Quentin Cook's attempt to have the Postal Delivery Officers Union granted official status was thrown out of court this week, in a damning judgment by Vice President Tony McIntyre in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
In the judgement, VP McIntyre described Mr Cook's behaviour in treating members of the existing union, the Communication, Electrical and Plumbing Union, as "appalling, spiteful, vindictive attacks."
But more intriguing is the role of the Commonwealth Government, led by John Howard - the man who personally endorsed Cook back in 1994 when Howard was languishing in opposition and Cook was beginning his assault on the CEPU.
According to official minutes of the PDOU, tendered to the court by the aspiring union, Cook told the executive that "Legal Aid has been granted..." to allow the PDOU's application for official status.
The issue of where this Legal Aid came from is unclear, although legal experts say that state Legal Aid Commissions have a statutory requirement for recipients of state legal aid to inform the parties of their involvement in the case.
No such advice was granted to the CEPU or the other parties to the case, meaning all fingers now point to Canberra.
Unions are now pressing the government to come clean on whether they funded the Cook challenge and the ALP is expected to pursue the issue in Parliament.
Shadow Attorney General Rob McLelland has already raised questions over the funding of the Cook case - but was brushed by A-G Daryl Williams claiming confidentiality.
CEPU state secetary Jim Metcher says if taxpayers money was used in such an ideological challenge, then they have the right to know.
"I would also encourage any workers who were lured into the PDOU to seek a refund of their fees and contact the CEPU," Metcher says.
For full details of the Cook case, see David Chin's analysis in our Legal Feature.
With the second anniversay of the failure of the mine just weeks away, the 150 workers have not seen a cent of the $6.3 million in outstanding entitlements.
Their only hope of seeing the money is if a proposal to develop the site into a dump is approved by the Carr Government.
Proponents for the project, including the Transport Workers Union and Australian Workers Union, are currently working through environmental process to get approval, with strong community support.
But the AWU says the Prime Minister could end their pain immediately by agreeing to repay the workers their entitlements on the understanding the Commonwealth would recoup moneys if the dump proposal is approved.
"If the dump goes ahead, Howard gets his money back. If it doesn't the treatment will be no different from that accorded the National Textle workers," AWU organiser Peter Hook - who is himself owed $40,000 from the failure, told Workers Online.
Hook says the Howard Government is guilty of inaction and double standards and has consistently refused to act for the workers over the past two years.
"While many of the workers have found other jobs, the loss of the entitlements mean they are operating under constant financial pressure," Hook says. "After waiting for two years, it's a bit hard watching the special treatment given to National Textile workers."
Costa: Extend Deadline to 1996
Meanwhile, the NSW Labor Council has called on the Howard Government to extend the deadline for special assitance to employees of failed businesses to the date it took office.
Labor Council secretary Michael Costa says the January 1 deadline should be backdated in order for the Howard Government to take responsibility for workers who had suffered under its rule.
"It's not just Howard's consistent refusal to protect workers entitlements - many of these failures are the result of wider policies of his government," Costa says.
The call came as Howard Ministers refused to meet with representatives of the 12- employees from Parrish meats in Yallah - owed $5 million after the company went broke last year.
The Parish meat workers are the latest in a conga line of retrenched workers including the Braybrook textile workers and the Scone meatworkers wondering why they are not as deserving of government assistance as the Rutherford employees.
Costa says it was difficult to see how Howard could distinguish between their plitght and that of the national textile workers, who received their outstanding entitlements in full after the Prime Minister personally intervened.
ACTU Puts Position
Meanwhile, the ACTU has welcomed the belated recognition by the Howard Government that a national safety net scheme for the protection of employee entitlements must be established.
But ACTU secretary Greg Combet has condemned the Government's proposal for a safety net which will only provide meagre and partial compensation for employees lost entitlements.
"The operative date for the scheme is arbitrary and the overall and individual limits should be removed," Combet says.
The ACTU executive called on the Government to scrap its scheme immediately and replace it with a scheme that provides for full entitlements and removes the arbitrary date of 1 January 2000 for its introduction.
The ACTU's National Employees Entitlements Protection Scheme is designed to enable practical and effective comprehensive protection through:
- A.0.1% levy of wages/salaries on all employers to be paid into a central fund managed by independent body. To assist in start up costs, $50m would be allocated by the Commonwealth to the fund. The $50m reflects the amount the Commonwealth has indicated it would contribute its proposed Basic Payments Scheme.
- Companies to be exempted from levy where they demonstrate that they have provided for protection of all employees entitlements by: Participation in industry trust arrangement; and/or Participation in insurance arrangements which meet core ACTU principles
Mr Combet said unions were already campaigning industrially to create trust funds, which once established, are the most effective means for the protection and portability of entitlements. Many unions were considering the promotion and development of trusts in their industrial, arbitral and organising strategies.
The ACTU is also examining an industry-based mutual society insurance model underwritten by the AAA rated national and international insurers to provide coverage for accrued entitlements.
Under this model a fund, into which premiums would be paid, would be jointly run by industry providers, and any profits or surplus would benefit industry and employees, such as through reduced premiums.
This model would also ensure employees received full entitlements and guaranteed prompt payment of entitlements.
The deal, negotiated as part of the Transport Workers Union Bus 2000 award, will apply from the date drivers signed on to provide Olympic and related bus services until the date of the Paralympics Closing Ceremony on October 30.
The deal is expected to cover about 4,000 bus drivers employed by Bus 20000 - an umbrella organisation of all private bus company working during the Games.
Other aspects of the deal include a flat rate of $19.20 per hour - 35 per cent above the award in addition to the incentive payment of $1.50 per hour.
"This is a fair and flexible deal for anyone working on a bus route during the Olympics," TWU state secretary Tony Sheldon says.
"Importantly, it will ensure Sydney delivers an affordable, reliable and world class transport service to the Olympics."
Craning the Neck
Meanwhile, construction workers are warning that a mooted ban on mobile cranes in the Sydney CBD during the Olympic Games will shutdown the industry.
CFMEU state secretary Andrew Ferguson says any move to give the city such a cosmetic edict would bring the building industry to standstill and effect tens of thousands of jobs.
Ferguson says such a ban would punish those who built the Olympics on time, within budget and with minimal industrial action.
The NSW Labor Council has made the plea in its submission to the Commission's long-running inquiry into surveillance.
The Council says that provisions in a ground-breaking public sector agreement struck last year should become standard for all employees.
"Reasonable personal use of the Internet and E-mail should be consistent with such use of the
telephone. It can include two way communication on trade union matters," the document states.
Accredited trade union delegates should be provided with reasonable access for authorised union activities."
The provisions are contained in the NSW Premiers Department "Policy and Guidelines for the Use by Staff of Employer Communication Devices".
NSW Labor Council secretary Michael Costa says a union's right to access an office email system is akin to its right to use the staff noticeboard to disseminate information to members.
"As we move towards the electronic office, online rights are becoming an important part of trade union infrastructure," Costa says.
The push for Online Rights is part of a growing international campaign to secure online rights, amidst increasing evidence of heavy-handed employer tactics, culminating in one US firm gaining a court order to inspect the home computers of employees.
The Finance Sector Union has launched a prosecution under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, after four people held-up the Wellington branch of the Commonwealth shortly after it opened on August 24.
The union is arguing the bank breached its legal duty of care towards its employees and the general public by not having adequate security facilities.
Staff were terrorised when robbers wielded knives and scissors in the hold-up, with one member forced to take stress leave suffering severe trauma.
Legal sources told Workers Online it was the first prosecution of its kind in NSW where a bank has been held to account for its security problems.
The fact that the FSU warned the bank of a security problem before the hold-up four months before the hold-up adds weight to the case.
The case could also have repercussions for other workplaces where money is handled, particularly Post Offices and chemists which are taking over the role of banks in country centres.
Maximum fines under the Occupational Health and Safety Act are $550,000 for each breach by a corporation. The case is listed for mention before the Chief Industrial Magistrate on March 13.
While the media headlines focussed on a success fee to be paid to Job Futures for promoting trade unionism to job seekers, the real story lies in the early intervention with workers whose jobs are at risk.
Under the deal, workers in NSW will be able to turn to their union for help in changing jobs or finding a new job if they face retrenchment.
Job Futures is Australia's top community national not-for-profit employment network. It has about 160 offices around Australia - thirty four of them are in the Greater Sydney region, and another ten in regional and rural NSW.
JOB futures was established as a community employment agency after the Federal Government decided to abolish the CES and replace it with the Job Network. Key members of JOB futures come from migrant resource centres, local government, community organisations and church groups.
"In the last decade we have seen an increasing trend for people to shift between jobs at a much faster rate. The idea of lifetime employment seems to have completely disappeared," Job Futures CEO Fitzgerald told Workers Online.
"Employers are happy to churn their workforce to get new blood, new ideas into the workplace; and employees are eager to move on to seek new opportunities and new work experiences.
"Our agreement with NSW unions will provide a service to help members move quickly, securely and with a minimum of 'pain' between jobs.
"It is a response to market survey work, done by some unions, showing that members want employment advice and help from their union as they look around the increasingly confusing job market," Fitzgerald says
"We want to be able to help casual and part-time workers move into full-time work if that's what they want. Or help people maximise their working hours and pay - by a mix-and-match process - if they are in industries which are now dominated by the demand for a casual workforce.
"The outplacement/retrenchment service we want to offer unions and their members is a service which - from our stance - offers the most socially worthwhile opportunities. Essentially it is 'upstreaming' much of the work we currently do in the Federal Government's Job Network.
"Less than 30 per cent of the Australian workforce gets outplacement help when their employers seek to retrench them - this agreement will spread the right to outplacement to a larger percentage of the workforce.
Under the deal, unions will negotiate with employers, into their EBAs and Awards, appropriate, outplacement clauses which will provide members with the professional help and support to find a new job as they are retrenched.
"All the research about retrenched workers shows that if they are provided quality help, quickly, they have a much better opportunity to get another job, " Fitzgerald says.
