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  Issue No 82 Official Organ of LaborNet 20 December 2000  




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Dispatches from the Field

By Sarah Kaine

Despite the 'Botsmanesque' critiques which have been levelled at Organising, it would be hard to deny that the year 2000 has seen more and more unions in NSW latch onto the approach - at least in principle anyway.


Sarah Kaine

And - at the risk of further knocks and pisstaking, I want to declare myself still firmly in the Organising camp. Why? Because in those unions which are giving it a real go we are seeing real results.

This year the Municipal Employees Union took me and three Organising works trainees on to help organise white-collar workers in a number of councils.

You want an honest assessment? - Well we didn't set all of the councils on fire, but the ones we did provide my argument for organising.

Liverpool Council is a case in point.

The outdoor workers were well organised with strong membership. The indoor workers were not. Organising Works trainee Rebecca Pound was allocated Liverpool Council as one of her targets and she followed an Organising approach to the letter. So, what happened?

Rebecca met with existing members, found out that they had been working a 38-hour week where they should have been working a 35-hour week and were not being paid the three hours overtime. Obviously, there was her issue.

With the assistance of a few existing members, she set up an informal committee to consider options for resolving the issue. These workers drew up a flyer to handout to other workers, they allocated who spoke to each worker to get them onside and arranged for the making and distribution of badges proclaiming "BETTER RATE FOR 38". These workers involved others in informal lunchtime meetings and mass meetings where votes were required on tactics. One of those votes was for the negotiating committee which repeatedly fronted management.

And now for the million-dollar question - Did they win?

Well as a proponent of Organising, I would say they won because they ended up with a self-sufficient collective structure which can be further refined and built on when the next issue arises. But I know this is not enough for the sceptics and for them I am happy to relate the following deal was negotiated and struck by the workers committee (none of whom had any previous negotiating experience):

� 1st year of agreement workers to be paid for 38 hours but only work 37 and get a $20 bonus per week

� 2nd year work 36 get paid 38 plus a $10 bonus per week

� 3rd year of agreement work 35 get paid 38

And now a question for the Union secretaries - did it result in an increase in membership?

Yes - over 30 new members amongst the indoor workers to be precise.

Did we achieve any lasting change?

Well, the MEU has posted net growth for 2000 and Secretary Brian Harris, monitored the results of the year closely (don't forget he had to pay the bill for me and the trainee Organisers!) and has now linked his Organisers pay scale to their adoption of techniques such as those Rebecca used at Liverpool Council.

Is this proof enough to win over the detractors? I doubt it - maybe the non-believers shouldn't be taking my word for it........maybe they should ask the workers at Liverpool Council whether or not organising works.


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 82 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Being Michael Costa
Labor Council�s secretary on the 2KY sell-off, the Olympics and his plans for the future.
*  Unions: Millennial Milestones
In a year of highs, some trade union stories stuck in the collective consciousness. Here's ten of the best.
*  International: Eric Lee's Year in Review
The editor of Labourstart looks back on the global issues that mobilized labour in the past 12 months.
*  Organising: Dispatches from the Field
Despite the 'Botsmanesque' critiques which have been levelled at Organising, it would be hard to deny that the year 2000 has seen more and more unions in NSW latch onto the approach - at least in principle anyway.
*  Economics: Who Gets Gold??
At the end of this Olympic year, Sydney Uni's Frank Stilwell charts the winners and losers in the new sport of redistribution of income.
*  Politics: Election 2000: The Winner is Gridlock
In the last in his series on the US Federal Election Campaign, Michael Gadiel, our roving reporter, gladly signs off.
*  Satire: Chaser Launches Book
In the great tradition of repackaging old material to cash in on Christmas, the team from The Chaser & Silly 2000 has produced its first book.
*  Review: Cultural Wasteland
The spotlight was on Australian culture in 2000. But was it a missed opportunity, asks Peter Zangari.

»  Mad Monk's Secret Union Past
»  New Life for Trades Hall
»  Top Cop is Our Organiser of the Year
»  All We Want for Christmas
»  Summer for Social Justice
»  Unions Return to Mosh Pit
»  Unions Head West
»  Big Bastard Censors Dissidents
»  South Coast Labor President Steps Down
»  As a Died in the Wool Westie Steps Up
»  Dying Workers' Asbestos Plea
»  Workers at Centre of Turn Of the Century
»  Truth about S11 Starting to Come Out

»  The Soapbox
»  The Locker Room
»  Trades Hall
»  Tool Shed

Letters to the editor
»  The Greatest Team Ever?
»  ABC Online Did Strike
»  Why Nader Vote was not Wasted
»  John Scrooge's Christmas Gift

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