by Sally McManus
The Australian Services Uunion members, who develop and install the software that runs power stations in Japan, took the action after the company refused to negotiate a collective agreement.
They had been negotiating with the company for over eight months and has previously threatened such action to bring the company back to the bargaining table.
Initially they were arguing for reasonable working hours as they were often the expected to work excessive and unpaid overtime which is common complaint of IT workers. However, they had reached an agreement with the company to limit hours and to have overtime paid, and won many other improvements in conditions.
The sticking point, and the cause of the walkout, has been the form the agreement will take. Toshiba has steadfastly refused to agree to a collective enterprise agreement, offering instead individual contracts.
Members believe they have the right, just like other workers in Australia, to bargain collectively and have this recognised in an Enterprise Agreement which is easily enforceable in the Industrial Commission and safeguards future employees.
So far the company has refused to budge on this issue citing concerns that they do not want to be "the first" in this part of the IT industry to have such an agreement. ASU members felt they had hit a brick wall and on Tuesday informed the company they would not longer be "committing" software (a process that is essential if their work is to progress) to Japan unless they are prepared to reconsider. The company immediately informed that that as this is a form of industrial action, under Reith's laws, they would not be paid. This brought a swift reaction from the ASU members who "downed mouses" and walked out.
Workers returned to work the next day, but have committed to continuing the campaign for what should be the right of all workers - the right
by Zoe Reynolds
In Fremantle, workers held a one hour vigil outside Patrick gates at change of shift in the afternoon.
Among the crowd of 200 was Labour MP Carmen Lawrence, leader of the state opposition Geoff Gallop, Trades and Labor Council Secretary Terry Cook and MUA Deputy National Secretary Paddy Crumlin.
Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley, could not make the visit to the gates, instead sending a letter expressing his support and solidarity.
In Melbourne about 100 workers gathered outside the gates at East Swanson Dock for speeches.
National Organiser Mick O'Leary said it was the solidarity in the union movement which won the dispute: "We need very much to stick together and continue to develop those relationships between the unions, because Peter Reith is looking to continue the fight against the trade union movement, even though he failed miserably last year."
Also attending the commemoration were ACTU Assistant Secretary Greg Combet and industrial officer Tony Morison, Victoria branch officials Mick Cottrell, Len Meager and Dick Ryan.
Melbourne unionists will also commemorate the night where they stood their ground against the police at East Swanson Dock on April 18 and the historic Return on May 8.
In Sydney, activities kicked off at change of shift, 6.30am, and went into the afternoon. Workers gathered for sausage sizzles, with visiting Gordonstone miners alongside.
Minister for Mass Sacking Peter Wreath- (alias MUA member David Reynolds) was a hit with the media: "Youse will all thank me, later in life, for the hard work, the effort and I had to pay for the dogs, you know," Wreath told ABC Radio. "I had to feed the dogs."
Central NSW Assistant Branch Secretary Barry Robson said despite some of the setbacks that the MUA had experienced, we could still say that the union was 'here to stay" - "We won our court cases," said Robson. "We got legal right to cover any person who works on the waterfront."
Sydney also celebrated with the inaugural Left Ball on Friday April 9. Special guest was ACTU President Jennie George.
MUA members in Fisherman Island, Brisbane started their commemoration at 5am with a barbecue to feed up to 120 members and supporters. The branch also organised a barbecue at Maritime wharves.
Several P&O and Patrick workers dropped in straight from their midnight shift and stayed for the whole day.
Newcastle also marked the day, with attention focusing on the 12 members sacked by Patrick only weeks earlier.
Costa held several high-level meetings this week to promote the plan, which he says will provide a rational basis for allocating resources to areas of greatest need.
He has called on the government to appoint a high-profile figure such as former Social Security Minister Peter Baldwin to conduct the independent study into the needs of people across the state.
The audit would look at the distribution of health, education, community services and the provision of other government services to pinpoint areas where limited resources should be targetted.
"We clearly need to move services to the western suburbs and regional NSW," Costa says.
"The big question is how we do this in a rational and transparent way."
"A social audit such as the one I am proposing would provide the raw data that would provide justification for necessary decisions, which may be unpopular in the short term."
Costa says the idea is based on the financial audits conducted by the former Grenier Government when it cam to power.
"To me, this is the mechanism for creating the second-term agenda which many in the labour movement believe should be a priority for the Carr Government," Closta says.
For further details see From Trades Hall.
Delegates at last night's Labor Council meeting voted overwhelmingly to defer the vote to approve the deal with Corporate Renaissance, after a number of dissenting unions asked for more time to consider the proposal.
They also endorsed the following motion:
"Notwithstanding the further deferral of the Currawong proposal, this meeting of the Labor Council of NSW expresses its support for the Corporate Renaissance proposal as being one which will guarantee the long-term future of Currawong and allow the trade union movement to further develop its education and training program. This meeting calls upon those unions not supporting the Corporate Renaissance proposal to reconsider their position and accept the overwhelming majority support the proposal has amongst Labor Council affiliates. Then interests of the union collective must come before the individual unions or members."
Mr Costa said the endorsement of this motion, showed how anachronistic rules were frustrating the will of the vast majority of unions wanted the Corporate Renaissance deal to go ahead. Under Labor Council rules, any seven affiliates can veto a property transaction.
The Labor Council of NSW last night deferred a vote on the future of its Pittwater property, Currawong, at the request of a number of unions planning to vote against the proposal.
"I am confident that these extra weeks will give affiliates time to see the logic of the lease proposal," Mr Costa said.
"In particular, it will give Corporate Renaissance the opportunity to answer the misinformation which has run against the TM movement over recent weeks.
"And it will allow Labor Council affiliates to refocus on the real issue: the need to provide decent accommodation to TUTA to train the union official we need to ensure the movement has a future."
A series of delegates delivered passionate speeches to the packed meeting of delegates. Highlights included:
- Nurses secretary Sam Moaitt: who confessed to being a devotee of TM in her younger days and of experiencing "enjoyable times in the backyards of Strathfield. They were very happy times, if you know what I mean," she said.
