obligations on them.
This expansion of corporate rights over present and future governments and citizens proved unacceptable. National and international movements of unions, environment groups, churches and human rights organisations used the internet to expose the MAI processes, publish drafts and pressure both national governments and the OECD to conduct public debate to the point where the negotiations were abandoned.
In Australia there was a parliamentary inquiry and broad public debate. Over 900 submissions were made to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties Inquiry on the MAI. These came from a wide range of organisations including churches, Amnesty International, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and a number of national unions, the Australian Council for Social Services, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Women's Electoral Lobby and the Australian Local Government Association.
These organisations support the concept of international regulation of investment. They want an agreement on investment regulation which is fair to investors but does not give them unreasonable powers over governments.
This majority position contrasts with the minority opposition to the MAI expressed by Pauline Hanson and other extreme right wing nationalist groups, which oppose all forms of international regulation, including United Nations Conventions. The inquiry report recommended that much wider community consultation be conducted before any Australian government signing of the MAI.
The global movement against the MAI is the first to defeat an international economic agreement. This shows that we are not powerless in the face of globalisation pressures and that governments can be prevented from trading away their ability to regulate corporations.
The MAI was concerned with increasing the mobility of investment, and was conceived before the 1997 East Asian economic crisis. The crisis and its aftermath in Latin America and Russia have prompted a new international debate about the desirability of increasingly mobile investment. There is now an international discussion on an alternatives to the MAI negotiated through United Nations structures which would regulate transnational investment in the public interest and safeguard labour and environment standards. (UN Commission on Human Rights, 1998).
A version of the MAI is now being prepared for the World Trade Organisation discussions, which involve both industrialised and developing economy governments, in Seattle in November 1999. Some developing economy governments, notably the ASEAN countries and India, have announced they will oppose it because of its effects on economic development policy.(Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest, 1999).
Unions and other community organisations are lobbying governments and preparing campaigns around the WTO negotiations. Further mobilisation of networks which defeated the original MAI proposal will be needed to ensure that governments are held accountable in these negotiations, and to develop positive alternatives which can regulate investment in the public interest.
- Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest, (1999) vol 3 no. 4 ,February 1st.
- Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, (1998) Multilateral Agreement on Investment: The MAI Negotiating Text (as of April, 1998), Paris, www.oecd.org
- Ranald, P (1998) Disciplining Governments: what the MAI would mean for Australia, Evatt Foundation and Public Sector Research Centre, University of NSW.
- Ranald, P and Goodman, J, (1999) Corporate power and globalisation: Opposing the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) , Pluto Press, forthcoming
- United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, Fiftieth session, 'Resolution on the Realisation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: the International Economic Order and the Promotion of Human Rights', 20 August 1998.
Patricia Ranald is Senior Research Fellow at the Public Sector Research Centre, University of New South Wales
by Phil Davey
Gilda Chacon Bravo, a senior official with the Cuban Trade Union Council, spoke at a packed public meeting in Sydney last week about the current situation in Cuba.
When the Eastern Bloc collapsed Cuba lost 80% of its trade overnight and 90% of its oil imports. Because of the continuing illegal and immoral U.S. blockade there are ongoing problems accessing spare parts and high tech medical equipment.
In spite of this the Cuban Trade Union movement has continued with a very grassroots model of organising which involves continuous consultation with its membership and virtual power of veto over proposed Government legislation.
Gilda Chacon Bravo gave details about the Cuban union movement, which consists of 19 industry based unions who together boast a membership rate of 98% amongst the 3.5 million workers in Cuba.
She quoted a series of amazing statistics about women's involvement in the union movement in Cuba, including the fact that 54% of union leaders are women and that 64.5% of professionals in Cuba are women.
Tackling unemployment arising out of the economic crisis of the early 1990's remains the top priority of the Cuban Union Movement. Unemployment recently dropped to 6%, down 35% on last year.
Gilda Chacon Bravo spoke passionately of the determination of Cuban workers and unions to defend the gains of the revolution - free and universal health care and education as well as comprehensive social security- in the face of a continuing and relentless 40 year campaign against this small nation by the most powerful country in the world.
