The Finance Sector Union says the method of surveillance is spreading across the industry, placing undue stress on workers and undermining teamwork.
The union has already challenged the practice in the National Australia Bank, where a new computer system monitoring keystrokes without consultation with staff was introduced last year.
The system of monitoring, an extension of the Taylorist principles of time-and-motion management, sets arbitrary performance levels and then gives management a detailed analysis of each workers output.
Workers in NAB raised concerns about the impact of the levels on team spirit, self esteem, their quality of work and their health.
FSU state secretary Geoff Derrick says this style of monitoring is de-humanising and makes no reference to the quality of the work done.
While the workers in NAB have managed to negotiate realistic output levels with the help of the FSU, the spread of the IPOD computer system means it won't be the last workplace to face the keystroke police.
FSU member Karen Keegan, who experienced the management technique at NAB says the practise misses the point and neglects the quality of scheme performance.
"At the end of the day, the people who do the work know what is needed to get the job done -- and with teamwork it can be achieved."
CPSU officials have been told that enterprise agreements that include the words "trade union" in them will not be approved by Howard ministers.
CPSU state secretary Malcolm Larson told Workers Online that the edict had already been applied to agreements covering government agencies: the Australian Film and Television School, the Australian Film Commission and CentreLink.
This has meant even innocent phrases like "Trade Union Training" and "Union Official" have been converted into "Leave for Approved Purposes" and "Employee Representative."
At the same time, all agreements, regardless of the employees' wishes, must include provision for the introduction of AWAs, the secret contracts Peter Reith is promoting as if it's a fetish.
And clauses laying down "Participatory Work Practices" which make no reference to the trade unions are being routinely inserted in agency agreements.
When this form of pattern bargaining is not embraced by workers, the Ministers with responsibility for the instrumentality have refused to sign the agreement and sent it back; meaning pay rises are put on hold until the correct form of words is adopted.
"In a perverse way, the administration of the public sector is becoming far more centralised under a Coalition Government," Larson said.
"They are pushing an overtly ideological agenda and dressing it up as a management technique."
It's been a difficult three years for the country's federal public servants, the budgets slashed, outsourcing for all but policy-related work and increased levels of work intensity for the remaining members.
But the federal government's attempt to change the language of the workplace is its most overt admission of its ideological agenda.
"By taking the language of trade unions out of the documentation, they think they can wipe us from the workforce's minds," Larson said.
"Their problem is they are pushing the staff around so much that their commitment to the union just keeps getting stronger."
Vowing to reintroduce the legislation, which was rejected in the Senate this week, Prime Minister John Howard is poised to repeat the early election charade which spanned his first term in office.
That time it was the failure to get unfair dismissal laws watered down, this time it's his push to drive down wages for young people before the Australian Industrial Relations Commission has completed its inquiry into the issue.
The Howard Government will now use the blocking of the legislation as a political weapon to attack the opposition and minor parties for being anti-jobs, as well as a defensive tool whenever there is a bad set of unemployment figures.
The political campaign was in full swing this week with the Daily Telegraph running a front-page editorial pushing the orthodoxy that youth wages create jobs.
Totally absent in the debate is the fact that the Prime Minister's own Youth Advisory Council has rejected the notion of the abolition of junior rates on social grounds, as has the Productivity Commission on economic grounds.
Labor Council executive assistant Michael Gadiel, who prepared the unions' submission to the AIRC, said the debate over Youth Wages was being perverted in a quick-fix for youth unemployment.
"The reality is that the debate about youth wages is about how the wage system is structured. Unions are committed to ensuring that training is part of the equation for every young worker -- the shift to competency based standards would ensure this," Gadiel told Workers Online.
"The difference is that the competency principle is not discriminatory, whereas the age-based pay level clearly is.
"The debate is significant in these terms, but to suggest that either structure would have a radically different effect on the levels of pay young people earn and thus a radical impact on youth employment levels, is to just misunderstand the issue altogether."
"Because this is a complex issue, both sides of the youth wage debate have tended to hyperbole, grossly over-stating the impact of any change.
"The bottom line is that if the abolition of youth wages is the government's only strategy for addressing youth unemployment, then we are all in a lot of trouble."
An analysis of wage figures by the ACTU has concluded that the gender pay gap is increasing for the first time in 30 years and that a strong award safety net is a vital part of the equation.
This was backed by the fact that Western Australia, which has the least regulated wages system in the country, has the lowest wages for women anywhere in Australia and they earn just 56 per cent of men's' wages
In contrast, in NSW where a Labor Government has re-regulated industrial relations, they have the highest pay rate of all the states and earn 66 per cent of men's' wages.
Significantly, it is NSW where the state government has taken positive steps to address the issue, with its Inquiry into Pay Equity.
The figures, based on Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, were released by ACTU President Jennie George to coincide with International Women's Day this week.
"Although it is early days in terms of these statistics, these are amazing figures and are of great concern," she said.
Ms George blamed the Howard-Reith industrial agenda for the widening gap, with the erosion of award rates and conditions placing downwards pressure on women's' wages.
They also showed female workers in hospitality, education, manufacturing and property and business services have fallen further behind their male colleagues.
According to the analysis, the wage differential between male and female workers in the hospitality sector had increased an alarming 11.8 per cent of average weekly earnings. In the other industries the shift was incremental, but still concerning.
The ACTU will now embark on a four-pronged strategy to address the widening pay gap.
* Support for the Living Wage claim strategy
* Investigating more equal remuneration test cases; like the ones at HPM and The Age.
* Applying the findings of the NSW Pay Equity Inquiry to the federal jurisdiction
* Continuing to oppose Australian Workplace Agreements and further deregulation of the wages system.
MUA national secretary John Coombs this week wrote to Greenpeace CEO Ian Higgins, seeking the environmental organisation's support as it steps up its campaign against federal government plans to further deregulate the industry
The Navigation Amendment (Employment of Seafarers) Bill is currently before Parliament will allow companies to employ "guest workers" on substandard wages and conditions on Australian ships.
It would also prevent seafarers refusing to work ships carrying dangerous goods and allow overseas crews to discharge a ship's ballast water, which often contains foreign marine pests and cargo residue, into Australian waters.
The MUA believes these changes pose major environmental risks to the coastline. And the International Marine Organisation warns that such routine operations on board ships are a bigger pollution menace than oil spills.
For instance, foreign ships were blamed for a red algae outbreak in Sydney Harbour over summer. The MUA is also concerned the legislation will pave the way for further "reforms" based on the recommendations of the Shipping Reform Group.
These include allowing Australian ships to be run under flags of convenience, allowing owners to bypass their obligations under Australian law, and abolishing cabotage, which restricts Third World ships and crews operating domestic shipping routes.
The union's approach to Greenpeace, follows its involvement with the International Transport Workers' Federation against the exploitation of Asian workers at the world's shipbreaking yards.
He this week unveiled a raft of changes to health and safety laws which implement key recommendations of an Inquiry into Workplace Safety, handed down last year by the Legislative Council's Standing Committee on Law and Justice.
Shaw says the laws will place NSW at "the international forefront in terms of work safety".