- Long-time Currawong user Ian West (LHMU), who disclosed the facility had lost $500,000 in the last ten years and said he feared that without the deal, Currawong would be lost forever.
- Marrickville Mayor Barry cotter, who argued the plan was deficient on environmental grounds and claimed the Friends of Currawong proposal had not been properly assessed.
- and TUTA director Michael Crosby who pleaded with delegates to act to give the training facility a decent home.
Fire Brigade Employees Union state secretary Chris Read has called on Labor Council to establish a committee to better allocate rooms at Currawong to maximise benefits to the unions.
He wants affiliates to be given a number of room nights which they could use as recruitment incentives, rewards for officials or delegates or as cheap holidays for their members.
Mr Read told the meeting that the present system of allocation offered no practical benefits to unions such as the FBEU.
"To illustrate the point, several of our members have apparently utilised the Currawong facility, although they didn't do it by virtue of their FBEU membership," he said.
"It follows that there is no real or imagined connection between Currawong and their Union, and as a consequence, the opportunity to capitalise on Currawong as a facility open to workers through their membership of an affiliate union has been completely lost."
The meeting resolved to convene a committee to consider how room nights could be allocated "to use Currawong as an organising tool or for other appropriate activities that benefits trade union members".
The committee's recommendations would be considered along with the deferred Currawong vote in four weeks time.
She told Labor Council that her priority was working with churches, women's groups and community organisation to lobby the Democrat senators who will control the Senate after June 30.
To this end, the ACTU was preparing comprehensive briefing notes to be sent to targeted community organisations.
She said the ACTU would focus on the impact that labour market deregulation has had on the New Zealand economy, particularly its impact on the social safety net there.
Ms George also foreshadowed a National Week of Protest against the Second Wave, which would be co-ordinated by state Labor Councils, "to maximise the pressure and the focus" in the lead-up to any vote.
The second wave assault, foreshadowed in a paper on 'employment' prepared for Reith, (see Workers Online issue #2) includes:
- further undermining the award system by allowing employers to "opt out".
- promoting the further spread of individual contracts
- pre-strike ballots before all industrial action.
by Phil Davey
The meeting had been called to try to raise the profile of the 17-month Gordonstone mine dispute as it enters a crucial stage, with a pivotal Federal Court ruling due this week.
The dispute originates from the mass sacking of over 300 miners for refusing to sign individual work contracts.
The importance of Gordonstone was stressed by CFMEU official Tony Maher on the night, who claimed Gordonstone was almost identical to last years Patrick's dispute and would be receiving the same attention and support but for the tyranny of distance.
It was standing room only as members of the public, uni students and officials from a variety of unions listened to CFMEU official Jim Lambley and miner Dave Weller tell a frightening story of thuggery and intimidation by former Gordonstone owners ARCO, who recently sold the mine under suspicious circumstances to the equally obnoxious Rio Tinto.
Footage was shown of surveillance of union members by thugs hired by ARCO.
Miner Dave Weller told his own story to the meeting. He had been recruited to the mine with the promise of "25 years work". He spoke of his pride at being part of a team that broke every mining production record in the world in 1995/6.
He spoke of his anger when he found equipment hired for the picket line burnt to the ground when it was left unattended for one night.
Weller said he had "no doubt" there had been collusion between ARCO/Rio, the former National Party State Government and the police, given the political way police had been used in the dispute. Weller quipped that the area surrounding Gordonstone would have to be the safest in Australia, given the police numbers there.
280 people have been arrested on the picket line in the last month.
Dave Weller and other Gordonstone miners will have a busy week in Sydney this week, touring construction sites to talk to workers and anxiously awaiting the Federal Courts ruling on the dispute.
by Bernadetts Moloney
The Sydney leadership of mining giant Rio Tinto heard first hand about the impact of the 18-month old Gordonstone mine lock-out on Thursday, when they were visited by a delegation from the Women's Support Group, accompanied by ACTU President Jennie George.
The three Emerald women were joined by a bus-load of women and children supporters from the construction, mining and energy sectors in NSW, along with a handful of students, who occupied the plush lobby of Rio Tinto's headquarters in Milson's Point for over an hour.
Evelyn Weller told the gathering about the harassment endured by the miners and their families in Emerald from security guards employed by then mine-owner Arco and pressures from current media reporting which claims the scab labour employed by current mine owner, Rio Tinto, are being intimidated.
"We have struggled to make sure it is not the union families which bring this issue into town," Evelyn said.
She spoke movingly of the strain of trying to explain to an eight-year old why Dad has lost his job and having to make new friends again, when so many families and friends had left down.
"The saddest part has been to see suicides in families shattered, mental and physical health break-downs, marriage break-ups with stress being too great for come couples to stay and families split.
"Parents having to seek work elsewhere and leaving teenage children who are now working in Emerald to fend for themselves. Families who have invested in their future to the promise of 25 years employment forced to go bankrupt and lose everything. Every hope we had planned for our retirement is gone."
Support shown by the CFMEU Construction Division, the MUA and the mining community had kept them going. "We as workers need to stick together otherwise multinationals and the government will sell our souls for a dollar if they can get away with it.
"Is that what we really want for our children? Our forefathers went through hell to get the conditions we have today. Conditions that until now many of us have taken for granted. With the government's smiling approval, they are turning back the clocks and we can't just let it happen."
Jennie George said world's biggest miner, Rio Tinto had "no soul - because if it had a soul it would actually understand the impact of their actions on the lives of ordinary working people and their communities.
"We saw it in the Hunter Valley and now we're seeing it replayed at the Gordonstone mine. The treachery of a multinational that colludes with Arco to bring in a non-union agreement to lower existing rates and conditions and to by-pass those workers who were so unjustly retrenched by the previous multinational, the Arco company."
"If the company had an ounce of morality, the people it would re-employ first, according to custom and practice anywhere, is those who were unfairly retrenched by the Arco management.
"The case is being heard in the Federal Court right this minute and I'm very confident that the moral arguments that we have on our side will eventually see the light of day in legal terms."