A fundraising benefit gig "for the children of the Revolution" will be held at the Harbourside Brasserie this week.
Proceeds from the night will go to the APHEDA/Cuban Children's Fund, a humanitarian organisation which buys medicine and medical equipment for Cuban Hospitals.
For 40 years Cuba has provided an example to the rest of Latin America of how to do things differently. The gains for the Cuban people have been tremendous, in education, health and housing.
The illegal economic blockade of Cuba by the US however has meant that the Cuban Government has had tremendous difficulty in accessing new medical technology.
The July 8 concert starts at 7:30PM and features a superb line up of performers, including Afro- Caribbean salsa supremos "Babalu" and West African master drummer Epizo Bangoura and band.
Tickets are $12/$8 and are available at the door or by calling Kelly on 9262 4330.
by Peter Zangari
Established London based bands like The Cure, Suede and Blur will be spewing at the arrival of this fresh three piece out of their own backyard without their permission. Placebo can be categorised next to the said bands but I'd like to put them in a category of their own. They deserve to be.
Answering the reasons why this album is so accessible to the ear may be an attempt to strip Placebo of their claim to fame. There is no simple reason why this album grows on you after several listens.
The first single Pure Morning was the song that established Placebo's presence on the Australian music market. Constant flogging on the airwaves meant that Brian Molko's unique voice has become as instantly recognisable as lets say, Robert Smith's from the Cure (Personally, I think Molko's vocals are stronger than Smith's and a little less nasal). Molko's voice has become associated with the opening lyric "A friend in need's a friend indeed, a friend with weed is better" and so on.
Other stand out tracks on the album include My Sweet Prince which is a slow ode to melancholy while Every You Every Me is a memorable hit from the soundtrack to the less memorable movie "Cruel Intentions".
I know very well that Placebo wants to stand up for a generation of post gen-xers and this can be heard in the track You dont care about us. The choice of a new generation? Well as Molko says " Its a matter of trust". Talking about a new generation, these guys will be touring soon with the spokesemen for a generation of alienated youth, silverchair. Get your tickets before they sell out.
For those of you interested in hidden tracks, there's a dark untitled ripper at the end of the album which nearly scared the living daylights when it was discovered 9 minutes after the last listed track. Not only do you get a quality pop album, you also get an extra seven minute track thrown in for good measure. But only for those patient enough to appreciate the creative but silent nine minutes after Burger Queen .
So here we have an album that doesnt cover new musical territory but represents a generation of bands that can churn out quality music as well as quality lyrics. This is something that is becoming rarer as the day goes on because there are alot of manufactured artists out there that record companies promote as the next best thing. Placebo may not have the polished appeal of Savage Garden or Matchbox 20 but they sure have the cred which will take them further than a platinum debut album ever will.
'Country Labor is being set up to enhance the ALP in rural areas,' Carr announced to the applause of the assembled multitude of true believers.
The cockies outside with their assorted placards were stunned by this unexpected ingenious manoeuvre against them. The sky must have fallen down on them on that cold winterish grey day...they might as well pack up and go home.
'We are reclaiming the bush for Labor,' Carr proclaimed.
By this time the hall has erupted into euphoria never seen before in any ALP conferences let alone a country one...the messiah has arrived...a new dawn has began...Country Labor is on the march...today the bush, tomorrow the cities...
With such a stunning winning formula why stop here?
It is a known fact the yuppies a-lah the chardonnay set have been drifting from Labor and have cast their votes further afield towards the Greens, Democrats or other more left inclined parties.
Labor needs to win back this important socially advantaged group.
But how do we do it? Can we redirect the chardonnay socialists back to Labor?
The answer although looks complicated is simple...we'll follow the footstep of Country Labor by forming Chardonnay Labor!
They'll all drift back to Labor...consume more chardonnay and help boost the NSW wine industry. Think of all the benefits this will provide...more employment for rural workers...more jobs for glass makers...and the list goes on.
But why stop here?
It has now been well documented the non-chardonnay set has also been unhappy with Labor. They feel Labor has deserted them for the chardonnay set. This group prefers the reds especially the rough ones...so why not form Cardboard Plonk Labor?
