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(en) SPARKS No.110 April/May 2003, The anarcho-syndicalist

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 23 May 2003 10:13:24 +0200 (CEST)

Rank and File
Transport Workers Pape http://members.fortunecity.com/sparksweb/index.htm II (2/2)
Sender: worker-a-infos-en@ainfos.ca
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Reply-To: a-infos-en

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

Sparks As you know the Membership eventually always votes `yes' to
most things the STA & Union put forward in the EBA's. What do you
make of that? Amigo Unfortunately they undersell themselves and
would appear that for just a 3% or 4% adjustment they would sign any
kind of EBA even if it had a privatization clause in it. It's a real worry. I
think they find it hard to believe that as Drivers they are doing a very
important and responsible job, which helps to generate millions in
profitability (just check the annual accounts over the years and see).
Sparks What are some of the important revenue performing functions
Drivers perform? Amigo They sell tickets (as conductors), they drive
longer and bigger buses (doubling up e.g. bendy bus), they carry lots
of advertising (some drivers outside just drive around with ad trailer
ads and get over $500 per week for just that. STA Drivers, carry adds,
sell tickets, answer questions, public relations, face road rage, face
assault, face intoxicating smells, face being personally charged by
Police for any number of things whilst trying to do their job etc. Not
many jobs out there carry so much risk and get paid so little. The
appx. average net in hand wage for a Driver, including many
unsociable weekend and evening hours and penalties is only about
$14 per hour! Sparks It would appear from the last EBA vote that
some southern & western depots have greater salary expectations
than the northern beaches depots. Would you say that was proved in
the last ballot? Amigo Yes. In a way we have to raise our hats to the
southern depots for holding out longer and in doing so achieved
another 1% or so. The northern depots I think were ready to accept
the first offer of 3%. Sparks Yes that's the way it came out from the
ballot and meetings. Why are they willing to accept less considering
they live and work in one of the most expensive parts of Sydney?
Amigo It's hard to tell. My guess is they can't really afford strikes or
don't believe in strikes. Maybe they are in debt so much they can't
really afford a strike. Others like the job and are able to survive
because they can get overtime to make ends meet. Every one is an
individual really. Everyone has their price for doing a job, some expect
more, some expect less. The ones who are happy with their salary and
don't feel ripped off I suppose are the lucky ones, but as the ballot
showed, about 50% are not, so it's that group which needs to be
represented perhaps by a new union which will address their
concerns. I think a satisfaction level of only about 50% is not good at
all! Sparks What about hygiene on the buses? Amigo The STA policy
is to clean buses only once in 24 hours. The late PM Drivers cop lots
of dirt on the buses by the evening because when they start their shift
in the afternoon, the buses have already been out on the road for 9
hours or so and have accumulated lots of rubbish in the them.
However, these dirty buses instead of being cleaned when they come
in the shed, they are just rebooked out for another 9 or so hours! The
problem is compounded by air con buses with blowers agitating the
dust and dirt, etc, into people's noses, lungs etc. Buses obviously
should be cleaned twice daily. After all, the STA expects Drivers to
come to work clean, showered in a smart uniform, etc. Why? To sit in a
garbage can for 9 hours? Sparks As you might have heard, militants
are organizing to run new candidates for the union elections. What do
you feel about that? Amigo Well at least they are trying to bring about
some much-needed change. Like Presidents etc, no one should be
allowed to remain in office for more than two terms simply because
they will eventually be compromised! Change is healthy particularly
when statistics overwhelmingly show a nose dive decline in Members'
conditions and standards! For a list of losses and giveaways see last
month's issue of Sparks or visit the website. Sparks But do you think a
change of a couple of people will really make any significant
difference? Amigo Well to me, history has clearly shown that no
significant benefits will flow down to the Workers from just replacing a
couple of people in the union. This is because the real problem is
mostly a systems problem i.e. the constitution of the union rules are
geared up against the interests of the Members. So when new people
take positions they are very quickly drawn into and absorbed by the
same no good system. Before they know it, the new recruits soon
undergo an identity change and quickly begin to act for the interests
of the fat cats! You see almost everyone can be influenced (due to
human nature and the global material educating system) and
compromised if the system allows it! So it's up to Workers to invent a
system which is safeguarded to quickly remove any official who
appears not to be carrying out the directives of the Membership. A
OF `WHAT IS DEMOCRATIC UNIONISM?' Surely militants must