"Twelve months or so after you have lost a job it is much harder to get a new job - for one thing your self-confidence has been bashed about a hell of a lot.
"This project - as it succeeds - will save money out of the taxpayer funded social welfare budget."
Michael Crosby says the groundwork is only now, after six years, being laid for a concerted attack on declining numbers.
The ABS reported last week that union membership had fallen two per cent in the past year to just 25.7 per cent, with private sector rates now below twenty per cent.
But Crosby says the problems are structural, to which there is no quick fix. And he's heartened that more and more unions are deciding to take the hard yards to embrace an organising culture.
"In 1994 we set about the task of building our own expertise with the introduction of Organising Works," Crosby says. "Since then we have trained nearly 300 organisers in the latest techniques and adapted the US organising model to our own home grown situation.
"We have piloted innovative approaches and analysed their success. And the gains are starting to be made by a few unions, who on a branch basis have changed to an organising approach and achieved significant increases in membership.
"Our challenge is to convert this training into more wins, particularly in areas like call centres where there are thousands of workers crying out for the sort of protection union membership has always provided."
Crosby says the key issue facing the union movement is its ability to shift traditional unions structures and cultures towards organising.
"We need to ask ourselves some tough questions: How many organisers will we dedicate to doing nothing but organising new members? How many activists will we get to work as volunteer organisers? How much money are we spending on organising campaigns?
"The good thing is that [email protected] shows some signs of actually being implemented across the movement - demand for the Organsing Centres' courses is unprecedented, we've taken on eight extra staff. And even this week 200 people are turning up to a conference run by the Labor Council. That has to be a good sign."
Dubbed 'The Bald Truth' the tour will involve a series of forums on issues facing the labour movement in the information age.
The Labor Council will also distribute information about Unions 2000, the Worker Support Register and LaborNet to students who attend the forums.
The tour will coincide with a push by the National Union of Students to educate students about their rights at work. NUS state president Dom Rowe has produced a booklet that was distributed at O-weeks around the state.
Labor Council secretary Michael Costa says the tour is a great way to connect with future union members, particularly as many students worked their way through uni in casual work.
"We're about portraying unions as vibrant organisations that are relevant to all young workers, whether they be blue collar or white collar," Costa says.
"By engaging in some of the broader debates, we hope to convince younger people that unions are worth investing a commitment in."
Dates for the "Bald Truth" campus tour are:
Monday March 6 - University of Technology
Tuesday March 7 - University of New South Wales
Thursday March 9 - Macquarie University
Monday, March 13 - Sydney University
Click here if you want to help promote the forums on any of these campuses
NSW Nurses Association secretary Sandra Moait says the secret is 'smart unionism', hard work and relevence.
"A union isn't just about signing up members and fixing up pay rates," she says. "It's also about addressing social issues like the provision of social services.
Moait was this week elected unopposed to a four year term alongside the expanded Labor Council team of secretary Michael Costa, deputy secretary John Robertson and assistant deputy secretaries Mark Lennon, Naomi Steer and Chris Christodoulou.
She says she intends to lead the Labor Council by example, in the same vein as outgoing president John Whelan. "John was not scared to show a bit of passion and I won't be shying away from using a bit of heart either.
"I believe that the NSW Labor Council is a really alive body - its executive team with Costa in the chair is one I want to be involved with.
Moait has been with the Nurses Association since 1976 - apart from a four years break with the Department for Health in the early nineties.
Organisers of the trade union float have made a giant effigy of George the centrepiece of their float. She will be surrounded by dozens of beefy blokes in Peter Reith masks.
Co-ordinator and AMWU official Robyn Fortescu says the choice of Jennie George was an obvious one.
"To the ordinary unionist Jennie is a very important figure - people love her and she's been a big supporter of gay and lesbian workers," Fortescu says.
"She's played a major role in pushing our interests in the broader movement. We'll miss her and this is our way of saying thank you."
If you want to march with the union contingent, meet at the Trades Hall Tavern at 5.30pm on March 4. Wear something red (not a book). For further details contact Robyn Fortescu on mailto:[email protected]
Chant Competition: have you got a better chant that "the workers united will never be defeated"? If you do, email here are you could win a special collectors Mardi Gras T-short
Rights Brochure Launched
Meanwhile, Unions NSW has launched a brochure explaining gay and lesbian right in the workplace.
It involves a guide to the practical steps they can take to organise themselves in the workplace as well as outlining legal rights and contacts.
The brochure will be distributed through NSW workplaces and well as gay and lesbian groups. Call Deirdre Mahoney on 9286 1631 to order copies.
Advocates are frustrated the government has failed to introduce legislative changes recommended in the Industrial Relations Commission's 1998 report in gender pay equity.
In that report Justice Leone Glynn called on the government to recognise the value of women's work by allowing the principles of pay equity to apply in enterprise agreements, a change that requires new laws. The government has so far refused to act.
The call comes as the Labor Council launched its case in the IRC to have the equal remuneration principle applied to award and over-award payments.
But Labor Council executive officer Naomi Steer says without the changes to enterprise bargaining, the chances of meaningful change are limited.
"The case in the IRC is important, but the premier could do a lot for working women by giving this proposal the green light".
LaborNet will feature a live news feed, a Virtual Trades Hall for online meetings and specialist advice from Neale, our online jobs doctor.
The site also links a lot of union services as well as links to other groups that fit with our online vision - that is organising over making money.
Have a look around and make sure you union is tapped into this exciting new venture.
I am a student who is currently undertaking an honours thesis in Industrial Relations throughout 2000. I would be most appreciative if you would let the editors and advertisers know of my thesis. In other words, would you be able to publish the following request ?
" Ruby Eunson -Cottle of the University of Sydney seeks any women and men who were situated in :Lithgow, N.S.W. during the years 1942-1945. These people can be inhabitants or workers who were employed in the coal mines, the hospital and the small arms factory.Please contact the writer on ph: (02) 9569 2158 if anyone is available to discuss their experiences of life in Lithgow during these years."
Thank you for considering my request and I look forward to your reply.
Coming from a medium to large corporate background, I have two main areas of concern:
1. The general trend whereby more and more business risks are being inappropriately transferred from investors to workers. The whole point of investment is supposed to revolve around the "risk-return trade-off" concept. However, as investors appear to be demanding more and more stable returns on investment, management appear to be transferring more and more business risks onto those who can least afford to take on those business risks eg pushing workers into becoming independent contractors and thereby transferring business risks such as insurance, regular wage/salary payments, general workers' entitlements etc onto the worker who is least able to afford these risks given a new environment of fluctuating income with additional outgoing costs (ie insurance premiums, no leave entitlements etc). Secondly, the current push for more flexible pay arrangements, especially those tied to the fortunes of the company so that if profitability declines, workers' wages/salaries also decline! And so on.
2. Whilst all of the above is occurring, the salaries of Senior Executives, and in particular, CEO's MD's and Board Members keep escalating. It is ludicrous that these people virtually have carte blanche to determine their own salaries and pay increases. Theoretically, shareholders have the final say in approving/disapproving of proposed salaries and pay increases for this group of people, however, in reality, the shareholders' power to disapprove is rarely exercised.
Consequently, in light of the above two areas of concern, I suggest that one way by which workers can regain power in the work equation is by uniting and establishing a large unit fund (or other such appropriate fund structure) with a view to buying shares in many companies. The aim would be to become a large fund with clout and voting power to beat senior management at their own game whilst also putting profits back into workers hands. I would suggest a two-pronged approach:
1. Establish a workers fund (ie all workers from all unions)with workers to contribute on a weekly/fortnightly etc basis.
2. Use the idea of the fund to assist in going on a large union membership recruitment drive with the aim of delivering power & profits back to the workers.
Just a suggestion!
Here is a question for your news team: can Nexus minerals put a propectus out offering shares at 2.5cents and then when the share prices goes up ,say that it was at the directors discretion, leaving 300 approx share holders with nothing, and that certain brokers will be distributing the shares as they see fit?
I would like to know the brokers and who purchased most of the shares, I have a hunch it could be some of the directors.Would this have happened, had the share price stayed at 4 cents. I'm sure you will have a lot of upset share holders who in dec 99 voted to allow this to happen.
by Peter Lewis
On the day you took over as ACTU President down at the ACTU Congress in Melbourne, and you had balloons and singing and dancing and it was a very positive feeling. If you go back to how you felt then, have the expectations been met over the last six years?
I think for a lot of women when you get to powerful positions, you are not really sure what awaits you. You've never imagined that you are going to be there. So, I've always tended to go with the flow. I had some qualms about how I would be accepted among the blue collar male fraternity. I came out of a particular milieu with a particular support group and I think, being plunged into some of those very conspicuously male disputes very early - like Weipa and the Hunter Valley coal mine dispute - ensured that it didn't take too long for me to gain the credibility that you need in that position with the broad cross section of the movement.
Did you have to change your style? Were you consciously saying "I've got to be less white collar"?
Yes. To be an effective leader you've got to be empathetic to the culture of the people in dispute at the time. I remember at Weipa I did have to at times become part of the male culture. I had to be seen by them as identifying with them. But that's not to say that you recreate yourself to be what you're not. They expected me to be a staunch feminist and I had to convince them that I had an interest in an agenda that was broader than just that. At times I had to be one of the boys as well.
Broadening this out a bit, the perception in recent years has been that the ACTU President has been more a figurehead and the intellectual force of the ACTU has been the Secretary. In your time, did you feel that you actually did put your stamp on parts of the ACTU? And I guess, if so, what areas do you think you've left a bit of Jennie on the ACTU?
Well, if you look at the rules , apart from being the public spokesperson and the chair of the meetings, the role of the ACTU President is not defined. I guess each President has left their own mark. I think I've left my stamp - not in an intellectual sense, because I have never pretended to be anything other than what I am- and what I essentially think I am is a good people person. I'm a good campaigner; I'm a good thinker, strategically. I believe that in leading you also have to have a vision for the future and you can't have a vision if you are divorced from the kind of realities that drive the future agenda.
