Reith of the ruling class
by Marcus Browning Peter Reith. He's a real class act — the ruling class, that is. This is the man who slandered trade unionists, using the mass media to publicly denigrate waterside workers and accuse them of all manner of rorts as part of his drive to destroy the Maritime Union of Australia. In that dispute he illegally conspired with employer Patrick Stevedoring to lock out workers and bring in Dubai-trained scabs. If Reith is not the actual architect of the ant-union Workplace Relations Act, he's certainly its chief executioner. In this role of union exterminator he has served the ruling class with unstinting loyalty and ruthlessness. This is why, despite all the revelations showing obvious misuse of his taxpayer-funded Telecard, Reith has thus far not been sacked or faced legal action. In a recent article in The Australian Financial Review, Peter Holding — a barrister specialising in unfair dismissal law — wrote about a Telstra salesman who withdrew cash advances of $10,000 with his Telstra credit card, highlighting the class bias of the law and the legal system. Even though the salesman claimed not to have known his action was against Telstra policy, he was sacked. When he took his unfair dismissal case to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, the Commission dismissed it, saying: "It is beyond comprehension in my view that he could have held this position for so long and not realised the significance of using the credit card for private use." The employee told Telstra he would immediately repay the $10,000, but he was sacked any way. The United Trades and Labor Council of South Australia noted that Reith knew that allowing his son to use his phone card was against Government guidelines, yet he has not been dismissed. The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union, which covers workers in the communications sector, asked if there has been an attempt to cover up Reith's Telecard misuse. The union understands that immediately following the discovery by Telstra investigating officer/s of potential Telecard fraud by Reith, the case was taken over by higher management. Soon after there was a major reorganisation and the investigating officer or officers were moved out of that particular area. Then, on October 18 a strict gag on information relating to the affair was placed on certain Telstra staff by management. "Further, we do know that there is a particularly close relationship between some senior managers at Telstra and some senior members of the Federal Government", said the Secretary of the union's Victorian Branch, Len Cooper. "This is clearly on the record, for those who wish to inquire." The union has called for a Senate enquiry into the reasons for the delay in bringing the issue to light so many months after it was raised by the Department of Finance and Telstra staff. The union also asks why only three cases of apparent misuse of the card, by Reith's son, Ms X and Mr Y, are the focus of investigation when it is clear their activities don't account for the total misuse. "Our members are suffering unbelievable harassment, pressure and even job loss over what has been in some instances the most minor of alleged indiscretions, and even for being involved in union activity", said Len Cooper. "Why should those who are powerful and influential not face at least equal monitoring and investigation of their apparently less than satisfactory activities." There are clearly powerful class forces at work. For them the law is a means to an end, a tool to manipulate, threaten and beat down all who hinder the ultimate aim of increasing profits. Reith is their man.