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December 2006   

Interview: Flying High
The Australian international Pilots Association has rejoined the ACTU and president Ian Woods is taking it into new airspace.

Unions: TUF on Toll
As transport giant Toll expands across the region, unions are working together to boost their bargaining power, writes Jackie Woods.

Industrial: Forward to the Past
Anti-union building laws draw their inspiration from a century ago, writes Neale Towart

Economics: Debt and the Economy
Household debt is at record levels. Interest rates are rising. Production of real things is not increasing. The military generates most demand. How long can it go on?

Obituary: The Charlatanry of Milton Friedman
Evan Jones busts some myths about the grand-daddy of free market economics

Environment: Low Voltage
Nuclear Power and Prime Ministerial Pronouncements are seriously short of a few volts, writes Neale Towart

Legal: The Fair Deal
Anthony Forsyth proposes a social partnership agenda for Australia

Review: A Little History
The Little History of Australian Unionism is exactly that; fifteen thousand words on the topic, writes Rowan Cahill.


The Soapbox
Address to the Nation
ACTU secretary Greg Combet's speech to the National Day of Action

The Westie Wing
Ian West recalls a time when the earth was flat, unions ran the country and Honest John Howard was the workers’ best friend.

Sick System
Punitive IR laws and a commercially-driven workers compensation scheme are conspiring to bully injured workers, writes Dr Con Costa.


Seven Year Itch
For the past seven years, over 335 issues, Workers Online has been chronicling events in the labour movement and passing our judgments on all things union.


 Global Campaign for Jailed Iranian Union Leader

 Bully Tactics Can’t Dull Protests

 Which Bank Slashes Work Rights?

 Sunday’s The Day For Future Rallies

 Carmel Saves Job, Loses Bonus

 Case Dismissed: No Justice in WorkChoices

 China (S)trains Procurement Policy

 Contracts Out on Sole Traders

 Car Companies Do The Dirty

 Historic Case Restores Security

 Final Hurdle for Medibank Sell-Off

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 Boss With a Heart
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TUF on Toll

As transport giant Toll expands across the region, unions are working together to boost their bargaining power, writes Jackie Woods.

The campaign for a fair pay deal at rail freight company Pacific National took an arduous 18 months of talks, pickets and strikes.

Most RTBU members involved had never taken industrial action before. Standing alongside them were colleagues from across the transport industry, with members of the Maritime Union of Australia and the Transport Workers Union attending picket lines in solidarity.

"The support from those two unions was very impressive and greatly appreciated by our members," says RTBU national secretary Robert Hayden.

The transport industry is changing rapidly and unions are becoming aware that their futures are closely linked, says Hayden.

In line with a global trend, Australia's freight routes are now controlled by fewer, larger companies who operate across transport modes in a volatile market of takeovers and mergers.

To boost bargaining power, the RTBU, TWU and MUA have entered into cooperation under the banner of the Transport Unions Federation (TUF).

"TUF is a way of working closer together on campaigns, delegate training and enterprise agreements," says Hayden.

"Companies now have seamless modes of transport. We have to move on from past divisions and develop ways to work together on issues that affect us all."

For its first project, TUF has set its sights on better understanding Australia's biggest private transport player, Toll Holdings. Together, the three unions have around 7,000 members in Toll.

Each union has committed money to a mapping project carried out by Newcastle University to better understand Toll's position in the complex Australian freight industry.

"It's about knowing our market," says Hayden.

"We want to know where they're strong, where they're weak, how they deal with the different unions, which managers are reasonable and unreasonable, who their customers are, what affects the share price.

"We don't want to use this information to hit them over the head, but we want to negotiate from a position of strength."

RTBU delegate Jose Calle, a customer service representative for Toll-owned Pacific National at the Melbourne terminal, says unions need to get smarter.

Calle was involved in recent enterprise agreement negotiations. He says the rate of change in the transport industry - such as Toll's takeover this year of its Pacific National joint venture partner Patrick Corporation - means unions need to stay on the front foot.

"We have to get smarter, because the laws and the business change so quickly. Since Toll's taken over Patrick we have new management, with a different view on dealing with the union," says Calle.

As Toll's business thrives and expands into overseas markets, TUF too will build overseas links.

The TUF unions are active members of the International Transport Workers Federation and recently participated with unions from the United States and the Pacific at a Mining and Maritime conference in Los Angeles.

TUF is also strengthening ties with New Zealand's two key transport unions, the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) and the Maritime Union of New Zealand, which have significant memberships in Toll-owned companies.

Cross-Tasman solidarity is increasingly important, says Wayne Butson, RMTU General Secretary.

While Toll has operated on New Zealand's ports for some time, it expanded into rail in 2003 and is a major road transport player.

"When Toll came into the railways the company was initially very adversarial, making statements like 'we won't co-manage with the union'," says Butson.

A 2005 joint conference bringing together Australian and New Zealand transport unions with members employed by Toll changed all that.

Butson recalls Toll representatives attended the Auckland meeting, their voices shaking when they took questions from the lively crowd.

During the next round of wage negotiations, there was "absolutely no doubt" Toll's attitude had changed, he said.

"There was a genuine desire on part of Toll to do a deal and not have us on. They knew if they did have us on, the solidarity of Australian unions was a given, they weren't just taking on the RMTU."

The MUA is responding to the rise in monopolisation and globalisation in the coporate world by strengthening its links with other unions in Australia and overseas, says Warren Smith, assistant secretary of the Sydney branch.

"We want to send the message that if they can globalise, we can also globalise and build networks of solidarity," he says.

Smith is looking forward to sharing ideas with TUF colleagues on dealing with Toll in the wake of its takeover of Patrick Corporation, affecting hundreds of waterside workers in Sydney alone.

"Toll are going to give greater consideration to their approach to each of our respective unions if they know that we are backing one another up," Smith says.

Beyond that, he sees, transport unions working together in many areas including marginal seats campaigning, media strategies, demonstrations and industrial actions.

Paying the Freight

From humble beginnings as a Newcastle cartage company in 1888, Toll Holdings has grown into Australia's largest freight transport and logistics company.

It owns ports, warehouses, road fleets, ships, rail rolling stock and air freight capacity.

Last year it generated revenue of over $8 billion and operated at more than 670 sites in 17 countries across Asia and the Pacific. Toll employs more than 30,000 people.

In addition to its core businesses, Toll is involved in a number of joint ventures including Tenix Toll; which provides logistics support to the Australian Defence Force; Toll Owens, which does marshalling and stevedoring at 12 New Zealand ports; and Sembawang Kimtrans, a Singapore-based logistics and marine transport company.

This year Toll paid more than $6 billion to seize control of rival, Patrick Corporation, giving it full ownership of Pacific National and majority ownership of airline Virgin Blue.

Mapping the complex and fluid relationships between Toll Holdings, its joint venture partners, customers and competitors will be a key activity for TUF as unions look to develop innovative and effective industrial campaigns.


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