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Tuesday, 24 September 1974
Page: 1338


Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - I rise to support the Bill. This is about the third time we have discussed this subject. We are indebted to those honourable senators who have expressed strangely motivated concern about the rank and file trade unionists. The first thing that emerges in this debate is the idea which seems to have been conjured up that if there is an independent returning officer everyone will be satisfied and there will be no allegations about a ballot being a stew. To refute that idea I think I need do no more than quote from 'Pipeline' which is the journal of a New South Wales State registered union, the Water and Sewerage Employees Union. I do this for a number of reasons.

This union's budget is relatively small. Its members are not highly paid workers. I will talk about the very thing on which Senator Missen concluded when he spoke about special services for members of unions. A large proportion of the membership of this union are migrants. I wish to quote what I call a Dreyfus case which involved a migrant member of this union. He was lumbered by the police and put in jail for three or four days. The State Government had to be taken on in order to get restitution for wrongful arrest. This made demands on the time of the officials and the exchequer of the union.

But the point I want to make is that in this union ballots are not conducted by the Australian Industrial Court. I can imagine that a few people would be thinking that Clyde Cameron has a particular influence on senior officers. The ballots of this union are run by the Returning Officer for New South Wales. In other words he is an appointee of Sir Robert Askin. A ballot was held and, despite the fact that the man in charge had been appointed by the Premier of New South Wales, one peculiar individual indulged in a good deal of litigation and it cost the union $9,000 in unnecessary expense. The lesson to be learned is that as far as I am concerned- I make no apology for this- in the case of this union that $9,000 should have been used for the benefit of its members as a whole and not wasted because some individual could not take a defeat. It is absolute stupidity for a faction to say every time a ballot is taken and it is defeated, that it was the victim of a crook ballot. This is the way that some people think.

I want to take this a little further. As far as the question of amalgamations is concerned, I have noted that all speakers so far in this debate have conceded that there is justification for amalgamation to take place. But where they seem to part company with me is that there seems to be an inference that there is some sinister influence on the part of management committees and shop stewards. I have attended many industrial seminars. I know people who have industrial knowhow from the workshop floor upwards, as Senator Donald Cameron has. I know of our illustrious colleague, Senator Button, and his position in the legal field. He also is a keen psychologist. Like it or lump it, with the higher educational standards today this syndrome of Jack being as good as his master is here to stay. Whether it be Bob Hawke, a management committee or a shop steward, it is just a myth for people to say that the situation today is like the television program The Rag Trade ' where they just clap their hands and everyone walks out.

To prove this interplay of ideas, I ask Liberal and Country Party senators to read in the journal Common cause' an article relating to a wage settlement in the coal industry. That involved an interplay of motions and amendments. The previous speaker, Senator Missen, referred to the metal trades unions. The 'Tribune' is a publication from which I hesitate to quote. But it had an axe to grind in a matter involving the Australian Communist Party members, Socialist Party of Australia members and other people who participated in a ballot. In most of these disputes there are motions and several amendments before a settlement is reached. The PostmasterGeneral (Senator Bishop), who represents the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) in this place, knows that the classic case is that a person gets the idea and he gives an envelope to a person and says: 'Are you voting yes or no?' My argument is that in a lot of these disputes it is not possible to settle them clearly in terms of black and white. For example, I ask honourable members to recall the Sydney dispute over the one-man buses. Events proved that in a big metropolis this type of bus was unsafe. A conciliation commissioner offered the men a set sum of money to operate the buses. It is to the eternal credit of Mr Justice Robinson that he appreciated that the men's fears in regard to safety were well and truly founded. He finally devised a formula. But before that formula was reached there were at least 6 stop work meetings of all members in the industry. The message I want to get across to honourable senators is this: The early meetings were poorly attended but as interest grew finally a bigger percentage of members attended. The result was that from a motion which was opposed outright by the State Secretary in all sincerity, through a system of filtering amendments there was settlement. In any free society, whether it be shareholders or trade unionists, a settlement cannot be rammed down people's throats. They have to have the right of arbitration. There is all this fear about 1-day stoppages. Often when the first report on negotiations comes out at least there is an opportunity to get all members at a meeting. I ask honourable senators not to run away with the idea that with a postal ballot there cannot be manipulation. There can be manipulation in any society, even in our national and State elections. There will always be an unscrupulous person.

