The Textile. Clothing and Footwear Union last night claimed that Speedo was now giving out its work to contractors, with the work ending up in sweatshops and outworkers' homes after sacking 65 staff two weeks ago.
TCFUA state secretary Barry Tubner says the outworkers employed by Speedo contractors are receiving up to $150 below the weekly award rate, with no leave or superannuation entitlements or workers compensation.
Tubner says like Nike internationally, Speedo has a public commitment to social justice, but is refusing to monitor the work of contractors. While the contractors are now facing legal action for award breaches, Speedo is maintaining its ignorance of the conditions.
"The retailers and fashion houses such as Speedo need to be made legally accountable for the wages and conditions of the people who at the end of the day make their garments," Tubner says
"Speedo must themselves take responsibility for the wages and conditions of workers making the gear," he says. "The only way it can effectively ensure to the public that their gear is not being made by exploited labour us to bring the work back to the Speedo factory and have it made by Speedo employees."
Tubner says it's no coincidence that Speedo delayed its decision to outsource the work until after the euphoria of the Sydney 2000 Olympics had died down.
Della Pledges FairWear Bill This Session
The plight of the Speedo workers has again raised concerned that governments are not doing enough to ensure that Australian clothing is free from exploited labour.
NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca was this week forced to recommit to a 1998 pre-election promise from the Carr Government to introduce legislation to protect
Della Bosca, Special Minister for State, addressed outworkers and Fair Wear protesters outside the NSW Parliament rallying against the inaction of the Carr government on the issue.
Protesters were annoyed that a blueprint for implementing the promise, Behind the Label, was released in December 1999, but there had been no action since.
"Approximately 100 000 outworkers and their families in NSWare still waiting for relief from exploitation of 12-14 hour days at a pay rate of $2 - $3 per hour without workers compensation or Superannuation entitlements" said Fair Wear NSW Campaign Worker Julia Murray.
"The State Government needs to address the issue by legislation to ensure the chain of production is transparent from the retailer all the way through to the outworker. Only then will it be possible to end the exploitation".
Fair Wear NSW believes clothing retailers are abdicating their responsibility by claiming they are not involved in exploitation of outworkers because they do not hand the work directly to them.
The board of the Superannuation Administration Corporation -a state-owned corporation whose shareholding ministers include the Treasurer Michael Egan - has accepted the code in principle.
The board has become the first government body to "agree and accept" that the ACTU Call Centre Code of Conduct is an appropriate and acceptable minimum core condition.
The Corporation engages a call centre for customer inquiries about all public sector superannuation in NSW. The contact centre employs 90 people, about 40 of whom are employed in the call centre.
Labor Council's representative on the Corporation, Fire Brigade Employees' Union's Simon Flynn, says he was able to gain unanimous support for the ACTU Code.
"I raised the issue at the board and argued the case - I don't see why other union reps on state boards can't do the same," Flynn says.
"It is the obligation of all employers and directors of a company to ensure that call centre employees are treated with the dignity and respect that management afford itself.
"I really hope that this is just the first of many government authorities who decide to fulfill their obligations to workers in call centres and help establish a minimum set of standards in the industry.
Following the breakthrough, signs are emerging that the Government is ready to negotiate on the code across all departments.
Industrial relations Minister John Della Bosca told Workers Online that, despite the lack of action to date, the Government supports the general concepts and principals of the ACTU Charter and Standards Code for call centres.
"I intend to meet with the Labor Council to discuss the issue," Della Bosca says." The Government is currently reviewing the code."
by Dermott Browne
CPSU, which represents thousands of Telstra staff, is launching a campaign to get parents better access to permanent part-time work.
Since Telstra dived into privatisation, its spin department has tried to paint it as a compassionate, community-focused organisation. The company pours millions of dollars into sponsoring high-profile events such as the National Rugby League, Olympic Games, Women in Business Awards and Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
When it comes to their own employees, though, it is often a different story.
While many leading corporates, including Westpac, the NRMA and ICI Australia offer new mothers part-time options, Telstra refuses to be bound on the issue.
The company regards it as a "policy" issue for pressured local managers.
This has led to varying entitlements across the company but as Telstra tightens its belt to appease the sharemarket, more and more women are being denied the part-time option; quizzed about future childbearing plans; and forced to resign.
The CPSU, has established a Maternity Rights Group which is distributing a petition calling on Telstra to meet its responsibilities to new mothers.
Since 1998, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of women in Telstra experiencing difficulties returning to work after maternity leave. The CPSU is dealing with an increasing number of complaints over this issue.
Telstra Staff Cases Studies
Ø Leanne was contacted by her manager while at home on maternity leave and told that she was to be made redundant. No other workers at her call centre were made redundant and the person performing Leanne's job while she was on maternity leave is still performing similar work in the call centre.
Ø Kim was told that she will not be allowed work part time after when she returns from maternity leave. Kim needs to spend time with her child and feels she will have to resign if she is not able to work part time.
Ø Anne had to resign because she was not allowed to work part time. During her time with Telstra she was put on to rosters that changed so often that it became impossible to maintain childcare arrangements.
Tip of the Iceberg
There are thousands of women in Telstra like Kim, Anne, and Leanne who have been badly treated and discriminated against because of their family responsibilities. Many women in Telstra are being told that there is no part time work available. They are being asked inappropriate questions about their plans to have more children. Others and told that they won't be promoted because, as women of child bearing age they are 'unreliable'.
Telstra policies on this issue are so vague that it is impossible staff to have complaints dealt with properly. The CPSU is challenges many of these decisions on benalf of members. However, we need support right now to stop women having to resign from Telstra.
Email your support to mailto: [email protected]
The ACTU's released details of a test case it will run seeking to prohibit employers from requiring employees to work unreasonable hours coincided with International Women's Day.
The ACTU believes that a protection unions believe will be of significant benefit to working women struggling to balance the demands of work and family.
"More and more, women are struggling to balance their paid work and family commitments," ACTU president Sharan Burrow says.
"Australia may have led the world with the eight-hour-day, but we now have the second largest group of workers working more than 49 hours a week in the OECD and our family and community lives are suffering."
Results of a nationwide survey released by the ACTU earlier this week show that almost 70% of parents with pre-school or school age children are having more trouble balancing the demands of work and family now than just five years ago.
The survey also showed that 80% of Australian women believe that workplace laws should incorporate more family-friendly clauses.
Under the test case, unions will seek to have a 'reasonable working hours' clause inserted into all federal awards. The clause would require factors such as an employee's family responsibilities, safety, workload and the total number of hours worked over an extended period considered in determining if the hours an employee is required to work are reasonable. The application will also seek to establish an entitlement to additional leave for employees required to work large amounts of overtime over an extended period.
As part of their celebration of International Women's Day unions are also calling on Australian women to nominate their top priorities in the forthcoming federal election. Unions will distribute a checklist for women voters throughout Australian workplaces seeking feedback from women workers about their key issues for government action.
The NSW Labor Council has received legal advice that the Minister for Immigration Phillip Ruddock may have breached his 'duty of care' to the workers by failing to audit their employment conditions to ensure they complied with Australian labour law.
The Senior Counsel's advice states that the Department of Immigration's failure to monitor or audit the stonemasons over a three and a half year period represented "a clear breach of the Minister's duty".
This opens the way for common law proceedings by the workers against the Commonwealth claiming damages as a consequence of such breach of the Minister's duty of car.
"This case would set an important principle that the government has a responsibility to workers who are granted temporary working visas," Costa says.
"We welcome workers into Australia, but we do not accept that they should be exploited, nor that the local workforce should be undercut on wages or conditions."
The eight workers, who were being paid just $45 in the hand per month, today lodged back-pay claims in the Magistrate's Court.
They were joined by hundreds of building workers rallying outside Minister Ruddock's offices in Sydney.
Opposition leader Kim Beazley met with unionists at the offices offering his support for basic employment rights for guest workers.
As well as facing legal action, Ruddock is under pressure to guarantee the eight remain in Australia while their claims are determined.
They were today told by the Department of Immigration that they would need to reapply for working visas if they ceased working for their current employer.
One of the workers has less than a week to reapply for his visa, while the other seven have visas expiring in June.
Costa says Minister Ruddock must guarantee that the workers are not punished for bringing the illegal payments to light.
"These workers have shown considerable courage in standing up for the rights of all guest workers.
"It is outrageous - and bordering on intimidation - to hand them complex legal documentation while they are in the center of this dispute.
The firm Scottish Pacific again stands ahead of the textile workers whose jobs were lost when Matraville company Shircan Holdings closed their doors yesterday.
Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union organizer Joe Isaacs told Labor Council the workers have been told there is no money available to pay for their redundancy or their accrued entitlements.
Instead they have been told to apply for assistance under the federal government scheme, which will deliver only 20 per cent of the moneys they are owed.
Isaacs says the workers' plight again shows the inadequacy of the federal scheme and the need for comprehensive protection for workers' entitlements.
"People work for many years, then are thrown on the scrap heap without even getting what they have already earned," Isaacs says.
A picket line has been set up outside the company gates in Beauchamp Road, Matraville.
by Andrew Casey
The actions by the Mirotone Paint Company, has been condemned by the NSW trade union movement as one of the most blatant acts of union-busting on record.
Liquor Hospiltality and Miscellaneous Workers Union delegate Ken Phillips told this week's Labor Council of the company's systematic campaign to push workers onto staff contracts after the collective refused to accept a dilution of their 35-hour working week.
Phillips says after being given the option of a contract or redundancy in person, the company couriered AWAs to the family home where they were received by their wives while the workers maintained a picket outside the Revesby plant.
"With barely enough money left to put food on the table, you can imagine the pressure the workers are now under," Phillips said.
But the workers are standing firm, with support of their own union, the broader movement and students from the nearby University of Western Sydney campus.
Industry wide Support Builds
As an act of solidarity LHMU paint industry workers today voted to put a financial levy on themselves to provide a fighting fund for Mirotone workers who have now been locked out of their workplaces for more than a fortnight.
Cheryl Hyde, LHMU Assistant National Secretary, says the decision by paint workers to reach into their own pockets was taken to provide practical support to Mirotone workers in a time of crisis.
Hundreds of paint workers attended a rally at the Mirotone factory gates in Marigold St, Revesby, to demonstrate support for the 40 workers seeking to defend the paint industry 35 hour week and 9 day fortnight.
Labor Council affiliates will support the workers next week with a special fundraiser Trivia Night at the LHMU (see Activists Diary for more details)
Attacking the 35 hour week
"Workers in the paint industry view any attack on the hours of work and conditions of employment at Mirotone as an attack on the paint industry as a whole," Cheryl Hyde said.
" Our members said that they were not prepared to tolerate and or accept such unwarranted attacks on our working conditions by any paint industry employer.
" We know that Mirotone members will extend to us the same kind of solidarity that we are now extending to them in a time of crisis."
Solidarity messages welcome
Please send messages to Cheryl Hyde, LHMU Assistant National Secretary's e-mail address mailto:[email protected]
Earlier stories about this dispute can be found at http://www.lhmu.org.au/union/325.html
by Alison Peters
The Working Group looked at developing a single award that provided better career progression for the three groups and created more realistic classifications with descriptors and classification standards.
This was then the subject of discussion and negotiation between the PSA and the Public Sector Management Office (PSMO) but hadn't progressed significantly. Immediately following the handing down of the pay equity decision on the 30th June last year the PSA utilised the Working Group's document to create the basis for an application to the Industrial Relation Commission to address pay equity for all three groups - Librarians, Library Technicians, and Archivists. This application was lodged on 22 December 2000.
The Application contains salary rates that would make classifications in the proposed Award consistent with pay rates for occupations with similar training, education and professional streams that are more traditionally male dominated.
There has been a Directions Hearing before the Full Bench of the Commission in late January and there has been a process of discussion set down over several dates leading up to the next appearance on the 27th of March. The PSA is confident that there will be an early hearing of the case which, of course, depends on the Commission's schedule.
The Librarians, Library Technicians, and Archivists will at this stage be the first pay equity case run before the Full Bench since the handing down of the principle, and can be attributed to the work of the PSA and its members who have dedicated their time in the Working Group.
Child care workers are suffering record levels of stress related illnesses and parents cannot afford the cost of child care, according to two Victorian surveys released today.
"Child care workers are carrying the burden of a lack of resources and are fed up with the community and politicians failing to recognise the skills required to look after young children," says Moreen Lyons, Australian Services Union child care officer who conducted the surveys.
"The ASU is deeply concerned at the high levels of work related injury reported by child care workers," said Ms Lyons. "The level of physical, mental and emotional strain experienced by child care workers is unacceptable." Fifty six percent reported back injuries; 77% said they suffered work related anxiety; 62% reported muscle strain and 85% said they had work related headaches.
Speaking at the launch of the surveys today Dr Helen Sutcliffe, Occupational Physician, Victorian Workers Health Centre at Trades Hall, confirmed that the child care sector was a "time bomb waiting to explode". These injuries are preventable and the situation is intolerable. Unless something is done, a valuable part of the community will be devastated.
The survey of workers conducted in metropolitan and regional areas, found they were prepared to take industrial action to improve their deteriorating working conditions. 80% said they were prepared to go on strike and 70% said they would impose working bans.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow told the survey launch at Coventry Street Child Care Centre, South Melbourne that child care was shaping up to be an election issue given the number of families trying to balance work and family lives. The Federal Government has child care cut funding by $850 million since 1997. The occupational health problems together with the funding crisis in child care was "absolutely shameful," said Ms Burrow. "It is an Australian story that has to be told. John Howard stands condemned on child care and the politicians who address the resource issue will win votes at the next election."
The ASU surveys also found:
- 68% of respondents worked unpaid overtime.
- 89% believe their pay does not adequately reflect their skill and expertise.
-100% said improved wages and conditions would make child care a more attractive career option.
- the number of low-income families accessing child care has dropped 7% since 1998.
- 40% of centres said parents were giving up child care places because of the cost.
Note: The reports "Child Care workers in local government - occupational health and safety report, 2000" and "Victorian Local Government Child Care Survey, December 2000" are published by the ASU, 116-124 Queensbury Street, Carlton, 3053.The ASU represents the majority of child care workers in local government in Victoria.
by Sondra Wibberley
Tucked away in the document is a significant clause which will benefit this small but important section of the University's workforce. It also has the potential to benefit similar employees in other workplaces.
The CPSU/PSA was successful in negotiating a clause allowing for the Agreement to be made available to staff members via the Internet or in printed form or "for a staff member who has a print disability, in a form suitable to their needs."
According to the Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities, a person has a print disability if they cannot independently obtain access to information in a standard print form. This could be because they are blind or vision impaired, have physical disability limiting their ability to hold or manipulate information in print form, or they have a perceptual disability leading to difficulty in following a line of print.
