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Issue No. 219 07 May 2004  
E D I T O R I A L

The Mouse That Roars
A number of campaigns this week show how web campaigning is reaching a level of sophistication that is transforming it from a gee-whiz fad to a potent industrial tool.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Machine Man
It’s regarded as the most powerful job in the Party, but new NSW ALP general secretary Mark Arbib wants to build a bridge with the union movement.

Unions: Testing Times
Unions are not opposed to drug and alcohol testing, but they do want to see real safety issues addressed, writes Phil Doyle.

Bad Boss: Freespirit Haunts Internet
FreeSpirit forked out a motza for a whiz bang internet presence then disappeared right off the radar – once it was nominated as our Bad Boss for May.

Unions: Badge of Honour
Surry Hills is home to one of the world’s finest displays of union badges thanks to Bill "The Bear" Pirie and a supporting cast headed by Joe Strummer, Mark Knopfler, George Benson, Annie Lennox and other seriously big noises.

National Focus: Noel's World
Shrill bosses bleat over minimum wage rise, union spinmeisters congregate in Melbourne and Tassie’s nurses take the baton from their mob in Victoria reports Noel Hester in this national round up.

Economics: Safe Refuge
A humanitarian approach to refugees and an economically rational one?? I’d like to see that. Frank Stilwell did, when he went to Young in NSW to look into the impact of the Afghan refugees on temporary protection visas who came to work for the local abattoir

International: Global Abuse
Amnesty International have joined the chorus against the violation of trade union rights in the former Soviet republic of Belarus.

History: The Honeypot
To the Honeypot come those individuals anxious to get their hands on instant wealth. So it was in the early days of Broken Hill, wrties Grace Hawes in this homage to the mining town.

Review: Death And The Barbarians
This new take on coming of age films focuses on the coming of death and the dignity and maturity it can inspire among those touched by it - though not always easily in the overcrowded Canadian public health system, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Resident Bard David Peetz uncovers some of the unfolding mysteries of talk back radio.

N E W S

 Casual Affair Costs Family

 Dob a Driver Strikes Out

 Crash LAME’s Smoking Gun

 Axe To Fall On Skippy

 Internet Replaces Crayons

 Young Lives Crushed

 Feds Move Goal Posts

 Telstra Baulks at Two Percent

 Crane Death Brings Fine

 Worker Breaks Unwritten Law

 Private Nurses Short Changed

 RailCorp Wrecks Weekend

 Thunderbirds Are Stop

 Activists What’s On!

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Rethinking Left and Right Part 1
Dr David McKnight, from the University of Technology, Sydney presents a new frame for looking at the competing ideas within Social Democracy.

The Soapbox
Rethinking Left and Right Part 2
David McKnight concludes the paper he presented to the ‘Rethinking Social Democracy’ conference, in London, April 15-17, 2004.

Sport
Out On A Limb
Phil Doyle becomes the first Australian journalist to state that the Olympics will be called off.

Politics
The Westie Wing
In the latest episode, Ian West explores what Disraeli called "Lies, damn lies and statistics".

Postcard
Message from America
Searing snapshots from a landscape of uncertainty have plunged the Bush Administration into deeper crisis, writes WorkingForChange's Bill Berkowitz.

L E T T E R S
 Reprehensible?
 Justice For Victims Denied
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Worker Breaks Unwritten Law


Call centre operator TeleTech is trying to discipline a worker at its Pennant Hills facility over a policy that doesn’t appear to exist.

After Chris Talmage was carpeted for a breach of company "policy" managers were unable to refer to the specific indiscretion, and a survey of workmates revealed none had heard of the mystery transgression.

It occurred as TeleTech backed away from suggestions they had made to workers that if they did not sign controversial Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) they would miss out on a pay rise.

"Our members did not have to sign an oppressive take it or leave it AWA in order to get a 3% pay rise," says USU Organiser Paul Morris.

TeleTech had threatened its employees last year that if they did not sign the new AWA they would miss out a 3% pay rise.

Meeting "An Absolute Abuse Of Power"

In the most recent development at the company, union member Chris Talmage was given no prior warning before being hauled into a meeting with management on the 8th of April and accused of 'breaching' a company policy called 'accessing your own account '.

"It was an ambush!" says USU organiser Paul Morris, who said that Talmage was not allowed to be represented in the meeting.

Talmage was told the matter had to be 'investigated' and that he was suspended from work until further notice.

On April 14th Chris was sent a letter from TeleTech Human Resources manager Rachael Wilkins threatening disciplinary action and termination. In this letter he was ordered to attend a meeting in his own time and would not be allowed any representation.

"As far as management were concerned the 'breach' was serious enough for Chris to be removed from the building and suspended," says Morris. "The breach was also serious enough for Chris to be sent a letter which threatens disciplinary action and termination. On the other hand the breach was not serious enough for him to have representation. Can you believe this?"

"Our survey to members asking them whether they were aware of this policy turned up a response of 100% 'no'."

Morris described the April 16 meeting as "an absolute abuse of power by management".

At a subsequent meeting on the 21st of April the company did not obstruct union representation for Talmage.

Management decided that Chris was guilty of breaching the 'accessing your own account ' policy. Despite union arguments he was then presented with a first written warning after being suspended for 12 days. Chris refused to sign the warning letter.

"The USU is quite adamant that our members are not going to be used as scapegoats for TeleTech management's failure to provide a clear and concise policy on accessing personal accounts," says Morris. "At the end of all this Chris is back on the job, paid for time lost time (including Public Holiday rates) and paid to attend meetings called by management."


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