Interview: No Ifs, No Butts
Unions: National Focus
Industrial: Fools Gold
Bad Boss: Bones of Contention
History: The Gong Show
Politics: The Hawke Legacy
International: Sick Nation
Economics: Closed Minds
Review: Mixing Pop and Politics
Poetry: One Size Fits All
The Locker Room
The Monk Off Our Back
Open Source Unionism
Esteemed labour economist Richard Freeman (Harvard University, London School of Economics and about 48 pages of citations to confirm a heavy hitter status in his field) has been touring the country arguing for unions to add another spoke to our wheel with what he calls open source unionism. Richard sees a key role for the Internet in union renaissance and worker well being. Open source unionism would see a new union form evolve that combines worker desire for representation , information and communication via the web with a wider definition of ‘membership’. In workplaces lacking the clout to impact via collective bargaining an open source union would use its reputation for providing accurate information to set the agenda with management, to shape public debate and to marshal resources from outside the workplace to support workers in disputes. For those who have been trying to get unions to be serious about making the Internet central to how we work read Richard’s speech –for a bit of validation, as the self-help gurus would say. Other sceptics should read it and get with the program.
Truckies Front the Suits At Boral AGM
The AGM season used to be fun time for the corporate class. An opportunity to strut and preen in some mirror glass palace in the CBD and then have your next fat bonus rubberstamped. Now, post Enron, HIH et al, even the shareholders don’t trust their management. And when Boral, the building materials company holds its annual general meeting on October 21 some new, surprising voices will be heard from the floor.
120 truck drivers – members of the Transport Workers Union – will be pushing their shareholder activism campaign to the next level with some searching questions and motions to the Boral board about health and safety and executive pay. Each of the truckies have forked out $500 for a share package so they can get to have their say in the running of the company.
It is believed to be the first time a proxy resolution concerned with worker safety will be filed against an Australian company.
Boral likes to brag about its commitment to health and safety but a simultaneous OHS blitz by the TWU of 16 Boral concrete sites in June found serious deficiencies including electrical cords immersed in water, asbestos on site with poor screening processes and basic safety equipment malfunctioning. The TWU also points out that three Boral employees died in workplace accidents last year. And recently a truck driver sued the company after picking up a skin cancer while working for the company.
One of the truckies’ resolutions aims to link executive pay incentives to health and safety targets. They also want all executive packages put to shareholders for a vote.
Plenty Of Corporate Bastardry On Show In Victoria
Building workers employed by Grocon have been rewarded for the extra shifts and overtime they put in to get the MCG for the AFL Grand Final with 30 sackings and the promise of another 25 to be moved on next week. This follows hot on the heels of Geelong Wool Combing’s decision to close its Lara plant after a five-month lock out of 100 workers who refused to accept a 25 per cent pay cut and the casualisation of the workforce.
The Victorian Trades Hall Council Women's Committee has launched a survey investigating the issue of violence against women in the workplace. VTHC’s Ellen Kleimaker says the survey results will feed into the Brack's Government's state-wide Women's Safety Strategy. Women in Victoria who have experienced bullying, harassment or violence at work are encouraged to complete the survey. For a copy contact Ellen on (03) 9659 3575 or 0408 339 720. A copy of the survey can also be downloaded from the VTHC website
Queensland Medicare Birthday Bash
Queensland unions commemorated the 20th anniversary of universal health care and bulk billing with a birthday party for Medicare in the Queen St Mall on 1 October. A special birthday cake, complete with 20 candles, was cut by representatives of the Public Hospitals Health and Medicare Alliance of Queensland (which includes Queensland Council of Unions).
Queensland unions will rally to voice their concerns about the recent findings of the Cole Royal Commission and the draft bill by The Man Formerly Known As The Mad Monk In Charge Of Workplace Relations which seeks to implement 120 of the Commission’s recommendations. The rally will be held on Wednesday 8 October at the Roma St Forum from 10:30am.
The QCU is also establishing a committee made up of all buildings unions plus other affiliates to determine further action following the October 8 rally. The first meeting of this committee will be held at the QCU on 16 October.
The Queensland Council of Unions is holding an organising conference on 30 and 31 October designed to provide organisers and other officials with up-to-date information regarding the current state of the union movement in Australia and what some unions are doing to address declining membership.
The two day conference will address a range of issues including organising strategies and tactics, new methods of organising, community organising and case studies and delegate development issues with presentations and workshops on both days.
Speakers include Michael Crosby, ACIRRT’s John Buchanan former Secretary of the NZTCU and now ACTU Organising Centre Advisor, Paul Goulter.
The conference is recommended for elected officials, organisers, research staff, administrative and support staff and key delegates.
The QCU is continuing to support indigenous workers in their fight to reclaim lost and stolen wages withheld by successive Queensland governments.
A major public awareness campaign was launched in Brisbane on 8 August to highlight the plight of indigenous workers who have had their wages withheld. The main feature of the campaign was the launch of a set of three postcards which tell the story of the missing wages and outline the meagreness of the State Government’s offer.
Unions and community groups, including the QCU, ACTU and VTHC, have endorsed the campaign and undertaken to distribute up to 50,000 postcards.
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