On the other hand some of the disgruntled non-chardonnay set have become more up-market. This group prefers the more refine reds...for them the choice could be between the Shiraz Labor, Pinot Noir Labor or Cab Sauv Labor.
We must not discriminate against those in between...the waverers so to speak. To these group the Rose Labor will go down well.
And for those who prefer their caffeine fix we can have the Short Black Labor, Flat White Labor, Cafe Latte Labor or the Cappuccino Labor.
Come to think of it...the list is endless...
I'm sure the idea made sense when it first came up after an extremely long lunch one day, but it's inconceivable that they actually scrounged around and found a dummy, propped it up in the corner and plonked a television on its shoulders and hey presto!
The viewers at home were immediately confused whether Troy Luff really was in the studio with Bruce or ensconced at home in Erskinville. I can't wait to see what they come up with this season, and after watching the cricket all summer I feel I've got some idea. Expect to see more promotions - a terribly under exploited area in footy. So expect to see a Sherrin, mounted on a bronze plinth which has been signed by all the living Brownlow medallists.
This will be flogged ad nauseum in the lead up to Fathers Day. The only problem for channel 7 is that they don't have anyone with the authority and presence of Richie Benaud to do the spruiking. I'm not sure how many times I saw the plug for The Cover Drive during the summer but I never felt like reaching for the phone and ordering one when Bill Lawry was pushing it, but as soon as the mellifluous tones of Richie explained that the original cast had been broken, I knew I needed one for my sports bar.
I just can't see Bruce being up to it. I mean you can't be Mr Football, Mr Olympics and Mr Sports Memorabilia. Ian Roberts is in the Bill Lawry mould which essentially leaves Pete Landy, Sandy Roberts or Denis Commetti. I'd give the nod to the latter. I'm sure he could deliver the details about the quality of the leather, the stitching and the lacing with a cool ease. You'll have the credit card out before you realise it.
I'm also predicting that the website will get a heavy flogging this upcoming season. Channel 7 will again follow the Channel 9 lead and use a stupid address like http://www.thankchristthefootyisonsevenagainthisyearbecause
You'll be able to check out the merchandise as well as an amazing array of match stats. Cricket used to have the mortgage on statistics - it's hard to know what came first, the meaningless stats or the sandal wearing, Wisden hugging nerds who thrive on them. Footy has now almost caught up. During the final series last year channel 7, faced with the alarming prospect of having to fit all their commentators in the one commentary box handed some of them the sandals and made them sit in the corner with the pineapple head computer system.
The results were fascinating and made for great television. It was a great surprise, for instance, to see that the boundary umpire runs the equivalent of fourteen marathons during a game, spending most of their time near the boundary line. They hardly ever get a kick, take a mark or make a tackle. Unfortunately we didn't get to see the work of the goal umpires up on the screen - running, walking, flag unfurling, flag waving, flag folding, writing score, goal signaling, point signaling, chest taps, post taps, one arm extensions, two arm extensions, all clear waits, field umpire consults.
Some argue that the stats and resulting emphasis on possessions and errors of all hues (the forced, the unforced, the inexplicable, the innocuous, the draggables, the divorceables, the "I was a bit pissed", the prosecutable etc) are ruining the game. They point to the direct correlation between the size of the commentary team and the volume of stats and they lament the loss of the true marking, long kicking centre half forward.
These people find the intrusion of the basketball lexicon into our code highly offensive and mutter, usually late at night about the score being the only stat that has ever mattered. This is, obviously enough, a capricious view, particularly as we look forward to the season in which Plugger will break the long standing records of Coventry (most career goals) and Pratt (most goals in a single season).
We in Bay 9 have embraced the inevitable - this year we'll be monitoring our own performance with a range of supporter stats, we've arranged for the SCG security to monitor us during the entire game (well OK they've been doing that for some time now) so we'll be able to plug the video stuff into the computer software and come up with verification of the real time data we collect, using pencil, paper and clipboard at the game. There is, of course a bevy of stats including:
- The hard beer get - a round of drinks bought under difficult circumstances (eg queues of Russian proportion or during close points of the game).
