Workers Online
Workers Online
Workers Online
  Issue No 27 Official Organ of LaborNet 20 August 1999  






If unions endorse this deal then they will ultimately be held accountable by their members for the success of the service. Unions should be cautious of entering into a deal in which they have no ownership.

This issue arises particularly with regards to the control, quality and direction of the products and services recommended to union members through the use of their logo on the Virtual Communities Portal.

Without a substantial ownership stake, then regardless of contractual arrangements, unions, if they are unhappy with the tone of the material they are endorsing through the Portal, will have no choice other than to withdraw rights to use their logo. The members who have already accepted the deal may still remain with the Virtual Communities portal/entry point, with, or without a union branding.

Given the rapidly changing/growing nature of the Internet market, five years is a very long time to be locked into an exclusive deal with a single provider. Five years ago, net giants such as Amazon, eBay, Yahoo and Netscape did not exist!


Computer Hardware Deal

  1. Computer:
  2. Shipped pre-configured for Internet Access & with Lotus Smartsuite
  3. Hardware Support will be provided by the Hardware Supplier
  4. Computer is financed over 3.5 - 4 years charged at between 7 - 10 per cent interest per annum
  5. $10-20 charge for delivery / additional charge for installation

The Celeron 400 is a low cost alternative to the Pentium II/III lines designed for the budget market - however has some technical limitations including the fact that it runs on a 66Mhz motherboard (rather then 100MHz for PII/III) and has only 128kb L2 cache.

These computers will be obsolete by the time they have been fully paid for the current life span of a middle of the range PC is 2 years. Desire for the latest games and software as well as speed on the Internet will drive demand for upgrades.

In the current environment ISP's are desperate to lock-in market share, recently in the US one such company offered free computers to new subscribers.


Internet Access

  1. Internet access is likely to be through One.Tel, although in media reports this week they have denied that there is a deal in place.
  2. Subscribers would receive 15 - 20 hours Internet access per month with additional time charged at 40-50 cents per hour.
  3. Support provided through 24 hour ACTU/Virtual Communities support centre.
  4. Internet training is included as an optional extra - but will carry an additional charge.

No known guarantees on the level of service that will provided by the Internet Service Provider, e.g. modem to client ratio, speed of connection, connectivity to the Internet or customer support.

This deal does offer cheap access, however the market is growing very rapidly, ISP's are valued on the stock market by the number of subscribers they have, they are prepared to loss lead to establish market share.

For example, it is expected that Microsoft is about to offer free Internet access in the US in an attempt to break AOL's domination of the market. Telcos are starting to bundle Internet access with local phone accounts. In this environment it is very difficult for a particular deal to remain the best deal for very long!



  1. Virtual Communities plan to establish an Internet Portal -just like any homepage except it will be designed to be the first point of entry for subscribers to this deal every time they access the web.
  2. We understand that by employing special software and configuration users will be required to log onto the Internet through the Virtual Communities portal, it will be impossible to access the Internet without going through the Virtual Communities gateway.
  3. It appears that unions will have little control over the content of this portal.
  4. Virtual Communities will on-sell/promote products and services through this portal and will receive a commission on sales. These commission will provide Virtual Communities with their primary income stream.
  5. Virtual Communities will be responsible for determining which e-commerce providers will be promoted through their portal, however they undertake to be sensitive to union concerns in the negotiation of these arrangements. Organisations offering competing services to industry Superfunds will not be allowed.
  6. The browsers on the computers will be pre-configured in such a way that it will be a non-standard procedure for web-users to access non-endorsed web sites - or the Internet at large. This will mimic the branded Microsoft Network model.
  7. Virtual Communities Claim that they will "filter" the web and bring only the "best sites to the immediate environment".

The main focus of this deal is the hardware and the Internet access to union members but the real value is in the portal, which will be exclusively controlled by Virtual Communities - in terms of establishing the equity of the company it is the portal that the market place will value.

The primary income stream from the project will derive from commissions associated with product sales through the Virtual Communities portal.

It is important for unions to control the content so that they have the opportunity to organise their members through the Internet - but this will not be the case under the Vizard Proposal.

It is generally agreed that the Microsoft Network model which sought to limit user access outside the confines of a limited set of 'endorsed' sites has been a failure.

It is not possible to ascertain whether Virtual Communities intend to block sites which offer products / services competing with those advertised on the Virtual Communities Portal.