The proposals, which have been developed in consultation with the trade union movement, build on important changes in the Carr Government's first term, including doubling penalties for safety breaches and giving union officials immediate access to workplaces to police OH&S issues.
Initiatives in the latest package include:
- employee health and safety representatives to be appointed in all medium and large-sized businesses.
- financial incentives within the workers compensation premium structure to develop OHS management systems.
- strengthening the status of Workplace Safety Codes of Practice.
- undertaking a detailed investigation of best practice systems; and
- ensuring victim impact statements are admissible when sentencing breaches of OHS laws.
by Troy Burton, LHMU/ACTU organiser
The protest by members of the Hotel Union (LHMU) and the Construction Union (CFMEU) follows months of anti-worker and anti-union activity by Accor.
The protesters were carrying colourful placards, banging drums, blowing whistles, singing union chants and calling on Accor to abandon its attacks on workers.
The meeting heard from Accor delegates and enjoyed a sausage sizzle in the hotel's driveway. The protest shook the hotel's manager and sent a strong message to Accor and the rest of the hospitality industry.
The delegation voted to hold a national day of action for all hotel workers to halt the employers' attempt to reduce hotel workers wages and conditions. Construction workers will also be protesting against Accor and showing their support for hotel workers.
Both unions have vowed to continue their campaign to defeat Accor's attack on workers wages, conditions and job security.
Hotel employers have traditionally focused their attacks on workers wages and conditions through coordinated attempts to cut or "strip back" award conditions. Initial efforts to radically reduce loadings and penalty rates for hotel workers were defeated when hundreds of hotel workers joined the Union and took to the streets in protest.
Employers continue attacks on workers
But hotel bosses have not given up the attacks.
A number of the larger hotel chains have tested the water by trying to persuade workers to sign individual and non-union agreements which significantly reduce conditions and job protections.
The hotel giant Accor claims it can't meet its budget despite making a profit of $20 million in the last six months from their Sydney hotels and paying a huge sum of money to an expensive firm of lawyers to help them lead this attack.
Workers not convinced by employer lies
So far workers at established Accor hotels have voted no to the wage-cutting agreements. But Accor is forcing workers at new properties such as the Sydney Mercure Central to sign individual agreement. If workers don't sign, they don't get the job.
Other hotels are either matching Accor's efforts, or will be forced to do so to remain competitive if Accor is successful.
Accor has also targeted construction workers building Accor hotels. Construction workers know that if Accor is successful, other companies and other industries will follow.
Hotel workers and construction workers unite in opposition to Accor attacks
The Peak Union body in Australia (the ACTU) has written to Accor, on behalf of hotel and construction workers. Accor's response was extremely negative.
Both the hotel and construction Unions have become concerned that the situation is worsening, and is now urgent. With this in mind, Jeff Roser, an executive member of the LHMU, spoke to the construction union (CFMEU) delegates about Accor's anti-union, anti-worker agenda. These delegates unanimously endorsed a campaign against Accor, and decided to start immediately, by joining together with hotel union delegates in the march and protest on Accor's Darling Harbour hotels.
More active members is the best response to the hotels' anti-union activities
Jeff Roser told the prosteters that workers in the hotel industry must organise to protect wages, conditions and job security.
"Employers are watching to see how effectively we respond to these attacks, and our actions now will determine what they do next.
"One of the most effective ways we can send a message to employers is by having a strong, growing and active membership.
"To make sure we are successful, it is vital that all hotel workers attend the stop work meeting later this month. To achieve this every hotel worker needs to become aware of the importance of the issue, and the urgency of organising our defence against these attacks," Jeff Roser said.
>b>What Accor and other Hotel Employers are trying to do:
· Almost totally remove rostering certainty and hours of work security
· Introduce "flexibilities" such as non-payment for overtime
· Remove ability to bargain for reasonable pay rises and additional allowances
· Reduce access to allowances (eg higher duties allowance)
· Clear the way for further attacks through individual contracts
Why workers must stop them:
· Success by one company means other hotels will follow to stay competitive
· Our best chance of protecting our conditions is to stop them now, before it can spread
· We want to IMPROVE wages and conditions in hotels, not let them get worse.
The report, that went to air this week, accused a CFMEU organiser of intimation and standover tactics after he was secretly filmed arguing with the employer, a Sydney demolition contractor.
But the sting went out of the report's tail when the union revealed the employer was under investigation by WorkCover and the Australian Taxation Office for breaches of the law.
Further his own representative, the Demolition Contractors' Association has been quoted as saying he should be thrown out of the industry.
The popular press is placing the spotlight on the industry as the federal government plans an MUA-style campaign to break the building unions. As with the waterfront, an important part of this process is the sponsorship of negative news pieces to set the public mood against the union.
The last time A Current Affair attacked the CFMEU , it ended up paying CFMEU state secretary 50,000 for defamation. Ironically, Ferguson donated that money to the MUA fund last year.
The CFMEU is resisting the latest attack by stepping up its attempts to police wages and safety across the building industry.
The Labor Council of NSW has backed the statewide blitz of underpayment and tax evasion in the construction industry following a report showing one third of all employers in the industry are avoiding some form of payment.
Building companies who were dodging their legal obligations to pay workers' tax and workers compensation were threatening all NSW workers, Labor Council secretary Michael Costa said.
"Underpayment and tax evasion puts the perpetrator at an unfair advantage over the honest employers who do meet their legal obligations," Mr Costa said
"The evasion of workers compensation is of particular concern, at a time where there is pressure on the scheme," Mr Costa said.
"While the state's building industry is booming, I am concerned that these types of practises will adversely effect the business environment and ultimately cost jobs."
WORKING CLASS FILM&VIDEO FESTIVAL
July 1999 San Francisco
CALL FOR VIDEOS & FILMS
LaborFest is now calling for videos for our annual International Working Class Film & Video festival. Laborfest which is held in San Francico every July and is organzied to commemorate the 1934 San Francisco General Strike through the cultural arts of working people.
Videos and films can include union struggles, political struggles of labor, locally, nationally and internationally.
The videos should explore the connections between labor and democracy, race, sex, environment, media, war and the capitalist economy.
We are are looking for videos that challenge practically and ideologically the thinking of working people. The videos will be shown throughout the month in San Francisco.
Submit on VHS Or Pal, English Captions Preferred Open To amateurs, students and professionals, Open format which includes drama, animation & documentaries.
Please send the video along with a bio and narrative summary. Please also send summary & bio electronically if possible.
Submission Deadline: June 1, 1999, No entry form or fee required
International Working Class Film & Video Festival
(415)282-1908 Fax (415)695-1369
San Francisco,CA 94142
by Grant Doran
It is with great interest that I note the increased discussion on the gender pay equity issue.
I work in the Information Technology sector, which has been one of the great growth sectors for employment.
I find it disappointing that the industry, in particular the more lucrative areas, is predominantly male.
It strikes me that the IT industry is an ideal place for women to make some inroads into overall equity.
The industry is safe, clean, challenging, financially rewarding and not very "blokey". In my experience I have seen little, if any, gender bias in the industry. And yet...where are they?