I simply get back to this theme. Some honourable senators have probably applauded the fact that Central Intelligence Agency money helped to create strikes against Allende in Chile. I do not endorse all that he stood for, but to some people he was a hero. The same probably occurred in relation to Poznan in Poland when there was the first manifestation of extreme Communist rule. Honourable senators opposite applauded that. I suppose that in a free society the Trade Union Congress is entitled to question some of the views of my ministerial colleagues. Honourable senators opposite will cite such incidents with glee. They will not say: 'Put them in gaol'. But I know that if such things were said against Mr Snedden honourable senators would be looking for scapegoats. I know that Senator Greenwood on one memorable night here was close to suggesting that the venerable secretary of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, George Slater, ought to be committed to the dungeons. It depends on our point of view how we see these things.

As far as this concept of amalgamations is concerned, we have to see it all in relation to resultant industrial turmoil. The plain fact is that people today- whether parliamentarians or trade unionists- are looking to see that they protect their jobs for the future. It does not matter whether we are in office or whether the Opposition is in office and whether the concept is retraining in industry. We cannot go along to some rubber workers in Bankstown and say: 'Look, we think you ought to lift up your home, take everything and go to Goulburn and decentralise there'. I know that this is the attitude of the adherents of decentralisation in some of the parties here. But let us put that to the individuals. I ram the point home that a union cannot be stampeded in a dispute. A dispute cannot be settled by remote control. People talk of 249 members making a decision which affects a union of 20,000. There has to be someone with a little bit of guts who is prepared to put a different point of view.

I say to Senator Scott that we cannot run away from these things and look at the situation in an aloof state. Australian trade unionists officials can be heckled, booed and all this sort of thing but honourable senators know the old adage: Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me '. This applies now. If there is a gigantic injection of apathy we have to live with it. Some people talk about management committees reaching an agreement in relation to these mergers. Of course there is provision that the Registrar can look at the matter if there are enough people with genuine motivations who feel that they have an objection. Most union people have served on management committeeslet us forget the paid official- and they have had long and honourable careers. The members are quite happy to trust them. The situation will come when members will pull them up with a jerk. There is a great blending in the trade union movement. Nobody has a monopoly on a viewpoint. There are people who have no political allegiance. There are people who support the major political parties and people who support the splinter parties.

What is the answer when we get to a stage when a dispute reaches extreme magnitude? Honourable senators were talking about South Australia. I think that the South Australian Labor Council officials and the Premier worked very effectively. Any honourable senator hereincluding Senator Greenwood from his past performances and in the light of what might happen to him in the future- knows what the result will be if the police are brought out on a baton charge or if the Army is called on. Maybe in times of national stress there are occasions when one appeals to the rank and file but one has to have a sense of timing. Offers have to be made. Sometimes one can talk until one is blue in the face without result. Because of automation there are a lot of people in industry today who do not know where they will be in 5 years' time. This applies even to members of Parliament. We have some form of inbuilt protection because of superannuation but a lot of workers do not get it.

As far as this subject of potential amalgamations is concerned, if we look at the matter closely we will see that there is no ideological conflict with many of them. I know that in one or two unions we can think of what might happen. I suppose that in relation to the Federated Storemen and Packers Union there could be justification for a merger with the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. On the subject of gradualism, there was a little union in New South Wales, the Carrington Coal Crane Operators. The secretary was a man named Outridge or something like that. That union had a sort of fear that the Waterside Workers Federation would swallow it up. There is no more influential, astute and competent official on a national level than Charlie Fitzgibbon. He explained to these people the benefits they could obtain and subsequent events vindicated his viewpoint. There was a partial absorption of the union but certain ways were left open. The last issue of the maritime workers journal shows that people like Mr Outridge have agreed that the union should sever its State registration and become a fully fledged member of the Waterside Workers Federation. I say 'fully fledged' because the union already had rights in the top echelon of the waterside workers union. So often in life for every reform which is put up there are people who say what might happen. As a moral to the story I point to a relatively small union of about 300 members in Newcastle- I think its correct title was the Carrington Crane Drivers Unionwhich was effectively integrated. This will happen all the time. But there will always be the other dangers which no union can control. I suppose we can point to the much maligned George Slater of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union. There are occasions when there can be a revolt from certain sections. We have to live with these situations. The plain fact of the matter is that if on the one hand we applaud for cheap political advantage the rank and file for revolting against union officials we cannot have it the other way when we try to reduce unions in stature.

