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November 2002   

Interview: Life After Keating
Labor's foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd looks at the world and wonders what might have been ...

Industrial: That Friday Feeling
Anthony Stavropoulos has been working six days a week for the last eight years and now he wants his weekends back. �Remember that Friday feeling?� he asks. �You just don�t get that anymore.�

Bad Boss: Begging to Work
They may put themselves about as the Saints of the Fourth Estate, but bosses at the Big Issue Magazine have been nominated by their own vendors for this month�s Tony award.

Organising: Project Pilbara
Sydney University�s Bradon Ellem reports on how unions are bouncing back in Rio territory

Unions: Off the Rails
The Federal Government is attempting to turn NSW Railways into a political football with a proposal that threatens the safety of freight and passenger trains in NSW and life in our rail Towns, writes Phil Doyle.

International: Brazil Turns Left
Union stalwarts throughout the American hemisphere are cheering the election of Lula � the peanut seller and shoeshine boy, turned union leader - who has been elected as the first working-class President of Brazil.

Environment: Brown Wash
Stuart Rosewarn argues the Johannesburg Sunmmit was a gripping showcase of Australia�s lack of a strategic vision.

History Special: Learning from the Past
Ray Markey looks at union membership growth in the 1880s & 1900s to argue that today�s unions must engage to grow.

Corporate: Will the Bullying Backfire?
Job insecurity, unemployment, a growing gap between rich and poor, massive global poverty and environmental danger are the big issues for the protests at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Sydney.

Technology: Danger Lurks For The Passive
If unions fail to exploit opportunities on the web to gain members, other organisations are likely to fill the void and provide services to workers on the internet.

History: In Labour�s Image
Neale Towart looks at a long-overdue initiative to around NSW through the eyes of the workers.

Politics: Without Power Or Glory
South Coast contributor Rowan Cahill gives his take on the Cunningham by-election result.

History Special: A 'Cosy Relationship'
Barbara Webster looks at Rockhampton between 1916 � 1957 to debunk the �dependence� theory of trade union growth.

Culture: Blood Stains the Wattle
Former Queensland Treasurer Keith De Lacey has turned up in print with a rollicking tale of life during the famous Mt Isa strike of the 60s.

Satire: Iraq Pre-empts Pre-emptive Strike
Saddam Hussein has launched a pre-emptive strike on the United States to prevent it from pre-emptively striking Iraq first.

Poetry: The Executive Pay Cut
Executives accepting pay freezes, or even pay cuts? This outrageous proposal has been put on the table by some capitalists themselves, and taken up by our bard.

Review: Time Out
When a family man invents a new life after losing his steady job, Tara de Boehmler watches his charade escalate until there is no turning back.


Month In Review
War and Pieces of Work
The Bali Tragedy dominated the news this month, leaving many questioning the motive and wondering if this is fallout from Australia�s unquestioning support of George Dubya�s �War On Terror�.

The Soapbox
Beware of Greeks Bearing Historical Allusions
Roland Stephens argues that the current popular line that the USA is a modern day version of the Roman Empire is flawed.

The Locker Room
Over The Fence Is Out
Phil Doyle warms up for another season of hard hitting and fast bowling in the park, making the rules up as he goes along.

The Sea of Hands
Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation are five years old. Spokeswoman Dameeli Coates addressed labor Council to mark the event.

Tokyo Youth Call
Tokyo unions are relying on young organisers to infiltrate workplaces as part of a major organising campaign, which focuses on non-unionised companies, reports Mary Yaager.

Still Crazy After All These Years
With new research suggests CEO carry similar personality traits to psycho-paths, the AGM season is proving that there�s little room for logic in our nation�s board rooms.


Why The User Should Pay
Unions have often been the victims of the user-pays ethos � the pointy end of the assault on the State by the Top End of Town that has left our public sector looking like the poor relation to the corporates.


 Bargaining Fees In the Dock

 Deadly �Slave Labour� Racket Exposed

 Zoo Workers Buck Indecent Proposal

 Cabinet Takes Stick To Abbott's Carrot

 Cyber Action Behind Hilton Win

 Aussies Back On Board

 City Workers To Help Country Cousins

 Sour Taste for Wine Workers

 Government Grounds Ansett Levy

 TAB Workers Winners as Cup Strike Averted

 Aussie Post Gets Mail On Sick Leave

 Council Backs Community Radio Venture

 First Steps to Compo Clean-Up

 Workers Out! Conference Opens In Sydney

 Aussie Union Rep Power, Yes Please: TUC

 New Burma Shame File

 Activists Notebook

 Trashing the Siren Theory
 More Bali Feed Back
 Clean Election Laws Now!
 And Now, Some Fan Mail!
 Policy Vacuum
 Tom's Postscript
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That Friday Feeling

By Phil Doyle

Anthony Stavropoulos has been working six days a week for the last eight years and now he wants his weekends back. �Remember that Friday feeling?� he asks. �You just don�t get that anymore.�

In October Anthony joined former ETU members in the construction industry in voting to walk off the job for 48 hours in support of a 36-hour week that would allow them to spend more time with their families. The strike comes as the 'Build A Life Campaign' gathers momentum in introducing more sensible working hours into the industry.