I feel that not enough is being done to promote IT careers to girls in schools. The image of IT people as "nerds" is a stereotype that is widely reinforced in the media and popular culture.
Programs should be developed to encourage girls to use computers (and not just for typing!).
To deal with the worsening shortage of skilled local people, there is now pressure to allow more IT people from overseas to fill the places. Whilst this is an attractive form of immigration (bringing in qualified people with good employment prospects), the long-term solution has to be more IT places at TAFEs and Universities and MORE GIRLS!
I really think that this is a golden (nay, platinum) opportunity wasted!
I found your site through LabourStart and it is very impressive. Really well produced and full of interesting & useful information. I thought the interview with the younf ACTU Organiser was good. We have 13 young trainees with GPMU - all trained by the TUC Organising Academy.
I will be in Australia in April with a team from the TUC in the UK visiting the ACTU Organising Works and I am looking forward to meeting up with plenty of union activists in Australia.
I will add a link to our web site, how about a links section on yours?
Deputy General Sec.
Graphical, Paper & Media Union UK and Ireland
Chair TUC New Unionism Task Group
Eds' reply: A links engine is part of our Stage Two plans. Until then check out LaborNet's links at:http://labor.net.au/links/
The Sydney Women's Aussie Rules Football League are to open the Swans/Brisbane Lions game in Campbelltown on Saturday 13 March. This game has been chosen for the historic launch for women's footy in New South Wales.
For too long, women who could tell the difference between a handball and a forward pass could only watch from the edge of the oval. This means that now they can take a mark, go the hip and shoulder and boot a goal.
If you're interested, get yourself out to Fields Rd Reserve, Monarch Field, MacQuarrie Fields at 12.30 on Saturday 13 March. If you want to play, contact Helen Meyer on 0414 962 968.
by Ray Marcelo
If the League is a crumbling empire, there's a drastic need to make a distinction between the administration of the Sport and the game itself.
Peter Lewis' article was spot-on to highlight the distance between the high flying salaries and attitudes of several NRL clubs and players and the grinding, welded on passion of footy supporters.
But it's no excuse to say the Game has lost it. This simply hastens the rot and entrenches feelings of lost loyalties and disillusionment.
If the game reflects income inequality in the real world, where money, power, talent and resources gets concentrated then the alternative is to support those teams whose continuing existence will remind footy believers that there are values worth defending. Teams like Wests, Balmain and Souths.
These are teams who don't have the Stars, who have to struggle along the terms of the modern game, and yet persevere. Isn't this the daily reality of many working people's lives?
Let's get behind the teams and the players who will make the difference, because they ARE the difference between a hyper inflated sport and a great game.
by Peter Lewis
When you became ACTU President you made recruitment your key priority and set a target of 200,000 new members. What happened?
It was not a personal target, it was set by a decision of the ACTU Executive. It was set at a time before the impact of the IR policies of the Federal Government and at a State level were properly appreciated. Those policies were set against a climate of continued decline which has been facilitated by the huge cuts in public sector employment, both State and Federal, by a continuing restructuring in economic sectors that have been traditionally the stronghold of unionism and by changes which have seen a huge proliferation in casual and contract work and outsourcing. The latter are areas where historically we haven't done as well as a union movement.
So, in hindsight I accept that setting a target was probably not the wisest thing to do. But it was an indication of the union movement's appreciation that we had to recruit that many new members to try and arrest the decline that had been prevalent a couple of decades prior to that.
Around that time there was also a range of recruitment policies that were raised, predominantly around a service model. I remember things like shop-front unionism and ACTU Air and things like that. Has the ACTU come to a view that maybe that's not the best way of bringing people into the movement?
I think to be fair, our recruitment strategy has a number of aspects to it. For example, regional recruitment. I've been on half a dozen regional recruitment weeks that have been organised by the Labor Councils in the States of Victoria and Queensland. We've gone out as a movement and hit a regional town or centre and actually had quite good results. Organising Works is another manifestation of the priority that the ACTU has put on recruitment.The young graduates are central in meeting the challenges ahead.
We are still looking at opening up shopfront centres. There was some talk at one stage of doing that in the Blue Mountains and in regional Victoria, and more recently, even here in the city. So I think all those aspects of recruitment strategy have been part of an overall desire by the ACTU to shock the union movement into understanding that just continuing to do things the way they were always done was not going to stop the decline that we were seeing at the time.
As far as services are concerned, I think the ACTU takes the view that people don't join for the services that are provided, but the services can be an important add-on benefit, particularly in retaining union members. Too much time and energy was being spent by individual unions duplicating one another's efforts and it still continues to be our view that professionally and centrally handled, the provision of services, like discounts to the movies, insurance discounts, housing loans and the like are important elements that can make the task of retention somewhat easier than it is today.
The emerging issue around which the ACTU is planning to campaign is Work/Time/Life . I guess on one level you can see it as the result of the aggressive anti-union policies that have been pursued by various employers and the Federal government. How are you planning to get this discontent about working life and turn that into recruitment?
I think the issue of work intensification, longer hours, the disruption to work and family life, are issues that really do capture the imagination of people out there in the community who may or may not be union members. I think that it is important that the unions incorporate those issues into their bargaining claims. Currently in the finance sector, they have identified huge numbers of overtime hours that have been worked on an unpaid basis. In another sector, tertiary education, for example, the issue is huge numbers of people on contract employment they are trying to roll over into more secure forms of employment.
So I don't think it's up to the ACTU to impose one kind of view about the right way forward, but what the ACTU can do is to coordinate the individual elements that unions pursue into a broader community and union campaign that focuses on issues that are now becoming more important than even the issue of wage increases
I think that the risk will be to continue to talk in generalities and what we need now is to focus on how you translate those issues identified by the rank and file into concrete industrial demands. Now, some of those might be achieved through the bargaining process, some through the arbitral process, and some through broader community support. But the campaign has the potential to broaden the union movement's agenda into an issue that taps into concerns that are fairly widespread.
There is a view that this sort of campaign must be run at very much a workplace specific level. Do you think that the superunion and industry based structures of unions following the amalgamation process is a help or a hindrance in terms of implementing that sort of campaign?
I think the outcomes of amalgamation have not been even. The Finance Sector Union is a classic case of an amalgamation that's worked well. Some amalgamations regrettably were amalgamations based on political interests rather than industrial affinity, and in some cases amalgamations have done little more than to bring together often disparate cultures under the one union, and a lot of time and energy has been spent in trying to accommodate those different cultures into a union that's more effective and better positioned.
I think the theory behind amalgamation, that economies of scale would free up resources so that you could better target the workplace was sound. The theory was right, it's worked well in some sectors, not well in others. But I've never been one to think that bigger was necessarily better. I mean you can be bigger, and just as removed and bureaucratic and divorced from the rank and file as a small union that might have been close to its rank and file but wouldn't have had the resources to survive effectively into the next millennium.
So I think the outcomes have been different in different sectors and where they have worked well it has freed up the resources to do more creative things. But I don't think it's amalgamation so much, I think it's the culture that hasn't changed fast enough.
People got very used to a particular modus operandi during the Accord years and even now I look at some unions where organisers today are doing much as they did five years ago in a totally different political environment.
