Addressing the Labor Council's seminar on 'Organising Young Workers in a Hostile Environment', Buchanan released statistics showing a dramatic shift in the make-up of the labour market.
Buchanan says the old structures of employment have 'dissolved' from the 1960s, where the vast majority of men workers full-time and most women stayed in the home to rear families.
Increases in part-time work have jumped from 10 per cent in 197 to 25 per cent in the late nineties, while casual workers have risen from 10 per cent to 26 per cent. This means the majority of the workforce is no longer employed on a full-time basis.
Amongst young workers, a staggering 25.2 per cent of workers aged 20 to 24 change jobs every year. And with 25 per cent of workers in this age group studying as well as working, it was no longer even accurate to portray them as 'workers' in the traditional sense.
"What we are witnessing is a collapse of the notion of the 'wage earner," Buchanan says. "Instead we have a new generation of workers who are more akin to wage gypsies.
While unionisation levels are low, Buchanan cited figures showing a growing disenchantment amongst young workers. Forty per cent of part-time workers say they wish they were working longer hours.
And more pointedly, while 56 per cent of workers aged 15 to 20 say they trust the boss, this number plummets to 44 per cent in the 21 to 24 age bracket.
But it's not all bad news, citing Labor Council survey results, the idea of joining trade unions is still attractive to the young, Buchanan says 61 per cent of the 18-24 group say they are attracted to unions - although this drops to 44 per cent in the 26-34 demographic.
Unions Part of the Power Structure
Earlier, the seminar heard a keynote address from Newcastle University academics David Rowe and Stephen Le Queux, who have undertaken studty into the attitudes of young people towards trade unions.
There focus group work, undertaken for the Newcastle Trades Hall last year, provide a sobering backdrop for organising efforts.
In focus group discussions they found young people regard trade unions as part of the power structure - little different to their bosses.
"Many associated them with big beard men working in manual occupations," Le Queux said. This was compounded by fears they would be victimised by their employer if they joined a trade union.
The Newcastle University academics suggested a series of initiatives to arrest the fall in membership levels among young workers:
- improved information and communication tailored to young workers
- the establishment of Specialist Youth Units within individual trade unions.
- special focus on the situation of young women, particularly with regard to sexual harassment.
- community and grass-roots information campaigns to counter the negative images of trade unions in the mass media.
- taking a more active role in the provision of education and training services.
- direct involvement in brokering job opportunities for young people
- review of union fee structures for part-time and casual workers.
Outcomes to Organising Committee
The Labor Council's Organising Committee will meet to discuss the outcomes of the day's conference and approve industry-specific action plans for young workers.
Labor Council assistant secretary John Robertson says the committee will consider proposals developed in workshops focussing on blue-collar, service and IT workers.
These will provide a focus for Labor Council's work in assisting affiliates with their organising efforts over the next year, with all programs to be re-evaluated in 12 months time.
The state branch of one union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, will next week vote on making service fees in all enterprise agreements union policy.
And Workers Online understands that a major entertainment employer covering several hundred employees will be hit by a service fee claim as early as next week
MEAA state secretary Michel Hryce says the service fee push, following last week's ruling in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, is being driven entirely from the grass roots.
"We've had a lot of members for a long time pissed off about non-members bludging on the union for a long time," Hryce says. "This decision has provided the trigger for a lot of that anger."
MEAA performers delegate Jonathon Mill, who will move the motion, says he's confident the move will be supported across most parts of the entertainment industry.
"While performers and theatrical workers might be regarded as individualistic, the reality is they work as a team and rely their colleagues to pull their wait," Mill says.
"This is precisely what the freeloader issue is all about."
Get Ready for a Wave of Activity
NSW Labor Council secretary Michael Costa says a test case in the NSW jurisdiction over the issue is inevitable, but has called on the Carr Government to remove any possible legal ambiguities.
"We believe service fees will be held valid in NSW but we want to see them explicitly so under NSW law," Costa says.
The service fee proposal is classic user-pays economics," Costa says. "Why should people who refuse to contribute to the union benefit form the work of officials, delegates and activists in securing a pay rise?"
"For free-loaders to argue they are exercising their freedom not to join a union is to cloud the issue.
"There is no 'freedom' not to pay taxation', there is no 'freedom' not to pay council rates and nor should there be a 'freedom' to benefit from pay rises and improved conditions without contributing to the costs involved."
"The service fee would only be imposed by the majority agreement of workers at a workplace and relate directly to the term of the industrial agreement.
The service fee proposal, which has been before the Carr Government for several years, is one of a series of outstanding industrial issues in NSW: these include email privacy protection, rights for casuals and increased protection for outworkers.
Addressing the Labor Council's organising seminar this week, former Liberal Senator Chris Puplick warned that genetic testing of senior management positions was already widespread in America.
While President Clinton had signed an order prohibiting the genetic testing of federal public servants, no such protections have been introduced in Australia.
Puplick said that while medical records with GPs remained strictly confidential, there were no privacy protections covering employment records, meaning facts like one's propensity to contract diseases like Alzheimers in later life, could be passed from employer to employer.
Balancing this was the ability of GT to screen employees in dangerous occupations from jobs that would put themselves or the community at risk.
Puplick warned that the whole issue of access to employment records is an emerging field of privacy concern.
"Workers need to be aware that they have fewer rights in the workplace than just about anywhere else," he said.
Sexual Harassment Blast
In his address, Puplick also took trade unions to task in his capacity as president of the Anti-Discrimination Board for their handling of sexual harassment claims.
Puplick said that in the vast majority of cases, trade unions represented the interests of the accused rather than the complainant.
He said 60 per cent of all ADB sexual harassment complaints were employment-related and in 65 per cent of these cases unions had intervened on behalf of the alleged harasser.
Labor Council president Sam Moait said the treatment of sexual harassment claims was clearly an area where unions had to review.
by Andrew Casey
"We have won an important first step this afternoon in the restoration of fairness to the workplace at the Wentworth Hotel, the LHMU Hotel Union National Secretary, Jeff Lawrence, said.
" Unfortunately fairness in the workplace is not something that ordinary working people can expect as of right under the Howard government's workplace laws.
" The Wentworth Hotel has now written to all 20 workers agreeing to fully return them to their jobs, rostering them for work from Monday morning.," Jeff Lawrence said.
"Rydges Pty Ltd, the company who currently employs the Wentworth Hotel staff, and AXA who own currently own the hotel, have agreed to discuss with the union and its members the future of all hotel staff and their job security - as well as alternatives to forced reductions.
" If reductions in staff are justified then they must take place through a fair and transparent process with at least a call for volunteer retrenchments before any compulsory retrenchments."
The LHMU Hotel Union has been running an intensive campaign to get the 20 workers restored to their jobs, with rallies and protests almost every day at the workplace.
On Wednesday the rally left in its trail a shattered glass door and a few demonstrators and security staff with minors cuts and abrasions. The safety glass which shattered, when about 200 demonstrators tried to hold a peaceful sit-in in the hotel foyer, made a lot of noise, and some dramatic media pictures.
" Commissioner Rafaelli of the AIRC agreed today to hear reports from all parties in the Wentworth Hotel dispute next week.
" These reports will outline the results of negotiations to vary the employment provisions of the contract between the current owners of the Wentworth Hotel and the new owners, a subsidiary of the David Burger Sydney property empire, City Freeholds Pty Ltd.
Returning decency to the workplace
" Fairness in the workplace is one that all working people have a right to expect," Jeff Lawrence said.
" Unfortunately one of the workplace rights which has been stolen from ordinary working people, by the Howard Government, is the right to automatic consultation BEFORE retrenchments take place.
" That right was entrenched in Australian law but the Howard Government abolished it.
"Decency demands its return - as the Wentworth Hotel dispute so graphically demonstrates. "
Under the Labor Council rules, any seven affiliates could have vetoed the sale. A second and final vote is now required in four weeks time.
Labor Council secretary Michael Costa said the decision to sell 2KY after 75 years was an historic one that would net the Labor Council $25 million, while retaining about $15 million in assets.
Costa said the sale would allow Labor Council to return to its original intention in broadcasting, with the building up of a remaining radio licence 2KM as 'The Workers Voice'.
Labor Council's wireless committee will oversee the new station, which will broadcast news and current affairs in a manner that promotes the interests of the labour movement.
Costa said $10 million from the sale would be dedicated to the redevelopment of Trades Hall, in a project that would be overseen by assistant secretary John Robertson.
He said attempts to restore the building with a third party had proved impossible to negotiate through planning laws, and that the go-it-alone option was the only way to ensure the restoration project was realised.
Seven Union Rule Overturned
The AGM also voted to overturn the long-standing seven-union veto rule, originally introduced to prevent Jack Lang selling 2KY in the 1930s.
The rule had been reviewed in the wake of the obstruction to the proposal to redevelop Currawong. But despite noisy protests from the self-styled Friends of Currawong at the meeting, Costa said Currawong would be explicitly excluded from the rule change.
Costa said the issue was more about the Council's ability to manage it's assets. He said he had received legal advice from Jeff Shaw QC stating that the rule was so prohibitive that it would be likely to be overturned by an appeal in the Equity Division of the NSW Supreme Court.
Instead, a list of key Labor Council assets will be developed by affiliates, which would require a 75 per cent majority to dispose of.
by Noel Hester
Sitel and the ASU have agreed on an enterprise agreement covering Sitel's 300 seat call centre in Sydney. Sitel is an outsourcing call centre that performs customer service for a wide range of Australian and international companies.
ASU Call centre Organiser Sally McManus says the agreement enhances Sitel's drive to be an 'employer of choice' in the competitive call centre industry.
'The labour market is tight. Employees are voting with their feet when pay and conditions do not measure up to the expectations of the job,' she says.
'Sitel and the ASU have negotiated an agreement that sets pay levels well above the industry average, extends breaks, introduces penalty rates, overtime and other standard benefits for an industry that does not yet have an Award.'
'The aim of the agreement is to ensure staff are happy with their employment conditions. Sitel saves money through reducing employee turnover and it makes them even more competitive by attracting the best call centre staff in Sydney.'
'Our members are very happy with the agreement with 80% of employees endorsing the agreement.
Kristy Delaney from the Youth Action Policy Association told the Labor Council's organising seminar that the issue of transport costs is hitting young blue collar workers in some of the state's most depressed areas.
Delaney says that while workers on public transport routes get subsidised travel, those using private buses - concentrated in the West and the bush - do not get government assistance./
"We have workers on an $160 per week income is spending $50 on transport," she says. "Some are saying it's not worth keeping the job."
YAPA has commenced a postcard campaign on the issue to NSW Transport Minister Carl Scully and has urged trade unions to begin organising around the issue.
Delaney says other key issues are that workers are not aware of their rights, they're too afraid to complain and don't know who to complain to.
She was one of a range of speakers who offered their perspectives on emerging workplace issues at the seminar.