I'm very much part of that baby boomer generation, that had their roots in the protests of the '70s and the women's movement and came to leadership positions in a culture that is decidedly different to what it is today. So, I've had in the back of mind that 2000 should be a time for generational change. I'm too disconnected from the views of young people now, who essentially need to shape the future. But my biggest legacy has been to reshape the ACTU and the union movement from a totally masculine, male dominated culture to one now where it is accepted that women have a role and a stake in shaping the priorities of the union movement.
Beyond 2000 I think we need a huge quantum leap in the union movement and you can't keep relying on the ideas and views that generated my involvement and commitment to the union movement. It is not going to be sufficient in the future. That's why I thought 2000 was symbolically a good time to depart. As I said at the time, I think there needs to be a cultural change. I think we are not moving quickly enough in terms of some of the obvious structural and cultural changes that the movement needs to embrace to continue to have an impact in a workforce that is very markedly different to the sixties and seventies when I got involved.
Costa got himself into a bit of trouble by suggesting that the ACTU should be looking for not just a woman, but a younger woman to take the reins. What was your take on that debate?
Well I heard what Michael said and he never made the issue of age the issue. It was unfortunate the way the debate seemed to polarise around that. I think what he was saying was that the President is essentially the figurehead of the organisation. Now I think age is totally irrelevant to the capacity of the person to be an effective figurehead. I mean, you can have young people that are old in their attitudes and older people that are really switched on and I think every President will shape how they do their job. There is nothing that is defined. What I consciously set out to do, was first of all to try and alter the perception of the ACTU among the rank and file. There is no doubt at the end of the Accord era there was an element of disaffection. The ACTU rightly or wrongly was seen to be somewhat removed from them and their concerns. I think in leaving now I've left my stamp in that area. I think the ACTU is seen to be a group of people that are there for working people in their struggles.
Secondly, I'm leaving at a time of great unity in the movement. I mean we are an incredibly broad church. A large part of the role of the ACTU President, is to get around and about, to try and understand and juggle the competing factional and sectional interests. I think I've done that reasonably well. such that every affiliate - and there was a period there where the TWU disaffiliated -- feel part of the organisation. So I leave the ACTU with a better organic relationship with the rank and file with unity in the ranks and with female representation firmly entrenched in its structure.
The next challenge is a more substantial one - it's really a transformational one. And I don't know exactly what the answers are, but I do know that the nature of work is changing so rapidly that our structures are not in sync with that.
What are the specific areas of problems in the structures?
The structures arose out of our history and tradition. The structures reflected organisations that were highly unionised and in many cases almost a de facto compulsory unionism. They were organisations that were embedded in a system of conciliation and arbitration with the award system defining membership rights. Now, things are so different. The coverage of people under the award system is shrinking. Some of the stats show that maybe 30 per cent of the workforce are now outside the coverage of the award system. Technology is changing the nature of work organisation. The huge growth sectors are areas where we don't have a tradition of unionisation and most unions that I know are still structurally based in the past and not looking to the future.
Let me give you an example: How are we going to recruit among groups of workers who, say, work from home? How are we going to organise them? We are certainly not going to get them along to the standard union meeting once a month when they're often in the situation where they have got other competing interests. I'm not sure that we've been bold enough. Let me just float a few ideas that I have, just for the sake of the debate:
What I would do, is look at the feasibility of having potential union members join at a central point. I would have a union card that is transferable from employer to employer, and then I would have internal administrative arrangements that then allocated people to the appropriate unions or the appropriate organisations that could best fit their interest.
So you wouldn't join a particular union?
I would join the union movement. Not dissimilar to the Olympics project here, where people are actually getting jobs through a central auspice and then the arrangements are made internally. Look at the growing number of casual workers, and the fact that a lot of people are now working for more than one employer, moving on rapidly, often from employment, tragically enough to unemployment. We have a structure where they have to know which union to join; and they are often not even offered a differential for casuals. It just becomes too hard to join.
How do you then organise people who seek something other than the traditional form of organisation that unionism provided? I'm not saying that the structures are not suitable for some industries. If you look at the miners, the lodge structure will always be relevant there. But look at other experiences - for example, in America, where they tried to recruit clerical workers into the union. The old style union didn't work as successfully as the Nine to Five venture, which appealed to people by way of a more modern cultural expression where they weren't seen to be joining something that was in their perception, a little bit outdated, but something that was moving with the times.
Over summer we saw the Christian students setting up Smart Casual. That's a similar idea I guess?
I think so. The strength of unions in lots of industries was that they were the agents for the supply of labour and when you look at the huge expansion of labour hire which is all in the private sector and mostly un-unionised, then I think we've got to do a few more creative things. I think the Nurses at one stage tried their own employment agency. So I think unions must look at providing employment opportunities and looking at more creative forms of organisation of those people. It may be that in the future we're looking at networks of people that are connected. So you might have people say in the call sector industry who become members of a network that is then affiliated with the unions, rather than their first point of entry being a union that often seems a little remote from their particular needs and aspirations.
Isn't the biggest difficulty there the traditional factional allegiances of the unions so that you've got basically a member becoming a pawn between different unions struggling for relative power within the ALP structure?
I think that's probably a factor, but I think the demarcations arise as a result of our historical linking to monopoly coverage rights that went with almost de facto compulsory unionisation in certain industries. And I think in a more deregulated industrial environment -- and even if Labor gets into power it's not going to be a totally re-regulated system - we've really got to start looking at our structures and trying to make them a lot more fluid than they have been.
I for one, don't have the kind of entrenched opposition to enterprise unionism, providing it is genuine unionism and not employer dominated. I can't see anything wrong with the notion of workers collectively organising at a workplace and then being linked in to the union in that industry. I don't see anything wrong with networks of outworkers that are then a part of the union in that industry. I think what is impeding some of our progress is the kind of rigidity in the structure that is not changing with the times.
Now, that is a huge challenge. I would impose a greater test on people that have principal status in an industry. I mean I think principal status goes with responsibility to the collective union organisation. That's why I've always been a bit upset about the kind of inference that the ACTU and Bill and myself are somehow personally responsible for the legacy in declining unionisation. I mean you can't deposit the responsibility on individuals alone. But I think what has happened, we've too long had the luxury of monopoly membership rights without the accountability.
So you're basically talking about competitive unionism?
No, I'm not talking about competitive unionism. I'm saying that if you are deemed the principal union in any given industry, and over a period of time you are not unionising, you are not doing things differently; not encouraging members to join; not recruiting; then I think you've got a responsibility to the collective to explain why that's the case. Now, there are unions that go through periods of difficulty, but there's got to be greater accountability.
What form should that take?
Well, what I would say, that after a given period if it's clear that the union is not meeting its obligation to members, then that ought to be reviewed by the ACTU.
Secondly, I would come down very strongly against competitive poaching of members that are already in a union. I think unions now appreciate the responsibility of performing well, because long term the solution is not just in recruiting new members, but in ensuring that existing members don't de-unionise.
I think the paradigm of just organising and recruiting misses essential explanations of some of that decline - which is that existing members sometime feel aggrieved about the level of service being provided. Surveys consistently show that.
What I would do is corral existing members and put a fence around those so that there are no silly competitive raids on existing members. That's too easy. But if the principal union is not showing signs of really lifting their game, then I would make possible a more coemptive ethos among the unions that are already in the industry. Say, for example in the Tertiary Education sector where there might two or three significant unions. I would say, well OK, lets corral the existing members in the unions where they are, but let's have some limited form of competition among the unions in the non-unionised sector, and see by performance what the outcomes are going to be.
I mean we are still spending enormous amounts of time, energy, money and resources in fighting demarcation disputes. Now, I think the ACTU Congress would have the authority to bite the bullet and impose a no poaching rule on existing members to stabilise the situation, but also then by agreement and consensus to allow some limited form of competition for members in the non-unionised sectors on an industry basis.
That's really essential isn't it for the good unions that are doomed to be presiding over contracting workforces. I'm thinking for instance of the miners or the MUA. To give them a lifeline to survive...
If we are saying that work organisation and the nature of work is changing, but we still have demarcation based on outmoded forms of work and work classification then those pressures are going to exacerbate. Furthermore, I think that for a union movement that prides itself on support for democratic principles, there comes the point where views of members are legitimately part of the equation. Now, that's all very easy to talk about in theory, it's much harder to implement in practice. But I really think that structurally we, need to give these issues a bit more impetus. People have got to be less defensive about their little empire and really look at the bigger and broader picture. And you can do that with goodwill on all sides. But you don't make those bold changes in a context where people are defensively herding together to protect their existing membership base. I mean, that's very destructive and that's the easy thing - to go and approach an existing union member. So, if we could get agreement and actually say, that's it, we rule it off there, then start looking on an industry by industry basis about new forms of organisation.
I mean it may well be that we do what we've done in some industries and you have a joint union team approach, such as with call centres, where you say, look, forget about which union has the rights, let's just set about the three unions working together to recruit and organise and establish a new form of organisation and then work out the structural arrangements later on. If we continually fight for the patch that was defined yesteryear, it's not keeping pace with the present.
Briefly, your fondest memory of your time as ACTU President?
Well I've got to say, they're all remarkably fond memories. I mean wherever you go ... Like even yesterday, I was up at National Textiles and you really realise that you've had a privileged opportunity in life to represent people who otherwise are pretty disempowered.
I guess the highlight was the maritime dispute because that really showed that when we pull together and work together we can achieve remarkable things despite the huge odds that were stacked against us. I've read enough history to know that when workers take on the State the lessons of history have usually been that the State wins. But here we were, through a combination of unity and good spirit and commitment and the clever use of the law, and a clever industrial strategy, we did what probably no one expected we could achieve. So the days and nights on picket lines and the eventual outcome of that I think was something that will always be in my mind.