Union Web-Sites

  1. Virtual Communities will offer unions some form of free web-presence or web-site hosting.
  2. At this stage it is not clear what the value of this service will be - however Virtual Communities claim it will be in the tens of thousands.
  3. Virtual Communities foreshadow a whole range of services to be offered to union web-sites co-located with them, these include web design, hosting, maintenance, and ongoing improvements.

A reasonably high standard union web site can be built for around $15 thousand and with an ongoing server charge of $12 hundred per annum. In addition, such a website may cost another $2 -5 thousand to per year to maintain and further develop. The value of Virtual Communities 'in kind' returns should be measured against this benchmark.

The standard of the Web-sites offered under this proposal is unknown.



  1. There are many of these bundled deals being developed and offered - ecommerce providers are desperate to establish market share in this rapidly growing area and will cross subsidise computer purchase and Internet access to build their customer base. A similar situation arose with the very cheap mobile phones bundled with a fixed term network access contract.
  2. Virtual Communities has undertaken to put the deal together (hardware plus bundled Internet access) but will gain control over the content of the portal through which our members will access the net.
  3. Commissions from sales of products and services sold through this portal will provide Steve Vizard and Virtual Communities with their primary income stream. It is not fully clear, but it seems that any union share must come from the 35% of funds being returned to ACTU/Virtual. A significant proportion of these funds will have to go back into marketing and further web development. Virtual Communities are offering 'in kind' services through hosting of unions Web sites.
  4. Unions are not guaranteed to have any share in the equity in Virtual Communities
  5. Unions will be delivering the key ingredient in this deal - loyalty - our members will take this deal on the basis that their union is recommending it to them.
  6. Under this deal unions could lose control over the bulk of the material that their members will view on the Internet. In the future, this will make it very difficult for unions to use the Internet as a medium to actively organise and expand their membership.
  7. This proposal is ultimately geared toward an open float, this could leave control of the union movements presence on the Internet to the vagaries of the sharemarket.


Truckies Face Another Oakdale

The ink�s not dry on the Howard Governmet�s Oakdale settlement and another company has gone into liquidation owing ten workers an estimated $200,000.

Central Coast trucking company J-DemTransport this week informed employees it was going into liquidation without any prior warning of the companmy's financial state. They are left being owed redundancy pay, outstanding annual leave and rostered days off.

Sacked driver Spenser Morrison, who is nearing retirement and struggling to pay off his mortgage says he's owed some $25.000.

He's been told by company receivers that he'll get the money owed only when the banks are paid off - if there is any money left.

"I can't believe this has happened," Morrison says. "After 12 years they didn't even have the decency to tell me to my face."

The Transport Workers Union is organising a protest this Monday (August 23) - a picnic outside the home of J-Dem Transport companyowner John Vaugh - at 8 Platree Crescent, Warnervale.

TWU state secretary Tony Sheldon says the drivers' plight shows that the issue of employee entitlements will not be resolved until the government legislates on the issue. "There's always another Oakdale just around the corner," Sheldon says.

Miners Thank Rank and File

Meanwhile, the naitonal executive of the CFMEU Mining Division have paid tribute to rank and file members who backed the Oakdale miners with a decisive 24-hour national coal strike.

The executive have written to members, after Prime Minister John Howard rolled Peter Reith to find the $6.3 million in unpaid entitlements owed to the miners.

"Your concern and commitment to pursuing justice for the Oakdale miners and their families was the key to this historic victory," the letter said.

"Last Friday's national coal strike drove the message home to the public and the Federal Government that the issue was not going to fade away."

But they've warned that they will oppose plans by Reith to abolish the $240 million Long Service Leave Fund.

The CFMEU is now planning a movement-wide campaign around the Oakdale issuing, highlighting the value of union membership.

For more on Oakdale: see this week's Pierswatch


Former Union Leader to Investigate SOCOG Uniforms

Former textiles union boss and SOCOG Board member Anna Booth will travel to Fiji to inspect the production of Sydney 2000 uniforms following union concerns they are being made in breach of a labour Code of Practise.

Olympics Minister Michael Knight agreed to send an official to inspect conditions in the Free Trade Zone in Fiji and his choice of Booth has been welcomed by unions.

