Over the last week the mild mannered Reverend Kev Andrews has become surprisingly strident in his public statements.
The man who has all the charisma of a four-day-old omelette, but with none of the compassion, had become rather predictable. The Howard Government had began to look like Napoleon's army on its way back from Moscow, so it was decided that the barrel would have to be scraped.
Enter, stage right, our Tool Of The Week, Ian Hanke, fresh from his latest success destroying the Liberal Country Party in the Northern Territory. Now he is providing the script for the increasingly strident Andrews, and we can't be surprised - this was the man that Peter Reith outsourced his brains to during the waterfront dispute.
Our Tool Of The Week has form.
Recently, old moon face Hanke trousered $15,000 a month for what appears to be three months worth of blundering mismanagement for the Northern Territory's Liberal Country Party election campaign.
His effort ended up costing $7,500 for every seat the conservatives lost; cheap at half the price.
The problem was that Hanke had to come up with a policy - not his strong suite - policy involves thinking and cause and effect. Using Hanke as a policy adviser is about as sensible as using a Bulldozer to weed your grandmother's flowerbed.
His policy was to link NT to the national electricity grid using what would have been the world's longest extension cord.
After this went down like warm beer Ian then managed to cap that effort off by being thrown out of Darwin pub.
Do you have any idea how obnoxious you have to be before you get thrown out of a Darwin pub?
Luckily though, The Rev Kev was obviously drowning, not waving, so Mr Hanke was dispatched, poste haste, to Canberra to save the Liberal Party from destruction.
The result was a drop in the Prime Minister's popularity of ten percent as Ian started helping Kev sell his message on how getting the sack and having your pay cut was a good thing.
With friends like Ian Hanke who needs consultants.
Who best to comment on the needs and situation of working Australians than somebody who is taking home a taxpayer funded package that works out just under four grand a week. Here is a man who can empathise with the needs of casual and part time retail and hospitality workers.
Of course, when it comes to being a public servant, Hanke is neither.
Ian's doublespeak sprung to the fore as he explained that Liberal policy was Labor policy, down was up and that the other mob were telling bigger lies than ours. Blah, blah, blah.
There will be plenty more of it over the forward months given old Hanke's form.
First we'll hear that it's all lies, that the ACTU can't be trusted. That these laws will bring about a golden age of prosperity and happiness. The problem is that Australian workers have been fed this line for over a decade now and the end result is we're working harder than ever with less job security, into debt up the eyebrows just to stay afloat. People won't buy that one.
Next we'll hear how opponents are doom and gloom meisters and naysayers. How we're all Chicken Littles following on from the GST experiment. Well, the GST bedded down because it was the shop's problem in the end, not ours. And if Ian thinks the GST is popular he may discover it is merely accepted, in much the same way as cancer is accepted, or diphtheria. It doesn't mean anyone particularly wants it.
Then we'll hear how opponents to the change are dinosaurs who are stuck in the past, when Ian himself is trying to take us back to the Golden Age of the Lazzais Faire Victorian era. Anyone with a remote understanding of history will tell you why that particular age of enlightenment was abandoned.
We'll also hear how the ALP is being dictated to by its union masters. Given that defending rights at work is an electoral winner, and the main point of difference between the major parties, Ian will be doing the ALP the same service he did in Darwin.
Finally we'll hear what corrupt and dangerous people trade unionists are and how the Rev Kev and Brother Howard are the workers friend, protecting them from evil nurses, cleaners, bus drivers, clerks, call centre workers, bar staff, checkout operators, apprentices, well diggers and chicken sexers.
Poor old Ian doesn't realise we've heard it all before, that the eighties ended fifteen years ago and the union movement has moved more with society than the ideologues in the Liberal Party have.
This is the sort of thing that happens when you earn nearly four thousand dollars a week rubbing shoulders with the big end of town. You lose the plot. Here's a hint Ian. It's the workplace, stupid.
Of course, we could hear a positive campaign, but thinking of things that are good for society is not Hanke's forte. And these laws aren't good for society.
Instead he can tell us how comfortable the Tool Shed is.
The traditional five-day working week, penalty and overtime rates will all be up for grabs under the federal government�s new regime, Andrews admitted, last week.
Andrews nearly came clean on minimum standards that Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) will be benchmarked against in an interview with Ben Packham of Melbourne's Sun Herald,
He confirmed his intention to get rid of the "no disadvantaged test" for judging the validity of his secret, individual contracts. He said it would be replaced by five legislated minimum conditions.
These will be a 38-hour working week, sick leave, parental leave, the minimum wage and four weeks' annual leave.
But then Andrews revealed two of those legislated minimums would not be minimums at all.
He told the Sun Herald that weekend rates, overtime and penalty rates could be bargained away, rendering the 38-hour week entirely meaningless.
Andrews said work could be performed over up to seven days a week and penalty or weekend payments "would depend on the arrangement between the employer and the employee".
He went on to say workers would be able to "trade away" two weeks of their annual leave, effectively leaving the minimum at the US standard of two weeks.
