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December 2003   

Interview: Muscling Up
Labor�s Craig Emerson discusses how the changes to his party�s leadership will impact on the industrial relations agenda.

Unions: Thinking Pink
What�s the difference between a Nursing Home and an Aged Care Facility? More than semantics, according to nurses worried Australia is woefully unprepared for the crash at the end of the baby-boom cycle, writes Jim Marr.

Bad Boss: Global Bully
If nothing else, US-based call centre giant TeleTech is consistent. After being nosed out of last year�s Bad Boss gong it is back, bigger and badder than ever in its search for Tony honours.

Unions: National Focus
In this national round up by Noel Hester, Hugh McKay tells us how the young are sticking together in a bewildered society, the gongs get handed out at the ACTU awards and there is a chance to win as a worthy wordsmith.

Economics: Friend or Flunkey?
On New Years Day as you look at the wine stains and tread on a soggy puddle on the carpet, will you look for the phone and call a cleaner? Gabrielle Meagher gives a few ethical dilemmas to confront before you make that call.

History: Young Blood
Youth is no barrier to political leadership, as the 37-year-old John Watson proved 100 years ago, writes Neale Towart.

Industrial: Living For Work?
Mark Hearn reports from a recent conference addressing the dilemma of work, citizenship and community.

International: Fighting Together
The international trade union movement is launching a Global Unions HIV/AIDS campaign to combat the spread of the virus.

Poetry: Medicare Plus Blues
Is the Government's new health plan a plus for Medicare? Asks resident bard David Peetz

Review: Human Racing
Seabiscuit is a great horse movie but more than that it serves as a powerful metaphor for the importance of living for the future while maintaining passion and compassion in the present, writes Tara de Boehmler.


The Soapbox
Dear John
In his 500th piece of activist journalism, long-term Workers Online contributor Rowan Cahill sends a personal message to our prime Minister.

The Locker Room
Retired Hurt
Every innings comes to an end, some too soon, and others not soon enough, writes Phil Doyle.

Wedge Watch
Labor's Craig Emerson puts the spotlight on the Howard Government's politics of division.

The Westie Wing
Workers Friend Ian West MLC is back with his monthly round-up from Macquarie Street.


A New Mark for Labor
Few of us who care about the future of the labour movement would not admit to a surge of hope and sense of excitement following the election of Mark Latham to the federal parliamentary leadership.


 Peeking Dicks in Pickle

 Lights Out on Cheap Labour

 Blackout Hangs Over Sydney

 Contractors Hang Up on Telstra

 Uni Workers Too Smart For Minister

 Employer Bullies Vie For �Tony�

 South Coast Deal to Build Movement

 TeleTech Safety Rep Vows to Fight On

 Corporates Urged to Come Clean

 MP Too Busy For Teachers

 Bosses Block Good Shops Code

 Engineers Ground Safety System

 Workers Win At Safety Meet

 Merger Threats

 Activists Notebook

 Feds Ignore Building Deaths
 Bob Gould On Kicking The Liberals Out
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Bad Boss

Global Bully

If nothing else, US-based call centre giant TeleTech is consistent. After being nosed out of last year�s Bad Boss gong it is back, bigger and badder than ever in its search for Tony honours.


In September, 2002, Workers Online brought readers news of Teletech's appalling treatment of call centre workers at Moe in Victoria's depressed La Trobe Valley.

We reported its penchant for dressing up as Telstra in drag to dud consumers as well as more than 300 employees pushed onto take-it or leave-it AWAs. These documents, designed by the Federal Government's Office of the Employment Advocate, were used to force staff onto wages paying up to $6000 a year less than direct Telstra employees doing the same work.

The company arrived in Moe so it could extract bounties of around $1000 per employee head from the public purse. The subsidised workers were then instructed to greet callers with the blatant porky - "welcome to Telstra".

Before long, there were complaints of bullying, unexplained deductions from wages, and unjustified dismissals.

Teletech, Moe, earned a special mention sacking a pregnant woman on the grounds that she took too many toilet breaks. It dumped another woman for not ringing through daily updates when it knew she was in hospital with pneumonia.

Originally, much of the problem was sheeted home to local manager, Robyn Dodds, formerly of the Sale Gaol.

Thirteen months later, Workers Online broke the story of the very same Teletech in NSW action and, Dodds or no Dodds, there were similarities galore.

Safety representative, Jerry Gambacorta was frog marched out the door when the company decreed his request for a Risk Assessment on new rosters was "inflammatory" and "malicious".

TeleTech expelled the workplace union rep from the resulting disciplinary hearing and refused to allow representation by a USU (United Services Union) organiser.

It called for Gambacorta to be prosecuted by Workcover before agreeing to his reinstatement when the USU moved to put the matter before the Industrial Relations Commission.

All this was played out against the background of Teletech trying to convince staff they should sign its second generation AWAs, rather than negotiating a collective agreement.

Job delegate, James Woodcock, said TeleTech's AWA campaign was made up of equal parts trickery and secrecy.

"TeleTech's approach to the Australian Workplace Agreements has been that it is 'secret HR business", Woodcock explained. "There was no consultation. People were told that Human Resources had negotiated the AWAs on our behalf."

Just who the employer negotiated with, on behalf of staff, remains a mystery.

Woodcock says on one hand TeleTech is offering a small percentage wage rise. On the other, it doesn't tell workers that its pay scale is not actually set out in the AWA, or any other document, rather it is "company policy". Thus, by simply and unilaterally moving a worker onto a different pay band the promised increase can be made to magically disappear.

In Sydney, it has even managed to trump its $6000 Moe differential, paying newcomers around $10,000 a year less than others doing the same work.

But Australian workers shouldn't feel they are being singled out for special treatment if an intriguing online forum, peopled largely by employees from the US and Canada, is anything to go by.

Amongst the usual "StrawberryBlonds" and "dalovegoddess'" are contributors who choose to label themselves - TeleHell, Pimpedbyteletech, Slave, OuttaHere, Convergyssux and Pissedoffwithwork - and that's just the first page.

"Strawberryblond", to be fair, castigates colleagues for their "whining" and suggests they try trade unionism, while "dalovegoddess" is on a health and safety committee some place called Timmins.

There's plenty of hardcore complaining but, just maybe, the following correspondence sums up the tone.

On November 11, slymq71, wrote: "Thank you phantom for answering my question! I have an interview today at teletech (Sudbury) and am interested in researching it. I must say that all the messages i have seen in this place have scared me into even going for the interview! Is it really as bad as you all make it sound?"

Later that day, Numberone, responds: "Don't be scared honey, just don't go if you don't have to. Teletech sucks....sorry."

Check out more, from the inside, at:


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