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Issue No. 240 01 October 2004  
E D I T O R I A L

The Premiership Quarter
After spending the past month with a decidedly sinking feeling, there’s a whiff of hope and expectation that the Howard era could actually be coming to an end.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: The Last Bastian
AMWU state secretary Paul Bastian has been at the centre of the three year battle to bring James Hardie to account.

Unions: High and Dry
Jim Marr unpacks the recent High Court Electrolux decision to test whether the ruling matches the media hype.

Security: Liquid Borders
The Howard Government loves to trumpet its national security credentials but a close look at its record in shipping sinks the myth argues MUA’s Zoe Reynolds.

Industrial: No Bully For You
Phil Doyle reports on how bringing dignity and respect to the workplace is undermining bullies.

History: Radical Brisbane
Radical Brisbane extends the 'Radical City' series into the Red North. Two experienced activists, academics and writers turn South East Queensland history on its head.

International: No Vacancies
More than 1400 hotel union workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 2, are on strike at four major hotels in San Francisco, California, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Life After Capitalism
A situation that all anarchists dream of? Michael Albert has been more than dreaming., writes Neale Towart

Technology: Cyber Winners
Labourstart's Eric Lee looks at a good news story of global online campaigning that has delivered a victory.

Poetry: Do It Yourself Poetry
Teaser: Wondering why the polls are all over the place? Ask our resident bard and psephologist.

Review: Hard Labo(u)r
The Voice of Southern Labor highlights the role music played in the 1930's US textile strikes, but more than that it provides a lucid insight into the roots of modern capitalism and some truly organic organising, writes Tara de Boehmler.

N E W S

 Kev Cooks the Books

 Black Hole In Libs Kids Plan

 Xerox Copies Waterfront Tactics

 Hardies Asbestos Woes "Snowballs"

 Air Fleet Grounded By Job Cuts

 Musos Lung For Better

 Customs Officers Declare

 Dumbing Down The Trades

 Pacific National Sidetracks Hunter Jobs

 Witch Hunt For Whistleblower

 Black Diamond Deaths Spark Mining Inquiry

 Pensioners Strip Over Pension Strip

 Activists What's On!

C O L U M N S

Politics
True Lies
Labor Council secretary John Robertson argues It’s Time – for an IR reality check.

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Much work has been done in the past to ease the plight of clothing outworkers in New South Wales. It's time to step up the pressure, as sweatshops and clothing contract work are thriving stronger than ever, writes Ian West.

The Soapbox
Who Started the Class War?
Evan Jones looks across the Australian political landscape and asks who are the real class warriors?

The Locker Room
First Past The Post
Phil Doyle is coming up in class and is all the better for recent racing

Parliament
Westie Wing
Our favourite state MP returns for his monthly Macquarie Street wrap.

Postcard
Positive Action
Australian unionists are helping give hope to Filipino workers living with HIV/AIDS.

L E T T E R S
 Donkey Vote
 Problem Solved
 How To Run Society
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Kev Cooks the Books


Claims by the Howard Government that workers on individual contracts are better off have been blown away by a university study into AWAs.

It has come to light as further research has exposed employers as the industrial bully boys of the past decade, with a dramatic rise in lock-outs .

The study by Kristen van Barneveld from the University of Newcastle disputes the sweeping assertions that AWAs pay more, concluding gains for the employer come at the expense of individual employees.

Launching the Coalition IR policy this week, Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews quoted ABS figures proving that workers on AWAs are paid more.

But van Barneveld has unpacked those figures, reporting on literature that highlights that - as well as the ABS figures being distorted by the high number of managerial AWA employees - collective agreement figures are also negatively distorted by a high number of part time and casual workers. In fact, the research suggests that non-managerial employees achieve better wage outcomes through collective agreements.

In fact, the research suggests that non-managerial employees, in fact, achieve better wage outcomes through collective agreements.

She also refers to research from ACIRRT showing that AWAs were less likely to contain provisions for a wage rise during the life of the agreement and, where they did, were more likely to be performance-based and at management's discretion.

More importantly, the research by van Barneveld highlights that wages are not the only factor in determining the impact of an AWA.

Looking at AWAs in the hospitality industry in detail, van Barneveld finds that "most of the benefits which had been achieved through the introduction of AWAs were one-sided, with employers achieving wages and hours of flexibility at the expense of employee entitlements."

"There is little evidence of AWAs being used for complementary purposes - to foster positive employee relations or to encourage or reward employees for excellent performance," she writes.

"Rather than use the 'carrot' approach to managing employees, it seems that hospitality employers prefer to wield the stick."

Van Barneveld's research tested these statistics by conducting case studies of four businesses in the hospitality industry using AWAs.

Among her findings:

- favouritism and division in workplaces both between AWA employees as well as non-AWA employees - in particular in relation to rostering - leading to a collapse in morale

- wages levels falling below the award during the life of the AWA

- little evidence of AWAs being used to reward good employees

- very little evidence of truly 'individual' AWAs.

"The case study findings suggest that organisational efficiencies were often gained at the expense of the individual employee," she concludes.

"This could occur not only in monetary terms but also in breaking down acceptable community standards such as the notion of a weekend ... or a substantial lunch break.

"In other words, under a system of individual contracts, inequitable outcomes for employees were often the corollary of provisions to enhance organisational efficiency."

< b>Bosses in Balaclavas

Meanwhile, a study by Chris Briggs of AC IRRT found strike action at historic low levels while employer lockouts were on the rise.

The study, which looked at the frequency of lockouts and strikes over ten years, found employer lockouts accounted for 57 per cent of all disputes between 1998 and 2003, compared with seven per cent between 1993 and 1997.

"More than half of all long disputes, which last for more than a month, are employer lockouts," Briggs says.

"Employers, not unions, are now responsible for most of the long-running disputes in Australia."

Briggs says the type of lock outs in Australia would be illegal in other countries, because they are designed to force workers to sign individual contracts.

The return of the lockout was led by the manufacturing sector in which

lockouts accounted for a quarter of disputes, the research found. About half of all lockouts took place in Victoria and in regional areas.


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