Andrews said that wherever award or agreement entitlements to annual, sick or parental leave exceeded community minimums, the latter would apply for benchmarking AWAs.
ACTU secretary, Greg Combet, said Andrews had confirmed workers would lose out under his proposals.
According to the OEA, more than 54,000 new AWAs were filed in the last three months, with the biggest numbers in traditionally low-paid industries - accommodation, cafes, restaurants and retailing.
Masterton Homes told carpenter Phil Withington to sign the AWA, which would have slashed his family�s income by more than $7000 a year, or he wouldn�t have a job.
He was one of seven Masterton employees punted after they refused to sign individual contracts, last week, further undermining federal government insistence that its AWAs would be voluntary.
Withington tried to meet his bosses with a union representative but was told he was no longer required.
"I was surprised that they didn't have the respect to discuss the matter," he said.
"I asked if I don't sign what would happen - she [the Masterton representative] said that would be your resignation."
When he raised projects he was working on, he was told contractors would do the job.
"My work was repairing sub-contractors' work," he said.
In the union movement's first "naming and shaming" of a workplace law "abuser", the CFMEU will take Withington's case to prospective Masterton customers outside its Warwick Farm showroom.
Union members are picketing, distributing flyers and talking to customers about the treatment of the seven dumped workers.
They are calling on the public to back their colleagues and join an email campaign, telling Masterton Homes what they think of its action.
The CFMEU's Andrew Ferguson said this was a warning to all employers that if they attacked workers' rights they would be up for a fight.
Withington said he had to take a stand on the issue to set an example for his boys.
"I tell my kids to always stand up for your rights as my father told me," Withington said.
"I said to my wife I have to set an example - I can't go against what I told my boys."
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson said it was "nothing but a fraud" that Masterton Homes continued to bill itself as a company devoted to family security.
Details on how to contact Masterton Homes are available at http://www.cfmeu-construction-nsw.com.au/.
On the condition of anonymity, he said last week, that "around 85-90 percent" of new AWAs coming across the Advocate�s desk are for new starters.
OEA press flak, Bonnie Laxton-Blinkhorn, says the Office knows nothing of the claim which goes to the heart of the Prime Minister's "freedom of choice" argument.
New starters can be forced to sign an AWA (Australian Workplace Agreement) as a condition of employment.
"We don't collect that information, it's not in our reporting system," she told Workers Online. "If we don't collect that information, there is certainly nobody else that would.
"It's not that we don't have the capability. It's just that we don't do it."
When Workers Online asked her to use the Office's capability to check the validity of the allegation, she said it would be "impossible".
Workers Online's source established his credibility, last year, when he outed the Employment Advocate for green-lighting batches of AWAs before checking they conformed to the government's minimum-standards, "no disadvantage" test.
His claim was tested, and vindicated, by subsequent court proceedings in Western Australia.
Workers Online is aware of dozens of AWAs that have passed the Advocate's no-disadvantage test, despite ripping negotiated conditions and penalty rates away from employees.
When the Advocate forms the view an AWA does not pass his test, the filing employer is given three options - challenge the ruling in the IRC; put up a public-interest argument; or undertake to increase the rates.
Our source at the Office says the proportion of AWAs requiring such undertakings has jumped from "around five percent to around 12 to 13 percent", since last year.
AWAs, used by employers to undermine collective contracts, remove penalty rates and cut earnings, are at the heart of the Prime Minister's plan to hold down the living standards of Australian families.
Howard and Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, have spun a "freedom of choice" line, arguing AWAs give workers the right to choose a "flexible individual contract" over a collective agreement. But their legislation allows new starters to be forced onto AWAs as a condition of employment.
They set up the Office of the Employment Advocate and funded it to promote AWAs at the expense of collective agreements.
The Office has done that aggressively, sparing employers the expense of drafting their own documents by preparing pattern AWAs and offering them to groups of companies as "template" agreements.
Workers Online has learned the Office has cut back on marketing recently, confident there will be a flood of employers taking up AWAs after Howard's IR changes require them to meet only four or five legislated, minimum community standards.
Part of the Office's sales drive has been getting high-profile "AWA Ambassadors", such as Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, to pitch their merits to other employers. Last month, the OEA flew ambassadors around the country, business class, on a promotional tour.
Our source says at least two official AWA Ambassadors file individual contracts that fail to meet the no disadvantage test and require "undertakings" before they are okayed.
The Workplace Relations Minister, last week, tried to stop thousands of Victorian companies signing off on a negotiated agreement with the CFMEU by holding hundreds of millions of dollars worth of government projects over their heads.
Canberra has repeatedly interfered in building industry negotiations, going as far as setting out a "code" of conditions employers must not agree to, if they want to be considered for federally-funded projects.
Andrews' department has ticked off the latest CFMEU agreement as code compliant but, in a last ditch bid to scuttle the deal, the Minister warned he might change the code to render it retrospectively non-compliant.
