Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

United We Don't Really Stand; Unions Memberships Are Down but Their Benefits Keep on Keeping On

Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

United We Don't Really Stand; Unions Memberships Are Down but Their Benefits Keep on Keeping On

Article excerpt

LESLEY

APPS

lesley.apps@dailyexaminer.com.au

THESE days the word 'strike' conjures images of bowling alleys rather than picket lines and while I'm loathe to say at this point in my employment, I kinda miss them.

Memory recalls three occasions at The DEX in the 90s where we laid down tools and headed to the pub in support of colleagues from other sites or a pay wrangle. Specifics were a blur. I just knew it was pretty dire if it got to that stage. The other downside was you also had to relinquish your wage for the strike period. That could hurt if it went on too long but normally things were resolved in a day or two.

Once it did take longer and a rogue casual turned up to put his finger in the dike to take the pressure off the wall of management left to publish the mastheads which resulted in plenty of other fingers coming his way, usually followed by the word 'scab'. It was confronting stuff to a fledging but the message being sent was of David and Goliath proportions.

Now when the 's' word is uttered on the news, it's ear- pricking due to its rarity. This week it was immigration and border protection staff and, while they at no stage jeopardised any security protocols, it did inconvenience travellers and in turn, management, which is the point. Otherwise how else do grass root workers get their message across. When 'invisible' employees actually disappear, it gets noticed. Only then do people start paying attention and perhaps appreciate what they do amid the personal anger they feel. Imagine the state of the toilets at the local shopping centre after a three-day cleaners' strike.

Of course this concept all goes out the window unless it's done en masse. Enter, the workplace agreement or for those who love slogans that dead and buried one -- WorkChoices.

The ol' divide and conquer dressed up as a special lovingly prepared contract just for you. Some can be of the 'you beaut, thank you very much, I'll sell my soul for that' variety, others well, they are just shite paper with a shaky signature at the bottom. …

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