In this edition:
Female trade unionists from around Australia will converge on Adelaide in August for the ACTU Women's Conference.
The conference, to be held on August 20/21 has been organized to coincide with the Global march of Women, an international event to protest against poverty and violence,.
The conference will also look at the implentation of key recommendations of the recent ACTU Congress.
For further details to register call Sharon Gibbard on 03 9664 7312
Police are investigating claims that the Glebe branch of Amnesty International has captured and tortured a member whose tardiness in letter writing had become renowned.
Members of the letter writing sub-committee have acknowledged that Mr Jeff Wilkins had failed to respond to numerous urgent calls for letters to be written to various governments which perpetrate human rights abuses.
"Writing polite letters to the abusers of human rights is the very core of what Amnesty does, despite the fact that slackers like Jeff haven't written any letters in years, probably leading to the death of thousands," said the convenor of the committee, Jessica King. Despite their anger, the committee members have maintained that they played no role in the torture of Mr Wilkins.
A spokesperson for the Amnesty branch claimed that, "we certainly didn't burn Jeff with cigarettes, but even if we had, it wouldn't have been half as bad as the beating of Déo Nzeyimana by the Burundi Brigade spéciale de recherche which Jeff was apparently "too busy" to write and protest about last month."
Whilst officially police are keeping a tight reign on the details of the capture, several sources claim that Mr Wilkins was only released because he agreed to write a letter requesting his own
The head of the Manufacturing Workers Union has called on an incoming Labor Government to undertake a 'Social Audit' into the impact of free trade policies.
AMWU national secretary Doug Cameron, who is running a 'fair trade not free trade' agenda in the lead-up to ALP National Conference, has made the call in an interview with Workers Online.
Cameron says a Social Audit should be the mechanism to kick-start debate on the trade issue and provide a catalyst for a broader debate on issues like a Tobin Tax and social tariffs for countries who fail to meet minimum global labour standards.
He says the evaluation of trade should be determined - by both employment growth and improved social protections: the implementation of core labour standards; sustainable environmental standards; the elimination of forced labour and child labour and the adherence to human rights and democratic values.
Day of Action for Aussie Jobs
The AMWU is organizing a rally on July 26 outside Premier Bob Carr's Sydney office in supporting of Australian manufacturing jobs.
Under the banner "Make It Here or Jobs Disappear", the AMWU is calling on the State Government to adopt the following principals:
- the implementation of a fully transparent Major Projects Policy which imposes strict requirements on project developers to utilize Australian made material.
- the introduction of State Government legislation requiring State Owned Corporations to comply with the NSW Government Procurement Policy in relation ton preference for Australian made goods and services.
- the appointment of a Local Content Advocate, reporting directly to the premier, with responsibility for monitoring all projects and enforcing compliance with this policy.
- the commitment of the State Labor government and any future Labor Government to support inclusion of core labour standards in the charter of the World Trade organization.
- the commitment of the State Labor Government and any future Federal labour government to support fair trade rather than free trade through an increase in tariffs in the manufacturing sector to 10 per cent which is the internationally generally accepted level.
- immediate action by both the State Labor Government and any future Federal Labor Government to redress the decline of apprenticeships and traineeships in NSW.
The rally will take place at noon.
An approach to handling conflict that has led to community conferencing in the justice system is now being adpated to the workplace.
Transformative Justice Australia (TJA) is a Sydney-based company dealing with conflict in workplaces and other communities. TJA's work is based on an approach called "conflict transformation." TJA apply conflict transformation in workplaces, most notably through a process called "workplace conferencing." Workplace conferencing represents an alternative to traditional approaches.
It is generally assumed that, when faced with disputes and conflict, we need to choose the right process from a spectrum that runs from negotiation, through mediation, conciliation, and arbitration to adjudication. But in many situations, the ideal process doesn't fit on this spectrum.
To explain why, we have to distinguish disputes from conflict. Although they often occur together, disputes and conflict are different phenomena. Disputes tend to be about specific contested facts. Conflict tends to be general and defined by negative feelings. Every process on the spectrum from negotiation to adjudication is a dispute resolution process, but these dispute resolution processes differ in the way the handle conflict.
For instance, an adjudicator considers arguments from both sides, imposes a judgement, and the dispute is declared resolved. But dispute resolution by litigation has many costs. It is expensive, it is time-consuming, and a damaging side-effect of emphasising differences between disputants is to maximise the conflict between them.
"Alternative Dispute Resolution" (ADR) has emerged in response to these problems. But the term ADR is confusing, since it has come to have two distinct meanings. As a general category, ADR refers to non-adversarial processes. But ADR can refer to one specific non-adversarial process, also called "interest-based mediation." Mediation seeks to:
· separate the people from the problem;
· focus on interests, not positions;
· invent options for mutual gain;
· insist on the use of objective criteria.
If disputants agree to disagree, a mediator can follow these rules. The rules help minimise the conflict while the disputants search for common ground. But disputants will sometimes not even agree to disagree. They will simply disagree. And when people cannot agree to disagree, their primary problem is not a dispute; it is conflict. By definition, people in conflict tend to:
· identify the other people as the problem;
· cling tenaciously to their own positions;
· see no possibility of mutual gain, feeling they can only win if the others lose.
Accordingly, mediation is not appropriate when people are in conflict. Indeed, mediation can sometimes make matters worse. Its focus on clarifying the facts can purify the fuel for the fire of conflict. This danger is most acute in cases where:
· conflict is the result of some undisputed harm,
· there is no specific dispute between individuals, but conflict between groups to which they belong, or
· there are many disputes, most of which are merely symptoms of the conflict.
For these situations, a third option is required. People in conflict are usually not helped by maximising the conflict, yet nothing is solved by minimising it. Instead, before people in conflict can negotiate constructively, they require a process to acknowledge and transform the conflict. Workplace conferencing is designed to achieve this end. The process provides a structured sequence within which participants gradually can shift their focus from the past, to the present, to the future. As they do so, they shift their emotional state from conflict to cooperation. Then they can negotiate.
TJA Directors David B. Moore and John M. McDonald have just summarised their work in a book, Transforming Conflict in workplaces and other communities. The book introduces the theory and practice of workplace conferencing, which has now been used in Australian workplaces ranging from mining, steelmaking and construction, through transport, commerce, communications and information technology, to education, justice, the military, health, and faith communities.
The techniques involved may be complex, but the essential idea of conflict transformation is simple. And the workplace conference process developed by TJA is now gaining international recognition as an exemplary process for conflict transformation. The success of this approach is such that, over the last few years, David and John have been invited to establish conferencing programs in Canada, the United States and Scandinavia.
Transforming Conflict can be ordered through the TJA webnsite (click below) for Aus$ 32 (inc. gst + postage and handling).
A few more thoughts on "fair trade".
If countries that deny human rights are to be hit by trade restrictions, Australia must be included. After all, look at the treatment of Aborigines. If countries that restrict workers' rights are to face special tariffs, Australia can't escape. Look at Reith's anti-union laws.
But rather than promote nationalist trade wars, we would do much better to support internationalist initatives such as union training and solidarity action for our fellow unionists in the third world. This will actually help them. "Social tariffs" will just put them out of a job.
AMWU boss Doug Cameron is gearing for a showdown with the ALP over their free trade agenda. But what's he really on about?
Do you agree that there has been a net benefit to Australia in trade liberalisation?
I think there has been a benefit to certain regions and certain industries on trade liberalisation. The question of whether there has been an overall net benefit is one that I believe should be determined after an incoming Labor Government conducts a social audit of the effect of trade liberalisation.
Would you say the indicators should be purely jobs, or are there other factors involved?
There are a number of factors. I think the evaluation of trade should be determined in employment growth and in improved social protections: the implementation of core labour standards; sustainable environmental standards; the elimination of forced labour and child labour and the adherence to human rights and democratic values. That is the context I believe trade should be analysed in.
In your fair trade call you are effectively advocating that Australia takes a lead in these issues by putting its own penalties on countries that don't meet those standards.
What I have asked the ACTU to consider, and what the ACTU agreed to do, was to continue to monitor the developments in the debate on social tariffs and issues such as a Tobin Tax. So what we are talking about is a monitoring process and an analytical process that has been missing, I think, from the trade debate for many years in this country.
Where is that debate being run at the moment? Whose ideas should we be monitoring?
We should be monitoring ideas in Europe, such as the social audits. In the United States and Canada there are people who are arguing for a Tobin Tax and an analysis of social tariffs. There is a worldwide approach on this issue.
Could you just explain your concept of the Tobin Tax?
The Tobin Tax would be a small tax and what is being proposed is about .05% on money movement. That's speculative investment. And there is something like $1.5 trillion speculated around the world each day, and a small tax would benefit international trade, because it would create a more reliable exchange rate. Speculative flows are used to de-stabilise the exchange rates in countries with terrible effects on working people.
Would you advocate any of those sort of measures being introduced unilaterally in a country like Australia?
No, some of these measures could not be introduced unilaterally. Issues such as a Tobin Tax would have to be introduced internationally. But there is no reason why a country like Australia could not adopt, in principle, these issues, and seek support for those issues in the international arena. Indeed, the Tobin Tax has already been adopted in principle by the Canadian Parliament.
The idea of fair trade is resonating in the community because there is a dissatisfaction with globalisation. Do you think the public understands what is going on around them, or is it just everything moving too fast?
Well, if the public in Australia don't understand, it is certainly a worldwide phenomenon. It is not just an Australian phenomenon about people not being happy with what is happening. You have only got to look at Seattle; look at London; in France. All of these countries, working people and community groups are saying free trade is not delivering.
But one of the arguments against your notion of social tariffs is that a country like Australia itself is currently in breach of ILO standards, whereas countries like Iran, China and North Korea have a clean bill of health under the ILO. Is this the mechanism you think should be used to define which countries are meeting the standards?
Well, I don't think China and Iran have got a clean bill of health. There would have to be measures that would go wider than simply one organisation looking after it. For instance, the ICFTU should have a role in any analysis of countries not complying with basic human rights and trade union standards. So, I am all for discussion about how you monitor, how you analyse and how you finally determine whether a country is in breach or not. I have got no fixed view on this. All I am calling for is the debate to be opened up in Australia as the debate has been opened up internationally. We should not be dragging the chain and simply advocating a continuation of free trade as if free trade has got all the answers to the welfare of a community. As for Australia, we should never be in breach of international standards and the fact we are at present, is an absolute disgrace. I would expect a Labor Government to bring us into line with modern, democratic and socially progressive international countries to respect international standards.
One of the people who is engaged in the debate with you at the moment is Trade Minister, Peter Cook. His analysis seems to be a suggestion that protectionism will set back the cause of labour rights internationally. How do you respond to that?
I think what is going on in the Labor Party is an acceptance, without any critical analysis, of the benefits - and I use that word loosely - of free trade. I don't think there has been a proper analysis done. Until we do a social audit; until we deal with trade as Labor deals with all of its other policies, that is based on fairness, we will not benefit this community.