Andrews delivered the threat after the Master Builders Association locked into the CFMEU's 2005-2008 enterprise bargaining agreement, which delivers standard wage rises and retains 36-hour week provisions.
Workers Online understands Andrews is proposing four changes to guidelines attached to his code and that his department has advised the Victorian agreement meets each of those requirements.
CFMEU assistant national secretary, Dave Noonan, called on Andrews to "butt out" of the negotiations and to "stop interfering with the agreement-making process".
"Kevin Andrews is hell-bent on this worker bashing agenda but it is not working. Hundreds of Victorian companies, employing thousands of workers, have signed the agreement," Noonan said.
"Workers have given it a tick, employers have given it a tick and his own department has ticked off on it. The only person trying to make trouble is the Minister.
"This agreement is important to our members because it will provide security and stability for their families while their wages and conditions are under attack from a government that puts ideology above good policy."
Noonan said Andrews "blacklist threat" was "extraordinary" if reports, that even after he tweaks the code his department believes the Victorian agreement will pass muster, are true.
He said the building industry was too important to be used as a "political football" and warned the Minister standover tactics would not work.
Two fact sheets produced by the government under the banner of �Building Better Workplace Relations� reveal inconsistencies.
One example is unfair dismissal . The government is cagey about the information it gives employees about the new arrangements, merely saying they will have to wait six months before they can access "remedies".
Employers are informed such "remedies" are a "burden" and that they can now "focus on retaining the best employees". Employers are told that this provides "greater certainty for employers and employees".
Other key discrepancies include:
Employers are also told that the government will ensure the rule of law is restored to the building and construction industry. This refers to policy that has already seen over $100 million spent to achieve just one prosecution.
Bosses are also informed of government moves to:
None of this information is revealed in the "fact" sheet sent out to Australians who identify themselves as employees.
Momentum is building for the �Last Weekend� as regional communities around the state plan local BBQs to back the Sydney day.
Grant, who will front a team of performers, comedians and speakers, has also cut a radio ad that will run in the lead-up to the event.
Working families from Sydney and surrounding areas are being urged to attend the picnic - to send a clear message to the Howard Government that they will not sit back and see their time with family and friends whittled away.
Confirmed acts for August 7 include The Whitlams frontman Tim Freedman, kids' favourites 'The Hooley Dooleys', Kid Confucious, The Chaser team and house band Astro Tabasco. More acts will be announced in the lead-up to the day.
More details at www.rightsatwork.com.au
Cardinal Pell told the latest edition of The Catholic Weekly he was worried the Howard program would effectively push minimum wages down.
Cardinal Pell called on the Prime Minister to step back form his legislative program and allow time for consultation.
"We've had a long period of prosperity in Australia and I think that means that the necessity for radical change needs to be established," he said.
His statement followed downright opposition to elements of Howard's program from the National Council of Churches and representatives of the Uniting, Anglican and Catholic faiths.
Parramatta's Catholic Bishop, Kevin Manning, is urging Senators to consult their consciences before voting on Howard's new workplace regime.
"When the Federal Government has control of both Houses of Parliament, it is virtually impossible to prevent if from passing whatever laws it likes," Bishop Manning warned.
"At times party leaders declare a 'conscience vote' allowing members of their parties to vote, without repercussions, according to conscience rather than the party line.
"For the Christian politician, every vote must be a conscience vote."
In an open letter, the Bishop recalled a 1986 meeting between Parramatta factory workers and Pope John Paul 11.
He quoted the late Pope as praising Australia's "almost unique" system of workplace arbitration and conciliation.
The Pope said the system had helped defend workers' rights while taking into account the requirements of the whole community.
"I would hope in the new legislation, our cherished tradition of solidarity, mateship and fairness would not be dealt a blow in the name of productivity and profits," Bishop Manning wrote.
"The test of a workplace relations system is whether or not ordinary workers have safe and healthy working conditions, wages sufficient to support themselves and their families with dignity."
The studies, commissioned at three separate universities, show workplaces with active unions are good for productivity, while individual contracts do nothing to boost business' bottom line.
They followed British studies which showed firms gained no flexibility advantage by pursuing individual contracts, and evidence from New Zealand that productivity crashed under the Employment Contracts Act - the Kiwi forerunner of AWAs.
The news was revealed in an article for Brisbane's Courier Mail by David Peetz, visiting professor at the University of Bergen, Norway, and professor of industrial relations at Queensland's Griffith University.
Peetz pointed out that since the current Workplace Relations Act came into effect, labour productivity growth had slumped to 2.3% a year, lower than in the heyday 60s-70s heyday of the traditional award system when it stood at 2.6%.
The OECD has warned that under the Howard regime unit labour costs, which measure productivity, will rise by about 5% in 2005, faster than in any other developed country. Productivity increases lead to falling unit labour costs.
"Sure, you hear lots of individual success stories from individual contracting," says Peetz. "But for each workplace that has higher productivity there is another down the road with lower productivity.
"Why? If you use individual contracts to cut wages and conditions then you don't need to introduce new processes or technologies. So productivity growth will slow.