Young Workers Paint Life in the Workplace
Workers from the construction, retail and IT sectors told the seminar how working life was often hard, brutish and short in the modern workplace.
Building worker Connor O'Gorman says that without a family history in the trade union movement, he would be like most young workers and totally ignorant of his rights.
Big W worker Maria Cavralis told of how organising from the SDA had changed the balance of power at her work and helped workers win more than $5,000 in back pay.
And long-time call centre worker Marios Elles, now an organiser with the Australian Services Union, said that when he first got fired from a job, he didn';t even know he had legal recourse.
All three spoke of how working with the union and other workers had changed the dynamic of the workplace and given them a chance to be heard.
Listen, Don't Talk - And Don't Try to Be Hip
JJJ morning show producer Steve Cannane offered the following advice to people trying to organise young workers: don't try to be hip.
"It's a bit like telling a Gen X how good Woodstock was". Also out is Marxist rhetoric, which is outdated. His advice? "Instead of talking, try listening - it's one thing that very few people do to them."
by Dermott Browne
Federal Police were called into the ABC to investigate the leaking of a document in January that revealed that the cost the cost of the Senior Executive of the ABC has risen by $7.4 million under Jonathan Shier's restructure of the ABC.
The CPSU has provided legal representation to members who have been asked to co-operate with the police investigation, Graeme Thomson the ABC Section Secretary of the CPSU said today.
"The use of the Federal Police to track down the leaking of a document that detailed the cost of Shier's new Senior Executive structure is unwarranted and is without precedent", he said
Up to 11 ABC staff were directed to attend the Goulburn St Police station today for questioning.
Shier has failed to earn the trust of staff and is now relying on tactics of fear and intimidation of ABC to limit any public examination of his performance as Managing Director of the ABC.
The information that was allegedly leaked goes to how taxpayer dollars are being spent at the ABC. This information should be on the public record.
Shier's sacking of three of his own hand picked executives over the past 2 weeks is only one example of the current crisis at the ABC.
Staff morale is at an all time low, staff are being sacked, and TV production has stalled because of a shortage of funds. This in part caused by the Federal Government's funding cuts but has been exacerbated by Shier's waste. He has already spent up to $15 million restructuring his senior executive and this cost is likely to go up by a further $2 million with the sackings announced this week. As his sackings continue, the list of outstanding claims through the courts builds up - all potentially draining even more funds away from program making.
"The ABC cannot survive under Shier. It is time for the ABC Board to step in and either control his excesses or remove him" Mr Thomson said.
Their unions notified the Federal Court this week of their intention to discontinue their appeal against Justice Kenny's January decision in the BHP case, and have issued a notice of their intention to take protected industrial action.
Instead they have resolved to take the issue back to the workplace, and will convene mass meetings across the companies' operations in the coming weeks.
At a meeting of BHP unions is Sydney today, unions resolved that on the ground organising was the way to go, rather than tying up workers in lengthy and costly court action.
Refuding to rule out company wide industrial action, ACTU Secretary Greg Combet says it's important that the dispute over the higher rates being offered to workers who sign contracts be resolved at the coal face.
He says while unions remain convinced that Justice Kenny's decision in the BHP matter was wrong, and that the appeal was soundly based, a lot had changed since the decision was handed down.
Combet says that unions have been advised by a Queen's Counsel that regardless of who won the Federal Court appeal in the BHP matter it would likely be appealed to the High Court. "The prospect of yet more legal cost and a long delay to the final resolution of the matter was a serious concern for unions," he said.
As a result of the unions' decision to discontinue their appeal the Federal Court injunction restraining BHP from offering individual contracts will be lifted, as will the restriction on unions taking legally protected industrial action.
"What workers in the Pilbara are saying is that BHP must respect their right to collectively bargain - that they will not sign individual contracts," Combet says.
"The ACTU and the unions will continue to support this demand. BHP should recognise the views of its' own workers and take the necessary steps to resolve this dispute."
The Austeel consortium has asked the NSW Labor Council to help facilitate union agreements to cover both the construction and operation of the facility, which will bring an estimated 5,000 direct jobs to the Hunter.
Costa says the decision to work with the labour movement rather than opt for the Howard-Reith-Abbott model of individual contracts is a huge vote of confidence in the NSW system.
"I think we showed with the Olympics that a unionised workforce is the best possible model for managing major projects," Costa says.
"We have shown how an organized workforce can deliver major projects on time and on budget; we have also shown how an organized workplace is the most harmonious when the pressure is on."
He's congratulated the Carr Government for brokering the deal, which would send a lifeline to thousands of workers shown the door when BHP withdrew from the region last year.
"This is great news for the people of Newcastle, particularly former BHP workers who have found a new avenue for their decades of experience," Costa says.
"For our part, NSW unions are committed to ensuring this project is a success and delivers a world class facility to the people of Newcastle."
ACTU president Sharan Burrow says the move will deny Australia's 2 million casuals the security of knowing they can have a family without the fear of losing their job.
In the first day of hearing of the ACTU's case before the Australian Industrial Relations Commission in Melbourne this week, major employer group the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry indicated that they would support the ACTU's push to establish maternity leave rights for casuals.
However, the Australian Hotels Association said that they will oppose the application and the Federal Government indicated that it had not yet made up its mind whether to oppose or support the application.
"This is a case of the Howard Government and workplace relations minister Tony Abbott again lining up with the radical minority," Burrow says.
"Instead of pandering to recalcitrant employer groups like the AHA, Tony Abbott should show some leadership and support basic rights for casual workers," said Ms Burrow.
If successful, the ACTU application would give unpaid maternity leave rights to all casual workers who have 12 months regular and systematic employment with the same employer.
Casual workers now make up 27 per cent of the Australian workforce up from only 13% at the beginning of the 1980's.
Under the Federal Government's workplace laws casual workers are specifically excluded from accessing maternity leave despite the fact that 60% of casual workers have worked for the same employer for more than a year.
"Mr Abbott says he wants to be minister for employees as well as employers," Burrow says. "Well he can't sit on the fence on this one. He either supports improved rights and security for casual workers and gets behind the ACTU's test case, or he sides with the recalcitrant minority of radical employers who are opposing it."
The move will end age discrimination under the Long Service Leave Act under which Long Service Leave only starts accruing for 'adult' workers. After five years employing the leave can be paid out of a pro rata basis when the worker leaves his or her job.
Currently a worker who starts a job at age 15 and leaves at age 20, can only access pro rata leave for two years. A worker starting at age 20 and leaving at age 25 would receive a full five years pro rata.
A second loop-hole will improve the plight of the growing number of part-time workers. Under the current leave laws, annual leave for part-timers is calculated on the hours they work immediately preceding the holiday.
This has allowed some employers to deliberately cut back the hours offered to a part time worker immediately before they take leave to minimising the leave payments. Under the changes, the average hours worked during a year would be quantified in order to calculate the leave.
Both changes were announced by NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca at the Labor Council's organising seminar this week. He says the government will fast track the changes when Parliament commences next.
Labor Council secretary Michael Costa says the changes, while technical, are essential in ensuring young workers are not discriminated against.
by Mary Yaager
John Della Bosca unveiled the campaign urging farmers to conduct a 15 minute user friendly hazard checklist.
"Rural industries are the second highest risk workplace area in NSW - second only to mining," said the Minister, John Della Bosca. "That is why rural safety continues to receive such a high priority in the government's plans for 2001."
"Though most farmers know the numerous dangers inherent in their industry, many are often so busy that they become oblivious to some of those everyday hazards," the Minister said.
Mick Madden, President of the AWU, said "This campaign is long overdue. According to national research two workers die each week on Australian properties and this is just unacceptable."
The AWU has been actively conducting a safety awareness campaign over the last 12 months throughout NSW and were instrumental in getting the Government to initiate this campaign, Mick further stated.
Mick went on to say that this is just the beginning of the union's strategy for improving safety for rural workers. The AWU has recently been successful in getting the Government to agree to introduce occupational health and safety standards to cover rural workers, such as accommodation and amenities, and shearing, which were identified as major issues during the recent campaign.
If you require further information about this campaign or the 15 minute Safety Check List, contact the Rural Safety Hotline on 1800 300 377.
Actors are picketing the 24-city tour of "The Sound of Music" starring Barry Williams, best known as Greg Brady from TVs "The Brady Bunch."
Actors Equity has fined Williams--a union member for almost 30 years until he resigned last September--more than $50,000 for playing in the nonunion show, produced by Rockville, Md.-based Troika Entertainment.
More than 50 actors and theatrical personnel handbilled the openings of the show in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Providence, R.I.
Future actions are planned when the show opens in Omaha, Neb., on March 9, Baltimore on March 27 and in Washington, D.C., on April 3.
Leading Acehnese activist, Kautsar, toured Sydney in January to build support for the Acehnese people's struggle for self-determination.
Kautsar, the founding coordinator of SMUR (Student Solidarity for the People) the main pro-referendum student-led mass organisation in Aceh was established in 1998. He helped lead the mass campaign in Aceh which finally toppled former President Suharto in May 1998.
SMUR, which leads the student and the civil democratic movement, is demanding: a referendum with the option of independence; for the military to leave; and for human rights violators to be bought to trial. Apart from organising students, SMUR works with small farmers around land issues.
In 1998, SMUR coordinated the massive 12-day strike to end Aceh's "Military Operations Status (DOM)" and also coordinated the successful 70% boycott of the presidential elections.
1n March 1999, SMUR led a general strike involving some 90% of workers. SMUR also helped coordinate the 2-million strong pro-referendum demonstration in November 1999. Aceh has a population of 4 million.
Kautsar explained that Aceh has its own unique culture and language and is abundantly rich in natural resources. However, he said, all but 0.38% of its gas, cement and other natural resources go to the Indonesian government.
"Like East Timor before its referendum, Aceh is occupied by over 30,000 Indonesian troops. Our people are forced to endure state repression, kidnapping, rapes, murders and torture.
"Since 1991, more than 7000 Acehnese activists have been killed and many more have disappeared. Exact figures are unavailable due to the Indonesian government's refusal to allow humanitarian agencies to operate in Aceh.
"Our people are fed up with the repression and economic exploitation. Like East Timor, so we too have the opportunity to determine their own future with a referendum. But despite the majority sentiment for one, the Indonesian government is committing more troops and carrying out more violence and terror."
Kautsar said while the Indonesian government tries to present the struggle for self-determination in Aceh as a religious or ethnic conflict, this is wrong. "Christians and Chinese people are not attacked in Aceh, and are united with the overwhelming majority in their desire for independence. The Indonesian government has repeatedly offered Aceh the right to establish Islamic law in an attempt to mask the real nature of our struggle. We have repeatedly rejected this. Like East Timor, this is a struggle by an oppressed people to control our own destiny."
The Howard government continues to support the Indonesian government by maintaining military ties with the Indonesian military. Of concern the Defence 2000 white paper, indicates that the government plans to step up its military ties with the Wahid administration.