We have to move beyond giving lip service to the issue of recruitment. I think in many unions the average organiser would still spend most of their time servicing existing members and I know from experiences of the young graduates from Organising Works, their frustration that recruitment was often left to them alone. Onviously, where we've got union members, they need to be looked after well, we've got to skill up our delegates to be able to take the burden of dealing with existing members' grievances and really throw a lot more at recruitment. I mean, retention is important, but there's another three-quarters of the cake out there to be eaten.
Amongst young workers unions have an image of being a bit old fashioned and daggy. How do we go about changing that image and becoming a more attractive package?
We need to recognise that people join unions now for very functional reasons. They don't join out of some kind of ideological commitment to the working class, and I think that's probably much more typified as a generality amongst young people. The "Me Too" generation, Generation X: I'm not going to be seen as a victim, I'm capable of looking after my own interest. There is this much more individual ethos and it's not just an Australian phenomenon, it's universal.
But what do you do about that? Well, you don't appeal to those people in the language and the culture of 50 years ago and you don't necessarily appeal to them by having people who don't think like them, trying to recruit them.We need to value the collectivist ethose, whi;le embracing the new culture which comes with the Information Society. We've got to move beyond but still value the collectivist ethos while embracing the new culture that comes with the information society, where these so-called "gold collar" people work. That's the challenge that only the young people that come through Organising Works programs can really understand and identify with. It's the same kind of dilemma that faced the union movement 20 years ago, where it could no longer be men in grey cardigans going out and encouraging young women to join unions. It was a dysfunctional model.
In this context, does this make something like the MUA dispute a Pyrrhic victory, in that while it was fantastic in the blue collar model of industrial disputes, it did reinforce a lot of stereotypes about who the union movement is there for?
I know what you are getting at, but I don't agree. The union movement is such a diverse movement and the challenge has been to try and publicly represent a movement that has industries that are totally male dominated as well as industries that are characterised by young, female and part-timers. Our traditions can't be ignored but all institutions have to move with the times. I think the maritime dispute showed the best of our culture and history. It sent a signal that the movement is still alive and well. It still has economic and industrial leverage.
I don't want to draw too many generalisations out of the dispute. What it did was show that, despite the obvious collusion of the government with the employer, the Maritime Union survived and is still representing maritime workers. Even those who were on contracts in the non-union workforce, ended up ruing the fact they weren't in a union. So for the broader community the message, subliminally, was that if you band together, you can win despite the odds. That message has relevance whether you're a woman in a call centre or a teacher or a worker in the hospitality sector. I think it will go down in history as one of the most significant industrial battles of this century, but the world of work is a different one to the world of the docks and that new world of work is where our greatest challenges lie and where we are still not making a sufficient inroads.
On a more personal level, having been the first female President of the ACTU, you've stuck yourself out there as a woman in the public eye. How have you found that experience?
I wouldn't still be in the job if I didn't enjoy doing what I do; you have your down days and your up days but I think its been valuable. What's been quite surprising is the degree to which you don't even recognise that you have an impact on the lives of young women in particular. I'm constantly surprised at the number of young people who want to stop and have a chat and talk to me about what I do. Symbolically, we were talking about the culture of the movement earlier, I think having a woman as the president at that period of transition of incorporating the new cultural dimensions of society, was probably an important statement. Certainly, during the maritime dispute I think my participation as a woman with a high public profile throughout the dispute, helped offset the kind of male blue-collar stereotypes that you referred to.
Joan Kirner once said that in the media you oscillate from being Madonna and the whore. Have you found that very black and white existence; you're either being attacked or placed on a pedestal?
I haven't been put on the pedestal - I've come in at the time of hard challenges for the union movement, my tenure has coincided with a very hostile federal government. You do get stereotyped. I'm portrayed as the angry woman who is always having a go such as the public only sees one side of the total person.
You've mentioned that at some point in the future you'll pursue a career in NSW politics. Do you think the ACTU presidency should be filled by another woman?
What I've said is that I intend to stand down from the position in June 2000. I do that for a number of reasons. I've been since 1973 full-time in the union movement, so it's been a long stint and jobs in the union movement don't always give you a perfect balance in your work and personal life. I think after 25 years there comes a time when everybody knows when they've given it their best. I think 2000 is also very symbolic for me and the union movement. We're saying onward to the new millennium and that signifies to me the capacity to let go and let other people leave their imprint. The union movement needs to add new dimensions to the rich tapestry of its history to be effective into the future. I'm a believer in symbols and you've got to go some at stage, so that is probably an appropriate time to pass the torch on.
As to a political career, I've said I'm no longer inierested in pursuing a career federally and if the Labor Party in NSW believes that my experience is worthwhile and that I can contribute to the party here, I'll look at that option. But that's a way down the track and I'm not quite sure what I'll do.
Should I be replaced by a woman? Well, I fought all my life for women to have a better say in the decision-making processes. I fought very hard for the affirmative action principle. So my view would be, yes, I should be replaced by a woman. However, that's not something that I will be deciding on my own. The union movement will have to sit down and have a look at the whole team and make some judgments about what experiences and backgrounds people bring to that team. I think we've moved beyond the point of the union movement being seen publicly as a male-dominated movement and you have to have a balance of genders and a balance of sectors from which you come and I've got say that public sector unionism has brought a very important dimension to the life of the union movement and there are a number of outstanding women leaders in public sector unions that are more than capable of taking the reins when I go.
I just think in terms of public presentation, however good two men might me, two men in the leading positions seems to me to not strike the right chord of empathy that we need, particularly amongst those we are trying to recruit. My estimation would be that the key players in the union movement are pragmatic enough to understand those real world dimensions of the challenges ahead. I think the presidency symbolically must present an image that people relate to; there's the person who's identified by the public with the ACTU and I think we've just got to be mindful that images and symbols are important.
by Peter Lewis
Union officials representing some 10 million white collar workers from 100 different countries are convening for the FIET world conference.
They represent the faceless victims of globalisation -- the bank workers, the office clerks, the shop assistants whose sorry plight at the hand of international competition has provided the backdrop for the reactionary politics of the late 90s.
They are workers whose core tasks are being contracted out to cheap labour pools in developing nations, or whose jobs are being made redundant by binary codes which can complete routine tasks far quicker than any mere mortal.
They are the face of the late 20th century; workers whose security has been eroded in the face of the collapse of the discrete economy of the nation-state.
The conference is significant because it embraces the issue driving the conservative push to labour market deregulation in Australia: the need to compromise domestic labour standards to better compete on the global stage.
For trade unions in countries like Australia the issue is crucial, for as these workers' jobs disappear, so do the membership bases that give them the legitimacy to be their advocates in the broader debates. Moreover, unions have been largely ineffective in recruiting members in the emerging job markets like IT. This creates a perverse multiplier effect of job insecurity, that leaves the victims on their own.
So how do you put people first in a global world?
The necessary first step is to accept its inevitability. Globalisation manifested in technological developments such as the Internet can not be reversed. It is not a political or economic fad that will run its course and disappear.
But equally, trade unions must accept that the inevitability of technological change does not necessarily lead to pre-ordained effects. By understanding what is happening in the global market unions can pursue strategies that ensure that individual workers are not left out of the equation.
