|Issue No 83||09 February 2001|
While We Were Snoozing
By Workers Onnline correspondents
As we lay in our banana chair through summer the political world kept turning with a new man in the White House. Here's what we missed while we were off the air.
The Bush Ascension:
Leadership of the Free World transferred from the Third Way-ers to the Compassionate Conservatives. After losing his nomination for Labour Secretary, the right-wing columnist and benevolent protector of illegal immigrants, Linda Chavez, George Dubya went about his job of looking earnest at appropriate times. With an economy slowing after a golden decade of growth, it's an expression he's going to need to master over the coming months. Meanwhile the vanquished Bore will return to his original career as a children's story-teller. The biggest question is whether the change in President will make a whole lot of difference. If the US doesn't absolutely implode, it will be fair to say it doesn't matter who is in charge anymore: the beast will now be running itself.
Federation Celebrations Turned Flat
What should have been the celebration of the New Republic became an attempt to give us a collective history lesson on the importance of compromise and incremental change. Despite the best efforts of organisers, the New Years Day Federation Parade proved that mass parades which don't involve gay bikers do not really work. Special mention though to our safety watchdog Mary Yaager, who dragged her entire New Years Eve contingent to dress up in period garb and represent the workers in the march. While, the multicultural speeches were a nice touch, Howard's over-exuberance and signature 'double wank' (both arms pumping up and down in lieu of genuine emotion) were hard to stomach. All that was missing was a triumphal march by Kerry Jones and Ted Mack. Very depressing..
Mad Monk Takes Charge
New Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott has blundered into his new portfolio with all the aplomb of his accident-prone predecessor. Desperate to defuse the ongoing shame of unpaid worker entitlement he laid into workers - stating the blame laid with them for allowing their entitlements to accrue in the first place! Then he turned his attention statistics, releasing a report card purporting to show that the government's stop-gap scheme was delivering justice, when the stats actually proved that less than one per cent of all moneys owed was being repaid. If his first week's in the job are any indication, life with the Mad Monk will be anything but dull.
Comfortable and Relaxed?
If there were any doubt about the growing gap between the haves and have-nots, it was dispelled by research carried out be the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the ACTU. The stats, which will be used to back the ACTU's latest Living Wage case, paint a bleak picture of the lives of thousands of working Australians. How's this for comfortable and relaxed? In the last year 30,000 families went without meals due to a shortage of money, 30,000 could not afford to heat their homes, 22,000 had sought assistance from welfare/community organisations due to shortage of money ,41,000 households sold or pawned something due to a shortage of money, 220,000 feel their standard of living is worse than 2 years ago , 284,800 could not afford a holiday away from home for at least a week per year ,244,000 had experienced cash flow problems in the past year ,212,000 felt they could not raise $2,000 in an emergency ,166,000 could not pay utility bills due to a shortage of money ,119,000 could not afford a special meal once a week, 115,000 bought second-hand clothes because they couldn't afford new clothing, 48,000 could not afford to have friends or family over for a meal once a month. And the punchline? The Howard Government is opposing the claim!
Cleaners Resist Peppers' Assault
The Peppers Fairmont Resort in Leura is a great place to have a swish holiday - but it was not so great for the resort's casual cleaning staff who got a post-Xmas shock when the company announced they were out-source their jobs to a Texas franchise. In the end it was the company who was in shock. They didn't expect the casual workers - members of the LHMU - to put up a fight - including invading the foyer of the resort to end off a rally. Guest and management jaws dropped as they listened to rousing renditions of union chants reverberate through the chapel-like hotel entrance. The members' militancy turned into a clear cut victory when the company quickly backed down from their plans to out-source their jobs. " Casual workers in Australia have so little rights. They have to constantly worry about their security. It is only because we decided to work together, and work with our union, that we have had this historic win," Ken Zajicer, the LHMU delegate at Fairmont said after tasting victory. The Leura community backed the workers. The local media coverage was very positive and the local Federal ALP candidate - Adam Searle - was there at the rally showing where he stood.
Online Rights Campaign Hits Mosh Pit
As over 50,000 youngsters went crazy at the annual youth music festival Big Day Out on Australia Day, Unions NSW launched a campaign to protect email privacy at work. The Unions NSW stall which has become a regular feature at the Big Day Out collected several hundred letters calling on NSW IR Minister John Della Bosca to enact legislation to stop bosses spying on their workers through work email system. The letters also called on Della to give unions the right to organise over the office email system. The stall also distributed information on unions, OH&S and award conditions for young workers. Officials from the CFMEU, ETU, LHMU, PSA and Labor Council also received over 50 requests from young workers to have information on their union sent to them.
Big Australian Turns Big Bastard
Once an Australian icon, BHP has continued to morph into 'just another bastard employer' with its concerted campaign to deunionise its Pilbara workforce. Unions have been fighting the putsch in the courts, but have so far come up disappointed. In January, a single Federal Court judge rejected the union claim that the contracts discriminated against workers who chose to remain union members. The decision was made despite evidence that only workers who signed the contracts would be entitled to hefty pay rises. Currently the company has been injuncted from offering individual the contracts pending a February 19 appeal before a full bench of the federal Court.
War on the NZ Wharves
In an echo of our own bitter Waterfront Dispute, New Zealand workers mobilized in support of an assault on waterfront workers their. The NZTU has for the past month been battling a US multinational and a rogue stevedoring company on the New Zealand waterfront. US multinational Carter Holt Harvey has chartered five ships to transport logs out of New Zealand to Korea, using outside labour contracted by ISO subsidiary Mainland Stevedoring. Repaying the global solidarity it received in 1998, the Maritime Union of Australia has sent officials across the Tasman to support their comrades.
Core Labour Standards
The campaign to give teeth to international labour standards has gathered steam over summer, with the ILO moving into the sanctions phase of its action against the Burmese regime. The action, over the junta's use of slave labour, is the first time the ILO has invoked penal provisions in its history.Trade unions across the world have been requested to press their governments to impose a ban on investments in and trade with the junta. The Brussels-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has identified 30 different products in relation to which it found "vast evidence of forced labour over the last 10 years". The products range from teak wood to coconut oil, rubber, cement, coffee, sugar cane and others. The ICFTU also said it had accumulated evidence of forced labour in 17 different areas of industry. In addition to oil and gas production and textiles, where forced labour is already well documented, the ICFTU said it was now also researching in other directions, such as the telecommunications, automobile and pharmaceuticals industries.
Interview: Dispatch from Davos
ACTU President Shahran Burrow reports back on the trade union movement’s presence at last week’s meeting of the heavyweights of global capital.
Unions: After the Gold Rush
Recent mass sackings at high-profile e-businesses are beginning to expose the flimsiness of the ‘jobs for all’ predictions made on behalf of the sector.
Economics: The Other Davos
While the world’s business leaders met in Davos, a very different gathering was taking place in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Pat Ranald was there.
Politics: While We Were Snoozing
As we lay in our banana chair through summer the political world kept turning with a new man in the White House. Here’s what we missed while we were off the air.
History: Federation Day, 1901
One hundred years after Australia became a nation, Ralph Sawyer relives the original Federation Day through the eyes of Billy Hughes.
International: Burma: The Struggle Continues
As the internatinal community moves to bring Burma to account, APHEDA - Union Aid Abroad is working on the ground.
Review: Inside the Journopolis
In his new book, Rob Johnson brings the infamous Cash for Comment Affair to life.
Satire: Families Demand Longer Work Hours
A new report confirms the long held suspicion that employees who reduce their workload to spend more time with their spouse and children just end up annoying their families even more.
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