GTWA claims victory in Domino's dispute

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axxs's picture
axxs
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Jul 31 2013 12:42
GTWA claims victory in Domino's dispute

Domino's has been ordered to pay almost $590,000 in back pay to workers.

http://www.couriermail.com.au/business/companies/fair-work-ombudsman-ord...

syndicalist
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Jul 31 2013 14:31

Congrats on the back pay! Hopefully the GWTA can push on with self-organization, direct action and future victories!

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plasmatelly
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Jul 31 2013 18:16

Cracking result, well done!

Harrison
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Jul 31 2013 20:09

This is ace, ditto to syndicalist's comment

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Steven.
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Jul 31 2013 21:41

That's great news! Also, it would be great if one of you could write up something quickly for our news section

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Pennoid
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Aug 1 2013 00:53

Congrats! Would also love to learn more from the perspective of the GTWA rank and file!

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ites
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Aug 2 2013 03:20
Pennoid wrote:
Congrats! Would also love to learn more from the perspective of the GTWA rank and file!

Same

Ablokeimet
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Aug 1 2013 10:18
axxs wrote:
Domino's has been ordered to pay almost $590,000 in back pay to workers.

http://www.couriermail.com.au/business/companies/fair-work-ombudsman-ord...

It averages out to about $360 each, but I guess that there would be a great variation between the amounts owed to different workers.

It should also be noted that this report in the Murdoch press didn't mention any organisation on the part of the Domino's workers. This is typical. Can we ever expect them to acknowledge the effectiveness of working class organisation?

Finally, there is much that could be said about the relatively small number of Domino's workers who were involved in this activity, as well as the problematic use of State institutions to achieve the result. My position is that this is a beginning and a sign for other workers that the SDA is not the all-powerful beast that many imagine, standing in the way of gains for workers who take up the road of struggle. The working class in Australia is in a deeply defensive position and most workers won't go into struggle at this point. Just getting a bunch of workers to say "Hey, we know the SDA sold us down the river, but we're not going to take it lying down and will look for another way forward" counts, in my books, as progress.

Congratulations to the GTWA-ASF. I look forward to hearing about future initiatives that rely more on direct action.

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boozemonarchy
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Aug 1 2013 18:40

Great to hear this! Congrats!

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ites
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Aug 2 2013 03:25
Ablokeimet wrote:
Finally, there is much that could be said about the relatively small number of Domino's workers who were involved in this activity, as well as the problematic use of State institutions to achieve the result. My position is that this is a beginning and a sign for other workers that the SDA is not the all-powerful beast that many imagine, standing in the way of gains for workers who take up the road of struggle. The working class in Australia is in a deeply defensive position and most workers won't go into struggle at this point. Just getting a bunch of workers to say "Hey, we know the SDA sold us down the river, but we're not going to take it lying down and will look for another way forward" counts, in my books, as progress.

I got an email from someone this morning promoting a Facebook page critical of the SDA so it would appear to have been a shot in the arm to those concerned with the development of authentic modes of class struggle in that respect. While a clear victory where the backpay issue is concerned and a commendable one on that level I agree; it was hardly one in which anarcho-syndicalist modes of organisation were clearly distinguishable from those of ACTU-aligned unions.

The victory was won in a courtroom rather than the shopfloor and the legalistic nature of the process itself precluded in Dominos drivers either the development of a sense of their power as members of a union or of their capacity for self-activity, ie the kind that would eventually become the basis for the expropriation of the capitalist class and the establishment of workers control on the basis of working class control over the means of production. From memory the news article also said that about 2/5ths of the payout is going to be held in trust because the turnover amongst drivers is so high.

Before everyone starts jumping up and down this is to my understanding the basis of anarchist critiques of Fair Wage-Slavery Australia in general and is not intended either to single out the ASF or as an attack on the ASF. In the absence of mass anarcho-syndicalist unions in this country maybe there is something to be said for going to FW-SA but surely it might better be regarded a way of creating space to engage anarcho-syndicalist strategies rather than as a strategy that has anything to do with anarcho-syndicalism itself.

One might argue that it's also a victory for laborism to the extent that all those Dominos drivers who haven't been exposed to the GTWA and who have no idea who was involved in pursuing the payout are going to get the impression that labour rights are something granted to them by Fair Wage Slavery Australia and something they don't have to organise and fight for.

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Aug 2 2013 04:04

Ablokeimet wrote:

Quote:
Finally, there is much that could be said about the relatively small number of Domino's workers who were involved in this activity, as well as the problematic use of State institutions to achieve the result. My position is that this is a beginning and a sign for other workers that the SDA is not the all-powerful beast

As could be expected the membership of the GTWA changes all the time and is still less than 30. Most membership enquiries come through the ASF-IWA website and a few appear to be bogus or, at least not followed up on.