In practical terms the provision means a staff member who has an identified print disability may request a copy of the Agreement in a format which takes their disability into account. This may take the form of braille, large print, accessible electronic form, or audio tape.
Containing this provision in a certified Agreement also means that if the request is refused the University can be taken to the AIRC. The staff member could also make a complaint under NSW or Commonwealth Anti-Discrimination laws.
As well as assisting staff at Macquarie University, the provision will act as a precedent for advocating for a similar entitlement in other workplaces
The inclusion of this provision is believed to be a first in an industrial agreement in Australia.
The persistence of a University delegate with a severe vision impairment, who served as a member of the Union's Bargaining Team, and the strong support of the CPSU/PSA lead to the positive result.
The outcome highlights the importance of workers with disabilities becoming involved in the activities of their union.
This win should encourage other employees with vision or other disabilities to request employment-related information in a format which accommodates their disability, a provision which is now an industrial right.
by Zoe Reynolds
Peter Morris chairman of the International Commission on Shipping released Ships, Slaves and Competition, at the APEC safer shipping forum in Sydney this week. Morris spoke passionately of the tens of thousands of seafarers exploited or subjected to physical and psychological abuse worldwide.
"Life at sea is modern slavery," he said. "Their workplace is a floating sweatshop."
The Maritime Union and the International Transport Workers' Federation witness this abuse daily, fighting to get foreign seafarers their pay, medical help and repatriation.
"We come across these atrocities all the time," said MUA National Shipping Co-ordinator Sean Chaffer. "This sort of exploitation should not be happening in this day and age."
For example MUA officials in Port Lincoln are waiting on a ship due in tomorrow where the Filipino crew have not been paid for five months. And another sweat shop sails into Brisbane this Thursday.
"But it is not just a matter of wages. Crew abuse and environmental plunder go hand in hand. The same ships that abuse crew, pollute our oceans. At the same time the grounded Bunga Teratai Satu was threatening our world heritage Great Barrier Reef last year, two seafarers were incinerated during a fire on a ship off the west coast and another three burnt to death off the east coast," said Sean Chaffer. "And who has forgotten Rommel Salvador who jumped ship to escape horrific abuse on the Panamanian ship MV Hunter a few years back."
The MUA supports proposals to clean up the world shipping put by ICONS. These include penalising shippers that charter substandard vessels and banning ships with high detention rates from Australian waters. But the Union does not hold out much hope for improvement on the Australian coast under the current government.
"The Federal Government is politically and morally bankrupt on shipping policy," said MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin. "They are apologists for the new slave traders of international shipping. They insist on making Australia a shipper nation, not a shipping nation. They embrace the worst and most corrupt elements of the industry -- all in the pursuit of cheap freight rates. This government has been complicit in the international rorting, exploitation, human rights abuse and environmental plunder perpetrated by the worst elements of the world's shipping industry. Australia needs to address five years of negligence in the industry or face a major shipping disaster."
Health and Research Employees Association Michael Williamson told last night's Labor Council meeting he was bewildered by the criticisms, given that none of the issues had been raised with the workers or the union.
He says the attack is a smokescreen for the real problems of under-resourcing, which is forcing ambulances to queue up to unload patients outside hospitals instead of responding to emergencies.
Knowles went on the attack days before the release of an Auditor-General's report which criticised the service - highlighting increased workloads, delays in unloading patients and chronic staff shortages.
He attempted to blame union resistance to change for the problems rather than accepting the government's management, which has seen six CEOs in nine years, as being at the heart of the problem.
Williamson says the Minister's attack on the Union was surprising as neither his office, nor the Health Administration Corporation, nor the Ambulance Service of NSW has held discussions with the Union over these alleged "inflexible work practices".
HREA's frustration was recognised in the Industrial Relations Commission on Thursday when the Commissioner noted that as no inflexible work practices have been brought to the union's attention, the Association had been left in the difficult position of being unable to answer the allegation that we have been involved in such practices.
Williamson says te Ministers comments, which were spoken at the very time that Association officials were meeting with the Ambulance Service to resolve this dispute, were counterproductive and inflammatory in the extreme.
"The practical effect of the Minister's comments is that the allegation of "inflexible work practices" has deflected attention from the real problems facing the Ambulance Service, namely chronic shortages of Ambulance Officers and that per capita funding for the Ambulance Service in NSW is one of the lowest in Australia," he says.
These are the real contributing causes, along with issues of mismanagement, which prevents the Ambulance Service from attaining its full potential."
by Mary Yaager
Both the Electrical trades Union and the Police Association say they have heard rumours about the future of the provisions, which allow workers not covered by unfair dismissal legislation to challenge termination
The provisions have also allowed trade unions attempting to ensure that Directors are held personally liable for the actions of a company as well as securing workers entitlements.
Labor Council has resolved to raise the concerns with NSW Industrial relations minister John Della Bosca.
by Lousie Beard
The APESMA Professional Women's Network NSW Directory lists those Professional Women's Network members who are willing to share their skills, knowledge and experience with other APESMA (NSW) members.
Burrow has praised the Association on the Directory, which she says the initiative supported her strong belief that unions should be tapping into the rich network of women's history.
"Women have got to be a dominant issue for unions in the 21st century," said Burrow.
"This Network Directory is a fantastic idea."
If you need to talk to someone, if you need to contact other women in your location or your area of expertise, you've got this," she said.
Louise Beard from APESMA's NSW Branch says the Directory was a valuable resource for APESMA's women members, who work in the male dominated areas of engineering, science and technology.
"Women still only comprise 11% of APESMA's membership, which is a pretty accurate reflection of the industry" said Beard.
The Directory was designed to be used in a variety of ways, including:
· obtaining practical advice on a particular area, eg. management skills, from an individual woman or a number of women,
· contacting other network women in your location/area of expertise,
· inviting women to comment on a particular issue.
by Alison Peters
Users will be able to
· Search a database of 4,000 organisations
· Browse relevant pages from more than 200 sites
· Find answers to frequently asked questions
· View women's news and events
· Submit new content items
all through a single entry point and a user friendly site.
In launching the Women's Gateway, Minister for Women Faye Lo Po stressed the importance of access to information for women to enable them to reach their full potential in all aspects of their daily lives. The Gateway provides a cheap and quick way to do this. Minister for Information Technology, Kim Yeadon whose Department funded development of the Gateway said that this would be the first of several portals the Government were launching to help the people of NSW access relevant information they need quickly and easily.
The Women's Gateway is an excellent resource for unions in representing their women members and in developing their campaigns. Unions are very good at providing advice and support on a wide range of workplace issues. However, sometimes the issues go beyond the workplace. For example negotiating family friendly work practices often depends on access to suitable child care arrangements. All the relevant and up to date information is available in one convenient site.
The Women's Gateway can be accessed at http://www.womens.gateway.nsw.gov.au
EMILY's List - the financial and political support network - gives extra support, over and above Labor party assistance, to feminist Labor women candidates who support the organisation's pro-choice, pro-equity principles.
Ms Kirner is National Co-convener of the List, which hosted the dinner in Sydney on Monday. Also featured at the dinner were Ros Kelly, former Federal minister, and Sandra Nori, NSW Minister for Small Business and Tourism.
Eight women, so far preselected to contest NSW Federal seats, were introduced at the function. Sharon Greirson will be contesting the safe seat of Newcastle and Jenny McAllister will face Larry Anthony, who has a 0.1% margin in Richmond.
Candidates to watch out for include the very impressive Jan Merriman in Hume, Anne Murnain, opposing the Deputy Prime Minister in Gwydir and Nicole Campbell staring down the Prime Minister in Bennelong.
If you want to get in and give these candidates a hand, contact Diane Minnis, EMILY's List NSW Convener on 0411 213 019 or mailto:[email protected].
Dwyer, who has produced the movement's longest-running e-bulletin, has been appointed Telecom Director, Asia Pacific Region Union Network International as the. I have accepted the position and will resign from my employed position within CEPU.
The appointment comes after 16 years in the local trade union movement representing Telecom officers through a series of amalgamations.
His first bulletin was sent on 22 May 1996, and he reckons he would have sent about 250 since then (making Workers Online look like a pup!)
Dwyer says that in his new role, he will continue the struggle of employees in the Telecom areas for better and safer workplaces.
Events on the day will highlight its place in Australian society and the need for it to be properly supported and funded.
Teachers in the lower Blue Mountains have decided to make Sir Henry Parkes' gravesite at Faulconbridge a site of celebration. Henry Parkes' is widely known as the Father of Federation and is also acknowledged as the "Parent of Public Education" in NSW, being primarily responsible for the Public Instruction Act of 1880, which began free public education in this state.
Lower Blue Mountains Teachers Association President Robert Treasure said: "Henry Parkes, a Faulconbridge resident, was not only a great fighter for public education. His priorities were very clear: in 1882, two years after the passage of the Public Instruction Act, state aid to all private schools ceased. From that time onwards, schooling became fully government funded, secular and compulsory for the children of NSW."
Schools will be distributing leaflets in the afternoon of Public Education Day to every household in the school community. This leaflet will be sponsored by the NSW Teachers Federation, Federation of P&Cs, Federation of School Community Organisations (FOSCO), Primary Principals Association, Public Schools Principals Forum and NSW Secondary Principals Council.
A separate leaflet will be distributed from TAFE colleges.
School staffs will also be sending messages to their local Federal Member reminding them of the need for Federal governments of any political persuasion to properly fund public education. These messages will be followed up by delegations of parents and teachers visiting the electoral office of Federal Members of Parliament to deliver a statement about the role and place of public education in Australian society and the need for it to be properly funded.
This article is based on material written by Barry Johnson and Kerri Carr. Barry Johnson is the Assistant General Secretary (Schools) and Kerri Carr is the journalist for "Education", the journal of the NSW Teachers Federation.
Roundup of celebrations
A glance around NSW reveals that planning for Public Education Day is advanced.
· Lithgow Teachers Association is arranging a photographic display of school activities to be showcased in a shopfront in the main street of Lithgow.
· Newtown Performing Arts High School is planning a grandparents day.
· Cherrybrook Technology High School has invited new parents to an evening BBQ.
· Castle Cove PS will mark the occasion with a maths day.
· Mosman and Roseville Public Schools will conduct open nights.
· Mudgee High School will display a sign celebrating public education.
· Woy Woy Public School is having a Teddy Bear's Picnic day.
· Rowena Public School's activities will include students dressing up as they would have 100 years ago and playing old-time sporting activities.
· Gilgandra schools (both primary and secondary) are planning a competition where students think about "What is good about our school". Entries could range from writing, dioramas and photographs.
· The Entrance Public School will show off its new classrooms and hall during an open day.
· Goolma Public School plans an open day and BBQ
· Paxton Public School is hosting an open day and morning tea.
· Beresfield Public School plans a Promote Public Education Day.
· Shoal Bay Public School is having a picnic, and performing arts, arts and fitness displays.
Why we are celebrating
Public education has made Australia one of the safest, most democratic and cohesive societies in the world. Public education is dedicated to giving all Australians the foundations upon which to build a future for themselves and their families. It is open and accessible to all. It does not discriminate. It develops self-motivated learners and responsible, co-operative and caring adults. Public education maximises the performance of all students from all parts of society.
Public education is the cornerstone of our democracy and one of the reasons that Australians live in the most peaceful nation on earth.
Students from public schools are among our nation's great achievers. Perhaps it's because they have the opportunity to meet and relate better to others from different backgrounds.
They also benefit from the knowledge and skills of dedicated teachers who are proud to be making a difference.
On March 15 we are celebrating in our public schools and TAFE colleges.
With your support and government help our great public education system can be even greater.
The MI committee and trade unions are holding a tour of Sydney's worst corporate offenders on Saturday March 17. meet in hyde Park at midday for the full tour.
Scumbags nominated so far include Australian Correctional Management, Caltex, McDonalds, Commonwealth Bank, Nike and "Honest John Howard".
Nominations can be faxed in on (02) 9699 1960 or emailed direct to mailto:[email protected]
Support the Mirotone Workers
As the above story shows, the Mirotone workers are fighting a tough struggle against a pretty ruthless employer.
Help them by attending a fundraiser at the LHMU Auditorium, Thomas Street on Thursday March 15 from 6.30pm.
All proceeds to the workers. Call 92819511 for more details.
Make James Hardie Pay
Victims of asbestos disease and supporters will protest outside James Hardie Industries, 65 York Street, Sydney - 11am, Wednesday March 21
James Hardie has decided to set aside $293 million to establish a Medical research and Compensation Foundation. The company apparently intends to use this foundation to compensate victims of asbestos-related diseases.
James Hardie cannot be allowed to get out of its legal responsibilities in this way. And money set aside is not enough to meet the compensation needs of future victims of asbestos-related diseases.
Fro details: contact the Asbestos Diseases Foundation 9637 8759
Politics In the Pub
At the Function Room, Gearins Hotel, Katoomba. (Right at railway station, right hand side coming from Sydney)
BLUE MOUNTAINS UNIONS COUNCIL INC
PRESENTS GLOBALISATION- - - HUMAN RIGHTS-UNION RIGHTS
Guest speaker:CHRIS LLOYD, National organisor: Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU).
I've just spent the last week trying to find my yacht without success. It seems it was moored at Currawong .I didn't know that I owned a yacht until I read workers in Workers on Line report in the Toolshed 23 February. I've also had trouble finding my way home as I read that I'm either an inner city trendy or a Pittwater elite. After stumbling about Newtown and Palm Beach looking for Blaxcell Street I reluctantly caught the train and bus back to Granville.
It appears that the old journalist adage of never letting the truth getting in the way of a good story can be applied to WOL in a manner that would make Piers Ackerman proud.
I am a supporter of Currawong. I've been an elected union official, an organiser, an industrial officer, a delegate and a rank and file member for more than 20 years. I was educated in Sydney's western suburbs (Liverpool), have lived in either the west or in Newcastle for the same period and find it offensive that the elite of Labour Council can use the tactics of lies and intimidation to silence workers who dare to criticise.
A perusal of the postcodes of our leading union officials will no doubt reveal that less than 3% reside in the west. In fact, I doubt that any live outside the inner city the Eastern or Northern suburbs.
The character assassination of Shane Worthington is shameful and cowardly. It would be news to Shane and the Currawong supporters that he is the leader of the movement. There is no leader.
The supporters are made up of rank and file unionists from a range of Unions including the Teachers, CPSU, CFMEU , LHMU, PSA , MEAA etc. and includes amongst it's supporters Jack Mundey, Tom Uren, Jim Macken, Barry Cotter et al. Line them up in the toolshed too!