What sort of evidence would you need to see to convince yourself that free trade is the correct policy?
I would need to see evidence worldwide, that workers are not being exploited by big business; where environments are not being destroyed by big business in the pursuit of profit. I would need to see governments not being intimidated by big business and movement of vast sums of money, which de-stabilises the economies and governments. Once we have some of these things in place, then maybe we would be moving closer to fair trade.
One of the difficulties with the fair trade line is that it ends up sounding pretty similar to the sort of lines that One Nation was coming out with a couple of years ago. Is it difficult to run this argument without having the racial undertones?
No. I think it is very easy. There is nothing racially based on what the ACTU is proposing, and the policy that I put to the ACTU, which was carried. This is about trying to lift the standards of working people around the world. It is not about trying to put them down on the basis of their race or colour.
Although when you were addressing ACTU Congress during the international debate, a lot of those international guests on stage were representing countries that would be penalised under the sort of scheme you are advocating ..
But a lot of them would have supported that scheme. For instance, the South African president Willie Madisha has indicated that without sanctions against South Africa there would not now be a free South Africa. And the Fijian trade union movement's representative Diwarn Shanker supported sanctions against the Fijian rebels and Speight. So sanctions are not a new thing. In fact I thought the South African delegate made it very clear that we should never disarm ourselves in relation to sanctions.
What is your vision of the Australian economy in fifty years time?
I would want and support a more open, more internationally competitive economy, but for that economy to have a much stronger manufacturing base. And I think we need to spend the next ten years at least developing proper industry development policies for Australia to re-build our manufacturing industry. Without a manufacturing industry, Kim Beazley's Knowledge Nation will never come to fruition. Manufacturing delivers much of the high tech service industry worldwide, and we are watching our industry decline in front of our eyes under the policies of the Howard Government.
So we need to do a number of things to see my vision of a more balanced economy for Australia with a bigger role for manufacturing and manufacturing services. We need proper industry development policies. We need a huge investment in research and development, education, training and innovation. Australia should not to simply capitulate to free trade and allow our industries to be bulldozed under unfair competition. Australia should be developing engineers, scientists, and have a manufacturing base that can provide jobs for ordinary Australians who will never be rocket scientists or computer scientists.
When Beazley addressed the ACTU Congress he did say that Labor would incorporate core Labor standards into the trade framework. How far apart are you from where Labor is at the moment? What is you beef with Labor and what are you going to bowl up at the Hobart Conference?
Well, I am apart from Labor in terms of their analysis of free trade. I would want them to adopt a proposition that is similar to the ACTU position on the definition of Fair Trade. I just can't understand why Labor, in their draft policy agenda, talks about fairness in almost every policy document, except Trade. Why is Trade different? And why should that core Labor value of fairness not be included in "Trade"?
Trade Minister Peter Cook states his case for coninuting trade liberalisation and why the 'fair trade' agenda is against the interests of Australian workers.
One point seven million Australians owe their occupations to the fact that we are a trading nation. In the main, workers who are employed in the export sector earn more than those in the same occupations but who are employed in the domestic economy. Exports account for 19% of our GDP, and since 57% of what we export finds a market in Asia, it makes us a partner in the strong regional economic growth that is returning, following the financial crisis.
Paul Keating in his book, Engagement: Australia Faces the Asia-Pacific, gave a succinct pen picture of where Australia sits in the structure of international trade.
"Australia faces a couple of important problems in the area of trade", Keating wrote, "The first is our size. We are simply not that big. Our economy is the world's 14th largest; we represent little more than one per cent of global trade. In other words, we don't have the weight to achieve things ourselves or to force others to open up their markets. And experience shows that politely asking other countries to do nice things for you won't get you very far in international trade. Our interests lie overwhelmingly in joining our voice to others in a multilateral approach that benefits everyone.
"The second problem we face is the structure of our trade. Although Australia is a significant industrialised country, the composition of our trade, with its heavy reliance on commodities, is more like that of a developing country. That is changing quite fast, but it won't disappear."
This is an appropriate reminder of our economic weight. But Keating could have added that in trade diplomacy we are commonly described as "punching above our weight". This is a picture of Australia fast fading under John Howard. But it generously acknowledges the ideas and momentum the Hawke and Keating Governments generated. Establishing and chairing the Cairns Group and putting in place the architecture of APEC are acknowledged as Australian initiatives, and acclaimed as constructive efforts to open up global trade.
* * * * *
But today is not a time to stand on our record. The debate has moved on. Since Seattle there are new issues. The "trade and ..." issues. Trade and labour standards is one of them.
Our history as a government in running an activist agenda and helping shape the direction of trade reform should not be put aside. Returned to office, it will stand Labor in good stead when we address the new issues in the contemporary landscape.
For Labor, a commitment to fundamental human rights is what defines us as a party. We see the seven core conventions of the International Labour Organisation that are regarded as the "labour standards" as intrinsic to this commitment. Most of these standards are also recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
I start with such a fundamental point because of what is being said now in public debate. Clearly there is an airing of differences on trade policy. But let me say this quite emphatically: those differences can be resolved, and resolved quickly, if the issue is how best to achieve a practical improvement in the observance of human rights and labour standards in the world.
However, if it is about using human rights - or labour standards - to introduce a new form of protectionism, then the Labor Party will stand firm and resist such a move.
Protectionism in whatever form will only work to handicap the competitiveness of our manufacturing sector, and the broader economy, isolate Australia in a globalising world, impose higher costs on consumers and turn our industry into the barely working museum of world's worst practice that we escaped from in the 1980s and 90s.
Protectionism will also set back the cause of labour rights.
Clare Short, the British Secretary of State for International Development, puts it in a more positive way. "Free trade is a necessary but not sufficient condition to stimulate economic growth in developing countries". It is an obvious point. If poor countries cannot sell their goods and services into global open markets then they remain locked in poverty, dependent on foreign aid handouts to survive.
This is the economics of the absurd. First world economies channelling billions of dollars in food aid and development assistance to the third world, while obstructing developing countries in their capacity to grow and become self-sustaining.
A first freedom is freedom from want - an economic right. Without it other freedoms are meaningless. What the critics overlook is that economic growth in East Asia over recent decades has lifted 150 million men, women and children out of absolute poverty. The proportion of people in the world who go to bed hungry has measurably fallen. The lowering of barriers to intra-regional trade and access to the markets of leading economies was one of the drivers of this sea change.
Clare Short is right. Free trade is necessary. She is also correct to emphasise that it is not sufficient. The plight of the underprivileged can be alleviated even faster if the national wealth accumulated by open markets is distributed within economies more equitably. Greater democracy, democratic institution building and fundamental rights of citizens with sufficient economic freedom to exercise them are key issues too.
When we talk about labour rights we need to constantly bear in mind that they are most easily achieved when economies are growing and there is a bigger cake to distribute.
Amartya Sen, the 1998 Nobel Prize winner in economics makes this point in his latest book, Development as Freedom. In turning his attention to "rights" he discusses the best way to proceed. Do we mandate standards and demand that nations live up to them? Or should we emphasise economic growth so that "rights" can be meaningful? He concludes that both approaches are necessary. One reinforces the other. But in reaching this conclusion he emphasises that of the two approaches stimulating economic growth is by far the more important.
* * * * *
In the Australian debate on labour standards there seems to be an underlying assumption that only third world countries flout them. This is not true. Many first world countries feature in the list published earlier this year by the ILO.
One of them is Australia. We are in breach of Convention 87 - Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, and Convention 98 - Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, thanks to Peter Reith's introduction of balaclavas and guard dogs on the Australian waterfront.
The Court government's Third Wave of industrial legislation puts Western Australia and hence Australia in breach again, possibly even transgressing the ILO Convention on Non-Discrimination in Employment.
12 of the 51 nations adjudged by the ILO's Committee of Experts as failing to live up to their obligations on core labour standards are members of the OECD.
None of these nations should be excused. All should bring themselves into conformity. But the ILO list raises a couple of questions. A number of countries with clear records of abuse - including Iran, North Korea and China - do not make the list. Some countries who might be rated on a par with Australia when it comes to workers' rights - such as the US and Israel (at least for Palestinians) - are not mentioned.
This raises a tricky question for those arguing for sanctions or tariffs to be imposed on recalcitrant countries. How comprehensive is the ILO's survey? And how are the breaches ranked in terms of degrees of seriousness?
With these remarks in mind I now want to turn to Labor's policy response to the issue of trade and labour standards.
In Australia's case the average level of effective tariff protection is under 5%. Elsewhere in the world there are higher tariff barriers, quotas and non-tariff obstructions that conspire to make our goods and services less competitive in those markets. Our policy of free trade is aimed at not turning the clock back to the levels of protection that led to our uncompetitiveness in the 1980s.
Nor is it about embracing a new tariff rate of 10%.
It is aimed at working through the World Trade Organisation to eliminate those obstacles that afflict us elsewhere. Removing those barriers, quotas and obstructions will reward us by winning new markets and creating new jobs. That is what our commitment to free trade means.
It will also lead to growth in our partner economies by expanding the economic cake. We not only strengthen our economy but help lift many more people in developing countries out of poverty.
Respect for labour standards requires other strategies too. Labor will work to help cut a deal that would enable more concerted global action around this issue.
At the Seattle WTO meeting the developing countries were close to agreeing on a position that would have taken this matter further. It centred around the creation of a "working forum" involving the WTO, the ILO, the World Bank and the UN Conference on Trade and Development. This forum would have covered "trade, globalisation, development and labour issues". It would have aimed at "promoting a better understanding of the issues involved through a substantive dialogue between governments". Such dialogue was to include "an examination of the relationship between trade policy, trade liberalisation, development, including the fight against poverty, and labour issues."
The draft agreement provided that the WTO Secretariat "in consideration with members and other participating organisations, should sponsor the preparation of appropriate analytical work". The outcomes of the forum were to have been reported to the WTO Ministerial Conference, and to the other participating organisations.
Had the Seattle meeting not collapsed as it did, it is possible that a consensus might have been reached on a global dialogue that could lead to material improvement in the twin realms of development and labour standards.
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions at its world conference in Durban in April unanimously adopted a resolution on "globalisation and labour standards" that is not far distant from the sort of arrangement that WTO members in Seattle were groping towards. The ICFTU's proposal calls for the WTO to follow up its Singapore Declaration commitment on labour standards and put in place formal mechanisms to address the issue.
At the Singapore Ministerial, under the heading "Core Labour Standards", the WTO began, "We renew our commitment to the observance of internationally recognised core labour standards". The declaration went on to identify the ILO as the competent body to set, promote and police the standards, and to note that economic growth contributes to their observance. It pledged that both organisations - the WTO and the ILO - would continue to collaborate.
