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Issue No. 272 15 July 2005  

Home Ground Advantage
American pollster Vic Fingerhut has been in Australia this week with a reassuring message to the labour movement - it's OK to stand up for what you believe in - and it might even win you elections.


Interview: Battle Stations
Opposition leader Kim Beazley says he's ready to fight for workers right. But come July 1, he'll have to be fighting by different rules.

Unions: The Workers, United
It was a group of rank and filers who took centre stage when workers rallied in Sydney's Town Hall, writes Jim Marr.

Politics: The Lost Weekend
The ALP had a hot date, they had arranged to meet on the Town Hall steps, and Phil Doyle was there.

Industrial: Truth or Dare
Seventeen ivory towered academics upset those who know what is best for us last week.

History: A Class Act
After reading a new book on class in Australia, Neale Towart is left wondering if it is possible to tie the term down.

Economics: The Numbers Game
Political economist Frank Stilwell offers a beginners guide to understanding budgets

International: Blonde Ambition
Sweden can be an inspiration to labour movements the world over, as it has had community unionism for over 100 years, creating a vibrant caring society, rather than a "productive" lean economy.

Training: The Trade Off
Next time you go looking for a skilled tradesman and can’t find one, blame an economist, writes John Sutton.

Review: Bore of the Worlds
An invincible enemy has people turning against one another as they fight for survival – its not just an eerie view of John Howard’s ideal workplace, writes Nathan Brown.

Poetry: The Beaters Medley
In solidarity with the workers of Australia, Sir Paul McCartney (with inspiration from his old friend John Lennon) has joined the Workers Online resident bard David Peetz to pen some hits about the government's proposed industrial relations revolution.


 PM Rallies on Spin

 Crafty Boss Bytes Staff

 Andrews Faces "Thuggery" Challenge

 Delta Blues

 NRL Plays Man Not Ball

 Boeing Hits Turbulence

 Whole Truth Eludes Rev Kev

 Correct Weight Caulfield

 Business Nervous Over IR Changes

 Last Weekend Gets a Lift

 Free Pass for Death Doctors

 Activists Whats On!


The Soapbox
State of the Union
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson lifts the lid on ‘The Nine Myths of Modern Unionism’

The Locker Room
Wrist Action
Phil Doyle trawls the murky depths of tawdry sleaze, and discovers Rugby is behind it all.

To Hew The Coal That Lies Below
Phil Doyle reviews Australia's first coal mining novel, Black Diamonds and Dust.

The Westie Wing
Our favourite State MP, Ian West, reports from Macquarie Street that the Premier is all the way with a State Commission.

 Do It Yourself?
 The vision thing
 True Lies
 You C.A.N. Do It
 Water Works
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PM Rallies on Spin

John Howard is spinning the merits of his industrial assault off a Kiwi rally driver who made a motza out of individual contracts.

When Howard mounted his New Zealand defence of AWAs, last week, he told Australians that a survey done in the Shaky Isles showed overwhelming employee satisfaction with workplace reform based on individual contracts.

"We find that while 85 percent of people originally opposed labour market reform, 18 months after the changes, 73 percent of employees were either 'very safisfied' or 'satisfied' with their working conditions and terms of employment," the Prime Minister said in a detailed "intellectual and economic case" for his workplace agenda.

What Howard neglected to mention, however, was that his 73 percent figure came from a 1992 survey conducted by Teesdale Meuli.

The firm was a "management consultancy" that made big money by delivering thousands of workers onto individual contracts.

Tony Teesdale, a one time rally driver, and his partner, Paul Meuli, joined forces in 1990 to take advantage of opportunities opened up by radical industrial changes in the 1991 Employment Contracts Act.

Ten years later, the operation was sold to US giant, TMP Worldwide, for an undisclosed sum.

NZ Council of Trade Unions education officer, Don Farr, said Teesdale used "confusion and obfuscation" to get Kiwis onto individual contracts.

"I had a number of dealings with him and his whole operation was geared to moving people out of unions and onto individual contracts," Farr said.

"He would go through a long, drawn out process. In one instance, I clearly recall him telling workers of a leading bank, at one centre, that colleagues in other centres weren't interested in retaining penalty rates. Of course, they were never allowed to meet face to face.

"In the end, the individual agreements his process said were wanted by bank workers turned out to be almost identical to the ones he had prepared for McDonalds.

"Almost every individual agreement done with Teesdale in the finance sector was done on the back of a union agreement. In other words, individuals got the same wages and conditions as the union negotiated as long as they didn't join the union.

"The trouble was, over the years, as Teesdale got people out of the unions everyone lost bargaining strength. In most industries it took about six years for allowances and penalty payments to disappear and wage rates to be screwed right down."

Farr says timing is the second major flaw in Howard's argument. By October, 1992, barely 15 months after the Act was passed, few, if any, effects had been felt.

Unlike Australia, where employers can force workers onto AWAs, New Zealand employers couldn't move until existing collective agreements had run their courses and expired.

If Howard had chosen to be more honest about individual contracts he could have chosen a number of surveys conducted after their affects had bitten.

His difficulty was that, almost uniformly, they showed high levels of dissatisfaction with employment conditions.

For example, a 1998 National Business Review survey returned only a 39 percent satisfaction rating.

In 1999, New Zealand's Labour Market Bulletin published a detailed study of wage movements as they affected supermarket checkout operators over the decade to 1997. They showed real wages had fallen 11.2 percent for adults, working Monday to Friday; 30.1 percent for part time adults; and 44.4 percent for part time students.

By 1997, real wages in New Zealand were lower than they had been in 1977.

Through it all, New Zealand plunged, on OECD figures, to record the fourth lowest growth rate of the organisation's 23 member countries in 1998.

Despite low wages, New Zealand's labour productivity rose only an average 0.5 percent for the years 1993-1998. Australia, for the same period, averaged annual growth of 3.2 percent.

By the turn of the century, dissatisfaction in New Zealand reached such high levels that hundreds of thousands of working people emigrated.

This led Howard to slam the door on years of reciprocal citizenship in a bid to ground the flight of Kiwis to Australia.

According to the New Zealand Government, that country's economy is still held back by serious labour and skills shortages.

Exhaustive study of New Zealand labour market surveys published around the time quoted by Howard, last week, turns up the Heylen Research/ Teesdale Meuli paper as the one that most closely fits his 18 month timeframe.

That survey is recorded as a glowing endorsement by Right Wing ideologue, and former New Zealand Minister of Labour, Maurice McTigue, in his paper, Alternatives to Regulation.

McTigue is now described as a "distinguished visiting scholar" at the Mercatus Centre at Virginia's George Mason University.

"While 85 percent of the populace originally opposed the new labour law, 73 percent of employees are either 'very satisfied' or 'satisfied' with their working conditions and terms of employment," McTigue wrote in a passage that bore an uncanny resemblance to the words Howard would use, years later, in a keynote speech in Sydney.


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