Here is a typical enquiry that has been redacted to avoid identification;

]I am a current Domino's delivery driver working in the Xxxxxxxxxx area. I am interested in joining the union and agitating for change in this area. I have a few questions about the legality of domino's wage practices. Firstly what was the legal reasoning for paying me and my fellow drivers less than minimum wage? Secondly do you take members who work.for a franchisee? Thirdly do you have any literature that.I could post around my workplace that informs my fellow drivers of their rights and what the GTWA could do for them?
I have been shocked and appalled by the way.Domino's treats its employees and would really like to help change things. Below I will list some of the worst ones that have happened in both corporate and franchisee:
1. Being paid less than minimum wage
2. Never ever being given a break paid or unpaid
3. Not receiving penalty rates for working on public. holidays or weekends or late are night
4. Occasionally not being paid for hours I've worked.after close.
5. Not getting given any info about the pay reduction and the subsequent legal case
6. Not getting any info from my so called union who is supposed to represent me
7. Seeing fulltime drivers and managers getting paid for 8 hours when in reality they work 10 or 11.
8. Seeing managers forced to come when they are sick even though they are entitled to sick days.
I'm sure there are some more abuses I have missed but the reality is that Domino's is one of the worst companies in Australia who treat there workforce like shit and I for one am fucking sick of their underhanded tactics. I am just a casual so I don't really have much job security bit any help or info you can provide I look forward to acting on.
If you would like to reply to this email my email address is xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
In Solidarity,
Xxxxxx Xxxxx

I'm willing to bet this is typical of Domino's workers around the world in particular and low-pay unskilled workers generally. Point 6 is a common refrain and on that I'd like to address the issue you raised about using 'State institutions' to achieve an outcome.

The GTWA, like all ASF unions, is not registered with the State. The SDA is. This gives the SDA the right to negotiate on behalf of workers they would otherwise cover without those workers actually being involved. The ASF had to present signed forms from workers authorising it to represent them at a Fair Work Commission hearing. This also exposes those workers as the names have to match up against the electoral roll. The Fair Work Act 2009 which was a modification of the previous Liberal Federal government's changes to industrial relations law that introduced (Australian Workplace Agreements) individual contracts.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_workplace_agreement

However, the 2009 Act was not a total repeal of everything in the Workplace Relations Act of 1996. That Act was designed to render the ACTU ineffectual and powerless, pretty much what you would expect from a conservative government. One side effect is that it makes independent unions viable option for representation to the Commission.

The ASF has for some time been looking closely at the Act to see what and what we can or can not do as a union. The Act is mind-numbingly complex and a guaranteed cure for insomnia.
Have a look;

http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2013C00261

I think Chapter Four provides for the Ombudsman to investigate breaches of the Act.

I'm interested in what others think about the engagement with State institutions and to what level. The ASF is very small (the IWW in Australia claim over 100 members) and it relies heavily on whatever support it can get. The opposing force, in this case, was a multi-national company - it makes total sense to fight them wherever we could and our links to the IWA certainly enabled this (not to mention the support received from outside the IWA).

Applying to the Fair Work Commision in no way involves us with the state in the way that applying for registration as a union would (where among other things, the election of officers and holding of ballots would be subject to the Australian Electoral Commission). It has to bee seen as part of achieving an outcome driven by processes that is consistent with the practices of anarcho-syndicalism. Every affiliate of the ASF operates independently within the Aims, Principles and Statutes and can expect the support of every other affiliate.

It has to be remembered that this campaign was initiated by the Brisbane ASF. The GTWA did not form until July 2012 when there were enough members. The GTWA were made provisional upon their formation and confirmed at the 10th Congress of the ASF in January 2013.

I would not be the least bit surprised that this would not be the end of it. Some members of ASF affiliates have had informal contact with members of the SDA reform group who are all rank and file members but not involved in fast food. Anarcho-syndicalists need to be able to convince workers in reformist unions that reforming reformist unions is like pushing shit uphill with a ball-point pen. I think you need to have some kind of grip on how the industrial laws works as part of a broader strategy that places direct action front and centre but doesn't necessarily rule out engagement with statutory authorities like FWA. What do others think?

caterpillar
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Aug 2 2013 04:20
Quote:
"I'm interested in what others think about the engagement with State institutions and to what level. The ASF is very small (the IWW in Australia claim over 100 members) and it relies heavily on whatever support it can get. The opposing force, in this case, was a multi-national company - it makes total sense to fight them wherever we could and our links to the IWA certainly enabled this (not to mention the support received from outside the IWA)."