Rio Tinto plans to retrench a further 2000 workers, CFMEU Energy Division NSW Secretary Lorraine Usher pointed out, while giving executives a 25% increase in wages. "So now the CEO has a wage of $3.17 million per annum. All we want is a job and security for the miners' families in those areas. It's about time people started taking money out of their CEO's pockets and putting it into the workers' pockets."
Managers at Rio Tinto headquarters heard the Women Support Group's message but claimed they had no control over employment practices at Gordonstone.
After the meeting, Jennie George said she hoped it would mean that when the women got back to Emerald the miners would at least have an opportunity to sit down with those who make the decisions at Gordonstone to clearly annunciate what they were after.
The Gordonstone Women's Support Group was presented with a plaque to add to the wall built at the picket site, citing the inspiration their struggle had offered to workers across Australia.
The rally was organised by Connie Wheeler and Kylie Wray from the CFMEU Construction Division with full support from Mining and Energy. Connie and Kylie originally met the Gordonstone Women's Support Group, when they visited the picket line as part of a contingent of construction workers who flew up to the remote Queensland town last month.
Chin, a solicitor with union firm, Jones Staff and Co, filled a casual vacancy created by the elevation of Michael Walton to the NSW IRC. Fromer dsecretary Maudie Bromberg has moved into Walton's former position of president.
ICTUR is comprised of lawyers, trade unionists and academic,s, intersted in the promiotion of workers and trade union rights.
Chin says his priorities will be pursuing projects focussed on the emerging issues of the new millenium such as revising ILO standards and social clauses in trade agreements to better reflect the changing world.
A former executive assistant at Labor Council, he is also committed to raising the profile of ICTUR throughout the community.
"Internationally ICTUR is working on what it calls the Millennium Project, which is designed to work out a revised set of international labour standards to better protect workers rights in the global economy," Chin says.
"We're also embraking upon a project designed to provide trade unions with an alternative model to the Workplace Relations Act which would bring Australian law into compliance with ILO Conventions.
ICTUR is planning to hold a function coinciding with its AGM in Melbourne mid-year.
Anyone interested can contact David Chin at mailto:[email protected]
by Peter Lewis
A lot has a lot has been written this week about who were the winners and the losers of the waterfront dispute. What have you thought when you have been reading those reports that Patrick won because their share prices have gone up?
Well if you only took into account the share price and the attempts by Corrigin and Reith to reinvent themselves and justify their involvement, then I suppose people may think they somehow came out of this without any damage to their reputation. But if you go back to the actual dispute and have a look at what occurred no amount of reinventing themselves, no amount of share prices will justify what they did. They misled their workers, they misled the Australian people, Reith misled the Parliament and they actually encouraged and approved serving defence force personal to go overseas to be trained to take Australian jobs. Corrigan committed perjury; his manager and his director committed perjury in the federal court , as did Corrigan in the industrial relations commission. And people still taking about whether there are winners or losers!
I mean, I'm not interested in the winners and losers. I know that from any objective analysis: we're still there; we've still got all the coverage; we've still got everyone who wants to work on the waterfront and we've been able to negotiate to the extent of concluding in Melbourne today an agreement with P&O which will ultimately flow onto the Patrick's workers. All and all, looking at it from today's date and back, I think that there can only be one winner and that was the union movement.
Tell me about where the conspiracy proceedings are up to?
What I understand is that Lindsay Tanner filed an application before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal way back in April of last year for all the documentation to be released for the benefit of the people of Australia. My further understanding is that they have actually legislated to ensure that the documentation not be released and the head of Reith's department has put a whole range of reasons why it shouldn't be released because it will upset the reform process. That is now a matter that's going to the Federal Court and it will be fought out there and in my opinion it will see that information released. That will become a matter of incredible concern for Howard and, in particular, Peter Reith because if the information that I have seen is proven to be a correct record of the events, there can be absolutely no doubt that Peter Reith either had a memory lapse or deliberately mislead the Parliament in December of 1997 when he said he had not knowledge of the affair.
Did you ever meet your Deep Throat who was sending you all the material in the lead-up to the dispute?
Not in terms of the first person who actually alerted me to the whole scam and talk to me every night for around seven days. I have still never met him.
What is your most enduring memory of the events of 12 months ago?
I suppose you mean the one that pleased me the most because I have lots of memories and most of them are pretty unpleasant. It would have to be the day we walked back through that gate. You can get some personal satisfaction, I suppose, about being able to get decisions in various courts -- although they were all followed by another poison pill. Even the High Court decision took us several days to actually get back through the gate. But in terms of what it was all about and the fact, that Reith and company were prepared to treat the workers, the best night of all was the night we walk back through the gate. Absolutely not doubt
Lets talk about future challenges for the MUA, what are you expecting from the Government next?
I think they're in a bit of trouble with the majority of their amendments to the Navigation Act, particularly the issue of access of foreign crews to domestic routes. People are clearly aware that it has nothing to do with having a more efficient ship in the sea or about modernisation, because we've agreed with the modernisation aspects of the Act. It is just another attempt to put the union out of business by destroying the protection the Navigation Act provides for Australian seafarers and destroying the protection the Navigation Act presents for our coast line, our environment and for the safety of ships operating in Australian territorial water.
This is not just an important thing for the dock workers. In removing the protection that act provides for Australian dock workers to discharging cargoes in Australian ports, they are taking a dangerous step for all workers. If you take that a step further and allow foreign seafarers to move cargo in Australian ports, we will have problems with aviation workers discharging cargo at our airports and have foreign truck drivers driving Lindsay Fox trucks up and down the highway. Where does it end? The railways, the airports, or could any Australian job be doled out to the lowest bidder. This will be a battle every bit as important as the waterfront dispute.
by John Coombs
Members are still back in the gates on the job, but for those who chose to take generous redundancy offers.
As MUA National Secretary I've defied government speculation that I would not last out the year and been re-elected unopposed for another four.
The farmers who backed the ill-fated PCS Webb Dock stevedoring company have gone bush, and the dogs are back in their kennels.
