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  Issue No 87 Official Organ of LaborNet 10 March 2001  




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Trades Hall

Neale Towart’s Labour Review

The thinking person's Mullet is back with his fortnightly round-up of news and views from the world of work.


Neale Towart


Casual Employment

More discussion of the AIRC's decision in the metals casual case, and the apparent let off for employers in allowing them more discretion as to the automatic permanency provisions. Samantha Kennedy from Corrs Chambers Westgarth summarises the decision and suggests steps that metal employers will need to take to implement it. Peter Punch, CCH principal consultant, then looks at broader implications of the decision and the flow on prospects.

(CCH Australian Employment Law Update; newsletter 2/2001, February 2001)

Bargaining Agents Fees -a fee for service or an invitation to join? by Susan Zeitz

The decision by Vice President McIntyre on fee for service moves by the ETU has sparked outrage from Tony Abbott and concern amongst lawyers. Zeitz discusses the reasoning behind the decision. The government is to attempt to change the Workplace relations Act to outlaw such actions by unions, but Andrew Murray, Democrat spokesperson on IR seems favourably disposed to the idea of fee for service. A test case in the NSW jurisdiction isn't far off.

(CCH Australian Employment Law Update; newsletter 2/2001, February 2001)

Outsourcing Gets an Unfortunate Boost

Peter Punch discusses the Federal Court reversal of Justice Wilcox's decision in the Stellar case. The court overrules the earlier decision in the light of the High Court decision in the PP Consultants case. It demonstrates that the "substantial identity of activity" test (which focuses on pre and post transferred duties of employees) is inapplicable in private sector commercial transactions. The test in substance now is to compare what was the pre-transfer "business" of the employer (in terms of its essential nature not the activities that facilitated the carrying on of that business) and compare that with the activities undertaken post-transfer.

(CCH Australian Employment Law Update; newsletter 2/2001, February 2001)

Equal Opportunity Policies and Email Porn

The AIRC has upheld Toyota's termination of employment of two employees who accessed and distributed pornographic material at work.

The summary dismissal occurred because the employees had breached the company's equal opportunity policies. The policy set out the consequences of breaching the policies, including possible termination.

The employees alleged that the dismissals were harsh, unjust or reasonable and that neither of them had been aware of the policies. The commission found that they should have been aware, and that one of them had attended a training session on the EO policy.

Toyota Motor Corporation v Automotive, Food, Metals, Engineering, Printing and Kindred Industries Union, AIRC (Watson SDP) (C No. 37296 of 2000) 15/9/00; 49 AILR 4-363(43)

The AIRC has on 6th March 2001 rejected an appeal by another Toyota employee on the same issue T Lewis and Toyota Motor Corporation PR901843, 6 March 2001; and; (CCH Australian Employment Law Update; newsletter 2/2001, February 2001)

Costs of Unemployment

A symposium on the costs of unemployment co-ordinated by Peter Kriesler and John Nevile, based on a conference held by the Centre for Applied Economic Research in July 2000. With the economic upswing in Australia in recent years, even the generous measures of employment used by the ABS have not shown unemployment dropping below 6%. As the inevitable slowdown hits, we are already seeing this figure worsen. Martin Watts and Bill Mitchell discuss the social cots that are very difficult to measure, but concentrate on those costs that they can put dollar values on. The plight of specific groups in the community are addressed by Alison McClelland (family), the indigenous people (B H Hunter) and the mature age population (Sol Encel).

John Burgess and Alex de Rutyer confront the question is nay job better than no job, and is a poor quality casual job likely to lead to a better job. They are argue that a systematic decline in job quality is itself a hidden cost of unemployment, since it is made possible by the increase in bargaining power that the existence of unemployment gives employers. Casual jobs are unlikely to lead to permanent jobs.

(Economic and Labour Relations Review; vol. 11, no. 2, December 2000)

Redefining Unemployment by Richard Denniss

The system of labour market statistics in Australia is in urgent need of reform. The principal measure of labour market performance, the unemployment rate, was developed in an era when the labour market was based on full-time male bread-winners. Over the last two decades, deregulation and structural change have transformed the labour market radically. Underemployment of part-time and casual workers is now a serious problem as is the burgeoning problem of overwork. Yet proper understanding of these important trends is missing from public debate and policy-making because they are not captured in the official statistics.

