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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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Danger Lurks For The Passive

By Noel Hester - ACTU Web Coordinator

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.

The warning comes in a new paper - Will Unionism Prosper In Cyberspace? The Promise of the Internet for Employee Organisation - is written by two researchers from the London School of Economics and the Harvard University National Bureau for Economic Research. They argue that the internet offers unions great opportunities to improve services and attract members 'because it bridges the gap between an increasingly heterogenous and individualistic workforce and the collective activity and solidarity that lies at the heart of trade unionism.'

While the opportunities are ripe dangers also lurk. They conclude that if organisational rigidities stop unions from exploiting the opportunities of the web other organisations such as internet recruitment firms, occupational associations, ethnic or gender-based groups will do so. There is urgency for unions to come up to speed. 'Natural selection will weed out unions that fail to exploit the internet while rewarding those that find the right mix of services and activities on the web with growth of membership and influence,' they say.

Their analysis is based on data from surveys of web use by workers in the USA and Britain Some facts from these surveys:

About workers and the Internet

  • Union members were slightly more likely to have accessed the internet in the previous month than non-union members
  • They have greater access at work but somewhat less access at home than non-members
  • Younger workers are more likely to use the internet than older ones
  • Many workers use the internet to search for information about jobs
  • union workers make less use of discussion/online chats and accessing bulletin boards
About unions and the internet
  • There are over 2700 union websites
  • There are 60 international union secretariat sites on line
  • Ninety per cent of sites are from OECD countries
  • In the British survey only 20 per cent of members with internet access had ever visited their union website
  • As many rated the site as poor as those rated them excellent
  • 22 per cent of union members didn't know their union had a website
A new e-union Out of their research comes an analysis of how a new 21st century e-union would differ from traditional 20th century unions:
  • A new union would provide individual representation and customised services as well as to bargain collectively for workers with management
  • It would deliver services on the web as well as at workplaces
  • It would use digital technology including Artificial Intelligence systems to respond to members problems
  • A union would widen its membership to include not only dues-paying members at recognised sites but also subscribers who give their email addresses to unions at virtual union sites
  • Unions will deal with freeloaders by customizing services to members only
The researchers point out many fine examples of innovation by unions (the NSW Labor Council gets a gong for the IT Alliance website) there is a need to pull all the pieces together to create the e-union of the future. This will require courage and foresight by union leaders to make the radical changes in strategy and approach to take full advantage of the net.

While many hypotheses coming out of this report are speculative and open to debate it's encouraging that hard research in the union movement about internet usage is beginning to back up anecdotal evidence and learning-as-we-go experience so we can go forward with sound internet strategies.

The ACTU will soon begin similar research investigating patterns of internet usage among unionists in Australia in a joint collaboration with Deakin University. We are looking for a prospective PH.D student and have a grant from the Australia Council. If there is any union activist interested they can contact Noel Hester at the ACTU ([email protected]).

Will Unionism Prosper In Cyberspace? The promise of the Internet for employee organisation, W.J. Diamond and R.B. Freeman, British Journal of Industrial Relations, September 2002 pp569-596


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