At a personal level for me, I think having carriage of the Second Wave, because I had the responsibility to map out the strategy; to motivate people; and then to deal with the negotiations with the Democrats and to force Peter Reith to actually withdraw a major plank of his so-called reform agenda, so that was a good personal note for me and the team I worked with.
The overall highlight of my term was the great people I've met and worked with and been lucky to represent.
Oh look, not really. I guess like anyone you have days when things don't swim your way. No - no regrets really of any monumental significance.
Finally, let's look at the crystal ball twenty, thirty, forty years. Are you confident that unionism will be around in the 21st Century?
Yes, I'm confident that unionism will survive, but it will be in a different form. I mean, workers will always need organisations to defend their interests. Unionism arose out the need for collective defence against capitalism and while the nature of capitalism is changing and the nature of work is changing, there will always be the need for organisations to defend the interests of little people. But the form and expression of unionism will be different because we - our history - has been one based on structures and organisations that reflected the aspirations of predominantly blue, male-collar full time workers. Twenty six per cent of workers are now casual. Young people are coming into the workforce as casuals and our structures don't adequately appreciate or deal with that. I would estimate that 40 per cent of workers at the moment are what you call precariously employed. They don't fit readily into the models of yesteryear, and I think the challenge will be for the union movement to allow people with different ideas to have their place in the decisions for the future.
Look, it's a repeat of what I and women of my generation found in the seventies and eighties. Until the union movement allowed us to reshape the debate and the terrain there was a limit to men in grey cardigans going out recruiting women. Well, so it is in the Year 2000. If 40 per cent of the workforce are contingent workers, precariously employed, we need to be listening to their voices, because they, above all else, probably understand the kind of unionism that taps into the aspirations of a workforce that is markedly different to the one that the baby boomers like me found our roots in.
There are incredibly capable young people in the movement, but it's a bit like the women - they are still knocking on the doors of the main stream debate. I think we've got to open the doors and do more than just have occasional meetings of the ACTU Youth Committee. They are much more in touch with the people that we will rely on into the future and the membership decline among them is profound.
I think this recent National Textiles dispute showed up very importantly, was that without union organisation I am sure those individual National Textile workers would have walked away with virtually nothing. And it showed to the Australian community that the union movement is still the bulwark against injustice, still the main body of people who speak out against injustice and for the rights of ordinary people. There are many issues in our community where the union movement can make substantial inroads by projecting a plea of fairness and justice in an increasingly globalised market economy where the dollar is the bottom line.
I think it is important that we continue to be active in public policy debate. I mean, one thing I found is that the unions that are really effective are unions that also have a point of view; they are activist; they are democratic and representative. I think the more that we can plug into issues of concern of ordinary people and be seen to be their protectors and defenders, then the more empathy we have or potential we have to recruit them. But you are not going to recruit contingent workers who are 40 per cent of the workforce, into structures that are predicated around the needs of a permanent workforce,
I would think if I was a young women starting out my career in the union movement, what I would do is probably form a casual workers' union and with like-minded people set around organising around the needs of casual workers and then get the structures to respond to that. Now that would be a challenge!
So they are some of the thoughts that I am going to leave the young women. I think it is a real tragedy that for 20 years we have fought for things like maternity leave and parental leave and carers leave and access to a whole raft of rights for women in our award system, and now what we are finding is that increasing numbers of people are falling through the holes. Greater numbers of people are on individual employment arrangements and employers have cleverly been able to exploit the growth in casualisation to circumvent the benefits that women of my generation fought for. The challenges are there: but they're different and will require different solutions to those we fought for in the seventies and eighties.
All in the Family
Concerted union campaigning ensured the closure of a Hunter Valley textile mill became the first political crisis of the Prime Minister's year. It wasn't just that his henchman Peter Reith had failed to deliver protection of workers entitlements, leaving the 300 workers owed about $11 million. It wasn't that there was a stench wafting across the whole deal. It wasn't even that one of the directors was the PM's big bro' Stan.
It was that the union movement rallied to force the Prime Minister into a bad policy position - a one-off handout to a group of undeniably deserving workers. For the best part of a month, the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union rallied around their retrenched members at National Textiles. The Labor Council took up their cause, organising a meeting with the NSW Government and a barbecue outside Stan's Point Piper pad. Then the TWU gathered further public support collecting thousands of signatories outside the cricket and football.
It all got too much for Johnnie who decided to throw wads of taxpayer money at the workers in the hope the issue would go away. And that's where his problems really started. As his public opinion ratings plummeted, more questions about the complex corporate web that bro' Stan had woven came to light. But Howard's biggest mistake was to make policy on the run; ensuring there was not just a perception of favouritism, but an excuse for every other retrenched worker to wonder why they aren't eligible for the same special treatment.
And where does this leave the scourge of unpaid workers entitlements? Even if Reith's 'safety net' goes through, thousands of workers will be left thousands of dollars out of pocket every year. And for unions that means only one thing - dozens of more cases of injustice to organise workers around.
The Wild West... The Big Australian, Small Towns and Strange Ideas
In late 1999, as the union negotiated enterprise agreement was expiring, BHP launched a campaign to de-unionise its iron ore operations in Western Australia's isolated Pilbara region. They announce, to their workforce, to the union offices, and to the general public that they would no longer negotiate with unions. At all. About anything. Instead, they were "offering" individual contracts to each employee.
Japanese steel makers had forced down iron ore prices. Merger talks with Australia's other major iron ore producer Rio Tinto had failed. Accessing and transporting high grade ore was becoming increasingly difficult. Faced with these and other problems, BHP seem to have made the rather simplistic assumption that individual contracts, giving them almost complete control over their workforce, would, somehow, automatically make them more profitable.
With a high riding new CEO, American Paul Anderson, and (judging by the approach ) a copy of 'De-unionisation for Dummies', BHP set about trying to capture control of the workforce. Something senior management no doubt believed would be quick, easy and relatively painless. There had been no real industrial action for over 10 year. There was an ongoing and rather ugly inter-union coverage dispute. The continual battering of Western Australian unions under the hostile far-right Court government legislation had left them depleted, and apparently battle weary. The Pilbara, an isolated area in an isolated state in an isolated country, had already seen Rio Tinto successfully de-unionise their iron ore operations a decade earlier.
But the workers, and their unions, were not ready to roll over and beg. The workforce were simply not ready to trust management. The more they asked what changes BHP wanted to make, and the more managers simply answered "we don't know yet, but you can trust us", the more uneasy the workforce got. National union leaders recognised very early on the significance of BHP's push, and along with the ACTU committed significant resources to helping their members and activists in the Pilbara organise against BHP's attack.
With support flooding in from around the country, and with a very visible and active union presence locally, the vast majority of workers continually refused to sign the individual contracts, and demand that BHP negotiate with their unions. They held stop work meetings, told their managers as individuals and as groups, and held a 24 hour strike to protest. Workers took to presenting managers with yellow and red union warning cards, explaining that the continual pressure amounted to harassment. Colourful stickers, asking BHP to "be reasonable, negotiate" flooded the worksites and the towns.
Still management pushed the workers to sign the contracts. They pushed them through "captive audience" meetings with high ranking BHP managers. They pushed them with two different "bonus" offers. They pushed them in one-on-one conversations, day in and day out. They pushed them with a steady stream of letters addressed to their homes. Eventually, the workers had had enough, and held a four day strike. On the second day of the strike, at the Newman operations, the state police decided that the production of iron ore was so essential as to warrant actual physical violence against those on the picket lines. A batten charge led to several injuries, and the video footage of the violence cemented national and international support.
The Pilbara communities of Port Hedland and Newman are small, close knit, isolated communities. Almost everyone was concerned that a biter industrial dispute would split the towns, and leave the communities bruised and scarred. But the organisers and activists had little trouble in getting community support. People in these towns have seen what individual contracts, and the unfettered managerial control that comes with them does to isolated communities. How the moral of the towns suffers, the safety at work, the downsizing of workforce that leads to the slow, inevitable decline of the towns. For many, the only thing worse for the communities than a bitter industrial dispute, would be giving in without a fight.
Following the four-day strike, union solicitors were successful in getting injunctions prohibiting BHP offering any more contracts. Finally discussions between BHP management and union representatives have begun. Negotiations are continuing.
The Victorian Era Turns Nasty
Allegations that a Melbourne union delegate was bashed by thugs hired by the bosses, led to a city-wide shutdown of the building industry and renewed focus on a push for a 36-hour week. Victorian construction unions have been pushing for the 36-hour week for some time, although it could be better characterised as 48-hours. Under the agreements, workers are guaranteed an extra two hours overtime each week and ten hours on the weekend. But work is capped after that is reached. Employers denied being involved in the bashings, but they are exercising a bit of industrial thuggery, the MBA issuing lock-out edicts against workers on designated days each week.
Whether the campaign is about more overtime or a serious attempt to better distribute work is a moot point. But it is unlikely to flow on into NSW in the short term, given that the building unions have recently completed a round of enterprise agreements. Insiders say the different approaches reflect different cultures and economic circumstances in the two cities. "We're in the middle of a boom in Sydney and workers want as much of the action as they can," one said. "They know the down times will be coming around again after the Olympics, so they're working hard and saving big for now." With CBD builders pulling in $90K salaries, don't hold your breath waiting for them to push for shorter hours.
A group of funky Christian students grabbed national headlines in January by launching 'Smart Casuals' a network of casual workers. While the media billed it as a 'new trade union', Smart Casuals won't be sparking any demarcation wars - it's more a loose network of young workers, run by the Australian Christian Youth Workers.
According to their literature, the group will operate in all mainland capital cities and offer "parties, rallies and forums" for young casual workers". Whether these will be characterised by flares, renditions kum-ba-ya and lashings of GI cordial remains to be seen or is that just my own warped memory of Sunday School?? (Or is that Organising Works??)