Australian governments have a long and shameful history of backing the Indonesian regime. The reason is that they consistently allow big business interests to determine foreign policy rather than human rights.
Australians need to step up the pressure on the Australian government to pressure Jakarta to agree to a referendum in Aceh and West Papua and to cut ties with a military which is committing human rights atrocities not just in Aceh, but across the whole of Indonesia.
Contact ASIET at [email protected] for more information on our Aceh campaign.
I have seen this reef on many occasions both as a fisherman
in the 1980's (before it was made a National Park) and subsequently on several occasions in the 1990's.
This is an extraordinary area where the reef in some parts
comes within 200 meters of the shore.
It is almost totally pristine and I have even been lucky
enough to see dugongs playing in the shallows near the shore.
This is also the second largest reef system after the Great
Barrier Reef and, as far as I can tell, the only major reef system that has
been left largely unspoiled. The major reef systems in Indonesia and the
Phillipines have already been largely plundered
I urge you to oppose this short sighted development and
encourage your readers to do so also
Send you protest to http://www.save-ningaloo.org
by Peter Lewis
Jeff Shaw - comfortable and relaxed version
Well Jeff, the first question from all your friends in the union movement is how you are enjoying life post politics?
I've been able to do a lot of different things. I've been freed from the shackles of the discipline of being part of a government, so it has been, in a sense a liberating experience to come back to ordinary legal practice and ordinary life. All in all I think it has been beneficial for me, and hopefully for some of the clients I have acted for.
You are still knocking around the union movement a bit though?
I'm certainly acting for unions and some of the clients that have supported me over the years in a number of matters and that's been a great pleasure to go back to those old allies and to do what I can for them in their battles. I'm acting for the Caltex delegates - the AWU members of Caltex - against the company, and I'm doing an arbitration for the NUW against Davids Holdings - but they are only examples. I've acted for a whole series of unions, including the PSA and others in their matters too.
You were out of the practise for almost a decade. Has it changed? Has the world of industrial law changed in that 10 years?
The practice has changed. It has tended to become more technical and legalistic - particularly at the federal level. As the role of informal arbitration has declined more and more cases have been thrown into the Federal court and they are highly technical and legal. This is a phenomenon that is much less so in the NSW jurisdiction and some of the other Labor orientated State jurisdictions, but Federally we are dealing with much more black-letter law that what was the case in the old days when we were simply conciliating and arbitrating disputes.
So are you saying that in an effort to deregulate Federally, we have actually ended up with a system which is more regulatory?
Well, it is certainly true that the result of diminishing the arbitration powers federally has meant that disputes are run on a more legalistic level and much more likely to be run in the Federal Court. I suppose the waterfront dispute is the quintessential example, but that is only one amongst many. Again and again unions are finding themselves, either initiating proceedings in the Federal Court, or on the other end of those proceedings, so that is adding an overlay of expense and technicality to what would, in former eras have been a relatively informal way of resolving industrial disputes. I don't think that is a beneficial development, but it has nonetheless occurred.
And for all that change, do you see the outcomes of the cases being demonstrably different?
I think the outcomes are different in the sense that there is the lack of the old sense of compromise, a lack of the former balance that used to occur in the arbitration system. It is more a case of black and white. There is either a total victor or a total loser for one side or the other, whereas traditionally conciliation and arbitration led to a balanced package which tried to give something to both sides and tried to give them a solution that they could both live with. - In other words, the art of compromise.
With that in mind, and having returned to that federal jurisdiction, what ideas would you have for Federal Labor as they move to come up with a policy for the 21st Century in IR?
I think Arch Bevis and Federal Labor are very much going in the right direction in terms of restrengthening the role of an independent arbitrator; re-emphasising the validity of the award sub-structure as representing a standard of fairness for working people. At the same time, obviously some things have moved on and the idea of greater flexibility in the labour market is a notion that can't really be negated and shouldn't be negated. So all in all, what Federal Labor is putting forward is a balanced package which recognises some changes that have occurred, but also seeks to ensure that people are not exploited by those changes.
What is the best thing about not being in politics?
For me it is a freer life. It is a life not dominated by the 6.30am media calls; or the inevitable series of crises during the day; or the need to attend multiple functions on Saturday and Sunday. So after 10 years, and particularly five years as a Minister, playing that role, it is the greater autonomy that I have in my own professional and personal life.
Looking back on that time, what would be the one thing in which you have the most pride in having achieved?
It is hard to single out one particular thing because in both the Attorney-General's portfolio and in the Industrial Relations portfolio I think we as a team - and I don't just mean me - but I mean the Cabinet and my ministerial staff and my departments - achieved a whole swathe of things which were worth doing. But the industrial relations regime in NSW, I believe, has worked very well indeed, and the fact that there is so little criticism of it from either side of the record, is a testament to the fact that it has balance. The non-discriminatory laws about property relationships, which were controversial in their time, have just settled down and been accepted and are being adopted in Queensland and in Victoria. The maintenance of the level, and indeed the increased level, of legal aid that we were able to achieve at a time when the Commonwealth was drastically reducing legal aid, was an achievement - to be able to persuade Treasury of the appropriateness of that was an achievement.
They are just examples. In fact, there were many positive things that I think were able to be done. The re-writing of the Occupational Health & Safety Act; the increased emphasis on enforcement of that Act and higher penalties, I think were very useful reforms.
Are there any things you would have done differently if you had your time over again?
I can't think of any stark examples of how you would do it differently. I think some of the changes I've mentioned and some other changes I would have liked to have achieved more quickly - there was always the frustration that things proceeded slowly through the bureaucratic and governmental processes, but ultimately most of those things were able to be achieved. For example, privacy legislation proceeded slowly, but was able to be achieved. The Administrative Decisions Tribunal took a couple of years to get up and running, but ultimately was got up and running. So, I don't think there is anything I particularly regret or would fundamentally think of doing in a different way if I had my time over again.
It is probably not a secret. There were times when you were frustrated as a Minister in the Government, at the speed of getting your reforms through. Do you think there are ways we can improve the way a government operates on a State level to increase the capacity for reform?
Well, I think the idea of more rapid consultation - I think consultation is vital - but some things tend to get stretched out into years of consultation, when really, if people are given a reasonable opportunity - in say a period of a few weeks - that should be enough. I think we could truncate some of the consultative processes. I think the idea of ensuring that departments who are commenting on Cabinet minutes do so in a timely way, rather than simply delaying the matter excessively - ought to be looked at. But by and large, I would have to say that the input of bureaucracies does save the government from some of its possible mistakes. So I would be the last one to advocate a completely free hand for Ministers independent of the Cabinet process. I think that process will always be a break upon our ideas, which with hindsight might not be the smartest ideas in the world.
What about the power of the Cabinet Office?
The Cabinet Office does play a vital role and Ministers will always be frustrated from time to time with that role, but at the same time, if you can argue your case, if you can persuade the Cabinet, then you will overcome any public service opposition to the contrary of your proposals.
Looking at the ALP currently - and I know that there have been some difficult times in Queensland. You have been called on to give some advice over the way the Party has been structured up in Queensland in the wake of the recent troubles up there. What sort of perspective do you take to that? Do you think the Party needs fundamental changes?
I think the Party has got to adopt the ethos that its decisions about pre-selections and about the validity of processes have to be above the factions. They have to be seen to be completely legitimate. So I would favour disciplinary tribunals or appeal tribunals in the Party which are seen by the Party membership as a whole as beyond the pushing and shoving of factional competition. I think if we had that legitimate review process, then no one could say that there wasn't access to a fair system of adjudication within the Party.
Secondly I think we need to put the interests of the Party, well and truly above the interests of individuals, and so where there s improper conduct, rorting or stacking, then it seems to me the Party leadership ought to come down strongly against such malpractice as I think Premier Beattie has shown in Queensland.
One of the difficulties seems to be for someone who wants to get into power has got to play that game or be sponsored in. You were basically sponsored because you were regarded as somebody of talent, but there is not many people that get in that way. Do you think it is actually hurting the Party in terms of the sort of people that they are getting into Parliament?
There is nothing wrong with the idea that if you want to get into Parliament, you have to work assiduously in your branches; be seen to be an activist; or an activist in the union movement; you have to show leadership and so on. I think though it is certainly a detrimental factor if it were seen that you need to simply encourage large numbers of people that aren't seriously interested in the Party to obtain membership. We have got to try to distinguish the genuine activist and leader within the Party, who is entitled to go on to bigger and better things, that the person who is simply a stacker of branches.
Having gone through your time as a member of Parliament, do you retain an interest in the way the Labor Party functions over the coming years?
I do. I will always retain an affectionate interest in the Party and my membership in the Party, and if I can contribute in any way - whether by way of ideas or otherwise, I will certainly be available to assist the ALP.
I guess on that, one of the big debates now is what the ALP is going to stand for in the future and this whole ... I guess over the last couple of decades some keystones of traditional Labor ideology seem to have been whittled away or to have gone by the wayside. What does Labor stand for in the 21st Century?
In the broad, it should stand for a fairer society - giving everyone a reasonable go. And it is a case of putting that into practice. The old doctrinaire socialist ideas of nationalisation of industry have obviously been bypassed by history, but that doesn't mean that Labor shouldn't take a very conscientious and serious interest in people who are disadvantaged - whether by way of people who are working on low wages; people who are discriminated against in the workforce; people who are forced into casual work where they aspire to permanent part-time work. I think there is still a very vibrant role for basic Labor values - to say that everyone in this society should get a fair go. The battler whose children are aspiring to do the Higher School Certificate and who don't have adequate resources - that is the sort of person that the Labor Party should look to - not only for their voting support - but to help in a positive way.
This week's decision upholding the legality of service fees for non-union members focuses on a dilemma for trade unions - how do we make the 'freeloaders' pay for our work.
In an era when the value of unionism is being questioned, the issue has never been as stark: an increasing number of workers are benefiting from the hard work trade unions and their members put into increasing wages and conditions without having to pay a cent.
For those who haven't been involved in the process, winning a pay rise is not something that comes easy - especially since the end of the Accord period when minimum wages automatically flowed through to anyone. Today, pay rises have to be won directly at the workplace - and, not surprisingly, pay rises are not something bosses tend to give away lightly.
A typical wage rise requires months of work: meetings with the workforce to find out what they want, long meetings with tight-fisted management, often days of appearances in the commission or court, arguing the case. All this activity is carried out by trade union officials funded by their members' fees.
Unfortunately, things sometimes need to go even further, members of the trade union will exercise the only power at their disposal - their collective strength - by imposing bans or going on strike to reinforce their wage claim. In these instances, trade union members will bear a direct cost through wages foregone while they undertake industrial action.
When, at the end of this process, they return to work with a hard-won pay rise, they are often annoyed to find a number of their colleagues who have not joined the trade union, not contributed to the effort to get the pay rise and sometimes actively undermined the campaign by working through the strike action, also counting the extra money in their pay packets.