It's a sad time for workers when the target for the tool of the week is a rank and file unionist who had the temerity with other unionists to disagree with the direction and deception of a peak body which by any definition has become is elitist and irrelevant to the vast number of rank and file members.
If there is to be a reasoned debate on the future of Currawong then let Labour council reveal the details of the constantly changing plan, and if the need for Trade Union training is as vital and urgent as it has been stated then use the proceeds from the sale of 2KY to fund an appropriate home.
When I started working some 29 years ago those of us on "good" wages laughed at mates doing apprenticeships on 1st year rates. Once qualified they were the ones on higher wages. First year wages for many apprentices today is approximately $5.60 per hour before tax. Many 1st year apprentices today are in their 20's.
Many would not last as the extra cost of working places a big dint in their pay. An amount little more than the dole. Technology has affected all industries and todays kids are leaving school later. When I raised this at work while discussing the loss of another apprentice I was told it was none of my business as they come through an agency and then threatened with contracting out. Its reasuring to see somethings never change, bosses.
You had in your issue 83 of Workers Online , an article on Sydney City Council "Sartor Thanks Workers for Games by Outsourcing Jobs" which may or may not have been a true picture of the reforms participated within this realm of Local Government. Fortunately your editorial in the same issue was indicative of a more than comprehensive understanding of the universal demand by countries belonging to the World Trade Organization,(WTO) and their expansion of the General Agreement on Trade in Services. The agreement is contentious because it potentially targets all service areas - health, education and social security, sectors that affect the environment, transportation services, postal and municipal services opening them to free trade.
This agreement will effectively smooth the path for the worldwide Privatization of Municipal services, and it is for this reason that the parochial stinking thinking in Australian local government employee representation must be excised without compassion.
Lessons must be learned from those who have already tread this path and survived, and the lesson here is that open combat with these forces of Globalization does not work.. It is only with the embrace of the new ideology and the subsequent influence exerted upon it, can it be controlled.
Our union movement must join with others in campaigning against GATS.
Some organizations already involved in this are; the US-based Alliance for Democracy and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, the Norwegian Union of Municipal Employees, Thailand's Focus on the Global South and the World Development Movement in Britain.
These GATS negotiations which commenced in February 2000 could be concluded by next year and an expanded GATS could pave the way for many more privatization's worldwide.
GATS will limit constraints to free trade especially those applied by governments. These could include, repeal of labour laws, removal of subsidies such as those used in public works , and the elimination of policies discriminating against foreign companies gaining access to local markets.
This privatization is not limited to the Municipal area, but also Health, Education and Water, which are all very lucrative areas and multi-national corporation's are well aware of this.
The Global Health Domain, is estimated to be worth 3.5 Trillion US$ annually, Education approx.2 Trillion US$, and Water, 1 Trillion US$.
At the moment water is not included in the GATS agreement, but with Europe including the Multi-National Water Provider Suez Lyonnaise organization pushing for its incorporation , its inclusion in GATS is almost inevitable
In short Frank Sartor, AND Sydney City Council are small fry in the tapestry of our Industrial life, and to waste valuable resources battling fools and buffoons, or the figments of their imagination, does not one iota for the Labor movement - either locally or globally.
In this instance I am reminded of - John D. Rockefeller who is credited with saying -
" In every hierarchy the cream rises until it sours. "
I particularly liked the tone and sentiment of your editorial this week. Turning politics round to the positive and all embracing; widening the issues -- which seems to be the value of the ACTU survey as well -- and regaining the international agenda as a front on which workers have a huge role to play (and to demand a decisive presence rather than let our governments get away with the excuses that there is nothing they can do about ... global fluctuations in money markets, increases in petrol prices, etc etc): should be the stance Labor is taking to be at all credible.
good on you.
Just as a matter of interest and in regard to the MUA and Patricks. I notice in yesterdays Sun Herald 4.3.01 that C Corrigan sold his house to Rene Rivkin for $10 million +. And this is the sod who was trying to smash the union movement with his good mate Peter Reith not too long ago.
The ripple effect occurring in communities, battered and bruised by the Howard Government is ever widening, indications are people are beginning to understand the ramifications of labour market flexibility and industrial relations reform under the Coalition.
Small business has cracked the shits over the GST and the mood in the bush has been described as feral. Ironically the "secure and comfortable" bloke who promised to govern for all Australians has delivered an ugly and insecure environment for all, himself included.
This site creates a ripple also.
Keep up your great work,
by Peter Lewis
When working on the Workforce2010 document what impacts did you find the changing labour market would have on women?
There is going to be the continuing shift from the manual to the personal - to the service industry - and some of that implies that a lot of new jobs are going to be there for women, But I think there is a warning tag attached to that because it doesn't necessarily mean high paid, good jobs. We've seen a concentration of women in service industries, and we've seen a concentration of women in casual work.
It does say, too, that there will be an increase in demand for teachers and nurses and aged care and carers generally, and historically women have filled those jobs. So I guess at one level the outlook in terms of the availability of jobs sounds good, but there's some qualifications about casualisation of the workforce and the way in which women miss out on retirement income as a result of the primary responsibilities for them to juggle work and family. So, on one level it is good news in the number of jobs that are going to be out there; on the other level there is the same old story and the same old issues that have to be dealt with.
I guess both part time and casual work is a double edged sword for women. One of the orthodox analyses is that it actually provides the flexibility to allow a woman to balance her family responsibilities and her career. But what are the down-sides?
It is a double-edged sword because (a) by taking on a series of casual jobs it can mean an interrupted career path for the women (b) there is insufficient knowledge really about entitlements and what they are giving up. When you finish maternity leave, for example, and go from a previously full time job into a part time job. People don't understand that the longer-term consequences are a lack of financial independence at retirement age.
So it is a double-edged sword in the short term and the long term, and I just don't think that we deal with it sufficiently on either level. I think the issue of casualisation and the concentration of women in casual work is one of the big employment issues. I think the metal workers case decision (even though I am told there are some technical difficulties) is symbolically really important to say you can't exploit people who made choices for their lifestyle needs. In other words, being parents, you can't exploit them by keeping them permanently on casual or permanent work when they have been working for you and been loyal, and a lot of things that come with good labour - you can't exploit them.
I think that that has got huge potential. I think the McDonalds attitude on maternity leave, and I think the Coles Myer attitude in some respects on the proportion of permanent workers in their new supermarkets are all good signs, but there is a huge way to go and we do not have sufficient family-friendly workplaces, and we've got to get really, really serious about that.
Does it concern you that often things like family-friendly practices are regarded as "women's policy" which in the end, ends up as saying the woman's job is to care for the family and also be part of the workplace.
Yes, it does concern me, but I think what encourages me is that there is a recent survey which shows that a really high proportion of men, who are caught in that spiral of unpaid overtime; and even some who are paid overtime, feel that job insecurity - in other words, having to do the extra work or losing your job - they feel that they can't be decent parents - the decent fathers that they want to be. I think the culture is changing but typically the responsibility for changing it still seems to rest with women, and I'd like to see men in a position to accept change; to do more to change it.
The Business Council and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has talked about this more frequently, but when you look at the people - an analysis of who has family-friendly workplaces - it is still men and women in higher levels, in management - people who have negotiating power, so to speak. Nothing much has changed for women with inferior bargaining rights, and that is the whole point I think that we need to address.
There are some good examples, and this Government's approach is to say, oh well, we'll showcase the good examples. I don't think they do enough about talking to employers. I don't think they do enough about work-based or close to work-based childcare. I just don't think they take it seriously enough. We've got an argument going on about maternity leave as though the only needs that working families have are when the baby is a baby, but families, and particularly women as the primary carer often - I mean, they have got needs well beyond when their children are over one year of age, and I don't think that we've been serious about cooperative workplaces where childcare needs are taken seriously.
And we also need to look at some out-of-the-box things, like bringing the child to a workplace for an hour before school starts. I don't think that we have seriously addressed. We have been too ready to say, oh well, we are talking about it; things seem to be happening and it is all happening according to what the market will bear. Well, when I was wearing my previous hat, and a stressed mother of only one child, I asked myself, what could make a huge difference to people's lives, and that is why I moved the amendment which started the test case for carers' leave. I'm really proud of that, because it made a structural difference. It seems that the pace of change has been very slow since then.
Well, putting on a policy-makers hat, which is the role of politicians - what can you do as a policy maker to change the situation? A lot of it seems to be either in the workplace or in the home. Where does the Government come into this equation?
I think the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations has got a lot more to do in speaking out to encourage and change culture than the kind of impression they give in bashing unions or supporting employers only in Question Time every day. I think it is quite easy for a Minister to use his or her position and leverage to bring about greater change, but if you are in a government which believes that everything is market-based, well you won't go after that change.
So, OK, we aren't necessarily going to go back and re-regulate in huge areas, but I think we are saying we are going to support more test cases; we are going to look at what we can do for work-based childcare; and we are going to encourage employers to come to the table so that we can create a climate for change that will happen more quickly.
What about that next step away from the workplace and into the family, and that old public-private dichotomy? Is there a role for the government in some way, to empower women not to be the prime person bearing that responsibility for children?
Overseas - at one extreme, Scandinavian governments have required men to share parenting. That is to actually, formally take legislated leave so that men take a share of the paternity leave or the parental leave, when the baby is new. I don't think that that would sit comfortably in the short term in Australia. I think that is a cultural change that is coming, but we are not there yet.
I prefer to see governments look at what is happening with outworkers, for example. Because that is where women are exploited in their homes. I'd like to see governments making sure that the structures are there for women to work more flexibly from home. And not just women in management. It's horses for courses obviously - and some jobs don't lend themselves to it, but I would like to see us, as a government, do more about the entitlements of casuals, and I think that goes into the home and into the workplace.
What do you think the single worst policy decision for women from the Howard Government has been?
That is a really hard question. There are so many of them, but I suppose it has to be the GST because of all of its ramifications. But you know the thing that really got me back when I left the Democrats, was the meanness - was the abolition of the dental hospitals. And the reality that in a country like Australia people on health cards couldn't get their teeth fixed. I just thought that was the symbol of mean spiritedness, and I wondered what on earth had gone wrong that in this pursuit of the bottom line you would do something like that to vulnerable people. I think that was despicable! I know there was a report out recently that showed that for many people that inability to afford to go to the dental hospital has remained a reality. It hasn't been picked up. Nobody's fixed it. I just think that was a terrible, terrible decision which came in their very first budget, and they are now reaping the consequences of that meanness of spirit.
Looking at Labor's side of the fence for a moment, as a relative newcomer, and I guess some would say an outsider to the ALP, how have you found the culture in its treatment of women?
Well I think that there is a lot more to be done.
There can be a bit of a blokey culture and as a women it can be easy to be excluded from that culture and often from the decision making process. I must say it is a culture that I am working hard to change.
What did they say to you before you came across?
Well people said to me:
"Labor is very bad with women in positions of power. They can cope with women at branch level, and back bench level, but they are not very good at accommodating women's views at the major levels where decisions are made."
What constructive changes do you think need to be done to minimise that?
It takes a huge reassessment by the men who run the Party. It takes a huge reassessment of the difference between their attitudes and the reality of the rest of the Australian population. I think Affirmative Action and Emily's List support have borne fruit. They have got women there in a bigger critical mass. I think that has been really important, but we are still only three voices on the front bench. We are not significantly represented I think in Labor campaign structures throughout the country, and I think we need to get a lot more serious about the image we present as a party because it is still predominantly masculine. And that is just so out of kilter with where Australian voters are - particularly women voters..
We have a similar issue in the union movement, still having that blokey public culture, and while it is easy to have a few figureheads that are women, translating it to the culture down the level is a really hard thing.
You do. We don't want to be figureheads. We just want to be there sharing the agenda setting where it is happening - and we are not. I think that is really, really short-sighted.
What about the role in the media? I know there was that bit in the paper today about your red dress photo. You have obviously spoken about this before, but do you think it is harder for women in politics to forge their own identities?
Yeah, it is. I don't think you are allowed to be yourself. Pauline Hansen is being allowed to be herself, which is quite interesting.
What is your take on Pauline, as a woman in politics?
I think Pauline is a mouthpiece for a wide range of issues about which people feel angry, and the fact that she is female contrasts with John Howard and Kim Beazley and she is not afraid to be herself including in her dress sense. A lot of people find that hard to deal with.
Can I just say on that photo in the red dress ... I think it is time men stopped giving women the advice on what to do and what to wear. Not just men, you know. There are some things about that red dress that were taken totally out of proportion, particularly by females in the Press Gallery; whereas whenever I went around the country, people in airports and community meetings were basically more interested in that vicarious element of "my Goodness, look what they can do with a bit of flesh that was you" - you can turn out looking like that, whether it was in red, or purple. (There was a purple shot with it.) But I do think that we live in a media culture where women are too trivialised according to appearance. And I think that is regrettable. I think also that women's 'sex' as in 'gender' and sexuality and a whole lot of other things, are preyed upon more than men's. Although I think that has been moderated a little bit by the treatment that Bill Clinton has been given - but still in Australia there is a ....
There are not many men politicians that you would link sexuality to whatsoever, are there?
No. And sexual past. And all of those things. So, there has been a level of double standards, and if you raise it you are accused of complaining, but it is the truth. It is the truth and we need to get over it.
There has been an impression that things have been hard for you since you have made the jump across to Labor. How have you been going the last 18 months? Have you been enjoying your work? Has it been working for you? Are you looking forward to the next 12 months?
I enjoyed the Regional Development portfolio, but it wasn't the best choice considering I had the second most marginal seat in the country, so that had to be reviewed. But I learned a lot, and ironically the things that I learned in the first twelve months are now bearing fruit.
The announcements that Labor has made recently on bandwidth and on-line universities - and even today, learning that local communities are looking at setting up their own telecommunications outlets - are things that I found really stimulating, and incorporated into Labor's thinking way back then. I enjoyed that, but I really love the Employment portfolio because it is so important: The future of work; the right of people to access work; and the challenge of making available work, shared more fairly, I think is a fantastic challenge. And I am really enjoying that. I am enjoying the challenge of how to fix up the Job Network, so that it works properly, and bringing some sanity and training across the board to things like Work for the Dole.
So, I am enjoying that. I am enjoying good friendships at the parliamentary level - I am enjoying that very much. I do find that the media had incredibly unrealistic expectations of what I could do and be. They expected me still to be a leader of the Democrats, with the right to speak on everything - because I had done so. And they have been pretty harsh on me as a result, I think, of an unrealistic expectation of the role I could play in a new Party.
So there has been a lot of that. You know: where have you been? Well, I have had my head down, immersing myself in my portfolio, but also working in the second most marginal seat in the country, which is really, really hard work.