As for the Dubai recruits and Vietnam vets trained up to take over the wharves, they are out of a job and running their own conspiracy case; Patrick boss Chris Corrigan is facing perjury
charges and Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith is ducking renewed shots at exposing the full government conspiracy to sack an entire unionised workforce.
In our west Court Government ministers are in the dock under cross examination in yet another conspiracy case.
Overall it has been a win for the Australian and world labour movement.
Many of the techniques honed on the Patrick pickets have been adopted for other struggles - the union movement collectively running pickets to keep ahead of court injunctions banning individual officials and delegates from the area and conspiracy cases in the courts exposing joint government/employer conspiracies to unlawfully sack workers on mass for being members of a union. The most recent example is the Gordonstone miners.
The often conservative Sydney Morning Herald (April 7) summed up the scorein our favour: "Kelty's success will be measured by how many companies follow Patrick's lead and tackle unions head-on. At this stage, most companies are spooked.
The legacy of the waterfront dispute is that the construction companies are unwilling to take on the CFMEU. Reith's frustration is palpable as he flounders in attempts to persuade business to use his 1996 Workplace Relations Act to its full potential."
It was a diabolical plan - to train defence force personnel in another country, bring them back, remove the Australian workers with dogs and balaclava clad security guards - totally unacceptable. And it failed.
Given that the intention was that the maritime union would never get back through the gate and the union would be totally put out of business, we have done well. We're still in business and we've still got coverage of all the workers on the waterfront and the vast majority of those who wanted to stay in the industry are still in the industry.
When word first got out that the Howard Government would take on the MUA, ACTU Secretary Bill Kelty threatened the biggest picket line in Australian history. He delivered.
In retrospect it is being called the world's longest picket line. Dockworkers internationally have shown just how global solidarity can be built and used during industrial disputes. No-one has forgotten the role the International Transport Workers' Federation played during the dispute.
Nor have we forgotten how US wharfies sent one ship and its black cargo like a boomerang back to Australia or how many more vessels by-passed other world ports after declarations from local dock workers that they would black ban them.
Robots, Productivity & Perjury
On the waterfront the incorrigible Patrick boss Chris Corrigan is still in the business of turning men into machines - with considerable investments in 'robot' development under way at Sydney University.
His workforce is on the job but morale is low. No-one has forgotten or forgiven. Long working hours and casualisation of the workforce are the biggest gripes. While Corrigan and his spin doctors claim they have halved the workforce and doubled productivity, in fact while half the permanent labour force are gone, Patrick employs around 700 casual workers and many of them are working six days a week around the clock.
This will not be repeated in the P&O enterprise agreement and the union is ready to tackle the issue at Patrick. Undoubtedly many conditions were lost. But the only place to fight to get them back is inside the gates.
As for Chris Corrigan's boasts of record profits and productivity - he is merely talking up business. Each claim proceeds a key meeting with shippers and the pursuit of another contract.
Whereas before it suited Corrigan to talk productivity down to justify sacking his workforce, now it suits him to talk it up, using ingenious devices like citing the ship rate not the crane rate (most ships are allocated two cranes and that's how he doubles the productivity figure).
The Bureau of Transport which keeps tabs on productivity data was not fooled- it reported a slight drop in the crane rates in most ports in its last bulliten -Waterline.
As well Mr Corrigan is now facing perjury charges. On April 7, exactly 12 months to the day that the dogs came onto the docks, the Industrial Relations Commission referred evidence Mr Corrigan gave during the waterfront dispute to the Federal Director of Public Prosecutions. Under oath Chris Corrigan denied any financial involvement in the controversial Dubai training exercise.
Soon after his business associates produced financial and documentary evidence which showed the opposite. One document shows conclusively that Patrick agreed to pay Fynwest an initial retainer of $30,000 and a management fee of $4,000 a week from October 1997. There was also promise of a placement fee for each 'staff member' signed up for specialist training. Commonwealth Bank, Ballarat documents list a credit of $125,000 from Patrick in an account named International Port Services Account Training Group Pty Ltd.
But when ACTU Assistant Secretary Greg Combet asked Chris Corrigan: "Did Patrick Stevedoring accept any financial obligation at all in relation to the recruitment of personnel?", he answered, emphatically "No."
And what of the conspiracy case? The union established a prima facie case in the Federal Court that Patrick and others had unlawfully conspired to sack an entire workforce merely for being members of a union and that this was in breach of the Workplace Relations Act. The case was settled out of court.
Corrigan paid all costs and dropped all litigation against the union, abandoning his attempts to replace the union workforce. The MUA dropped the conspiracy charges in return. Everyone went back to work. But many, both within the union and without, were disappointed they would never see Mr Reith, nor Mr Howard in the dock. Now the conspiracy may yet be exposed after all. The Labor Party's Lindsey Tanner has applied under freedom of information for all documents. The Government has refused to release them so the matter has been listed in the Federal Court.
by Dr Grace Karskens
Thinking of the wharves as space, we might admire its marvellous proportions, experience the sense of raw power it emanates, the tough, unembellished and uncompromising materials and design; oh and of course its potency as a symbol of Sydney's significance as a great port city. (You can tell I used to work for the National Trust, can't you?)
But historians don't see structures like this just as empty spaces, or only in aesthetic terms, but as places, particular places which were used, experienced and understood by people. They were part of the wider neighbourhood, connected by webs of cultural meanings running every which way, from past to present, from here to the Lord Nelson or the Hero, to the boarding houses where the seamen lodged, and the homes in Windmill Street or in long-lost Princes Street, where the waterfront families lived, or from here to New Zealand, and then the world.
Just up the road here, under the roar of the Harbour Bridge was the old Pickup, where all the merchant seamen came to line up for their next ship, a shack of a place where spikes would fall through the roof, and 'if a train roared over you couldn't hear a thing, [and] some of them'd walk out for the wrong ship'. The 'first trippers' meanwhile stood keen and hopeful out on the footpath to be looked up and down by a ship's mate. An unlovely place, the Pickup, now gone, but the site where it stood is still of enormous significance to seamen like Alan Oliver and Don Caporn. And straight across Cumberland Street was the Shipping Office, with its imposing mass of three tiered wooden counters, where the seamen signed on and were paid off at the end of the voyage. Before the system was regulated, says Alan Oliver, 'You'd go down to the Pickup of a morning, and there'd be hundreds there, waiting for the seven o'clock call, and then they might say come back at five o'clock, or come back at midnight. You didn't know what you were doing. But one good thing, while they were collecting here, people were getting up.. giving little talks on what's happening around the place, in those days you could fill up Martin Place with wharfies in two hours'.
