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Issue No. 207 22 December 2003  
E D I T O R I A L

Backs to the Wall
How does one judge a year like 2003, when on the surface the powers of darkness – read Bush and Howard and union-busting bosses - can point to the scoreboard and claim ‘we won!’?

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Robbo’s Rules
Labor Council secretary John Robertson rules the line through 2003 and looks forward to a bigger and better year to come.

Unions: Fightback 2003
Tony Abbott, no less, summed up the tone of 2003 when he complained workers were frustrating his agenda, as Jim Marr reports.

Bad Boss: Madame Lash Whips Tony
Jim Marr explains how a local can manufacturer knocked off a quality field, including a notorious American call centre operator, in the race for Bad Boss honours.

Politics: United Front
Facing a new leader and new rules, Jim Marr speaks to key union players about the hot issues at January’s ALP National Conference.

Economics: Looking Back - Looking Forward
The year ends with the thought that 2004 must be better, writes Frank Stilwell in his annual review of all things economic.

International: Net Benefits
International editor Andrew Casey looks back on a year where workers stood up globally for services we once took for granted.

History: The New Guard
Who were Australia’s fascists in the 1930s and was John Howard’s father in the New Guard? Labour historian, Andrew Moore, uncovers some surprising information about Australia’s fascist past.

Poetry: What is the PM singing this Christmas?
Our Kirribilli spies, led by resident bard David Peetz, have been listening in on the PM's preparations for Christmas, and have recorded the Howard family rehearsing this new Christmas carol.

Review: Culture That Was
2003 saw the Howard Government signal its readiness to swap culture for agriculture in a free trade deal with the US and film maker George Miller lament that Aussie's had run out of stories to tell anyway, writes Tara de Boehmler.

N E W S

 No Joy for ANZ - This Time

 Nurses, Teachers Win Big

 Govt Coy on Sackings Threat

 NSW: State of Discomfort

 Fashion Police Collar Moe

 Telstra Picks Up Union Signal

 E-Missiles Strike White House

 STOP PRESS: Doubts Over Driver Test

 Juggler Catches Union Gong

 Chubb Beats Up On Own Guards

 Commuters Face Long, Hot Summer

 MUA Members Play Santa

 Bennelong Grinch Strikes Again

 G’day To Union Made Wines

 Activists Notebook

C O L U M N S

Predictions
The Guessing Game
We have consulted our regular list of mystics and gnostics to offer these throughts for the future.

Culture
Folk You Mate
Jan Nary looks at the role of workers songs in the upcoming National Folk Festival.

Culture
Shane Maloney – Crime Writer
For a crime writer whose books are set against a backdrop of unions and Labor Party politics, Shane Maloney confesses to little direct experience of either.

The Locker Room
Workers Online Sports Awards
Noel Hester and Peter Moss give their annual rundown of the good, the bad and the ugly in the world of sport.

Technology
The Web We Weave
Social Change Online's Mark McGrath's annual review of how unions are using the web to grow.

L E T T E R S
 Tom On Mark
 Looking The Otherway At Christmas
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Fashion Police Collar Moe


Victorian call centre staff, unseen by the public, are being docked for wearing collarless shirts by TeleTech.

Company fashion police sent a male worker home after he attended a CPSU stop work meeting, last week, and docked him for being off-site - but not until he had been on the job for two hours and 46 minutes and helped the centre over its morning peak.

The action came as CPSU members in Victoria joined USU counterparts in NSW agitating against the imposition of second generation AWAs.

The original, take-it or leave-it employment contracts sliced thousands of dollars off rates that had been negotiated with Telstra, Australia's largest company.

Now the US call centre giant is pushing staff in both states to sign-off on second generation AWAs but employees are demanding that the company negotiate with relevant unions, and sign-off on the newly-registered Contract Call Centres Award.

TeleTech has refused to sign the safety net document or enter negotiations with either union. Although the new award provides only minimal safeguards it would oblige TeleTech to pay loadings for Saturday and Sunday hours, something not required under the terms of Federal Government-supported AWAs that were imposed without negotiations.

Hundreds of union members have so far refused to put their names to the new TeleTech documents. CPSU members held a half hour stop work meeting outside the Moe call centre last week to urge the company to enter negotiations.

Organiser, Sue Brookes, described the new AWAs as worse, on conditions, than the originals.

"The pay increase is pathetic, especially given where these people are coming from. They are offering the CPI movement, plus one percent, but it is capped at 3 percent, irrespective of what happens with inflation."

Moe workers also say the company is dishonouring minimal sick leave obligations included in their AWAs, even after they present medical certificates.

The CPSU is handling the case of a former Moe employee who left TeleTech a mongh ago and still has received her final fortnight's wages and accrued annual leave.

Telstra Picks Up Union Signal

Independent electrical contractors are flocking to the union banner after striking Foxtel installers secured deals leaving them around $500 a week better off.

Two hundred Telstra/Foxtel sub-contractors called off a week-long strike after contractors, Siemens Theiss and ABB, withdrew demands for 20 percent cuts in job rates.

Telstra contracted out the work five years ago, then churned through one contractor after another in a bid to keep driving down pay tv and broadband installation costs.

The subbies banded together, under the CEPU banner, after Siemens-Thiess and ABB picked up the latest contracts and attempted to impose further cuts on earnings.

More than 90 percent of the 205 contractors employed in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth threw their lots in with the CEPU, precipitating industrial action that last for a week in NSW and 10 days in Victoria.

The sub-contractors picketed Telstra headquarters and used their vehicles to mount blockades on Australia's most profitable company.

The action finished when Telstra, Siemens-Theiss and ABB, ditched clawback demands and agreed to consider a log of alternative claims.

CEPU has set up a sub-contractors committee that will meet monthly, and filed a log of claims on another Telstra contractor, Comet, after 75 percent of its subbies joined the union at site meetings last week.

CEPU organiser, Shane Murphy, confirmed the campaign to unionise independent contractors would move to satellite cable tv installers and Optus sub-contractors in the New Year.

Amongst the immediate gains won by broadband and Foxtel installers, last week, were:

- restoration of the job rates being paid prior to Telstra re-letting the contract, saving workers from average $500 weekly cuts to their incomes

- bulk insurance discounts arranged through CEPU

- sub-contracts varied to include dispute resolution procedures

- workers will be allowed to paint over the Telstra or Foxtel livery they had been required to display on their vehicles

Murphy said workers still weren't "thrilled" about new contracts being offered by Siemens Theiss and ABB. They have given written notice of their intention to seek five percent increases each time the head contracts come up for annual review.


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