TECHNICAL AND SERVICES BRANCH WEEKLY BULLETIN 2023
13 August 2023
ESTA MENTORING ALLOWANCE
Following out success in the Court, we now understand that ESTA is paying the mentoring allowance to all staff. We are still awaiting the orders to be issued by the Court.
POST RESTRUCTURE PTO7
A number of issues have arisen with the restructure. Concerns have been raised with the draft PTO 7 Job Descriptions. These JDs have not been agreed. Post has added new additional responsibilities, essentially delegated from the Technical Manager role. Technical managers must be from the technical team so that they understand technical issues. So they should remain with the Technical Manager.
If new responsibilities are to be added, then we need to review the pay structure. We are seeking that the national consultative committee meet again to deal with this and other matters that had been put aside.
POST RESTRUCTURE PTO6
As the PTO6 (2IC) positions are being filled we were surprised to find that Post was issuing new employment contracts. We advise that these contracts should not be signed. We have taken the issue to Post and Post agrees that they need not be signed. Instead, staff should receive a congratulatory confirmation of the promotion.
NSW POSTAL ISSUES
The interviews for the NSW Technical Manager have been held and we await an announcement. WE have a queue of matters that need resolution and we will meet as soon as possible with the new manager. The issues include overtime agreements, staffing levels, working alone issues, OHS issues and apprentices.
AUSTRALIA POST REFORMS SEAL THE DEAL FOR PUBLIC OWNERSHIP
The following article is from The New Daily - (extracts only) https://thenewdaily.com.au/
A modernised Australia Post will feature more services and continued support of regional areas, as the federal government wraps up consultation and plans for a "package of reforms" for the national postal service.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the government is committed to supporting the long-term sustainability of Australia Post so it can deliver essential services for businesses and people.
"Australia Post is owned by all Australians. I thank everyone who shared their views on how best to modernise this cherished national institution," she said in a statement.
Over 1000 individuals, community organisations, charities, businesses and government bodies made submissions during the consultation period, including Australian Red Cross, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Electoral Commission and Australia Post.
Emma Dawson, executive director of Per Capita, said her organisation's 2020 report Into the future of the organisation showed it performed better than other postal services internationally in adapting to the digital market and online shopping.
"It's had one year since we published the report, in 2022-23, where it made its first financial loss since 2015," she said.
"Aside from this, it has managed to remain profitable, provide services across the country, build up its parcel deliveries and really grapple with the fact we have an enormous landmass and a relatively small population."
Australia Post's own submission to the review states the executives support the government's proposal for modernisation if it adheres to the following long-term goals:
AusPost remains fully publicly owned and is allowed to offer universal services
It remains financially sustainable and can invest in its networks and services through productivity increases supply chain resilience
Provides appropriate coverage of the post office network, particularly in regional areas
Reduces operating costs in delivering regulated letter services, freeing up delivery and resources for parcel delivery.
The government's key findings from the consultation included that Australians support a financially sustainable Australia Post, there was wide support for improved parcel services and changes to letter delivery arrangements, and that retail outlets in rural, regional and remote areas are highly valued.
When announcing the "modernisation of Australia Post", Ms Rowland said there will be no privatisation of any part of the postal service.
Ms Dawson said while the government has committed to keeping the service publicly owned, "we need to know exactly what that means".
"It's one of, if not the most, trusted brands in Australia. It is seen as reliable, ethical and trustworthy."
Ms Dawson said Australia Post should expand into the banking sector, particularly in hard-to-reach areas.
"It called on the government to establish a retail bank initially within Australia Post, akin to the New Zealand Kiwi Bank model," she said.
"Australia Post or a licensed post office often remain the only public service outlet in many regional and rural communities and they're already delivering banking services on behalf of established banks."
In its submission to the government, the Australian Banking Association (ABA) stated more than 80 banks and financial institutions have banking partnerships with Australia Post.