Anthony has been around the electrical trade for a while now. He joined the ETU in 1970, and in that time he has seen some changes. "People used to say 'have a good weekend'. Now I say 'I won't, I'm having one day off, I'm not going to have a weekend'. I used to enjoy going away camping or fishing; I can't do that anymore."

One anecdote from a sparkie illustrates just how important electricians are in the scheme of things: A carpenter, a fisherman and an electrician are driving along, and the discussion turns to the relative importance of their trades to the Bible.

"The Carpenter would have to be the most important trade,' said the Chippie from the drivers seat. "After all, that was Jesus' dad's job wasn't it?"

"Nah," said the Fisherman from the passenger seat. "Who did Jesus go out and get when he wanted disciples? He got Fishermen!"

"I dunno," piped up the Sparkie. "I think it was an electrician."

"An electrician!" exclaimed his two incredulous travelling companions.

"Well, up the front of the Bible doesn't it say 'and let there be light'?"

The Unwritten Law

There have been many changes in the way electricians have done their job since the Electrical Trades Union started 'lighting the way' back in 1902 - many Sparkies would wonder how they managed to get on for so long without the cordless drill! - But a quick look at hours worked reveals that 100 years down the track it's a case of back-to-the future for many in the industry.

At the turn of the century there was a maximum wage in the industry of seven and sixpence a day, or a dollar fifty, which worked out at roughly 260 pounds a year. Hours of work varied from 60 to over 100 hours a week, with no annual leave.

In 2002 electricians earn on average between $45,000 and $50,000 a year. While the award allows for a 38 hour week, which was achieved in 1982, the ETU knows that in reality electricians in the construction industry work up to and over 60 hours a week.

"It's the unwritten law in this industry," says Anthony. "They don't say you have to work six days a week, what they do is ask 'you don't mind working six days a week do you?' If you don't want to work six days a week they won't give you a start, or they'll drop you for the next job."

When Tony worked on the Finger Wharf job in Woolloomooloo a supervisor told him and his workmates that if they couldn't work seven days a week then they "may as well not be here".

"There were 60 electricians on that job, at the end of it 40 of them got the bullet," explains Anthony. "One minute you're doing 12 hours a day, the next minute you're not doing anything."

In the great Australian tradition Anthony explains his situation with wry humour: "If you came home and found the milkman in bed with your wife, well, you'd know why."

Working Hours and the ETU

The ETU was formed around the issue of working hours and celebrates its centenary this year.

"The Electrical Trades Union was founded 100 years ago this month when workers took action to reduce working hours which, at the time, averaged 60 hours a week," says Electrical Trades Union State Secretary Bernie Riordan.

"A century later, after achieving a formal 38 hour week, we are now back in a similar situation of long working hours.

"In some companies workers are being told that their preparedness to work Saturdays is regarded as a Key Performance Indicator. So while working a six-day week is technically optional, in reality workers have little choice.

"Our members are telling us that the impact of these hours on their ability to play an active role in the family and community are severely compromised."

Anthony Stavropoulos agrees: "I come from a Greek background. It was a pretty humble background. We came from a village and moved to the city," says Anthony. "We came here because of the inequities, the monopolies and so on. We realised the only way we were going to share the cake was if we were organised."

"Don't get me wrong, I think the money's important, but if you can't do important things with your family and those that you love, what's the good of money?"

Thin Edge of the Wedge

Anthony believes long hours are a wedge that breaks up families. His nephew died of a heroin overdose. His brother, who had worked long hours to provide for his family, was shattered.

"He worked hard for years, but he wasn't able to be there for his son, at the soccer and so on. They drifted apart," explains Anthony. "These long hours fragment the family. Other things take precedence, be it the mortgage or repaying the car. In the end your kids grow up as strangers."

"My brother has built a six bedroom, five bathroom house, and now he lives there like a ghost, because the closeness hasn't been built up - there's no connection with the kids and the relatives, so people grow apart."

Bernie Roirdan also points out that long hours do not just effect individual workers and their families, but they also take from the broader community because workers do not have the time to contribute to organisations such as sporting clubs, churches and schools.

The 'Build a Life' campaign is seeking six paid long-weekends in an effort to bring family-friendly working hours to the construction industry. Under the proposal, the entire construction industry would be closed down for three days, six times a year; with shut downs coinciding with existing public holidays.

"Employers are on notice that they have two options: either agree to civilised working hours or face a long period of industrial disputation," says Riordan

Old Serfs

Anthony Stavropoulos is worried for the future if reasonable working hours cannot be introduced into the construction industry:

"What we're gonna become is like the old serfs who work for the manor house, and our lives become meaningless," says Anthony. "The manor, he is important and gets to do what he wants to do, but we, the serfs, become unimportant and look at ourselves as unimportant. A person becomes a chattel to a banking institution or whatever."

Anthony, who supports the ETUcampaign, believes people should discuss issues that are important, like excessive working hours, at work:

"We can talk about footy or tennis as much as we like," says Anthony. "But Andre Agassi making another million doesn't enhance my lifestyle. Being on my boat fishing, now that enhances my lifestyle."

As part of the ETU Centenary the ETU are producing a 128 page pictorial history, which will be a prized possession for any trade unionist. Contact Anna Collins for a copy at mailto:[email protected]


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