For more details go to http://www.adelaide.net.au/-aycw
Olympics Pay Warning
The NSW Labor Council scored some silly season headlines warning employers to lock in pay deals now or risk labour shortages during the Games period. While some papers tried to turn this into a threat of industrial warfare, the issue of wages is a reality that the bosses just have to cope with. Look at the figure: 180,000 jobs for the event at attractive rates means a lot of casual workers will be moving from their current precarious employment. As Costa commented at the time, workers didn't invent casualisation, but they'll use it to follow the money in the boom times. So bosses beware - lock in your staff early or do the work for yourselves
Meanwhile, the Liberals Olympic spokesman Andrew Humpherson kicked a spectacular own goal attempting to beat up outrage over the fact that union officials will have access to Games sites to help put out any industrial bushfires during the event. In a thundering press release the dopey Lib morphed the Labor Council's secretary and his able assistant into the one person - decrying the fact that 'John Costa' was sucking the public teet. We know they have the same haircut, but really....
To sign up for your piece of the Olympics action join Unions 2000 - http://www.labor.net.au
Missing Education Minister Found
After avoiding eye contact with NSW teachers for 18 months, Education Minister John Aquilina was finally dragged kicking and screaming to the negotiation table. The invisible man of education emerged following intervention from the State Labor Advisory Council. Unsurprisingly, the new avenues of communication have led to progress in the talks ... add with Costa.
Meanwhile, public servants have been offered a 16 per cent pay deal over four years. Nurses and health workers are waiting on final sign-off, while the Public Service Association this week accepted the increase after a membership ballot. The deal followed six months of tense talks after the Treasurer handed down a budget without any allocation for pay rises.
Ford's Free Computers Gazumps Virtual Communities
As Virtual Communities begins its roll-out of hire purchase computers for union members, Ford has gazumped the ACTU by offering its 350,000 workers worldwide free Internet access. While we hate to say "we told you so", this is exactly what we warning in the lead-up to the VC deal. The value is not in the computer hardware, but in the network of users who you sign up. Proof that the VC people are very smart cookies.
The VC portal is up and running at http://www.vtown.com.au . The site will be welcomed by enthusiasts of Lara Croft's breasts and rigorous beauty routines, although unionists expecting a cutting edge home base may be a little disappointed. Then again, as one unkind soul has remarked, the site does have all the charm of a 1950s filing cabinet. Back to the shopfloor comrades, we say!
'White Gollywog' Slips Out in Silence
And, if you didn't notice it Bill Kelty exited public life with a minimum of fanfare. We would love to tell you what he was thinking, but he won't talk to us. We sent him a very nice letter requesting an interview, but he never replied. Which gives Workers Online the strange honour of having access to Peter Reith, but not the head of our own movement. Funny world, eh?
The most intriguing post-script from the affair has been the reaction to a piece by the Sydney Morning Herald's Brad Norington claiming a fallout in relations between Kelty and his successor Greg Combet. Workers Online understands that Combet is threatening to sue the SMH over parts of the report, raising concerns that the ACTU's 'shoot the messenger' approach to media relations will continue under the new regime.
by Kath Kenny
It is generally accepted that journalists' skills lie in being able to hunt out the days' news and put together adjectives and verbs and commas in roughly the right order. So why do so many behave as if they are a cross between a Freudian analyst, headmistress of an etiquette school and part-time career counsellor?
When Jennie George announced she was suddenly stepping down as ACTU president late last year, journalists worked themselves up into a minor tizz analysing her "fragility", her "ego" and her "emotional" personality.
Rather than record her past achievements or failures, or the future of the union movement, journalists were more concerned to describe in great detail George's tears and "unceremonious" back door escapade through a car park, apparently to "evade her biographer" - the Sydney Morning Herald's industrial editor Brad Norington. This latest bout of character analysis seems to have been brought on by the unsourced, but widely accepted, speculation that her earlier-than-.expected departure was a result of George feeling miffed by the attention that was being bestowed on her heir-apparent, Sharon Burrow.
The Australian's Michael Bachelard saw fit to devote much space to remarks by George's colleagues about her "lack of self-confidence" and "oversensitivity to criticism". The same colleagues apparently favourably compared Burrows, a teacher's union boss, as being in a "stable relationship with husband Peter, [with] two grown children" - in contrast to the single George. They pointed to Burrow's "powerful sense of her self-worth which will buffer her against the doubts that assailed Ms George". Burrow's sexuality, safely tethered to the home, apparently makes her a more easily known and domesticated force than the volatile, emotional and unpredictable George.
The feminist movement might have coined the term "the personal is political", but in this age of celebrity, it seems that all too often it is only the personal which is political. A woman in position of power is a fascinating thing, and some journalists seem almost obscenely obsessed with dissecting the minds of these beings. It's as if they need to find the fatal flaw that will lead to her eventual downfall, or the freakish gene that has seen them achieve what no other woman before them has achieved.
Readers are not blameless either - in a world where we want to know more and more about people we care less and less about, our appetite for reading the personal stories of those we have no personal relationship with is bigger than ever. Who could have blamed Norington for jumping at the offer to write the story of this singular woman? His biography of George was, as it turned out, an unofficial one, but she co-operated over many months of interviews and even launched the book last year at NSW Parliament House.
Tellingly, though, George told the launch audience that she regretted her story could not be told by a female journalist - citing how few women had reported on industrial relations for as long as Norington had. She suggested that a woman would perhaps have been more sensitive to how important her female friends and colleagues had been in her career and personal life. As it is, Norington's biography devoted a seemingly inordinate amount of time putting George's relationship to men under the scrutiny of his nascent psychologist's gaze. While he acknowledged the powerful influence of her Russian-born mother in her life, it is George's absent father, and her relationship with men, including the iconic BLF leader Jack Mundey, that are endlessly worked over and painted as crucial in her political and intellectual development. Her first kiss, her loss of virginity, whether she was still having sex with this one before she started to have sex with that one, are all laid bare with the seriousness of detective finding vital evidence to solve a crime. Understand a woman's sex life and you understand her mind, seemed to be the message here.
But God forbid George show as much interest in men's sexuality as Norington does in hers. Norington's biography describes George's former Teachers Federation colleagues as being agog at her habit of querying of their love life. It's a tale told by Norington - without the slightest hint of irony - to illustrate her supposed social incompetence (and what a sin that trait is in a woman).
Norington's real obsession, however, is how George's behaviour affects the men in her life. When George first announced her retirement plans last August and her interest in a NSW Upper House seat, he wrote an article that practically agonised over the difficult position this put the Labor machine men in. In a bit of brotherly advice he even warned them of the trouble that lurked behind her "demure" façade: "based on her emotional temperament, her agitation is likely to become a crescendo over the next year" he wrote.
He even threw in a bit of free career advice: "While it is possible she may believe a ministry in the Carr government would befit her senior status, the demands involved, given her desire for an easier life, suggest that she would be better served not to seek one if she makes it to parliament". The whole point of this piece, its news value, seemed to be summed up when Norington wrote that George was "probably the closest she has come to walking directly over the ambitions of others to get what she wants". Note that she hadn't actually stepped over anyone at that stage: but the fact that a high-profile woman was close to doing so was presumably news-worthy enough.
In the Review section of another edition of the Herald, Norington warmed up to his couch-side perspective of the George psyche, sagely telling readers that her decision "revealed the inner workings of her mind". Like a parent disciplining an oldest child, Norington condescendingly attempted to put George in her place: "It may have pained George but it is a political reality that once someone in a prime position in public life decides to go, it is inevitable that attention will turn to a successor", he wrote.
In her book The Journalist and the Murderer, New York writer Janet Malcolm likens the relationship between a journalist and their biographical subject to a narrative of romance and betrayal. The journalist seduces and attempts to gain the trust of a public figure, who, in turn, tells their story in the belief that it will be faithfully portrayed to readers. A journalist's profession demands they are an ear to all while keeping any opinions for the piece that is eventually published. Meanwhile, their subject's self-absorption means they are unable to let go of the illusion that the journalist will see them exactly as they see themselves. The relationship is almost bound to come crashing down in acrimony when, after eventually reading the journalists' take on their tale, the subject painfully realises their intimacy has been betrayed, and that the journalist was always going to write their own story.
The degeneration in this romantic narrative between George and Norington now threatens to draw in other journalists who report the fall-out like installments of a soap opera. The Sydney Morning Herald's Debra Jopson wrote of George's tactics to evade Norington, who, in his pursuit of her, was stationed outside the room where she made her resignation announcement. As competition between journalists to 'get the story' grows, forcing ever more cosy but precarious alliances between the reporter and the reported-upon, we can only expect that these sorts of dramas will unfold across the news pages with greater frequency.
Beware, Sharan Burrow, of any shady-looking characters with ink-stained fingers, seductively sidling up to you late at night with offers of the mutually aggrandising project of a biography.
by David Chin
by 'Running on Empty'
The Wilson and Callaghan governments culminated in deep disillusionment among Labour's erstwhile working-class supporters. However, the ALP managed - with a partial return to labourist policies and the considerable aid of a poor performance and extremist policies on the part of its opposition - to contain and reverse similar sentiments sufficiently to unexpectedly retain government at the 1993 election, before reaping the full furty of the accumulated anger felt by 'the battlers' in 1996 after it breached its previous election promises by reverting to some unpopular tax measures, and after the Coalition opposition finally presented a safe and moderate alternative.
Over the 13 years of Labor in office there were a number of distinct policy phases. The first phase, 1983-90, was marked by the pursuit of consistently economic 'rationalist' policies with Hawke and Keating working together at the helm. The next phase, following the formal onset of the recession in November 1990 until Hawke was toppled by Keating as prime minister in December 1991, was one of indecisiveness of policy direction exacerbated by the all-consuming leadership struggle between the two men. The final phase, with Keating as prime minister from 1992-96, was marked by the some important shifts in the Labor government's political direction.