- Interactions with security - this is a complex one so I'll try my best to explain. This statistic has three levels - Red, Yellow and Blue corresponding to the colour worn by the said official. At each level the interactions are classified as being either forced (ie initiated by security and possibly involving use of handcuffs) or unforced (eg a red shirt checking membership badges or assisting with the operation of the cash card machine)
This year also sees Sydney host the Brownlow Medal presentation, a fact that must be mud in the eye for the residents south of the border. The Magic Sponge will be there, of course, if only to witness the confusion that reigns supreme when the presentation ends and they know where to kick onto next. Plugger will win that medal of course thus breaking the Coventry and Pratt records, scooping up the Coleman and the Brownlow and an AFL flag in the one year.
In his wilder days he would have led the procession of very tall, very fit young men up Oxford Street but things are different now (besides he'll be playing the grand final a few days after the presentation night) and the players will inevitably end up at the casino where it's not always easy to find the bloody toilets.
This was an experience I'll never forget, and one which I am determined to share until such time as the East Timorese people can finally say they have determined their own future. The following narrative gives the highs and lows of what was an exhausting and emotional seven days.
At Dili Airport East Timorese bystanders greeted us with courtesy and smiles. They thought we were part of the UNAMET contingent who were arriving on a daily basis. For the record they weren't the only ones who thought we were part of the United Nations mission. The police, who quickly demanded our passports on arrival, made the same mistake. The records will mistakenly show forever that Chris Christodoulou was a UN official in East Timor well at least that's what they wrote down on the passenger check list.
As quickly as we were out of customs we were welcomed by Mr Mahudu. Alison Tate, our representative from APHEDA, said: "Feel very safe this is Fretlin's main man in Dili and one of Xanana's' chief advisers.'' This became very obvious when a range of both uniformed and plain clothed people hovered around our delegation when Mr Mahudu officially welcomed us to East Timor. Of course, I had nothing to worry about because I was now a UN official!
Mr Mahudu soon had us on the road. The poverty was immediate to the eye. Motor bikes, run down little blue taxis, back end loader trucks filled with people, and of course mini buses overflowing with commuters. Roadside shacks doubled for produce stalls, some with as little as a bunch of bananas and a couple of tomatoes to sell or barter.
Young kids played along the roadside soaking up the dust, the fumes, and the heat of the day. They smiled and waved to us as we drove by. As we would come to find later, this outpouring of happiness by the East Timorese children towards us foreigners was equally felt by many East Timorese people. They had endured 23 years of repression waiting for the UN and the international community to finally come to their aid. For most East Timorese, foreigners were a sign of help.
Our car pulled up outside two large iron gates, behind which stood a modest home by our standards, but one quite out of character with the tin sheds, huts and bungalows which formed a large part of East Timorese shelter. I say shelter because most accommodation that you might compare with our most modest houses are lived in by the military and the upper echelons of the Indonesian public service.
During the remaining hours left that afternoon we talked to Mr Mahudu and listened to his analysis of the political and social environment in East Timor.
In his view, the disarmament process in the lead up to the autonomy/independence ballot was crucial. The resistance guerillas would find it difficult to hand in their guns whilst militia groups aided and abetted by the military continued their savage violence and intimidation towards the East Timorese.
The discussion with Mr Mahudu was the beginning of endless meetings, trips and observations during the week. The evidence became very clear. The people of East Timor were responding well to the UN presence wherever it existed. However, out in the regional areas beyond Dili the militia continued their threats and violence. The militia message to the people was cold and calculated: if you vote for independence we'll kill you.
As we moved around the countryside seeing, witnessing and experiencing the trauma dished out by the militia I couldn't help but notice the legacy of Indonesian occupation.
Towns and villages devoid of any basic infrastructure. No sewerage systems; no clean water, run-down government schools and hospitals (where they existed); roads and footpaths resembling a war zone.
In the main commercial streets of Dili the stench from the rubbish filled drains made me feel sick. I even wondered whether the many pigs who frequented the roads and drains might also catch some godforsaken disease. They hadn't had the luxury of Hep A, Hep B, typhoid, tetanus and malaria inoculations as I had.