I conclude virtually where I started in relation to higher educational standards. The young members of unions are reasonably well read. They will not take as gospel what Bob Hawke or the union members management committee may say. But having said that, let us get away from this ritual of people harping about the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. One of the things we learn in trade unionism is that if we get knocked over verbally a few times we come back to the next meeting. There are too many of these hit and run experts. A gentleman named Drinkwater spearheaded an episode in the Metal Workers Union. He has never been seen since at union meetings and he was at very few meetings before then, lt is just like a political reputation. One has to earn one's spurs by being efficient and untiring. Far too many people are not prepared to do that. I ask for the incorporation in Hansard of pages 3 and 9 of 'Pipeline', the official journal of the Water and Sewerage Employee 's Union so that I can prove to honourable senators that union finance is a very difficult job in stewardship. It is difficult to keep a union in a stable position. I want to incorporate page 9 to show that although a ballot was run by the State Electoral Officer of New South Wales who was appointed by Sir Robert Askin it did not stop somebody squealing on the ballot. Honourable senators say that somebody in Brisbane said that certain service property of the Metal Workers Union was not complete. I know that my colleague Senator Mcintosh and the husband of Senator Coleman would be more fitted to talk on the overall position of that union. When the sheet metal workers and the boilermakers were brought in with the engineering trades of course there were difficulties but better research services were provided. When we talk about services in the trade union movement, do we realise that in a sense we are talking about the law of diminishing returns? From time to time union organisers should be sent up to Port Hedland and places like that. They are needed up there with the nomadic work force and with the way that people are chiselled out of their money. I use the word chisel' in the form that it is not only private enterprise that is involved. Sometimes, Government ineptitude is involved also. Last year, I took out some figures from the Commonwealth Employment Service in regard to the position in Western Australia. The figures were in relation to people who were unemployed and entitled to sickness and unemployment benefits but who for various reasons never claimed that benefit. These are areas in which the trade union movement has to spend considerable time and money chasing up members of our nomadic work force. Mr Acting Deputy President, I ask for your permission to have pages 3, 5 and 9 of this magazine Pipeline ' incorporated in my speech in Hansard.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-

Annual Report- by Secretary John Glebe

SOLID GAINS AND SOUND FINANCES

While last year may have been most eventful, this past year has certainly proven to be one of major breakthroughs and gains for members generally and the Union as a whole.

Firstly, to elaborate on the Income and Expenditure of your Union in relation to Mr D. C Carr's report and audit of your Union affairs.

At the last Anuual General Meeting in July, 1973 it was anticipated we would finalise our overdraft at the Rural Bank without having to sell any of your Union's assets. We were not able to accomplish this. However, with further negotiations we were allowed to extend our overdraft and in that way do not have to reduce your Union's assets. I might point out that if we had not had the challenge to the organisers' ballot from a dual union member that caused a great cost in relation to legal expenses, approximately $9,358 of your money, plus a few other unexpected charges, we would no doubt have finalised not only our overdraft but definitely been on the road to obtaining Union property and also possibly buying property in country area beachside resorts.

Income from all sources as Mr Carr states was $187,378, total expenditure for that same year was $179,109, leaving a surplus of $8,269, in the previous year.

A deficiency existed of $15,920 which we paid and as Mr Carr points out would have meant a surplus of $24, 189 and possibly even greater had it not been for an increase in operating costs and unusual expenses. I point to Mr Carr's comparisons and they are as follows: 1972 Salaries $65,806- 1 973 $82,775 1972 Printing and Stationery $5,746- 1973 $13,382 1972 Postage $29 1 3- 1 973 $6,779 1972 Ballot costs $4,392-1973 Nil 1 973 Ballot cost dispute $4,669 1972 Legal costs $4,045- 1973 $9,358 1972 Affiliation fees $5,508-1973 $6,974 1 972 General expenses $ 1 4,553- 1 973 $ 1 5,8 1 1

Mr Carr'sanalysis of the expenses in the calendar year 1973 is as follows:

Expenses Allowances $6,948

Bank Charges $120,41

Equipment, Maintenance and Repairs $566.58

Flower Tributes $115,25

Translators, which I might point out to members we are using a lot more these days for our European members, came to $482.80

Uniforms for the Office Staff $181.93

Staff Amenities $39 1 . 80

Levies A.C.T.U. and Labor Council Fees $475.69

Bank lnterest$l,395.74

Staff procurement- we use the employment agency for temporary staff $883. 10

Delegation and Court Expenses $266 The trip that I made on behalf of the Union to the World

Peace Congress $829.87

Cash Shortage $11.93

Meeting Allowances $226

Expenses and Fares $77.95

Organisers Expenses $263.66

Tea Money $148.50

Miscellaneous $2,426.64

Thetotalbeing$15,811.15

I approach the Union's Committee of Management for permission to employ a member of the Committee of Management, Ron Cowan, from 13.2.73 to 14. 12.73, a total of 44 weeks. He was employed in an acting capacity which greatly assisted the members and the Union generally.