The first step is to do what business has already done and widen the outlook from national borders to international labour pools. Many of the issues to be canvassed at the FIET conference shows how this process of critical engagement with globalisation is beginning.
Proposals for debate include:
* Negotiating global labour standards within multinationals such as company-wide core standards and global company councils in order to prevent "social dumping", the downward drive on wages and conditions.
* Extending the notion of "Fair Wear", already established in the textile and clothing industries, to other areas where low wage ghettoes in subhuman conditions undermine local production. One example FIET raises is the low-cost data entry from free trade zones on the Indian sub-continent used in publishing. Is it any more moral, they ask, to play a computer game devised in a sweatshop, than it is to wear a T-shirt made in one?
* Support for an international tax on foreign exchange transactions, initially proposed by Nobel Prize winner James Tobin but now being openly canvassed by the IMF, as a means of controlling the rampant flow of speculative capital.
* Embracing the emerging technologies, to assist trade unions become better service organisations. Initiatives like on-line organising, recruitment and publishing are still in their infancy for trade unions, but they are establishing important beach-heads.
But more important than the endorsement of any of these specific proposals is the process of evaluating them from a global perspective. As environmentalists learnt a decade ago, the challenge for trade unions is to act locally, while thinking globally.
It is no longer enough to protect a membership base as if were a chattel. Unionists need to look at their members as active participants in a changing a world, where they have the opportunity to channel the changes rather than merely react to them once they have occurred, to ensure that they, as individuals, have a stake in the process.
by Greg Patmore*
During the period from the foundation of white settlement at Sydney in 1788 to the gold rushes of the 1850s, Australia changed from a penal colony to an exporter of primary produce. Convicts and free immigrants provided the labour to assist this transformation.
The white population grew from 859 in 1788, to 11,566 in 1810; 70,039 in 1830 and 405,356 in 1850. New settlements were established at Hobart (1804), Perth (1829), Melbourne (1835) and Adelaide (1836). South Australia and West Australia were initially colonies for free settlers. However, economic problems forced Western Australia to receive convicts from 1850 to 1868. By 1850 Sydney had approximately 54,000 people, Hobart and Melbourne 23,000 each, and Adelaide, 14,500.
Primary production was the basis of the Australian economy. Manufacturing existed on a small scale. This industry either processed goods for local consumption - flour and salt - or competed with imports - textiles, tanning and brewing. Agriculture, mining, sealing and whaling encouraged the establishment of shipyards and foundries.
Free workers defended their industrial conditions before the gold-rushes. Workplace solidarity and an awareness of labour relations in the United Kingdom underlay this early worker action. A community of interest developed between workers in settled occupations. From this community of interest there grew group norms and a recognition of workplace leaders. Convicts and free immigrants also brought with them a knowledge of British labour practices, trade unionism and political movements. Colonial newspapers carried reports of British industrial and political events.
Australian workers - especially merchant seamen, whalers, South Australian miners, shop assistants and skilled urban tradesmen, took collective action over working conditions. Whalers and seamen deserted and struck. Sydney printers led a two-week strike in 1829 over wages following a currency reform. The largest strike occurred in September 1848 at the Burra copper mines in South Australia, where 300 miners left work over a reduction in wages. Australian workers also petitioned governments, litigated, organised public meetings and established cooperatives. Generally all these actions involved workers from one occupational group in one locality.
Some workers formed trade unions. Between 1828 and 1850 workers established about 100 trade societies in Australia. One of the earliest was the Shipwright's United Friends Society, which some of Sydney's ship and boat builders formed in 1829. Generally these early trade societies collapsed within a few years. They were usually tied to a particular town and had small memberships - the average probably was between thirty and sixty. These unions were mainly confined to skilled tradesmen, but there were exceptions. Shepherds in Western Australia formed a club in 1842-3 to provide friendly society benefits and protection against a recently revised Masters and Servants Act, while South Australian shop assistants established organisations to fight for early closing in the late 1840s. It is estimated that the figure was no more than 1,000 trade unionists for the whole of Australia prior to 1850. Trade union formation peaked in the late 1830s, declined with the 1840s Depression and revived in the second half of that decade.
What functions did these early trade unions perform? In addition to providing friendly society benefits, they regulated their wages and conditions by a variety of methods. They were engaged in unilateral control, collective bargaining and political lobbying. The trade unions restricted entry to their occupations by limiting the number of convicts and apprentices. They organised strikes, if necessary, and operated `houses of call' or labour exchanges, where employers could hire unemployed union members
Some trade unions wrote to local newspapers challenging claims of higher wages and labour shortages. Peter Tyler, the Secretary of the Sydney Compositors Union, even wrote to British compositors in 1838 warning them of unfavourable labour conditions and discouraging them from emigrating. These early unions generally operated in pubs, which were the major meeting places for workers at that time. In Sydney, pubs provided an additional advantage for society meetings. While constables attended all public gatherings, they could not enter pubs.
Large numbers of workers from different trades combined to take political action on issues such a immigration, unemployment, convict labour, Masters and Servants legislation and political reform. Without direct representation in the legislatures, workers organised petitions, public meetings and deputations either informally or through formal organisations.
As early as 1827 Tasmanian tradesmen formed a society to restrict the employment of convicts. Tasmanian workers later established organisations to fight convict transportation in 1835 and 1847. In 1833 Sydney tradesmen formed the Society of Emigrant Mechanics to oppose free immigration and convict assignment to protect wage levels. During the 1840s Depression Sydney workers founded the Mutual Protection Association to assist the unemployed through relief and land grants.
This association also sponsored petitions against assisted immigration and convict labour - one thousand women petitioned the government against job competition from female convicts washing clothes at the Parramatta Female Factory. Workers achieved political success without formal organisations. They defeated unfavourable amendments to the New South Wales Masters and Servants Act in 1840. While these activities were short-lived, they indicate that workers were prepared to unite to defend their common interests.
* Extracted from Greg Patmore, Australian Labour History, Longman Cheshire, 1991, Chapter Two.
Associate Professor Greg Patmore teaches in the Department of Industrial Relations at the University of Sydney. He was the President of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History until last year when he resigned. He is now the Editor of the Society's journal, Labour History.
by Peter Lewis
Like many in my social circle, I was astounded when John Howard swept to power in 1996. How could so many of my compatriots have rejected Paul Keating's vision of an open Australia?
The True Believers who celebrated in 1993, who thought Chifley's Light still burned on the Hill, who thought a decent social democracy engaged with its region was something to treasure; were suddenly hit with the realisation that they were in the minority.
How did it happen? we asked. The soul-searching that followed threw up a confused mix of reasons: he'd got the economics wrong, he'd got the economics right but failed to sell it, he'd lost touch with those outside the Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne triangle; he'd gone "too far" in embracing "political correctness".
An issue touched on, but never really grappled with, in the 1996 post mortems, was how Labor had lost touch with the pervading culture to the extent it did not appreciate the growing
hostility of its socially progressive and economically open agenda,
McKenzie Wark's "Celebrities, Culture and Cyberspace" helps fill this gaping hole in the contemporary political debate by giving weight to the popular culture of these postmodern times and their interplay with the polity.