"You can damage relations with your workforce. So workers will be less willingly productive.
"You don't hear much about the failures but they show up in the aggregate numbers."
The BCA sponsored study at Flinders University revealed that "unions are apparently good for productivity, but only at workplaces where unions are active". The Melbourne University study showed collective bargaining was linked to increased productivity while the University of NSW study said individual contracts had no positive bearing on productivity.
Father of two Luke Bandrowski fell into a pool near the Chatswood-Epping rail link construction site last Monday afternoon. Workers Online understands he died of a heart attack.
CFMEU health and safety officer Dick Whitehead said Bandrowdki's front-end loader was running unattended just five metres from the site's main office complex for 12 hours.
The site's swipe-card system also didn't tip anyone off to his absence.
Whitehead said Bandowski's family felt "absolute frustration" that it took so long to realise he was missing.
"His father - who has worked with the construction industry - found it impossible to believe," he said.
Whitehead said if there had of been barriers to prevent workers from falling into the water below, he may have been discovered earlier.
The union had raised concerns about the absence of barriers numerous times.
Two senior WorkCover inspectors are investigating the incident.
Bandrowski's colleagues walked of the job for a week as a mark of respect and will meet on Tuesday.
Howard told 2GB's Alan Jones last Thursday every worker will have the right to indicate a preference for award conditions over an AWA when they apply for a job.
His assurance came one day after, Department of Workplace Relations staff in Canberra held a rally to protest new employees being forced to sign AWAs.
"The Prime Minister's statement seems to be starkly at odds with the policy in place for staff at the Department of Workplace Relations," a CPSU spokesman said.
"To get a job there you have to accept an individual contract - no AWA no start."
CPSU Assistant National Secretary Margaret Gillespie told the Canberra rally the situation highlighted the hypocrisy and dishonesty in the Government's workplace agenda.
"[Workplace Relations] Minister Kevin Andrews likes to preach to the Australian community about flexibility and choice," Gillespie said.
"What choice do the new starters in his own department have when they have to sign an AWA to get a job?"
It was revealed last month that 15 new DEWR employees were presented with documents with a 'yes' box already ticked, alongside the statement, "I acknowledge my commitment to sign an Australian Workplace Agreement".
The Canberra protest followed DEWR rallies in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.
Chief Executive Bob Scheuber made the statement following agreements between Queensland rail workers and the Beattie government.
The agreement commits QR to not use the Federal workplace law changes to take away basic rights at work, reduce employees' wages and conditions or restrict union access to workplaces.
The Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) has commended Queensland Rail, but has warned that this agreement alone will not be enough to fully protect Queensland rail workers.
"Some of the potential amendments to the Federal Industrial Relations Legislative are outside the control of both QR and the Union," says RTBU Queensland secretary Owen Doogan. "For instance, the position of QR in respect of remaining within the State Industrial Relations system will not even be a consideration to the Federal Government.
"It will be hard for QR to be competitive in the future if the Federal Industrial Relations changes result in reduction in the wages and conditions of employees throughout Australia."
Doogan also pointed to the impact on society as a whole, particularly the next generation that would be faced with being forced to accept individual contracts in many places where proper Award or Enterprise Agreement conditions currently exist.
"It is important that we continue with the campaign to unite the union movement with other community groups in Australia to send a message to the Federal Government that the attack on workers conditions will not be tolerated by Australians," says Doogan.
John Howard returned from holiday to end a stand-off between Kevin Andrews and the business community about who should foot the bill to sell their common polices.
It erupted after AC Neilsen and Newspoll revealed the government was taking a bath on its radical workplace agenda.
AC Neilsen's Herald Poll showed the Prime Minister's approval rating had taken its biggest plunge since he took office, and that the ALP opposition had opened up a 54-46 lead in two-party preferred terms.
The same poll revealed 60 percent of the population, aware of Howard's attack on workplace rights, opposed it. Opposition was registered by 23 percent of respondents who identified themselves as federal government supporters.
On the same day, Newspoll showed ALP support up two percentage points, while backing for the Prime Minister at its lowest level since he invaded Iraq.
The polls were taken the weekend after more than a quarter of a million workers rallied against proposed changes to workplace laws and provoked a spat between the Coalition and its most aggressive supporters.
Representatives from Australian Business and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry urged the government to use taxpayers' money to underwrite an immediate publicity blitz.
But Andrews said such a spend was months off as it would have to wait for legislation to be finalised. The government has budgeted $22 million to wage its publicity war.
Last Friday, the Prime Minister revealed the first shots would be fired over the weekend of July 9-10 with newspaper advertisements. Later the same day, he upped the ante by green-lighting a tv campaign.
Taking WA Out Of AWA
Meanwhile, Kevin Andrews has been caught telling half-truths over Western Australian workers receiving half their annual leave.
Andrews claimed on the ABC's 7.30 Report last week that "the official Government website of the Labor Party" claimed workers could cash out up to two weeks of annual leave.
What he didn't say is that the same website points out it "cannot be made a condition if employment" and "it is not usually possible to make such an agreement if an award applies".