What about the union movement? You are obviously a stranger to that. I know you worked with Jennie while you were with the Democrats?
And I know Sharan Burrow very, very well. She has been a slose friend of mine for six years. I think the combination of Sharan and Greg will be fantastic for the future of the union. The Missos helped my campaign. I have had a lot to do with the CEPU on Telstra and Australia Post campaigns.
What is your perspective on what we need to do as a movement? The union movement?
Well, I think you are doing good things in terms of starting with Jennie George and now with Greg and Sharan, not presenting that old politics, symbolism to the world. I think people being willing to listen. I think that is going to happen because of the tremendous way that Sharan and Greg have been articulating the role of unions.
Secondly, I think you have tried really hard to make it more relevant to women, but I think we have all got to do a better job of explaining to people that as deregulation intensifies collective actions are even more necessary for protection.
And I think that with the 'Mad Monk', as people call him, in charge, the level of slick confrontation is going to continue and the desire to demonise is going to be just as much as it has been in the past under Reith. I think in the main most people (except for some employers) believe there is an important role for unions. I just don't think we have managed to get the most positive aspects of it well understood in the media.
But I am really confident of the next few years, because I think you have got good leadership and you have got clear issues to focus on. You have got the government that has got an attitude that most people find repugnant, and you've got a Labor Party on the cusp of at least being considered as a serious alternative now. So, I think as long as we keep a cooperative working relationship things are going to get much better.
Finally, I have got to ask you: Do you have any perspectives on the Democrats' leadership ballot? It seems to me that the same issues that drove you from the Party ..
Let's go back to that. Number one: the pressure on me to negotiate with Peter Reith from within the Democrat strategists was enormous. I regret that now. And I regret the photo of me and Peter Reith. I don't regret some of the things that we put in the legislation to make it fairer. Like the Outworkers Clause for example. But what that did for me was to just clarify starkly that it was easy to negotiate with a Labor Party when they were in government because we had similar starting points, but my one experience of negotiating with the conservative government I think was too much of a compromise because the starting points were not sufficiently similar. I just knew that pressure to compromise was going to continue. I was really uncomfortable in it and I didn't want to be forced into a position of having to compromise all the time. I hope people understand that.
How would you have played the GST?
Well, I was opposed to it, but I didn't have confidence that I would have been able to actually win the debate on strategy. Because there was this incredible feeling of the need for the Democrats to be seen to be players and wanting to be players. Because it came out of years of being sharers of the balance of power, rather than having balance of power in their own right. So there was always competition between Democrats and Greens and Brian Harradine. And I thought Meg's biggest mistake was after Brian Harradine said 'no' to the GST, instead of taking a weekend for reflection; instead of feeling as I did, that collective sigh of relief of the whole nation, she bowled straight up to the television cameras and said "Peter Costello has my phone number".
And I thought that was a huge error in judgement. Having said that I also think, when I look back at what they are claiming was the policy, I don't believe it was based on Democrats policy. So a lot of that unrest has been bubbling away ever since.
You are right: it is revisiting some of the issues that made me leave. This kind of need to make yourself relevant by being seen to be a player at the big table, I'm not sure that has been the best image for the Democrats. I also think that they went out of their way to attack the Labor Party and to try and give everybody the impression that they weren't close to the Labor Party - because of me. And I think they went too far the other way.
Who do you think should come out as leader?
I don't have an opinion on who should. I'd say at the beginning it looked as though it might be close, but from the people that I still know, I'd say that Natasha has quite a lot of support from office holders in the Party, with the exception of the majority of Senators. But people around the country, on National Executive and things like that - but it is very hard to tell in the Democrats because it is up to individual members. They will be judging it on things that are important for them and whether the GST or image or the future direction of the Party as a third party running progressive issues or as negotiators with whoever is the government of the day. That is what they will all be grappling with.
What I think is just as important for us all to factor into our considerations is that as the Democrat vote has declined, the Green vote is back on the increase and that has a lot of implications for more hard line leverage. I often think about the irony of my being a Minister in government and having to go back and negotiate with the Greens. Some of them are extremist ones who made life so unbelievably difficult in the Senate - or a Brian Harradine, or the Democrats. History has a way of coming round, doesn't it?
Can I say one more thing? The Queensland's State election: in my marginal seat; in all of the State seats that are either wholly within or partly within Dixon - the vote was 63%. Now, that was incredibly encouraging, but I am not silly enough to think that it transfers straight over to the Federal campaign. But it does say that a lot of people in a marginal seat were prepared to give their first preference to Labor. And I think that is very, very encouraging.
Just taking that one step further. One thing that has been concerning me is that if you and Beazley just get in because people are pissed off with the GST and petrol, it is not that great a mandate is it?
No. We have to have people identify us as being different. And I actually think in our attitude to employment and workplace relations, I think we are going to be much more agenda setting about redressing what I see as the worst excesses of the last ten years. And for me if we accept that underwork and overwork are realities of the present - then we shouldn't accept that that is the way it has to be, and we shouldn't accept that we do nothing about it. Instead we say: this is what we have inherited; how can we make it fairer. I think we are much better placed to do things like that than a government that just gets elected by default.
I'm not interested in being a government that falls over the line by default, although we know that governments lose government - we've also got to earn it, and I think we have lots of good things to offer.
by Gina Preston
Anna's commitment to working families will be highlighted this month when Peoplescape is launched in Canberra on February 28 by the National Council for the Centenary of Federation.
Peoplescape is a national project that will eventually see 5000 life-sized people-figures placed on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra for two weeks in November. The figures will be created by volunteers from organisations and communities around Australia and will tell the stories of people who have contributed to the development of the nation over the last century.
This month's launch will feature about 12 figures. Unions will be able to nominate other influential figures in coming months to feature in the Peoplescape project.
Anna Stewart led the first campaigns in the 1970s for maternity and childcare facilities for workers in traditionally male industries such as car plants. She also argued equal pay cases in industrial tribunals, and raised awareness of sexual harassment as a workplace issue.
Anna worked with unions from 1974 until her death in 1983 at the age of 35. She led by example, showing that women could successfully have a career and a family. Anna worked on the successful Maternity Leave test case, which awarded maternity leave to women in the private sector. She also heightened awareness of parenting issues by breastfeeding her son in industrial relations tribunals.
Anna's lasting legacy is the national Anna Stewart Memorial Project, which has sponsored work experience places in unions for more than 1000 women. Many now represent their colleagues as union officials; others have used their new skills to empower themselves and their work mates by improving workplace conditions.
Lucille Hughes, a Melbourne-based artist and graduate of RMIT Sculpture, collaborated with ACTU Contact Centre operator Linda Jenkin to create the figure. Lucille won the prize for Best Interactive at the Summer Salon of the Centre for Contemporary Photography in 1998 and is a member of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance.
She has used computer animation to convey Anna's personality, strength and her devotion to work and her family. Lucille explores portraiture by drawing life or photographic observations directly on the computer screen using the mouse as paintbrush or pencil.
"I was honoured to have been asked to represent Anna Stewart," she said. "I admire her for what she achieved for working women as well as personally from conversations I have had with people who knew her," said Lucille.
Linda Jenkin, who has participated in the Anna Stewart Memorial Project, believes the project exposes women to daily union activities such as campaigning, attending AIRC hearings and addressing members. It also gives them the motivation to become more involved in their union.
Linda describes the Anna Stewart Memorial Project "as one of the best courses I have been on".
* Union members who are interested in nominating and creating representations of other union figures should contact Gina Preston at the ACTU on 03/9664.7326
The Australian Labor Party both reflects Australia's mainstream culture and has a culture of its own. The Labor Party's roots are in unionism and militant industrial struggle. While many women were heroes in these struggles, the culture born was one of male bonds, male mateship, male leadership and male aggression.
For much of this century this culture fitted neatly in an Australia where the cultural stereotype, if not always the reality, was of a male breadwinner bringing wages home to a non-incoming-earning wife whose world was centred on home-making and childrearing. Today's Australia no longer resembles this 1950s imagery. Neither does today's Labor Party.
In this chapter, the position of women in today's Labor Party will be examined by analysing the Party's decision-making structures, both formal and informal, and the effect of the affirmative action rule and women's organisations within the Labor Party. Finally, a strategy for pursuing further change for women will be outlined.
State Branches And Union Delegates: Formal Structures Of Power
Part of the difficulty with analysing the Labor Party's structure is that, like Australia generally, in many ways the Party remains a federation of state-based organisations with their own idiosyncrasies. Each of the state-based structures is founded on an amalgam of individual membership and trade union affiliation. In general terms, individuals can join the Labor Party and attend a locality-based branch, with individual membership giving a right to vote for the delegates who will form the peak decision-making body of the Party in that state. Trade unions affiliated to the Party for a claimed membership number and are allocated delegates to the peak decision-making body in proportion with that membership number. The number of delegates to the peak decision-making body is divided between affiliated trade unions and those elected by individual memberships in an agreed ratio, which is either 50 per cent each or 60 per cent for trade unions and 40 per cent for delegates elected by individual members.
This kind of culture clearly has it shortcomings. Obviously, locality-based membership branches are a hangover from an era when working hours facilitated men, in particular, gathering at evening meetings that were within walking distance. The limited forms of mass communications meant such meetings played a valuable role both in informing those who attended about current political issues and in performing 'on the ground' campaigning activities. While a number of local branches are vibrant and clearly meet a need for the members who participate in them, the reality is mot Party members do not regularly attend their local branch. Many branches are held together by a dedicated, but small, group of Party members in the older age bracket.
The Labor Party is now alone in struggling to maintain a vibrant membership base and updating its structures to meet the needs of the modern world. Many civic organisations, which rely on volunteerism, are finding it increasingly difficult to renew their membership base as we confront a time-pressured world with much of the population only just keeping their heads together as they struggle with work and family obligations.
The difficulties of maintaining volunteer involvement are compounded for political parties, such as the Labor Party, by the way in which modern politics is conducted. In this era of mass communications, increasingly political leaders conduct their dialogue with the electorate directly through free media and, at election times, through paid advertising. The message delivered by political leaders is shaped by the work done by a full-time and professional political class of advisers, strategists, pollsters, spin doctors and the like. As the day-to-day pursuit of politics shifts increasingly into central hands, it is difficult to offer individual members much more than a role in fundraising, handing out how-to-vote cards and other campaign-orientated tasks.
While each state branch and the Labor Party nationally maintain a policy-generation structure in which individual members can participate, the historic tension as to who really controls policy questions, the party or its parliamentarians, remains.
There has been a general debate in the Labor Party in recent years about how to renew its membership base. Both John Pandazopoulos, the new Minister for Major Projects, Tourism and Gaming in Victoria, and Jim Claven, the author of The Centre is Mine, have written persuasively about the need to move to a mass-based membership model like that used by British Labour under the leadership of Tony Blair. Within Britain, individual members have been empowered within the party's decision-making structure through the use of plebiscites, and highly professional 'marketing' strategies have been used to sell membership. Such strategies have included highly discounted memberships, youth recruitment drives, the mass distribution of slick recruitment material, the use of targeted direct mail and telephone canvassing, and high-profile recruitment events such as 'Red Rose Week'. These strategies are credited with doubling British Labour's membership in a five-year period.
Within the Labor Party in Australia, this debate has yet to result in concrete changes. The to the extent that membership rules have been altered, the tendency has been to tighten the criteria for being eligible to vote in preselection contests as a result of increasing concern about 'branch-stacking' and membership manipulation.
There is no evidence to suggest that the continuing problems with giving individual members a real say and a real role discourages women more than men. However, given that for women the struggle to balance work and family life is particularly intense, it is not surprising that a locality-based branch structure, generally based on evening meetings at which childcare is not provided, tends to attract fewer women participants than male participants.
Alternatives to locality-based branches, such as work-based branches, issues groups, women's branches and the like, have been suggested but not warmly embraced. Just as the debate about increasing membership has become hostage to concerns about membership manipulation, so has the debate about branch structures, with fears expressed that those seeking to manipulate membership will misuse more flexible branch structures.
As the Party has debated issues about the rights of individual membership, recruitment strategies and different branch structures, it has also debated the question of the appropriate degree of trade union influence on the Party. Some in this debate have suggested that as trade union membership numbers have declined, so should the percentage of votes guaranteed to trade union affiliates. Others put the view that, given the history of the Labor Party and the connection that still exists between unions and large numbers of workers, the Party would downgrade trade union influence at its peril. It is also suggested that, given it is virtually unheard-of for trade unions to vote as a block, such a change would be no more than symbolic and have no substantial effect on outcomes.
When analysing this debate it would be simplistic in the extreme to characterise trade union influence in the Party as simply equating to male influence. In recent times, trade unions have systematically developed affirmative action programs in order to better reflect and serve the constituency of working women. However, some historic organisational biases do exist. For example, teachers' unions, nurses' unions and the unions representing direct public sector workers have not traditionally been affiliated to the Labor Party. These are also unions with high female membership and leadership. The failure to affiliates is explained, in part, by the professional association backgrounds of these unions and, in part, by the political difficulties of developing an organisational link to the political party that may become the government and the employer. However, the non-affiliation of these unions does mean that many of the key unions affiliated to the Party have a larger male than female membership constituency and a larger number of male and female officials.
Consequently, while the Labor Party's formal structures are not directly discriminatory, there are factors that mean those structures facilitate male involvement more than female involvement.
At The Right Pub At The Right Time: Informal Structures Of Influence
Clearly, every organisation has an informal structure that shadows and enlivens the formal structure. In the Labor Party the factional structure is a large part of this informal structure but it is not the whole story.
As noted above, the nature of modern politics has given rise to increasing amounts of influence being placed in the hands of the professional class. Given the increasing importance of this political class, it is important to note that, at its most senior level, it is almost exclusively male. Currently, the chiefs of staff to our federal and state Labor leaders are all male¾with the exception of Premier Bob Carr in New South Wales. The Labor Party's National Secretary and each State Secretary are male except for the State Secretary in the ACT.
In part this can be explained by the family-unfriendly nature of the jobs, which have historically required long hours and constant travel. The 'work till you drop' ethos which pervades this political class means there has been no real attempt to facilitate part-time work or working patterns which recognise family needs. In addition, these jobs tend to become a lifestyle in which being at the right pub or the right dinner at the right time can be as important as performing professional duties during the day. The ability of those with young families, and women in particular, to get in and stay in the networks is therefore limited.
It is time that these practical and cultural matters were addressed and that the apparent barriers to women in filling these positions are systematically analysed and overcome. Unless this is done, we risk severely limiting the sources of advice and talent to Labor governments and leaders¾by losing women's perspectives and skills.
