Labour bites


The issues at stake in the contract dispute between Australian cricketers and their union, the Australia Cricketers Association, and Cricket Australia (CA) are complex. Essentially they involve a shift from the way cricketers were compensated over the past 20 years – from players receiving a set share of CA’s revenue, to one where CA would pay players an amount unlinked from the revenue.

The players are in favour of the current model because it in effect treats them as partners with CA rather than mere workers for hire and the effectiveness of their operating as a collective is apparent. Were the players operating individually they would be stuffed.

CA sought to change a longstanding industrial relations model that would see it get a greater share of money and tried to divide players in order to achieve these aims.

Right now cricketers across the nation are unemployed. They are not on strike; they are just no longer employed by CA. With an Ashes series looming, there is little doubt that CA believed it held the whip handle – that players would back down for fear of missing out on the series. But the players are unified.

They know that the impact of one player not playing in an Ashes series is greatly different from the entire team (and those in the state cricket system) not playing.

The old adage used to be the captain of the Australian Men’s Test team was the second most important position after the prime minister – and yet even Smith, holder of such a supposedly powerful position, also recognises the need to be a member of a union if he is to have any power in employment negotiations. (Source: The Guardian)

Casual teacher exploitation

Commenting on the release of a government review into modern working practices, education unions in the United Kingdom have expressed great disappointment at its failure to address the ongoing exploitation of substitute teachers by many employment agencies.

According to the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), the Taylor Review, released on 11 July, fails to make key recommendations. Despite acknowledging that a lack of regulatory enforcement was enabling unscrupulous employers to get away with abuse, discrimination and unfair working practices, the review does not recommend government intervention towards many employment agencies, whose practices continue to deny supply teachers access to deserved employment rights and fair levels of pay.

“This report fails to address the misery, woeful treatment and exploitation experienced by thousands of supply teachers working for agencies,” said NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates. “This is a huge missed opportunity, only compounded by the suggestion that there is no need for government to act.”

In a NASUWT survey of supply teachers last May, more than 40% reported that, although they were employed to perform duties as a qualified teacher, they were only offered unqualified rates of pay. This is on top of being denied access to rights such as sick pay, training and annual leave and, in many cases, being forced to pay a payroll fee and fund their employer’s national insurance contributions as well as their own. (Source: Education International)

Freezing Canada

In the Canadian Province of Manitoba unions have filed an injunction to stop a recently passed law that would freeze public service employees’ wages, saying it violates their constitutional right to freedom of association.

The unions are asking the courts to forbid the government from enacting Bill 28, the Public Services Sustainability Act. The law, which was passed last month, introduces a four year period of wage freezes or minimal increases. The law freezes wages in public service contracts for two years. Wages can increase by 0.75% in the next year, and by 1% in the final year. The law is implemented on a rolling basis. For unionised employees, the four years begin when their current contract expires. The four year period started for non unionised employees on March 20.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled collective bargaining is protected by the right to freedom of association, and that governments can’t restrict what can be included in collective bargaining. However, this new law makes collective bargaining ineffective and that violates workers’ right to freedom of association, said Kevin Rebeck, President of the Manitoba Federation of Labour. (Source:

John Quessy