Category Archives: industrial relations


Frank Sinatra, of course, a touch ironic in itself:

How sad for Obama!

There was a reference to Blaggerthingy on God’s Politics just before the Big News broke — anyone want to buy a senate seat? — and of course there is also that factory sit-in. All of it bad for the image of the USA. If Blaggerthingy is guilty as charged, then he has managed to screw his country’s reputation in a way that would cheer the hearts of anti-US terrorists and others the world over. Good one, Blaggerthingy! Be proud.

The God’s Politics reference is hardly flattering either, but does serve to remind us that we shouldn’t entirely judge the USA by events such as those we have been appalled by lately.

Recently, West Side Chicago folks went down to the state Capitol, seeking release of long-overdue reimbursements for services to homebound elderly – $1 million outstanding, enough to cripple a struggling community development corporation. We stood outside the governor’s door, our chant loudly echoing through the halls of the Capitol:

Blagovich, Hynes, pay your bills;
the community suffers, pay your bills;
seniors suffer, pay your bills;
you’re making hard times, pay your bills.

Meanwhile, paydays are delayed, salaries cut, and people laid off. Our controller said the state is out of money; legislators and the governor blamed each other. Nothing happens, and yet we must still provide the services. Thirty-one states are in fiscal crisis; cities and counties are slashing budgets. And they’re slashing the very survival programs for the poor.

The economic crunch, as we all know, is not only a matter of investments and credit on Wall Street and Main Street. It deeply impacts low-income families and low-wealth communities as a whole. In our low-wealth community, we don’t debate whether we’re in a recession or depression; we know we are in HARD TIMES. It is not a matter of shopping; in our community, it is life-challenging issues of food, medicine, rent, and jobs.

Poor and low-income communities are mostly left out of the conversation and the bailout plans. At least unemployment payments have been extended, but so much more urgent action is needed.

Speak out for those who cannot speak, Speak out … defend the rights of the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:8-9). Right now there is only a whispered mention of the rights of the poor and needy. Who will speak? Where is the church in speaking out, joining the chorus? Where is our sense of the common good, of caring for each other?

Mary Nelson

Serves to remind us too that people of faith are not necessarily right-wing nut jobs…

The factory story has been well covered on the Net and has cheered the hearts of my Marxist friends.

Beginning Friday, around 300 workers at the Republic Window & Door factory in Chicago have occupied the plant demanding severance and back-pay owed by the company. For the first time since the birth of the CIO union federation in the 1930s, U.S. workers are occupying their workplace. As the bosses push to place the burden of the failing economy on workers’ shoulders, the class struggle is back on the agenda in the U.S.

The 300 mostly Latino members of the United Electrical Workers union began the occupation on the last scheduled day of operations before the bosses would close the factory. The company gave the workers less than 60 days notice of the closure, in violation of federal labor laws. The company reported that its monthly earnings had dropped by around 25% to $2.9 million. But the company continued filling orders through the last scheduled day of operation, which gave workers little room to believe that the factory needed to close its doors.

Republic management told workers that it was necessary to close the factory in order to get loans from its main creditor, Bank of America. UE workers picketed the Bank’s Chicago headquarters on December 3rd. Despite pledges from the bank and Republic management for a meeting on Friday with the UE local 1110 to discuss severance and other issues, this meeting was sabotaged when Republic management failed to show up. Workers replied by occupying the factory.

Bank of America was one of the many large banks to get a part of the gigantic $700 billion bailout package approved by the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress in October…

I am very much in sympathy with the factory workers in that one. Other commentators in the comments on the post I have linked to have suggested that the factory owners are in breach of quite a number of US laws as well. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath about the Revolution just yet, scandalous as this case is.

I’m afraid I am neither for Marx nor for Hayek in these matters, but I shouldn’t offend the faith of others, should I? Or should I? Apart from the fact I am too old and too uninformed, really, to say much new or intelligent along such lines. But the history of the past century or two does not encourage me in faith in either…

Jon Taplin puts a positive spin on Buggerwhatsy and other recent issues though, citing Teddy Roosevelt: A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.

…Teddy Roosevelt was right. It’s the geniuses with the college educations that are robbing us of our future.We are all aware that we stand at a seminal moment in history where the very foundations of our society are being remade. Many observers seem to think that the object is to patch things up so we can get back to the “status quo ante”. But I disagree. This is a reform moment. We must clean up the role of money in politics and we must give the regulators power to prevent the abusive use of the tax laws that Sam Zell and his genius bankers used to wreak holy havoc on their employee’s future.

Jon, a a Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California, is not being anti-intellectual in saying all that, as anyone who follows his blog will know.


Seniors want retirement at 75 | The Australian

If you think that headline means all seniors, you would be mistaken, but it is what many readers will understand from it…

Seniors want retirement at 75 is about a report from the advocacy group National Seniors Australia, which needs to be distinguished carefully from the Combined Pensioners & Superannuants Association of NSW Inc for example. The latter organisation recommends policy of this nature:

CPSA is calling for a supplement for those pensioners who are living on very low incomes.

