Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Workers uniting

A union meets to view the prognosis for its existence under the forthcoming Workers' Legislation. It is an odd union, a merger between journalists and theatricals - the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance. Like all the other unions in Australia, it is in for a hard time - with most of its conventional forms of negotiation and communication about to become illegal. The Howard Government has made the move of its dreams, to disempower 150 years of worker union strength and to give employers the ability to call the tune without argument.
The ACTU secretrary, Greg Combet, a quietly-spoken and restrained man, came to give support and advice to the union's Federal gathering in Sydney.
He spoke of the ethos of unions, of why they exist, which, of course, is to defend and support the working people. He spoke of the beliefs on which unions are founded - compassion at their core.
And he noted that this new legislation would be but a blip in the great scheme of history. For, indeed, reason and fairness must prevail - eventually. But not right now.
He noted the sweet irony of how the Government's $55million advertising campaign to promote its new Workplace Legislation had resulted in a one per cent fall in its approval rating.
But he warned that things were going to be dark, dark, dark. The Government has everything in place to give power to its forthcoming rules. Even the High Court is stacked now with people of the Prime Minister's mindset.
Unions' right of entry to workplaces now becomes perilous with constraints. It will take only one cavalier union official to lose rights of entry altogether, he warned. To put it bluntly, "union activity is being criminalised".
He called for union restraint - and opposition to be only in the form of a professional campaign by which the public, which is still remarkably unaware of what is happening, is informed of their immense vulnerabilities as workers.
Employers henceforth will be able to dictate the terms of employment, the rates of pay, the hours worked, the shifts worked. They will be able to dismiss at whim - with no recourse through "unfair dismissal", if the company is under 100 strong.
Young people will be signing workplace agreements without option, or at least option of which they know. Their careers will begin at a disadvantage. And, indeed, this is all about young people - for their future is written in this legislation.

Combet left to hold a press conference - and was still at it, cornered by a gaggle of cameramen and boom mikes in the hotel foyer, when the meeting broke for lunch.

Lively and diverse with its range of talents, the union delegates talked on into the afternoon - for a second day of discussions and deliberations. Sedition reared its ugly head. It is another of the Howard Government's forms of suppression - raised in the name of the War Against Terrorism. It seeks to censor written word and, well, any manner of things it may choose to define as inciteful - a union meeting, for example. Once such laws are in place, they may go as far as the whim of those in power.

It is a sad and difficult time to be in a union - but we must have fortitude because once the people clue up, they will seek change. And perhaps, in a perverse way, this appalling legislation will shock the country out of its years of apathy - the years which have allowed this Government to have its way for so long.

Until then, we shall maintain the rage.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Creationists evolving

A colleague wrote a column critical of creationists. He was spammed by streams of primitive vitriol - most ubiquitously containing the accusation of "idiot". He was shocked by the spiteful vehemence of the mail, more abusive than articulate. But such are the creationists, it seems.
We might not find them very educated or articulate - but one has to acknowledge that they are organised and outspoken. Their campaign is a serious attack on science and education and it is succeeding - so much so that it has, in the USA epicentre of creationism, managed to intimidate respectable corporations.
Hence, the disturbing report that the historic Darwin exhibition is unable to find sponsors in the US.

From the SMH: The failure of American companies to back the exhibition reflects the growing influence of fundamentalist Christians, who are among President George Bush's most vocal supporters, in all walks of life in the US.

While the Darwin exhibition, which features a live Galapagos tortoise, has been unable to find a business backer, the Creationist Museum near Cincinnati, Ohio, which takes literally the Bible's account of creation, has recently raised $7 million in donations.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Pondering economic rationalism

Economic rationalism mystifies me. There is no such thing as "enough" for the corporations of today. Shareholders always want more and every era of management has to seek elevation and reward by generating greater profits than the one before - and the year before. Logically, success has to plateau at some time. But that is not acceptable. If the success rates cannot grow any more, then cost cuts must be made to ensure that the graph can keep rising. And so the functioning of the workplace keeps eroding. The golden creature rots from within to keep the shareholders happy. I just don't get it.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Fun with Rumsfeld

So the old Rummy is in town - to talk defence with other heavyweight warmongers.
We are just so thrilled in gentle Adelaide. So much so that we have cancelled all police leave and put our sweet city into lockdown. Streets are blocked all over the place. People have been told "don't come to town unless you have business there". Great for the economy. But we comfort ourselves that at least we are being protected from Rumsfeld, which is very thoughtful of our City Fathers. Talking of which, the Town Hall is in lockdown - and even the Mayor is not allowed in. He is performing his duties in a cafe!
Protesters have been out by the thousands, of course. They have business in the city. Protesting.
It has been reassuring to note that Rumsfeld takes all this gravity in his stride. Having arrived on his super jumbo with a massive security entourage and been delivered to the lockdown, security surrounded Hyatt at high speed through sequenced green lights in the midst of his bigger-than-Ben-Hur motorcade, he donned his shorty shorts, grabbed a racquet and went off with a handful of mates on foot across the parklands - to play squash! And all that security is guarding no-one! The city is in lockdown for a man playing squash.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Bill O'Reilly - the ultimate boor

As if there is not enough to get grumpy about in this world, that vulgar loudmouth has inveigled his way into the headlines again with the most crass opinions about San Francisco, a city which he seems to find expendable. So much so that he seems to want the city to be attacked my terrorists. Why, I wonder? Do the free-thinking, multicultural inhabitants offend his bilious bigotry? The mission is on to Google Bomb him as a terrorist sympathiser - which is not a bad idea, albeit that it gives the redneck ego yet more attention. The comfort is that he is, at last, being left behind the times. Americans are turning against his bellowing form of patriotic jingoism. He is becoming a has-been - and the sooner he is fully reviled, the better, in my gentle opinion.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Reform redux

Howard's Industrial "Reforms" have made me almost too angry to blog. It's the old "reform" trick again, that mutiliated word which brings evil tidings and regression. It is frightening to realise just how vulnerable this workers' legislation will make the workers. It de-powers the unions, of course. People continue to re-join their unions in a panic. But it is really too late. The tiger has been de-fanged. And the thing which annoys me most of all is that so very, very many of the people now bleating about the employer-takes-all attitude of John Howard are the idiots who voted him in.