The image of society which Paul Keating as prime minister worked with was essentially similar to Hawke's. His first major new policy initiative as prime minister in February 1992 was titled One Nation (in line with the oft-cited moderate 'One Nation' toryism in Britain) and was therefore continuous with Hawke's imagery of 'Bringing Australia Together'. From the moment he took the top job from Hawke in December 1991, however, Keating worked strenuously to transform himself from a free-market, modernising treasurer into a prime minister firmly in touch with Labor tradition. He was necessarily very anxious to convey the sense that there was now a substantial shift in political direction. As soon as he became leader he promised to introduce new policies. He later recalled that:
"We were fitted up with the policies and rhetoric of the 80s. We had to change that and change our position. Now that's what we succeeded in doing over the 15 months to the  election [from December 1991]. Re-ordering the debate, saying that there was a role of government."
Senator Graham Richardson similarly asserted that:
"One Nation set a direction and Keating stamped on the place in February of 1992 that there was now a change in thinking: that the government that had cut and cut and cut was now prepared to spend money, not just to get Australia going again, but it was a recognition that infrastructure spending had fallen behind and we had to do it. And that was a major change. And everything we've done since then follows that direction."
The ALP issued a substantial new publication in 1992 (following the Coalition's adoption of Fightback) entitled Poles Apart, to emphasise the degree of policy difference that now existed between Labor and the Coalition parties. As Keating sought to restore some sense of ideological purpose to Labor in government after taking over the leadership in December 1991, he - and his speechwriter Don Watson - began increasingly to refer to Labor's 'true believers'.
The term 'true believer' had been earlier used by the anti-totalitarian United States author Eric Hoffer to describe political fanaticism. In Australia, the term 'true believers' came into political parlance from the title of an Australian Broadcasting Corporation television series first screened in 1988, which dramatised the political battles of the 1940s and 1950s. The suggestion of that series title was that, in contrast to the pragmatic present, the post World War Two political era was a time when the players in Australian (and Labor) politics really were motivated by sincere convictions. In this sense it was in line with Daniel Bell's famous thesis that the 1950s marked The End of Ideology in the politics of the advanced industrial nations.
Subsequently, however, in its usage by Keating and other Labor politicians the term 'true believers' was invoked in order to claim continuity between the grand principles of Labor's past and the practices of the incumbent federal government: to imply that far from being extinct, true belief was alive and well. Paul Keating declared on the night of Labor's against-the-odds 1993 election win that 'this is a victory for the true believers':and the process of life imitating and embellishing art continued when the stirring theme music of the television series was played at the ALPs subsequent official victory celebration. Merchandise was even produced for ALP supporters including a T-shirt declaring that "I am a True Believer': and a 'True Believers' pen.
Interestingly, the theme music used in the True Believers is in fact the very English composition 'Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity' from Gustav Holst's opus, "The Planets'. It also sounds very similar to the music composed by Hubert Parry for William Blake's poem 'To Build a New Jerusalem', which has long been sung by delegates at the end of annual conferences of the British Labour Party, and which calls up a powerful emotional identification and socialism's original objection to the pollution of England's 'green and pleasant land' by the 'dark satanic mills' of the industrial revolution. Holst's 'Jupiter', composed in 1916 and drawing on traditional English folk melodies, was put to words in 1918 in the very patriotic English hymn 'I vow to Thee My Country, all earthly things above'. It is somewhat ironic that such an English tune became regularly used and associated with the nationalistic, Australian republic-centred agenda espoused by Paul Keating in the early to mid-1990s. The scriptwiter of The True Believers, Bob Ellis, in later writings for ALP politicians, continued to draw upon a strong influence of British labour movement emotions and rhetoric. His input to the first budget addres-in-reply of the new Labor opposition leader, Kim Beazley, in 1996, responding to the new Howard conservative government's cuts to social programs, reprised a speech Neil Kinnock had made in 1983 warning British voters contemplating re-election of Thatcher 'not to be ordinary ... not to be young ... not to fall ill ... not to get old.
Through the use of these emotional devices, through new philosophical speeches and rhetoric about social democracy, and by picking up some of the previous marginalized Whitlamite themes and policies on constitutional reform, Aboriginal land rights and, later, urban and regional development and access to justice, Paul Keating succeeded in restoring some sense of idealism in Labor ranks in the 15 months to the 1993 election.
The process of rehabilitating party traditions continued on the eve of the launch of the 1994 white paper on employment, Working Nation, when Keating visited the same Melbourne factory where Chifley had, 46 years earlier, launched the first Holden car to be made in Australia. The symbolism of the location, and the more general attempt to claim a direct line of descent from the revered Chifley with this white paper, were obvious; as was the contrast with the early years of the Hawke government when there was comparatively little effort put into associating the present Labor government with past Labor governments. Hawke himself had often claimed a personal affinity with John Curtin, but the credibility of this had been severely dented by a sharp critique from 'Nugget' Coombs in 1984, who disputed Bob Hawke's claim that Curtin was a 'consensus' prime minister in the same way that Hawke himself was. Coombs contrasted Curtin's approach to that of Hawke and this then treasurer Keating's 'pursuit of consensus by the adoption of the policies of the Opposition', declaring that:
"Curtin had an acute sense of the limits of public opinion. But they were limits which he worked on indefatigably to mould to the purposes of the Labour Party. All his energy, his competence, his eloquence and dedication were directed to extending the range of consensus about those purposes ... And the consensus was to be on the government's terms. It was to yield no abandonment of basic principles."
The retreat by ALP leaders from the previously uncompromising themes of reform, change and modernisation from 1992 marked a recognition that these themes were no longer tenable among Labor Party members and in the party's electoral heartlands. There was a limit to how far the ALP and its supporters could be pushed. People increasingly realised that the kind of change being pursued in the name of modernisation meant in reality the embrace of alien philosophies and the imposition of job loss and uncertainty which clearly ran contrary to their own interests.
The British Labour Party's own reference point has recently shifted from nostalgia for 'that golden age - the Labour governments of 1945-51' which Gareth Stedman-Jones criticised in the early 1980s, to a rediscovery under Blair of the importance of the early liberal radicals and ethical socialists who pre-dated those with 'statist' pre-occupations who became prominent from the 1930s. This is being reflected in the emerging new histories of the party.
by Peter Lewis
A source reported that the party's electoral committee was "shocked, and a little bit embarrassed" at having not realised this sooner.
"During December, we noticed that people began to consult our Opposition Leader, Steve Bracks, about important issues," explained the source. "We conducted some research to see if this growing popularity could help us to win power at the next election. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we had actually won the last one."
The failure has been put down to an oversight after last October's election. "Everyone's research, including our own, showed that Jeff Kennett's government was such a certainty to hold power that we didn't even bother to check the results in the papers on the Monday," the source admitted.
Premier Steve Bracks said he was pleased at the results of the research, but a little annoyed that he hadn't been told earlier. "I've just spent a fortune on new business cards saying 'Opposition Leader'," he complained. "And it means I've missed a summer's worth of good seats at the tennis."
The discovery supports critics' claims that the government has been inactive in the face of recent industrial turmoil. Admits Bracks: "For the last few months, we've been using the same approach we've always used in Opposition. We'd wait for Jeff Kennett to say something, and then I would just say the exact opposite. We'd been wondering why Jeff had been a bit quiet lately."
Mr Bracks admitted that his unawareness may have affected his performance as Premier. "When industrial trouble led to power shortages during 40-degree days last week, the media accused the government of complacency and incompetence," recalled Bracks. "Naturally, I called a press conference and agreed. I really let my government have it.
"Now I have to answer my criticism, and I will prove myself wrong."
Liberal leader Dr Denis Napthine thanked Premier Bracks for taking care of both Government and Opposition while a shattered Coalition recovered from the shock loss.
But he added that the Liberals have formulated a policy to win back voters' trust. "It's a bit like what the ALP did with Jeff," he explained.
"We'll wait for Steve Bracks to say something, then we'll say exactly the same thing."
by John Passant
And so the extreme right has entered Government in Austria. With six of the ten main ministries how is it that the racists in the misnamed Freedom Party have come to the gates of ultimate power? And in Austria, one of the centres of European civilisation?
Was it because of major problems with the economy? No.
Certainly the Austrian economy is sluggish. It grew only 1.1 per cent last year.
Unemployment is comparatively low - 6.5 per cent in August 1999 compared with 7.3 per cent a year before. Industrial output was down 8.7 per cent over the past year and wages up 3.1 per cent.
Although worrying, these figures are hardly the stuff of major economic crisis. The rise to power of xenophobes and racists in the past has been in times of economic catastrophe. Hitler came to power in 1933 during a crisis of profitability for German capital and with mass unemployment.
With Austria plodding along economically, how is it that Jorg Haider's anti-immigrant Freedom Party could win 27 per cent of the vote in the elections last year and now form a coalition with the Conservative People's Party?
The answer lies not in the economic situation but the political one. The SPO - the equivalent of our Labor Party - has governed Austria for the last 30 years. For much of that time the social democrats have been in coalition with the conservative People's Party.
The SPÖ - led coalition has followed traditional right-wing policies. In Government it acted much like the Hawke and Keating Governments in Australia - squeezing students, cutting welfare and pushing privatisation.
The SPO also caved in to Haider's anti-immigrant policies by scapegoating asylum seekers. This only gave his racist rantings some "respectability."
The Freedom Party claimed during last autumn's general election campaign that Austria suffered from "Überfremdung" (foreign infiltration). Hitler's Nazis put this word at the centre of their propaganda in the early 1930s. In fact Austria has one of the lowest levels of immigration in Europe.
Anti-immigrant policies were at the heart of Haider's election propaganda. Despite this polls show two thirds of Freedom Party voters put disillusionment with the two main parties, not immigration, as the key reason for backing him.
The Freedom Party won its highest number of votes in traditionally conservative rural areas. It is also true that many blue collar workers could not bring themselves to vote for the SPO because of its betrayal of workers.
However Haider won fewer votes from blue collar workers than the more than one in four he got across the population as a whole. Perhaps that explains why the Greens won a modest increase in their vote.
