Interview: Rock Solid
Industrial: Eight Simple Rules for Employing My Teenage Daughter
Politics: The Johnnie Code
Energy: Fission Fantasies
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International: Closer to Home
Economics: Taking the Fizz
Unions: Stronger Together
Review: Montezuma's Revenge
Poetry: Fair Go Gone
The Locker Room
When the Truth Hurts
Eight Simple Rules for Employing My Teenage Daughter
By Phil Doyle
Oswald, an active union delegate, is the proudest Dad in Australia right now after Amber shot to national media attention as she battled Pulp Juice in one of the first examples of the unfairness of the WorkChoices laws.
The company bought in changes that wiped out weekend penalty rates on the first day of WorkChoices; it meant a $40 per week cut to take-home pay for Amber and her workmates.
"Amber came to me and said, "how does it work that last week I was making juices for x dollars and now I'm doing it for minus x dollars," says Phil Oswald. "We spoke about it and she decided she was prepared to take a stand."
Over the next three weeks Amber's story was told in newspapers and television shows. When the employer attempted to back down and pay Amber the same as previously, she refused to accept it unless all her workmates got the same treatment. Finally, the Australian Industrial relations Commission ruled the AWA illegal, although unions admitted they only won because the employer's advice had been so poor.
"Amber's always had principles," says Phil. "This certainly brought them to the top. She's always said 'that's not right, I don't agree with that', or those sorts of things. "Even when Amber was a young girl playing with her older sister she was quiet and reserved - until she thought something wasn't right, then she would certainly make it known." It's a trait that led the father of two daughters to call his youngest the 'quiet achiever'.
"I'm a bit like Amber," says Phil. "I think we should all have some sort of principles and treat each other fairly. I was always taught to stand up and take action."
The man who taught him was his late father, who was a union delegate at Brookvale bus depot, where he worked as a motor mechanic.
Phil, who went to the same school as Amber - Narrabeen High, was a bit of a rebel during his time as an apprentice electrician. "We used to get a bit cranky about the Vietnam War in those days," he says. "I was pretty outspoken as an apprentice - I didn't like making the tea - but I got over that after a while."
He ended up at the coalface of economic rationalism during the late eighties and early nineties when he watched a workforce of 12,000, at what became Integral Energy, slashed to 2,500 - changes that made propmted him to get active in the Electrical Trades Union.
"I've seen monumental change," he says. "I didn't like the way some people were treated. In the bad old days of the Greiner government lots of good people were pushed out the door."
"I've seen so many tradesmen we should never have lost. It really upset me. They were tough times. It really annoys me, makes me cranky, to see people treated unfairly."
The situation with his own daughter was no exception, with Phil getting straight onto Amber's union, the Shop Assistants (SDA). "Phil's support of his daughter has been inspirational," says Gerard Dwyer from the SDA. "As kids learn their first values and principles in the home, Phil should be a very proud dad."
What made dad particularly proud was Amber going into bat, not just for herself, but also for her co-workers. "One of Amber's co-workers, the manageress, is not living at home," says Phil. "She's only just turned eighteen, sharing a place with two of three other kids, friends of hers from school. They've all got bills to pay. They're not likely to be standing up and say that's not fair because they don't know where their next dollars coming from."
By the end the whole Oswald clan was behind Amber, including Philï¿½s mum Esther and Auntie Nell, in their late 80s.
"We've shown that the unions will step in for the kids,"says Oswald. "They have always have been there, but never often been shown this way. They've got very, very capable people who can help in this situation."
For Phil Oswald, WorkChoices it's about more than a contract or even his daughter's plight. It's about the sort of world he leaves for his kids.
"I'm always worried about the lowest common denominator - those people who can least afford to be, treated poorly. Especially the kids; the've got nobody to look after them except their parents."
That's why he says parents need to question their kid's employers. "They need to put it to the managers, the owners of these places. Ask what sort of award rates are you going to pay my child. Don't take it that they will be honest.
"If they've got nothing to hide they'll bring forward the paperwork and you can have a look at it. If you don't know what it all means you can go and ask somebody else, like a union for example."
Meanwhile, Amber continues to be the 'quiet achiever' getting down to the grind of studying fore her HSC. "I didn't think telling my dad what was going on would become such a big thing," she says. "If you're in as situation like I was you can do something about it: tell your parents, join your union, make a stand."
The Eight Simple rules:
1. Do not accept cash in hand
2. Demand pay slips
3. Refuse unpaid 'trials'
4. Superannuation must be paid
5. Do not pay for safety equipment or 'bonds'
6. Make sure the boss is accessible
7. Demand a safety induction when starting a job or in the workplace
8. Parents should be consulted before signing employment agreements
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