Turning to the factional structure, which is so key to understanding the functioning of the Labor Party, we find a state of flux. The ideological divide which first defined the Left/Right split, namely attitudes towards communism and the former Soviet Union, has given way. In many ways the factions are now far more personality-based groupings with differences in style rather than substance.
This is not to say that the Labor Party lacks participation from a broad ideological spectrum. The Party continues to incorporate participants from a conservative Catholic background right through to those who still hold misty dreams of revolutionary rather than evolutionary change. In searching to define the current division between the Right and the Left, it can be said, in the broadest of terms, that the Right has a more free-market economic perspective and a more conservative social perspective than the Left. Like all good generalisations, there are many exceptions to the rule. For many within the Party whose views were not tightly formulated before taking up membership, whether they join the Right or the Left is increasingly a decision based on personal connections, friendships and happenstance. Indeed, the breakdown in the clear ideological divide between Right and Left has meant that in a number of states there has been increasing factional fluidity, with a break-down of Right and/or Left groupings into smaller subgroups.
Where does all this leave women? Historically, the leadership of factions has been exclusively male, with the greatest displays of male political aggression saved for inter-factional negotiations and intra-factional dissent-crushing. Only recently have we seen the emergence of female factional leaders. Clearly, these leaders, like the male leaders, do not have complete freedom of action and generally such female leaders are working within a paradigm largely defined by male trade union leaders, given the importance of trade unions to factional politics. However, some changes in style and substance are discernible, and it would be a mistake to under-estimate the importance of this development.
There remains a debate about the desirability of the Labor Party having any form of factional structure. However, whatever one's position on this debate, it seems inevitable that factions will continue to exist within the Labor Party and within political parties generally. Consequently, women's involvement in factional structures at the senior level is desirable if we want to ensure that factions within the Party and the Party generally are fully open to women's participation and women's perspectives.
Affirmative Action¾Has It Worked?
This review of the formal and informal structures of the Labor Party points to a number of factors militating against women's full involvement. Yet women have been making progress in getting the positions prized most by political parties, namely parliamentary positions. This progress stems from the cultural shift within the Labor Party signified by the passage of the affirmative action rule through National Conference in 1994.
Affirmative action for multi-member internal party committees has been a feature of the Party's internal structure since 1981. While successful at generating increased female involvement in Party committees, the guarantee of at least on-third membership of internal Party committees did not, in and of itself, solve the problem of getting more women into Parliament.
With Labor state governments providing Australia's first two female premiers, Joan Kirner in Victoria and Carmen Lawrence in Western Australia, it was easy for a period in the 1980s to think that women were making steady inroads into the parliamentary sphere and that this trend would continue.
In Victoria, in particular, the shattering defeat of 1992 exploded that illusion. The truth was women had made inroads but had tended to be clustered in marginal seats. As a result, when Labor hit its bedrock vote, few women were left. The 1992 election defeat halved the number of women in Victoria's Labor Caucus. Federally, a similar crunch point was hit after the 1996 election, with the number of Labor women in the House of Representatives cut by more than half to a mere four parliamentarians.
As a result of the 1992 defeat, Victorian women and in particular Joan Kirner organised an extensive campaign for an affirmative action rule that would guarantee women a specified percentage of winnable seats. The campaign was characterised by cross-factional women's support and, in breach of all the assumed rules of Labor Party decision-making, was adopted despite the vitriolic opposition of some of the most senior male factional players. Interestingly, this factional opposition came not from trade union leaders, who had come to terms with the operation of affirmative action rules within their own environment, but from male parliamentarians and men aspiring to be parliamentarians who worried about the personal cost they could bear as a result of such a rule change.
Following the adoption of the affirmative action rule change by Victoria, which applied to pre-selections for Victorian State Parliament and Federal Parliament, the 1994 National Conference of the Party agreed to adopt a similar set of affirmative action rules. The rule adopted nationally, which formed a template for state branches, deals with federal parliamentary seats and guarantees that by 2002 women will hold a minimum of 35 per cent of seats held by Labor when the party is in government, and the same minimum percentage of seats required to win government when Labor is in Opposition.
All state branches have modified their rules in accordance with this template and applied a comparable scheme for pre-selections for State Parliament.
The adoption of the affirmative action rule has proven that¾despite factors like greater male membership than female membership, a preponderance of male union officials in affiliated unions, generally male factional leadership and far greater numbers of men in our various parliaments than women¾the Labor Party's culture can incorporate and cater for strategies to facilitate gender equality.
The difference made by the affirmative action rule can clearly be seen from Tables 3, 4 and 5, which detail the number of Labor Women who have been elected into the Federal Parliament from the states of New South Wales and Victoria since 1980. Victoria and New South Wales have been selected for the purposes of this comparison because of their different pre-selection systems. Victoria has a system in which local party members have half the say in pre-selecting their House of Representatives candidate. New South Wales has a system in which local party members have 100 per cent of the say in pre-selecting their House of Representatives candidate. In both Victoria and New South Wales, Senate candidates are selected centrally.
It has been argued by some that a rank and file pre-selection system, like the New South Wales system, is more likely to facilitate women being pre-selected than a system like Victoria's with a central component. However, these statistics do not bear out this theory, and in both pre-selection systems the statistically significant jump came in the last round of pre-selections, which were effected by the affirmative action rule.
Women's Organisations Within The Labor Party
Women within the Labor Party have organised through women's organisations for a considerable period, and the ALP National Women's Conference continues to meet periodically.
Currently, within the party, the officially sanctioned women's organisation is the Labor Women's Network. Working outside the party, but with the aim of supporting Labor women candidates, is EMILY's List.
In part, the Labor Women's Network was established as a reaction by Labor's Right to the development of EMILY's List, which was seen to be more aligned with Labor's Left. Notwithstanding these antecedents, both organisations embrace women from all factions and in some states work in close co-operation.
Historically, women within the Labor Party, and the feminist movement generally, have debated whether a women's agenda is best advanced by women organising outside or battling through the mainstream structures. There seems no doubt that, in practice, this debate has been resolved within the Party with women opting to battle through the mainstream structures, while using women-only structures for networking, training, personal and financial support.
However, given the time pressures on women involved in the Labor Party generally, the various women's structures have suffered from lack of attention and on-going effort. There is no doubt that the level of activity is sporadic and the organisations are reliant on the work of too few. There is also an issue about the relevance of some of the activities, given the increasing level of integration into the Party's mainstream activities.
As women continue to focus on making inroads in obtaining parliamentary positions and power within the factional structures, there is a need to review and re-invent the role that can be best played by women-only structures within the Labor Party.
The Future Agenda: Suggestions For Reform
In 2001, as Australia celebrates the centenary of the Australian Parliament and effective nationhood, the Labor Party will celebrate its centenary as a federal political party.
In the lead-up to these celebrations there will be a focus on Labor's past. The task for Labor women is to ensure that this examination of Labor's past is not merely an exercise in nostalgia, but that there is a clear-eyed review of the way in which women have been marginalized in the past and a clear resolve to take further steps towards reaching true gender equality in the future.
The campaign for the affirmative action rule change proved the effectiveness and benefits of women working cross-factionally towards an agreed goal. This successful model should be pursued and efforts made to secure cross-factional agreement for women on an agenda of change for the first five years of the new century. Possible elements of that agreed agenda for change could be the following.
Strengthening affirmative action
Pressure must continue to be applied to ensure the delivery of affirmative action in accordance with the current rule. In addition, a review of the rule should be undertaken in 2002 to see if further strengthening is required. Possible areas for improvement could include an increase in the affirmative action target to 40 per cent for both parliamentary positions and internal party positions, and the application of affirmative action principles to the selection of the ministry/shadow ministry, committee positions and the like. It could also include the application of affirmative action to ministerial/shadow ministerial offices with a view to encouraging the greater integration of women into the professional political employee class. One would hope that over time the inclusion of women would be so much the norm that such rules would no longer be required. However, it does seem likely that such rules will be useful in the next five- to ten-year period.
Nuturing a policy debate on the needs of Australian women
Currently, a women's agenda on policy is in part integrated into the policy-making structures and in part separated into committees like the National Status of Women's Committee. While this structure will probably continue, there is merit in ensuring that Labor women sponsor policy debates in order to embrace a wider feminist constituency generally and to create forums where women's views can be heard. From the mainstream media one could easily get the impression that new policy ideas in the Labor Party are confined to a couple of male federal parliamentarians. The reality is somewhat different but women seem to have been less aggressive marketers of policy positions. The sponsoring of periodic policy dialogues, where a Labor woman is equally likely to be heard on defence policy as childcare, would enable women to present policy positions in a more supportive environment with a view to strengthening their ability to pursue those policy issues within the formal party framework.
Pursuing structural change
The debate in the Labor Party about mass membership models and trade union affiliation levels will continue. There is not going to be a generally agreed women's position on this debate. However, agreement could be pursued about what criteria any proposed model would need to meet in order to be considered as family friendly and sufficiently inclusive of women's involvement. For example, questions could be asked as to whether a proposed model offers a forum that can be readily accessed by women at home caring for small children, or whether the proposed model's recruitment strategy is likely to deliver recruitment information to women. Clearly, these suggestions are some of a number that could be incorporated with a clear plan for change. However, to be successful the plan would have to be focused and cross-factionally agreed upon amongst the majority of women, in the way the affirmative action rule plan was agreed.
Women in the Labor Party have made enormous gains in recent years, and Australian women generally can increasingly expect the face of Labor to be female. However, more must be done if we are to have a Labor Party that cherishes its past but faces its future with an organisational structure and culture truly inclusive of women as equals. Labor women, strengthened by their successes, are now ready and able to move on to create that future for Labor.
Extracted from Party Girls
The Fair Wear Campaign is caught between two conflicting sentiments at this point in time. On the one hand Fair Wear is hailed as one of the most successful campaigns in Australia in raising the profile of an issue and co-ordinating ongoing activism across many sectors. On the other hand, outworkers are asking "when is something going to change for us?". Despite all our best efforts, wages and conditions for outworkers on the ground have not yet improved.
The problem we face is that there is a culture of exploitation in the clothing industry in Australia. Many people are benefiting from that culture and they are powerful forces fighting against our efforts to bring Justice for Outworkers.
Looking through the history of Fair Wear we have had a series of highs and lows as we have campaigned against these powerful forces.
History - the highs and lows
The 'Homeworkers Code of Practice' was developed in 1996 during the Senate Inquiry into Outwork in the Clothing Industry. Retailers and manufacturers were to sign the Code to take some responsibility for the wages and conditions of the workers making their clothes. Some 15 companies, retailers and manufacturers had agreed to sign it, but none of them showed up for the signing ceremony in mid October. A late meeting the night before had decided to ride out the wave of negative publicity at the time, as they believed consumers would forget.
In response, we then moved quickly to launch Fair Wear in early December 1996 with a broad base of over 40 endorsing organisations. These included Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, Uniting Church in Australia, Mercy Foundation, Baptist Union of NSW, Good Shepherd Sisters, Asian Women at Work, Working Women's Centre, Textile Clothing and Footwear Union and NSW Labor Council. We commenced education and campaigns that would make sure consumers did not forget.
With a characteristic lack of support for the Code from retailers, it became a hard slog of embarrassing companies into signing the Code. By the end of 2000, however, some 140 companies had signed the Code and those who had not done so were starting to look conspicuous. Fair Wear regularly updated and distributed a list (known as a 'wallet card') of companies who had signed the Code and encouraged consumers to support retailers and labels that were on the list.
In 1999 Fair Wear supported the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union in their case before the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to stop the stripping back of the Federal Clothing Award clauses which specifically referred to outworkers. In the middle of the case we felt we were struggling just to hold onto what we had, without being able to make any progress towards justice for outworkers. We were surprised to receive a very quick decision from the Commission upholding EVERYTHING in the existing "outworker clauses".
It had always been intended that the Code would be supported by an accreditation and labelling system (indeed, this is detailed within the Code), but it took some time to develop. This development was completed in mid 2000.
The label has been a significant development in the campaign to end the exploitation of outworkers. The Code of Practice Committee (responsible for overseeing the Code's implementation), sent correspondence to all Code signatories explaining the development and inviting them to information seminars on the process. The information sessions were attended by only a handful of companies. Retailers claimed they had no part to play in the process because they didn't distribute the work themselves (the 'We're just shopkeepers' argument). Fair Wear protests followed.
This week, one of the biggest retail players, Coles Myer Group, have made a commitment to support the label. This gives leadership and leverage to lobby other retailers. If the retailers want the label in their garments, manufacturers must get accredited to keep their market happy.
Finally, on International Women's Day the No Sweat Shop Label was launched in Melbourne with the slogan - Fashion Stinks when it's made in Sweatshops - Demand this Label.
A Successful Broad Based Campaign
There are two core strengths of the Fair Wear Campaign. It is a broad based coalition of groups across many sectors, and outworkers themselves have been active participants in the campaign.
In NSW church organisations have funded the campaign and are the most active participants at regular meetings. Retired nuns in their 80s and 90s have been letter writing to retailers.
School students have attended many public protests, organised activities in their schools and lobbied the companies making their school uniforms. (One school even has their own Fair Wear website.)
Community organisations have facilitated consultations and information sessions with outworkers in their communities. They have written letters to the government and to retailers and participated in protest activities.
Unions have attended protests and written letters, and are now developing a campaign around work uniforms.
Members of various political parties have lent their names and their resources to the campaign; and university student groups have educated their student bodies and participated in protests.
And all these groups have worked together, sharing the podium, the meeting table, the street and the mall to create a dynamic, active, energetic campaign.
Outworkers participation in Fair Wear has not always been visible, but it has been constantly present. Outworkers fear they will lose their if they are singled out in public, but for every protest at least one outworker tells her story to be shared with the crowd. Outworkers make themselves available to speak to the media and to groups of consumers interested in the lives behind the campaign. Significant stages in the campaign are discussed with the outworkers and their ideas included in steps taken. Outworkers participated in the briefing of the team which developed the Behind the Label strategy at the NSW Department of Industrial Relations.
Asian Women at Work, a key member of the Fair Wear Campaign has undertaken many projects and programs with outworkers. These have included Area Group and Support Group Meetings, English classes (in partnership with the TCF Union), Occupational Violence Seminars, Skill Recognition courses, Assessor's Courses and a Spokesperson Training Program.
18 outworkers attended the protest outside Parliament House this week and made the following statement about what they want.....
Statement from Outworkers - What we want
We want to be free to be outworkers. We enjoy the flexibility of working at home, and being able to care for our children.
We want our skills recognised.
We want to have time to learn English.
We want to be able to access to training programs.
We don't want to work for $3 an hour - we want our full entitlement to $12.10 an hour.
