||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
"Grubs" Derail Revolution
Representatives of striking Melbourne and Sydney technicians both caught a whiff of Australia’s largest company when Foxtel took a $400 a week interim payment off the negotiating table.
"It looked like we might have been able to reach an interim settlement on Monday but someone intervened and we suspect it was Telstra," Victorian CEPU secretary, Len Cooper said. "It had Telstra's grubby fingerprints all over it."
Cooper said the payment wouldn't have got technicians back in their vans but, prior to its withdrawal, the parties had been close to an interim agreement that would have allowed digital installation to proceed while contractual arrangements were being finalised.
Telstra is Foxtel's largest shareholder. It owns Australia's dominant pay tv network in partnership with Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd and Kerry Packer's PBL.
Cooper said Telstra technicians received messages on their mobile phones during the week, requiring them to make themselves available for Foxtel work.
"Telstra corporate managers have been complaining that the action by Foxtel technicians is a direct threat to their contracting out strategy," Cooper said.
NSW official, Shane Murphy agreed.
"Telstra is up to its neck in this," he told Workers Online.
The withdrawal prompted 800 sub-contractors around Australia to vote to extend their strike "indefinitely", last Thursday.
Murphy led a convoy of 200 vans all the way from Chester Hill in Sydney's western suburbs to Foxtel's Piermont corporate headquarters where technicians staged a raucous protest.
There were van blockades of other corporate offices around the city and similar actions in Brisbane. Melbourne techs blockaded the company's Victorian headquarters last Friday, then headed to state parliament for a protest rally.
Foxtel forked out $15 million to spruik its digital revolution but take-up has been thrown into disarray by newly-unionised contractors who have seen earnings tumble in recent years.
Technicians claim that around seven years ago the average contractor was grossing $160,000 but that repeated rate cuts have shaved that figured back to around $43,000, from which technicians have to pay expenses and tax.
Cooper says the re-unionisation of contractor technicians is highly significant for the labour movement.
"We are seeing subbies getting organised and returning to the family," he said.
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