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December 2003   
F E A T U R E S

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.

C O L U M N S

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.

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

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

E D I T O R I A L

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.

N E W S

 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

L E T T E R S
 Feds Ignore Building Deaths
 Bob Gould On Kicking The Liberals Out
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Industrial

Living For Work?


Mark Hearn reports from a recent conference addressing the dilemma of work, citizenship and community.

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Those whose economic condition forces them to labour for most of their waking hours do not have the leisure to be citizens in any proper sense.

Dawn Oliver and Derek Heater, The Foundations of Citizenship.

What should we expect from work? Should the conditions of work recognize our ability to participate in community and family life, in political parties, unions or other voluntary organizations?

For most the answer may seem an obvious 'yes', but in reality many workers simply lack the time or energy, after long hours at work, for even basic forms of family and community interaction. The work dilemma formed a disturbing and persistent subtext to an important series of debates recently conducted by Work and Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney.

US academic Tom Kochan, New South Wales Labor Council Secretary John Robertson and leading Australian industrial relations researcher Barbara Pocock all addressed the work dilemma and urged a fundamental rethink of public policy.

Kochan, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, believes we have to question our assumptions about the nature of work. 'What moral values underlie work?' We have become so enarmoured of the idea of efficiency and productivity, he argues, 'that we have lost sight of other key moral values.'

Work should embody ideals of dignity, equity and giving workers a voice - some say in how the workplace is organized. The relationship between work and family life must be recognized. People also see work as a chance to use their skills, and as a social experience, Kochan stressed, aspirations that implicitly express a strong idea of citizenship - being recognized as a valued member of the workplace community.

Barbara Pocock's address to a seminar on 'Women, Work and Family' took up the impact of long hours of work on family life, and the ability of workers to participate in the community. Pocock, a senior research fellow at the University of Adelaide and the author of the recent The Work/Life Collision, pointed to the insidious loss of 'schoomze" - time for social contact with neighbours and family. Boys and teenagers strongly notice the absence of a father whose long working hours keep him from the family home.

Pocock believes that part of the problem is that public policy is made by the 'careless' - literally by those who do not have to care - politicians whose meals are provided, who do not have to drive themselves, and do not have to care for dependents. Australia's industrial relations system reflects this carelessness: a focus on 'masculinised' conceptions of work that lead to resistance to reforms such as parental leave. Yet everday, 40 per cent of workers have someone - children or other family members - who quite literally depends on them for their basic needs.

Given the current weakness of the union movement, Pocock urges that a 'new coalition' of sympathetic interests groups come together - political organizations, community and welfare groups, unions and employers - to push an agenda that restores the balance of work and family life.

NSW Labor Council Secretary John Robertson took up these themes a week later in a seminar on 'Trade Union Futures'. Robertson believes that over the last twenty-five years, our sense of community 'has been restructured and demolished' by economic deregulation, a process that has accelerated under the Howard Government. Health care and education have become increasingly expensive, compelling workers to work harder and longer to manage the bills.

Robertson notes that all forms of voluntary organizations, including unions, have witnessed declining participation in recent decades. Unions can rebuild membership by getting in touch with people and their needs. Robertson is urging the development of a 'social action' plan that propels the union movement 'into the middle of the community', and its needs, and to engage with issues that coalesce community support - the refugee issue, opposition to the war in Iraq, security of entitlements.

A question from the audience clarified one of the essential problems of current debate on these issues: how to shift public discourse from what's good for the economy, to what's good for the community? Throughout the debates, it was acknowledged that there is a need for a new language of citizenship - one that recognizes the workplace and community rights of working Australians and their families.

* Mark Hearn is a post-doctoral research fellow in Work and Organisational Studies, University of Sydney. Details of the seminars, part of events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the teaching of industrial relations at the University of Sydney, can be found on workSite: http://www.econ.usyd.edu.au/wos/worksite/


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