The WA Government has already announced a review of the policy, a move welcomed by Unions WA secretary Dave Robinson, who has argued that the WA Liberal Government's cash out option lowered community standards.
"We'd welcome any change in the legislation to protect community standards," says Robinson.
HT worked for many years with the CFMEU, before going freelance and covering human rights and labour issues around the Asia Pacific.
In 1999 he covered the battle for independence in East Timor from inside the Australian embassy in Dili as Indonesian troops laid waste to the capital.
As one of the few western journalists to refuse to be evacuated, he filed for Workers Online, ABC radio and had photographs published on the front page of the Sydney morning Herald and Melbourne Age.,
HT has been in a coma for the past week and is critically ill. Friends are reading messages of support -if you want to send your best wishes email John Martinkus at [email protected]
Event of the week!
Politics In the Pub - Katoomba
You don't know what you've got till it's gone What you can do to protect your rights
2.00pm, Saturday July 9 Gearin Hotel Great Western Highway Katoomba
Blue Mountains Unions Council Inc http://bmucinc.com/
Industrial Relations Reform: Fair Go or Anything Goes?
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS REFORM 2005 A one day conference for all who are interested in the Federal Government's industrial relations reform agenda
Held: 13 July 2005 at Sofitel Wentworth Sydney Confirmed speakers include:
Professor Ron McCallum, Susan Zeitz, Professor Greg Craven, Professor Andrew Stewart, Paul Munro, Elizabeth Wynhausen, Professor George Williams, Margaret Lee, Paddy Gourlay, Kathryn Heiler, Bill Mitchell
and a representative from the Australian Council of Social Service
A States and Territories Government initiative The conference will:
_discuss the Federal Government's industrial relations reform agenda
_ examine constitutional implications and the relevance to federalism
_ through panel sessions, explore the arguments from all sides of the debate
_ engage prominent thinkers and speakers in industrial relations, constitutional law, economics, welfare and academia
ICE Australia - 183 Albion Street Surry Hills NSW 2010
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 02 9544 9134
Fax: 02 9522 4447
For more information and to register, go to www.iceaustralia.com/ir
Life Without Unions - The New Reality?
The NSW Fabio Society is conducting this forum with:
Greg Combet, Secretary ACTU
Heather Ridout, CEO AIG
When: Wednesday 20 July from 6.00pm - 7.30pm
Where: LHMU Auditorium, 187 Thomas Street,
Chair: Peter Lewis, Editor Workers Online and Director EMC
Member of the NSW Fabian Society
Forthcoming Fabian Society Forums
August: Israel & Palestine
With: Speakers to be advised
When: Wednesday 24 August from 6.00pm to 7.30pm
Where: Gleebooks, 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe
September: Media Reform
With: Andy Nehl & Julianne Schultz
When: Wednesday 21 September from 6.00pm to 7.30pm
Where: Theatrette NSW Parliament House
October: One Year Down &. Two to Go - Can Labor Win in 2007?
With: John Singleton & others TBA
When: Wednesday 19 October from 6.00pm to 7.30pm
Where: NSW Parliament House
The Wages of Spin
From the company behind the smash hit stage production of the
"Children Overboard" Inquiry, CMI: version 1.0 presents
The Wages of Spin
Does it matter we went to war on a lie?
Canberra: July 20 - 30
> "You went abroad in our name on a just cause.... Thank you from Australia." - John Howard
> "Nobody knows, nobody has asked and nobody even tries to establish what the level of casualties might be. That is true, isn't it?" - Senator John Faulkner, Senate Estimates Committee
> There is no point in producing information that may be misleading or unhelpful." - Defence Minister, Senator Robert Hill, in response.
Last year Sydney's version 1.0 went overboard with its surreal and gut-wrenching CMI (A Certain Maritime Incident), taking the transcript of the Senate's "Children Overboard" Inquiry as a performance text. Now the company has turned its attention to the war on Iraq, and the fabricated (and shifting) justifications for it, with a new show, The Wages of Spin (Performance Space, May 20 - June 5).
The Wages of Spin is political theatre, version 1.0 style - playful, surreal, visceral and tragic, with no easy answers. There may be casualties. There certainly will be liberties taken with the found texts. So, in the words of a thousand arts journos and a thousand PR hacks, what can the audience expect to see? Expect to see kittens in gift-wrapped boxes, flag gags, fake blood, shock-and-awe slapstick and Benny Hill-esque puns about weapons of mass destruction. Expect to laugh... until you're confronted with the horrors of POW interrogations. Expect to see some serious grappling with the horrific possibility that the Right may have been right... the war may have been a good thing.
The Wages of Spin plays to Canberra's political elites at The Street Theatre (July 20 -30). Bookings: 02 6247 1223.