It is an obviously unfair situation, but what is to be done?
In the past unions have flirted with the idea of 'members only' pay rises, that is, the wage increase a trade union negotiated would only flow through to their members. This approach had superficial appeal - but one fatal flaw. Over time, it would create two wage tiers in each industry: the higher paid trade unionist and the lower-paid non-member. One does not need an economics degree to work out that this would have the effect of pricing the higher paid union member out of the market.
The alternate approach, which has been floated in more recent times, has been the notion of a service fee - such as the one the Australian Industrial Relations Commission upheld this week. The beauty of it is that it relies on the classic economic rationalist principle of 'users-pay' - a principle that employers and conservative governments regard as fundamental when it suits them.
Where a person chooses not to belong to a trade union, they will be levied a fee for the 'service' they have received: that is, the work that goes into winning a pay rise and maintaining the enterprise agreement. The fee will be more symbolic than anything - a few dollars each week - far less than the pay rise the non-member will have been given for free.
Critics say this amounts to compulsory unionism. Wrong. The non-members does not have to join anything, just pay for a service they benefit from. For non-members to argue they are exercising their freedom not to join a union is to cloud the issue. There is no 'freedom' not to pay taxation', there is no 'freedom' not to pay council rates and nor should there be a 'freedom' to benefit from pay rises and improved conditions without contributing to the costs involved."
They also claim it is undemocratic. Wrong: Service fees would only be imposed by a vote of the majority of workers during the enterprise bargaining process. For the agreement to pass, this would also require the support of the employer - an increasing number of whom recognize that union workplaces are more harmonious and productive environments and, therefore, contribute to business success.
Please print this article and distribute at your workplace
by Gina Preston
The ACTU has piloted a three-week internship aimed at linking young people and unions. Union Summer combines on-the-job experience with training, and allows participants to build on the skills they have developed at their workplace or university. The internship emulates the success of the American program which ran in 1996 and has since linked many young people to union jobs.
For Alison Gerard, a Law student at University of Technology, Sydney, the internship give her an insight into new methods of union workplace organisation.
Alison has been working with the Hotel Union (the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellanous Workers Union) on strengthening the delegate networks at hotels such as the Sheraton and Hilton on the Park. Her planned activities were interrupted last week by the forced redundancies of 20 employees at Wentworth Ridges Hotel. Alison spent the day at the Industrial Relations Commission hearing unfair dismissal cases.
The internship has laid the foundation for the skills she draws upon when talking to workers or running training sessions for the Cross Campus Women's Network. The best part of Alison's experience so far has been seeing that the union is comprised of workers, and that effective unions are run by the members.
"Don't sit around and wait for the revolution, act now by celebrating wins and evaluating campaigns that didn't work for where they can be improved next time," she said.
For Alice Salomon, of Bondi, the internship has given her an opportunity to apply the industrial relations theory that she has gained from her Arts Degree at University of NSW to cases of unfair dismissals and contracts of employment that she has observed at the Commission.
Alice has been placed at the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union Telecommunications & Services branch where she is developing surveys for members at a Telstra call centre in which there is a high degree of casual employment. The union wants to embark on an educational program to inform call centre employees that casuals have as much to gain by joining a union as the permanent staff.
Although it is a Telstra call centre, the majority of workers are casuals from the agency Skilled. The union is grappling with the issue of Skilled employing virtually the same people for jobs done previously when they were with Telstra, but with fewer entitlements.
The most rewarding part of the experience for Alice has been seeing a desire in people to protect their conditions and a willingness to be more active.
"They are talking about issues in their tea room - rostering, permanency, shift allocation and security in employment. It's great to see employees responding," she said.
Marios addressess the seminar
I want to speak a little about some of the issues that thousands of call centre workers around Australia face each day. I will also comment on some of the subtle strategies that call centre managers have deployed to address these issues. Finally, I want to suggest that there is nothing stopping the union movement from using their opponent's strategies as a means for bolstering membership.
There are call centres which have human resource structures that are welcomed by workers and organisers. It is not contradictory then, that these types of call centres are interested in becoming involved in a minimum standards charter as proposed by the ACTU. Our concern is with those call centres where staff are complaining that managers are not providing them with reasonable pay and working conditions.
A perennial problem for managers is getting the workers to perform tasks which are directed towards meeting business needs, but which are not necessarily in the interests of the worker's own welfare. For example, one of the ways in which management measures the competitiveness of their Call Centre is by counting the number of calls that their workers answer per hour. Sophisticated technologies have been designed to provide an exact indication of how long it takes to finish a call; how long the worker is off the phone between calls; where the worker is and so on. Workers are complaining that these techniques of measurement are putting them under intense pressure to perform beyond what they believe are levels of reasonable capacity.
Call monitoring is an ingenious system. It both at once ensures productivity targets are met, while at the same time gently coercing staff into becoming self-responsible about how they conduct themselves. The issue becomes one for the worker alone. It forces him or her to reflect on their work place behaviour in new ways. The problem of supervision is solved, although not entirely. In most cases, as long as the worker achieves set targets, they will be left to their own devices. However, the call centre has a weak point, an Achilles heel. A problem that eternally returns - human expressivity. How does the manager get the worker to think and act like a machine whilst at the same time ensuring the worker's happiness?
Some have argued for less monitoring. Others have suggested that a more sensible approach would be responsible monitoring. The call centre is an instrumental rationality. It has grown out of the idea of maximum efficiency. The productivity gained from monitoring is what has made call centres so attractive to businesses (big and small) seeking to outsource their services. This in turn has made possible the creation of thousands of new jobs. According to shareholders and other interested stakeholders, if call centres were to place less emphasis on monitoring, they would be hard pressed to compete for service contracts in the market. Jobs would have to go. However, workers and unions are arguing that this does not give call centre decision makers the unencumbered right to disregard the safety and comfort of their workers for the sake of a quick profit.
Some of the issues that workers have complained about are repetitive strain, back and neck injury and hearing damage, which has been recently referred to by some experts as 'audio shock'. Workers have also complained of feeling pressured by phone monitoring. Stress has been cited again and again as a reason for high absenteeism and turnover. Quite a few workers have tried to organise themselves around these issues. But their intense efforts have either been frustrated by the visual and audible transparency of call centres; or because the majority of workers are quite simply nervous about the idea of unions. Despite strong organising campaigns, the problem of anti-unionist sentiment, appears to be a thorn in the side of organising efforts. This poses the pressing question of whether or not this problem should be excluded from future discussions about organising strategies. I will say more about this in just a moment.
In my first week of organising I have met potential members in secret hiding places during after hours, and corresponded via private email. I have also attended (under a covert identity) an anti-organising strategy seminar prepared for call centre management. How do I see my role as an organiser for the call centre industry, in the face of such challenging obstacles?
In the very short time I have been at the ASU I have been thoroughly impressed by the remarkable enthusiasm and relentless drive displayed by my peers and mentors. Despite resistance to organising efforts, union 'know how' is making possible changes in work places in three ways: (1) by representing the views of both members and workers, (2) by putting pressure on managers to become more accountable in their business practices, and (3) by becoming a signatory to several agreements. Apart from this, it is also raising public awareness through specific campaigns about occupational health and safety issues. It is difficult to disagree that the Call Centre industry is a new challenge for unions as well as a rewarding domain for organisers to be involved in.
Those sympathetic to the Union movement here and abroad, are proud of what 'people power' has achieved for workers' rights past and present. However, while critical historical events are a great driving force for the movement, claims are being made by some organisers that we cannot afford to allow sentiment to cloud our strategies, whilst the opponent is applying cutting edge human resource skills as well as constantly dreaming up new public relations and employee relations tactics.
Telstra and KFC shed little tears when they dispensed with their former names, as it was costing them market share. Is the union movement facing the same challenge? I do not think it can be conclusively proven that the union is losing membership density because it is less relevant. This notion is an invention by conservative governments and big business. Nevertheless this is a remarkably powerful myth that has worked effectively well to the detriment of both workers and union member.
Although workers are highly supportive of what their union is doing, I think it can be shown that the union movement has been losing ground because those same workers are afraid of the idea of being part of a union. The idea of unions (despite whatever shape or name they have been historically cast as) has been presented as an emblem of sinfulness and badness. The owners of capital have worked very hard indeed to make sure that this status quo has been maintained.
In order to counter pressure from unions and the general public, human resource experts have quietly worked away at disguising the tyranny behind their rule. For example, in the call centre industry we have recently learnt that some organisations have begun referring to call monitoring as 'call listening'. This subtle maneuver is designed to conceal the power relations between those in charge of monitoring and those who are situated in its field of vision. At the same time, it beautifully solves the problem of complaints from unions and evades heat from the media about 'big brother' behaviour and so on. This is but one example of how changing language makes possible changes in perceptions and forms of behaviour
How have conservative governments and corporations transformed concepts such as union, third party, delegate, collective bargaining, member, strike, stop work meeting and so on, into dangerous ideas? A few years ago when I was a work place delegate in a call centre, I witnessed first hand the bizarre contradiction between the attitude and behaviour of workers. Workers were desperate for change but they were also afraid, even resentful, about the idea of getting organized. Corporate managers, who could more accurately be described as 'the competition', have been doing quite well in recent times in the anti-union propaganda stakes.
At the risk of sounding prophetic let me say this much then: Make no mistake about it. The bitter struggle between unions and the owners of capital is a war over the truth of who has the right to represent the welfare of the worker's soul. In their blind desperation to remain market competitive, to satisfy their share holders as well as pay their own selves enormous bonuses, the 'corporate boys' will stop at nothing to totally undermine the union movement, even if this contradicts their own ethical standards.
Yet let us take refuge and hope in the fact that there can be no absolute victor. Battles will continue to be won and lost, but the war will never end. With the appropriate strategies there is nothing stopping unions from outsmarting their opponents with equal if not greater cunning and deft. However, this is going to take more than piecemeal planning. The corporates will taste the bitterness of their own defeat only when unions match their wits, when unions out do them at their game. Indeed there are clear signs that this is currently occurring in two ways.
(1) The ACTU's push for an industry charter and code is a brilliant two pronged counter-strategy against anti-union work place tactics in call centres. Firstly, and foremostly, it addresses the concerns raised by workers over sub-standard pay and work conditions. Secondly, by giving call centres the choice to sign up to the code, the responsibility falls back on them to practically demonstrate whether or not they want to be thought of as good or bad workplaces. The effect of this sophisticated maneuver, is that it is having a Trojan horse effect on the united industry front against unions. If shareholders and managers do not sign up, then their call centre could be locked out of the industry. On the other hand if they do sign, then this may eventually lead to them being roped into a federal award. Therefore, the industry code is a catch-22 for employers and a sweet strategic victory for the union movement.