The ships that docked here at Walsh Bay might not have had modern air-conditioned cabins with automatic closing doors, but, says Alan, 'with two men in a cabin, or four, you're always walkin' up and down, and you're always walkin' in and out of cabins talkin' and things. And even, say smoko, you'd walk out and sit on the tarp. We always had a tarp we used to go out there and have a cup of coffee and a smoko, a cup of tea, and listen to the old blokes tell stories'. The old blokes: the old blokes appear in the stories of seamen and wharfies, the greasers and trimmers and firemen on the ships, the winch drivers and hatchmen and men on the trucks at the wharves who were still working in their seventies, eighties and nineties. There was a Russian seaman Frank Cashen who was in his nineties and had to be stopped from going aloft (to prove that he could still do it), and every time he went to the shipping office, the Shipping Master would say 'What age are you Frank, are you still eighty-seven?' 'Yeah still eighty-seven'. The old seamen, some of whom went to sea in the 1890s, says Alan, had 'ricocheted round the world, they hadn't established families and when you get bloody depressions and wars...they were (past) the days when a man could get a house and get a family, and it was either the foc'sle or the street.'
The amazing old blokes and their stories live on, much admired, in the memories of the next generation of men, in much the same way that Rocks and Point women invariably frame their stories around their grandmothers, mothers and aunts in the homes and lodging houses. Some of those lodging houses were most genteel, run as clean and tight as the ships, their formidable female owners insisting on proper decorum and behaviour from their lodgers at all times. There were, of course, other places, where a man might wake in the middle of the night to find rats fighting over his leftover fish and chips. Alan recounts 'He said to the real old woman who had the joint, "What kind of a place is this? I woke up in the night and there was about eight rats fighting over my fish and chips!". And she said "Well whaddaya want for thirty bob a week, a bullfight?" '
Seamen stayed in private houses too, with the families of their shipmates. Kitty MacMillan explains how domestic, work and leisure places became entwined:
'See my husband being a seamen, he was a union official in the Seamen's Union when I married him, and if they had any disputes on the ship they'd come up to the house to see him, to tell him. Well, me mother and I got to know them and then if we were in the pub and they come in the pub, well they used to always send us over a drink, and of course the locals used to get jealous because we were so popular'. Kitty liked the New Zealand seamen better than Australians. They brought her mother fish, New Zealand butter and scallops, and oysters in huge tins. And she says they were 'a different class of fellers to our crowd' . Why was that? 'Well our crowd when they got paid they used to get up town, spend their money and the only time you see them when they come back to the Point was when they were broke!'
And the pubs: the Ship Inn at Circular Quay, where seamen met, and the 'hard nuts' from Millers Point drank when they weren't fighting the Rocks mob in the Argyle Cut. Kitty says she and her mother were planning to move to Maroubra, but their husbands, both seamen, wouldn't leave the Lord Nelson hotel. 'They said if yez go out there yez are going on your own'. So they stayed put, and Kitty still lives at the Point.
Which pub you drank at depended on which wharf you were on: 'all along Walsh Bay that was all foreign ships except for Burns Philp...and everything was finger wharves along Darling Harbour, all the way along, right angle wharves'. The nearest pub to the Burns Philp ships was the Hero, but the trouble was it had dud beer, so people used to go to the Lord Nelson, and in summer time there were more people outside those pubs than inside, standing together on the pavements, drinking and talking, putting on bets. Alan adds: 'I reckon every seaman should start a drinking session with a curse, a curse to the people who invented the container ship! Before that everyone got a quid out of the waterfront, there was work for everyone.' Including those like Duck-eye Deeble and Mary Miller and others who, Herbie Potter, remembers, ran sly grog shops all down Windmill Street for after-hours drinkers. But women like Kitty also have other experiences of pubs besides the magical babble and the revelry. After her husband left her with three small children, he only gave her two pound eight a week to keep them. Meanwhile he liked to shout for the bar, and on one occasion at the Lord Nelson, a mate of Kitty's brother, knowing her situation, picked up the money he left on the bar and brought it to her home, saying ' 'Ere. buy [your boy] a pair of trousers and a pair of shoes'. Kitty thought he was giving her the money, but he said 'No. Yer bloody husband was up there shoutin' for the bar and I picked it up, knocked it off and brought it'. Much laughter.
Herbie Potter laughs heartily too when he tells the old tales of the parties and the pubs and the larks; but when he talks about his last experience of Walsh Bay wharves and the Nelson his voice becomes low and sombre, because it marked the end of his working life on the wharves. Like most wharfies would tell you, I suppose, he says that wharfside work was very hard, it was all 'muscle work', but nevertheless it was 'a good life, you knew everybody and it was out in the open'. But there came a day, a Monday when there were hundred and twenty gangs off. On Tuesday his gang got a job, went over to 9 Walsh Bay, but a mate there told him 'yer unlucky Herb, all yer gonna do is clear the stuff off the end of the steel and that'll be it.' He went in on the Wednesday, still two hundred off, on the Thursday, a hundred and fifty , 'So I said to them, if I don't get a job today, this is it. So I had a mate who was in the stevedore business, I let him know. So he said, well if yer gonna thomas off, he said, come down to the Nelson on Satday and I'll have all your money. So anyhow...that's what happened.'
These are a just a few of the strands - rich, complex, contradictory, ambiguous- which make the wharf space accessible as 'place'. They run from this place through the lives of men and women, out to the terraces and units, both around the Rocks and Millers Point, and scattered through the suburbs, where the wives and retired wharfies and seamen live. These are the people who can tell you about this place.