Artists Performer/Devisers: Stephen Klinder, Deborah Pollard & David Williams Dramaturgy: Paul Dwyer Outside Eye: Yana Taylor Lighting: Simon Wise Video: Sean Bacon Sound: Gail Priest Producer: Harley Stumm
Canberra The Street Theatre, Cnr Childers St & University Ave. July 20 - 30 (Tue - Sat 8pm + 2pm matinee, Sat 30th) Tix $29/24. Bookings: 02 6247 1223
------------------------------------------------------------------------- Workers rights union rights your rights
2-5 PM Saturday 18 June 2005 Tom Mann Theatre 136 Chalmers St Surry Hills
Mark Lennon Unions NSW
Sally McManus ASU
Andrew Ferguson CFMEU
Doug Cameron AMWU
Kerry Nettle NSW Greens Senator
Garry Moore NCOSS
Robert Coombs MUA
Derrick Belan NUW
Lee Rhiannon NSW Greens MLC
When the Coalition takes control of the Senate in July Prime Minister John Howard will introduce industrial relations laws that will increase the burden on working people and the wider community.
The Greens are helping unions to mobilise support for decent working conditions and an industrial relations system that recognises the rights of working people to organise and to strike.
Lee Rhiannon MLC
The Past is Before Us
The Ninth National Labour History Conference will be held at the Holme Building, University of Sydney from Thursday 30th June until Saturday 2nd July. Over 100 presentations of papers, films, and an exhibition from Unions NSW and the Noel Butlin Archive. Meredith Burgmann, MLC, President of the NSW Legislative Council will officially open the conference. The Conference dinner at NSW Parliament. For more information go to the conference home page
The conference program is up on the website - http://asslh.econ.usyd.edu.au/program.htm
Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA Study Tour
Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA is inviting applications for of East Timor a study tour between July 17th and 24th. The ideal participant will be active in the Australian trade union movement, deeply committed to international solidarity, and keen to investigate the effectiveness of APHEDA projects in East Timor. An ability to have fun and enjoy warm weather is also a must!
The cost of the study tour is $2,050 which includes airfare ex-Darwin, accommodation, in-country transport, interpreter services, breakfasts and the study tour itself. For more information about contact Thomas Michel (02) 9264 9343, 0410 814 360
Is the word customer an appropriate label for a government to place upon its citizens; or is this just another subtle way in which bureaucrats and politicians continually but fruitlessly attempt another deceit of the electorate; or is this the ultimate privatisation of community resources that of our government?
If this is the reality in local government, this context being - Penrith City Council - I would bring to their attention these words attributed to Abraham Lincoln.
"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."
This behaviour was brought to my attention, when recently I queried the public availability of policies and procedures adopted by Penrith City Council - policies which are required to ensure a consistent application of the Local Government Act 1993 by local government bodies an Act which is effectively the foundation of Local Government within the state of New South Wales.
In an endeavour to obtain a somewhat objective view rather than rely on my own somewhat jaundiced experiences of local government, I comprehensively sought out other views and experiences, from a myriad of sources.
One source that did attract my attention, perhaps through its reinforcement of my own opinions , but credible nonetheless , was the address 'Does the Word 'Customer' Make Sense in the World of Local Government?' by Dr Ted Johns, Chairman of the Institute of Customer Service UK.
In this address Dr Johns, referred to arguments as to the dangers of the word 'customer' being used in local government as promulgated by Professor John Stewart, a one time facilitator of the Institute of Local Government Studies at the University of Birmingham.
Professor Stewart, points out that in truth - there is little or no choice as to the services provided by local government, and the misuse of the term 'Customer' gives a false sense of choice, and I for one would be hard to convince that this was not the intent of these local government bodies who spend ratepayers money on glossy expensive Customer Service Charters which are - and I say with confidence - at best a nonsense and at worst a confidence trick on the electorate.
Would this money not be better spent on actually providing a choice of service or even a service?
One example given in this address was that of railways calling passengers customers, when in fact the majority have no other alternative method of travel.
Another novel example given in this address was:
"Second, local authorities could create more choice for their 'customers' (let's call them that, at least for the time being) if they produced some sort of vouchers enabling taxpayers to select from a cafeteria range of, say, social benefits, like respite holidays, meals-on-wheels, and so forth.
"After all, 'customers' can already choose whether to patronize the municipal library service and can choose their own books when they do so: why cannot this principle be extended elsewhere? If the libraries were run like some local authority departments, on the other hand, then even the freedom to select your own books would be severely curtailed.
"According to the bureaucratic approach, you would be told what books you would be reading each week, and simply sent them through the post. If the professional model were adopted, you would have to make an appointment to see a professionally-qualified librarian, who would ask you questions about your personal habits (your sleeping patterns, your diet, your holiday plans for 2005, and even, as an afterthought, your literary tastes), and then issue you with some books considered suitable�. It is very unlikely that these books would be those that you would have volunteered to read." (www.egovmonitor.com/)
In summation, while I do use the services of Penrith City Council, I do so, as a ratepayer, as an investor, as a stakeholder, a shareholder and as an intrinsic part of this council, with my participation being entirely at my whim as is the participation of the other 178232 * residents of Penrith, I do not purchase these goods or services as a client, customer of some privatized conglomerate.
