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Issue No. 205 28 November 2003  

Australia Deserves Better
You only have to scan through recent issues of Workers Online to see why the leadership of the ALP is so important – not to the political insiders who judge the beauty contest that is federal politics, but to the millions of workers who are affected by its output.


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.


 Labour Hire Boosts Tech Wreck

 Call Centre Throws Safety Out the Door

 Miners Tackle Million Dollar Sidestep

 Bouquets for Bosses

 Mandarins Nail Carpenters

 BHP Burrow-ed By UN

 ACT Rejects Manslaughter Bullying

 No Joy for Fat Exec Packages

 WorkCover Walks Away From Racetrack

 Contractors Scramble Foxtel Signal

 Safety Derails Train Talks

 Sydney Uni Strikes At Feds

 Workers Up For Safety Awards

 Activists Notebook


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

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.

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.

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.

 Mad Monk’s Medicare Minus
 A Tale Of Three Cities
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Call Centre Throws Safety Out the Door

A safety representative has been frogmarched from his workplace by a company trying to force individual contracts onto employees.

Contract call centre operator TeleTech, acted against Jerry Gambacorta who will receive an award for OH&S achievements next week, as employees began campaigning against conditions included in their second generation AWAs (Australian Workplace Agreements).

"TeleTech's approach to the Australian Workplace Agreements has been that it is 'secret HR business'," says delegate James Woodcock. "There has been no consultation process. We were told that human resources had negotiated the AWAs on our behalf. The only consultation has been with the Office of the Employment Advocate."

The AWAs include no pay increases, no penalty rates, no mention of the union in grievance procedures and no duty for TeleTech to consult with employees.

Woodcock says the company has used a number of tricks to try to coerce employees into signing, including one on one meetings and spurious pay offers.

"The whole pay structure is 'off contract' and subject to company policy,' says Woodcock. "People doing the same job can be on dramatically different pay rates, sometimes as much as $10 000 [a year]."

Workers suspect the company is "down-adjusting" pay scales so a pay offer in the contracts are a furphy.

Online Activism

TeleTech staff have been innovative in their use of technology, using email to spread the word and to campaign against the AWAs.

TeleTech's move against Gambacorta saw an immediate response, with an email alerting employees to what had happened to the safety representative circulating within hours of the company's actions.

The company claimed Gambacorta's request for a Risk Assessment of the effects of a new rostering system was inflammatory and malicious and recommended WorkCover prosecute him for WorkCover fraud.

Gambacorta had sought to place his OH&S concerns on the agenda of a safety committee meeting, but his suspension saw him unable to attend the meeting. A management representative heads the safety committee, in contravention of OHS Legislation.

TeleTech expelled a workplace union representative from a disciplinary meeting and refused to allow representation by a union organiser, leaving him to be grilled by three management representatives.

Gambacorta was re-instated after the USU moved swiftly to bring the matter before the Industrial Relations Commission.

"I never cease to be amazed at how bad things are getting in this country," says NSW Labor Council secretary John Robertson. "It's quite mind boggling that this is going on in Australia, which is supposed to be the country of the fair go and people being able to make informed decisions and I think this is an absolute disgrace."

Labor Council has condemned TeleTech for the methods it has employed to force employees to sign AWAs. If has foreshadowed a broader campaign over TeleTech's treatment of its staff if management victimises workers for speaking about their situations.

TeleTech's anti-worker management style has seen a growing number of their workers sign up to the union.

"Management are slowly learning the message that to touch one is to touch all," Woodcock says.

If you would like to tell TeleTech how you feel about their treatment of their employees you can fax them on 9551 1460 or email one of their human resources managers on [email protected]


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