Some commentators have dismissed the alarm on the Left about Haider's success. These are people who have learnt nothing from history. Thus the People's Party claimed during coalition talks (just as conservative parties had done during Hitler's rise) that they had tamed the Freedom Party.
There's nothing to worry about, they tell us. After all the Freedom Party is only a junior coalition partner. The constitution will prevent attacks on foreigners.
These complacent arguments mirror those put when Hitler became chancellor on a minority of the vote in January 1933. The Constitution did not stop the Nazis or protect Jews. Neither will it contain the Freedom Party and the Nazi forces its victory boosts.
Haider's public utterances show his real intentions. He has praised the "sound employment policies" of the Third Reich. He has described the SS as "courageous" and men of "decent character".
This is guarded praise. With a nudge and a wink he sends his real message to his supporters. However he cannot openly admit his pro-Hitler feelings. Yet.
What his comments show is that he could adopt Hitler's methods if he felt his path to power through the ballot box was being blocked.
Unlike Hitler, Haider has not built a street fighting force. He has played the democratic card.
However his racism and the fact that his party is now in Government will open the way for the growth of the Nazis both in Austria and the rest of Europe. European fascism is emboldened by his success.
Elements within the Freedom Party and Nazi groups in Austria want to build a movement to do what Hitler did - smash working class organisation and all forms of democracy. They are biding their time, thinking that the tide of history is with them.
We should heed the lessons of the 1930s. United working class action - political and industrial and ultimately threatening civil war - is the only way to stop fascism before it establishes its dictatorship.
John Passant is a Canberra-based writer
by Linda Carruthers
I want to argue for the proposition that entrenching collective bargaining rights for all employees in this country is the single most pressing issue facing workers and unions in Australia, and the key to enhancing our capacity to effectively participate in international campaigns to defend democratic rights and living standards for workers everywhere.
The most insidious aspect of the federal Workplace Relations Act 1996 are the thousands of instances of employers' refusal to countenance collective bargaining in workplaces across Australia, and the consequences for those workers of the denial of their right to effective union representation into perpetuity. The capacity of employers to make Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) a condition of employment for new employees, together with the capacity of the employer to refuse to collectively negotiate with an existing workforce will result, in the long term, in unionisation at the pleasure of the employer.
It is simply a fact of life that even the most dedicated and committed unions and activists cannot combat employers who are effectively able to force employees to choose between unilaterally determined contracts of employment, or work for the dole. That is the dirty little secret that underpins the connection between 'welfare reform' and Reith's Workplace Relations Act. Working Australians are now undergoing the full rigours of 'Thatcherism' or more correctly, the neo-liberal agenda pushed by financial markets, with bells and whistles.
While the MUA dispute, together with the Rio Tinto and BHP have raised some of the issues starkly in well publicised disputes, I would argue that the real story is the fact that Australian workers have been stripped of a basic democratic right, recognised since 1947 as the one of the key indications of a liberal democratic nation state. That right is contained in ILO Convention 98,-The Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining. As the title clearly indicates, the right to organise is intimately associated with the rights to collectively bargain. It is clear that Australian workers have been stripped of their rights to collective bargaining, and indeed a recent decision by the ILO committee of experts in response to a complaint brought by the ACTU has confirmed this. What we must grasp is that our capacity to organise, our capacity to build effective and independent unions depends on our capacity to collectively bargain. It is our raison d'etre, our core business, the reason why unions exist. Freedom of Association, is a necessary but insufficient condition for meeting the requirements of an effective union movement.
If you don't believe this, ask workers forced onto AWAs which require them to work any and all hours a week, with no independent representation permitted in respect of workplace disputes whether they value their right to pay a few dollars a week to an organisation which is largely unable to represent them.
The history of the workers movement in the UK, the US, NZ and Australia clearly shows that the capacity of unions to organise on a mass basis, their capacity to recruit and organise the lowest paid and those most in need of collective organisation, exploded subsequent to major changes in the arrangements governing collective bargaining rights, or union recognition as it is sometimes called. There is not the space to go into the details of each country's history, but suffice it to say, there are many countries in our region that have signed up to Freedom of Association provisions where union representatives who seek to bargain with the employer regularly turn up in ditches with holes in vital parts of their anatomy. Whilst I am not suggesting we have reached that stage in Australia, what we have got is a situation where large and growing numbers of working Australians may be legally denied autonomy, respect, dignity and independence for the large part of their waking hours they spend at work.
Australians now find themselves in workplaces under the unilateral control of a fellow citizen, who by dint of federal legislation is able to deal with them in ways redolent of the glory days of the Master and Servant Acts of the 18th and 19th centuries.
What is to be done?
There are many and pressing policy issues facing workers at the moment. Protection of entitlements is one in a list that covers the casualisation of the workforce, the increase in working hours and the externalisation onto workers and their families of all the risks and costs of an unstable economy. All of these issues are important, but in order to tackle them in a way which mobilises and supports independent democratic action by workers themselves, we simply must address the pressing core issue of collective bargaining rights.
I would propose that as a minimum, the labour movement demands federal industrial legislation that provides the following:-
· Incorporation of core International Conventions which protect the rights of workers to join unions, organise workers and to bargain collectively including ILO Conventions 84 and 98 into federal industrial legislation and an explicit reference in the Objects section of the legislation to its purpose of the observation and implementation of these conventions. In addition to these Conventions, the legislation should also clearly incorporate Australia's clear legislative intention to support other core labour standards including the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, child labour and discrimination in employment and occupations.
· A clear and explicit legislative commitment binding Australian tribunals and Courts to international jurisprudence in respect of any judicial consideration of matters arising in respect of the sections concerning international conventions and core labour standards.
· Federal legislation should also make it clear that industrial action in furtherance of these conventions and core standards including action taken in support of their furtherance in Australia, is always, prima facie, legal or protected action and will be taken as action designed to further the objects of the Act.
· Industrial action taken in furtherance of these aims internationally should also be taken to be action taken in furtherance of the objects of the Act and made explicitly immune from sanctions that otherwise may exist for industrial action in certain circumstances.
It may be objected that these demands are too utopian, or on the other hand, that they are a bureaucratic and legalistic solution to the problem.
In brief response to the first argument, it should be obvious that in a context where workers are being constantly lectured of the need to compete in a global market place, employers in Australia are now able to operate in a sheltered workshop designed by Howard's mates to shield them from international norms and standards. Let's have no more of globalism for the bosses and domestic repression for the workers.
In response to the second objection, we may rest assured that the campaign to incorporate these suggestions into industrial legislation will require the full panoply of activities designed to agitate and organise. Whatever the result, we can be sure that the process will be anything but bureaucratic.
The Soapbox is a forum for workers and union officials to discuss contemporary issue. Wander into the Virtual Trades Hall lounge and have your say on this week's issue!
Stephen '007' Fleming
AKA 'Do Things By Halves' got his name - not through association with the Bond wordsmsith - but for his stumbles in sight of a ton. Hence - 'Oh, Oh, seven to go. He's going to choke,' we mutter darkly. 007 has the worst conversion rate in world cricket with 22 half centuries and only two centuries. Fleming is developing into a fine captain though and, at only 26, is on the cusp of surpassing Geoff Howarth's record of 12 test wins. Much better to watch than Justin Langer.
C.Z. 'The Master' Harris
Cric-Info dubbed this man the Black Caps Tricky Situations Master. And as the Black Caps tricky situations usually kick-off the beginning of each innings C.Z. should be opening the batting and the bowling. As it is he probably won't even play in the tests!! Still holds an unshakeable psychological advantage over the Australian bowlers since his epic 130 n.o. in the world Cup 4 years ago. And forget about Saqlain's doosra what about the Chris Harris snoozer. You don't need a speed camera to measure the velocity of this killer ball. You could probably knock up an oil painting of the delivery between release and impact (and give it time to dry). How many batsmen have got the sleep out of their eyes to find their stumps shattered by a snoozer (well ok, one stump sort of totters for a long time before falling). Makes Mark Waugh look express.
Matthew 'Shall I Retire Now?' Sinclair
Currently the leading batsmen of all time with a test batting average of 214 - more than twice that of the next best, the Australian Don Bradman and nearly four times that of last year's flavour Sachin Tendulkar. A classic strokemaker on the field and a dignified presence off it. Definitely not an Aussie. Outed about the contaminated half of his gene pool he responded with style - by reaffirming his allegiance to the Black Caps.
Nathan 'Luke(warm)' Astle
A hot and cold player but on song he sizzles. The 1999 New Zealand Player of the Year averaged 58 plus in the tests against South Africa and India at home last year and 51 in the one dayers against the Proteas. Astle has 5 test and 7 one day centuries to his name and is a more than useful trundler. Like many of the kiwis grows another foot at home.
Darren 'Kiwi' Lehmann
The Black Caps secret weapon. Yes, Darren's grandmum came from Invercargill!! Well if the new New Zealand Government is as committed as they say they are to a better New Zealand, and surely that must also include a better test cricket team than we had to endure under the last tyranny, than they'll arrange for Darren's grandmum to have come from Invercargill and fast track Darren's naturalisation before February. Welcome home Darren and godspeed! (And as a kiwi cricketer you can eat as many pies as you want. We'll settle for boundaries.)
Chris 'I've got a memory like an elephant and I'm gunna f....... choo-choo you' Cairns
Once Mr Perpetual Potential. Mr One Day I'm Going To Be The Next Big Thing, Mr One Day To Be the World's Best Allrounder. Now nearly 30, at last, Mr Happening Thing!! Wisden's Allrounder of the Year and Man of the Series against both England and the West Indies. One to profit from Steve Rixon's hard nosed Australian approach ('Chris, get your sledging technique right and everything else will fall into place').
Daniel 'Scarface' Vettori
New Zealand cricket's renaissance man - his nickname is a product of pimples rather than a blade. Scarface already has almost 100 test wickets at age 21. At 21 Shane Warne thought a flipper was pinball jargon. Along with Parore gives the Black Caps some multicultural cred and the (slim) chance to join the Asia-Pacific anti-Aussie coalition. Widely expected to capture 750 test wickets before he retires at age 50. Not a chucker.