In short, I find the word customer used in this manner inappropriate and offensive.
Emu Plains, NSW
I worry that with the IR reforms that Howard is trying to bring in, is that any one on a contract employment will be classified as a contractor and then will be responsible for his own tax and workplace insurance. I am sure there are some employers that will try to use this to cut their expenses.
John Howard has mastered the Don Watsonesque technique of re-labelling the English language so that it means something completely different to what it is traditionally understood to mean. For example, an ordinary wage-earner is now an "enterprise worker", toiling away for the good of the country and for the long-term benefits of Australia and increased productivity. Forget about your take-home pay, it's the long-term sustainability of the Australian economy that really matters. Menzies would be proud!
Being sacked unlawfully is "unfair dismissal", but only if your employer has more than 100 employees. How capricious! And he tries to tell us that this will promote jobs when Dunn & Bradstreet's surveys clearly shows otherwise.
Meanwhile the Orwellian-named "Fair Pay Commission" is to replace the Industrial Relations Commission's minimum wage-fixing job. Sounds a lot like the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which "promotes competition" by enforcing the Trade Practices Act, which means of course the removal of our human right to withdraw our labour. Certainly not fair competition and don't hold your breath waiting for a fair pay rise!
I had an idea for some action - a black shroud for the eight hour day monument outside Vic trades hall - "protect workers rights". It would look like a long black condom.
My first reaction to the most recent proposed changes was why keep that monument - we dont seem to give a shit about the rights our foreparents fought for.
Pull it down! Why not just cover it up?
ABS confirm something that at first glance may not mean much to many, but it should mean a hell of a lot to our Federal Government. 'Over the next 20 years more and more Australians will go it alone and will opt not to have children.
Add to that a large chunk of our ageing population will be retiring from the workforce. As well as a major skills shortage looming.
On top of that we have a shortage of childcare placements anyway, and for those who are lucky enough to find a placement, usually end up paying through the nose for the privilege.
And what's the Howard Government PLAN?
Mr Costello urgently urges us to have an extra child as a gift to our economy, but wait ' remember, have your 'bub' and back to work ASAP', we don't like having to support bludging mothers.
And the old fogies should stay working a while longer - until 100 maybe? God forbid they should retire and become a burden to our health care and welfare systems.
Whilst Mr Howard pushes ahead with his ideological workplace reforms that in reality are not very family friendly at all.
So why take on the burden of having children? And as far as our ageing workers are concerned - they have done more than enough for the economy thank you very much.
Conclusion, could it be that Mr Howard and Mr Costello's leadership tussle will leave them both with their pants down and their privates exposed (private tussle I mean)? and when will we ask them both to PLEASE EXPLAIN? Because from where I'm sitting it appears that neither one of them have the foggiest.
In fact, it seems to me that they are both trying to outdo each other with their 'grand visions'.
Hello members and non-union members. My English is not so good, but what I did see at Town Hall was non-union members from my workplace who never ever were at any meetings for the time I know them.
Second, in the news today is Liberal government says unions are running a scary campaign about IR reforms, but they never accused unions been using not right information or lied about reforms at all.
That means what unions are using is right and kicked the right button.
Right - let's kick that arse!
There was an article on Page 9 in the Adelaide Advertiser today which should have made the front page. Namely:
Taxpayers paying $9,000 a night for Howard and his wife to stay in a Hotel Suite 5 star accommodation plus exclusive meals for his 14 day visit to the UK.
He has also booked 20 seats for the Lords Cricket Test also at the expense of Australian Taxpayers.
There is no limit to this man's arrogance, who somehow thinks he is a world leader just because he has mastered the art of deception and constant lying and bribing the public with our money to enable him to remain PM.
It must surely be time for the general public to see through this charade and make sure he is heading for a mighty and deserved downfall from grace.
I'm now 81 and I plan to live long enough to see this man ousted from a job. He should never have held in the first place. In a contest for Australia's worst ever Prime Minister he would be streets ahead.
Whilst the unions can take full credit for their campaign against proposed changes to IR reforms, I certainly hope that Bob Carr doesn't get the idea that he can ride the wave of community support that unions have evoked.
Bob has some major restructuring decisions ahead of him in order to cut costs and the burden of these cost cutting measures will surely impact on many workers and their families.
Let him also not say that his Government has not caused many of the gross inefficiencies that exist across the board in NSW.
I stand by my opinion that Unions NSW should distance themselves from Bob and his crew and be willing to take them to task on behalf of workers just as you are now taking it up to the Howard Government.
The Carr Government, in my opinion, have some major credibility issues just as Mr Howard's Government's planned reforms smell of contempt for the rights of workers and their families.
We may disagree on things political, but Unions NSW will always have my support in areas where they are willing to support the rights of working men and women and their families and take it up to the policy makers in spite of any political affiliations they may have.
Political correspondent, Mark Metheral said "Has John Howard's famous instinct for voters' anxieties gone terribly awry?" and "Perhaps the ACTU has tapped into community angst with its emotive television ads showing a woman forced to choose between her job and minding her children."