We don't want to work 16 hours a day (and sometimes overnight) to scrape together enough money for our lives.
We don't want our kids to be forced to help us in order to meet unrealistic deadlines.
We want to have time to spend with our kids.
We want to have enough strength in our arms at the end of the day to cuddle our children.
We want our employers to be forced to take out Workers Compensation cover for us, so we have some help when our bodies cave in to the heavy demands of our work.
We want retailers and fashion houses to be held accountable for wages and conditions of the workers who make their clothes.
We want a system that allows those who are exploiting us to be traced through all the links in the clothing production chain, from the top down.
Some of us want to access the retraining programs the Premier promised, to help us get out of the clothing industry and into other work.
We want so much more, but often we do not dare to dream.
To the crowd gathered we want to say -
We make for well known fashion labels.
We make work uniforms for many high profile Australian companies.
We make school uniforms for your kids.
When you wear your clothes, think of us, and the sweated labour that has gone into making them. Don't forget about us.
To the Premier we want to say -
We came to Australia for a better life. But our lives are still very hard. We are making a significant contribution to the Australian economy. Can we not ask for something back?
Implement the Behind the Label strategy and stop the exploitation we experience day to day. Prove to us that you are serious about your promise.
The Task Ahead
1. Lobbying retailers to participate actively in the Code and publicly support the No Sweat Shop Label.
Fair Wear's present focus is on demonstrating to the retailers that there is a high level of consumer demand for the No Sweat Shop label. We are encouraging consumers to send postcards to retailers to let them know that they want to see the label in stores.
Our major targets at present are the three retail groups which lead the clothing sector along with Coles Myer: .
2. Demanding state based legislation, with sanctions for those companies which profit from exploitation of outworkers, to back up the national voluntary scheme under the Homeworkers Code of Practice.
On 8th February, 1999, Premier Bob Carr stood before outworkers, the media, a contingent of high school students and other Fair Wear supporters and he made a promise. That promise was to "stop the exploitation of women and children in the textile, clothing and footwear industries in NSW."
In December 1999 a blueprint for achieving this was released by the NSW Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) called 'Behind the Label'. More than two years since the election promise was made, 100,000 outworkers and their families are sill waiting for someone to intervene in the industry that sees them exploited daily.
Fair Wear is fearful that again those powerful forces have the ear of the government, and the exploitation is being ignored.
Consider writing to the Premier and ask him why his government is dragging the chain on this issue
3. Seeking commitment from Government, retailers and manufacturers for more direct programs to assist outworkers access information, support and training.
For more info on the Campaign...
For info about the accreditation and labelling system and how companies can become involved visit http://www.NoSweatShopLabel.com
by Louise Beard
"This woman is planning to topple the PM." Not really a statement one takes lightly. Especially when it is written in bold above your photo in the Sun-Herald.
Nicole Campbell's response is enthusiastic. "It was excellent coverage," she says of the recent article on her endorsement as the ALP candidate for the seat of Bennelong. "I was really pleased with it."
The seat of Bennelong is held currently by the Prime Minister, John Howard, explaining much of the media interest in Nicole. And rightly so: In the recent Referendum, for instance, Nicole ran a successful campaign for the 'Yes' vote - resulting in a 5% majority for the Republic in Howard's electorate, despite his opposition.
As a 29 year old environmental scientist, Nicole has plenty of things outside of politics to keep her busy.
"I was seconded from the EPA [Environment Protection Agency] to the OCA [Olympic Coordination Authority] in 1998 and have been there ever since," she says.
"At first I managed the Environmental Policy and Liaison Unit. Then I got an opportunity in the lead up to the Games to manage the open space - manage how people would use the space in Olympic Park and how the Games would work safely."
The best part of job was watching everything come online and knowing that you'd had a part in shaping the direction of it. The Games were just an awesome experience," says Nicole.
But with the Games behind us, the OCA will soon become the Sydney Olympic Park Authority. Nicole is equally enthusiastic about her new role.
"The challenge for the Environment Group and for my role within it is to ensure the commitment we had [to the environment] in the lead up to the Games isn't lost and that we retain it as a legacy for the people of NSW," she says.
Nicole is also a very active and enthusiastic member of APESMA.
"I joined APESMA when I started at the EPA in '94," she says.
"I wanted to find out how the Association works so I started coming along to Branch Committee meetings in 1996. In 1997 I was elected to the Committee and became Chair of the Professional Issues Sub-Committee.
For me, that is very exciting because you get to look at some of the professional issues that face the different disciplines APESMA covers- scientists, engineers, people in the IT industry, vets, pharmacists, architects. It's fascinating to hear other people's professional issues and to draw parallels with them."
Nicole was then also elected to APESMA's Federal Committee of Management.
"That's where we established the working group for setting a policy agenda for a national strategy for women," she says. "A big part of that was the establishment of the National Women's Coordinator."
"New South Wales Branch was really the driver for that nationally because we used the examples from New South Wales, like the first set of women's negotiating skills seminars."
Nicole is hopeful the role of the National Women's Coordinator will grow in the future. "I expect it will become a powerful force and a resource for the National Assembly and the Board to utilise in setting the future agenda for APESMA," she says.
And of her own political agenda in Bennelong?
"I'm campaigning on a number of issues: education, aged care, women's issues," Nicole says.
"As a professional scientist, better recognition and investment in science and technology is obviously something that I am also passionate about."
"It's a sector of the community that has been completely forgotten," she says. "It is a great shame that it has taken five years of disinvestment and disinterest by the Howard Government to bring things to the head that resulted in his Innovation Statement."
Nicole says the Innovation Statement -incorporating a promised injection of funds into our flailing science and technology sectors - does little to alleviate her concerns.
"Science is absolutely integral to the health and wealth of society," she says.
"We need to take a long term view of it - you can't partition research into election cycles. I know the frustration of begging for grants where you know that you are doing some very useful things and in five or six years you'll have something to show for it. But it's very difficult to work in an environment where you are always wondering whether your funding is going to be continued.
I just hope that science and technology professionals are the winners out of this election. Labor is the only political party truly committed to realising the long term value of investing in science and technology" she said
Ma Hnin Se, Ma Thi Da, and MaYe
Ma Hnin Se, Ma Thi Da, and MaYe, are three young Burmese women who live in Mae Sot on the Thai side of the Thai- Burma border. They are three of the 60,000 Burmese workers in Mae Sot who have fled the repressive Burmese military regime and economic ruin in Burma.
All three of these women are activists in the recently formed Burmese Labour Solidarity Organisation (BLSO) which organises Burmese workers in Thailand. I had the privilege of meeting with these and other BLSO activists last November, in the BLSO's Worker's Centre in Mae Sot, the venue of meetings, marriages, and funerals of Burmese workers in the area.
As Burmese workers in Thailand they face incredible challenges, working 12 to 14 hours a day in the most dirty, dangerous and degrading jobs and earning around half the minimum wage of a Thai workers (60 Baht, AUS $1.50). One common scheme by business operators exploiting the fact that many of the workers entering illegally or fleeing the Burmese regime is to make workers work for a month til pay day then dob them into the authorities the day before so they don't have to pay up.
Ma Hnin Se who worked in a shoe factory explained that bosses forcing long working days put amphetamines in workers drinking water so even when they were exhausted they could fall not asleep on the job. Many women factory workers have to live in the factory premises getting only two days off a month. This raises major personal security issues which Ma Ye, Ma Thi De, and Ma Hnin Se all agreed top the list of concerns for Burmese women workers along with the constant threat of deportation.
Other BLSO members related accounts of a worker killed as a result of an accident on the job and the boss taking no responsibility, the BLSO raised money for medical care and then a funeral. They also told of an incident of a rape of one worker and the murder of another by the friend of a factory owner. These crimes went completely unpunished by local authorities but the BLSO campaigned to get some form of compensation for the victims.
Gaining a picture of the conditions under which these women worked it became apparent that organising workers under such circumstances was no mean feat. Mo Swe, the secretary of the BLSO explained that factory operators recruiting women workers thinking they would be easier to push around got a rude shock when they discovered they were often the most militant unionists, determined to fight for their rights.
Women factory workers organised by the BLSO had stood up to the attempts not to pay workers and campaigned against the poor security at live-in factories.
Despite the obviously extremely different and difficult conditions that the BLSO activists operate under there were some similarities with the way unionists organise here in Australia. Ma Thi Da who had worked in a local ceramics factory prior to stopping work to have her baby, explained that they involved workers in the BLSO through one to one discussions and through taking action to deal with issues on the job. Through their activity the BLSO is seen as the group to go to in order to win fairer treatment for workers.
The BLSO runs two schools and a health clinic for children of the Burmese workers, who are denied access to education and medical care in Thailand. When we visited one school it was a festival day so classes were not on, but it was apparent that although the school was well organised, and had very capable teachers it was run on very meagre resources. Children were playing with rubber bands on the floor of the school and it occurred to me that Ma Ye who worked at a toy factory could probably never afford to buy the products she made.
On International Women's Day I think of the bravery and strength of the BLSO women activists such as Ma Hnin Se, Ma Thi Da, and Ma Ye are doing incredible work to improve the lot of Burmese workers in Thailand. For me their work really highlights the need for us as unionists to give solidarity to the Burmese struggle for democracy, but also the necessity for us as unionists to globalise solidarity with workers every where.
If you would like to find out more about the BLSO you can contact them via email on [email protected]. You can also send donations to: BLSO, PO Box 37, Mae Sot, TAK 63110 THAILAND.
by Neale Towart
Lorna and Elaine (now Morrison and Morey respectively) rule the roost, and before them Aunty Glad was in the office, guiding the Trades Hall secretaries in the right direction. Betty Smith and then Aunty Glad were Typists to George Rutter. Dick Worrall took over from Rutter as Secretary with Glad still in the job.
Elaine was suggested for and got the job as typist to Dick Worrall in the latter part of the Second World War and stayed on until the late 1940s. She became engaged whilst at Trades Hall during the war. After her marriage she stayed on, despite the post-war attitude that "women were taking men's jobs". However, Elaine felt she had to resign when she was pregnant, although Dick Worrall urged her to stay.
Looking for a replacement, Worrall asked Elaine if her sister would like the job. At the time Lorna had a good job with a solicitor in Martin Place and wasn't thrilled with the idea of leaving. She was on good money, and was being urged by her boss to become an articled clerk. Parental pressure told, in the form of her father, Ernest, a staunch union and ALP man, and also the hours at Trades Hall, which were 9.30 to 4.15. As Lorna and Elaine say, if the hour trends then continued, we should all be working about an hour a day now.
So Lorna stepped in and stayed on until marriage and family intervened in 1957. She came back in 1970 when George Hunt, secretary, asked her back. Mary Martin was his typist from 1957 but she died suddenly. So Lorna was back to the breach, only to have George die in 1971. Les Druce took over but he became ill in 1974 and was away for awhile. Lorna was then the typist but pretty well acting as the secretary to the Association and the committee said to her "you can't do everything, let's get someone in to help until Les gets better. Would your sister be interested?"
Elaine was naturally reluctant, having been away since 1949, but was persuaded to come in for 6 weeks while Les was ill.
Well, Les sadly didn't ever come back. Elaine found she was enjoying being back at the coalface, so she stayed on while the committeee sorted out who was to be the new secretary.
Nomination time came, and as usual a few men applied, but the committee said to Lorna, "look here, you have been doing the job anyway for quite a while, why don't you nominate?". Lorna did, not expecting it was any more than a lark on the committee's part, but she got the job, thus becoming the first female secdretary in the Trades Hall Association's history. Elaine stayed on, as Lorna's secretary, and her 6 week temporary job has become 27 years and counting.
Lorna and Elaine have lots of memories of the Trades Hall over that time, and lots of invaluable union memorabilia. They promise to tell all in a few years, if they ever retire, but in the meantime they have let us into a few snippets.
Trades Hall was the home to many more unions than it is now, before amalgamations reduced the numbers, and these small unions all had small offices in the Hall. Union secretaries then pretty well knew all their members names, and their families. Union officials were largely blokes of course (not one of whom Lorna and Elaine have a bad word to say about) but all the typists were women, and they had a tremeondous social life revolving around their fellow typists in Trades Hall.
The focal point for organising for them was the Girls Lounge Room Committee. The lounge is still there in the Hall, and all the girls in the offices were memebers or used the lounge. It acted as a dressing room, sick bay, and a place for information exchange!!
Lorna and Elaine kept an iron and ironing board in their office that all the girls could borrow to get their party gear ready. The iron is, of course, still there as part Lorna's collection.
One thing the lounge was not for was eating lunch. There is in the minutes of the Association a few references to reprimands to some girls for misbehaviour in the lounge, and Lorna and Elaine say that this is almost certain to be referring to eating lunch there, as that was about the worst sin there was.
The roof was a popular lunch spot, but the girls were eventually barred from there too, after rubbish left lying around blocked the drains, causing a bit of a disaster inside. The caretaker lived in the flat on the roof at the time. You had a great view across a working Darling Harbour then.
The Lounge Committee had raffles to raise funds for furntiture for the lounge, and for curtains and social events. Elaine and Lorna got to know everyone pretty well as the Hall was a close knit society, and what is now the secretary's office was then just the library (secretary was down the hall) and the girls and other union memberswould borrow from Mr Worrall. The cards are still in the boxes. (I didn't see any of the girls cards but they showed me John Ducker's borrowing record - "The Theory and Practice of Trade Unionism").
Lorna and Elaine also used to do the banking for everyone and went round to all the offices to collect it all. The social life revolved around a busy building, and meetings and functions kept all the large rooms and auditoriums buzzing all day and most weekends. Other clubs of unionists within the building included the English Club, which hired the auditorium every Saturday night for dances. Room 27 (now the Banner Room) was also used heavily, often for male only functions (the kegs arrived for those)and concerts.
Room 27 also has the distinction of having been the function room for Lorna's kitchen tea, and a great spot it would have been too.
Mr Worrall certainly was concerned for all the girls welfare. As secretary and librarian he used to go to Anthony Horderns to but the books. He read them all before they got into the borrowing collection, and anything he considered too risque for the girls he carefullly hid in the cupboard, and put brown paper covers on them. One well know book at the time - Kings' Row by Henry Bellamann- was in this category, and it was soon made into a film starring Ronald Reagan.
The unions were alll clustered around the area as the nature of the city until the 1960s was such that most trades, supplies and services were availbel along the street. Any timber hardware, plumbng or whatever you needed was available in walking distance. Lorna used to walk around the area to pay the bills. No need for the post (although the postal workers sunion was of course, resident in Trades Hall, with Graham Richardson's father a fixture).