Emphasis in the ICFTU's position is on structural change within the WTO - the WTO should bring in-house a comprehensive examination and analysis of the role of trade and labour issues. It places the WTO General Council at the apex of this consideration - thus requiring the member states to make the final decision.
In cutting a deal that will lift international attention to our responsibilities to promote core labour standards it is necessary that both the developing countries and the international union movement agree on the course of action. Their positions are not impossibly apart. What is needed is the sort of inspired diplomacy that Australia has displayed in the past to work through this diplomatic minefield.
It is worth doing as an end in itself. It is also worth doing because it will remove one of the major obstacles bedevilling international trade negotiation and open the way for a new round.
A further virtue is that a global conference of the sort being mooted brings into the issue the international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF.
Under the leadership of James Wolfensohn the World Bank itself is shifting its attention to the social consequences of its policies. Just recently the IMF has installed a new Managing Director, Horst Köhler, bringing a fresh approach to the Fund. As the agency that most often acts as the lender of last resort when national economies crash, it has been the target of justified criticism that it has all too often in the past ignored the social implications of the economic medicine it has dispensed.
Engaging these two agencies in proposals on labour standards is important. Rather than impose trade sanctions through the WTO, negotiating conditionality clauses to economic rescue packages is more likely to result in material improvement. Perhaps it would move the ILO closer to imposing such conditionality on its own aid and technical assistance program as well.
The other advantage of having the international financial institutions involved is that they are now part of the global movement towards debt relief. This is aimed at easing the debt burden on developing countries, thus enabling them to direct scarce economic resources to national development, education and health. Conditional debt relief programs warrant strong support. Attuned more with the activities of the UN development agencies, they can be an important tool in adding value to the development and labour standards debate.
Labor believes that there is no "silver bullet" that will remedy international abuse of labour standards. It is simplistic to think that a ban here or a sanction there will answer to the needs of what is a complex and nagging problem. The direction that global debate is taking is promising. It should be encouraged and strengthened so that renewed and focussed international attention can bring material change.
What worries me about this issue are some of the populist solutions that are being publicly canvassed. There is a distinct globophobic tinge to the rhetoric. Hailing the collapse of talks in Seattle as a "victory" seems contradictory to me. Many of the fears expressed about the economic, technological, cultural and political changes that get lumped together as "globalisation" will be alleviated if a new WTO round gets under way.
The slogan, "No, no, to the WTO" also seems odd. The GATT and its successor the WTO were established after the Second World War to create an international rules-based trading system. Prior to the creation of this system, bad trade disputes were sometimes settled by force of arms. This is a terrifying option in a nuclear world.
An important element of the new WTO structure is that economic dominance is not what determines the outcome of a trade dispute. The rules place an emphasis on merit not might to settle disagreements.
This surely must benefit Australia - a middle-league international economy that needs a multilateral system to survive. Criticisms of the WTO would be better focussed if they proposed how this system could be improved to ensure that all of the 136 member countries had access to sufficient resources to exercise their rights and obligations.
In Australia, essentially three ideas have been proposed on labour standards which are in equal parts simplistic and unfeasible. The first is that the dispute settling mechanism of the WTO should be used to impose sanctions on countries that don't observe core labour standards.
When President Clinton appeared to endorse something close to this idea in Seattle, the developing countries interpreted it as an attempt by the economic superpowers to manipulate labour standards for protectionist purposes. They reacted by aborting the conference.
As a body that only makes decisions by consensus, and with two-thirds of its membership developing countries, it is obvious that even if this approach was thought desirable it would never get adopted. The analogy that is sometimes drawn is that this proposal is akin to saying - "We are going to try you for a capital crime, will you agree to accept the death penalty in the event we convict you?"
The second proposal is that Australia should apply trade sanctions to nations that breach core labour standards. If we were to impose sanctions on all countries that the ILO's Committee of Experts has found to transgress ILO core labour standards, we would undertake an export strike that affected 43% of our merchandise exports, valued at $37.3 billion. Agriculture and mining would lose their markets immediately. Even without accounting for the retaliation that would ensue this is clearly untenable. Additionally, as observed above, this approach would involve inviting trade sanctions on Australia because of Peter Reith's legislation.
The third suggestion is to impose a "social tariff" on imports from transgressing countries. The money collected from this tariff, it is proposed, is to be remitted to "civil society" in order to help them restore respect for labour standards.
The value of our merchandise imports from those countries that the ILO's Committee of Experts has found to breach the core labour standards is $69 billion or 37% of all goods imported to Australia. The domestic damage a social tariff would do is hard to calculate. It would depend on the level of the tariff and whether the increased price to consumers caused them to buy less competitive goods from a non-offending country. One suggestion is that the tariff would be 20%. If that were the case and assuming 100% pass-through we would be imposing a flat tax, much like the GST, that would exact $13.8 billion from Australian consumers. Low-income earners would be hit hardest. Further, one presumes that we would also be inviting other countries to place a social tariff on our exports, given that Australia is in breach of two ILO core labour standards.
In calculating these figures I have simply used the list of nations in breach of core labour standards that the ILO's Committee of Experts has produced and calculated the outcomes according to Australia's merchandise trade for 1998/99.
I could be criticised for this. It may be argued that some countries are more guilty than others. I have made this point myself. The problem is who makes this decision and on what grounds. Most importantly, how can you be sure it is not made arbitrarily and according to a self-justifying agenda?
* * * * * *
Let me restate, labour standards and human rights are fundamental issues for the Labor Party. This is not in question. The issue is how best to achieve an effective outcome. Free trade, open markets, liberalised trade - however it is to be described is an essential precondition to creating an economic climate in which these rights can be made manifest. Waiting in the wings of world trade debate is a mechanism that needs refining and improving but could be a vehicle that would bring developing countries and the world union movement together with the international institutions to a common conference table with a constructive agenda for change.
Such a development is a challenge, but it is a challenge worth working hard to meet.
This paper was first delivered to the "Trade and Labour - Competing or Complementary Interests?" Conference organised by the Australian APEC Study Centre Melbourne, 18 June 2000
Mining giant Rio Tinto is feeling the heat of a global trade union campaign and has signaled it wants to make peace with its Australian workforce by offering them collective agreements.
Rio Tinto management, who have led the push to place workers on individual contracts, made the concession came on the eve of an international week of union action in countries ranging from the USA to South Africa, Chile and Brazil.
The company has faced serious industrial disputes across all of its Australian coal mines since it sought to cease bargaining with unions and push workers onto individual contracts a process begun in 1993.
The tentative agreement that would cover the company's Mt Thorley workers came after the Rio Tinto made a comprehensive offer of settlement last Friday night. The miners union, the CFMEU, and workers are now considering the companies' offer.
CFMEU National Secretary John Maitland has welcomed the tentative agreement: "We hope that this is the first step of a new approach by the company following the commitment by the Executive Chairman in May that they would seek peace with trade unions."
"The shareholder campaign that was mounted in the USA, UK and Australia, which achieved big investor support, has clearly provided a further incentive to the company to settle."
But Maitland has also sounded a warning to management. "If the Mt Thorley proposal is used by Rio Tinto as simply a public relations exercise to deflect the international campaign against it then further progress will be slow.
"The company has a long way to go to regain the confidence of its workers and their communities. "
Sydney Hotel Union members are gearing up for a huge industry-wide meeting on Monday July 24, to discuss their concerns about the Olympics, and what will happen to them at their workplaces
" We will be sweating like dogs while our employers make big bucks in a short period," Timothy Egan, a chef and union activist at the Sheraton on the Park said.
" We are all being left in the dark about the Olympics," Florencia Parajo, a laundrey attendant, at the Sheraton on the Park .
" What's my hotel going to do about people trying to get to and from work - especially at night when it won't be safe and taxis will be hard to get, " she ask.
" The Olympics should be about fair play - but our hotel managers aren't playing fair because they won't talk about their plan," Nick Harrigon, a banquet waiter, from the ANA hotel said.
The July 24 industry meeting is a chance for hundreds of hotel and motel workers to discuss what is happening in their industry.
The Hotel Union's 'Let's Talk' Campaign emphasises the fact that until now the big city hotels have not taken all their employees into their confidence about how they will make sure the hospitality sector work through the Olympic weeks - professionally and with the minimum of stress.
Hotel workers are meeting at the Masonic Centre , cnr Castlereagh and Goulburn St at 8.30am to stand up and speak out.
The meeting has been organised by the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union, to give Sydney's hospitality workers an opportunity to:
· update themselves on what is happening in their industry;
· meet and talk with hundres of other people - chefs, waiters, porters, room attendants, laundry workers, car parking, cleaners, receptionists....all working in the same industry;
· talk about upcoming and existing campaigns to improve wages, conditions and the professionalism of every aspect of hotel work.
Most importantly July 24 is about using hotel workers voices who have for months been campaigning for a fair deal over the Olympics.
If you have a member of your family in the hotel industry. If you have got a neighbour working in the industry - or someone who is a member of your social club - make sure they know about the meeting. For more information they can call the Hotel Union office on 9281 9577
Rail Security guards Seek Their Slice Too
Sydney's 1300 City-Rail Chubb Security Staff are seeking negotiations over the coming month for a decent Olympic Bonus.
The Security Union have called together this key group of workers who travel Sydney's trains in pairs, starting from 7pm every night.
The talk of an Olympic bonus is a major issue in the industry, because of the heightened expectations that management has of these workers during the Olympic period - they will provide a frontline presence to guarantee a sense of safety on our public transport.
There will be tens of thousands more people - mainly overseas visitors - using City Rail trains at all hours to visit sports venues and experience Sydney's nightlife.
There is considerable tension among the Chubb Security workers because the company has - so far unsuccessfully - attempted to change the rules on overtime payments in a number of court disputes.
Many Chubb Security guards will have to work considerable overtime, and the Security Union members want to be assured the company will stick to the award.
The directly employed City Rail staff have already been offered an Olympics bonus by the State Government.
At the moment no such bonus has been extended to the Chubb Security Staff who work for a private sector contractor to the Government.
The mass meeting of Security Union members will be held on Saturday July 22 at 11am in the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union Auditorium 187 Thomas St Haymarket.
Other key issues to be discussed are the cancelling of shifts, late rosters without notice, overtime payments, superannuation and classifications.
Indonesian workers have just won a new historic bill of rights which gaurantees them legal protections when they form unions.
For the first time in Indonesia public servants will be allowed to form their own unions - a right which was firmly denied them until legislation passed through the Indonesian Parliament this week.
The new laws give workers wanting to set up independent unions more legal gaurantees than any previous legislation.
Most importantly there is no attempt to herd workers into only Government-run unions or associations.
The explicit right given to public servants to unionize is an extraordinary win which should see the rapid spread of unionisation throughout Indonesia's government sector. Until now all Indonesian public servants were obliged to join the Indonesian Civil Servants' Corps (Korpri), which never acted as a union, but helped the Government to control a relatively well-educated workforce.