This is a suburbia where the images of Kylie and Cave jostle for public space with the burblers on talkback radio, a virtual homeland where the community exists in the shared experience of the mass media.
An academic who teaches media studies, Wark casts a wide net across pop culture, looking for a space where a labour ideology can flourish. A strength of the book is his commitment to a better way for the movement and, while you might not agree with his final conclusions, he opens some interesting doors that have remained closed for too long.
The fundamental issue that Wark raises for me, is how Labor must come to grips with the emerging cyber-culture or cultures if it really wants to reinvent itself as a party for the new millennium. It's fine to write books with master plans but to actually touch the public requires a far greater understanding of its dominant forces.
While those in politics may like to think that it is their deals and power plays which are the dominant force, they are only ever experienced by the votes through the ever-changing amalgam of sounds and images that comprise our popular culture.
"Whether it is the virtual optimism of Kylie Minogue, or the critique of fortress suburbia in Muriel's Wedding, entertainment is no less important a part of democratic communication. Images and feelings matter as a part of democratic communication," he writes
And as the technology of the Information (and entertainment?) Society proliferates, it becomes at once more difficult and yet more attainable to have one's voice heard. Where the TV age was of one voice from above, the cyber age is of many voices, constructing their own networks of dialogue. The domination of the media moguls has not been settled and may yet be upset, by those who want to hear alternative voices and different stories.
I'd like to think that projects like Workers Online play a small part in this new domain for political conversation. At the very least I think it establishes a beachhead. Part of the value of Wark's book is that it helps explain why this beachhead is such an important thing.
This book will not be everyone's cup of tea. Wark's prose, free-ranging discourses and constant references to himself and his friends grate at times. Moreover, too much of the book veers from the focal point of Labor's relevance to a changing world to peripheral discourses.
But the contribution Work's book makes may be a profound one. Especially if it stimulates debate about how politics engages with the broader culture in which it operates.
by Peter Lewis
Media following Premier Bob Carr are herded into a mini-bus every morning, headed for an unknown destination and a set-piece announcement. The TV crews have their own vehicles as they begin their daily magical mystery tour, but they know who to follow.
Monday it was a prison near the Blue Mountains. As one reporter described it, "we started heading west and kept going, by midday we knew we weren't going to be doing anything else today".
Once there, they are given carefully selected images, designed to reinforce the government's law and order credentials, a few stock quotes, and soon are back on the bus, squeezed in together as they caucus the next day's angle.
These campaign tactics illustrate the government's main achievement during its first term -- its ability to dominate the daily news cycle. It so unnerved the Coalition they dumped their leader just three months out from the poll.
Their's is a safety first campaign; no mistakes, managing any bad stories, capitalising quick on any negatives for their opponents. At the same time the Premier has refused to run negative on Chikarovski the woman, recognising this will only fuel a sympathy vote for the underdog.
The no mistake style of campaign is in the finest traditions of the last two federal elections, where Howard wrapped himself into a tiny ball and resisted any move to hit him. The technique is effective in shifting the onus onto the Opposition to advocate the case for change.
So long as you continue to dominate the news cycles, that case will always be difficult to make. You don't even need to promise too much, just package it well. As Carr says at every opportunity "we've made a few mistakes, but we've achieved more than you think".
In contrast, the Coalition have hired a Murrays coach, a huge bus that even the leader herself can get lost on. Increasingly the route it takes is resembling the magical mystery tour.
Journalists following the Chikarovski team talk of missed opportunities and campaign incompetence as the distinguishing features of their campaign. A case in point was last week's cockroach front page in the Telegraph, which put the spotlight on funding of the health system.
Now, you'd expect an Opposition Leader to be all over this one like a rash, morning talkback, an early doorstop for the TVs. But not this show. It wasn't till 1.30pm after a set-piece conference on juvenile justice that the Opposition responded to the issue.
That's seven wasted hours; something an organised campaign team would not allow to pass in silence.
Worse was to come this week when Chikka called a conference at Gosford to capitalise on an embarrassing story that a hospital ward was laying dormant just weeks after Health Minister Andrew Refshuage announced it would house a new program.
The media arrived to be greeted by a small crowd of protesters who identified themselves as members of the Liberal's Peats campaign team -- including the local candidate.
Which was fine, until during the press conference Kerry referred to them as "concerned parents". When the media pressed her on this point and relayed their self-identification as members of the Peats campaign, the crowd denied having made the statement. The conference soon degenerated into a debate about the origin of the rally, rather than the key issue of what was going on inside the hospital.
The placard holders were last seen scuttling down the street, attempting to avoid the TV crews who wanted to question them on their interest in the campaign. These are not the images of a well-run campaign, which would have at the very least briefed the pseudo-protesters to pretend they were concerned parents.
Anecdotes such as these partly explain the stories of increasing pessimism in the business community which were chronicled in this week's Herald.
The risk for the Libs is that this pessimism will translate into a lack of campaign funds, which will further dig the whole sorry show into a ditch. The way we're headed the only Liberal smiles on March 27 will be at the victory party for a certain member for Willoughby.
Meanwhile, the Opposition advertising is becoming increasingly desperate and, in contrast to Labor, personal. After targeting Paul Whelan, the Libs have now fallen into lampooning Carr's successful X-files ads. Imitation is a sign the Labor ads are working and worse, for the Opposition, it casts them again reacting to Carr rather than running an alternate agenda.
No election where the incumbents hold power by just three seats is ever a foregone conclusion, but the Coalition need to pull a few rabbits out of the hat -- and quickly. Otherwise they'll discover the bus has well and truly departed.
The changes Labor itself unleashed when in office created an economy, a polity and culture that were considerably more dynamic than the quiet backwater in which people of my age, who I'll call Generation Gough, were probably the last to experience.
The sense that there may be profound qualitative changes afoot in the 90s contributed to the resistant mood of the information proletariat and the reactionary instincts of Hansonite populism. No less worrying were the signs of soft Hansonism, even in the Labor Party, which took the form of a desire to make up policies that kept as much of the old suburban way of life alive regardless of its intrinsic quality or sustainability. Resistance to the need to invent new concepts for a new situation, to find new ways of grappling with complex information, seem to me to form a part of the disdain Beazley voiced for the "intellectual pride" of those Labor figures who saw the need to think again ¾ and who claimed the capacity to think it through.
As Tanner wrote in 1991, a bad year for the Labor government, a division emerged in the Labor Party during the Hawke and Keating years. This was not the old division between left and right wing factions, but one that "straddles factional boundaries. The division is between those who may be described as 'rationalists' and others who may be seen as 'traditionalists' (or in each other's opinions, sellouts and troglodytes)."
Tanner identified the slogan of the troglodyte traditionalists, as "returning to our traditional base" and that of the sell-outs, or rationalists, as "adapting in a changing world." In the 1998 Federal election campaign, it was clear that Labor's traditionalists were exerting a strong influence. The party did well with its "traditional base", piling up useless swings in outer suburban seats it already holds.