realize that their candidates should they be successful in the
upcoming union elections will have no chance whatsoever in changing
the well established union system which serves the fat cats! However,
it must also be accepted that many Members also accept the existing
STA union and their way of doing things, so they are happy. I
therefore feel that resources should have instead or also been
allocated to forming a new union with a democratic constitution as
outlined at the back of Sparks, so as to represent those many
thousands of dissatisfied customers. REGARDLESS OF MY OPINION
difference. I think Members should vote for new candidates with fresh
modern industrial democratic ideas. It's time we moved on from
thinking inside the square! Sparks Point taken amigo, but we believe
that a change in leadership is vital and will make a significant
difference to Worker's rights and equity. You see a new leadership is
only half the problem solved. What is also needed is for us to
somehow get through to the Membership the important message of
beginning to take an active part in bringing about change and
claiming their rights! So far, as you know, the Membership at each
working location have failed to form Member Committees (to be open
to all Members) which would research the local needs of Members and
instruct the Union Rep as to what they want him/her to negotiate for
them with Management. So in the absence of such Workers
Committees, the Management, through the Reps, are often just
running their own agenda. That's why almost all changes have come
from having been promoted by Management and hardly any changes
have been started by the Membership! Sparks We heard that the
Brookvale Rep has left and another taking his place. What's
happened? Amigo Yes the Union Rep has left and it was reported that
a caretaker Rep would take over. The disturbing report was that the
new caretaker Rep had to be approved by the other union reps down
town. Obviously this is not democracy. The Members should accept
the Rep and the other Reps should have no power over him. Otherwise
if he/she does not think like them or was independent, they would
prefer to disapprove until they got someone like-minded. I think
something like this happened at Mona Vale a couple of years ago. A
Rep was voted in, but, he never took office for some reason. Sparks
As you know the Union Officials have executive power under the
existing constitution to do what they like. In the last EBA Officials
pretended to be guided by the Membership but when the Membership
voted in the first ballot for things against their own beliefs and
interests, the Officials used their executive power not to act in the way
the Membership wanted. Instead as you know they organized more
meetings and more ballots until they got the Membership to vote the
way they wanted, then they held no further ballots or meetings. Amigo
What you say is true. Union Officials have executive power BUT
is improved. Sparks - What are some of the things individual Members
can do to protect themselves from STA exploitation & inequity? Amigo
The true measure of a Workers worth is really measured by how much
productivity and profit the enterprise the Worker works in, makes.
Workers restructure, work longer hours, take on additional work etc all
for the sake of improving the bottom line, so it's up to individual
Workers to lobby their unions and employer to make sure they share
in the benefits of all the hard work and restructuring. They could ask
their Reps and STA questions like: a) If we are restructuring and
working harder and smarter how come we only get below inflation pay
adjustments? b) If we can only get 3% or 4% how can the CEO
working in the same company get 22% plus? c) When we take on
additional work like diverting buses to pubs at night to clear away
drunk patrons, why do we not get paid extra for that? d) Even Mr.
Abbott talks about `worker profit sharing for greater productivity and
commitment' so how come the Union never talks about profit sharing
and bonus agreements for us, as exist for other Workers, Managers,
Owners, Investors etc? e) Why can we not re arrange our rosters so as
to work 4 on 3 off? Only Bus Drivers seem to work 12 on 1 off 12 on
etc? When is the union going to do some changes which actually
benefit the Drivers for a change instead of all the changes coming
from the STA? f) In Sydney we face more stress, more traffic, carry
more passengers than rural Drivers in other towns/cities. So, why
don't we get an allowance to reflect this extra productivity? Sparks
Who do you think is mostly responsible for lower standards in the
industry? Amigo Firstly, I think it's unsatisfied Members not taking
any action to pressure their Unions to act, secondly it appears that
Union Officials have been compromised and are not promoting
equitable and modern industrial democracy concepts to their
Members. Sparks What you are saying is the problem is that too many
dissatisfied Members are `grudging and bearing it' instead of saying
to their union `look I am paying you fees. I know by law I don't have to
belong to a Union so if you don't start delivering some real equity
benefits for me, I am simply going to stop paying you my fees!' Amigo
Yes that's right it's important to get value for money. If one keeps on
paying for shoddy goods and services nothing much will ever change!