Ever since the election of the new government of President Wahid there has been a flowering of industrial activity by workers demanding new rights. They are using - with often colourful demonstrations and strikes - the democratic space created by the end of the Suharto regime.
Many of the strikes are targetting multinationals who moved into the country during the Suharto years to make profits on the backs of cheap and compliant workforces.
Fore more than a month Indonesian Rio Tinto workers in Kalmintan have been holding a sit in to demand better wages and conditions. The Rio Tinto workers - with the backing of the regional parliament - have now forced the company to negotiate.
A huge Sony plant in Jakarta has been the subject of months of on-going strikes and sit-ins. Sony has threatened to completely shut down the plant and move to Malaysia where electronic sector workers are barred from forming unions.
On July 8 Sony sacked about 1000 workers in an attempt to get rid of its most militant workers and bring the dispute to an end.
There are hundreds of new groups which have sprung up - all claiming to be unions. There are more than twenty union groupings claiming the title of national union centres. Some of these groups are aligned with different political parties, some are regional organisations, while still others are aligned with religious-groups.
Not all the new union groups are happy with the new bill. Romawati Sinaga of the National Front for Indonesian Workers Struggle, was quoted by the Jakarta Post this week as saying this union is preparing a joint statement to reject the bill.
We have just updated our homepage with "Graphic Accounts of the Police
Attack on Workers". Just press the following link
Clinton Walker's groundbreaking book, CD and video charts the careers of indigenous artists like the legendary Jimmy Little.
Jimmy Little has an almost regal presence. Perched on an old kitchen chair under a shady tree in his overgrown backyard in Sydney's inner west, he offers white-sliced sandwiches from a Tupperware container and a choice of soft drinks from an esky underfoot. Planes thunder overhead.
"Here I am," he says softly, intently, "looking out in my semi-retiring years in quiet suburbia - at the pulse of what's going on in the world - and we come from the river, and went to mission schools and mission churches... It's wonderful to reflect on one's own good fortune. I've been divorced from the hardship and heartache. I look back on my life and think, boy, I had smooth sailing. When I look at my fellow artists, I travelled the same path, but..."
Born in 1937 at Cummeragunja near Echuca on the Murray River, Jimmy Little carried on the daring spirit of the place. As one of the oldest missions in the country, which produced two of the great pioneer fighters for Aboriginal rights, Pastor Doug Nicholls and William Cooper, Cummera was always a community in the vanguard, a veritable Aboriginal Athens. Jimmy Little went on to become Australia's first black pop star. In the late fifties the only other Aborigines as well known were Albert Namatjira and Harold Blair, and maybe a few boxers.
"This is where" - now Jimmy leans forward as if to share a secret he's only just discovered himself - "I don't want to sound like I'm blowing my own trumpet, but I realise I'm unique, one of a kind, as the first commercial Aboriginal artist." Surprise lights up his face.
"Still current," he adds. "I could easily have been described as being novel in the beginning, a token, but I believe my staying power, my endurance, has finally convinced them I'm not. I'm not seasonal."
There were times, along the way, when Jimmy contemplated becoming a preacher like Pastor Doug. Indeed, he has an aura of serenity, warmth, control - not to mention a tendency to get cosmic. Jimmy was strongly committed during the sixties to the temperance movement. But Jimmy was chosen to do something other than dedicate his life to religion. He was chosen to sing. He was perhaps not so much ambitious for a career in music as it was pre-ordained. His father, Jimmy Little Snr, was an entertainer, a song-and-dance man as well as a religious man, and so Jimmy simply followed in his footsteps. It is the tribal way.
Jimmy Little is all, pure voice. Some musicians are like that. He can sing anything. That's what everyone's always said. And even though he may never have written many songs himself, who has ever complained of Sinatra, say, or Elvis, or Normie Rowe, that he never wrote his own material? When Jimmy's wife of forty years, Marj, talks of her husband and his artistry, it is in terms of singer's singers like Sinatra, Charlie Rich or Tony Bennett.
To this day Jimmy can reinvigorate, freshen every song he sings with an extraordinarily bold less-is-more approach. Jimmy can pare a song back to next to nothing, and it will still be more potent than any fully blown arrangement. Even near-accapella, Jimmy's sound is at one epic yet intimate, and delicate. Listen to him sing the Reels' 'Quasimodo's Dream' on his 1999 comeback album Messenger, and when he takes it all down to a tense and breathy silence, it is a most powerful moment ...
"He would sing so softly, but so strong, I was afraid to touch my guitar," says Kenny Kitching, one of Australia's leading pedal-steel players, who worked with Jimmy in two separate stints in the late fifties and early seventies. "A lot of jobs he would do he'd go out on stage and there might be an eight-piece band there, and he'd turn around to them, off mic, very politely, and say, Look, I only need piano and bass, all you other guys can have a break, go and have a drink. And then he'd turn around and tune his guitar and he'd have the crowd eating out of his hands."
In the early fifties, when Jimmy first came to Sydney, he was a hillbilly singer. It was only when he left EMI Records in 1958 and joined Festival Records that he steered in a more polished pop direction, balancing 'evergreen' Irish songs with country-gospel, and soon struck all-consuming success.
In 1963, just before the Beatles swept the world, Jimmy released a rousing version of the country-gospel standard 'Royal Telephone'. It went to number three. It was the year's biggest record, and the third-biggest local record to that time. Everybody's magazine, the bible of the teen scene at the time, named Jimmy Australian Pop Star of the Year in 1964.
If this was a peak for Jimmy, and for Aboriginal Australia, he rode out the British Invasion the same way most artists of his generation did, keeping a loyal audience in the clubs. His sound was 'countrypolitan', as the awkward Nashville term of the day went, a hillbilly ballad base with pop trimmings. Today, after an enormously successful comeback in the late nineties, Jimmy Little is acknowledged as an icon, the elder statesman of Aboriginal music and an elder of Australian music generally - just a much-loved Australian. But this status comes not before his trials. There was even a period, in the militant seventies, when Jimmy lost his Aboriginal audience. He was seen as part of the old guard, too polite; he wasn't called 'Gentleman Jim' for nothing. He was called other less-flattering names though too. With typical grace, Jimmy continued to work with the Foundation in Redfern, at the same time as playing almost exclusively to white audiences in the clubs.
"I don't want to be a leader," he said in 1979. "I just want to express myself and contribute to the happiness of everyone who comes in contact with me."
But maybe Jimmy had to accept he was a leader of sorts whether he liked it or not - and by now, of course, he seems to have done that. Yet he wears it with humility. He is a beautiful and generous man whose pride, though understated, runs deep.
"I never try to sell myself as a recording or television star," he told Pix in 1962 as he approached his breakthrough. "To me, it is far more important to be a success as a human being than an entertainer. More than anything, I want to show my people that it is possible for them to succeed in many of the fields which they have come to regard as exclusively the white man's domain."
"He started life as a piccaninny in a blackfellows camp in Echuca," Pix itself said. "He was the oldest of five picaninnies and his father was the local balladist and dancer. At 14 he started work as a casual labourer and later earned 30/- a week as a bean picker."
Jimmy Little Snr was himself an Aboriginal legend, a Uwen man from the NSW south coast who met Jimmy's mother at Cummera during the Depression. Jimmy's father used to tag along with the Wallaga Lake gumleaf orchestra, one of the first touring Aboriginal acts, which formed a union with Cummera's vaudeville troupe in the twenties, and he was one of a number of the Uwen men who resettled at Cummera and married.
Jimmy fondly remembers growing-up during the war years. However difficult it was, at least his mother was still alive. Cummera itself, though, was by then in decay
Founded originally by Wesleyan Methodist Daniel Matthews as the Maloga Mission Station in 1874, Cummergunja sits on the NSW side of the Murray, opposite the Victorian township of Barmah, 20 miles upriver from Echuca. By the 1930s - by which time NSW's original Aboriginal population of around 60,000 had withered to 11,000, and Victoria's from 15,000 to only a couple of thousand - the Depression was motivating political activism generally. Increasingly wised-up Aboriginal people, encouraged by white bolsheviks, started making a noise. Jimmy was just a toddler in 1939 when the people of Cummera walked off the reserve as a protest at deteriorating conditions and management. Encouraged by the presence of Doug Nicholls, the people crossed the river into Victoria. Jack Patten, president of the NSW Aborigines Progressive Association, was arrested. As Mavis Thorpe Clark wrote in Pastor Doug: "They moved from the Murray to other river banks on the edges of towns where there was some prospect of obtaining at least casual work. Their humpies jostled the shanties of unemployed whites around Mooroopna and Shepparton."
After Australia got involved in the Second World War in 1939, the protestors returned to Cummera. Then, just after the war ended, Jimmy's mother suddenly died, choking on a mussel. Jimmy still seems saddened.
"Mum was the baby of eight girls and four boys. She met Dad when she was 15; she had me when she was 17. She died when she was 29...
"When the heart of your home is removed - whether it's Mum or Dad, or both of them - it must turn your world upside down. I felt there was a void, an emptiness - but there was also a challenge."
"Now," says Jimmy, drawing a breath, "going back to my grandparents, on both sides, that was back in a tribal existence. With each family in the clan, the natural skills are passed on, the sons would carry on the father's trade. The storytellers, in dance and song, would carry on the trade, the medicine people would carry on their trade.
"In my grandfather's day, he saw new people come into the country. This is colonisation. So they knew they couldn't continue, that those lines wouldn't be passed on, and the children had to be prepared: develop - instead of me playing the didgeridoo, I'm playing another wood instrument, the guitar.
"See now, my grandfather, he had to get a line of work. His skills from tribal days - tracking the animals. So he was employed by the police force, tracking human beings. So we were told as children, keep the skills sharp. Apply them to the new trade. My dad, he worked in a timber mill, fruit picking, peas and beans and corn. He liked to be outdoors, not cooped up inside. He was a freedom man. We all loved freedom.
"Music was an automatic family thing. Mum and Dad were vaudevillians. They used to arrange entertainment at the various Aboriginal mission settlements, and my father would also organise teams of our people to give concerts throughout the district to raise funds for the mission. My uncles were vaudevillians, and that's how I got started."
While everyone is bashing Della for his lunchtime GST analysis, we prefer to put his dining partner, Maxine McKew, into the Tool Shed for this week.
The cynical would say this is an attempt by Sussex Street's media arm to shoot the messenger, rather than deal with the message. Our response: when hasn't it been? What's more McKew's work is fair game - the weekly nosh with a name over three courses has put the dull back into indulgent.
We used to be fans of Maxine's Lateline work, the probing questions, intellectual banter and professional poise - she became the political junkies' Helen Mirren. But ever since she shacked up with the Packers to produce her interminable lunch-time soirees, we at Workers Online have been appalled at her weekly fare. Most weeks the menu has been nothing more than prentious tripe, garnished with some sickly floss.