Behind this depressing environment stood a people very proud and resilient. On our first evening we were taken for a walk through the backstreets of Dili. We were on our way to talk to an East Timor students organisation. People would come out smiling from their modest shelters and every child to a number would say "Hello Mr" and chuckle as we responded with a wave. And there was no discrimination by these kids. Alison and Belinda got the same "Hello Mr" welcome as well.
Although the housing was poor and conditions primitive it was clear that the East Timorese people were at least enterprising in the way they used whatever they could find to create their homes tin, bits of timber, half baked bricks, rocks, etc. Their yards had little if any grass (probably due in part to the large number of goats) but they were very clean.
The students' group headquarters was very basic. As we walked through the front door a poster of Xanana Gusmao stood proudly over the one table in the office.
We talked for 2.5 hours with 20 or so students, interrupted only by the occasional truck that drove by.
The students impressed us. They had just finished a training session on reconciliation and leadership skills. They were astute, well organised and above all, appreciative of the support the trade unions in Australia were giving to the people of East Timor.
They told us of the most recent atrocities of the militia groups in the western regions of East Timor. In particular, how students were being forced by the military to join the militia. Those who didn't join were dealt with severely. They conveyed stories of women raped and men shot. The militia in the suburb of Hera (just outside Dili) had occupied and taken over the local college to demonstrate their strength amidst student unrest about their atrocities.
But these students were not going to be deterred by the militia or the military. They craved the chance of a free society where they could speak their minds without retribution. They exuded confidence, although some still bore the scars of violence which they had directly experienced.
The next day we met our trade union comrades from SBSI East Timor. They were equally committed about creating free and democratic trade union structures in their country. Workers in East Timor have very few rights and certainly no legal rights to organise into unions. The Indonesian government is quite happy about the $1.00 a day wage which many East Timorese and Indonesians earn. Notwithstanding all the obstacles and the current volatile environment, the SBSI organisers had recruited over 120 members in the last six months. Their membership records were articulate to say the least. Each member's name, place of employment, occupation and date of joining was verified by both the member's signature and a passport photo. This was SBSI's way of demonstrating to us that they had members. The calling of a general meeting for the occasion of our visit was too dangerous. We finished our meeting by signing an historic agreement between SBSI and APHEDA on the funding of trade union training courses for their delegates.
The next morning we set off to the regions to visit a number of APHEDA supported programs.
In a small town (unnamed) we dropped off urgent medical supplies to the local Catholic parish. During our inspection of their clinic two locals told us about the role of the militia in their area. It seemed the clinic and the church opposite doubled for night-time accommodation for the local villagers. They were frightened to stay in their own homes at night due to previous night-time raids by the militia.
Our next port of call was the city of Baukau, and home of East Timor's biggest military air base. In Baukau Indonesian flags flew high on every street corner. The pro-integration military had already erected anti-independence propaganda in defiance with the UNAMET decree that no campaigning begin until the voter registration process had been completed.
At Baukau we met with the Peace and Justice Commission which is funded by various sources to provide independent advice on human rights issues in East Timor. The Commission's resources were small but nonetheless they shared detailed information about the role of the militia. In particular, they told us of the forced removal from their homes of around 40,000 East Timorese who were now living in so called "refugee camps" run by the militia. These camps were one of the militia's direct ways of trying to influence the August 22 ballot by controlling who votes. The representatives also told us of the recovery of three bodies found recently after seven people went missing in retaliation for the death of two military officers.
In parts of the western regions people were being violently abused by the militia if they didn't sign statements saying they supported integration. And if all else failed the militia were making it very clear that they would kill people after the ballot if a pro-independence position was supported.
As we were leaving the Commission's office Alison was tapped on the shoulder by a student whom she had met on her last visit. He had "fright" written all over him. His eyes were full of water as he held back tears. He asked if Alison and ourselves would be staying in Baukau. When we said no, he told us that he was on the run from the militia who were after him for helping injured people to get to clinics for medical assistance.
The UN presence in Baukau had made a difference to the incidence of violence. But in those areas where the UN had not yet set up the violence and intimidation had continued.
At Baukau we also spoke to a group of workers at a construction site. In typical CFMEU style John walked on to the site and before we knew it we had a stop work meeting on our hands or at least that's one way of describing it. These workers were being paid a handsome $1.00 a day for their work. We asked them about their views on the ballot.