Dr. Grace Karskens is a Research Fellow with the School of History at the University of NSW. She has published a book about the Rocks and is currently researching the history of Sydney.Email:[email protected]
The UK Government has agreed to pay compensation running into billions of pounds following successful court action against them alleging negligent management of dust levels in the mines.
To date 60,000 ex-miners have come forward in the UK but the Department of Trade and Industry have revealed that they assess that the true total is around 100,000.
So where are the missing 40,000?
Many will have emigrated to Australia either to work down Australian mines or more recently for retirement with their families. Some will have passed away by now but, nevertheless, the monies are available, in certain cases, to their widows and families.
Time Limits apply and anyone wishing to claim must come forward now else to avoid losing their right to claim.
The case was brought originally on behalf of around 120 miners against the UK Government, responsible for the former nationalised coal industry. Six test cases were successful at trial last year in a judgment scathingly critical of the lack of care of British Coal for the health o f their employees. The UK Government readily conceded not to appeal and confirmed that they would pay compensation to all other miners whose cases came within the criteria set out by the judge.
Following lengthy negotiations, a settlement was finally reached and announced to the court on Friday the 26the March 1999.
Australia is already playing a major role in this compensation scheme in that the company contracted to undertake first stage medical screening of claimants, Healthcall, has recruited technicians from Australia to travel over to the UK to undertake this work.
Graham Ross of UK solicitors, Ross & Co, of the Wirral, Cheshire, a member of the six firm National Steering Committee which led the litigation on behalf of all claimants and negotiated this ground breaking settlement, was recently contacted on the Internet by a former miner who emigrated to Australia to work down the mines in NSW. As a result, Ross has now set up special arrangements with a team of doctors to medically screen claimants in Australia and is calling for other claimants in Australia to register before it is too late.
Graham Ross says:" To qualify for compensation, claimants must have worked down the mines for a period of at least five years from July 1954 and suffer from emphysema or chronic bronchitis.
"There are two stages to the scheme. The first stage will involve a small speedy payment without detailed investigation other than spirometry testing. That payment will be up to £5,000. If that offer is rejected, then more detailed examination of each claim is undertaken with the claimant being examined by a chest consultant and various factors, such as smoking habits, levels of dust exposure, etc being taken into account. This stage can award compensation up to £50,000.
"Processing of the claim, even if unsuccessful, will be at no legal cost whatsoever to the claimant.
Ross's firm ha also set up a special scheme with the doctors for pre-assessing cases before the time for accepting stage 1 offers elapses.
Ross explains " Stage 1 assessments will be based a simple spirometry test that will lead, in most cases, to an early low side offer. The claimant will have a short period of time within which to accept or reject that offer. If he rejects it, then he can move on to the second stage which will involve a more detailed examination of his medical records and examination by a medical expert. He will, however, have no guarantee, that the detailed assessment will qualify him for larger payments than offered under the first stage. There is a danger that more detailed examination, which, for example, may heavily reduce compensation for individual reasons such as smoking habits, may result in a lower offer than previously made and rejected.
"The risk of a claimant making a bad 'call' on the stage one offer can be reduced if the claimant is able to obtain advice that will help predict the stage two offer in advance of the first offer.
"For this reason we have set up a special pre-assessment protocol with a team of doctors who have already spent a lot of time in examining the complex medical issues in these cases and in particular the criteria adopted by the trial judge in last year's successful test cases, by which the stage two offers are to be assessed. This will ensure that our clients have as much information as possible as to how their claims are likely to be assessed under Stage 2 before they obtain their offers under Stage 1.
All ex-miners and widows can register by calling UK on +44 151 336 3000 or by sending email to the address below.
by Peter Lewis
As the spinners spun and the story became immersed in legal challenge, it was the cartoonists of the daily papers who best cut through the bull to the issues at the heart of the dispute.
Whether it was Reith denying knowledge of the Patrick conspiracy, putting the "Aussie battler" Corrigan on the back or Howard governing "for all us", these artists seemed best able to real story of power and betrayal that is today being justified in the light of increased Patrick share prices.
More importantly, they tapped into the emotion that many felt at the time as they watched the martitme Union be set up for the kill with a cynical press campaign, then hit in the lowest of all ways by the maze of shell companies.
"War on the Wharves", a collection of the best of these cartoons, is a must for anyone interested in remembering the feelings of last year's dispute. Launched during the federal election it stands as an important historical document of the time, one which no retrospective analysis can really match.
Sure we can talk today about the justification, the crane rates, the share prices and the winners and losers; but there is another story which shouldn't be forgotten: how a government worked with an employer to throw Australians out of work.
Some of the nations top cartoonists give the dispute the treatment, invoking all sorts of analgoies from Monty Python's Holy Grail to Toyota ads, from the JFK assassination and Stan Cross's iconoclastic "For Gorsake stop laughing this is serious".
There are some great gags. Like David Rowe's Rieth in the Mac truck about to run down a wharfie, saying "What do you mean un-Australia? That's what roo bars are for". Or Bill Leak's vision of Reith and Howard in paramilitary gear with salivating dogs pointing to the docks: "they're behaving like thugs again"
But for mine, the standout cartoons are from Jeff Pryor of the Canberra Times. From Reithy as Rambo to the fat, psycho wrestler whacking the unions with a pole marked "Workplace Relations Act", Pryor's twist is to transport the protagonists into other lives and show how ridiculous they look. Howard in guard uniform with a Reith-weiller in tow - "I only do this part time ... my main job is governing for all Australians, Or the look on General Howard's face when Sergeant Reith points to Plan D. And bookie Reith with his redundancy payouts telling the Cobar and Woodlawn workers to "Get Lost".
The book reminds you of how the Waterfront Dispute reasserted values like decency and fair-play back into the public debate. In seeking to crush a union, the government reasserted its relevence; in a way none of the pundits reviewing the first anniversary have quite grasped.
As such, War on the Wharves should be celebrated as an important document of union history.
War on the Wharves, edited by Christopher Shiel, Pluto Press and the Evatt Foundaiton, RRP $19.95.
During the nineties the child-care industry grew to Titanic proportions -- new centres sprang up all over the countryside.