"We think its good that someone with an understanding of the textile and clothing industry has been sent on this mission," Labor Council senior industrial officer Chris Christadoulou says

The Textile Clothing and Footwear Union called for the investigation after it was revealed that uniforms for Games officials, staff and athletes would be made offshore, The union believes that 130,000 pair of trousers and 7,000 blazers would be produced in Fiji and 60,000 jackets made in Malaysia.

SOCOG says the reasons are that Australia lacks expertise for the production of some garments, like non-iron trousers, along with the higher cost of Australian production.

The TCFUA maintains all production should be local, but that, as a minimum, SOCOG should take steps to ensure its own Code of Labour Practise" is met.

Under the code, SOCOG has undertaken that during the production of licensed goods, monitoring will occur to ensure:

- employment is freely chosen

- there is no discrimination in employment

- child labour is not used

- freedom of association and the right to collectively bargain are respected

- fair wages are paid

- hours of work are not excessive

- working conditions are decent

- the employment relationship is established and training provided

- the use of exploited outworkers is not to occur.


Second Steggles Mum Wins Job Back

A woman who quit her job after having family-busting hours imposed on her has been guaranteed her job back as chicken manufacturer Steggles battles negative publicity about its work practices.

Steggles management offered to re-employ Mhauri Saunders after she threatened to argue that her resignation to care for her family amounted to "constructive dismissal". Fearing another public backlash, management have now indicator that Saunders can keep her job.

The move follows their backdown over a direction to another working mum, Kym Wood, to start work at 6.30am or face termination proceedings.

Ms Wood, who was unable to find child care for her three children at that early hour, has become - in the words of one newspaper columnist -- "a hero" for working mums everywhere.

The Australian Services Union (Clerical Branch) which had taken up the case of the Steggles workers, says the move shows how ordinary workers can take on management and win if they work together.


Strip Leads to Fair Wear Win

A clothing store targeted for a risque city protest by flesh-flashing building workers has finally agreed to sign the FairWear code of conduct.

The builders staged high-profile strip in the Jeans West city outlet in June, after the company refused to sign the code, pushed by the FairWear Alliance of unionist and church groups to end outworker exploitation.

While Jeans West management was adamant on the day of the protest that they had no reason to sign the code, Workers Online has learned that the company subsequently agreed to sign.

Under the Homeworkers Code of Practise, a signatory undertakes to take responsibility for the labour behind their labels.

Retailers who have signed the code include: Best and Less, Big W, Brown Sugar, Coles Supermarket, Daimaru Australia, Davenport, David Jones, Dotti, Events, Fashion Fair, Gowings, Jacqui E, Jag, Jasprop, Just Jeans, Katies, K-Mart, Lowes Manhatten, Maggie T, Myer Grace Brothers, Neat'n'Trim, Najee, Pelaco, Portmans, Rockmans, Roger David, Saba, Scuttle, Sussan, Suzanne Grae, Taking Shape, The Clothing Company, Westco Jeans, Witchery, Woolworths.


Rail Security: Scully Cuts Staff as Assaults Rise

Transport Minister Carl Scully�s push to slash rail station staff has run off the rails with more statistics highlighting the rise is platform assaults.

Scully was this week forced to release statistics showing a 400 per cent increase on the City Circle line in the first six months of the year, after the Opposition obtained the figures under Freedom of Information laws.

Rail Bus and Tram Union secretary Nick Lewocki says the figures vindicate union opposition to the governments push to cut station staff, with another proposal this week to take static security guards off 19 city and outer urban railway stations.

"The RBTU currently has a proposal before CityRail to establish a CityRail ByLaws employee position which will undertake security on stations, customer service and revenue protection during peak hours," Lewocki says.

He says these positions would allow the private security guards on trains to be withdrawn, saving the government $35 million per annum and refocussing personnel to violence hot spots - the stations rather than the trains.

CityRail and the RBTU are due to report back to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission on September 13 on the process of negotiations over this proposal.

Country Rail faces Stoppages

Meanwhile, rail workers have authorised the RBTU to call stop work meetings across the state over the Carr Government's plans to cut pay rates for CoutryLink staff.

Lewocki says CountryLink has hired private consultants to benchmark award rates against the private sector, with threats to tender the work out if wages aren't reduced.

RBTU members authorised the action while condemning the Carr government and passing a vote of no confidence in CountryLink management.

"If public sector awards are to be abolished in the railways, then this process will flow through to all public employees and will require a coordinated public sector campaign of opposition," Lewocki says.