Other characters of the building included the typist for the Milk and Ice Carters Union, who every morning went to mass up the road, then came in and cooked breakfast. She carefully poured the fat from her cooking down the sink which eventually blocked up the water and gas service for the building.
As noted, men dominated the official positions of the unions, but some women found there way in. Dot Chalker was one of the first, as secretary of the Mill Employees Union. Elaine and Lorna doubt that many members would have known that the D. Chalker on union correspondence was female. Other well known union women included Carmel Nyhan (who was on the Trades Hall Committee) as secretary of the Shoppies, and Betty Spears, who did so much work in the 1960s and 1970s on equal pay, child care and women's issues generally.
Flo Davis from the Hotel, Club and Restaurant Employees and then from the Union of Australian Women (whose office closed down a couple of years ago was another well remembered by Elaine and Lorna. Audrey McDonald tells a lot about Flo in her autobiography "Intimate Union" (co-written with her husband Tom).
There were of course, faction battles within the unions, especcially through the fights between the groupers and the left in the 1950s. Grouper meetings were never put on the notice board as such. Instead a note would go around with just Room no. 43 circled.
The BLF battles of the early seventies also aroused the passions. Lorna remembers Steve Black standing outside the auditorium during a Labor Council meeting, yelling abuse at them all. Many tried telling him to shut up and go away, to no avail. However, when Lorna wnet up to him and told him that was no way to behave in the building, he apologised, went outside and continued to harangue them from the street.
All the big tough unions leaders, who were potrayed as thugs or whatever by the media, or by their factional opponents, were gentlemen as far as Lorna and Elaine were concerned. Hughie Grant from the Boilermakers wanted to dance at with Elaine at her wedding (I don't think he got an invitation). G. A. Hudson from the Wickerworkers gave Elaine a beautifully made wickerwork pram when she was pregnant.
Disputes within the Hall were generally between the Trades Hall Association and the union representing the cleaners, the Missos, and many an argument went on between Dick Worrall and Bill Smith from the Missos. Also the Trades Hall Association executive had a few battles with the Land Trustees, given the nature of the ownership and control of the land, and the separate control of the building.
So Trades Hall has much history to tell yet, and the McDonald women are that history's keepers. With the Hall up for redevelopment, but with heritage controls over how that is done. The memories of Elaine and Lorna, and their deep concern and love of the building and what has gone on within it, should be a guiding hand in protecting and celebrating union history and inidividual lives that have become a part of the Trades Hall.
by The Chaser
The move, by two of Australia's splinter right-wing parties, to direct preferences away from One Nation was seen by many commentators as evidence of disenchantment amongst respectable loonies and bigots that One Nation has become too right-wing.
A spokesman for the Australian Taliban Movement, speaking at a community book-burning in Killara, made a brief prepared statement to the press, noting that the group, who promote the creation of a Government in Australia based on a fundamentalist reading of Muslim law (the sha'ria) was "uncomfortable" with many of the "more extreme" cultural views espoused by PHON.
"Taliban teaching does not, it should be admitted, lend itself to a moderate view. We are in favour of the ending of the education of women - a practice we hold to be sinful - the stoning of adulterers and the destruction of cultural artefacts pertaining to any subject other than Islam that take man further from God. But, by goodness, that Pauline gives me the heebie-jeebies."
Taliban leadership have issued an edict requiring that One Nation be put last on all ATM how-to-vote cards, a move that could deliver dozens of preferences to their preferred candidate, the Liberal Party.
Meanwhile, in Adelaide, a national convention of the Australian National Socialist Movement (better known as the Australian Nazi Party) passed a motion condemning what it saw as the "unhelpful and destructive" policies of One Nation. In also deciding to direct preferences away from One Nation, the party's Furher, Mr Stephen Bennet of East Melbourne noted that "if we didn't distance ourselves from One Nation, we'd find our popularity in the community dropping sharply."
A spokeperson for Mrs Hanson was unrepentant, in the face of this loss of support from the extreme right. "We regard those groups as dangerously left-leaning, in any event" she scoffed, "and besides, even if the Nazis abandon us, we still have the support of 40% of sitting National Party MPs."
by Party Girls (Pluto Press, 2000)
If somebody told you that the tables were about to be turned and that tomorrow's labour market would deliver more opportunities for women, would you believe them? Probably not. You might agree that women will get a greater share of new jobs but you would also say that these are probably going to be part-time, lower-paid jobs and because of the cost of childcare many women couldn't afford to take them.
You may agree that girls are doing better at high school but would qualify that by showing just how few women sit on the seats of boardrooms and you would say, 'Look how far we have to go.' When told that women's wages are actually growing faster than men's you would point to the fact that women still earn 80 per cent of what men do and that a majority of people dependent on social security for their main source of income are still women.
You would point to all these traditional examples of inequality and you would be right¾women do have a long way to go to achieve equality. But if you ignored the relatively recent and dramatic shift in favour of women in the economy you would be missing a crucial point and what is emerging as a major opportunity for women. At the moment there are many barriers to women achieving a better working life. But the opportunity is there to turn the tables if we can take it.
As the economy is demanding and rewarding the skills that women have on a scale never seen before, a new opportunity is emerging for women to shape the world of work. As women exit university and TAFE with better qualifications, gain a greater share of new jobs, experience faster wages growth, start their own companies and move into management positions in existing companies¾women have a capacity to shape the world of work they way they want it.
The opportunity exists for women to build the bargaining power needed to redefine the balance between work and family. Can we imagine a woman with a job that let her visit her young children three times a day at the childcare centre? What if there was a place at work where she could bring sick children? What would a job look like that allowed her to work three-quarters of a week and share her job for the remaining quarter? What would a job look like that allowed her to exchange her long service leave entitlement for study leave? What would a job look like that provided six months paid parental leave that could be shared between parents?
The workplaces that offer workers these deals will prosper in the future. Women will want to work in them. Men will too. We all want a more balanced life. One of the greatest complaints by workers is that they are working longer and harder and have less time to spend with their families. The pace of modern life is relentless. If women can build workplaces that provide all workers with more family time we will all benefit.
Many women want to redefine work and family, to set new measures of success: where getting ahead is about doing the job rather than how many hours you spend at work; where family-friendly policies are supported because employers understand that they boost worker productivity. Women's marked and continuing participation, including mothers of young children (55.9 per cent of married women in the labour force have children under 15 years old), are driving the need for reform. For too long, equality in the workplace has been about achieving what men have. The assumption behind this is that what men have is worth having. We can be more ambitious than that. We can strive for something better, because ultimately we all benefit. What men have and the way they have it is predicated on the almost absolute separation of work and family. Men who work long and laborious hours can only do so because someone else if looking after the children. Women who don't work often can't because there is no one else to look after the children.
It has been so for as long as we can remember, and over the years the best we have been able to do is to bridge the divide between home and work by introducing formal childcare. The growth of part-time work has helped but the tax and social security penalties are often so harsh as to render extra work worthless. We talk a lot about family-friendly industrial relations policies but they remain a rarity, with just one in ten enterprise bargaining agreements containing a family-friendly measure. In the give and take between work and family, women have given it all and work has taken, leaving many women leading two separate lives¾one at work and another at home and fast becoming exhausted in the process. But is this really all about to change? Are women guaranteed a brighter future? Is it possible that the coming decades will be ones where women enjoy a fairer share of the gains that the new economy provides?
There is no doubt that women will continue to gain a greater share of new jobs and that industries where women have traditionally worked will grow faster. But whether or not women turn this new opportunity into a force for better-balanced working lives depends on women overcoming many barriers. And whether or not the benefits flow through to all women, and not just those working in higher-skilled jobs, will depend on the ability of women to organise across many workplaces and not just a few, and on governments responding in very different ways from now.
What stands between women and this brighter working future? I have narrowed it down to seven barriers¾the seven barriers that stand between women and a better working life. If women can make progress in these seven areas over the next decade, we may well redefine the relationship between work and family and ensure that the benefits extend to all women and, indeed, to many more men.
Number 1: lack of affordable, quality childcare
The cost of childcare has increased dramatically under the current Government while government childcare assistance has remained frozen in time. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, Australia's Welfare 1999, noted that Commonwealth Government expenditure on childcare has fallen 10 per cent since 1996. Forced to pay the difference, many families have simply had to reduce the number of days their children spend in childcare by cutting back at work. This phenomenon was noted at the 1998 Senate Inquiry into Childcare Funding, which found that the increased costs associated with the Government's cutbacks had forced many women to withdraw from the paid workforce or reduce their working hours. Australian families are finding it increasingly difficult to afford the quality childcare provided by the long-day-care sector. Action is needed to increase the affordability of childcare. Workers also need to be encouraged to bargain for childcare when they are negotiating enterprise agreements. A few good examples of workplaces that are taking the lead in childcare are what we need.
This is not just about enabling parents to work; it is also about providing children with the best start in life. Increasingly parents will demand childcare that has an educational component as we learn more about the long-term benefits of an early education. Studies repeatedly show that children who have early access to education and a learning environment perform better throughout the school years. For example, the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) Early Childhood Study (1995) and the National Institute of Child Health Development study (1998) in the United States indicate that quality childcare provides opportunities for early education, which in turn enhances children's cognitive, social and emotional development.
Number 2: lack of family-friendly enterprise bargain
Women's disadvantage in the labour market centres on the failure to find ways to combine work with caring for children, particularly very young children. For most women the birth of a child requires time off work, often up to two or three years, without pay. But more than this, it can also mean greater difficulties getting back into the workforce and lower earnings as a result of time spent off the career ladder. Paid parental leave is still a rarity. For many families the birth of a child means a significant loss of income. For families that cannot afford the loss, many mothers are forced back to work before they are really ready, while relatives care for children. This creates major disruptions to family life, as work is often irregular and low paid, with tax and social security clawbacks reducing wages often by more than 50 per cent.
Women should be encouraged to bargain for paid parental leave or, if that is unavailable, unpaid parental leave with the guarantee of re-entry at the same level. For women seeking a gradual re-entry to the workforce, options to start back part-time should be explored. Women should also explore taking a portion of future salary as paid parental leave. We need more flexibility in income. Governments should also look at ways of giving families the option to take future family allowances up front. This would provide low- and middle-income families with the extra financial resources needed for one parent to stay at home for at least the first two years of a child's life. If the Government can find ways to introduce such flexibility, employers should be encouraged to as well.
We need a new approach to negotiating and promoting enterprise bargaining agreements that are family friendly and new incentives for the companies and unions that are leading the way in delivering them. The Federal Government could play a role here in finding appropriate ways to reward these companies, including financial rewards.
Number 3: lack of financial reward from working
Women workers in low- and middle-income families are often paying the highest tax rates in Australia! The interaction of the tax and social security systems mean that many women lose more than half of what they earn in tax and social security clawbacks. This can reduce the incentive to work for many and, where childcare costs are involved, women can find they actually go backwards when they go back to work.
For example, a sole parent with two children who is earning $30,000 is currently paying 85.5 cents in every extra dollar she earns in tax¾50 cents in family payment, 34 cents in income tax and 1.5 cents in Medicare Levy. If she also has a dependent child on Youth Allowance she would be losing another 25 cents¾pushing her effective marginal tax rate to 110.5 per cent. Thus, she gives back more to the Federal Government than every extra dollar she earns. These effective marginal tax rates also exist for low-income families where both parents work. It is not unusual for a woman in a low-income family to return to increase her hours of work from five to 35 only to discover her income rises by just $12 a week. This woman is effectively working for 40 cents an hour.
We need new ways of making work worthwhile for women. Labor's tax credit is one example of how it can be done. By reducing the tax taken out of women's pay when they return to work or when they increase their hours, the tax credit can dramatically increase take-home pay. It can mean the difference between losing 80c of every extra dollar you earn and losing less than 50c. It particularly helps women in very low-income families and sole parents when they return to work. Even if they are just starting with a few hours a week, the tax credit can cut their tax bill.
The tax credit and family allowance policy that Labor took to the last federal election would have reduced effective marginal tax rates significantly for many families. A sole-parent family earning $30,000 would have received an additional $3000 in tax credit and more in extra family allowance, reducing their effective marginal tax from 85.5 per cent to 55.5 per cent. Instead of a two-income family incurring an additional tax penalty when the woman returns to work, the tax credit would make these families clearly better off. For example, a woman returning to work earning $5000 where the husband earns $20,000 would collect an extra $500 in tax credit, bringing the family's total tax credit to $2500. They would also keep more of their family allowance than would otherwise be the case. It is a very important innovation in the tax and social security system and would have really reduced the poverty traps faced by many women.
Number 4: lack of return-to-work programs for women
Overcoming the financial penalties many women currently face in returning to work is only one half of the story. Even without these penalties many women are unable to take advantage of new work opportunities because they simply do not have the skills to get jobs. It is a reality of today's labour market that the best jobs go to those with qualifications. Because child-rearing involves time out of the workforce and time out of study, many women can find the return to work after five or more years extremely difficult.
We need to think of ways to combine welfare receipt with skills education, particularly for women with no post-school qualifications. Information technology opens up the possibilities of studying in the home and we need to think of ways to bring skills and training to women rather than operating simply through classrooms.
The Jobs, Education and Training (JET) Program started to build this bridge in the 1980s. JET has been successful in helping sole parents enter the paid workforce, with one in five participants getting a job. However, cuts to the program are reducing its impact and little over half of the budget allocated for pre-vocational courses was actually spent in 1998-99, forcing a departmental review into the underspend. In addition, just 54,000 mothers were interviewed by JET advisers at Centrelink out of a total population of over 300,000 eligible women.
Evidence from the United States shows clearly that having a variety of labour market programs achieves more successful outcomes with women. Not only are women who have participated in a program more likely to get a job, but they are also more likely to achieve higher wages as a result of participating in the program. We need to look at turning the JET Program into a serious skills program for women returning to work.
Number 5: lack of access to education
Access to education is not just an issue for women dependent on social security or for those returning to work after an absence. It is an issue for all women throughout their lives. The workplace of the future will need to be more actively linked to education and training as workers will move in and out of study throughout their careers.
The plans of Howard Government to deregulate university fees represent the biggest threat to women's educational prospects. If fees were deregulated and market interest rates charged on loans, some women would be especially penalised. This is because many women graduate, work for a few years and then take some time out to raise children. It is during this period of time out of the workforce that the debt would grow. Combine this with the higher fees that universities would be allowed to charge and it could take women 40 years to pay off their degrees at a total cost of $120,000 to $140,000.
Not only do women need affordable university education, we also need to forge more effective links with study throughout women's adult lives. The key issue will be achieving a shift in the attitudes of both workers and employers, and providing a financing framework that allows additional investments in skills. We need to find new ways to pay for study leave. One option is to give workers the choice to replace an existing entitlement¾such as long service leave¾that they do not use, with a new entitlement for study leave. This could then be cashed out in the form of six to 12 months paid leave for recognised study. Alternatively, workers could set aside a portion of wages into a fund topped up by the employer and the government to pay for extra study.