McKew columns are based on the premise that lunches are an institution where confidences are exchanged, plots hatched, empires built and destroyed. Of course, when it's shared by a journalist noting everything from the consistency of the mushrooms to the nuance of an observation on voter behaviour, the chances of anything of substance being disclosed is seriously reduced.
Unless you're Della, who has obviously never read Maxine's work in the Bulletin and is from the Old School who believe that anything shared over a plate, stays there. If, as he claims, Della's comments were off the record and there was an arrangement to check quotes before publication, McKew's touch-up has done damage to a generation of journalists. Which right-thinking pollie will now be able to brief a journo over a Chinese slap-up? If the restaurant had become an oasis in the desert of spin, the salad days could well be over.
By breaking confidences and reproducing those secrets, McKew has - as it were - bitten the hand that feeds her and the rest her colleagues. So congrats Maxine, you have Della's head on a plate, just don't expect too many more dishes from the labour movement.
I was most surprised at the analysis given by the Greens MLC, Lee Rhiannon of the Mexican election. PAN a "left leaning" party? I'm afraid not.
See article below for a very different and more informed point of view.
Here is analysis of Mexican election results from US CWI section. Stephen Jolly, Socialist Party
Preliminary results of the Mexican elections gave the victory - after 71 years in power, 50 years as being the main agent of imperialism and 12 years of crisis of the PRI - to the main, conservative, opposition party.
The fact that Vicente Fox is a former high executive of Coca-Cola is more than symbolic. The PAN has emerged as the main tool of imperialism and Fox victory was greeted by the international markets, big business and both the Democrats and Republicans as the greatest thing on earth since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
But it would be shallow thinking just to interpret this election as the biggest victory of imperialism ever in Mexico. The crisis of the PRI initiated 12 years ago precipitated the need for imperialism and the Mexican bourgeoisie to change horses and privilege the PAN as its main agent in the area. The PAN tamed his "catholic" roots and integrated many cadre from the PRI and its program today - on fundamental issues - is not that different from the PRI's. But the fact that the PRI lost the election effectively ended the one-party regime and opens up a period of political instability in Mexico and most likely of an upsurge of the class struggle.
Fox has announced an aggressive policy of defense of NAFTA and the demolition of the remaining barriers for imperialist penetration in the country - barriers that were significantly lowered during the last three PRI's presidencies.
The victory of Fox will have an effect in the class struggle in Mexico. Will encourage strikes, demonstrations and peasants struggles since the tombstone of the PRI machinery was lifted and the mass movement is now freer to pursue democratic demands with more effectiveness.
Some of the side effects of the PAN's victory is that the "official" links between most unions and peasants organizations with the PRI will be tremendously weakened or even demolished in the next period. The tradition of building independent unions and peasant's organizations will certainly accelerate. Together with that will come the demands of the different sectors. The one-party regime - modified 20 years ago but still in existence until Zedillo took power - is gone. This is an incredible advantage for the mass movement and if anything - the traditions of the Mexican proletariat and the mass movement - will re-emerge in this new situation.
The tremendous defeat of the PRD - which won the elections in 1988 but failed to take power - is just the retarded effect of that betrayal. Yesterday, while Cuahtemoc Cardenas was codemning the victory of Fox - and saying that what happened was a "disgrace" for Mexico - half of the leadership of the PRD were with Fox celebrating his victory. This will bring the possibility of a big split in the PRD and an increase in its left's opposition to the new government. The fact that the PRD won again in the Capital, Mexico City, if not of little importance.
One thing that Cuahtemoc "forgot" to mention yesterday in his interviews with the media is that an year ago he proposed a comon electoral front with the PAN and only retreated from it when it was evident that he would not be the candidate of such a front. Over one million PRD votes shifted sides and voted for the PAN candidate yesterday. Maybe another million or so of PRD followers voted for all the lists of the PAN. After all, they were educated by Cuahtemoc and the PRD - and the left - that the most important thing was to defeat the PRI, independently of what or who would do such a thing. The left accompannied this capitulation by ceasing any independent activity since 1988 and supporting the PRD uncritically and finally dissolving themselves in the bourgeois party.
One sector of the PRD will go to collaborate witht he new government - another will increase its opposition.
What the PRI will do now when it is the opposition is of much relevance as well. An split in the PRI will be on the agenda from tomorrow. The different wings of the bureaucracy, the tradeunions and the popular sectors controlled by the PRI will re-assemble and re-aligned. There are already talks of an agreement between the PRI and the PAN to govern together (Fox announced a government to include all other parties). But any agreement with a sector of the PRI will bring decisive divisions with the "Mapaches" or hard liners and other sectors to the left of the center-right wing of the party which is the only capable of reachign an agreement with the PAN.
Many things in this front will depend on what the PAN does with three issues: a) the administrative corruption at all levels of government institutionalized by the PRI in 71 years in power. If the PAN does attack this corruption, even in a tokenist way, that will trigger huge conflicts. There are hundreds of thousands of public employees and bureaucrats involved and over 1-Million people enjoyed well-paid patronage jobs in Mexico; b) the relationship between the PRI and the drug cartels. This is not exlcusive of the PRI, though. The PAN administrations, particularly in the North of the country had been involved on this relationship as well but they are junior partners compared with the PRI.; c) What the PAN would do in relationship with the unions and peasant/popular organizations tied to the PRI. If it leaves the class struggle to decide its fate, it can re-direct some of these forces to consolidate its power. If it attacks those ties head on will encounter a lot of resistance and will force significant sectors of the PRI to go on the offensive against the new government.
Few weeks before the elections, the remnants of the one time powerful PRT (the USEC section, now reduced to a hundred or so members) and of the POS (the remaining couple of dozen members of the party created by the LIT decades ago) formed a coalition to run a symbolic, unofficial presidential campaign. Too little, too late. The PRT and the POS were destroyed in a decade of political zigzags that included the capitualtion to the PRD, the Zapatistas and lost most of their members to those forces. The POS was also further destroyed with the crisis in the LIT(CI) in 1988, just in the verge of that year's gigantic political and economic crisis. The PRT - who once claimed thousands of members, was also destroyed before the presidential elections in 1988 when its National Committee and most of their main cadre deserted "in masse" to the PRD and became - for a while - even cadre of that organization.
The rest of the left is in no better shape. The PSUM - the Stalinist party and the PMT (a nationalist left wing party) and other big organizations dissolve themselves in 1988 and integrated themselves to the PRD of Cuahtemoc. After the betrayal of the PRD in 1988, many of the cadre of the left emigrated to the Zapatistas furthering the fragmentation and destruction of 60 years of left wing traditions in Mexico. They are today mere appendices of the PRD or the Zapatistas. The EZLN that could have filled the vacuum left by the PRD betrayal in 1988, also crystallized in a regional and isolated movement and lost most of its potential of evolving into a new national left wing formation.
The next year or so will be decisive in the political life of Mexico.
Moreover, this situation in Mexico will have tremendous implications for socialists' political work in the United States especially in California and New Mexico and cities like Chicago and New York.
While watching 'our Pat' do it for Australia at Wimbledon this week, I was struck by one particular stat: residence Bermuda - one of the world's finest tax havens.
As Rafter lunged for another volley, the dreaded question hit me: is our favourite son actually a tax dodger?
Next day, I open the paper to find another national icon, runner Cathy Freeman, was facing some curly questions about her ability to fill out the Tax Pack too?
It got me thinking about national sports stars and mutual responsibility. Are our heroes repaying our loyalty with financial arrangements of convenience? Look through our list of greats and you find more of them residing offshore than in the place they still call home. If it's not an exotic haven, then it's the US of A where tax is regarded as the enemy of the free.
Sure, the Rafter cheer squad will point to his Starlight Foundation where he funds sick kiddies. That's great, but I for one would like to see a comparison with the amount paid into this scheme and the levels of public beneficence that would be forthcoming if Pat stuck to the strict principals of PAYE.
Of course all high-income earners minimize tax, you say. How else would we employ accountants and tax lawyers? But my point is that for sports stars a lot of their currency, particularly in add-on marketing opportunities, comes from the love of the Australian public. At the same time, our taxes fund elite sports institutes like the AIS and cricket academy, to hone future stars' skills. Surely in return, the gains these stars make from this investment should not be regarded as their own private property.
What I'd love to see is an ATO audit of all sportspeople with publicly available details of their contributions to the public purse. And where that contribution lags behind the 48 per cent of earnings, us genuine taxpayers should ask a few hard questions. I wouldn't even mind if we incorporate any public charity work into the equation, if Pat wants to put his tax equivalent into the Starlight, go for it. But let's see the colour of their money.
The time has come to put our heroes under the microscope. Let's find out who are paying their taxes and give them our support. And if the 'Pooh' is paying more tax than 'our Pat', then I won't worry about the Davis Cup - real patriotism has a more tangible price.
Another run-down of the wierd and wonderful from the bustling cul-de-sac that is the world of industrial relations, from our Answers Man.
The latest ADAM Report from CCH/ACIRRT shows the average annual wage increase for enterprise agreements registered in the March 2000 quarter to be 4%, up from 3.8% in the December 1999 quarter.
Wage outcomes were at their peak in 1996 (rises of 6.5%), and have dropped by 40% since then.
Public sector rises were at 3.5% while private sector were at 4.1%.
Non-union agreements were at 3.8% and union agreements at 4.1%
Differences in wage outcomes within and between industries show the largest divergence. For example in mining and construction the highest annual wage increase was 11% and the lowest 0.7%.
In food, beverage and tobacco manufacturing the highest increase was 7.7%, the lowest 0.7%
In recreational and personal services the highest was 14%, the lowest 0.5%
ACIRRT holds information on the AWAs of 593 of the 2026 employers with AWAs.
Wage outcomes for AWAs shoed an average annual increase of 2.9% compared to the average for union based collective agreements of 4%.
Over half of all AWAs did not provide for any wage increase during the life of the agreement compared to 86.6% of union agreements.
(ADAM Report no. 25, June 2000)
Recently registered enterprise agreements have contained clauses increasing the role of employees in decision making. These clauses include an agreement in the education sector that contains a commitment to participatory democracy, small group decision-making and site-based decisions.
Also a public sector agreement affirms and strengthens the role of workplace representatives, with specific time each month for meetings, a role in rehabilitation programs and time each week for rehabilitation meetings and urgent meetings with employees.
Family Friendly Provisions
These are still relatively uncommon, despite much lip service being paid to the concept.
Breastfeeding: Recently in the public sector breastfeeding provisions have been introduced (flexibility of hours) and also an hours paid leave per day for expressing milk.
Child Rearing Leave: Another public sector agreement includes child-rearing leave to cater for parents of young children. It is on top of maternity, paternity or adoption leave and is available to parents with pre school aged children. It is leave without pay and is available for a maximum of 52 weeks. 10 weeks notice is required
Antenatal leave: access to paid leave to attend antenatal medical checks.