The trouble was that Labor needed to appeal to both its traditional base and also to people who had benefited from the Hawke and Keating rationalisation of the economy. These appeared to be mutually exclusive goals. Labor needed to hang on to the loyalty of what had become the information proletariat, growing increasingly anxious and resistant in outer suburbia, and it needed to reposition itself as a forward looking party that understood the new agendas driven by urbane beneficiaries of an open and information intensive economy. It needed to be a party that could draw morals from its fabled past, but also that could draw lessons from the events of the present.
The moral of Labor's 1998 defeat was that the past Labor needed to return to was not any particular sacred relic of policy. Instead it needed to review the way those policies had arisen in the first place ¾ as the expression of an alliance of popular interests and desires. Labor proposes, but the electorate disposes. Party apparatchiks might write the policy, but the public knows how to read. It can read the qualities of the party's talking heads and savour the texture of their speech as well as it can read any other kind of celebrity or commercial.
The lesson that Labor did not need to substitute a new catechism of rationalism for its old dogmas, but to become a more empirical user of information and accumulator of knowledge. When Paul Keating said on Labor in Power that he stopped relying on Treasury advice because while he thought it was well informed and intelligent, it "lacked guile", this was potentially an important moment in the party's understanding of itself as an information gathering organisation.
I think Keating realised late in the game that power in the post-industrial age means being able to draw intellectual confidence from scepticism rather than from dogma. He chose the word guile carefully, and what I think he meant by it was a certain kind of cunning that comes from knowing that knowledge is artifice.
If Labor is to survive in cyberspace it has to ask itself what its relation to information is, what kinds of knowledge it can claim to draw from the information it taps, that what kinds of skills it needs to communicate its knowledge.
Anne Summers noted right at the start of the Hawke era that one kind of knowledge Labor was gathering with increasing effectiveness was survey polling data and focus group studies. "One hallmark of the reconstructed Labor party is its restrained and reassuring language... it would be possible to compile a glossary of key words... It would include such words as 'realistic', 'responsible' 'stable', 'moderate', 'careful', 'decent'. The words, and the themes they enunciate, come in a large part from the research on swinging voters and they thus reflect the values which significant sections of the Australian electorate respond to."
Despite the populist rhetoric in the 90s to the effect that leaders were 'not listening' to suburbia, Summers marvelled at "the extent to which voters themselves are writing the speeches which the political leaders deliver. The notion that policies should be based on research rather than on an ideology and long-held principles used to be anathema to Labor politicians." It was progress to be able to make policy that drew on information about the desires of the public and the language in which it was expressed.
This makes more sense than the authoritarian practice of rationalising from belief, given that what counts as the catechism of true belief in the Labor Party was usually a matter of ideological control by functionaries rather than democratic information gathering. What Latham objected to in the party's attempt to formulate a soft Hansonite election policy platform in 1998 was that what the public wanted was not filtered through any serious attempt to conceptualise the sources of popular opinion, or how opinion could be moved to sound policy. A successful party cannot inform its policies solely by dogma or the polls.
On the other side of the process, all of the major parties acquired elaborate machines for grabbing space in the media vectors to communicate in as carefully managed a way as possible whatever policy was decided. As much as this too is an object of complaint within the electorate, the density of the vectors of cyberspace make it inevitable. As Summers wrote of the 1983 election campaign, "the parties were geared to monitor what politicians were saying and to blow any little phrase up into a political storm. The technique was totally dependent on the technology of the tape recorder, the transcribing machine and the vocadex." And of course such technologies have improved remarkably since 1983.
So on one side, any Labor politician and any Labor policy or slogan will be road-tested by the polling and focus group process ¾ as long as the party apparatchiks have anything to do with it. And on the other side, any Labor politician and any Labor personality, policy or slogan will also have to get out to the people via a professional media apparatus. As John Button remarked, "in Chifley's days there were armies of passionate true believers... they turned out in their thousands for political meetings in public halls. Today's politics are filtered through television and radio. Elections are more like contests between rival management teams."
All of this is bolted rather unhappily onto Labor's old industrial age machinery of decision making, and the historic culture of the branches. Some of those branches are strong. In Sydney's inner west, where I live, they have been an evolving part of the neighbourhood for a century. Party branches have not exactly spread outwards evenly as the city has layered ring after ring of suburbs around itself. There is a dedicated and intelligent membership of the party, but the resources Labor devotes to its education are minimal. The only consolation is that this ossification of the branch structure is not unique to Labor, but is shared by all of the major parties.
One thing that does mark out the Labor Party as a unique culture is its longevity. It survived longer than any of the other major political cultures. It survived far worse times than the defeat of 1996 ¾ I've only presented a few fables from the second half century of Labor's saga. That history should provide some confidence, and also some lessons and morals for a reinvented Labor's second century. Labor made the transition from an agrarian to an industrial labour movement party. The, as yet, unacknowledged challenge is to make it also the party of those who work with information, without forgetting those left behind in cyberspace, the information proletariat.
If Labor is a culture then it is flanked on one side by the problem of celebrity and on the other by the problem of cyberspace. By celebrity, I mean the need to create an image for the vectors of the media, through which the public reads proposals for what it could desire. By cyberspace, I mean the need to learn empirically from the great wealth of information available and create the peculiar kind of specialised knowledge that is the guile of the political generalist. For while Barry Jones is right in complaining of the capture of power by well-educated specialists dedicated to discrete kinds of information. Labor politics is also a kind of education in a kind of specialised knowledge ¾ specialising in putting different kinds of speciality together.
One thing that Labor may have to integrate is a more forward-looking knowledge about the media, and not just the current affairs media that focuses on politics, but also the wider cultural significance of the media. If the basic idea of the previous chapter is even partly right, then it is increasingly from the media that people get the raw material out of which to shape their values and sensibilities. If the media is edging out the family as a locus of identity and self-awareness, then it must surely be overtaking less pervasive institutions such as the political party.
by Noel Hester
It didn't seem things could get any worse for West Indies cricket after being thumped 5-0 in the tests and 6-1 in the one dayers by South Africa.
But it has. Glenn McGrath, probably the world's worst test batsman, scored three times as many runs in his heroic first innings knock this week than the third highest West Indies batsman. His innings of 39 was close to topping the entire Windies second innings.
What was once the world's most carnivorous pace attack was eaten alive by a bunny.
Where they're going wrong
Despite the screeds of analysis and commentary about where they're going wrong - Lara's captaincy, the need for an academy, Carribean kids greater interest in basketball and baseball - no one has piped up with the obvious reason for the West Indies' freefall into the pitch cracks.
They need a union!
Think about it. Unionised workplaces are more cohesive, foster a team spirit and increase morale and productivity. They raise management's game. Exactly what's needed in the West Indies cricket team!
And who can blame the poor bastards for being unhappy in their work. It was reported during their stoush with the West Indies Cricket Board on their way to South Africa that those in the team with less than ten caps were to be paid $16,000 for a tour lasting months.
That's about eight per cent of what Shane Warne is being paid to give up smoking!
This is a team that for a decade and a half dominated their sport in the same way the Chicago Bulls, the Brazilian soccer team or the All Blacks have dominated theirs. Can you imagine Michael Jordan, Ronaldo or Jonah Lomu touring Africa for six or seven hundred bucks a week?
