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Issue No. 224 11 June 2004  

The Passion For Power
Arguably Midnight Oils’ greatest ever song ‘Powderworks’ starts off with the apocalyptic warning "there’s a shit storm a-coming."

The Passion for Power
Arguably Midnight Oils’ greatest ever song ‘Powderworks’ starts off with the apocalyptic warning "there’s a shit storm a-coming."


Interview: The New Democrat
Canadian activist Judy Rebick explains how she's using lessons from Brazil to rebuild the labour movement.

Bad Boss: The Ugly Australian
Prime Minister John Howard is in California spruiking the "merits" of this month’s Bad Boss nomination …

Unions: Free Spirits and Slaves
International capital demands guest labour – legal or illegal – as a way of beating down wages and conditions and, as Jim Marr discovers, the Australian Government seems happy to oblige.

Industrial: National Focus
Noel Hester reports on another workplace death (we-will-not-RIP NOHSC), heartburn for the Canberra consensus and all the action from around the states in our national wrap.

History: A Class Act
The problem of forgetting the primacy of class in favour of other ideas of community is highlighted in a new book, writes Neale Towart

International: Across the Ditch
NZ Nurses Union leader, Laila Harré, is in Sydney this week, comparing notes with the Australian Nurses Federation and seeking transTasman support for New Zealand’s highest profile industrial campaign.

Economics: Home Truths
Sydney University's Frank Stilwell argues that tax policy is driving the housing boom.

Review: No Time Like Tomorrow
The Day After Tomorrow is one part Grim Reaper of the environmental movement and two parts fictitious fable dramatically window dressed with extreme special effects, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Silent Note
Resident Bard David Peetz uncovers the current public service motto – "Don't tell the Minister!".


 Making Plans For Nigel

 People Importer Wants Indemnity

 Desperate Ambos Turn to Copper

 Victims Dusted in Asbestos Row

 Delos Bang Victory Gong

 Teaching 12 Percent Tougher

 Now Carr Faces Medical Bill

 Officers Hurt in Transit

 Support Unit Makes Canberra Debut

 Winter Beds Breakthrough

 Workers Wait For Bread

 HoWARd the A**sLIcKEer

 Activists What’s On!


The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part I
The Australia Institute's Clive Hamilton questions the assumptions underlying a society that defines happiness in dollar terms.

The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part II
Clive Hamilton concludes his analysis, looking at how more and more Australians are pulling back from a marketplace that is no longer providing the goods.

The Locker Room
Sack ‘Em All!
Phil Doyle puts his job on the line, but doesn’t everyone these days?

The Westie Wing
The NSW Government has an agenda on the table but the test is finding innovative ways to finance it, writes Ian West

 Godbotherers Descend On Poor
 Sick Of This Job
 Office Junior’s Secrets
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Letters to the Editor

Sick Of This Job

I work an average of 3 to 5 unpaid hours per week but am docked yet again for being sick as I've run out of sick pay. To arrange time off to attend an essential medical appointment for a potentially life threatening condition becomes a high skilled negotiation exercise of the level usually reserved for US/Iraqian relations.

Our admin woman works back every night but has to take a recreation day to catch up with a country friend. A work colleague leaves a key in her letterbox so her interstate relatives can get access to her flat upon arrival for their annual visit.

Another staff member who is not a morning person drags herself in for the stickler 9am start even though she works best later into the evening. Another staff member is forced to take a sickie to sort out their mother's urgent financial matter afraid of being refused a request for a couple of hours off. Forget being a mum, it just wouldn't work.

Yet across the house introduction of compulsory flexitime would solve all these dilemmas. The admin staff member would use acrued time, I can attend my medical appointments with ease, and the staff member with the relatives could be there to greet them without worry of potential burglary. The "not a morning person" staff member could work at their most productive times. The less healthy can draw on accrued hours to avoid losing pay and the mum's can juggle their family and kids. And if you've just lost it for the day you can give up, go early and tackle it another day when you are fresh. And with the staff member taking the whole day off to sort out mum's finances, the employer would have only lost 2 hours rather than a whole day's labour. And everyone would be happy.

It's so easy. Set a few ground rules including minimum staffing requirements for early morning and late afternoons and it works fine. Past studies have consistently shown that flexible working arrangements save big time on sick leave and have improved productivity. And it's easy to see why, no one has to skulk around and lie to get time off. Staff can choose to work at their most productive times and no one resents that only "special groups" get time off as it's accessible to all. Given that the workforce appears to be equally divided between the larks and the owls, staffing levels usually balance out.

And if it requires the occassional effort of getting in early or staying back late to fit in with a roster to keep staffing consistent not even the most committed owl or lark would mind making that occassional effort.

So why is it so hard for employers working with employees to give it a go? In a past job I've worked advising workers on workplace disputes. And some of the biggest were disputes over employers who simply would not be flexible over time.

So maybe it's time that we all got together, got our hands on some flexible proposals (the NSW industrial relations website springs to mind) and insist on flexibility.

With me I'm seeking a new job.



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