With over 4000 call centres in Australia and between 150 and 200,000 call centre workers currently employed in the industry (which is about 3.5% of the national population), call centres are fast becoming a political hot potato. The ACTU has garnered support for the industry charter and code from the Tasmanian Government and the Local Government and Shires Associations in NSW. These organisations, which are being hailed by many as progressive and forward looking, have both pledged in principle, to award service contracts only to those call centres which sign up to the minimum service code. However, the NSW Government's silence on the issue is beginning to raise questions about its commitment to the welfare of workers and the greater labor movement in Australia. A clear statement of their position on the matter is being urgently sought by all.
(2) A landmark decision in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission has ruled that the $500 service fee charged by the Electrical Trades Union to non union workers (who piggyback on union negotiated pay rises and workplace improvements) was legally valid. This has the potential to boost union membership across all industry sectors in Australia.
This brings my speech to a close. I would like to leave you with the famous words uttered by Marlon Brando's character Terry Malloy in the movie classic On the Waterfront: 'Things are looking up on the dock!'
This speech was delivered to the Labor Council's organising seminar this week
by Neale Towart
Yes that's right. The grant was for land to provide a site for a Trades Hall and Literary Institute at Sydney for the use of artificers and operatives. The area was thirty-eight perches and seventeen one-hundredths of a perch. It was part of an area of 15 acres, three roods and four perches originally granted to John Dickson.
"Victoria By the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen Defender of the Faith and So Forth" (or her NSW underling in the person of the Right Trusty and Well Beloved Councillor Sir William Frederick Spencer Loftus (commonly called Lord Augustus Loftus) Knight Grand Cross of Our Most Honourable Order of the Bath Governor and Commander in Chief of Our Colony of New South Wales and its Dependencies), made the Land Grant for the Trades Hall site on the "thirteenth day of October in the forty-ninth year of our reign and in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty-five."
The grant was made to Henry Copeland (MLA)of Newtown, Jacob Garrard (MLA) of Balmain, William Ferrier of Balmain (a stonemason), John Edward West of Woolloomooloo (a plumber and gasfitter), John Richard Talbot of Sydney (iron moulder), John Atkinson of Balmain (a boilermaker), Thomas candy of Surry Hills (a draper), and Richard Mooney of Woolloomooloo (a Journeyman Tailor). They were designated as the Trustees.
The trustees were required to "hold and use or allow the said land hereby granted and the buildings to be erected thereon to be at all times hereafter maintained and used as and for a Trades Hall and Literary Institute for the use of the Artificers and Operatives of Sydney aforesaid and others under and in accordance with such Regulations as shall from time to time be made by the Governor".
The building of the Hall was a drawn out saga, starting from the time of the original proposal to establish a Trades Hall in 1872. Henry Newland, Secretary of the Trades Hall, detailed the story in his speech at the opening ceremony.
In 1883 17 societies formed the nucleus of a fund, and a request was made to the Stuart government for a grant of land. This was refused, and upon receipt of the ultimatum a contingent motion was presented to Parliament by Henry Copeland having for its object the voting of £6000 for the purpose. The motion was carried by 27 votes to seven. After two years of waiting the voted funds were made available and the site was purchased.
A limited liability company was formed with a capital of £15000 in 15000 shares
In 1888 the Foundation Stone of the Hall was laid by another of Victoria's underlings, Lord Carrington.
The basement was completed but after that a lack of funds made it impossible to finish the work. A temporary building was erected and was used for a time.
Then the Eight Hour Day Demonstration Committee decided to invest its annual surplus in shares in the Hall, and from this source was received in three years £1574.
Through the Dibb government (Dibb had actually voted against the original vote of money) a bill was passed enabling the trustees to borrow money on grant
Not much more was done until June 1894 when afresh start to the building was made under the supervision of Mr J Kirkpatrick, who was also the architect.
The opening ceremony was performed on 26 January 1895, without royalty this time. Jacob Gerrard, one of the Trustees, was by this time Minister for Education and Labour, and he did the honours.
He gave a very heartfelt address to the crowd at the opening, saying how glad he personally was that the trade unions now had a home, a legal home. He reserved special praise for the late Mr Frank Dixson. "If any life had been given to the cause of his fellows his had."
He had "great pleasure in declaring that the Trades Hall was now open for the transaction of business, hoping and praying - he had no need to be ashamed of that word - that the building would be a home for trades-unions; that wise counsels would prevail in all meetings assembled there from time to time; that their decisions would be conducive to the best interests, not only of the workers of NSW, but of the whole of the Australian continent".
Mr McIntyre, president of the Builders and Contractors Association also spoke and amongst other things, pointed to the fact that there had been no contracting or sub-contracting in the building of the Hall. Every man employed had been a unionist, and had received the full rate of pay ordered by the associated trades."
The opening was great reason for a banquet, and 200 representatives from various labour organisations accepted invitations from the land trustees. It was held in the main hall of the new building. His Excellency the Governor was unable to attend as he had to attend the Anniversary regatta events at Moss Vale. Speakers from all sides of NSW politics were there, but avoided any confrontations
Mr Talbot, a trustee, proposed a toast to the guests for the evening. The Mayor, Alderman S.E. Lees, MLA responded in part by saying "he was no stranger to them, and his sympathies and feelings were largely with them...They were all dependent more or less upon each other. All the ramifications of our varied organisations meant cohesion for the good of the whole. Justice, Liberty - not license - but that freedom which came from the British earth. They must stick to their liberty and never let it merge into license. If they stood by these two - justice and liberty - then prosperity must necessarily follow. (Loud Applause)
The assembly dispersed at 11.30pm, after having spent a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
From the Sydney Morning Herald, January 1895; and the NSW Land Grant Register Book, vol, 761, Folio 123
by Labor Council of NSW AGM
Dear Brothers and Sisters, on behalf of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, 53 Unions with a membership of 150,000, I would like to extend to you all, fraternal greetings.
The Economic Development and the Situation of Workers
Although the government claimed that the HKSAR would emerge from the economic turmoil to recovery latter in 2000 with a growth index nearing to 10%, the unemployment rate remained at a relatively high level of 5% ( Hong Kong government figures ). For the employed, many have been suffering declining wages and other working conditions since 1998. Casualization is commonplace in all trades and sectors. In addition to that, academics have warned that the accession of China to World Trade Organization may trigger a new wave of unemployment in HKSAR. Low skilled workers will face losing their jobs since HKSAR's role as a middleman between China and the outside world will be phased out.
As a remedy, the government has also announced its decision to embark on mass projects as its major instrument to boost the economy. One of these is the construction of a Disneyland and Cyber-port. However these cannot bring immediate relief to the workers who are suffering in the present economic situation. These promises only created unattainable dreams of happiness and hopes that divert tension away from the current reality in Hong Kong.
In the latest Hong Kong Legislative Council election held on 10 September last, the HKCTU secured two seats. Wide support from the community enabled our Chairman, Mr. Lau Chin Shek and General Secretary, Mr. Lee Cheuk Yan to be re-elected to the legislature.
Civil and political rights were under pressure as the pro-Beijing camp suggested in March, to set a timetable for the drafting of an anti-subversion law. The call for the drafting of the anti-subversion law has received opposition from the civil rights community as it was viewed as a move from Beijing to tighten its political controls over HKSAR.
The right of assembly was endangered when the HKSAR government arrested seven student leaders and threatened to prosecute them for organizing an "unauthorized" demonstration. Unionists see the arrest as an indication that the government intends to tighten controls over civil rights and union activities. On 15 October the HKCTU staged a rally to call for the amendment of the Public Order Ordinance.
HKCTU Organizing Activities
In face of the present economic and political situation, we believe that only with real strength and power can we twist the current around in favour of workers interests. To do this, we must organize and organize more. One of the main method is to moblize our members and workers at large to take part in campaigns and actions to change laws and policies. Some of the major issues which have been taken up are as follows.
- Absence of Wage Protection and Regulation on Working Hours
In the absence of a minimum wage law and collective bargaining right of trade union organizations, workers wages have deteriorated for an average of 20% in the last 3 years.
The HKCTU and sixty labour activities marched to four Mcdonalds outlets, on 22 April, calling for a boycott of Mcdonalds and demanding that the company set a minimum wage for its workers as it has been found out to be paying the lowest wages among all fastfood chains.
On 18 May, a motion drafted by unionist legislator Lee Cheuk Yan ( General Secretary of HKCTU ) calling for an enactment of the minimum wage law was voted down in the Legislative Council ( LC ). It was the second time that the LC had rule out a minimum wage law motion.
HKSAR has no legislation to regulate working hours. At present, over 600,000 of the workforce are working an average of more than sixty hours a week. Most building management and security guards work twelve hours a day. Nevertheless, motion drafted by unionist legislator Lau Chin Shek ( Chairman of HKCTU ) which aimed at capping the maximum working hours at a level of 44 hours a week and 8 hours a day by legislation was vetoed by the business camp.
At the membership level, campaign for 8 hour day will be organized on industry level with the members of the Building Management and Security Workers General Union taking the lead. They will organize their first march on February 18.
- Civil Servants Fight Against Privatization and Restructuring
In early 2000, the government unfolded its plan to cut 10,000 of its staff over the next two years through a voluntary redundancy scheme. The decision has created widespread fear among the 189,000 strong civil servants, as there was speculation that the scheme might become a scheme of forced redundancy. The CTU has formed an alliance with its affiliates in the public sector to discuss issues and plan joint actions around these issues. Meetings, seminars and public rallies have been organized. Leaflets and circulars informing members in this sector on development of their latest situation have been faxed to them regularly. Meanwhile we have begun the process of organizing the casualized workers in the public sector and the response has been very positive.
- Women Workers voiced out their demands
Women remain to be the worse-hit in the present economic situation. Many are unemployed or employed as casual workers with extremely low wages. Many have turned to become part-time domestic helpers. Since mid 1999, the CTU has embarked a special organizing project to organize them into a union. At present over 300 part-time domestic workers have already been recruited and the union will be born some time this year.
On 2 October the CTU Women's affair Committee marched on to the government headquarters to demand that the government do more to eliminate poverty and violence against women. The march was organized in support of The World March of Women 2000.
Labour Rights in China
The CTU as the only independent and democratic trade union organization in China, sees the responsibility of building and promoting independent labour movement in China. To do this, The CTU founded the Labour Rights in China (LARIC) together with three other Hong Kong-based labour NGOs - the China Labour Bulletin, Christian Industrial Committee and the Asian Monitor Resource Centre. It objects to act on concerns relating to the labour practices and codes of conduct of multinational companies (MNC) in China. So far, it has been engaging in discussion with a number of MNCs and some multilateral agencies over issues such as the improvement of labour standards and trade union rights in the operations of MNCs in China.