The only people who should really be in Unions are those who are
happy with their services. Sparks Amigo you tend tend to go on about
the bad conditions but surely you are wrong because if the conditions
were so bad, the STA would not be able to recruit Drivers? Amigo
Conditions are really bad. The only way they can get Drivers is by
heavy advertising and there is a big turnover. The STA policy to
introduce part timers failed miserably as no one could afford to stay!
The only people who stay now are those who like to work long (50 plus
per week) hard hours! Those who want to work just normal hours
cannot possibly live in Sydney. So the STA over the years has tricked
Drivers into reducing their average hourly wage (one example of this
deceitful practice was when they took the Sunday out of the roster
and replaced it by a flat day) and has cleverly succeeded in offering
Drivers overtime so that they can make up the drop in hourly rates! If
the STA stopped the overtime, then they would substantially have to
increase the normal hourly rate otherwise the Drivers would leave and
STA would find it difficult to find replacements! Who can be a Bus
Driver in Sydney, at such low hourly rates, without overtime? Sparks
So you are saying that the STA offers overtime to give the illusion that
it's a highly paid job, when in fact the hourly rate is amongst the
lowest in the country! Sparks What do you think of Transit Times, the
magazine, the STA brings out regularly? Amigo It does give some
useful news and articles, but beneath the iceberg it has only a very
narrow agenda and view of things. It's main purpose is to be
censored, and to be used as a channel of controlling/instructing
Drivers as to become more efficient, etc, so as to improve the bottom
line. Improving the bottom line means more profits at the top and
nothing for the Workers at the bottom. Let's be honest and realistic
how many times has the TT ever-mentioned bonuses and profit
sharing? I've never seen it and I think that's because it's a taboo
subject for them. Also the paper always seems to talk about Drivers
and what Drivers ought to be doing to improve things, etc, but it never
seems to talk about how Managers are going to become more efficient
(e.g. how about cleaning buses twice instead of once during a 24hour
cycle?). So you see the evidence is clear it's double standards.some
people want a much higher

Sparks: What's happening with "Better Buses"? Waverley Busie: Are
our jobs making everyone tired and sick? I believe so. The changes to
runs associated with the bosses' "Better Buses" policy is certainly
contributing to this tiredness and is causing a ludicrous situation.
Running times in the case of certain routes are being severely
tightened. I've noticed on runs to Circular Quay, rest breaks have
been reduced by several minutes. In the past the rest break would 5 to
7 minutes and on occasion 10 minutes. I'd have time to have a walk.
Now I don't have that opportunity. I just have to stay in my bus. This
speed up in our work has been contributed by delays in our runs
caused by heavy traffic in the city and the irresponsibility of the
bosses in failing to take account of this fact in the new timetables and
running times. I have also observed that certain areas in the Eastern
Suburbs are being isolated. There are now no bus services
connecting Rose Bay with Bondi Beach. Recently a passenger
suggested to me a solution to the problem. She proposed that the 386
run be extended by 5 minutes. It should go down to Bondi Beach, and
then turn back up Curlewis St. and return to the normal route. If this
idea was adopted by the STA, it would make good sense. Whilst Bondi
Beach is only connected with services from Bondi Junction and Dover
Heights. There is some what of a void between Rose Bay and Double
Bay as services aren't connected. Sparks: What's happening with the
ABC? WB: I'm a member of the group "Friends of the ABC". I read in
the latest edition of their magazine, an article expressing concern
regarding the likely ramifications of the next GATS (Global
Agreement on Trade and Services) for the ABC. Will the ABC and its
programmes be regarded just as a commodity which can be
purchased on the market by multinational companies? In this article,
"Friends of the ABC" expressed concern that the ABC may be
privatised or have its programming affected by out sourcing and
creeping commercialisation moves associated with GATS. As a result,
the ABC would cease being a provider of community services. If such
a prestigious entity as the ABC is coming under the long shadow of
GATS, you can imagine the strong likelihood of these processes
