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  Issue No 99 Official Organ of LaborNet 15 June 2001  

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Unions

Diary of a Dude


One.Tel worker Warren Manners thought he had a dream job and no need for a union. That was until the money ran out.

 
 

The Dude

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A month ago I thought my job was fantastic I was spending loads of money, very happy in my position, had a good work relationship with my management as well as the staff that I had around me and it was a good environment to work in.

I was looking after fraud prevention within One.tel and I was setting up my own team. I was given an opportunity six months ago to do that, I was travelling around the country, I thought I had the best job in the world at the time. While it was sometimes hard to get interest in what I was doing from management, my relationship with them was quite good.

I'd been there five years and felt I was moving up. I had 50,000 shares in One.Tel. which at one point were valued at about $2.50. That meant I was holding about 100 odd thousand dollars, which seemed pretty secure at the time. They started to fritter away over the past 12 months. The company invested a lot of money in different things and there was a few losses and it wasn't looked on kindly by the share market.

My plans to have myself a nice house and a nice car and whatever else were starting to deteriorate. I guess I was building for the future, I was willing to put them in the drawer for a couple of years and hopefully they were going to be worth good money.

At this stage, I knew very little about the union. I mean there was a happy environment to work within and I think everyone felt the same way: the environment was good, the money was good, everything was good and I guess we all felt that there was no need to join a union at that time.

The alarm bells started ringing when the shares were suspended and we started to worry. That was about two or three weeks ago. We all started to worry thinking we were going to lose our jobs and we were going to be told that we weren't going to get our money. That was the biggest thing because we didn't think that we were going to get our money, and I was counting on my holidays and redundancy.

We weren't being told anything by management. It was all undercover: we didn't know what was going on, staff were getting very disgruntled and angry because they didn't know whether to turn up to work or what to do. I was due to go overseas on the 23rd of June - which I'm still tossing up on whether to go. My financial situation is terrible now because I borrowed against my shares and it is a nightmare for me at the moment.

We got a strong push from the unions in the last two weeks that has been fantastic. We called them when all this was going down and the shares were suspended. I suspected things were going to go wrong, and when staff were getting agitated I actually rang them and asked them what was happening. Then we heard there was going to be a union rep in the building so we went and saw him.

It was a great turnout for the meeting, and the union reps were very supportive and thoughtful of our situation. I was very impressed with what they have done for us with getting the Premier Bob Carr to side with us to push us through. It was a really good feeling to have that support when we were feeling low.

Basically everyone signed up to the union because we saw that no one else was going to help us. I went to the creditors meeting and, as far as I could see, the administrators did not want to pay us any redundancy. He wasn't going to pay us any entitlements, he wasn't interested in paying us a redundancy at all.

Then the unions took our case to the Industrial Relations Commission and got us redundancy which is fantastic. But we still don't know when we are going to get paid our redundancy and our entitlements and the only people that can help us with that now is the union.

The high point of the campaign was definitely the day when I turned up to the Industrial Relations Commission. It was like 10 tonnes off my shoulders to have people behind us to help us out with that. No one knew where they were, everyone was concerned I mean I have been there five years I have ten weeks of holiday's saved up, four weeks of long service saved up so that is like fourteen weeks pay not including redundancy. Not knowing when you are going to get paid or if you are going to get paid is quite a stressful situation when you are paying off loans and paying rent and whatever else you have to do .

We were employed on contracts, that set our conditions, but we didn't really know what they were. Nothing was pointed out, nothing was explained. If you are buying a mobile phone -which was the industry I was in - they explain to you the different terms of a contract and they have to and that is just buying a mobile phone. They should be explaining the terms of your contract when you are signing up for work. But there was nothing at all.

What this has shown to me is; one, it is important to look deeper and not to feel too safe in your job. And second, you need to have someone behind you to help you so that you can have another ace up your sleeve. That is what I found with the union. They are someone to turn to when things go wrong.

It has changed my mind about unions. My advice to other people in the IT Industry is that it's really important that you get involved with the unions. It is important to have someone behind you. I thought I was safe. Who would have thought that One.Tel, a large company like that, would have this situation on their hands? So think, who are you going to turn to when, if you are in my situation?


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*   Issue 99 contents

In this issue
Features
*  Interview: In Defence of the Umpire
Australian Industry Group chief Bob Herbert on why the Industrial Relations Commission is worth fighting for.
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*  Unions: Diary of a Dude
One.Tel worker Warren Manners thought he had a dream job and no need for a union. That was until the money ran out.
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*  Legal: Dot.Com Casualties
The high profile collapse of One.Tel had significant implications for its employees. But what about its contractors?
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*  Industrial: The Shopfloor, United
Chris Christodoulou argues that without an active union membership, workplace democracy is just a pipe dream.
*
*  International: A Saharawi Woman's Plea
Sydney unionist Stephanie Brennan travelled to Africa to witness first-hand the struggle for independence in West Sahara.
*
*  History: Once Were Tuckpointers
Trawling through the files, Paul Howes stumbles upon some unions that represented workers long departed.
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*  Politics: Out Of The Comfort Zone
In his new book, Brett Evans argues that while Labor is honing its reform agenda, it is still struggling to reform itself.
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*  Satire: World Domination
The US has threatened not to pay the UN the money it doesn’t pay anyway.
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*  Review: Wiped Out
Bread and Roses is a new movie about the struggle of invisible office cleaners to gain dignity and respect at work. Pity you won’t see it here.
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»  Blair's Britain - An Insider Speaks
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»  Workers Online 100th Issue Bash
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»  Activists' Notebook
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Columns
»  The Soapbox
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»  The Locker Room
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»  Trades Hall
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»  Tool Shed
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Letters to the editor
»  The May Day Wash-Out Explained
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»  What's Wrong With Compo?
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