Music to our ears

And finally, the RBTU has decided to pun-ish Scully with this response to his plans to improve rail security via Beethoven.... in this letter to the Labor Council.

"Dear Michael,

Transport Minister Carl Scully's off beat proposal to provide music to deter station crime, is out of tune with commuters, who perceive him to be merely blowing his own trumpet with this poorly orchestrated stunt.

What commuters really require, are real solutions, which would be music to their ears not just fiddling about beating his own drum.

He has also hit a sour note with rail staff and unions who in harmony, would offer a chorus of support if he hit the right note on this issue.

The Minister could castanet of security by retaining rail staff on stations rather than private security guards with limited strings to their bows whose powers are merely cymbalic.

He should stop beating his own drum, singing his own praises and get in tune with commuters and rail staff before crime levels reach a crescendo.

We bet him a tenor that this will not reach a finale until the fat lady sings.

Nick Lewocki



Civil Libertarian Support Sought Against "Big Brother"

by Bernadette Maloney

The CFMEU has written to the Victorian and NSW Councils for Civil Liberties to draw their attention to the Employment Advocate's attack on the display of union posters on construction sites.

The OEA has given one company 24 hours notice to remove the posters or it will commence proceedings in the Federal Court. The signs in question include the following words: "ON THIS JOB WE AIM TO BE 100% UNION" and "For workers to refuse to be financial in the union is not to exercise a democratic freedom, it is to accept benefits that others have worked for without contributing to the costs."

Others contain trenchant criticism of the policies of Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith.

"Clearly there is nothing unlawful about these signs," said John Sutton, National Secretary of the CFMEU Construction & General Division.

"They are, in fact, one of the hallmarks of a reasonably open society where people are able to engage in political debate in public without fear of recriminations."

"If a group of workers feel strongly enough about issues to erect signs at their workplace which express their views, surely, in the absence of a contravention of any law, no government agency should censor those views.

"That such heavy handedness is justified by Reith's Advocate as being in support of various 'freedoms' in the workplace, gives the whole episode a particularly Orwellian resonance," said Mr Sutton.

"Peter Reith not only wants to deny workers their proper entitlements; he'd gag them from expressing their views as well.

This episode comes at the same time as he is spending millions of taxpayers dollars on advertisements claiming he supports freedom of expression and association."


Dita Sari takes Sydney by Storm.

by Phil Davey

Hundreds of people packed out the Trades Hall Auditorium this week to hear from a true hero of the Labour movement, Indonesia's Dita Sari.

Released only five weeks ago after three years in prison for organising a strike of textile workers, Sari couldn't have missed a gigantic "Free Dita Sari" banner across the back wall of the auditorium. The thankfully redundant banner is now definitely a collectors item, but also served as an apt illustration of the strength of the international campaign to secure Sari's release.

After warm welcomes from Meredith Burgmann and John Maitland and an emotional rendition of the Internationale from the ubiquitous Solidarity Choir the meeting heard a powerful presentation from Sari, the new head of the Indonesian National Front for Worker Struggle (FNPBI).

Dita Sari began by acknowledging several members of FRETELIN, the East Timorese resistance, who were at the meeting. She spoke warmly of the good relationship between the Indonesian Trade Union movement and the East Timorese resistance.

Sari spoke with passion and conviction of the power that stems from a union, of her hopes for a free Indonesia and of the growing militancy of workers in Indonesia, many of whom do not receive even the legal minimum wage of A$1.50 a day. Sari commented several times on the good response she had got on her Australian tour from Australian unionists, particularly construction workers in Perth.

Those at the meeting were asked to maintain pressure on the Australian Government to halt training the Indonesian military and selling them arms that were then used to suppress Indonesian workers. Sari made it clear that she did not believe the Australian Governments policies on Indonesia reflected the views of the Australian people and stated that she had chosen Australia as her first place to visit upon being released because of the close links between the two peoples.

Dita Sari concluded her presentation by inviting the meeting to join her for May Day 2000 in Jakarta.




[ Home ][ Notice Board ][ Search ][ Previous Issues ][ Latest Issue ]

© 1999-2000 Labor Council of NSW

LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSW

Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005

[ Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Credits ]

LaborNET is proudly created, designed and programmed by Social Change Online for the Labor Council of NSW


 Labor Council of NSW

[Workers Online]

[Social Change Online]