In November last, a Conference on China Labour Movement & its relations to HK Labour Movement was held. The conference was attended by more than 100 unionists, labour activists, researchers and members from the CTU and international labour community from Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Canada, USA, Netherlands, Denmark, Great Britain, and Poland. Opinions at the conference were in agreement that while the All China Federation of Trade Unions remained a state-controlled organization. It would not be able to function as a genuine worker organization or even defend workers' basic interest. Information on activities with the Chinese unions needs to be shared and discussed in future so as to evaluate the success or failure of these activities. The meeting ended with no set answers but a commitment to organize a similar conference next year in order to track the progress of China's labour movement and discuss ways of providing solidarity with Chinese workers.
Finally, I must thank the Labour Council of New South Wales for their invitation and excellent hospitality that makes my stay in Sydney a memorable one. Thank you.
by Peter Lewis
The accepted political wisdom is that One Nation votes are draining votes directly from the Conservatives - and the raw stats appear to back this up, the loss of Coalition votes broadly matches the increases to the Hansonites. But is something more complex occurring? Who for, instance, do 40 per cent of One Nation preferences consistently flow Labor's way?
Is it the case that some of the Liberal seepage is actually going to Labor - from the urban elites who are uncomfortable with the Coalition's perceived flirting with One Nation.
These gains are offset by churn within Labor to One Nation. While the middle class Liberals who warmed to Labor in the Whitlam era have remained strong, the traditional blue-collar vote has drifted away from the party that presided over our entry into the world economy.
Look at the policies of the Hansonites and it doesn't seem so far-fetched a proposition. One Nation's core policy settings of a White Australia policy and trade protection bear more than a passing resemblance to the policies that Labor espoused up until the end of the Caldwell era. Labor Council's own research before the last federal election showed a large number of blue-collar middle-aged men were receptive to the One Nation message. If they hadn't run an anti-union IR policy, more of them may have actually
This would explain why the economic nationalism of the Industrial Left campaigning for 'Fair Trade', sometimes appears spookily close to One Nation. While the industrial Left would never indulge in old-style racial politics, their implicit message is that foreigners are taking our jobs and we should put up the walls to stop them. White Australia, protection and a central wages system, were the pillars up on which industrial Australia was built and remained Labor dogma up to the end of the Caldwell leadership of the ALP.
News this week the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union is planning to fund campaigns against sitting Labor members over the fair trade issue underlines how far Labor policy has drifted from its traditional base. Perhaps this is the natural implication of Labor's drift to the center during the Hawke -Keating years, but viewed over a 40 year sweep it is a significant change. If Old Labor was the party for an optimistic working class, One Nation has emerged as the solution for their more pessimistic contemporaries.
Under this scenario, One Nation support is based around National Party and old Labor voters, while new Labor picks up from the middle class small 'l' liberals who lost their voice in Coalition some time in the eighties. Meanwhile, the current coalition of the rural battlers dominated by the silver spoon Conservatives see their base in free fall.
The One Nation phenomenon, as its name implies, is all about globalisation. Supporters of One Nation are the people from the regions and the demographics that have not benefited from economic change. They cross the old political divide - manufacturing workers standing side by side with the farmers whose protection was the Country party's great political mission.
The major parties ARE the enemies to these people They are now the parties for those who are deriving the benefits - debates around ephemeral issues like the 'Clever Country' and Business Tax is al about winning this 'high' ground, convincing society's winners that each is the more technical skillful practitioner of the art of government. For those disengaged with the process, they all soon begin to look alike.
The tricky political test for the mainstream parties is to take the whole community along for the ride. Keating failed because he was too convinced about the righteousness of the battle, that in the long run all would benefit from an open economy. Howard has failed because, after promising so much to the battlers, he just doesn't speak their language; his notion of government is too small to offer anyone anything.
Beazley is a better bet because he has the heart to wrap the story of economic change into something that that amorphous commodity 'ordinary Australians' can cling onto. He also has the pedigree to understand how the new global order challenges Old Labor orthodoxy, to explain how the things Labor has always held dear: a fair go for all and a decent, caring society will be promoted by engagement with the world, rather than turning our backs to them.
by Elect The Ambassador! – Building Democracy In A Globalised World
Why do people who have won the democratic right to choose their own leaders feel powerless and alienated?
This is the central paradox of our times. Democracy may have emerged from the cold war unrivalled as the most desirable type of government; yet voters show ever more cynicism about electoral politics. The root cause of this lack of faith is that citizens have lost much of their real power as the location of real decision-making has shifted from the local and national to the global.
Voters instinctively know that there is nothing democratic about this shift. Democratic forms remain but, within, democracy seems to have been hollowed out. There ought be little surprise that ever-increasing numbers of citizens view electoral politics as a charade if the most important decisions shaping the future of their community are made not by them or by their elected representatives, but by seemingly ungovernable transnational corporations or by remote, unaccountable international institutions.
Such developments trouble many people. The loss of consent of the governed poses challenges for even the most powerful national governments. Since World War II the United States of America has been a leading advocate of open markets and globalisation. Yet United States Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbot laments: 'While globalisation induces international cohesion and empowers international enterprises, it also accentuates the limitations of national power.'
This book argues that much of this growing cynicism about democracy and electoral politics has come about because of these developments. It therefore begins by examining this thing called 'globalisation' which seems to be driving these changes. Is globalisation good or bad for us? Or is it like the curate's egg, 'good in parts'? Importantly, if it isn't wholly good for us, what, if anything, can we do about it?
The democratic deficit
All over the developed world voters are reacting with apathy or antagonism to their elected representatives. They appear to be fed up with choices between what they see as Tweedledee and Tweedledum parties and their candidates. They suspect - rightly in most cases - that however they cast their vote and whatever party is elected, the broad shape of the policy implemented by their national government will be much the same.
This is what Susan Strange - one of the first to analyse the impact of modern globalisation - has called the 'democratic deficit'. This deficit, she argues, is created because all major political parties in almost every country have accepted as a reality, if not in their rhetoric, that their political choices have narrowed because of the need to conform to what global markets will allow.
Thomas Friedman writes about globalisation as if it is a Homeric force - something, like earthquakes, fire and flood, beyond the capacity of communities to resist. Friedman claims nations must accommodate its demands or find their citizens left behind in isolation and poverty. He uses the term "Golden Straitjacket" to describe the policy choices that must be adopted by governments that want to attract foreign investment and stay in what he calls 'the Fast World'. This view of government as tied - with its implicit rejection of the power of humans to shape their own destiny - appears to be almost totally dominant among economic commentators.
Bowing to the markets: bondage or discipline?
A striking example of the convergence of policy choices being driven by this golden straitjacket discipline is provided by Australia under the Hawke and Keating governments from 1987 until 1996. These Australian governments were not alone in bowing to the market during this period. Indeed, a fair judgment would probably conclude that, at a time when the social safety net was being torn up in many countries, the Hawke and Keating Labor governments swam against the stream in seeking to preserve a strong system of basic welfare provision. But they too, despite their Laborist and social democratic origins, went along with much of what the market demanded.
This is what makes the example so illustrative. Implicitly accepting Thatcher's mantra 'there is no alternative', Australian Labor governments introduced smaller government, privatization of state assets, a national competition policy, the elimination of currency and foreign exchange controls, major reductions in tariffs and in non-tariff industry protection, as well as real wage reductions and increased labour-market flexibility.
Social democratic governments accepted the need for these policies because, like Friedman, they believed those measures were necessary for their countries to remain internationally competitive. Some accepted these choices reluctantly but many showed the fervour of the recently converted as they embraced the 'discipline' of the market. Doing so was seen as the measure of mature international citizenship. Speaking about the decision to float the Australian dollar, Keating was positively triumphalist:
The kind of discipline this government's faced up to would be something I think...[the opposition parties would] be totally incapable of facing. The float is the decision where Australia truly made its debut into the world - said, 'OK, we're now an international citizen'.
But embracing this kind of discipline means the nation state is now more limited in the security it can guarantee its citizens. Given that this is the case, what can social democrats - who in the main accept the inevitability, if not the desirability of globalisation - offer, other than comforting platitudes, to globalisation's losers?
If putting on Friedman's 'Golden Straitjacket' creates job insecurity for many workers and growing inequalities between citizens, then turning a blind eye to those consequences is bound to aggravate social tensions and to spawn populist resistance. This is the fertile ground that led to widespread support for Le Pen in France, the neo-Nazis in Austria, Buchanan in the United States of America and Hanson in Australia. The appeal of right-wing extremist movements to the marginalized will grow if they are the only forces offering an alternative.
We usually get little warning of major historical economic and social turning-points. In the early 1980s, for instance, the collapse of Communism and of the Soviet Union was almost unimaginable. Without some resolution to the crises of disempowerment and of increasing social division and growing disaffection over democratic processes, the capitalist system may be no more immune to cataclysmic change than was the communist system in Russia in 1989.
It makes little sense, however, to advocate policies of social inclusion and social justice, if there is no realistic prospect that these objectives can be achieved. The increasing individualism that has been a characteristic of globalisation provides a challenge to the relationship between the state and the citizen - even to the idea of the state itself having more than the most basic residual welfare role.
The contraction of the state's social role in the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand has been pronounced. Even in continental Europe, until recently the stronghold of the welfare state, the age at which state pensions are paid has been raised and many social services have been cut back. Present-day Western national governments are evolving, or have evolved into 'post-welfare states'.
This evolution has forced social democratic parties to redefine, either explicitly or covertly, their social programs. Before the onslaught of globalisation social democrats pursued a number of objectives. They advocated transfer payments - such as pensions, unemployment relief and the public provision of health and education - and also sought to protect workers from exploitation and to invest in infrastructure and publicly owned enterprise in order to build strong national economies. For most of the twentieth century these objectives formed the ideological battleground of electoral politics in Western democracies. However, the number of real differences between the moderate Right and the moderate Left has decreased. This convergence has led to growing public cynicism about the whole democratic system.
The debate about whether citizens have lost their power to influence the shape of their future thus concerns everyone; but the rub of the question is most acute for social democrats.
Individual economic liberty and the generation of private wealth have not provided solutions to the problems of structural inequality and social insecurity unleashed by the massive and continuing changes wrought by globalisation. Time and time again experience has shown that trickle-down doesn't trickle.
Whither - or wither - the nation state?
The idea that the nation state can no longer guarantee economic and social security for its citizens has revolutionary implications. Even if national governments are less constrained than Friedman and Strange suggest, social democrats will need to consider whether the evolution of their societies to post-welfare states is reversible. This means exploring what defensive strategies are possible, and at what cost.
A starting point is to ask whether the current international 'competition for the bottom' on tax policy can be avoided. 'Competition for the bottom' describes the process that occurs if nations and regions competitively reduce their tax rates to attract mobile capital. If one country offers tax cuts or other incentives, its competitors often think they have to follow suit in order to remain equally attractive to investors. This creates a vicious downward pressure on tax rates.
Tax revenue has already declined because of the collapse of claims for the legitimacy of the redistributive tax system and because of the growing opportunities for tax evasion as global commerce shifts mobile capital beyond national borders and through tax havens. This has led to the contraction and gradual disappearance of many aspects of the public sphere. The survival of civil society - of even a minimalist welfare state cannot be guaranteed if the state loses its capacity to collect tax.