1. A supplement paid to very low income pensioners to bring them to a modest standard of living. In light of a lack of budget standards conducted, CPSA uses the Westpac/ASFA budget standard of $18,900 for singles and $26,500 for couples.

2. Concessions, rebates and allowances be appropriately indexed, so that they cover the out of pocket expenses that they were initially designed to cover.

3. An appropriate budget standard be conducted to assess how much pensioners need to achieve a modest standard of living.

The former seems to be recommending, or at least justifying, a “work till you drop” approach. On the other hand, I do commend the idea that there should be a choice. I question the realism of moving the pensionable age to 75, for personal and experiential reasons I will go into in a moment.

The Australian reported:

THE nation’s peak seniors group has called on the Rudd Government to raise the retirement age to 75 and increase compulsory superannuation from 9 to 15 per cent, warning that the ageing of the population poses a greater threat to the economy than climate change.

National Seniors has delivered a far-reaching document with radical reform options that push for an increase in the official retirement age to 75 years and an immediate increase in the single age pension from 59 per cent to two-thirds of the couple rate to bring it in line with other OECD countries.

The group’s ageing blueprint “AdvantAGE Australia” was yesterday handed to Wayne Swan and all MPs will be sent the paper.

National Seniors chairman Everald Compton said the age that people become eligible for the age pension should be lifted gradually, potentially rising to 75 by 2020.  Mr Compton suggested that a new way to setting the pension should be established.  He argued that the Reserve Bank should declare annually the average wage and the Government legislate to peg the pension to a percentage of the figure.  The group wants the Government to remove upper age limits on superannuation and workers’ compensation.

“It’s not as sexy a subject as climate change so this subject gets shoved off into the corner, but its economic consequences are enormous and we’re calling on the Government and the Opposition to give the priority in a bipartisan way, which will enable Australia to avoid going bankrupt,” he said.

The Treasurer has confirmed that a review of the tax system, headed by Treasury secretary Ken Henry, will consider an increase in the rate of the age pension.

The report released yesterday said that by 2030, more than half the voting population of Australia would be over 50 years old…

See below for a copy of the report.

I am retired, effectively since before 65, though my pension commenced after that birthday. In all honesty, I could not, would not, take on a full secondary school teaching load any more. I doubt I could handle the pressure. I am sure my teaching would suffer and decline. That would be disappointing all round. Teaching is a tough game, whatever people out there may think, and it is essentially a game for younger people. The conditions, whether in public or private schools, are unrealistic. Teachers teach too many classes for starters; I am sure most teachers will know what I mean when I say that for maybe half of one’s teaching load one tends to operate on automatic pilot while focusing attention on part of one’s load, whether that be because they are up for the HSC, or because they raise special difficulties that require attention. Then there is a whole raft of extracurricular duties, most of them unpaid. Honestly, I stopped because I had reached the point where I did not have the stamina to go on. I am not alone. Some few are different, of course, but many do those last yards pretty much on automatic pilot — and this is not necessarily good for education.

Meanwhile, we have the obscene salaries and retirement benefits of many of our CEOs and other mandarinates. But that is another matter…

Seniors Australia: Advantage Australia 2008 PDF


What we have lost: 2

I would be the first to admit that Phillip Adams is hardly objective in his piece I quoted here yesterday, even if I agree with the general thrust of his remarks.

Ross Gittins has a somewhat more sober assessment in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: A vote for honesty and decency.

Wouldn’t it be great if the defeat of the Howard Government and the election of fresh-faced Kevin Rudd proved to be a turning point, a swing back to moderation in public policy and decency in public life? I am not at all sure it will – politicians tend to ape the ethical standards of their competitors – but it sure would be nice.
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Posted by on November 28, 2007 in Australia and Australian, industrial relations, John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Political



Our incomparable unemployment figures

Quite literally incomparable, as I argued a month ago: Interrogating the unemployment figures.

I return to this chicanery again after beginning Shelley Gare’s The Triumph of the Airheads (2006), reviewed there in Quadrant, John Howard’s favourite magazine. I agree with 60-70% of what Gare presents; there are issues where I think she has been a bit airheaded herself, but others — the majority — where she is spot on. One such issue is the unemployment statistics.

As for the unemployment figure…, it’s worth noting that, statistically speaking, you are counted as employed if you have worked for an hour or more in the week for pay, profit, commission or pay in kind. Or you have worked for an hour or more, even without pay, on a family farm or in a family business. [Officially, an unemployed person is someone over fifteen years of age, who has not worked at all in the week counted, has actively looked for work in the previous four weeks and is available to start work.]

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Posted by on November 16, 2007 in Australia and Australian, industrial relations, John Howard, Political



The very odd story of the Oz government and its new tech colleges

John Della Bosca, the NSW Education Minister, has a point.