associated with GATS affecting such entities as the buses. Sparks:
What are you thoughts on the last edition of Sparks? WB: I must give
praise to Amigo of Brookvale Depot for his uncovering of the various
conditions we have lost over the years, due to the manipulation of the
union executive. His argument that the recent meagre wage rise
associated with the EBA in fact would mean a reduction in our real
wages due to the CPI increase and wage cuts associated with shift
changes has also proven to be correct. It just goes to show again the
importance of booting out the current union executive and not voting
for their co-thinkers and supporters in the upcoming union elections
this year. Sparks: What are your thoughts on the recent enterprise
agreement? WB: In selling the recent enterprise agreement, the union
executive gave the impression that the deal as it comprised the
nefarious "transmission of business" clause, would preserve our jobs
in the event of privatisation. This is a dangerous illusion. On a recent
ABC radio talk back programme, a listener who was a former Ansett
worker, employed at the airport terminal, rang up. He appeared to be a
young and quite smart and sincere bloke. He mentioned that a clause
in the EBA between his union and Ansett stated that he and his fellow
airport employees would have 12 months pay in the event of
redundancy. He and his work mates believed the EBA and its
provisions would hold in all circumstances. To their dismay, this
proved to be a false hope. Following Ansett's collapse, he and other
airport terminal workers were sacked and have received no
redundancy payments. The tax payer will also now have to pay for
their entitlements. He considered that the EBA signed with Ansett
was effectively just a piece of paper. The conclusion, we must draw is
that any EBA has no legs. Its not legally binding and that its
provisions are there to be broken. The only way to defend and
improve conditions and jobs is with direct action on the job. Sparks:
What's happening with the depots? WB: I have heard a whisper that a
French company and the STA is wanting to tender for individual small
private bus company depots. Is this true? What exactly would happen
in the event of privatisation in regard to the institutes which many of
us have contributed to over the years. Will we be financially
reimbursed for our contributions to the institutes? What exactly is
happening behind the scenes regarding privatisation moves? I invite
John Stott, the CEO and Bruce Eldridge and Pat Ryan, and Trevor
Avery RTBU bosses to come out to the depots, show some integrity
and authenticity and provide a general outlook for the STA? I
recognise some of them are well educated academically and have a
broad knowledge of STA operations and are definitely in a position to
enlighten us on the destiny of the STA. Sparks: What's the situation
with the buses in Victoria? WB: I've heard the privatised bus system is
on the verge of collapse and the Victorian Govt. has to continually bail
out the private bus operators. Sparks: What's happening with the
buses in Adelaide? WB: Can you imagine a situation where you are
feeling down and you don't read your roster properly and leave a stop
early or late. Subsequently an inspector gets on your bus at a
terminus, confronts you over the matter and you face a heavy fine for
such a minor error? This is the deplorable situation facing bus drivers
in Adelaide since privatisation. Several years ago Govt buses in
Adelaide were taken over by several private bus companies Adelaide
Public Transport, South Link, Torrens and Serco. Since the private
profiteer takeover, bus drivers have faced a wave of savage attacks.
According to an article by Craig Clark in the Advertiser Newspaper,
bus drivers are being made individually responsible for the running of
the bus services by the companies and the transport department!
During the period 1/5/2001 to 30/4/2002, on average 8 fines a day or
$740,000 pa and above worth of fines were imposed on bus drivers for
early running, missed services and late running. These fines are quite
considerable and have caused major drops in bus drivers' wages -
$213 for late running, $534 for a missed service and $320 for a bus
running early. Is this revenue raised from fines being passed on to the
private bus operators? The Adelaide experience certainly shows the
increased ferocity of attacks which privatisation will cause and the
importance of major industrial resistance. Sparks: What's happening
with the buses in Perth? WB: I recently met a tourist from Perth who
regularly catches buses. He mentioned that he considered the quality
of bus services in Perth had gone down hill since privatisation.