"Australia Post reports that over 14.5 million of these Bank@Post transactions were conducted at Australia Post outlets, last financial year," the ABA's submission stated.
"The ABA believes that Bank@Post provides a good example of how Australia Post's service offering can be modernised and the financial sustainability of this important essential service, maintained and supported into the future."
AMAZON INDUSTRIAL ACTION - NOT ONLY WAGES
The following discusses the working conditions of Amazon works in USA - and their labour laws. So far we in Australia have avoided the worst of these laws,
More than wages, employees trying to organize say they want to be treated with dignity. A case study by Reshmaan Hussamand Trevor Fetter explores recent high-profile efforts to bring unions inside Amazon warehouses-and what other leaders can learn.
When unionization rumors begin, most companies react by throwing money at the problem. But that won't halt the drive if workers feel mistreated or ignored, as Amazon found out.
The company boosted hourly wages and benefits for warehouse workers, but many employees continued to call for union intervention. They said the company disregarded their concerns that they were being monitored, overworked, and in some cases, placed in unsafe environments.
"Yes, they want a livable wage. But more than that, every employee we spoke with was asking to be treated with dignity and given a voice," says Reshmaan Hussam, assistant professor at Harvard Business School, who examined employee complaints at Amazon warehouses for a recent case study. "When we refer to them as `labor,' we often forget that managers and workers are equally human. Labor is not a disposable resource."
"AMAZON IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF WHY MATERIAL INCENTIVES ARE OFTEN NOT ENOUGH FOR WORKERS."
It's a message more companies may have to heed. While union membership hit a low of 10.1 percent in 2022, according to government data, organizing increased amid growing inequality concerns. Plus, the COVID-19 pandemic ignited a new wave of resentment between employees and employers, including those at Amazon, as many essential workers pushed back against working in what they considered grueling, unsafe conditions at a time when demand for online retail and fast delivery surged.
Hussam, HBS Senior Lecturer Trevor Fetter, and Grace Liu, a research associate at HBS, decided to study Amazon to learn more about the root causes of labor strife in the US. They chose the retailer because it's considered a leader in pay and benefits for workers at fulfillment centers.
"Relative to its competitors, Amazon is at the forefront on the material side," says Hussam of employee compensation. "But Amazon is also a good example of why material incentives are often not enough for workers."
Increasing the minimum wage won't cut it
Since its founding by Jeff Bezos in 1994, Amazon, now the second largest employer in the US, has tried to tout itself as a "cool" and "risk-taking" company that strives to be the "Earth's best employer," according to the "Amazon and the Future of Organized Labor" case.
Over the years, Amazon, which employed 1.6 million people worldwide in 2022, has won praise for its innovative success, but the company has also racked up criticism for alleged anti-competitive practices, failure to pay income taxes in some years, and subpar working conditions at its warehouses, according to the case study.
At a company with the leadership principle "speed matters," Amazon warehouse employees and union organizers have regularly complained of exhausting, quota-driven work shifts. Employees have reported getting few breaks, often avoiding using the restroom to keep up with the pressure of meeting expected targets, and workers have said they walked as much as 15 miles a day.
Meanwhile, managers digitally tracked where workers were located at all times, the pace of their work, and their productivity levels, and the consequences for falling short of expectations were severe. For example, using the monitoring technology, Amazon fired about 300 workers-more than 10 percent of its staff-in a Baltimore facility in 2018 for failing to meet productivity goals.
Injuries were also common. In 2018, 23 of the company's fulfillment centers reported about 10 serious injuries per 100 employees, more than twice the industry average of four. And in 2019, Amazon was listed as the most dangerous place to work by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health after six worker deaths were reported in the US that year.
Workers' mental health suffered as well. Emergency medical providers were called to US fulfillment centers nearly 200 times between 2013 and 2018 for suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health episodes. Police reports showed that employees considered harming themselves with box cutters or jumping from upper floors of Amazon's buildings, according to the case. In one survey of workers at fulfillment centers in the UK, 55 percent reported developing depression since working at Amazon.
