Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Interview: League of Nations
Industrial: 20/20 Hindsight
Organising: On The Buses
Unions: National Focus
History: The Banner Room
International: The Slaughter Continues
Legal: A Legal Case For War?
Culture: Singing For The People
Review: The Hours
Poetry: I Wanna Bomb Saddam
Satire: Diuretic Makes Warne's Excuses Look Thin
The Locker Room
Re-considering The Accord
Strangers in the House
Nursing Home Concerns
Getting Over The Hump
They are not a magic bullet but a home blitz adds serious momentum to an organising drive says Troy Burton of the ACTU's Organising Centre. Troy says making contact with workers in their homes - a technique used for some time by unions in the United States - was pioneered recently in the Pilbara with great success.
'Making contact with workers from BHP and Hamersley Iron in their homes has led to strong union committees and over 300 signed up for union representation on these sites,' he says.
This approach translated well to the Hunter Valley where there's also been good results at Ravensworth East and Wambo mines. Union density increasing from 5 per cent to 60-80 per cent, union structures now in place on a formerly non union site and active delegates entering into talks with management.
Organising through home visits is not just successful in blue collar industries among men with previous union histories. Helga Svensen from the Victorian ASU recently participated in a spectacularly successful campaign with New Zealand union Finsec organising the Taranaki Savings Bank in New Plymouth. 80 per cent of the TSB's employees are women, most under 30. Helga says the TSB went from being an employer with the best working conditions in the industry ten years ago to being the worst after the notorious Employment Contracts Act with salaries around the $NZ18000 mark and with a 60 per cent turnover rate.
Helga says Finsec grew and then were stuck at 50 per cent density at the TSB for over a year. They had done surveys, telephone surveys and bank visits but it was not enough to get to talk to people about issues in an environment where they were comfortable about it.
'Six or seven pairs of people - a combination of officials and activists from the TSB and other banks - did a home blitz over two weekends. It was the first time it had been done in New Zealand. We did training on a Friday and doorknocked on a Saturday and Sunday - and 21 people joined up,' she says.
'The lesson I learnt was that we shouldn't be afraid to do new things. In the Pilbara the workers had a history of unions but didn't like unions. In NZ these workers didn't have a clue about what unions were like. It was a first connection with collectivism. It was great.'
So it works with blue collar and white collar workers, among male and female employees and in regional areas but what about in a metropolitan setting?
John Short of the AMWU says his union has done the same thing in a manfacturing plant in Brisbane with a non-union agreement with spectacular results. There was a 90 per cent turnout at a stopwork meeting and an increase in union density by about 60 per cent after a home visit blitz.
'Organisers had reservations about blitzing but were very enthusiastic afterwards. It is one of the more exciting things we've done. You get good quality time with people and can have an excellent conversation that is harder to have in the workplace in a lunch room. We shouldn't be scared to do it. People are genuinely pleased to see you.'
Connecting With Young Workers In South Australia
Janet Giles says the United Trades and Labor Council of South Australia has had some good results from a youth project.
'We now have a youth officer and a Young Unionists Network. They were at the Big Day Out and at O week promoting unions to young people. We collected over 1000 surveys at the Big Day Out. They were very open about how we can approach them and what they want. The encouraging thing is they want to be a part of the movement. There is a lot of enthusiasm.'
In another initiative aimed at young people the UTLC piloted a 'union summer' following a similar venture in NSW last year. Eight young people did a training program in unions for three weeks. It was sponsored by the unions with the UTLC doing the training says Janet Giles. 'It was very successful - they are still hanging around!'
Jobs Buzz in Tassie
Lynne Fitzgerald from Unions Tasmania says there is a real buzz around the apple isle . 'There are good signs here for jobs. On North West Coast where unemployment is high we are beginning to see things happening. Big projects in the offing including the development of wind power which will have spin offs for the local economy including component manufacture. Lynne says Unions Tasmania is set to host a delegates convention in May. 'We had over two hundred last time. This time we're expecting more.'
Kerfuffles in Queensland
Queensland teachers are in the middle of prickly talks with the Government over their EBA. Negotiations are revolving around class sizes with the union after a government commitment to reduce them. It is the first of the public sector negotiations using the 'protocol of good faith bargaining' set up last year.
Queensland construction workers are back at work after a dispute at Suncorp stadium where unions are pushing for a 36 hour week. The new Building Taskforce has doubled its numbers in Brisbane from three to six leaving many in the industry concerned about the next step in the Abbott which hunt on building workers.
Queensland Council of Unions has raised its concerns with the state Government over its first tentative steps towards Public Private Partnerships. The government is about to embark on the first PPP calling for expressions of interest in running Southbank TAFE. The QCU will be having a forum on April 2 to discuss government revenues and services expenditure with Gerard Bradley - the Under-Treasurer, along with economist John Quiggin and Margy Jaffe from British union UNISON. Marge has been tracking PPPs in Britain over the last ten years.
A Push For Reasonable Hours In Victoria
Victorian unions are flagging an increased activity around reasonable hours - in particular stepping up pressure using enterprise bargaining. It's the 20th anniversary of the 1983 National Wage Case which heralded the 38 hour week but the VTHC says it wants to make sure it is not just about reducing nominal hours and a cap on hours like the Victorian ETU has achieved is on the agenda.
The once-every-three-years ACTU Congress is to be held this August in Melbourne. ACTU Assistant Secretary Richard Marles says a policy development process is in place which will hit top gear in April/May. 'There will be background papers and draft policies available in April. That timing will coincide with two conferences - the Future of Work in June and the Organising Conference in May. These conferences will discuss two significant documents - the Future of Work and unions@work Mark 2 that will lead to policies late in the year at Congress,' he says.
'Congress is an opportunity to take stock and set directions for the movement. It is a time for thinking. In a three month period leading to Congress there will be a range of affiliate activities so there is a wide imput into policy development.'
Unions@work mark two
ACTU Assistant Secretary Chris Walton says it's now three and a half years since the unions@work report and it's time to reflect on the progress we've made. 'We've broadly held our own. Now we've got to look at what are our next steps and strategies are. To do this we are consulting with union leaders and organisers throughout the states,' he says. 'We've already had one seminar in Western Australia there were thirteen union leaders and 37 organisers. There was a great atmosphere.'
Further seminars are to be held in NSW on 18 March, Victoria on 19 March and Queensland on 21 March 2003. South Australia will follow on 15 April and Tasmania 17 April 2003. For more details contact Georgia Moar at the ACTU - [email protected].
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