||Issue No. 213||19 March 2004|
Pay For View
Interview: Baby Bust
Safety: Dust To Dust
Bad Boss: Shaming in Print
National Focus: Work's Cripplin' Us
International: Bulk Bullies
History: The Battle for Kelly's Bush
Economics: Aid, Trade And Oil
Review: The Art Of Work
Poetry: Sew His Lips Together
Tom On Drink
Howard Screws Vets
Pay For View
Stability in union density does not mean the movement is standing still, indeed to maintain the current rate unions actually recruited a net increase of 33,000 workers over the past 12 months.
They had to do so in a climate that saw the workforce growth fuelled by non-union, private sector jobs and the continuing spread of casual and contract work, an area which has always been difficult to organise.
In holding the line, there have been some great advances, none the least the Foxtel contractors, many of whom left the movement when they took redundancy from Telstra to establish their own cable and satellite installation businesses..
A few years on and they are retuning to their union, albeit as owners of their own business, pushed to the brink of collapse by the constant squeeze from their new market places.
The unionists have contracts with for a range of bottom feeding companies who undercut each other to win a stake in the booming pay TV installation work and internet roll-out busniness.
Of course, the bargain basement bids are then passed onto the contractors who have no option but to drop their fees, meaning many are now working six and a half days per week to take home a salary that hovers around the poverty line.
With a campaign neatly timed to coincide with the launch of Foxtel's 'digital revolution' (and surprisingly absent from the pages of the News Ltd press), the contractors have gone on strike to assert their basic right to negotiate with the company controlling the market.
It may be a new form of employment and a new sort of industrial objective, but anyone who saw the convoy of Foxtel vans in the city this week should be under no illusion that these are real unionists displaying real resolve.
Meanwhile, in more traditional union areas, another wave is building - a demand from rank and file members for unions to demand that those who benefit from union negotiations are made to pay for the service.
It is a push across many industries, a demand for the free-loaders to pay that is driven more by a sense of what is fair in the marketplace than any notion of class solidarity.
People are prepared to pay for a decent service, but they don't like seeing someone else pick up the benefits for free.
The predictable response from employers is talk of bully-boys and returns to the days of compulsory unionism, but their shrill response belies the truth that the market-based argument of 'user pays' is compelling.
Unions have always been about markets, giving workers a joint bargaining position to maximise their leverage for wages and conditions; it is this more than any ideology that have made employers so hostile.
And as markets evolve, the need for workers to intervene or be squashed is only intensifying - and that's the real reason why unions refuse to disappear despite the best efforts and prayers of big business.
After all, in an era when you have to pay to watch the footy - albeit from 25 different angles - surely no-one can expect a free ride at work.
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