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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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Bad Boss

Begging to Work

By Phil Doyle

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.


You see them on street corners everywhere in the City, recognised as people trying to get themselves out of a rut; but Big Issue Vendors in Melbourne have discovered that their bosses are, well, just like any other boss.

The Big Issue magazine, based on a British idea of helping the unemployed and homeless help themselves, has been published in this country since 1996. It is effectively piecework, with the Vendors having to pay half the cover price up front before they can sell any copies of the magazine. The Vendors also pay for their uniforms (caps and vest) and receive training for their job.

"We haven't had a proper place we can sit down, nowhere to wash our hands. We are out in all sorts of weather," says vendor and activist Peter During. "In June and July it gets cold, the seats are covered in water. It's a fine way of catching the 'flu."

Management had introduced toilets, but according to During they were closed after someone got jabbed with a syringe. Although this policy has now changed, During claims he found access to this most basic of facilities difficult.

"Each time I wanted to go [to the office toilet] it was closed to the Vendors," says During. "We are treated like second-class citizens."

Staff may have access to a kitchen, but not vendors, who also have seen slow progress on getting Big Issue Management to address their problems.

During remains quite clear about what the Vendor's immediate needs are; access to a toilet and a room to have a drink off the street, lockers to store Vendor's coats, bags, and a key to their locker for their own security. Security is an issue. Theft of magazines and money is common enough to be a concern for Vendors, many of who are not in a great position to defend themselves.

The magazine has a paid 'Vendor Support Team' in each of the cities where it is on sale. The Vendor Support Team is meant to supervise the Vendors when they are out on their 'pitches', but During claims this happens all too infrequently. Other Vendors have expressed concerns with the way the magazine is run and how Vendors are treated, but were reluctant to be identified.

During has been a Big Issue Vendor on the streets of Melbourne for nearly five years. Prior to that he worked for the tramways doing track repair and cleaning.

Big Issue management claim they are limited in what they can do because of the magazine's financial position, and because the premises in the Melbourne office are provided rent-free by the Wesley Church.

Big Issue manager Bill Manallack stressed to them that there is no exploitation of vendors - that they are in the business of trying to assist them, but that there are some difficulties. Unfortunately, Manallack was not able to offer any solutions to the problems identified by the vendors.

According to Manallack, who has been with the Big Issue since June 2000, the publication is not financially viable, with The Body Shop making up the funding shortfall. They also receive support in kind; for example the Melbourne City Council has waived the fees for the licences the Vendors would normally require, and the Wesley Central Mission provides limited office space rent free in Lonsdale Street in Melbourne. There is also advertising revenue, notably from Australia Post. Despite a circulation of up to 15,000 per fortnight, management estimate that the Big Issue needs to sell 25,000 to break even.

But the story has a happy ending of sorts. The Vendors formed a union to improve their conditions after they felt Big Issue Management was ignoring their grievances. After a long struggle they have managed to get some of the basic amenities that most people would take for granted, such as access to a toilet.

The vendors have let the Victorian Trades Hall Council know of their concerns. The VTHC has offered to see if they can meet with vendors and management to resolve the issue.

Despite his active concern for his fellow Vendors and frustrations with the way he has been treated, During continues to sell his Big Issues on the corner of Swanston and Bourke Streets in the heart of Melbourne. This is one of the ways, along with recycling cans and bottles, which brings his pension to something approaching the poverty line.

There are thousands of Peter During's in this country; invisible in a country where egalitarianism was privatised a long time ago. But not all of them are taking it quietly, and it is the response of people like Peter During and his fellow members of the Vendors Union at the Big Issue that gives us all a little bit of hope - and a worthy cause like the Big Issue could treat its vendors with a bit more dignity.


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