Sparks: What are you thoughts on Chinese Medicine? WB: Recently
several readers of Sparks at Waverley asked me about the Chinese
herbal remedies available in Chinatown.. Whilst a woman I recently
met again in Chinatown expressed her appreciation to me regarding
the advice I gave her 6 or 7 years ago regarding the therapeutic
qualities of Chinese herbal remedies. She has a rare disease, a form of
lupus. She had heard that people who acquire this condition are dead
at roughly 35 by just resorting to conventional Western medicine. On
her own initiative she has been using the herbs for 4 years . She is
very happy that due to the herbs she is still alive. A Chinese Doctor
who has been treating me, mentioned that he has seen some Chinese
bus drivers who have raised stress levels and suffer high blood
pressure, hypertension, raised cholesterol and other serious
conditions. He considered a major cause of this stress was the
number of small tasks bus drivers often have to perform. He
considered older drivers to be particularly susceptible to this stress
causing them to become run down and exhausted. As most bus
drivers know, many small tasks have to be done on some runs such as
handling money, watching out for people walking out in front of cars
onto the road, steering the bus, handling aggressive passengers, etc.
Many small tasks involved in the job can build up quite considerable
pressure, undermining your health. To combat this problem its vital
we have regular rest breaks and not so tight running times. Regular
medical check ups are also important. At these check ups, its
important to ask the Doctor penetrating questions to secure adequate
advice to tackle your health problems. Without such questioning you
can leave the appointment without the health problem being solved.
Sparks: What else is happening on the health front? WB: I've been
seeing a physiotherapist by the name of Goran Barron in Bronte Rd
Bondi Junction. I have found his treatment reasonable and as good as
any other physio I've seen in the past. I have found his treatment to be
quite relaxing. It's always important to talk to your therapist to get the
most information and take advantage of their knowledge. However
certain STA staff have been spreading the word that he isn't up to
scratch. I can see no basis for this black balling. He should be given a
fair go. Sparks: What do you think of economic rationalism? WB: I
have recently been reading a book by Lindy Edwards called "How to
Argue with an Economist". It throws quite a bit of light on why our jobs
in various fields have gone down hill since the 1980's, associated with
declining wages and the pace of work getting faster. Step in the
Economic Rationalists. Many may be unaware that economists who
act as consultants for politicians of various stripes have played a key
role in developing economic rationalist policies which are worsening
our jobs and conditions in the interest of corporate profiteering. I'm
not saying every politician is good or bad, but believe it or not, their
consultants with economic rationalist agendas make the policies of
various politicians. The Politicians only take a few initiatives, by
themselves. Sparks: What's happening with the Paddington Ghost?
WB: He's received a promotion in the Sparks organisation and has
become our mascot. You'll soon see him jumping on your bus,
resplendent in a guernsey emblazoned with the Sparks Logo in garish

Laurie Cunjak: Of course, many drivers are dissatisfied with the lack
of a decent pay rise. Beyond that...Well, there is unnecessary
harassment by management on the job, especially when sickies are in
question. Surely if drivers bring a certificate and are entitled to a
sickie, there aught to be no need for harassment. When drivers take
their sickies, they are called in to be questioned by management.
Drivers need their sickies because of the high stress of navigating
Sydney's traffic - I would like to see this upheld by the union, as
management behaviour seeks to discourage drivers using their
sickies. In the time I have worked for State Transit (since 1982), There
has been a huge increase in stress, because Sydney's traffic has
become drastically worse. The buses have improved over time, they
are not as difficult to operate as they were, but there is now far more
traffic. We get a timetable that is not possible to run on time. Only a
few runs manage to hold to the timetable. As a consequence, drivers
become very stressed - we are only human, we do our best! If any
complaints are lodged against a driver by phone, the driver gets called
in before management, and might also be stopped in the hallway while
on duty. That's harassment in my opinion. I think that there should be
an insistence that wherever possible, the union representative
accompany drivers when called in to management in this way. There
is favouritism with the rosters, where the better shifts are not fairly
distributed. This happens at every depot. We also get shorter shifts,
so we have to work overtime to make up for it. Some drivers are
concerned about the plans for the new bus depot being constructed
by State Transit currently at Liverpool. The buses will be owned and
run by State Transit, however, the drivers will be employed under
conditions resembling those in the private bus industry. Drivers who
currently work for State Transit and wish to transfer to the Liverpool
depot will have to reapply just as any external applicant. The pay rate
for these jobs is lower, and less sickies are offered, and there is no
explanation why. Plenty of drivers live out west, and would welcome
the chance to transfer closer to home, but not under these conditions.