Obviously everyone'd love to see a situation where workers organising is strong enough not to use these institutions. And I can't see anyone saying that they are a good thing... But to me it seems obvious that it would be completely insane not to use every means at your disposal. Nobody who's wages actually depend on it is going to be like "oh we don't want to use state institutions, here take your money back". This kind of criticism is totally intellectual and disconnected from real life struggle (and in certain cases purely motivated by sour grapes).

What the GWTA has done may not be huge but it's incredibly significant when it comes to workers grass roots organising and challenging corrupt mainstream unions like the SDA. Congratulations! I hope you spend some time celebrating this, because it's rare to have victories these days, and you really deserve it!

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ites
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Aug 2 2013 05:25

I don't think anyone's arguing that recourse to state institutions like Fair Wage Slavery Australia isn't appropriate in certain circumstances; the issue as I see it is the extent to which it is directly compatible with the project of developing effective resistance to the autocratic and exploitative hierarchies inherent to capitalist relations of production.

Would any anarchist worth their salt argue the necessity of maintaining a basic harmony between the means we employ and the outcomes we seek? One would hope not. If the outcome we want as anarchists is a world where we control the conditions of our work and of our life more generally, then this should also characterise the strategies we employ in pursuit of that goal. To do otherwise would be to establish double standards based on an appeal to fear rather than principle and in so doing to perpetuate to one degree or another the oppression and injustice we claim to oppose.

So, as I say, while I accept that recourse to Fair Wage Slavery Australia may be appropriate in certain circumstances, eg. to create more favourable conditions for the deployment of anarcho-syndicalist strategies, I remain fuzzy on how it relates directly to the principle characteristic of anarchism of making means consistent with desired outcomes.

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 2 2013 08:08

I don't know much about the Australian context, but I know here the mainstream unions are increasingly unable/unwilling to do even basic, run-of-the mill collective disputes. Even the individualistic stuff is being closed off now, with a 2-year qualifying period and £1,200 fees for employment tribunals. TUC unions are saying they'll pay members' fees in approved cases, but presumably they'll only take on ones with very good chances of success.

On the one hand, this closing down of legal channels increases the scope for direct action (well, it takes other options away). On the other, it's easy to end up in a position where workers want to take a legal route but don't have the backing of a union or legal expertise. I don't think any radical organisation could base itself on this, but then, it's not always a bad idea to take this stuff on, if it's part of a wider effort for meaningful action.

In my experience the legalistic stuff does tend to increase reliance on expert knowledge and substitute paperwork for collective action. But if you know that, and organise parallel collective action (even if it's largely informational pickets, like the GTWA stuff), that's not necessarily a fatal flaw. It could also be good for credibility - if a tiny anarcho-union can do stuff better than the big, well-resourced 'experts' with their own legal team... but again, that reputation needs to be matched with one for collective action etc.

From what I've read from ASF comrades, it seems they went into this with their eyes open to the pitfalls of legalism, but also having done their homework with the law. And to their credit, they've won it. I think it probably is worth anarcho-syndicalists closely studying the local legal framework where they are, cos there can be weird bits where laws intended to curb the power of trade unions inadvertently create opportunities for rank-and-file action, minority unions etc. Obviously we can't rely on these, and if we start winning lots the loopholes will be closed, but it could be a stepping stone into collective action in some circumstances. Obviously the law's full of traps too.

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ites
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Aug 2 2013 08:34
Joseph Kay wrote:
if a tiny anarcho-union can do stuff better than the big, well-resourced 'experts' with their own legal team... but again, that reputation needs to be matched with one for collective action etc.

Agreed.

Ablokeimet
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Aug 2 2013 12:27
Lugius wrote:
I'm interested in what others think about the engagement with State institutions and to what level. The ASF is very small (the IWW in Australia claim over 100 members) and it relies heavily on whatever support it can get. The opposing force, in this case, was a multi-national company - it makes total sense to fight them wherever we could and our links to the IWA certainly enabled this (not to mention the support received from outside the IWA).

Applying to the Fair Work Commision in no way involves us with the state in the way that applying for registration as a union would (where among other things, the election of officers and holding of ballots would be subject to the Australian Electoral Commission). ... What do others think?

As should be noted, I described the use of State institutions as problematic. I did not describe it as unprincipled. I know all about engagement with State institutions, since I've been active in the reformist union in my own workplace for over 30 years. If you study the rules and how they are being applied, you can work out what is available from those institutions. It's usually not much, but occasionally it's worthwhile.

The crucial thing is for the right lessons to be learnt from the struggle. If there'd been some whacking great picket line that cut off supplies for all Domino's outlets, and then Domino's caved, the lesson would be obvious. Since the dispute involved going to the Fair Work Ombudsman and then $588k being handed down from above, the correct lesson isn't obvious. Therefore there has to be careful discussion about what conclusions should be drawn concerning future strategy and the overall industrial philosophy of the organisation. That's what I meant by it being problematic.