As long as the ballot was secret, and the UN were staying, the people would vote for independence some said. Others stood silently and listened. It was clear that many people were very frightened as there was no guarantee that the militia were going to give ground so easily in the future. We finished our trip in Baukau by inspecting the government-run hospital.
The administrator's office at the hospital was pristine. Not a spot of dust or dirt to be seen. Around this elaborate office were leather chairs. A chandelier hung from the ceiling and a cabinet sat in the corner with a display of best practice trophies. These trophies were apparently awarded to the hospital for a range of things, not the least being for maintenance and cleanliness. We asked the administrator questions about the running of the hospital but none of the questions could be adequately answered, especially issues regarding beds, staff numbers, equipment, length of hospital stays or statistics on injuries or sicknesses. However, we were given an inspection of the hospital.
We walked out of the pristine administrator's building into the general hospital wards which can only be described as atrocious in terms of their hygiene, staffing and the equipment that we saw. What we didn't see were many patients.
Just as we were about to leave, we came across a room with one patient. It was a young girl hooked up to a blood bag, lying on dirty sheets and scarred in several places from what would seem to be incorrect medical procedures. She lay very still. Belinda, who was the ANF representative on our delegation, was shocked for words. If this young girl wasn't ill before she went into this hospital it was hard to imagine how she could survive such atrocious conditions. All of us felt quite angry and emotional about what we had just seen. We knew that only five kilometres away the military base contained an up to date health facility for the soldiers. It was no wonder the East Timorese were prepared to queue for hours in church-run health clinics rather than go to the government run hospital.
This hospital was symptomatic of the repressive conditions that the East Timorese have had to endure under what has been effectively military rule.
In the days which ensued it became obvious to all of us on the delegation that the churches had played a major role in providing at least some basic services which the Government had failed to deliver. But even with the church's good intentions, the general lack of education, training, infrastructure and health services would guarantee that the people of East Timor will never achieve a fraction of the standards of living that we in the developed world have become accustomed to, whilst ever the status quo remains.
On the drive back from Baukau, the delegation talked about what we had seen and heard. We had divided opinions about the outcome of the ballot, from Keith, who was extremely pessimistic, to Belinda, who thought notwithstanding the role of the militia, that the people of East Timor would choose independence.
The next morning the delegation visited a Catholic Clinic (unnamed) in Dili where we delivered funds raised by Australian unions through APHEDA to representatives of the Mary McKillop Institute. Our visit to the clinic was a positive contrast to the disgusting conditions we had experienced at the hospital in Baukau. Whilst it lacked some basic equipment, eg. an X-ray machine, it was clean, well staffed, well run, and had a long queue of people waiting for treatment (a good sign).
As we did the rounds we spoke to a number of in-house patients who had been injured by the militia. One had bullet wounds, another machete wounds, including a severed thumb, and another who was recovering from fractured ribs and head injuries. Whilst each of their stories reiterated the violence associated with the militia groups, they seemed to be in good spirits and certainly in good hands. Just as we were about to leave the clinic to visit the UNAMET headquarters a young girl was brought into the ward. She was malnourished, heavily bandaged, and seemingly only semi-conscious. We were assured by staff that she was recovering but I couldn't hold back a tear or two as her mother sat helplessly by her side, I am sure wondering whether her daughter would survive her injuries.
I then wondered, how many other young children were missing out on this type of medical care. Our discussions with health workers in Dili gave us the clear impression that there was a high infant mortality rate in the country. What is clear is that there is little, if any, obstetric care available and certainly no baby or children's health centres.
UNAMET was our next port of call, where we met the deputy of the mission, David Wimhurst. We also spoke to a number of people from their political section. UNAMET certainly impressed me, if not the others on the delegation. Not only did they know of all the incidents of violence that we had gathered and reported to them but were well informed about much more. Their assessment was like ours, that no ballot could go ahead in East Timor until such time as the militia/military's intimidation and violence ceased to the extent necessary to ensure the people were making a conscientious vote.
We left UNAMET, clear in our own minds that more needed to be done, including more being done by the Australian government to make Indonesia comply with the United Nations agreement which they had signed.
