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Issue No. 202 10 November 2003  
E D I T O R I A L

Governing the Corporates
Suburban branch manager Joy Buckland’s bid for a position on the ANZ Board raises important questions about the way our major companies are governed.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Union for the Dispossessed
The Welfare Rights Centre's Michael Raper on 20 years of activism, the politics of punishment and how to make Australia egalitarian again.

Unions: Joel's Law
Building Workers have overcome powerful forces to push workplace safety back up the national agenda. But, Jim Marr writes, their "success" has come at an unacceptable cost.

National Focus: Spring Carnival
It must be spring: punting in Victoria, singing in South Australia, fighting in America. It’s all there in the national wrap from Noel Hester plus an Australian union movement rugby world cup class consciousness poll.

Bad Boss: Fina and Fiends
They sacked the job delegate, reinstated him after an IRC hearing, and sacked him again two weeks later. But that was just the beginning.

Industrial: The Price of War
Mass industrial action is brewing in Israel as the policies of the right-wing Sharon Government come home to roost, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Who's Got What
Frank Stilwell pours over the latest BRW Rich List to build a picture of the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots.

History: Containing Discontent
Racism against minorities has always been a stock in trade of politicans, writes Phil Griffiths

Review: An Honourable Wally
Most Australians probably look at our politicians and feel they could do a better job but when redundant meatworker Wally Norman gets the chance to find out he realises getting elected is a major hurdle, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: The Colours of Discontent
A thousand blossoms bloomed during the US President's spring-time colonial visit last month.

N E W S

 Taskforce Sleeps As Cranes Crash

 Scabies, Filth in Upmarket Annandale

 ANZ Jumps For Joy

 Race That Couldn’t Stop Nangwarry

 Mandarins in $120m Disappearing Act

 BAT Stubs Out Junta

 Millions on Entitlements Line

 Workcover in Hold-Ups Gun

 Phoenix Rises … Again

 TAFE Takes To Thong Slapping

 Casual Work Is Health Hazard

 Activists Notebook

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Bush's Faith-Filled Life
The President's conversion, 'sense of divine calling' and struggle with sobriety are subjects of a forthcoming book, writes Bill Berkowitz

Sport
The Not So Smart Money
Phil Doyle is sick of big money ruining grass roots sport, and he’s taking his bat and going home.

Politics
The Westie Wing
The ongoing challenge for Labor members of parliament is to make what the Premier calls the ‘creative partnership’ between the Government and the union movement a reality, writes our favourite MP Ian West.

Postcard
Behind the Junta
Saw Min Lwin, Secretary for Trade Union Rights/ Human Rights for the Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB), outlines the struggle for workers in his country.

L E T T E R S
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Editorial

Governing the Corporates


Suburban branch manager Joy Buckland’s bid for a position on the ANZ Board raises important questions about the way our major companies are governed.

With public concern about the practices of big business, the grotesque increases in executive pay and the quest for short term profit at an all time high, the idea that a worker with 27 years experience in the company has a contribution to make is compelling.

Major companies are dominated by a small club who sit on each others boards, running the agenda of the large institutional investors who require hyper-profits rather than a sustainable business plan, reinforcing a status quo that separates the interests of the company from those of the broader community.

And when shareholders challenge this direction, as they did at the recent Boral AGM, the directors simply change the rules to disenfranchise all but the mega-million share portfolios.

The result is a corporate climate where management of our large companies is deferred into a beauty contest for the markets - increased profits, dividends and growth at any cost.

The big test of for trade unions will be how their representatives on industry super funds respond to challenges such as Joy's.

Super trustees have, quite rightly, taken the position that their sole function is to represent the interests of their members' by ensuring their retirement incomes are protected.

And, the evidence is that they have done so very effectively in recent years - out-performing the private funds that splash millions in advertising to attract the 'wealth creation' market.

That said, there are elements of Joy Buckland's Board bid that deserve consideration. Customer service and satisfied staff are integral to any business. ANZ has neither right now.

And, as the Labor Council of NSW's research into executive pay shows, there is actually a correlation between mega-salaries and poor corporate performance

Beyond these policy issues there is a simple proposition that surely, amongst the dusty suits on the ANZ Board, the perspective of a staff representative would be a valuable counter perspective.

Indeed many public corporations and government authorities, from the major power companies to the ABC Board, recognise this and actually mandate staff broad representatives.

They do so because they recognise that workers bring a hands-on perspective to the management of companies that compliment the expertise in finance and the law that most directors possess.

With banks spending tens of millions of dollars to dispel negative public attitudes, surely the voice of a women who knows the staff and customers so well can only be an asset.

The prospect of winning a Board seat in one year may be ambitious, but over time let's hope the idea of worker representation - particularly workers of the calibre of Joy Buckland - take root and become a regular part of the corporate landscape.

Peter Lewis

Editor

PS Apologies to our readers for the late posting. After four and half years and 202 issues, we experienced our first fully-fledged technological melt-down.


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