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Issue No. 250 21 December 2004  

Beyond The Law
Despite the all-engulfing gloom emenating from our political wing right now, 2004 comes to an end on a strangely upbeat note for the trade union movement.


Interview: The King of Comedy
John Robertson looks back on a year when his comic genius was finally realised.

Unions: Ten Simple Rules
Accepted wisdom has unions all but retired as serious players in the Australian game. A glance through the major industrial stories of 2004, however, suggests improved footwork, and a commitment to boxing clever, might herald a comeback, writes Jim Marr.

Politics: Rampant Indivdualism
CFMEU National Secretary John Sutton gives his take on a year when the political debate took a turn to the Right.

International: Global Struggle
Labourstart's Eric Lee looks back on a year when the struggles for labour increasingly crossed international lines.

Economics: Cashing in the Year
Look back in sorrow or look back in anger? By any standards 2004 has been a hell of a year, writes Frank Stilwell.

History: Grass Roots
Worker solidarity in Australia in the first century of invasion can give us inspiration and clues for our upcoming battles, writes Neale Towart.

Review: Cultural Realities
In 2004 popular culture shifted from reality television to reality movies, and swapped last year's light-weight subject matter for the slightly more substantial, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Y-U-C-K
Workers Online resident bard David Peetz takes inspiration from The Village People for his latest prose.


 Unions Make Hardie Pay

 Hadgkiss Gives Mourners Grief

 Mum Gets "Hopson’s" Choice

 AWAs Crash on Broken Hill

 No Fun in the Sack

 Tax Office Draws Blood

 Origin Prop a Union Hit

 Good Guy Wears Black

 Security Crisis at Sydney Airport

 Biscuit Bosses Crumble

 Ardmona Urged to Can Racism

 Bomber Predicts Big Bang

 Stolen Wages Cut

 Tomorrow the World…

 Bosses Sack WorkCover

 Activists What's On!


The Crystal Ball
Workers Online consults a raft of leading psychics to find out what readers can look forward to in 2005.

The Soapbox
Scrooge Was Right
Christmas has been cancelled this year, writes our US correspondent Brooklyn Phil.

The Locker Room
The Workers Online Sports Awards
Continuing a tradition that dates back to the Twentieth Century, Phil Doyle dishes out the gongs for all things great and small in the world of sport during 2004.

The Westie Wing
Our favoutrite MP looks for a positive spin on the year at NSW Parliament

 Costa’s Hike Unfare
 Temporary Arrangements
 The Price Of Tea In China
 Cry For Me, Argentina
 Ho Bloody Ho
 Right Is Wrong
 Business As Usual
 All In The Family
 Swing Left Wishful Thinking
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Letters to the Editor

Temporary Arrangements

As the government comes under more pressure to meet community expectations in servicing core functions, it is looking to limit its commitments in what it sees as non-essential business. One result is the current rush to amalgamate these "non-essential" departments. These amalgamations, in turn, help to facilitate redundancies thus reducing the government's major long-term financial burden - permanent salaries.

Temporaries, some externally funded are replacing more and more of these permanents, others funded from consolidated revenue or quasi-commercial government operations. They are seen as a more flexible and cost-effective alternative. But these temporaries do not enjoy the same benefits as their permanent workmates and furthermore are not compensated for this discrepancy. A recent example at my workplace in the newly formed DPI highlights the problem. Two employees working in the same section recently left after similar years of service. One was a permanent officer who wanted to leave. He saw the redundancies coming so applied for and was granted leave without pay. Subsequently he was offered a redundancy, which he accepted. The other employee was a temporary filling a vacated permanent position. She was informed, with minimum notice, that the position she was filling would not be extended and she was dismissed.

Over the years I've seen temporary employees struggle with similar inequities in the workplace. In fact we have "temporary" employees who have been on the full-time payroll for 15 years. Because they are externally or commercially funded they cannot expect permanency or the resultant benefits of this status. I have attended recent restructure meetings where aggrieved permanents have been attempting to avoid or deal with forced transfers.

Little attention has been paid to the long-term temporaries attending the meeting whose positions seem forever in limbo. Some have expressed the opinion (to me) that they would much prefer to have the problem that the permanents are dealing with. Generally the temporaries end up resentful of this two-tiered employment situation and obviously this does not lend itself to a happy work environment. I'm sure my workplace is not unique.

I believe a future public service will see a workplace dominated by temporaries. Permanents will still perform regulatory, management and core functions but they will probably be in the minority. Management's response to me regarding the inherent inequity in this developing two-tiered employment structure is that it's the way of the world and there's nothing they can do about it. My response is that you cannot expect the beneficiaries of change to remedy its deficiencies. And management do benefit, even at the local level. It is much easier to have a temporary workforce whose future employment is heavily reliant on management approval.

I want my union to be about fairness and equity. This sometimes means looking beyond the level playing field and being prepared to make allowance for obvious disadvantage. The first step as far as the union is concerned is to recognise that temporary employment is not a temporary phenomenon. It is here to stay. One approach then might be to build in to our awards some compensation for temporary employees. As a permanent officer I believe it is going to be up to us to bring about change. It may not be an easy issue but its one that is not going to go away and its one that our union needs to be seen to be addressing.

Robert Lowe

PSA Member No 8831


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