Mathew 'X' Horne
Stroke Hornnnnnny! Imitating the Aussies takes you to some strange places sometimes. Not a bad opener and definitely better than some of the non-entities we've had during the dark ages post-Edgar and Wright. If he can fire, with Shall I, 007 and a strong middle order to follow life could be long for Chukka Lee and the Nong from Narromine.
Craig 'Attitood' McMillan
Attitood has a test average of -take a deep breath - MORE THAN 40!! A one-to-watch from the kiwi tour 2 years ago when he more than matched the Aussies for attitood. Up and down since than - sizzled in the warm-ups to the World Cup but fizzled in the tournament proper. Still one to watch.
Adam 'Pin Up' Parore
A model who plays a bit of cricket on the side, Pin-up took the most dismissals in test cricket last year - 39. Between fashion shoots he has also fashioned a reasonable record with the bat having scored nearly 2500 test runs. He gives this puppy team a waggly tail. A world class number 9. Makes Adam Gilchrist look ugly.
Dion 'Angry' Nash
Every good sports team need a thug (and here we could digress to the woes and tribulations of the All Blacks. But let's not go there.) Step up Dion Nash. A bit liteweight on cricketing finesse and fast bowling firepower, but a good contributor to the team reservoir of testosterone and aggro. Recently has stood up as an effective foil for a rampaging Cairns. Could make the snickometer sing. Ignore the injury reports - a disinformation tactic picked up from America's Cup campaigns.
Shayne 'Sweet Chariot' O'Connor
Sure to be wheeled out if Steve Waugh hits the 90s. Skittled old Shaky Nerves with a beauty at the WACA 2 years ago when he was sitting on 96. Would be as fast as Brett Lee if he chucked.
Beyond the Fragments
Career WorkKeys (CWK) is a community based labour hire company based on the central coast of NSW. Its key objectives are:
· To enhance the quality and value of part-time and casual workers
· To improve employment security in this form of work
· To develop the skills of part-time and casual workers
Analysis of CWK is an important way of understanding how the "non-standard" segment of the workforce (large and growing) might operate in a less dead end, less exploitative manner than is usually the case. Using casual labour has become a key means by which many employers seek to evade established standards. The CWK experience shows another way of being flexible with potential benefits for employers, workers and the community.
(Beyond the Fragments: the experiences of a community based labour hire firm in achieving flexibility with fairness for low paid casual workers. Prepared by ACIRRT for the Dusseldorp Skills Forum, 1999)
The Finance Sector Union (FSU) and the Victorian WorkCover Authority have negotiated prenatal leave for pregnant employees and their partners. In addition to annual and sick leave, pregnant women can take up to 35 hours prenatal leave to attend doctors appointments and their partners can take up to 7.6 hours. Helen Lewis from the FSU said that the leave recognises that pregnancy is not an illness and therefore employees should not be forced to use their sick leave or annual leave to attend medical appointments.
(Work Alert; January 2000)
No Lifting in Retirement Home
Courtlands Retirement Village introduced a no lifting policy in an effort to provide a safer work environment. Before moving to new premises, management examined manual handling of residents because of the impact on staff health and safety. A risk management system was introduced to identify, assess and control risks before injuries occurred. Staff involvement at
all stages was crucial in the success of the programme.
(Workcover News; no. 41, summer 1999)
The NSW Government has released Behind the Label, a strategy to assist home-based workers in the clothing industry.
The strategy includes:
· The registration of retailers selling clothes produced in NSW
· Accreditation of manufacturers to ensure outworkers receive their legal entitlements
· Outworkers' agency to monitor the industry
· Penalties for non-compliance
· Education campaign to encourage consumers to reward ethical companies.
Copies of the strategy are available from http://www.dir.nsw.gov.au/outwork
"Shafted": labour productivity and Australian coal mining
Michael Barry and Peter Waring
An assessment of the recent reports by the Productivity Commission and the National Institute of Labour Studies (NILS) into productivity in the Australian coal industry. These reports have been used by the Howard government and coal mining companies to attack unions and working conditions in the industry.
Barry and Waring conclude that the reports "make biased recommendations about the need to improve labour productivity by not adequately considering the contribution of non-labour variables to productivity performance and by failing to consider how further improvements might assist an industry already showing massive over-capacity. The last decade has seen great increases in productive performance at the same time as declining prices. Focussing industry debate on labour productivity fails completely to address wider industry problems.
(Journal of Australian Political Economy; no. 44, December 1999)
The Meaning of Deregulation byTim Anderson
The Australian experience of "deregulation" has shown that this complicated process is unlikely to lead to less government "intervention, that benefits to consumers will be limited if not totally illusory, and that citizens legal rights will be diminished. Deregulation really means market re-regulation to guarantee markets and profits to corporation, and social re-regulation to restrict the meaning of citizenship, where this conflicts with corporate goals.
(Journal of Australian Political Economy; no. 44, December 1999)
Anti-Discrimination Act review
The NSW Law Reform Commission has released a review of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977. Major recommendations include:
· The inclusion of religious belief, political opinion and carer responsibilities as grounds of discrimination
· Imposing an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation in relation to disability, pregnancy, breastfeeding and carer responsibilities (only in grounds of employment)
· Repeal of some exceptions that currently apply to specific grounds in certain areas, such as those excluding small businesses and partnerships of fewer than five persons
· Limiting some exceptions that apply to private educational institutions.
All recommendations and a full copy of the report are available at the Law Reform Commission web site at http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/nswlrc.nsf
Hidden Costs of Workaholism
The trend to excessive working hours may well cost employers money. A recent study by researchers from Curtin University of Technology has found that the longer a person's working week, the higher the possibility of an accident or illness. "Many companies foster workaholics and actively seek out and reward them, even though legal action that established a causal relationship between the employer company's actions and employees 'stressed out' condition would result in damages claims.
(Occupational Health and Safety Bulletin; vol. 9, no. 186, 9 February 2000)
In Behan v Bush Boake Allen Australia Ltd the full bench of the NSWIC has confirmed that employees in NSW who are excluded from unfair dismissal provisions of the Industrial Relations Act 1996 can still bring actions pursuant to unfair contracts provisions (s106).
Behan v Bush Boake Allen Australia Ltd (unreported, NSW IRC (FB, 17 December 1999, IRC 621 of 1999)
(Australian Industrial Law, newsletter 1/2000, January)
Payment in Lieu Must Include Super
The Federal Court has held that an employer who dismisses an employee and makes a payment in lieu of notice must include superannuation in the termination payment.
See Furey v Civil Service Association of WA (Inc), Fed Ct (Carr J), 29 October 1999, (2000) 47 AILR 4-196)
(Australian Industrial Law, newsletter 1/2000, January)
Casual employee definition
The Full Bench of the AIRC has considered the meaning of a "casual" employee under the Workplace Relations Act. When the matter first went to the Commission, Deputy President Duncan, following the decision of Moore J in Reed v Blue Line Cruises, held that an employee was not a casual, following ILO conventions, because the interpretation of casual as characterised by informality, uncertainty and irregularity did not apply. It was held that there was a reasonable expectation of continuous employment.
However the Full Bench decided that the Blue Line case did not apply, as that decision was made under the Industrial Relations Act 1988. It held that there was no need to follow the ILO convention in interpreting s170CC of the current legislation. Casual was therefore to be interpreted by reference to its ordinary and natural meaning in Australian law. The full bench did grant leave to appeal because of the wide implications of the decision to many matters brought to the AIRC.
Bluesuits Pty Ltd t/a Toongabbie Hotel v Graham, AIRC 3 November 1999, (2000) 47 AILR 4-182)
(Australian Industrial Law, newsletter 1/2000, January)
The Tool Shed develops our Deface a Face facility from last year into a fun interactive game. Use our toolbox of pens and spraycans to transform each week's villain into a work of art. Then post it onto our on-line gallery for public display. The best Defacement each week will win one of the few remaining Pierswatch T-shirts.
We'll be inviting you to nominate each week's Tools, as well as giving as your reasons - ensuring the Tool Shed becomes a truly democratic forum for spleen venting. But be warned, we're still unsure about defo law so try to play the issue rather than the person.
Bye Bye Piers
Regular Workers Online readers will note that the Tool Shed occupies the territory formerly housing PiersWatch.
While the demise of this column may be a cause of distress for some, it is of some relief to the editor, who had to come up with a weekly critique of Piers blatherings.
This was a difficult task to perform because:
(a) Piers doesn't have that much to say
(b) What he does have to say isn't that interesting
(c) At the end of the day there are far better targets for our barbs than a wash-outed tabloid hack.
So we are officially announcing that Pierswatch is dead, dear reader. long live the Tool Shed.
But before we finally kill him off, we offer you one last chance to interfere with Satan's Beanbag. It was a tough summer for Piers, as his editors turned against his hero, PM John Howard, who had the temerity to make a political decision against News Ltd's commercial interests.
To make it harder, a new Telegraph format meant Piers had to be photographed from the waist up - as if the mug-shot wasn't scary enough. What we are now confronted with each Tuesday and Thursday is a vision splendoured, in unfashionable blue-striped shirts - showing the formidable product of all those long lunches in all their glory. In a new News Ltd trait - a range of columnists photographed with arms folded - just in case you didn't realise how uncompromising they were.
Consequently, we have a new visage for you to doodle with, bearing a greater proportion of the torso to monster. One can only wait for the full body shots so we can view Piers' feet for the first time (he hasn't seen them himself for several decades)
We could go on with a critique of his summer work which included further harassment of Currawong, more cheap shots at Labor Council's women's committee and a self-serving claim that the Daily Telegraph have become the workers friend. We could go on, but that would be against the spirit of burying Pierswatch. The bottom line is he's bored us into submission.
© 1999-2000 Labor Council of NSW
LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSWURL: http://workers.labor.net.au/43/print_index.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005