Care rooms: A commitment by a public sector organization to provide care rooms for employees to access child and dependent care services.
(ADAM Report, no. 25, June 2000)
Ban on Union Badges Harsh and Oppressive
The Full Bench of the West Australian Industrial Relations Commission has held that the Burswood Resort's ban on wearing union badges was an industrially unfair infringement on the proper ability of union members to express their membership in the workplace, promote their organization and their interests as members of that organization. The badges did not have any noticeable effect on the grooming and dress of the employees.
Australian Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union, Miscellaneous Workers Division WA Branch v Burswood Resort, FB of WAIRC (FBA 30 of 1999) 15/3/00
(Employment Law Update; newsletter 156, 16 June 2000)
Violence in the Workplace - an employer's responsibilities and rights
Employers are becoming increasingly concerned about their responsibilities and rights in relation to workplace violence. This article discusses the liability which may be imposed on employers for workplace violence by common law and statute. Also the limits placed by unfair dismissal legislation on an employer's ability to take action against an employee who has been involved in workplace violence.
(Employment Law Bulletin; issue 12, June 2000)
Koala Attacks and Knowledge Management
An experienced ranger in a koala park knows the animals well and thus can easily identify suitable koalas for visitors to touch, and avoid the crankier ones. A less experienced ranger might get the wrong ones, to the detriment of the visitor and the Park business. There was no formal training the experienced rangers resume, the ranger just "knew".
Dr Kate Andrews spoke at the recent Australian Human Resources Institute National Convention about the role for human resources in knowledge management issues. Dr Andrews defined knowledge management as the process by which an organization generates wealth, or achieves public good, from its intellectual knowledge-based assets. These include knowledge, expertise, creativity, innovation and skills. A summary of Dr Andrews' paper is presented in the Human resources update.
(Human Resources Update; no. 241, 23 June 2000)
Trade Union Mergers: A survey of the literature
Aims to highlight important themes that have shaped union mergers in Australia since the 1980s. These include merger forms, merger motivations, role played by union officers and merger 'waves'. The author contends that internal and external factors need to be analysed to understand why and how unions undertake such structural change. The consequences of mergers on members and union performance are explored.
(Australian Bulletin of Labour; vol. 26, no. 2, June 2000)
Trade Union Regulation and the Accountability of Union Office-holders: examining the corporate model.
There is a substantial body of federal law imposing standards of accountability on unions, and regulating the conduct of officials. The federal government has proposed that new accountability measures borrowed from corporations law be imposed on unions. These proposals are examined by Forsyth, focussing on those that would fix union officials with fiduciary and other duties similar to those applying to company directors. He concludes that the many differences between unions and companies - the reasons they exist, the purposes they serve, the interests created in their members and the role and functions of their managers - are such that the imposition of a corporate model of regulation of unions is inherently flawed.
(Australian Journal of Labour Law; vol. 13, no. 1, June 2000)
Many see home-based work as a growth area, but this article shows that many jobs just don't allow work from home, as the work flow and face to face time are needed. Many issues need to be clear between employers and employees. It is suggested that employers allow employees to initiate the move, and the main group able to work from home are professionals with a fair degree of day to day autonomy. The types of work that seem to fit with work from home include journalism, editing, research, web design, telemarketers, graphic designers, stockbrokers and programmers.
It is suggested however, that with a recent case finding favour of an employee who claimed unlawful discrimination because her employer would not allow part time employment on here return from adoption leave, it may be only a matter of time before employers are faced with similar claims for not allowing work from home.
(Workplace Change; issue 51, June 2000)
A doctors' surgery has deregistered itself in the middle of proceedings for under-payment of its workers, raising fears of new legal loopholes to help employers avoid meeting their responsibilities.
The Australian Services Union says the move was pulled as a case for non-payment of entitlements was part-heard before the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.
ASU legal officer Alistair McDonald says the action was in support of two administrative assistants who were owed a total of $5,000. When the company de-registered the unionw as advised its only option was to seek a court order for re-registration.
The union has now been told that if it wants the matter to proceed it has to come up with $15000, a filing fee before the Supreme Court would consider re-registering the company.
McDonald says the move appears calculated to avoid the action, as the surgery is still doing business.
"There is no penalty to stop companies deregistering themselves to stop claims by unions for under payment," he says.
"Perhaps its time we looked at a political response to this issue."
Centrelink workers are demanding a public apology from Family & Community Services Minister Jocelyn Newman after she blamed them for the impact of the GST on welfare recipients.
The Minister this week blamed Centrelink staff for reduced payments in response to claims that welfare recipients were worse off under the GST.
CPSU Community Services Section Secretary, Mr Mark Gepp says it's an outrageous act and that the union had been inundated with complaints since the comments were reported.
"Minister Newman should publicly apologise to all Centrelink workers immediately," Gepp says.
"The Minister knows that Centrelink staff have absolutely no say in policy matters and in the setting of payment rates.
"These are matters that are solely the domain of the Federal Government. Centrelink workers implement the law, they do not make it!" Mr Gepp said.
"Centrelink staff work extremely hard to deliver services to some of the most needy people in this country. They ought to be congratulated by the Government for their efforts. Instead, all the Government and the Minister does is criticise them and cuts their resources. "
The union also questioned the timing of the attack by the Government on Centrelink. "We wonder what the Minister's real motives are here, especially as we are on the eve of the release of the Government's Welfare Reform report. After all, Minister Newman has already presided over the sacking of 5000 Centrelink workers".
Global sports giant Nike faces some pre-Games embarrassment with trade unions planning to bring an Indonesian victimized after organizing workers to Sydney to tell the real story of how they 'Just Do It'.
The worker, who was employed by one of Nike's 600 contract factories worldwide, was threatened into resigning and had his house ransacked last December after attempting to organize workers.
The visit, to be sponsored by unions, Fairwear and the Nike Watch Campaign would involve a series of public events to draw attention to Nike's treatment of its workers - although there is no intention to disrupt any Games events.
Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union national secretary Tony Woolgar says its important to raise public awareness of companies that seek to use the Olympics to enhance their public image.
Woolgar says while Nike is prepared to pay athletes like Tiger Woods huge sponsorships to wear their gear - in Woods' case $65 million - they say they are not responsible for the labour practices of their colleagues.
With Indonesian workers earning just $US32 per month, Woolgar says Woods' sponsorship would pay 60,000 workers for two years. Looking at it another way, he says it would take an Indonesian Nike worker 33,000 years to earn Wood's endorsement.
What's the Beef?
Nike is resisting requests from organisations involved in the Nikewatch campaign to:
- make public the addresses of all factories producing for the company
- allow regular unannounced factory monitoring by credible human rights groups which are independent of Nike
- establish a confidential complaint mechanism to a credible independent body for Nike workers whose rights, including the right to organise, are infringed.
- and, in Australia, to sign the homeworkers code of practice.
Keep reading Workers Online for further details of the tour and related events
Striking Joy Mining Machinery workers from Moss Vale sat in the boardroom of the Sydney office of the Chase Manhattan bank last Friday seeking some answers.
The five man deputation wanted to question bank officials about the $750 million the big US bank has lent Joy's American parent company Harnischfeger Industries Inc. The deputation was parked in the boardroom until higher authorities were apparently consulted.
Harnischfeger Inc. currently operates under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. This section of the US Bankruptcy Code allows a debtor to continue operations so long as it reorganises, restructures, and cuts operating costs.
Since 1998 the company has been involved in what it terms "aggressive" and permanent global downsizing, cost cutting, and "headcount reduction".
Moss Vale Joy workers are currently in dispute with Joy management, and believe the economic situation of Harnischfeger and its global strategies are part of their problem.
Following the collapse of EBA negotiations earlier this year, about 70 workers were locked-out of the Joy worksite in Moss Vale (NSW) for three months under provisions of the Workplace Relations Act.
During this time they manned two picket encampments outside their worksite. Their activities, and those of their unions (the AMWU, AWU, and CEPU), are restrained by Supreme Court injunctions.
In the face of the hard anti-union line pursued by the company, the workers rejected an offer to return to work last week. And as the lockout turned into a strike, the workers visited Chase Manhattan.
According to Moss Vale worker logic, because Harnischfeger is globally restructuring, cutting costs and jobs, and Chase Manhattan is bankrolling the company, then the bank has a defacto relationship with what is happening in Moss Vale.
Sydney representatives of the huge US bank were not amused, and the workers left when asked to do so.
Back at the Moss Vale picket encampment, plans were being made for a "Solidarity and Support" tour.
This is now under way. Representatives of the locked-out workers/strikers are touring worksites nationally, explaining the Moss Vale dispute and what happens when management takes full advantage of the Workplace Relations Act.
Chase Manhattan meanwhile, has other problems. A few days after the Moss Vale worker visit, declassified US Treasury documents released in New York allegedly showed the banking giant had helped funnel German assets back to the Nazis from France after the US went to war against Germany during World War 2.
The bank is currently facing legal action by Holocaust survivors for the alleged wartime freezing of Jewish bank accounts.
Orange workers are crediting last week's rally with forcing Email management to come clean with their plans to shed ten per cent of the workforce and averting further job losses.
AWU state secretary Russ Collison says that last week's action had pressured the company, who accounts for 35 per cent of the NSW central west town's economy, to defer plans to outsource some areas of its operations.
Email management has agreed to work with unions to discuss ways of averting any forced redundancies to meet the planned cut of 130 workers that it announced this week.
The bulk of the redundancies will come from the outsourcing of die manufacturing and the contracting out of maintenance jobs. Other cuts will occur amongst stores, quality control, gardening clerks, security guards and cleaners.
Management has also agreed to discuss a contractors' protocol and an agreement for wages and conditions of those contractors. And it is working with the unions to assist those who take voluntary redundancies in areas such as financial advice and employment options.
Collison says he's convinced that without last week's rally, where more than 3,000 people marched through Orange in support of the Email workers, there would have been even greater job losses.
He's thanked all unions that participated in the rally for their support f the workers of Orange.
Meanwhile, Email managing director Ralph Waters has written to the NSW Labor Council promising that workers will be kept informed of their status and that their entitlements will be protected.
What do the new wave of organisers do? Pretty much the same hard slog that Audrey Petrie did in the 1950s around Sydney for the Hotel, Club and Restaurant Union (HCRU).
Her areas as a young 19 year old organiser included the cafeterias of David Jones, Grace Brothers and Farmers, Central Railway refreshment rooms, factory canteens and boarding houses. She worked closely with Flo Davis, Topsy Small and Vic Workman, whose stories have been told in Bread and Roses by Audrey Johnson. Audrey Petrie told of some of her experiences in Intimate Union (Pluto Press, 1998), the book she co-authored with husband Tom.
"There were few full-timers on my big jobs. Most were known as "mid-days" because they worked three hours at lunch time or three-quarters because they worked four and a half hours.
