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Issue No. 245 05 November 2004  

What’s In a Name?
McDonalds is doing it, IAG has done it, James Hardie desperately needs to do it – and now the Labor Council of NSW is doing it, re-working its brand to meet the changing demands of their markets.


Interview: The Reich Stuff
Robert Reich has led the debate on the future of work – both as an academic and politician. Now he’s on his way to Australia to help NSW unions push the envelope.

Economics: Crime and Punishment
Mark Findlay argues that the present psychological approach to prison programs is increasing the likelihood of re-offending and the threat to community safety.

Environment: Beyond The Wedge
Whether the great forestry divide can ever be overcome or whether it is best sidestepped for the sake of unity and sustainability in other areas is up for debate, writes Tara de Boehmler.

International: The End Of The Lucky Country
Linda Weiss, Elizabeth Thurbon and John Mathews show us How To Kill A Country

Safety: Tests Fail Tests
Nick Lewocki from the RTBU lifts the lid on the shonky science behind RailCorp testing

Politics: Labo(u)r Day
John Robertson lets fly at this years Labor Day dinner

Human Rights: Arabian Lights
Tim Brunero reports on how a Sydney sparky took on the Taliban and lived to tell the tale.

History: Labour's Titan
Percy Brookfield was a big man who was at the heart of the trade union struggles that made Broken Hill a quintessential union town writes Neale Towart.

Review: Foxy Fiasco
To find out who is outfoxing who, read Tara de Boehmler's biased review of a subjective documentary about corrupt journalism.

Poetry: Then I Saw The Light
Brothers and sisters! Praise the Lord! Brother George has saved the White House from an invasion by infidels, writes resident bard David Peetz.


 Unions Dump Labor

 Shearers Brush Woolly Mammoths

 Girls Should Be Short Changed

 Sydney Turns Down Volume

 Minister Rides Collie

 Staff, Trees Weather the Blame

 Offshore Embassy for Families

 Visy Paper Folds

 Workers Unplug Power Cuts

 Silverwater Offers Porridge

 Environment Wiped Out In Dubbo

 Justice Eludes Kariong Staff

 Nelson Flags Another Raid

 Five Steps to Sanity

 Activists What's On!


The Locker Room
In Naming Rights Only
Phil Doyle has Gone to Gowings

The Soapbox
Homeland Insecurity
Rowan Cahill tells us how the Howard Government’s appointment of Major-General Duncan Lewis to head up the national security division of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has received little critical comment, until now.

The Westie Wing
New proposed legislation in NSW provides a vital window of opportunity for unions to ensure they achieve convictions for workplace deaths, writes Ian West.

 Too Young
 Let's Start A New Party
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What’s In a Name?

McDonalds is doing it, IAG has done it, James Hardie desperately needs to do it – and now the Labor Council of NSW is doing it, re-working its brand to meet the changing demands of their markets.

Now, talk of brands and markets may be close to sacrilege to some in the movement, but in an era where the benefits of joining a union have to be sold, sometimes in a hostile environment, it provides a useful framework for reviewing who we are and what we stand for.

A brand is not just a name or even a logo, it is shaped by every interaction between an organisation, its target audience and the general public.

When McDonalds shifts its focus from fried food to health food, advertising is not enough; it actually has to change its product; likewise no manner of reworking of image can rescue James Hardie until it addresses its crimes.

'Brand management' is something the corporate sector spends a lot of time and money on - it is not something that unions have done well - and didn't need to in an era when everyone joined as a matter of course. But in tougher times it is not just useful, it is essential.

The first step is talking to people - people who have chosen to join unions and people who have chosen not to - particularly the younger generation of workers who are less likely to join unions.

Over the past 12 months, that's exactly what the Labor Council has been doing, and it is the results of this research that is driving the decision to become 'Unions NSW'.

What was crystal clear from the research was that - surprise, surprise, people don't like politicians; but more disturbingly, they view Labor Council as a political organisation.

Here's a selection of quotes from the focus groups: "Sounds like a subsidiary of the Labor government"; " Part of the Labor Party" ; "Sounds like a political group."

And while this process started way before the federal election, exit polling polling conducted by Auspoll shows that the idea that union members will automatically vote Labor is a myth - in fact, less than half put the ALP first.

Of course, changing the name of the Labor Council to Unions NSW will not, in and of itself, change anything - but it is an important marker that the peak council sees itself as the champion of the union movement, first and foremost.

This does not mean that unions will not seek to play a role within the political party it created, if anything it provides a chance to differentiate itself and argue as a block, rather than a fragmented group of votes controlled by the factional warlords.

More important, this symbolic change provides an opportunity to recast unions in NSW - around where work is going and where workers can meaningfully organise themselves to get a better deal.

It is about looking at our core failures of fairness and equity and understanding how these ideals will play out in a very different world.

That's the discussion Union NSW will be sparking next month, with the visit of Robert Reich, the launch of the Working NSW think tank and a renewed focus on young workers.

As Reich points out in this month's interview, the challenges for workers in a nation like Australia will be profound as nations like China and India enter the global economy.

To Reich, unions have a key role in recognising these changes and equipping their members, not just to weather the onslaught, but to actually thrive - and that means a more creative response than just saying 'no'.

The challenge is to shape change and to do so, we need a clear picture of where we are headed, what sort of working lives our children will face if we don't act now.

As the environmental movement and the extreme right have done in recent years, we need an agenda beyond the political cycle that has the courage to imagine a union movement into the 21st century and beyond.

These are big, bold ideas, but the intellectual heavy lifting has to start now.

Peter Lewis



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