I again approached the Committee of Management to allow John Eastwood to come on as an Acting Organiser from 21 August 1972 to 4 February 1973. Further permission was given to bring John Eastwood on from 5 March 1973 to 27 May 1973 and again from 10 September 1973 when Ron Cowan returned to his position at Leichhardt from 10 September 1973 up until this present time, being a total in all up until June of this year of 78 weeks. The need for both Ron Cowan and John Eastwood arose when both organisers took their annual leave and when I was away representing the Union at the World Peace Congress in October for six weeks.

During the period ended December 1973, we had a number of major disputes with the Board. This incurred large expenditure and time but one pleasing factor is that not only did we win our disputes but learnt valuable lessons for the future.

Records Computerised

To post out the Pipeline could not have been done in the old way, especially now 60 per cent of our membership are on fortnightly payroll deductions. These deductions, when received from the Board, have to be checked against membership records. After this decision was reached, a mammoth task was undertaken by the Records Section and the office staff generally. Not only do we have membership records computerised but also the financial side. This means not only can we post the journal Pipeline out on a bi-monthly basis, but where an urgent need arises a section of the membership, if not the total membership, can be notified of important issues.

You can see it was completely essential we took the step of computerising our membership records and the financial position of our membership.

This also greatly assisted our Union's Auditor and Accountant, Mr D. C. Carr. Again I draw members' attention to Mr Carr's comments in relation to the bulk postage concerning Pipeline postage which amounts in that particular period to $4,602.

Gains, Rales, Conditions

Members are in receipt of the further increase of $7.70 bringing minimum rate without service pay or other increments to $110.08.

On conditions, these again speak for themselves. Conditions gained not only in our last award which we are still working on, but up until the present time, are in keeping with our forward policy of making the life of our members much more pleasant on the job.

I must also point out that through united action at job level and higher, we have a much greater respect and understanding shown to our members and greater respect generally from the Management. There have been many cases of reinstatement. Bad amenities and conditions, such as sheds and toilets have been rectified. Wholesale down-grading of members in higher classifications where, in the Board's opinion, there was no further work available, has been taken up.

Moves to relieve members of higher classification and reduce them to construction worker were argued out with the management and the decision reversed, so they not only work on their higher grades but will continue to do so for an indefinite period of time.

New Union Home

In the near future we plan a further Special General Meeting to give the administration of your Union the approval to purchase property. We, at present, have $137,000 tied up in Water Board Loans which the previous administration had been investing in the Water Board for a period of many years. However, these Bonds are realising less because of inflation and depreciation of money. There are two building sites we are currently looking at. It will need, once a decision is made to sell the Bonds, to realise the money so that we can purchase one of the two buildings we have in mind. The Union will then have a home for all time of a value that will increase as years go on. In this way the Union will further be able to realise one of its other goals- supplying holiday accommodation to the members.

In conclusion I thank the General President Mr Don Ellis; the Vice-President, Reg Grief: the Treasurer, Mr Harry Watson; the two Trustees. Stan Steadman and Joe Charlton and the Committee of Management members for their loyalty and co-operation over the past 12 months.

I also thank Mr Dick Riley, my Assistant Secretary; Organisers, Jim Gore, Reg Hooker, Sid Lake and John Eastwood for their most valued assistance and loyalty over the past 12 months. It shows, members, that with a team loyal to one another and prepared to work in with one another, prepared to sit down and discuss over the table the problems that exist not only on the job but in one's own views and interpretation of such view* that we can after such discussion come to an understanding agreeable to all and of benefit to the members.

VOTE OF SOLID CONFIDENCE IN UNION LEADERSHIP

1974 BALLOT RESULTS

26 July 1974

Mr J.Glebe, General Secretary,

Water & Sewerage Employees' Union, Room 66, Trades Hall, Goulburn Street, Sydney, N.S.W.2000.

Dear Sir,

The counting of the Water and Sewerage Employees' Union (Wages Division) ballot, which closed on 24 July 1 974, in respect of the positions of President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Assistant Secretary, Organisers and Committee of Management, has been completed.

Details of the result of the ballot are as follows:

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the following positions only sufficient nominations were received to fill the vacancies required and accordingly the members concerned are declared elected unopposed:

Charlton, W.J.

Steadman, S. F.

General Secretary

Glebe, J.

Yours faithfully, C. W. PRINCE,

Electoral Commissioner and Officer conducting the Water and Sewerage Employees' Union (Wages Division) Election under Section 1 1 1 J of the Industrial Arbitration Act.

SINCERE THANKS

by John Glebe, General Secretary

Dear Members,

My fellow officers and Committee of Management members have asked me to express their sincere thanks for the confidence and trust you have placed in them for yet another three years.

Yours fraternally, JOHN GLEBE.


Senator Greenwood - What was the union?







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