One good thing about the discussion which must be had is that it won't feature SDA officials skiting about how smart they are and how it demonstrates that Groupers like them are better unionists than the commies are.

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Aug 2 2013 13:23

Joseph Kay wrote:

Quote:
From what I've read from ASF comrades, it seems they went into this with their eyes open to the pitfalls of legalism, but also having done their homework with the law. And to their credit, they've won it. I think it probably is worth anarcho-syndicalists closely studying the local legal framework where they are, cos there can be weird bits where laws intended to curb the power of trade unions inadvertently create opportunities for rank-and-file action, minority unions etc. Obviously we can't rely on these, and if we start winning lots the loopholes will be closed, but it could be a stepping stone into collective action in some circumstances. Obviously the law's full of traps too.

You're absolutely right about relying on legal means. Ultimately, the law will always favour the boss. But this doesn't mean that it shouldn't be looked at as a tactic that is one component of a broader campaign.

The planning for the campaign took about a week, a joint effort between Brisbane and Melbourne and followed a series of steps; first, what are the 'victory conditions', what is the desired outcome, what is the number one priority? It was agreed that restoration of the wage cut would be the primary goal and recruiting enough new members in what was broadly defined as the delivery transport industry would be the secondary goal.

Second, what can the ASF do and who can the ASF call on for support? The ASF can do little beyond actions that we have had experience with in the past, such as a protest with leaflets and a banner. The ASF was confident that the IWA would support the campaign. The ASF decided to confine its actions to Australia in the first instance to ascertain what support it could get locally and to demonstrate to our compatriots in the IWA that we are not relying on their support alone.

The initial appraisal was that chance of achieving the 'victory conditions' were low but it was decided to have a go and see what happened. The idea of pursuing DPE through the FWA Commision was a suggestion that came from outside the ASF and was also considered a tactic that was consistent with the 'low-level, long term' principle.

For an organisation as small as the ASF, support is vital. The ASF looked in two directions; the anarchist scene and the IWW in Australia. There was little support from the anarchist scene aside from the MAC and some comrades involved in the Workers Solidarity Network in Melbourne who are primarily involved in supporting workers involved in disputation. The AUSROC of the IWW ignored the request for support and there was even some level of hostility from wobs in Brisbane and Melbourne presumably sectarian. There were some individual wobs who did support some of the protests that were organised but not a lot given their much larger numbers. A total of 15 protest actions outside DPE outlets in Brisbane, Woolongong, Wodonga and Melbourne were organised during May, June and July leading up to the first Commission hearing on 16 July.

Two very interesting things happened early on; the DPE industrial relations officer contacted the Brisbane ASF directly to discuss the issues, an industrial lawyer working for a large ACTU-affiliated union offered free advice (was on the social periphery of the PTWA in the 80s) on the condition of anonymity. Direct negotiation with the employer is always the preferred option but there was to be no joy there. Obtaining free expert legal advice was a stroke of luck. It underlines the point that support is vital - in this case from a long-time sympathiser.

In the beginning, the was only one delivery driver involved, already a member of Brisbane ASF. By July, there were enough to form a separate affiliate. After the 15 September Day of Action, the GTWA membership more than tripled.

In my view, the campaign can be judged successful based on the initial criteria of what constituted the 'victory conditions' and hoped-for outcomes. Sometimes you can make your own luck if you are daring enough, but there can never be any substitute for collective direct action.

Whether or not the GTWA will be sustainable remains to be seen as there is a high turnover in that kind of work. But if not, a great deal of valuable experience has been had - you won't find that in a book. In the meantime, you will still need the general membership unions like Brisbane ASF.

Hopefully, an anarchist federation will form in Australia in the next year or two which could act as a support infrastructure to workers engaged in struggle against the bosses as part of an independent revolutionary union confederation or even just some isolated action in small workplaces by whoever- anything is better than nothing. Enough of constant defensive action - the time to counter-attack is well overdue.

One thing is cast-iron rock-solid for sure; you must fight for everything you get and then continue to fight to keep it. It will always be that way til we get rid of the lot of them. No peace til then.

syndicalist
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Aug 3 2013 14:47

Continued good luck with the efforts.

Hoping that the international day of solidarity that WSA,IWA,north american and uk IWW comrades took part in helped with the solidarity boost ...that when comrades are engaged in struggle can depend on international solidarity, no matter how small your organization or union initiative might be.

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Aug 3 2013 21:40

Absolutely! Some units went above and beyond the call. When was the last time reformist unions did that? It certainly had an amplifying affect on GTWA recruitment . It did get some press in Australia. DPE copped a $590,000 hit. That money is now heading towards the pockets of the workers. Beauty!