Declining revenues have also led anxious policy-makers to sell off assets formerly held in public ownership. Privatisation of public provisions - energy, water, education, health, and even prisons and security services - means more than a change of ownership. The implications of the elimination of public ownership are more profound, affecting people's attitudes to each other and the idea of community. This means that, even if national governments have greater freedom than commentators such as Friedman suggest, the changes that globalisation has already wrought cannot be ignored by policy-makers who want to exercise the diminished options that remain.
Is reform possible?
Globalisation, free trade, the reduction of the public sphere to a residual role, increasing disparities in wealth between individuals and regions - all these have historical precedents. Similar great changes occurred in late nineteenth century Europe.
Benjamin Disraeli, writer, political thinker and prime minister in Victorian Britain, warned that untrammeled capitalism would create a human residue, an excluded underclass, a society of 'Two Nations' - of the rich and the poor.
Then, such a society of 'Two Nations' did not come to pass. Instead, in Russia, China, and some other less-developed nations, state socialism was attempted, while in more economically advanced nations the welfare state was created to take the rough edges off the anarchy of the markets and make the world safe for capitalism. The welfare state allowed the free market's dynamic capacity to create growth and wealth to coexist and even thrive within a framework that provided at least some basic social rights for all citizens. The welfare state thus ameliorated capitalism's human costs. Through most of the twentieth century almost all economically strong nation states moved to create some form of economic and social safety net for those who would otherwise have been left behind.
The modern, democratic, nation state thus grew out of the economic heritage of the industrial revolution and the political heritage of the French and American revolutions. It blended welfare-capitalism and the 'rights of man'.
Democracy confers legitimacy on governments chosen by the will of their citizens. Its ideal is that government is 'for the people, by the people, of the people'. It is a powerful tradition. Democratic theory asserts that to the extent that they choose, citizens can subject the otherwise unconstrained forces of the market to limits. The choices of what limits should be imposed are decided by electoral contest. The government of a democratic nation state is meant to be a mechanism through which citizens can express their common will.
But this theory no longer works as it once did. Globalisation has shifted the arena of decision-making from the local to the global. Many decisions that used to be made at the local and national level are now made by international institutions. And many choices that used to be open to national governments are, because of the forces of global capital, no longer realistically available. This returns us to the paradox created by globalisation; while democracy has triumphed, it seems to have lost much of its power.
If we now recognize that the capacity of citizens to make effective political choices has lessened because of this situation, can we do anything to extend social control of capital and the market to the international sphere? And if the nation state is restricted in its choices for the same reason, what opportunities exist to develop and democratize global government?
Global government is a fact - not a choice
This book argues that global government is already a fact of life. Global government includes formally recognized elements such as the United Nations and economic structures such as the Bretton Woods organisations (the World Bank and the international Monetary fund), and the World Trade Organisation. It also has many informal elements.
The structure of global government has evolved in a piece-meal way, through practice over time, and its constitution is unwritten. In this it resembles the British constitution, which also is unwritten and grew organically. This makes getting a grasp of its workings difficult. For that reason it was not until legal scholars provided accessible accounts of the British constitution that the intelligent lay-person could have a working knowledge of it.
The current transnational system of global government, with its intersecting influences of treaty law, international institution, transnational corporations and non-government organisations, is similarly elusive and difficult to summarise. A vast number of important decisions, often shrouded in secrecy, are being taken by global government. But, unlike the British government, it is almost completely outside democratic control.
The theme of this book is that citizens should begin to insist on the democratisation of global government. The alternative is not just that we will see more of the same - of mean-spirited, shrinking, post-welfare nation states. We will also witness growing social division between, and within, nations. At best, this will create fertile ground for heightened disaffection and conflict. At worst, it may see the world racked by explosions of racialism, xenophobia and ultra-nationalism.
Too often in history bad ideas have triumphed when real concerns about the community's insecurity have been ignored or given only lip-service. It seems improbable that growing inequality can be tolerated indefinitely. If, in all except cynical electoral rhetoric, political leaders treat the great problems of their times - rapidly increasing inequality, unemployment and poverty - as beyond solution, new populist political forces will emerge with claims to fill the vacuum.
It will not be possible for the social democratic tradition to survive if we abandon the international sphere to the political equivalent of Adam Smith's invisible hand. So, this book explores whether it is possible to breathe life back into the democratic ideal in a globalised world. It is optimistic about this possibility. It asserts that citizens can only exercise the whole of their power if they claim a right to be represented in processes of international decision-making. Such claims must be pressed with the objective of sustaining the legitimacy of consent to a form of government which already has, and increasingly will have a global dimension.
The structure of this book
This book begins by examining what 'going global' means. Chapter 1 sets out to provide some basic data about globalisation, and a thumbnail, theoretical overview of what it means. It examines who has gained and who has lost as a result of globalisation.
Chapter 2 then explores how much autonomy nation states retain in this globalised world. It asserts that national governments still possess some freedom of choice in economic sand social policy-setting but concludes that this will become increasingly constrained. It also argues that many problems that once could be solved at a national level can now only be effectively addressed by international decision-making.
Attention is then given to the significance of the demise of the public sphere. This focus is necessary because globalisation has driven policy choices towards acceptance of neoclassical or neo-liberal economics - that is, privileging the private sphere and denigrating the public one. The discussion highlights a looming global crisis in social policy.
Chapter 3 examines the implications of this crisis in social policy. It argues that we need new approaches and structures that can cope with the implications of the information age and allow for the development of global approaches to social, as well as economic policy. This chapter concludes that we need to pioneer new forms of transnational institutions that can not only make rules for the global economy but also enforce them.
Chapter 4 focusses attention on the fact that an emergent but already complex system of global government exists. It sets out the elements of that government and provides an overview of how this works. Importantly, it argues that those seeking to relocate decision-making back to the national level are misguided. It contends that there are aspects of modern globalisation that require global solutions. It recognises, however, that the way global government now operates is undemocratic and unaccountable. It proposes change and argues that, without the consent of the governed, international institutions will remain under assault.
Chapter 5 summarises the key conclusions from earlier chapters and makes the case that extending global democracy is an idea whose time has come.
Finally, in Chapter 6, a set of ten proposals is presented to form a starting point for an agenda of action designed to transform the way we respond to globalisation.
All politics are local: global politics are local politics
There are many beginning to speak out, even at the highest levels, in recognition that globalisation requires us to radically rethink the traditional roles of government and the citizen. Once again, Strobe Talbot gets to the heart of this issue. Writing about what he calls 'the end of foreign policy', Talbot contends:
In the context of the many global problems facing the United States today, and also in the context of their solutions, the very word 'foreign' is becoming obsolete. From the floor of the stock exchange in Singapore to the roof of the world over Patagonia where there is a hole in the ozone layer, what happens there matters here - and vice versa.
The power of this idea is captured in the phrase used in the title of the book - Elect the ambassador!
by The Chaser
"It looked like an interesting issue," said the man, who adamantly denied the purchase was an attempt to assuage guilt about his relative wealth.
The 38-year-old man, who purchased the magazine in Collins Street's financial district, also denied he was just trying to appear altruistic in front of clients who were with him.
"The purchase was completely innocent," the man said. "I have a genuine interest in the independent street press. But can you believe that vendor bum not writing me a receipt for my tax?"
The man said he is still yet to open the magazine.
Madam Chair, Delegates, Visitors from Japan and Hong Kong to whom I extend a fraternal greeting - it is a great honour for me to be here again for this Annual General Meeting of the Labor Council of New South Wales.
I recall with great pride being here within days of the ending of our Olympic Games, to say, as the head of a Labor Government, formally and officially "Thank You" to the trade unions of NSW for delivering the world's best Olympics.
And delegates, at every opportunity, including recently at the Davos World Economic forum with Sharan Burrow, I have boasted that we delivered these Olympic Games with a unionised workforce, with negotiations underpinning those Games with the unionised workforce and the trade union movement that represented those workers, and in no way was dealing with a unionised workforce a disadvantage as we put those Games together - it was a gr eat advantage - a great advantage to deal with a unionised workforce and the organisations representing them.
I remember, the day after I addressed the Labor Council I sent copies of my speech to the heads of the AFLCIO, and the British Trade Union Congress, and some other international trade union organisations because I want this message to go around the world - to those countries where unions have got to battle to get a hearing, like in the United States, where there is a downward trend in union coverage that's very marked. I want the world to know that the world's most successful Olympic Games were delivered by a unionised workforce.
Friends, our goal is the same as yours. Today we look at a ferocious process of globalisation in the world economy. A reduction of global markets roaring ahead. We are looking at a stunning pace of technological change as a fact of life - technological change and economic globalisation. In this context our goal as a Labor Government is to protect working people and their families. To protect working people and their families in the face of this rapid change, and to see that they - working people and their families - are guaranteed a say in how this society is run. That is our goal as a Labor Government - and it is your goal as a trade union movement.
We believe that we have developed here the most stable and responsive system of industrial relations in Australia, based on our Industrial Relations Act of 1996. Remember that we repealed Greiner's 1991 legislation that had endless appeals; it was hopelessly legalistic; it removed basic award rights and minimum standards. We linked enterprise agreements with the award system. We applied the 'no net detriment test' which ensured that no enterprise agreement can, in the aggregate, deliver worse pay and conditions than the relevant award. We required that awards to be reviewed at least every three years to ensure that they remained relevant, fair and flexible. We integrated the courts with the Industrial Relations Commission; we allowed for an effective system of sanctions for breach of agreements or awards, with the imposition of penalties as a last resort.
That was our legislation that replaced the Greiner/Fahey legislation, but we haven't rested since then.
Since March 1999 we have made further changes. For example, we outlawed discrimination against workers, direct or indirect, on the basis of caring responsibilities, and that comes into force next month. We are extending 12 months unpaid maternity, paternity and adoption leave to casual employees who have worked on a regular and systematic basis for two years - and that commenced in October last year.
We recently conducted an inquiry into the use of labour hire companies with Jennie George, the independent chairperson of a taskforce of employer and union representatives. The report is due soon. We have committed to reforms, if justified by cost benefit analysis and if they will not impact on employment levels.
This parliamentary session we will remove the discriminatory requirement where a worker must have at least five years service as an adult before he or she can access pro rata long service leave.
Don't forget that we have a Bill before parliament that provides for the Industrial Relations Commission to review classes of contractors and where appropriate, deem them as employees for the purpose of the Industrial Relations Act.
The Occupational Health & Safety Act 2000 and the Occupational Health & Safety Regulation 2001 will commence this year. The new Act reflects the recommendations arising from the historic inquiry into workplace safety by the Legislative Council Standing Committee on Law and Justice. NSW now has all its Occupational Health & Safety Requirements in a single, coherent package.