In addition to calling for the collection of new data on the desired amount of work for all workers, this report outlines the benefits of work sharing, and suggests mechanisms for achieving a fairer distribution of work. While it is unlikely that underemployed workers could easily fill the jobs of the overworked, experience indicates that net employment gains from work sharing are achievable.

The only constants in the Australian labour market over the last 40 years are the statistics used to describe it. New data and new summary indicators are needed to ensure that policy makers and the general public are fully informed as to the nature and extent of labour market problems.

(Measuring Employment in the 21st Century: New measures of underemployment and overwork; The Australia Institute Discussion paper no. 36, February 2001)

Workers' Savings Save Jobs by Samuel Grumiau

The FTQ (Quebec Workers' Federation) has used its Solidarity Fund to save or create 80,000 jobs since the fund was set up. Its principle is to use workers' savings to invest in enterprises in difficulty.

The fund got going in 1983 in the midst of recession. Workers got together and came up with the idea of putting savings back into enterprises in difficulty. The idea was hotly debated within the union, but is has since become one of the biggest venture capital companies in Canada. It has 425,000 shareholders (worker investors), has invested in over 1600 enterprises and has net assets of 3.8 billion Canadian dollars. Contributors get tax concessions for contributions.

Some African countries are starting to use the methods of FTQ, in particular the national workers' confederation of Senegal and the General Workers' Union in Algeria.

(Trade Union World; no. 2, February 2001)

Works Councils needed because HR has failed: paper by Professor Mark Bray, Dr Stéphane Le Queux, Dr Peter Waring and Dr Duncan Macdonald

Mandatory worker participation mechanisms such as European-style works councils need to be adopted because HR management has failed to deliver on its promise to empower and give autonomy to workers, acccording to a discussion paper released at the ACTU's executive meeting today.

The Representation Gap in Australia, from the Uni. Of Newcastle Employment Studies Centre, says that seismic changes in union membership and IR regulation in the mid-1990s opened up a "representation gap" that left workers with no systematic mechanism to participate in workplace decision-making. Management, according to the paper, has been left with virtually unfettered prerogative in many cases


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 87 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Working Woman
Cheryl Kernot on women in the workplace, Labor's male culture and where Meg went wrong.
*  Activists: Honouring Our Heroes
Anna Stewart changed the lives of Australian working families by helping women achieve balance between the competing demands of work and family.
*  Women: The Future is Female
Julia Gillard outlines the campaign to increase female representation within the Australian Labor Party.
*  Unions: Sweatshops – Beyond 2001
FairWear convenor Debbie Carstens looks over a unique partnership between churches and unions to end exploitation in the textile industry.
*  Politics: The Battle for Bennelong
Many trade unionists are working to kick John Howard out of office. But only one woman has a chance of kicking him out of his own seat. Meet Nicole Campbell.
*  International: Border Skirmishes
Alana Kerr travelled to Thailand to observe first hand the battle to organise Burmese women workers in exile.
*  History: Inside the Ladies Lounge
The McDonald sisters run Trades Hall, and have for over half a century. The building can’t speak about what has gone on in that time, but Lorna and Elaine probably know it all.
*  Satire: Taliban to Put One Nation Last
The Parliamentary fate of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party was further obscured today as key fellow right-wing extremists moved to distance themselves from the controversial Queensland politician and the group she founded and leads.
*  Review: Seven Steps to Slavation
Jenny Macklin details the seven barriers that stand between women and a better working life.

»  Sweat Stains the Great Aussie Cossie
»  Chinks Emerge in Carr’s Call Centre Stonewall
»  Telstra Called on Part-Time Work
»  ACTU Pushes for Reasonable Hours
»  Ruddock Faces Legal Action Over Working Visas
»  National Textiles Revisited: More Workers Dumped
»  New on the Menu: Home Delivery AWAs
»  Pay Equity Case Up And Running
»  Child Care OH&S 'a Time Bomb'
»  New Precedent for Workers with Print Disabilities
»  Australian Shippers Promote Slavery
»  Ambos Tried Without a Jury
»  Unions Cautious Over New Insurance Deal
»  Fears Over Future of Unfair Contracts
»  APESMA Launches Professional Women’s Network Directory
»  Women’s Gateway Launched
»  EMILY's List Raises Flag for Women Candidates
»  Web Pioneer Goes Global
»  Public Education Day on March 15
»  Activists Notebook

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

Letters to the editor
»  Viva La Shane!
»  Still the Same
»  Sydney Council Tip of Iceberg
»  New Battle Grounds
»  Patricks Footnote
»  The Ripple Effect

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