DESPITE promising 100 new technical colleges across the country the Federal Government has failed to provide even half of the eight it promised for NSW before the last election, the state’s Education Minister, John Della Bosca, said yesterday. Just three had been established and they had secured just 20 per cent of the overall enrolment target, he said.

“One was an existing private school and another contracts the local TAFE to provide its entire vocational program,” Mr Della Bosca said. “A fourth college at western Sydney is not recognised by the independent Board of Studies because it does not have registration as a separate non-government school. The other colleges have failed to get enough teaching staff onto AWAs to open their doors.”

Mr Della Bosca said the Hunter college had attracted 134 students, and the Illawarra facility 37 students, with all its training delivered by TAFE…

Margaret Gardner, vice-chancellor of RMIT and president of the Australian Technology Network of universities, said the technical colleges were not the solution to the skills shortage and were an unnecessary duplication of private colleges and TAFE.

Hatred of the Australian Education Union and the state education unions which serve the existing TAFE institutions seems to me more than part of the government’s agenda. It can’t be objective rationality that has taken them down this wasteful path.
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Lines from a Floating Life: "reform"

I wrote the entry above on 7 July 2005, and how true it has proven to be! (Even Mr Rabbit praised me for this entry.) Consider the propaganda campaign we have been seeing lately on behalf of “WorkChoices” (sic) — itself an example of Newt Gingrich’s 1996 thesis “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control”, in turn an application with brainwashing intent of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Go to the link above and see how those semi-hypnotic TV ads have selected from Newt’s list of magic words. Note also syntactic tricks, such as “Employees, together with employers, can…” Note how that endows “employees” with a spurious sense of agency. Now of course we see what is “guaranteed by law” in this interview yesterday with Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews:
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Posted by on October 24, 2005 in America, Australia and Australian, culture wars, current affairs, industrial relations, linguistics and language, Political, right wing politics


Our Citizens, Governments, and Corporations


“Governments only ever do the right thing to the extent that they are browbeaten and shamed into it by their citizens. If citizens sit back and accept that governments can’t or won’t behave responsibly and ethically, then governments can pursue money and power shamelessly.

If, however, citizens refuse to be ignored and marginalized, then governments sometimes respond decently. This has happened from time to time, for example in 1970, when the overwhelming support of the public prodded the federal government into introducing public health care over the hysterical opposition of doctors’ associations and insurance companies.

It also happened in the 1840s when a bunch of poor farmers forced the Crown to make public education a core principle of the British North America act, against the will of the aristocrats who believed that educating farmers was a waste of money.

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Posted by on October 5, 2005 in America, Australia and Australian, Canada, culture wars, current affairs, education, globalisation/corporations, human rights, industrial relations, Political, right wing politics


USU Online – the University of Sydney Union Website

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I get confused easily. There is the organisation above (click the picture) and there are two other organisations as well. The above, it seems to me, is in no way analogous to a trade union. That second link offers a world-wide and historical perspective. When I was at Uni I did not avail myself of all the Union’s offerings, though I certainly used a lot of the discounts. I used also to have these fantasies, which I often indulged, of being in a Club, rather like the ones I had read about in things like Sherlock Holmes. I did not take up smoking a pipe or cigars or drinking port, but I came close. Indeed, I suspect the Sydney University Union was an imitation of The Oxford Union; even the architecture of the older Sydney University Union buildings seems to be in imitation — see pic, which is Oxford.

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Posted by on September 7, 2005 in Australia and Australian, culture wars, education, ex-students and coachees, generational change, industrial relations, local, Political, reminiscing, right wing politics, Salt Mine, teeth "reform" “reform”

The Rabbit liked this one. 🙂

We all note that Mister Howard, Mister Andrews, and all the rest of the crew inevitably speak of WORKPLACE REFORM. Well of course they would. The thesaurus makes clear how the word sits in the connotation stakes:

alteration, amelioration, betterment, change, correction, enhancement, improvement, mending, modification, rectification, reform, reformation, remedy, repair, revision

What they are actually proposing is WORKPLACE CHANGE, which could well connote:
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Posted by on July 7, 2005 in Australia and Australian, culture wars, industrial relations, John Howard, linguistics and language, Political, right wing politics


July has come…

This entry has been recycled. For a reason

In view of recent developments and today’s stop-work meetings it seems appropriate to see why the workers have always needed to unite to protect their rights and interests, and while this obviously inconveniences employers and shareholders, they ought to do so in any society which aspires to any degree of economic and political freedom. The current Australian government in hell-bent on removing organised labour from the equation, alleging this is in fact a bonus for workers’ individual rights. The fact is the only power workers have is collective power, and the big end of town, the supporters of John Howard, and sadly too many ordinary (aspirational?) folk have been sucked into Howard’s way of thinking, partly because, it has to be admitted, many unions or union leaders fell into the trap of power themselves, or became unnecessarily bloody-minded, or too ideologically driven.

Mind you, the current government is the most ideologically driven one since Whitlam’s, and does it far more successfully.

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