Between 1991 and 1997 the number of places in long-day-care centres trebled from 40,000 to around 143,000 -- most were in privately-owned centres.
The building of the Titanic child-care industry was fuelled by strong demand and the policies of the Keating Government.
Child-care assistance was provided to parents making child care more affordable for working families and subsidies were granted to developers to build centres in areas of greatest need.
Meanwhile community-based child-care centres continued to get an assisted passage in the form of operational subsidies of about $50,000 a year for an average centre.
In less than ten years the industry changed from parents booking berths prior to conception to today when many areas have far more places than children to fill them.
A Gold Coast child-care worker reported seven other child-care centres within a two kilometre radius of the centre where she worked.
As well as the obvious problems associated with over-supply of child-care places, this rapid growth brought many sharks into the industry.
For a time everyone wanted to get aboard the gigantic new ship bound for the new world.
Investment advisers saw child care as a growth industry where for a modest amount you could set up a centre and make good, quick returns.
This brought a number of people into the industry who had no knowledge or experience of child care.
Even without iceberg Howard looming on the horizon, the Titanic would have sprung a leak at some point.
With Captain Keating at the helm maybe the ship would have made it but the weather turned bad with the election of the Liberal Government.
Iceberg Howard had two clear initiatives in child-care that were directly contradictory to the Labor Government's.
He wanted to cut operational subsidies to community-based child care and to reduce amount the Government was paying to parents in child-care assistance.
Both of these visions are ideologically driven.
The operational subsidy to community-based child care was withdrawn in order to make them compete on an equal basis with private centres in the marketplace.
Whatever the moral rights and wrongs of this action, it was the first big hit to the ship and the cracks started to appear in the hull.
Community-based centres were forced to increase fees, reduce their services, cut staff hours and ultimately the quality of the care was affected.
The second policy of cutting back on child-care assistance allowed the water to trickle in from every direction slowing sinking the Titanic.
Howard set a limit on the number of hours for subsidised care, restricted access for non-worked related care, capped rises in the level of assistance, moved to greater reliance on means testing and generally made assistance hard to get.
Parents reacted by reducing their hours of care or withdrawing altogether which in turn reduced the income of child-care centres.
All centres suffered a drop in numbers because some parents could no longer afford to place their children in care.
So the child-care industry was hit with the double whammy -- too many child-care places and at the same time centres were forced to increase fees just to stay afloat.
Families aren't benefiting by extra competition, they are suffering because of higher fees and a reduction in the quality of care.
To take an even more cynical view of the Howard Government's actions, many people have concluded that the Government is trying to subtly force women to give up working.
For the sailors on the Titanic, the child-care workers, the situation is dire. They are left on a sinking ship.
Child-care workers have had their job security dramatically affected, many have been forced out of permanent jobs and into casual positions with fewer hours.
Others have been made redundant or sacked on flimsy grounds as centres try anything to reduce their staff and stop the ship from sinking.
Most child-care centres are small businesses so they are exempted from unfair dismissal laws in many States -- making compensation hit-and-miss.
The Senate inquiry into child-care funding which reported in December 1998 found that the Department of Family and Community Services had a questionable understanding of what was going on in the industry -- they didn't even know the ship was sinking.
The Senate inquiry recommended the Department improve its data collection and processing so up-to-date information is available for policy development and planning.
The inquiry also recommended urgent action on child-care assistance for low-income families and further study on the impact of change of the quality of care.
It recommended further support for community-based child-care -- but argued against reintroducing the operational subsidy on equity grounds.
This had Minister Jocelyn Newman crowing about "the endorsement of Howard Government policies by the Labor-majority Senate Committee".
Senator Newman tactfully ignored all the other recommendations in the report including the swipe at her own department's ineptitude.
In fact, it appears the Howard Government's course remains in the great laissez-faire tradition of letting market forces preside.
Iceberg Howard is just going to keep bobbing around in its wake creating job losses, hitting the poor hardest and affecting the quality of the care our children receive.
Anne Jones is a Brisbane-based journalist who writes for the LHMU
by Terry O'Brien
As far as I can work it out, there's only one saving grace that I can attribute to winter - Footy. As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder it becomes increasingly apparent that footy has evolved to compensate us for these long dark months. In my case it's Rules. Aussie Rules that is.
No matter which code you follow the scarves and beanies are divesting themselves of the smell of moth balls and tipping comps are up and running. It gives you a reason to slag off at the person next to you at work. Or, if your team loses, them to have a go at you.
For the past few years I have run a tipping comp, and my idea was to foster "Footy Kulture" in a heathen environment. It 's almost got out of hand, but I'll cope. This year, as the deadline drew near for last tips more punters wanted to join up. It seems there was no fostering needed, just a bit of Swans success, aided by the Rugby League tearing itself apart.
Don't get me wrong, I want League to survive. When I have a hang over on Mondays, (after a Swans win), I want somebody to have a go at. After all, for many dark years they had a lot of fun at my expense.
Talking about tipping comps, I reckon you can tell a lot about people from their tips. It's a bit like an answering machine messages. You know the ones, They go and on. All you wanted to say was "I'll see you at the game and you get an eighteen hour introduction. Nasty if you're ringing STD. Others are so brief they are almost terse.
In fact I run two comps - one, a tip by the week (pick on form, perhaps), and another where your tips for the year are put in before the first game of the season. No changes allowed.
One punter, more than a little daunted by the prospect of doing twenty-two rounds in one go, asked me how to go about it. "Personal prejudice" was my immediate response
I had a look at the years tips. Most punters tip their team every week, even if they know they will lose. This is understandable. Some won't pick the Swans to save their lives. I suspect this because of the myth that they are an Eastern Suburbs based (upper) middle class side. And memories of the megalomaniac Doc Edelsten.
Others tip the Swans except when they are playing their team. This makes sense to me. Other biases and pet hatreds become evident as you look down the lists of tips.
I started out trying to ignore my own advice and take the scientific approach. Pick who you think will end up at the top of the ladder, And bottom.