In general the wages were fairly poor.... There was little possibility of industrial action. When there was action, it was on the big jobs like the migrant hostels... or in some of the big clubs. ....The union depended on getting wage flow-ons through the Industrial Court. The conditions in the industry were largely the result of a deep commitment and vigilance by the officials to keep awards updated and to take up cases for non-payment of wages."
Getting experience then was without trade union training. "You were shown the job and generally had to fend for yourself."
"Organising on the job was difficult as it involved chasing up members in ones and twos and having to go back to the job if a member was off sick or didn't have any money. The union was opposed to employers making dues deductions. The HCRU was proud of its person-to-person contact, even if it meant less finance."
"Some of the bigger establishments anticipated that their workforce would be in the union and made it possible for the organisers to have right of entry. One such employer was Cahill's restaurant....I would go there at meal breaks or the shift changeovers and sit in the dressing room with my list of members. Some would come up and pay and have a chat, others would dodge me around the lockers."
Being an organiser was a great lesson in knowing when to turn the other cheek. Sometimes you had to cop the abuse and remain friendly, patiently arguing the union's cause. .... It wasn't a nine to five job either. Some of the coffee lounges or restaurants wouldn't be open until the evening. On the other jobs, like the railway refreshment rooms at Central, the train girls started from 5 o'clock on the morning trains. To catch them when the trains came in at night meant being at the railway at half past ten or eleven o'clock...."
"My members were women and often part-timers, such as mothers doing a few hours work while the kids were at school, students or women touring around the country...They saw no real purpose in joining the union and they were difficult to organise. However, on jobs with permanent staff, we found and always said, that if women took action they were the salt of the earth."
"The HCRU was involved in broader campaigns of the labour movement, such as support for May Day. ...In 1959, the union nominated Marie McKenny, a young Aboriginal woman who was a waitress at the NSW Golf Club, for the first May Day competition. The union appointed me Campaign Director and Marie and I went around the jobs to raise funds....Marie beat five candidates from "the big unions" such as the Wharfies and the BWIU. The HCRU was ecstatic with her winning the competition and due to Marie's popularity on the job and the support of the union's network of progressive, young Chinese members, the HCRU sent her to the Vienna World Youth Festival in 1959. Marie ended up marrying Peter Wong and became involved in the Australia China Friendship Society."
"Left unions took steps to promote union cultural activity and supported initiatives by the CPA. Before television people mixed at functions and this was an important part of union work.". There were various activities included the Wharfies Film Unit, New Theatre and Quality Films. Madeleine Kempster, with union support, collected and ran for several years a Children's Art Exhibition. Flo Davis, of the HCRU "was a great one for dancing and we organised dances and union picnics. Wharfie activist Harry Black and I were on a committee which put together a group of artists to perform at concerts for unionists in Sydney and Wollongong. The performers included wharfie Dick Hackett, and Gary Shearston, Chris Kempster and Alex Hood".
During the 1998 election campaign I made some unpublicised alterations to the Liberal party website, for which I was prosecuted. It was very much like the recent extraction of business details from the gstassist.gov.au website by "Kelly". In both cases the so-called crime was perpetrated merely by using a straight-forward web address (Universal Resource Locator).
In both cases, there was no security to violate. There were no passwords -- it was easier than checking email.
If "Kelly" is charged he should get a smart lawyer, not plead guilty under any circumstances, and appeal until he wins. And if he isn't charged, then why was I?
But let's allocate blame where blame is due. The Liberals are essentially a bunch of unimaginative lawyers from leafy suburbs. And their first and last answer to any problem in information technology is to aggressively apply the moral status-quo -- the true definition of conservatism.
Hence no security on government websites, unworkable censorship laws and oppressive datacasting legislation.
There is a possible exception to the idiocy -- Amanda Vanstone! She recently endorsed a Discussion Paper on Computer Crime. Its recommendations would legalize my actions, and those of "Kelly", and rightly so.
Checkout pages 155 to 160 of
ACTU President Sharan Burrow has labelled Peter Reith's Employee Entitlements Support Scheme a 'political football' designed by the Minister to short change workers who lose entitlements due to company insolvencies.
"No one believes that Peter Reith has the interests of working people at heart," Burrow says.
"What Mr Reith's scheme is all about is short changing workers and turning their loss into his gain."
Burrow's comments came as Reith presented 50 sacked workers from Fabric Dyeworks with payments under his tax payer funded Employee Entitlements Support Scheme in Melbourne this week.
"Some of these workers have 20 years service with the company. Through no fault of their own they have lost all their accrued entitlements and their superannuation hasn't been paid for two years. Yet under Mr Reith's scheme they will receive an average payment of less than $2,700 each."
"That is simply not fair. Australia needs an employer funded national employee entitlements protection scheme that guarantees that all lost entitlements are paid to all employees in full."
Burrow also says she's disappointed that the Victorian Government had chosen not to make any contribution toward compensating the Fabric Dyeworks employees for their loss.
"Mr Reith's scheme is inadequate and State Governments are right to call for a
properly funded national scheme that protects 100% of entitlements," she says.
"But until such a scheme is in place, State Governments should demonstrate they are serious about this issue and make their own independent contribution to ensure that workers are afforded at least the most basic level of protection."
Union members around the world have taken part in a week of international action against the mining giant Rio Tinto. Andrew Casey looks at all the hot spots.
The week was kicked off in Australia by the CFMEU holding stoppages at Rio Tinto mines on Monday.
On the same day Rio Tinto has made an offer to settle a long-running dispute at its Mt. Thorley mine in the Hunter region.The proposed settlement was announced to a mass rally of striking mineworkers at the three Rio Tinto mines in the Hunter Valley. (see news story)
Rio Tinto has faced serious industrial disputes across all of its Australian coal mines since it sought to cease bargaining with unions and to push workers on to individual contracts - a process begun in 1993.
The company concession came just as the international trade union action week on Rio Tinto began its week of action which was planned in countries ranging from Australia to the USA, Indonesia, South Africa, Chile and Brazil.
Here are some reports from around the world.
In Indonesia at the Rio Tinto coal mine in East-Kalimantan the independent trade union SBSI reported there is an on-going strike and occupation which started several weeks ago and has virtually stopped production.
But this Tuesday (July 11) local Rio Tinto management agreed to have what the union said was the first real negotiating meeting, according to Sebastianus Nira and Didik Hendro the General Secretary and Chairman of SPE-SBSI.
More than a thousand workers have been involved in a sit-in for more than a month. Knowing that people at the other end of the world are supporting them is important, say the SBSI officials .
At the beginning of last week local Rio Tinto management tried to break a long strike and site occupation by bringing in 300 strike breakers from another village who usually have no close relationship with the local people. These people were paid transport, food and some wage to break the strike, if necessary using violence,.
Local political pressure - including the regional governor and the regional parliament - was brought to bear on Rio Tinto management forcing them to meet several times with SBSI union leaders, and workers to discuss the strikers demands.
The 300 strike breakers brought in by Rio Tinto were largely neutralized after they had had a chance to talk with the workers whose jobs they would have taken.After about three days most of the strike-breakers had left and gone back to their home villages.
The regional governor has forced Rio Tinto to continue to supply the site with water, food, electricity, etc. The company had hoped to turn supplies off and force the workers out of the mine area. About 85% of the workers is now still on the site, continuing their passive action. They know that if they leave, they'll have lost.
In the USA on Monday members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 30 held a demonstration in front of the Rio Tinto owned Borax mine in support of Rio Tinto workers around the world - in particular Indonesia, Australia, Chile, Brazil and Namibia -- where workers are struggling for basic human and worker's rights. Borax mineworkers held up picket signs that expressed their support for other Rio Tinto workers in the specific countries listed above. The desert heat was intense but it did not dampen the resolve of ILWU Local 30.
The Borax workers also discussed the problems at the mine the mine itself. US Borax has been cutting costs at approximately 3% annually for a number of years. It is our understanding that the company is now attempting to cut back 24% annually but has only been able to average 14% annually. While the company is talking a lot about health and safety, these attempts at irrational cost cutting are causing serious health and safety and quality of product problems at the mine and have the potential to seriously undermine the future safety and job security of the workers.
Rio Tinto company representatives, including Alexis Fernandez, the Rio Tinto/US Borax Global Executive for Communications and Community Affairs, spoke with the media, and watched the events with tremendous attention and interest. It was very obvious that word of the California protest reached the head offices of Rio Tinto within moments of the event.
Today ( Friday), ILWU Local 20A will also be acting as part of the international Rio Tinto trade union week by holding a lunchtime protest with workers outside the US Borax Chemical and Processing Plant to demonstrate their concern about Rio Tinto's global treatment of workers and their communities. The chemical and processing plant is located in the Los Angeles harbor area. The plant processes and ships out materials that they receive from the US Borax mine located about two hours outside of Los Angeles in the Mojave Desert.
In Utah, the members of Steelworkers District #12 who are employed at Kennecott Utah Copper will be meeting with top management today ( Friday, July 14) specifically to protest the companies lack of support for human rights and workers' rights around the world. The Steelworkers work at one of the largest open pit copper mines in the world, located near Salt Lake City, Utah.
In Canada, in the French-speaking state of Quebec, the Steelworkers at the QIT-FEr et Titane mine and smelter have an official meeting scheduled with the top company management in two weeks and will be directly expressing their solidarity with other Rio Tinto workers around the world, The QIT mine and smelter produce titanium dioxide feedstock for the pigment industry.
In Chile workers from a Rio Tinto copper mine in northern Chile have been in Santiago this week protesting the termination without cause and blacklisting of 84 miners. These workers were fired in 1999 from the largest copper mine in the world, Escondida. A delegation of the workers met with representatives from both the office of the President of Chile and the Ministry of Mines and Energy earlier this week.
This mine is actually majority owned and wholly managed by Australia's BHP - but Rio Tinto owns one third of the company. As part of this international week of action on Thursday a delegation of Chilean miners was scheduled to visit the Australian embassy to protest Rio Tinto's actions against workers and their communities in Australia.
For more information about the Rio Tinto Global Union Network - and a copy of a letter you can send - on your letterhead - to Rio Tinto management contact the Rio Tinto Global Union Network Email: [email protected]
Unions and employers have combined forces to stem the alarming number of rural workplace deaths, with a new hotline to give advice on safe work practices to be launched this week.
The Deputy Convenor of the NSW Parliamentary Country Labor Group, the Hon Janelle Saffin, MLC, will launch a rural safety hotline on Sunday, 16 July, in conjunction with National Farm Safety Week.
The launch will take place at the Pelican Sheep Station, Braidwood Road, Goulburn, at 3.00pm.
The free hotline service, which is an initiative of the NSW Rural Industry Reference Group, is made up of unions and employers and will provide the latest occupational health and safety information for people working in rural industries.