That evening, the delegation also met with the coordinator of the Commission for Peace and Stability. The role of this Indonesian backed authority is to help disarm both pro and anti independence groups and to monitor the violence in East Timor in the lead up to the ballot. The meeting with the Commissioner was a watershed in many ways. He confirmed the militia intimidation and violence that had occurred, and did not try to deny any of the incidents that we had given him information about. He was quick to divert the discussion into why autonomy would be a good option for the East Timorese people. We pressed him about his thoughts concerning threats being made by the militia (in the western regions) to kill East Timorese people if they voted for independence. His response, whilst not unexpected, still shocked us. There is a big chance that there will be much hostility and instability if this occurs. This statement, coming from a senior person associated with the Indonesian government, confirmed our worst fears about the potential for military/militia reprisals after the ballot.
The final meeting we had was with another Catholic church organisation, which is providing education and skills training to orphaned children. As we walked to the school grounds a jive/rock melody echoed through the narrow laneway. It got louder and louder as we approached. We entered the school to find 30 or so kids, singing in absolute harmony, to an electric guitarist, a drummer and a toe-tapping Sister (conductor). It was like a scene out of "Sister Act". The children were happy, enthusiastic, and swaying from side to side to the beat of the music. When they saw us enter the school they waved, they smiled and their voices got even louder. And when they finished we all (including the children) broke out in loud applause. The Sister, who will remain nameless, greeted us with open arms. We sat and talked for about an hour about the role of the church generally, her school programmes, the APHEDA projects, and of course the forthcoming ballot. She made clear to us the instruction by her Bishop that the church would not advocate to the people which way they should vote. However, she would certainly be telling her parish not to be intimidated, that the United Nations would not desert them, and to vote according to their hearts and their conscience. I need say no more about this Sister, except that she was absolutely inspiring and absolutely committed to the people of East Timor.
That evening myself, John and Keith took our final walk through the streets of Dili. Although it was about 8.00 o'clock at night, we strangely felt some security in a country that was consumed with political violence. But of course, why wouldn't we feel secure? I was a UN official and at that point in time the dreaded militia were avoiding the United Nations or any foreigners that might observe their activities.
As we walked through the streets there were still kids out and about, Hello Mr, they chuckled as we walked past. I thought to myself, well, if we have achieved anything, it was at least to provide some hope in our small way to those that we had met. Every foreigner present reminded them of the international community's determination to provide the people of East Timor with a chance to determine their own future.
We flew out of Dili airport the next morning to Jakarta, in anticipation of our meeting with resistance leader, Xanana Gusmao. In an ironic twist of fate, our flight to Jakarta demonstrated in no uncertain terms the direct link between the militia and the military. Sitting adjacent to us on the plane was no other than Eurico Gutteres, the leader of one of East Timor's most notorious militia groups. He was surrounded by what could only be described as military intelligentsia. Young men, well spoken, with laptop computers, mobile phones and an array of papers at hand to read. Here we were, sitting next to a man accused of orchestrating some of the worst violence in East Timor and there was little (not withstanding my new UN credentials) that we could do about it.
I then picked up the Jakarta Post to read a number of articles, and there in one of those articles, written by Nirwan Idris was a quote that said "democracy by definition must be based on the head and not the heart". I looked across at Eurico and thought to myself, if the East Timorese people voted with their heads, then they would not vote for independence. Why would they, when their experience has been one of violence and intimidation by the militia (with the military firmly behind them) where threats were real and not bluff.
I was then reminded of the 74 year old man who had walked 130 km over four days from Baukau to Dili. He had walked through the mountain ranges to avoid the militia who took control of the roads by night. He said he had gone to Dili because he had waited for more than 23 years to see the United Nations flag in East Timor. If this was not an action of the heart I don't know what is. In my view, it would only be votes from the heart that would provide the people of East Timor the changes they so desperately desire.
On the Sunday night before our departure back to Australia the delegation was given the rare privilege of meeting with Xanana Gusmao. The man was remarkably calm and humble for a person who had spent the better part of his life locked up in Indonesian jails. We spoke for more than an hour and it was clear that he wanted nothing more than for his people to be able to vote freely, democratically and without violence or future reprisal. He reiterated the need for the Indonesian government to uphold their part of the United Nations agreement and stop the militia/military undermining the United Nations mission.