I come to the public sector. I report that a Memorandum of Understanding was signed on the 2nd of March 2000, by Government and key public sector unions, detailing the wage increases and the reform agenda for four and a half years to June 2004. The agreement provides for a 16% salary increase over the life of the MOU, and of course, behind that there have been pay negotiations across the public sector with the last - that is the NSW Police Service - almost finalised.
We have increased job opportunities for young people in the NSW Government through development of the 2000 by 2000 Strategy, in partnership with the Department of Education and Training. The target of 2000 new entry trainees was met by the end of the '99/2000 financial year.
Legislation was passed in December 2000 to enable same-sex partners to have access to superannuation benefits in the same way married spouses and de facto partners can access those benefits. That is effective from 19th January 2001.
And the Government has ensured that more than 1,880 long-term temporary employees have been permanent officers under Section 38A of the Public Sector Management Act.
Well friends, we are going to keep working at industrial relations, but with all our attention to detail and specifics, we have got this larger goal in view - and that is this: That as technological change continues at an accelerating pace; as globalisation continues, even in ways we can't as yet predict and conceive, we in this State will be working with you to protect the interests of working people and their families. They are not going to be railroaded and disenfranchised by the forces of change. They are not going to be abandoned to untamed market forces. We have undertaken to protect their interests in this highly uncertain world - in this unprecedented climate of change in which we operate. And to go further than that - to guarantee their voice.
I might say to you, that as we seek to protect the interests of NSW; to win investment; to get our share of the new economy and to link it with traditional industry; to make NSW a competitive location for investment and growth, there is no disadvantage represented by the fact that we are protecting working people. In fact, a good strong union movement, and laws to protect working people is an advantage - it makes us more modern than we otherwise would be. There is no investor who has moved away from NSW, because industry has looked at the climate and said: "Here's the place that protects workers. They have got this IR system that, among other things, protects workers." In fact, as we set our standards high and aim for a high wage, high salary economy, with a high level of protection for our workforce, the goal of winning new, cutting edge investment is easier, not harder. Easier Not Harder!
So the two goals - the goal of building competitiveness and winning new investment and building a new economy at the service and traditional industry, is helped, not hindered, by the fact that we have got a government that builds workers into the system. Builds workers into the system and doesn't abandon them. And doesn't see them railroaded.
Ladies and gentleman, the New South Wales Labor Council was set up in 1871, and it was set up - I can quote the documentation - "to form a centre of action for working men" - and we amend that these days to say working men and women - "to mutually protect and assist each other in case of oppression or dispute arising in any particular trade or calling". Mutual protection in the case of a dispute. That goal remains as relevant today as ever.
To use this ridiculous Tony Abbott idea that employees one-on-one can settle any dispute with an employer is as discredited now as it was in the 1890s. I heard hom say that on radio the other day. The fact is, an individual employee in a call centre, in a factory, working in the agricultural sector, working in an abattoir - an individual employee has got no effective bargaining strength or his own or on her own. They need the strength of an organisation - organised across industry - and coordinated by the Labor Council - and at the national level, by the ACTU.
These are old lessons. We learned them the hard way over 100 years ago. They are as valid today as they ever were.
It is a great honour to be with you at this time of your AGM. Thank you.
by Noel Hester
Why are you in the AFL Players' Association?
It's an opportunity to take on more responsibility. I'd only just finished my first year in the seniors. I thought it would be another leadership role that would improve my football and my people skills.
What are the important issues for AFL players at the moment?
We certainly have a lot of issues - number one is player welfare. Like any union the AFLPA looks after workers and makes sure they are happy where they are. The AFLPA gets every player a computer and make sure they are set up with study grants so they can broaden their horizons and can get a job after football. It's a great idea. I have no idea what I want to do after football but I've applied for a computer scholarship and that's all paid for by AFLPA.
What are your responsibilities as a delegate at the Swans?
One of my responsibilities is to be a contact for any information from the AFLPA. I pass on players surveys or profiles or membership news. We meet a couple of times a year for delegates meetings to discuss any issues coming up. I get a lot of info by email and I talk regularly with people in Melbourne.
Do you enjoy it?
It's great. It's a great opportunity. I step outside my comfort zone. I give players a voice and I get to talk to them about what's going on.
Do you think the AFL has shown a good example to other codes in the way they've combatted racism?
Definitely, they've set the standard for the whole of Australia really in sport. They've introduced a code of conduct. If players don't follow it they get fined or suspended. Ten years ago that wouldn't have happened. It's a lot easier for a young guy like myself to come into AFL football and just go out and play. I know 10 to 15 years ago what a struggle it was for Aboriginal players just to get out there on the field and have a kick - and blokes giving it to them tough as well.
What's your favourite moment as a Swan?
There's heaps. Playing with Tony Lockett. Playing in the game when he got his 1300th goal. Winning the Norwich Rising Star award. Playing finals.
You were the Norwich Rising star two years ago. Has it brought extra pressures on you as a player?
There's extra awareness by opponents and they're trying to put extra pressure on you. I'm better known and they take more notice of you.
And the $64,000 question Adam. Will the Swans win the flag this year?
The way we're training and with the enthusiasm at camp we give ourselves every chance to play in the finals this year. And once you're in the finals anything can happen. The spirit's good and we're training really well.
Sam Moait congratulates Kirsty Campbell
Alex Sawtochuk from the Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union, Construction & General Division NSW Divisional Branch . Alex joined the Brick Tile and Pottery Union in 1952. In 1973 Alex was elected State President of the Brick Tile and Pottery Union and in 1974 held the position of Federal Council delegate. In 1980 Alex was elected as an Organiser and then in 1984 he was elected to State Secretary of the Brick Tile and Pottery Union. When asked what he considered to be his greatest reward and achievement during his long involvement in the Trade Union movement, his reply is always the same "I met and helped the ordinary worker on the shop floor and in the end left my union in good standing".
Paul Fredrick Ritsch from Transport Workers' Union of Australia New South Wales Branch. Paul joined the TWU in 1960. In March 1999 he was awarded life membership of the TWU. Paul has served continuously since 1983 on the TWU's Branch Committee of Management. Between 1989 and 1995 Paul served as the State President of the TWU. Paul is a proud Father and Grandfather and while he's retired, he still remains involved in the union, playing an active role. He is a regular at weekly Labor Council meetings.
Emlyn Van Brussel - from the Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union, Construction & General Division NSW Divisional Branch. Emlyn joined the Federated Engine Drivers and Fireman's Association in 1968. He served on that union's governing body for several years.In the early 1990's with the amalgamation Emlyn was elected to the CFMEU's State Council.Since 1990 Emlyn has played an invaluable role as the CFMEU's Port Macquarie Town Steward and worked within the Hastings District Trades and Labor Council. Although retired, Emlyn continues to be actively involved in the trade union movement.
Kirsty Campbell from the Finance Sector Union of Australia. Kirsty has been an active unionist in New Zealand and Australia for 22 years.Kirsty was employed at the FSU for 10 years and was Assistant Secretary of the FSU from 1997 to 2000. Kirsty was a member of the Labor Council Executive for three years. During her career Kirsty championed the cause of workers' rights to bargain collectively. She worked tirelessly on a range of issues, but her legacy was to work with unionists to remove discrimination in the workplace.
During the AGM week, Labor Council also played host to visitors from Japan and Hong Kong. The biannual visit from Rengo Tokyo - the peak body representing 900,000 Tokyo workers - saw the delegation of Tabaru Hideo, Hara Hideo, Saotome Yuichi and Yoshino Tomoko renew fraternal ties.
Chan Wai-Keung from the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions also visited Sydney. His address to Labor Council is reproduced in this week's Trades Hall.
While we have long been fans of Bracky's predictable pooh-poohing of each new trade union innovation, his own attempt to modernize the Emp Fed borrows straight from the more militant elements of the union movement.
Plagarising the 'Workers First' tagline used by candidates challenging the metalworkers leadership in elections last year, he's repackaged the Federation as 'Employers First'.
Workers First raised to prominence by advocating guerilla industrial tactics, wildcat strike action in support of unsustainable claims, the none too subtle bare-fisted street-fighters of organized labour.
If the Haircut's work this week is any indication, he's gained inspiration from this sort of extremism. Anyone who caught him on Lateline this week would have seen a man using hyperbole to grab a bit of media time (not that there's anything wrong with that ...).
The issue was service fees for trade union members and the AIRC decision finding that there was no legal barrier to levying the freeloaders for the work that goes into securing a pay rise.
What did we get from the employers? A sensible debate about the issue of user pays in industrial relations? Not on your Nellie! 'Industrial conscription!', the Haircut cried, 'compulsory unionism!', 'Lock up your daughters the unions are coming to get you!'.
Of course the reality is that playing the militant is in the employer organisations' interests. Only by whipping up fear and loathing of trade unions among the business community will these organizations get their client base. Groups like Employers First are more reliant on the class warfare for their business, than the trade unions they so happily monster.
And what makes the Haircut' line all the more intriguing is that anyone who were to ring up Employers First and ask for some free help in blocking the next pay rise would be told to join up or take their business elsewhere. You see, user-pays is one of those wonderful concepts that only appeals to capital when someone else is the user.
So if your looking for a whacko group preaching prejudice and double-standards you don't need to go to One Nation, Employers First are ready to take your call!
by Andrew Casey
Around 80 LHMU members work as prison officers at the Junee Correctional Centre, a privately-run gaol operated by Australasian Correctional Management Pty Ltd (ACM), a subsidiary of the US Wakenhut company.
Prison officers left only a skeleton staff behind at the prison when they held a stoppage this week.
" We agreed to a skeleton staff remaining this time to ensure the safety of the community and the clerical staff and management who stayed behind while we had our stoppage," LHMU organiser Geoff Lawler said.
The LHMU members stopped work for two hours and met at the Junee showground to protest the lack of good faith bargaining by ACM. ACM have held the contract to manage the Junee prison ever since it opened in the early 90s.
Union members endorsed a motion condemning ACM for their failure to negotiate and warned they were prepared to take further action if there was no real progress in enterprise agreement negotiations.
" The new agreement was due to commence on 21 December last year - we have been in talks with the company for nearly six months," Geoff Lawler said.
"ACM keep promising to respond to proposals, but nothing happens and we are no closer to agreement than we were last year."
Delegates and officials from the LHMU have been negotiating with ACM since September last year, when a log of claims including CPI based wage increases and additional annual leave for workers regularly rostered on weekends was served on the company.
ACM responded with their own demands, including 12 hour shifts as part of a restructure which would see prisoners' out of cell times reduced by 2 hours a day.
Union members fear the cuts would lead to a drastic reduction in the amount of shifts available to casual employees, who constitute over 50% of all employees at the facility.
"Members at Junee have put up a good campaign to protect the interests of casual workers," Annie Owens, LHMU NSW branch secretary said.
" They have been trying to gain an assurance that casual employees will have an opportunity to earn a liveable wage," Annie Owens said.
© 1999-2000 Labor Council of NSW
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005