Starting with the first EBA after the Workplace Relations Act came in,
there have been dramatic changes in the attitude of management. The
arrogance was always there, but now there is more pressure on
drivers, to which the union has been nonchalant. SPARKS: DO THE
LC: Well, their capacity to do so is hindered by the fact that at many
depots, there is a conflict of interest which affects union delegates.
Because many of them are Customer Service Coordinators (CSCs:
bus inspectors), their job is part of lower management, yet at the same
time, they are union representatives, meant to stand up to
management on behalf of members. Many times, we find the union
defending management instead of members. When there is a problem
with management at the depot, the union often says, "oh yes, they can
do that". How can they run both management and the union? There is
not much defence on the side of the driver. The Union representatives
should fight for members regardless, that's why they were chosen for
that job, to fight for drivers any way they can. If the reps at the depots
had support from a more suitable Secretary and President, they could
be more informed as to what their role is, and offer better defence for
members. Those union reps who choose to stand on side of members
are not in favour with the current Secretary/President duo and get
less attention. At a depot meeting during the EBA period, our union
rep at Burwood was cut off when he tried to say something, he was
not permitted to finish. I've looked into the history, and twenty-five
years back, our union fought hard to win all the conditions we have
enjoyed since. Unfortunately, the union is now giving them away,
sometimes suddenly and without members' consent or knowledge.
For instance, Saturday shifts are no longer voluntary, and the second
half of those shifts are no longer paid double time, but only
time-and-a-half. Not so long ago, we had a Treasurer for the union
from Burwood depot. He is deceased, but has never been replaced.
Now that position no longer exists what happened to it? We used to
receive the financial statements for our specific branch of the union,
the bus division. Now we only get the bulk figures for the union as a
whole. In a recent edition of the Union's magazine, it doesn't address
bus drivers directly at all, even though we account for 3,500 members!
Instead, it talks lots about politics. There is a big spread on the union's
Submission to the Labor Party's Review process, currently under way.
It suggests that some union funds be used to encourage members to
join the Labor Party. Why not dedicate such funds to educating
members to be good unionists and good union leaders? SPARKS: IN
union representatives could include: to supply the union rules to
members, so that members know how to make use of their union. To
pass on members' decisions to management; never to sign any
document on behalf of members before full consideration by
members. To hold regular monthly meetings (which is current policy
but does not happen), and to call special meetings if the situation
requires it. To have recorded notes of each meeting, which can be
read over at the following one. Any notices or publicity information
needs to be translated into other languages besides English - close to
half our workforce is culturally non-Anglo! To look after the rosters, to
ensure they are fairly distributed without any favouritism, which
happens in every depot. Ensure that drivers are paid at the proper
rate, not less than we aught to be. SPARKS: ANY COMMENTS ON
The union stepped on their own members. Even at depots like
Waverley, Brookvale where the Secretary has some support, many
drivers believe they were sold out, that's the truth. The current
President and Secretary did not see the need to explain every clause
of the EBA to members - as though we are "not worth spit", that's how
some have phrased it. Instead, the union executives tried to scare
people into believing that we can't go on strike because then we won't
be able to pay personal bills, debts etc. Many members totally
overlooked the content, they just voted to get it over with. I call it the
`ballot of shame' ! The so-called "income protection clause" won some
drivers in the East, but it in fact approves pay cuts of up to 2% caused
by recent roster changes for Eastern runs, which is now in effect,
reducing the minimal "pay rise" even further! With the Transmission of
Business clause, the union let their members down, not securing their
future and compensation as recognition of service to State Transit.
The union executive reckons this clause gives us "security" - far from
it! Instead, it lets us be sold off cheap, and we could still get the sack
soon after being handed over! No one can dispute that a private
operator would expect fewer drivers to do the same work in less time.

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