As we flew home to Australia I had concluded that one way or another East Timor was destined for change. For our part, we here in Australia have an obligation to ensure that such change reflects the will of the people and not the authority of violence.
See more photos http://www.labor.net.au/lcnsw/campaigns/timor/EastTimor.html
Chris Christodoulou is the Senior Industrial Officer of the Labor Council of NSW, and was one of a group of people who represented the ACTU in a fact finding mission to East Timor from 21 to 29 June, 1999. Others on the delegation were: Alison Tate, Project Officer, APHEDA; John Cummins, President, CFMEU (Construction) Victoria; Belinda Morieson, Secretary, ANF, Victoria; and Keith Peckham, President, AMWU, WA.
Dear Michael and Peter,
Thanks for suggesting the Transcendental Mediation course, for the first time in my life I feel like I'm thinking clearly. As I recite my mantra each morning a sweet warmth comes over me and I recognise that maybe I have stopped growing into the rich and full individual I could become.
As I was entering the state of transcendence this morning, overlooking the beautiful Pittwater bay, I started thinking about the way I have been processing my information in recent years. I began to worry: do I sometimes base my opinions on pre-conceived prejudices rather than judging each issue on its merits? Could I be seen by some as being a bit close-minded, one-dimensional even?
For example, I wonder if some people see me as being too quick to take a negative view against certain groups of the community like trade unions or land rights activists or feminists? Do I sometimes lack curiosity about what it is these people are trying to achieve? I would hate to think that I have inadvertently painted some people as stereotypes rather than striving to unravel the full complexity of the human condition.
Why, for instance, would I have run that awful piece about you Michael? Maybe I was a bit offended that you seemed to be putting me down on your web-site - but surely I could have taken the time to place myself in your shoes and realise you were just trying to have some good clean fun. And those horrible things I wrote about you, accusing you of drinking from doll's cups and being unfit for public office. I can only apologise. I'm more embarrassed to think of the way I linked that attack with a broader spray about everything you are trying to achieve: from a social audit to protection's for independent contractors. Again, I can only apologise.
To show this apology is genuine, I've decided it is time for me to change. I think it's time to challenge these stereotypes and begin to stand up for issues that really effect my readers. I know it's hard to make meaningful social improvements, but I think it's up to me to start doing my bit and go into news conference each day and argue the merits of what many trade unions are trying to achieve.
Sure, Col will tell me I'm going all soft - but I'll tell him how important it is to recognise that one bad apple doesn't spoil the bunch. I'll tell him that if our newspaper showed a real commitment to working people by campaigning on their behalf we could actually improve their lives. Why not get behind them when they're thrown out of work, when they're spied on, when the boss makes them work longer hours, rather than running the line that its the unions that are the problem. I'll tell Col that it's all well and good to be the largest selling daily in Australia, but if we are not committed to improving our readers lives, then what point is there in being Number One?
I may even have to convince Col to run some stories looking at how trade unions are changing; how they're becoming more responsive to their members and are taking innovative approaches to protecting them as the global economy makes this more complex for everyone. Given all the bad stereotypes we've promoted in the past, maybe this could be a good first step in creating a meaningful debate about what is happening to our readers' working life.
Perhaps we could even go out on the job with some young organisers, maybe even a young woman to help break the stereotype that all unions officials are middle-aged men with beer guts. We could look at the hard work she does in standing up for her members, who are also our readers. Maybe by letting each reader know that their experiences in the workplace are not just their own, but shared by other workers, we could instil a sense of collectivity that would, indeed, challenge the orthodoxy that job insecurity is a fact of modern life.
This isn't going to be easy; but I've decided the time has come to make a stand for goodness. After all, what's the point in wasting your life away taking potshots at the people who are trying to improve society. I should become one of them. This could really be a full and rewarding experience. I can't wait to get back from holidays. By the way, can you get MEAA to send me a membership form?
Look forward to working with you and the union movement closely on my return.
© 1999-2000 Labor Council of NSW
LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSWURL: http://workers.labor.net.au/20/print_index.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005