The Rural Industry Reference Group was one of 13 specific industry groups established by the NSW Workers Compensation Advisory Council as part of major changes to the WorkPlace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act of 1998.
Terry O'Connor, a union organiser with the AWU, will be speaking at the launch. Terry is a professional shearer with over 28 years' experience and is classed as one of the best "gun shearers" in the industry. He has won shearing championships at regional, state, national and international levels. In his role as a teacher/trainer he enjoys passing on his knowledge of the art and techniques of shearing, with many of his students going on to achieve success as professional shearers and competition winners.
Terry, who as a shearer works in a high risk industry, said: "There is a great deal of apathy towards safety in the bush, and we need to change this culture, not only to reduce costs but more importantly to save lives and stop people, sadly many of whom are quite young, from being permanently maimed or killed.
"The recent statistics released by the National Occupational Health & Safety Commission indicated that two workers die each week on Australian farms. 35 bystanders, mainly children, die. 18 visitors are killed each year. Over 1,000 workers suffer serious and permanent injury.
"It is all our interests to turn around these devastating statistics which have a major impact on our community and families, particularly when they lose a spouse or a child, a family member or friend.
The information hotline which is being launched on Sunday, will encourage both employers and employees to seek advice on how to make their workplaces safer.
The Hotline Number is 1800 300 377
Former NSW industrial relations minister Jeff Shaw has wasted no time getting back into court since his shock decision to leave politics a few weeks ago.
Shaw was this week in the Queensland Industrial Court representing the Australian Manufacturing Union is a case involving MUM Holdings and the Australian Workers Union.
He's also been called on to defend the constitutionality of his own Dust Diseases legislation against an insurance challenge in proceedings in Sydney.
And he's been briefed to represent the NSW WorkCover Authority in an appeal by an employer's against a conviction for non-insurance.
His junior? None other than his former chief-of-staff Adam Searle.
Following up on your editorial piece in issue 61, where you suggest there is no need for tariffs against countries with lower wages and working conditions than Australia. I believe strongly that there is a need for some penalty for companies who manufacture in countries with low labour costs and working conditions but distribute the profits to richer countries. They are neglecting the workers of the richer countries and exploiting those in the poorer countries. International competitiveness generally has nothing to do with it.
I further believe that any tariffs collected in this manner should be directed to overseas aid so that we don't further expolit the workers and citizens of these poorer countries.
If we can work for competitive wages and working conditions for workers around the world then we really will be working for international competitiveness. But to stand back and do nothing (as you seem to suggest) will only result in lining the pockets of the multinationals.
With the confusion surrounding the GST allegedly ebbing, it's worth sparing a thought for bailee drivers of NSW Taxis.
In the front line as individual tax collectors since the clock first turned over to July 1, bailee taxi drivers are having to relive the GST nightmare of every small business around the country as they issue individual receipts ("Tax Invoices") for each fare over $50.
Drivers in the industry are reporting to the TWU that the nightmare they anticipated just keeps on getting worse.
But for a recent decision of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, however, things could be considerably worse.
Initially, some taxi owners and the service providers were expecting drivers to pay GST for their cab hire, collect GST from their customers and then pass on the full 10% back to the cab owner. Despite being illegal and in contravention of ACCC guidelines, this proposal would have left the drivers having to pay for the GST out of their earnings.
But thanks to this decision won by the TWU all Bailee Taxi Drivers in NSW are now protected from losing money as a result of the GST.
Under the decision all bailee drivers hiring a cab now have two options for passing on the 10% GST they collect from passengers to the cab owners. Both options ensure the driver retains any cost the GST has placed on the operation of their cab. In option two, the driver pays the current Pay-in plus 7.8% GST.
The decision also provides for a number of other important benefits for bailee drivers working under the new tax system, including the compulsion on owners to provide drivers with their legal entity, name, and ABN prior to the driver commencing each shift.
"This is an important decision delivering GST justice for all NSW taxi drivers," TWU Taxi Industry Official Alice DeBoos says.
"Thanks to this decision NSW cabbies will not be being ripped by the GST. Furthermore, because owners now have to let the drivers know their names and legal details, next time a driver is unfairly dismissed or being overcharged for their pay-ins we will be able to track them down and make sure the driver is delivered justice," DeBoos says.
For further information or copies of the decision contact the TWU on (02) 9912 0700
A lone Chinese seafarer is fighting to stop a Panamanian flagged vessel from dumping toxic waste into Australian waters
It was not long after 26-year-old Jun started working as an oiler on board the Joint Spirit before he discovered the ship's dark secret.
"The chief engineer would order us to pump bilge water and sump oil directly into the sea," said Jun. "He got us to replace the pipes from the filtration system to do this."
But when the ship was approaching a port, Jun says, the chief engineer would order the crew to reconnect the original pipes so as to pass survey inspections.
"The crew would often discuss what was happening, among ourselves" said Jun. "But we never said a word to the officers. It was ridiculous. The ship was in good condition. Why pump untreated waste into sea?"
Jun had a conscience. He decided to do something. When no one was looking he photographed the pipe modification.
"I didn't tell anyone," he said. "I thought one day I could show the photos to someone who could help."
Since joining the vessel, Jun has visited Australia twice. The first time, he could not report the ship's crime, because he had not taken the photos to use as evidence.
But on the second run, Jun was clear on what he should do. He remembered a Japanese inspector from the International Transport Workers' Federation, who told him about the ITF and what it could do to help seafarers in trouble. So when the Joint Spirit berthed in Port Adelaide, Jun walked straight into the MUA South Australia Branch office, and, with his limited English, explained what was happening on board his ship.
ITF representative Daryl Gray was impressed: "We found out that the ship owed him $7000 in back pay," Daryl said. "But Jun didn't care about himself. All he wanted to talk about was the illegal waste dumping. He drew us a map and pointed to the locations where the ship had dumped toxic waste into the sea. He clearly marked Sydney Harbour, the Great Barrier Reef and the Spencer Gulf."
The MUA contacted the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the Environment Protection Authority straight away.
"AMSA was very enthusiastic at the beginning," said Daryl. "Jun and I went to their office and showed the surveyors the photos. They indicated the evidence clearly justified a full investigation."
However, an AMSA officer later called us to say he had a clear instruction to 'return to the ship the next morning, inspect the vessel, and if no evidence was found, clear the ship to sail.'
"I asked why AMSA it was not investigating the claim, but the guy just repeated his instructions as if he was reading off a script," said Daryl.
The MUA managed to hold off the Joint Spirit over the underpayment of wages. But when the ship agreed to pay Jun and his crewmates each $7000 back pay, the union could no longer hold the ship in port.
On May 25, two hours before the Joint Spirit was scheduled to sail, Jun decided jump ship.
"It was too risky, to stay on," he said. "The crew and officers knew I was the whistle blower. I didn't think I'd be safe on board the ship."
South Australian Branch Secretary Rick Newlyn was furious that the ship, loaded with grain, left without being fully investigated. He said the Joint Spirit escaped what might have been hundreds and thousands of dollar in fines for polluting Australian waters.
"The message it puts across is that every rogue owner can come and dump s... on our shores and rest assured they won't be arrested or fined," Rick told the local press.
Jun's had planned to fly business class to China, donating the rest of his $7000 in wages to the MUA because it would have been "worthless" where he was going.
"I asked one of my crew mates to tell my family in China to look for me in a detention centre," said Jun. "If I'd returned, the police would have immediately arrested me at the airport and charged me with exposing government secrets."
So the union advised Jun, in the circumstance,' not to go home.' The MUA is now assisting Jun in his application for refugee status.
While this process may take more than a year, the South Australian members are also organising Jun a work permit, a tax file number and a job. He has also received supports from the local Chinese community.
"Even though the ship owner has escaped conviction, I believe an investigation of the photos and Jun's claims are a must," said Daryl Gray. "The guy has stuck his neck out, so his story deserves to be heard."
On the eve of the national conference of the Australian Labor Party in Hobart many of Labor's foremost thinkers and activists are gathering in Melbourne to present new ideas for Labor in power.
Specifically, speakers will be discussing new policy agendas for a twenty-first century Federal Labor government, and vital reforms to party structure to enhance membership, internal democracy and policy-making. A strong emphasis is on a younger generation of Labor men and women keen to promote new ways of achieving social democracy in a time of rapid change.
A critical perspective unites the forum speakers. Topics to be discussed include trade, globalisation, work place democracy, education, managing cultural diversity, the media and the new information economy, indigenous land rights, unions, party structures, unemployment and foreign policy.
Expect a rigorous critique of orthodox economic ideas of both the right and the left, and new left-of-centre perspectives on public institutions that may no longer be meeting the objectives for which they were established. Speakers will be encouraged to sketch alternative models of governance which might better achieve traditional social democratic goals. The aim of the Unchain My Mind Forum is to promote critical thinking, open dialogue and audience participation.
A must-attend event for anyone interested in political reform, government, social change and Labor's future.
When: Thursday, 27 July, 9:30am to 6.00pm
Where: Trades Hall, cnr Victoria and Lygon Streets, Carlton, Melbourne - Council Chambers
Cost: $25 or $15 concession
Chaired in three sessions by ALP veterans Barry Jones, Joan Kirner and John Button(tbc)
Speakers include Lindsay Tanner, Mark Latham, Duncan Kerr Rebecca Huntley, Paul Mees, Glenn Patmore, Andrew Scott, Guy Rundle, Sharan Burrows, Michael Gadiel, Kate Lundy, Julia Gillard, Race Mathews, McKenzie Wark, Tony Moore and Mary Kalantzis.
Dinner and debate to follow the forum (to be paid for separately).
Topic "The Centre is Mine - Tony Blair, New Labor and the future of electoral politics" Speakers: Andrew Scott, Jim Claven and Dennis Glover. Chair: Kate Lundy
All welcome! Book now!
Four easy ways to book:
1. Print out the registration form and fax to: (02) 9519 8940
2. Mail the form to: Tony Moore, Pluto Press Australia, Locked Bag 199, Annandale NSW 2038
3. E-mail the form to: [email protected]
4. Telephone Pluto Press Australia on: (02) 9519 3299
The World Bank has tied a grant of $40 million to Papua New Guinea to the condition that the public sector slash 7,000 jobs - or 14 per cent of all staff.
The revelation was made by a senior Papua New Guinea union official, Napolean Liosi, as he addressed the NSW Labor Council this week.
Liosi, the national president of the Public Employees Association of PNG says World Bank assistance has come with strings, including public sector 'restructuring' and an aggressive privatization campaign.
The jobs for money trade-off means that the PNG Government receives about $6,000 for every job it slashes.
Liosi says the policy is having a real impact on jobs and services in PNG; and while the public sector is 80 per cent unionized, the World Bank deal was hitting his members hard.
"The whole deal is premised on the myth that the private sector always does things better," Liosi says. "We're still waiting to see the evidence."