Amid public criticism about stressful working conditions and non-livable wages at warehouses, Amazon decided in 2018 to raise its own minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than double the federal minimum wage at the time. "We listened to our critics," Bezos said in 2018. However, Amazon also informed its hourly workers that to cover the cost of the pay increase, the company would eliminate monthly bonuses and stock awards.
Criticism continued to mount, as outside unions urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Amazon's workplace practices; Amazon had faced about 50 unfair labor-practice cases filed against the company as of 2019.
COVID intensifies labor concerns
All of that labor strife occurred before the 2020 outbreak of COVID-19, which increased demand for Amazon's home delivery and exacerbated stressful working conditions at warehouses. Employee attendance at some fulfillment centers plunged by 30 percent in the pandemic's early months as workers feared contracting the virus, the case notes.
Union organizing activity in warehouses became more intense and focused during the pandemic, led by previously established or newly formed unions in some states, notably Alabama and New York.
Isaiah Thomas, for example, was initially excited to land a job at Amazon in 2020 to help pay for food, rent, and his tuition at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. "But the day I started, I realized something was wrong," he says in the case. "It literally felt like we were cattle." Thomas joined organizing efforts in 2021. "When I learned about the union, I was all in," he says. "Giving workers the ability to have a voice in the workplace and a sense of control over our own work, that's what this is about."
In April 2022, workers at warehouse JFK8 on New York's Staten Island, where a prominent union organizer had been fired, voted to join the recently formed Amazon Labor Union (ALU). But in Bessemer, Alabama, a first vote to unionize produced complaints that managers intimidated workers to vote against the union, which led to a second vote that remains undecided as hundreds of ballots are being contested.
After multiple union organizers lost their Amazon jobs, a federal judge in November 2022 ordered the company to "cease and desist" from retaliating against workers who were attempting to organize in the workplace.
Ultimately, Hussam says, the sometimes-bitter unionization campaigns at Amazon resulted in only modest gains for union organizers, with workers at only one warehouse voting to join a union. And that Staten Island union has yet to successfully negotiate its first contract, she notes.
At the heart of the problem: power and incentives
Still, Amazon has suffered some reputation damage as a result of the conflicts. Looking back, was the company responsible for bringing on the bitter labor battles that have marked the past five years-the warehouse worker walkouts, one-day strikes, labor practice complaints, union organizing, and rising employee absenteeism?
In some ways, yes, Hussam says, since Amazon was na‹ve to think it could avoid a confrontation with slightly better pay and benefits. Leaders should consider reflecting on the following questions:
Are managers' and workers' incentives aligned? Ideally, employees should be on the same team. But that wasn't the case at Amazon, where managers' productivity quotas encouraged them to compromise employee safety.
"When incentives aren't aligned, these relationships will necessarily be antagonistic," she says. How can companies align incentives? "Bring employees into the decision-making process; give them voice in a form that cannot be legally or structurally ignored." She notes, for example, that workers in Germany often serve as voting members on corporate boards of directors.
Is the manager-employee power balance out of whack? Money alone won't fix the dysfunction that festers when employees feel exploited by managers who take advantage of their position.
In the case, Thomas, the Amazon warehouse worker and union organizer in Bessemer, Alabama, complained about a power imbalance at Amazon warehouses. "Money isn't the issue for Amazon," he says. "I believe it's power. Having the control and the obedience of your workers to get the production rate to meet your goals."
Hussam agrees, saying an "extreme power imbalance" favors management at Amazon. She says other US companies also suffer from this imbalance, a problem that's not as severe in other comparably industrial nations.
"These union organizers are seeking dignity, but their deeper goal is structural: a more balanced distribution of power between managers and workers," Hussam says. "A living wage is necessary, but insufficient. Kindness matters, but it isn't enough. Organizing efforts are trying to pave a path for structural change."
Authorised by Dan Dwyer Secretary
- CWU Telecommunications & Services Branches.