And talk about health and safety problems. The Queens Park pitch where this week's test was played is an absolute dog. Last year a test match against the Brits didn't even last a day after the pitch started playing like a minefield. Imagine what the pitches are like down the grades. No wonder the kids feel safer playing basketball.
Lack of unity the problem
The greatest achievement of those incomparable West Indies captains Worrall, Sobers and Lloyd was to bring a collective mentality to a historically and politically divided West Indies.
They were able to bring players together from the feuding islands and weld them into a collective unit in a region where political integration had failed.
In contrast what is so disturbing about this Windies team is their lack of solidarity. The players strike at Heathrow airport on the way to South Africa collapsed with half the team holding firm and the other half walking.
Lara himself has pinpointed the problem.
'The unity needs to be much better,' he said. 'As a team, I'd prefer to have guys tight and together off the field and things would work better on the field.'
But Lara, with his individualistic streak and aloof personality has been the wrong captain at the wrong time as the Windies rebuild.
We need the Windies strong
One of the best things about cricket has been seeing non-white teams, especially the West Indies, flog the colonial metropole and the white settler colonies. Even if they were destroying your team it was always an historical irony worth savouring.
Australian and world cricket need a strong West Indies. It's so boring flogging the Brits, the Sri Lankans and Zimbabwe. And what's so interesting about playing an incorrigibly white South Africa.
A team with Lara, Chanderpaul, Hooper, Walsh and Ambrose has still got the talent. But they need to organise. They need a union.
But many employers, unions and Australian-born workers still don't know what they can do to help. The overseas-trained doctors on hunger strike in front of NSW Parliament House have called attention to the issue recently, but what about the thousands of other workers who may be trained as chemists or engineers overseas, or who have contacts within overseas markets, but find language skills or lack of bridging courses is keeping them driving cabs or working on process lines in Sydney?
The NSW Department of Education and Training has, for a number of years, funded four diversity officers - two in the public sector, and one each with the employers and unions - whose jobs are to increase the recognition and uptake of migrants' overseas-learned skills.
While in the past the Labor Council's diversity officer has concentrated on raising awareness of what unions can do, both within their own structures and working with enterprises, this year the project has a more practical emphasis. In conjunction with the officer at Australian Business Ltd, Labor Council is bringing together three businesses of diverse sizes and functions, but all with a sizeable migrant workforce, with their workers. Together, the aim is that they will start to work differently, taking into account the ideas and the skills the migrant workers bring with them from overseas.
While the project is still in the early stages, the businesses we are targeting range in size from tens to hundreds of workers, and cover the manufacturing, confectionery and textile industries. The idea is to bring diverse groups together and have them look at the skills available within the workforce, and then use those skills to work differently (and more productively).
For example, a Sydney company of only 11 workers (but those 11 representing 6 nationalities) won a major Hong Kong contract from its Swedish rival simply because, with translating help from one of its Cantonese workers, it printed the contents of export boxes in English and Cantonese, instead of English alone, so they were easy to read on arrival in Hong Kong.
Sometimes, the company may just want diversity training, at times employees will need English language training, and in some cases it's just a matter of doing a skills audit of the workplace to make everyone aware of the wealth of experience within the workplace, and reveal hidden talents.
My job is also to make unions more aware of the need to be representative within. I've found too often as I've called around that most unions do not have up-to-date, accurate databases of their membership makeup, detailing which migrant groups they have, and how many migrant members.
One project we're considering is an audit of membership databases, so unions would know exactly who we are serving (instead of taking a guess, depending on their members' names!), and what their issues are. This will help us work towards becoming more reflective of these groups of people in our internal structures, and will help identify gaps for recruitment purposes.
I'm also keen to hear from unions who have large groups of migrant workers and have ideas for projects we could work on together, or want help in providing information within the union. Please call me on 02-9286 1631.
Deirdre Mahoney is the Labor Council's Special Projects Officer
by Peter Lewis
But those hoping to celebrate the end of an era for the once working person's paper should not break out the champagne yet. Col will still be overseeing the show from upstairs and new editor Steve Howard is straight out of the News Ltd mould.
I worked for the Telegraph while Steve was running the "back bench"; the main filter between the journalists and their stories getting into the paper. My main memory is his reaction to a story I did on a group of LHMU delegates from sheltered workshops.
In my naivety I thought a story on a group of intellectually and physically disabled workers standing up for themselves could be an interesting read that would promote positive role models. I spent an afternoon with them and was personally inspired by their courage and commitment. As they gathered for a group photo, I was confident this would be a solid Tele picture story.
That was until Steve saw the photos "We can't print this," he railed at me, "they're all wearing bloody tracksuits!" It was then I realised that my days at the Telegraph were numbered.
The early indications are that the new Telegraph will continue Col's formula: provocative front page pushing a political agenda; a good-looking chick with a tenuous link to a news story on page 3 and Piers' bile on page 11.
And this week's offerings have been straight out of the Tele textbook.
Piers' nasty personal attack on Sue Simpson for having the temerity to represent her members begs a full response in a future issue of Workers Online.
Meanwhile, Wednesday's front page resurrected a device not seen since Piers' stint as editor of Melbourne's Herald-Sun -- the page one editorial which was a double-punch -- supporting youth wages and attacking unions for allegedly not supporting a work for the dole scheme.
The youth wages piece was dressed up around a photo of an attractive teenager who said she'd do anything to get a job. Journalists who contacted her later in the day confirm the youngster had no idea her image was going to be used to run a political agenda.
Meanwhile, unions were under the gun for having the gall to question whether they should support work-for-the-dole schemes, the result of Howard's wedge-politics attempt to cast unemployed people as users, rather than victims of a system which has rejected them.
The arguments of the unions that these Mickey Mouse training courses were taking real jobs and diverting resources from other areas was disregarded in the face of the unsubstantiated assertions that work for the dole is good for young people.
Moreover, the union targeted for criticism, the Australian Workers Union, denied any involvement in the veto. Pity no-one from the Tele managed to contact them before running the piece.
And editorials aren't the only things on page one of the Telegraph in the post-Col era.
Earlier in the week the Terror's "exclusive" preview of the Olympic torch, represented a further blurring of the lines between promotion, advertising and news.
Under attack for leaking the torch to the Tele, Olympics Minister Michael Knight claimed it was a "promotion" not a news story, so journos should not be complaining. News Ltd has paid money to get drops on torch and ticketing stories, something SOCOG chief Sandy Holloway says is essential for ensuring the Games make budget.
My question is that if we accept that the torch preview was indeed a promotion, is the Telegraph which ran it on its front-page still a "news" paper? Or has it become something different, a promotional publication: which "promotes" its commercial, sporting and political interests with equal zeal.
If it has, perhaps the Telegraph has positioned itself at the forefront of the new media without even realising it. It has thrown off the cloak of objectivity and has constructed a truth to fit its own interests. Greedy and self-interested? Sure. But perhaps we have before us the nation's first truly post-modern publication.
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LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSWURL: http://workers.labor.net.au/4/print_index.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005