Don't pick Richmond in "away" games even when they're at home.Don't pick Collingwood in June. If there is the slighted doubt, don't pick Collingwood.And so on.
This approach didn't last. It was doomed from the start. My list of prejudice emerged. In no particular order:
Melbourne is the Establishment team. Essendon has Kevin Sheedy and prominent supporters include Andrew Peacock and Peter Costello. Hawthorn - Jeff Kennett. Carlton - once working class, but no longer. John Elliot is their President. North Melbourne - Wayne Carey and they beat the Swans in the 96 Grand Final. Collingwood are Collingwood.
Then there's all the other teams from Melbourne. Geelong aren't from Melbourne but they are Mexicans. Richmond have too many supporters. They all seem to live in Sydney. Every time they beat us I hear about it for weeks. Fortunately this hasn't happened much recently. St Kilda refused to lose at the SCG. Footscray changed their name to the Western Bulldogs. This makes the tipping comp murder when they play the West Coast.
Brisbane come from Brisbane. Nuff said. Port Adelaide stole our song. They have a saving grace in that the are the original Magpies and it gets up Collingwood supporters nose when you remind them. Now that they have finally beaten the Swans this saving grace is less important. I now have a real reason to hate them. Adelaide keep on flogging us and last year's semi-final loss hurt.
Who's left? The other interstate sides. The West Coast Eagles. The Weagles, Wiggles, Weasels, Wet Coats, call them what you like. They are boring. This is an unforgivable sin in our code. Fremantle refused to let us win until last year. Even now that we have done it, the innate antipathy is ingrained.
As you can see, this approach has its problems. One clearly needs to prioritise the prejudices. This is no mean feat. Sorting out which team you hate more, at any particular time, can cause deep inner conflict. Except when it comes to Collingwood.
It may not win me the big prize at the end of the season, but when I finish I feel a considerable sense of achievement.
As is becoming increasingly clear, the size of the Carr victory says as much about the Coalition's abject disarray as it does about the electorate's endorsement of Labor's approach to government.
Carr should not fall into the trap that snared Paul Keating after the his 1993 'True Believers' victory. An electorate's rejection of an opposition is not necessarily the endorsement of the government's approach. Often, it's just a choice for the lesser of two evils.
What the victory does provide Carr with is the opportunity to mark his place as a reformist Labor leader, prepared to lead rather than follow lowest common-denominator media and polling.
Carr is incorrect to claim that the only alternatives for Labor are the 'boredom' steady-as-she-goes approach of the first term or the 'excitement' of the 'Shining Path guerrilla' strategy (SMH Review 3/4). Many of us, across the traditional Labor factions, believe there is some space between the two extremes which should be explored.
While Carr is right to argue that people expect governments to provide an environment that sustains long-term job security, he fails to appreciate that government also has a responsibility to take a lead on social issues, particularly when sections of the community either through ignorance or prejudice may oppose sensible and civilised reforms.
The challenge for a great leader is to argue the case to the community and use the political process as a vehicle for facilitating a greater level of understanding of the complex issues often involved and the potential alternative solutions.
One of the greatest challenges facing the second Carr Government is the social inequalities in service provision between the urban centre and the western suburbs and regional NSW.
This shift was discarded as too hard during the first term, largely because it was pursued in a clumsy, ad hoc manner which failed to explain to the community and the workforce the logic behind the changes.
This time around, the government needs to be more thoughtful and strategic.
The first step is to take a leaf out of the Greiner Government's successful strategy of defining its agenda by establishing an independent commission of audit.
For the Conservatives, this focussed on the financial, for Labor it should focus on the social.
This could be done relatively quickly and inexpensively by conducting an independent social audit of the distribution, cost-effectiveness and demand for government services.
The audit should be chaired by a high-profile individual with experience and community respect, such as the former Social Service Minister Peter Baldwin.
Much of the information is already available in a variety of government bureaucracies.
What is now required is that this information be brought together into a form that highlights clearly the inequities and imbalance in the distribution of government services. This will clearly show who the winners and losers are in the current distribution of services.
A Labor Government should be doing two things: explaining the need for reallocating resources through a process such as the one outlined above; and then displaying the political will to implement it, regardless of the inevitable criticisms of the losers in the process.
Importantly, the audit would provide the government with a political road-map for its next term; clearly setting out the budget priorities on a rational basis.
With power privatisation off the agenda for the next term, resources will be scarce and it is incumbent on the government to ensure those in the greatest need are given access to essential services.
The government can not expect to replicate its electoral success in 2003 if after four years with a solid majority its sole achievement is 175 more National Parks and 2,000 more police.
At a time of increasing electoral volatility, the people who voted Carr in for a second term, will demand a return on their trust. The social audit would be an important first step in repaying that trust.
"It's riddled with inaccuracies", Piers barks down the phone, while discussing his searching analysis of the Currawong issue with Workers Online this week.
The multi-award winning journalist and raconteur says he is printing out Pierswatch every week and referring it to his lawyers, setting the scenes for what we hope could be a ground-breaking test case in online defamation.
When asked to outline what parts of the column he had found to be inaccurate, Piers moved on to his next point.
This means the offending column could be any of the following: the attack on Frank Sartor which backfired, his baiting of Gerry Adams, his double standards on drug law reform or his one-sided coverage of the Currawong issue.
Meanwhile, Piers has made a timely contribution to the debate over the Labor Council's Currawong property, showing solidarity with like-minded Baby Boomer columnists Mike Carlton and Adele Horin with whom he shares so much common ground.
Some readers will also be surprised to learn that Piers is a Pittwater resident, placing him amongst the other NIMBYs who want to see the trade union movement frozen in the 1950s. We're sure the omission of this particular interest is merely an oversight.
We were also fortunate this week to benefit from Piers' searching analyses of the waterfront dispute and Jennie George's personal background, continuing his proud tradition of illuminating commentary on union affairs.
The invitation to join the ACTU executive can only be a matter of time.
NB For those who, like Workers Online, can't get enough of Piers, he can be caught regularly on Allan Jones's morning show.
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LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSWURL: http://workers.labor.net.au/8/print_index.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005