I tend to agree, it seems to me that everyday reality is on a collision course with political ideology.
Well done! The cost of the ads should be more than adequately offset by the return of increased union support.
In the oh-so-proper climate of employment and industrial relations which may soon prevail in Australia, there is a question which must be settled.
If someone in (say) Sydney volunteers for a job in (say) Canberra and gets it, will that someone have to move where the job is, especially if a house is provided? Or will that someone be allowed to commute by air at taxpayers' expense?
A lot of miners in the Pilbara need an answer to this one very, very soon, because they'd rather have homes on the Gold Coast.
Some of what Mark Latham has to say is spot on. Whilst he directed a stream of invective at his former colleagues, let's not forget he made some pithy comments that were right on the mark.
The ALP at a state level is going well. That's a given. One can however be forgiven for thinking that the state branches have been 'running dead' when it comes to federal elections. Factional carve-ups have led to a series of predicably poor candidates and the 'small target' theory simply hasn't worked. If you can't be identified as a clearly alternative government, then you run the risk of appearing as a pale imitation of the current government.
It seems that a number of our federal Labor colleagues don't mix too regularly with people who might have views opposite to their own. Add to this the fact that ALP branch meetings are almost totally devoid of discussion or debate and you can see that there needs to be an injection of something stimulating into the ALP mix.
Latham was an interesting experiment and we should not be too quick in dismissing him as a 'labor rat'. He tried and failed. But it was not his failure alone. We all failed to win the last election and the last couple before that.
The fact that Howard has run an agenda based on fear - economic and international - should not divert us from the task of attempting to sell ourselves as a credible alternative.
So, take a cold shower and digest some of the criticism. Analyse - in the cold light of day - the substance of what has been said, and reflect on ways to get Labor back into government. Then and only then will we begin the march back to regaining our seats on the treasury benches.
(still a true believer)
I was listening to the 11am news and it reported that organisations such as yours were of the view that there would be an erosion of Annual Leave under J Howard's proposed IR reforms.
My experience of what these reforms promise is more than an erosion. About 12 years ago I asked for AL payments and was sacked. The TWU NSW took the matter to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission as an unfair dismissal - it was heard by Commissioner McKenna.
What made me make the comment 'more than erosion' is this:
By so much as asking for AL payments or any entitlement payments for that matter any entitlement, an employer can just sack an employee and - not give a reason - just say "you're fired". Under Howard's reforms there will be no unfair dismissal for the worker to fall back on. He/she will not, in this situation have been given a reason for the dismissal and consequently can not identify that the request for entitlement(s) had anything to do with the sacking - that is if the matter did and I emphasise 'did' get to court after all, there would be no unfair dismissal laws to fall back on.
The shift in public opinion charted by newspaper polls this week is totally consistent with the internal research underpinning this campaign - that when people engage in this issue they are vehemently opposed to the government.
Polls seldom move 10 per cent - and that they've done so backed by 60 per cent opposition to the changes - is proof that engagement has now occurred and the government's preferred strategy of flying the changes under the radar has been defeated.
Instead they are about to throw a bucket of our money at the issue - but what are they going to say? Maybe they will villify unions. Maybe we'll see legions of funky young workers free of the shackles of workers rights' - or maybe they will just try to shove it down our throats as being in the national economic interest.
This final approach strikes me as a modern adaptation of the old Nestle Quik ads. Remember, "Go on Freddy drink it. Drink it." Only I doubt this cup will taste as good.
This is not to underestimate the Prime Minister's ability to sell unpopular policies. From GST to the War on Iraq he has used a potent brew of wedge politics, and publicly funded advertising to shift the public mood.
But this time the task may be tougher because this is a very different sort of campaign to the ones that have been run from the progressive left in recent times.
Think about the last decade: reconciliation, the republic, refugees, and the War on Iraq - all worthy causes, but all about symbolic issues that affect our conscience rather than our hip pocket.
In fact, there is one analysis of the Tampa that sees the whole refugee debate as a diversion from hip pocket insecurity about economic globalisation, with the Prime Minister using it to divert our fears about free trade into the border protection issue.
This is where the rights at work campaign is a totally different sort of beast to campaigns run from the Left in recent times.
The changes being proposed by the government hit at the living standards of every Australian.
Issues like annual leave, penalty rates and unfair dismissal are tangible rights. Not every one may know how they work or where they come from, but the idea of losing them is none too attractive.
And the early responses by Minister Andrews such as "the world doesn't owe us a living" and "we have to compete in a global economy" are not the sort of reassurances the punters want to hear.
If we have learnt anything in the years of the Howard Government it is that economic indicators can be manipulated and that truth is an elusive commodity - and there is a growing feeling that what is good for the economy is often at the expense of working people.
At the end of the day the question comes down to this: how can taking away workers rights and weakening Australian families be in the national interest?
This is the question where the government carries the onus of proof and while international tragedy may delay the day of reckoning it won't postpone it.