Women can lead the way in linking the workplace with lifelong learning.
Number 6: lack of leadership in government
Progress in reshaping the world of work will not take place without government leadership. The current Howard Government is not interested in achieving a better balance between work, family and study. They are only interested in putting the pressure on wages. This is a narrow view of what is possible and completely ignores the aspirations of workers, particularly women.
As the trend to longer hours for some and shorter hours for some and shorter hours for others continues and the 35-hour week declines as the norm, governments must be thinking about more creative ways to introduce balance into our working lives. Otherwise one group of Australians will be exhausted and miserable because they cannot spend any time with their family while another group simply hasn't the resources to provide their children and themselves with the opportunities they desire.
Number 7: lack of organisation amongst women
The most important barrier to change has been left till last. All women cannot achieve great victories on their own. If we are to take up the opportunity that the labour market presents us over the next decade, to reshape the world of work, we must be organised. And if we want to make sure that positive changes flow through to all working women¾not just those in relatively strong positions¾we need processes that make sure that good ideas are picked up and spread throughout the economy.
We need to think of a whole variety of incentives. Where unions are making inroads in those industries where women work, by delivering family-friendly enterprise deals, and employers are playing a leadership role in family-friendly workplace design, both need to be promoted and, where appropriate, rewarded. Government should get behind the shift to family-friendly workplaces and make sure that industrial relations, education and social security policies are working in partnership as opposed to conflict.
The recent de-funding of many women's groups, including the Women's Electoral Lobby, by the Howard Government has weakened the sector and undermined the breadth of advice usually received by government about women's policy. There is no doubt this is part of the Government's agenda to weaken these organisations.
Women have to guard against the three Ds when it comes to driving this agenda forward: defensiveness, disorganisation and disinterest. Being defensive about change will not stop it from happening. Women should not find themselves defending the status quo when it comes to workplace change. We should be charting our own version of change. We should be organised around this issue. It will unite women's groups. We cannot afford to be disinterested, as the changes happening in the world of work will affect all of us in one way or another. We have an opportunity to bargain for a better balance. We must turn that opportunity into a better outcome for all workers and a fundamental shift in the way society balances work and family.
Women's advance to equality has been considerable this century but there are still real barriers blocking women from achieving their full potential. The agenda for the new century needs to include affordable, quality childcare; family-friendly enterprise bargains; financial reward from working; return-to-work programs for women; and access to education. Leadership by government and organisation by women is essential if these policy priorities are to get the attention women need. Knocking these barriers down will not only significantly advance women's equality but also deliver a socially cohesive and economically strong society.
Labor Council's Alison Peters
The Ernie Awards are an annual event where "awards" are given to those who make the most sexist comments in the previous 12 months. It's a big night for feminists who use the opportunity to poke fun at men (and the odd woman) who still don't get what it is we are on about - equality. The Ernies (as they are known) have grown in the 10 years or so since they were first held to the stage where there is a huge demand for tickets with lots of disappointed women being turned away and significant media attention (some of which turns into nominations for the awards!). Why is it then that I, as someone who has been a regular attender and supporter of the Ernies, feel increasing frustration at the concept?
It all goes back to the original night held to mark the resignation of the late Ernie Ecob from the position of President of the NSW Labor Council. Ernie, who at the time was the Secretary of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) was notorious amongst women unionists for his comments (amongst others) that women who wanted to become shearers were only interested in the sex.
A few left wing women unionists (including Meredith Burgmann who had been elected to the NSW Upper House) decided that Ernie's resignation should be marked in some way and with the enthusiastic help of Meredith a dinner was arranged at Parliament House. This was the inaugural Ernies. It was small, intimate and raucous as we loudly competed for the honour of taking home the sheep trophy on behalf of our male comrades who had lived up to Ernie's bad example. We had a great time as we used fun to make the point that we still had a long way to go in the union movement. In fact it was so much fun we decided to do it again!
From there on it only got bigger and better. More categories were introduced - for the media, the judiciary and the politicians. There was also the Elaine (after Elaine Nile) for the woman least helpful to the sisterhood and the Gareth (after Gareth Evans) for the man who did the best. More and more women from outside the labour movement wanted to be there for the infamous boo offs to determine the winners. There was lots of bad behaviour, gorgeous frocks and good times. In some ways it is to us feminists what Mardi Gras is to gays and lesbians - a good natured way to present a serious message.
Unfortunately though this popularity has meant that there is less and less attention on the behaviour and attitudes of men in the union movement. With a few spectacular exceptions (like Costa's "younger woman" jibe at Sharan Burrow last year which saw him secure the Ernie in the industrial category) unions and union officials aren't being nominated and even where they are they are losing to the appalling comments of judges and politicians! Not fair!!
There are those who say that the lack of nominations about unions or union officials means that they have cleaned up their act. I say the blokey behaviour has just gone underground.
A cursory glance at the Labor Council directory of affiliates show that 12 out of 54 Presidents positions are held by women and 12 out of 60 Secretaries positions are held by women. That's a mere 22% and 20% respectively. The same exercise using the ACTU directory paints an even worse tale with 8 out of 43 Presidents (19%) and 5 out of 47 Secretaries (11%). That's sad.
In fairness I should point out that the ACTU Executive has 50% women and Labor Council's Executive has 27% women. These are the highlights in a pretty grim picture. While women, particularly young women, are getting more involved and more active in unions they are still not properly represented at leadership levels. Issues of equal pay, parental leave, discrimination, harassment and family friendly work practices still do not get the priority they deserve. Women are still the overwhelming majority of casual and temporary workers and are often "not seen" by unions with competing demands and limited resources. Its often only when these issues become a problem for men that action is taken.
This is why I refuse to believe that there are so few union men deserving of nomination. As a movement we have improved significantly and have achieved a great deal for women but we still have a long way to go. We need more nominations to stop the boys getting complacent. This year I issue a challenge to other union women to uncover the sexist behaviour we all know still goes on and to proudly nominate our blokes. They deserve to be up there under scrutiny with the judges, pollies and media. Lets see a return to the origins of the Ernies and ensure a union man gets the gold!
Senator Kate Lundy
If there is only a limited pool of funds available for sport, is it justifiable for Government to spend millions of dollars on Olympic sport if it means that thousands of ordinary Australians may miss out on the chance to participate in sport altogether? I don't think so.
Striking the right funding balance between community sport -be it competitive or recreational - and elite sport, is the major challenge for the Federal Government. This elusive balance will only be found if measuring the relative value of sport to our society goes beyond medals and winning and into issues of healthy lifestyles and even Australia's cultural identity.
Cynics would no doubt claim that elite sport will always be supported because its high-profile success and mass spectator audiences carry far more political weight than does a small community of sporting people.
My fear is that if this holds true, then our mighty sporting ethos has a very limited future and our obsession with elite sporting success may if fact undermine our sporting ethos.
Australian sport has traditionally been socially inclusive and 'elite' sport in meant that you're good at it, not that you went to an exclusive sporting institution. We are known and respected for playing hard, but fair.
We cheer loudest when the underdog wins and we still rejoice in the notion that regardless of where you are from, no matter how rich or poor, you still have a chance of 'making it' in sport. That's what made the America's Cup win so important. It wasn't just a yacht race. It was about Australian beating the might and money of America.
These reflections on our national character reinforce how closely sport is linked with Australian cultural identity. We embrace all-comers with our strong multicultural spirit - a spirit which in turn has led to community sport becoming a powerful social ballast in times when job security is diminishing and people are feeling uncertain about the future.
Our heroes and heroines are the sports people who achieve national or international success. Our gossip columns are filled not with movie stars, but sporting celebrities. Through our interest and devotion, we urge these sports people to take their rightful place on the top of the list of people Australians most admire.
However, our ability to feel a bit of community ownership about our collective sporting success is now under pressure. Unfortunately many sports have evolved in ways that have alienated sporting communities from their elite associations. Big business and the corporate sponsorship dollar now shape most major sports and their respective public 'events'. The sporting community from which they derived from is abandoned, or at best, given mere token attention.
Our sporting culture has grown a new dimension - one governed by the ability to extract advertising revenue from sporting events. This has changed the economics of elite sport and led to some mighty power struggles within corporate sport, often at the expense of community sport.
Too often the raw material for these money making machines - the athletes - are forgotten. They have become commodities in the competitive sports economy. Far more attention must be paid to the long-term career path of Australian athletes. It's not surprising given this environment, that over the last decade major US sports such as basketball, baseball and football have all experienced strikes and disputes over the distribution of revenues.
Australian sporting culture is yet to reach the heights of sponsor and media dominated 'events' which have so alienated fans overseas. Fortunately for Australians, sport still remains a shared experience that provides an intrinsic sense of our national character. Yet this will only remain the case if there is a direct relationship between elite and community sport at the local level.
Elite sport that relies on spectators and viewers to sustain its advertising and sponsorship base is not manufactured in a vacuum. Therefore junior development initiatives must be equitable, even if this means subsidising rural sports programs. In many respects, we can measure the depth of a sport through its community sport infrastructure, hence the importance of boosting rural and regional sport for young people.
Governments must realise that Australia's sporting success and ethos will not last unless recreational and competitive community sport is adequately supported through sensible policy and public investment.
Elite vs Participatory Sport
Getting the balance right between participatory sport, where we all get to play, and elite sport, where a few get to play and most get to watch, is not easy.
Community sport, be it simply for the fun and enjoyment of participation, a competitive endeavour or as a stepping stone to professional sport, is being largely marginalised and forgotten in the pursuit of Olympic Gold.
This is ludicrous, as the Olympics should be a catalyst for building community sport in Australia. The value of hosting the Olympics is as much the sporting legacy it leaves behind as it is the prestige and claimed economic benefits.
Whilst it's easy to focus on statistics about participation and talk about the general benefits of playing sport, it is a far more complex challenge to quantify the positive outcomes that come from physical activities involving families, friends, workplace colleagues and communities which share a common passion for their sport.
A truly effective sports policy must reflect the benefits of physical activity from an economic, social, medical, educational and cultural perspective.
The great benefit of hosting an Olympic Games is that the massive interest and investment in sport is an opportunity to improve the general state of sport at all levels. This once in a lifetime opportunity must be used to set innovative agendas and specific goals regarding the future of sport, health and recreation for the next millennium.
Inequities in sporting opportunities
Although in economic terms sport is worth up to $12 billion annually, with Australian households spending over $4 billion every year on sport and recreation (not including monies spent on gambling), not everyone is getting a chance to be involved. There is a role for Government to ensure genuine opportunities exist for everyone to participate. These are the 'unglamorous' issues in Australian sport: gender and race.
Male participation rates in sport is far greater than female rates, yet since 1948 Australian women have won 40% of Australia's Olympic Gold medals even though they have competed in only a quarter of all events! Only 11% of women are national presidents of sporting organisations and women comprise less than 25% of sporting national executives.
Imagine how well women would do if they were given equal access, equal facilities, and equal funding?
Too many grounds and recreational centres are not suitable for safe community use. Other reasons many young (and not-so-young) talented people do not continue with sport is lack of public transport to facilities, inadequate lighting of grounds and car parks, lack of proper change rooms and toilets, lack of privacy, and almost no access to childcare.
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
http://www.workplaceexpress.com.au; 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
The new workplace relations minister has been circling the Tool Shed since he assumed the portfolio, with a string of gaffes which showed a level of confidence way beyond his level of competence. The fact that these were humorous - and largely harmless - has kept him outside, to date.
First there was the assertion that work was more like "a family" than an employment relationship. And I suppose for women who have to care for the children, while juggling a career, before rushing home to prepare the evening meal, might have some sympathy for this analysis. But for a man with the Monk's strict moral values, if the workplace is a family, one would wonder why he was approving of so many casual relationships.
When challenged in a recent interview with Workers Online about what happens to the dysfunctional families, Abbott asserted that the families that don't work can always head to the Family Court. Given that the figure for broken marriages is currently about 40 per cent, perhaps his clumsy analogy is actually a strong defence of the need for an independent AIRC!
Speaking of independence, it wasn't long before he was raising eyebrows in the Commission itself, playing politics at a recent swearing in of four IRC members from employer backgrounds. Abbott brazenly shrugged off the criticism of favouritism by claiming the Labor Government had stacked the commission with union officials in its days in powers. The statistics, of course say otherwise, with a broad mix of appointments from unions, government and the employer ranks. Facts? They get in the way of a decent argument.
Then came the bizarre attack on ambit claims, with the Mad Monk asserting that they were "a kind of perversity" that must be wiped out. Forget the fact that these have been the legal trigger required by the Constitution for conciliation and arbitration for 100 years. To Abbott they are just another sign of the evil that is trade unionism.
And in keeping with this week's International Women's Day theme, it's worth recalling some of the Monk's earlier work. While editor of the 1975 student rag, 'Democrat' Abbott reproduced an anti-abortion tract which described the abortion movement as a "turning away from the light of our civilization in favour of the darkness of total barbarianism".
But the Mad Monk scraped his own depths this week, by accusing the ACTU of doctoring a survey that showed how concerned working Australians are with the direction the Howard Government is taking. Abbott asserted in parliament that the ACTU had played with their statistics. What really happened is that Abbott, or a staffer, had read two different parts of the survey. Now, misreading a stat is human, but running aggressively without double-checking your facts is bull-headed.
On the very same day he was running this smokescreen, the Melboure Age reported that Abbott actually rehearses his presentations from the dispatch box by making public servants pretend to be the opposition firing questions at him. So what looks like boof-headed improvisation on the floor of Parliament is actually carefully choreographed. This information is plain scary.
The picture that emerges is that of an individual dismissive of the other and uncomprehending of his privileged position in the world. It was interesting sitting down to interview Abbott a few weeks ago. He comes across as not altogether unaffable, willing to engage, yet supremely confident of his own world view. It's not so much that he's hostile to the labour movement, it's that he just can't conceive how anyone could disagree with him.
Abbott takes great pride in talking about his days on the shop floor, as both a working journo and a down-to-earth manager at Pioneer Concrete. But at every turn, his anecdotes are fueled by a bombastic, self-righteousness that borders on the self-delusional. Here is a man who shoots from the hip, and usually gets his own foot. Here is the Peter Principle in practice, a politician who has risen above his level of incompetence. Here is living proof of the old adage that you can take the Tory off the tools, but you can't the tool out of the Tory.
© 1999-2000 Labor Council of NSW
LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSWURL: http://workers.labor.net.au/87/print_index.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005