||Year End 2002|
Interview: Taking Stock
Bad Boss: Pushing the Envelope
Unions: The Year That Was
Republic: Still Fighting
International: Global Ties, Global Binds
Politics: Turning Green
Technology: Unions Online 2002
Industrial: The Past Is Before Us
Economics: Market Insecurity
Review: Shooting for Sanity
Poetry: The PM's Christmas Message
Culture: Zanger's Sounds of Summer
The Locker Room
Vale: Phil Berrigan
Pushing the Envelope
By Jim Marr
But in the best traditions of the winner, the finely crafted Abbott statuette, will not be delivered to the recipient. Instead, it will hold pride of place in a specially-designated Bad Boss Room at the Labor Council's Sussex St headquarters.
Council secretary John Robertson explained the rationale in announcing Australia Post had beaten off a high-quality field of Bad Boss nominees, at his organisationfs annual dinner. gThe Tony Award will be similar to the Ashes,h he explained. gIt will remain in our keeping to honour all Australian workers burned by these cowboys.h
Robertson said it was appropriate that the labour movement formally recognised Australiafs shonkiest employers because of the ggreath organising opportunities they gave affiliated unions. gSeriously, the fact some of Australiafs largest companies feature among the finalists suggests anti-union management has become a pattern in mainstream business culture. Thatfs a problem because it is an element of poor management that stands in the way of everybodyfs prosperity,h Robertson said.
Australia Post nailed the first Tony, courtesy of an ongoing email campaign from mainly NSW-based staff who demanded that their employer carry off the gong.
The Corporation was multi-nominated for a string of high-handed edicts that judges felt encapsulated the gborn to rule arroganceh promoted by the Liberal Partyfs favourite seminarian-turned-head kicker.
gA bad boss is a little like a bad father or a bad husbandch Abbott told a mid-year Workforce conference. gHe might be a bad boss but at least hefs employing someone while he is in fact a boss.h
Australia Postfs ability to live up to that rap was eventually picked up by a mainstream media amazed by its treatment of Sydney mail sorter, Richard OfBrien, and Melbourne call centre operator, Cori Girondoudas.
OfBrien, remember, was forced onto compulsory sick leave until he lost weight. After applying this dictum to more than 200 employees suffering from diabetes, obesity and varicose veins, who were to be terminated once they ran out of sick leave entitlements, Aussie Post found itself in front of the AIRC.
Eventually, it struck a deal with CEPU where it would recognise the humanity of these employees and keep them in their jobs. Failing that there would be an agreed system of re-training and re-deployment.
Australia Post docked $3000 from Girondoudasf pay after she failed to comply with a company-decreed maximum of three personal items at her work station. Her supervisor removed a photo of herself and some friends because Australia Post ruled it constituted a fourth personal item.
When the indignant worker refused to ditch it she was docked two pay increments, an effective $3000 fine.
Australia Post showed its true colours by going on national television to argue management perogaritive, a decision which brought a swag of enraged emails from incredulous observers, some as far away as Canada and the West Indies.
These were just two of the better-publicised efforts in a year Australia Post apparently dedicated to insulting its employees. Some of its other blunders included: ending the career of a woman by insisting on the removal of a stool she had used to relieve discomfort in her legs for the past 12 years; directing a diabetic to take sick leave after he requested a shift change so he could improve his eating and sleeping; issuing a memo to staff that they should use less toilet paper; and forcing workers to use company doctors, at least one of whom was the subject of complaints of ginappropriateh attention from female staff.
The email campaign engaged in by Australia Post staff brought a range of other tales to our notice, including the line manager who tested suspected anthrax spores by sniffing and tasting white powder at the height of the terrorism scare.
The Best of Rest
But Australia Post didnft have the Tony running to itself. The following nominees caused the judges most headaches:
Manly restaurateur, David Diamond, whose Ribs and Rumps operation is at the centre of immigration abuse charges. Three South African chefs, claiming to have been paid as little as $50 a week, are seeking more than $100,000 in backpay. Ribs and Rumps responded by seeking restrospective immunity from award provisions in the NSW IRC.
Virgin Mobile which stiffs call centre workers as much as $4000 a year by forcing them onto take it, or leave it AWAs. Half its Pitt St, Sydney, staff have responded by signing up with the Australian Services Union but the company refuses to recognise or negotiate with that organisation. It is currently fighting gconstructive dismissalh claims by the stafffs first elected representative, Paul Morris.
Construction industry battle axe, Barbara Strong, who has used a string of taxpayer-funded services to try to defeat her responsibilities as an employer. Strong has engaged the Office of the Employment Advocate, Police and even the $60 million Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry to try and deflect attention from her practises. Most recently, her S&B Industries was tipped off a Glebe demolition site, by Workcover and Leichhardt Council, because of a number of safety and regulatory breaches.
Western Sydney call centre operator, Stephen Crockford, who ran his office like a classroom, requiring employees to raise their hands if they wished to use the toilet.
Telstra, which continues to hide behind contracting provisions to wash its hands of what happens to workers. Tele Tech, one of the worldfs biggest call centre operations, passes itself off as Telstra in Moe, Victoria, where it has subjected around 300 workers to its born-in-the-USA brand of industrial relations. It uses AWAS to provide salaries, as much as $6000 a year down on those earned by direct Telstra employees doing the same work and came to national attention when it sacked a pregnant woman who took too many toilet breaks.
Peter gBasherh Williams, a legend in his own lunchtime, who manages Stegbarfs manufacturing operation at Rowville, Victoria. It was clear enterprise bargaining negotiations, with the CFMEU and AWU, were going to be unusual from the time Basher got the troops together and uttered his immortal line - gHow many times do you need to be f@#$%# up the arse before you know you are a poofter?h. Basher threatened a union organiser, then employees with stand-downs, dismissal and legal action, before launching a lockout.
Tasmanian mine operator, Barminco, famously labelled the gboss from hellh during IRC hearings. The island-statefs biggest miner unilaterally introduced changes that cost workers thousands. It slashed around $200 from the weekly wage by removing a negotiated bonus; stung workers as much as $330 a week by changing sick leave entitlements; and tried to force employees to pay for damaged machinery. Barminco sent one miner $10,000 bill for damage to a loader.
POSTSCRIPT: Even on the day of the announcement of its Bad Boss gong Australia Post was still at it. Twenty five night shift workers from Sydneyfs Druitt St office sent a petition to management complaining they had been frozen out of their traditional Christmas Party. Tony would be proud.
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