RED JOS

UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN SYDNEY NEPEAN
FACULTY OF NURSING AND HEALTH STUDIES
MASTER OF HEALTH SCIENCE (HIV STUDIES)
INVESTIGATIVE REPORT
AIDS AND THE TRADE UNIONS:
A CASE STUDY OF THE AUSTRALIAN LIQUOR, HOSPITALITY AND MISCELLANEOUS WORKERS UNION 1981-1995
E.J. (MANNIE) DE SAXE
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CHAPTER SIX

DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND IMPLICATIONS

6.1
INTRODUCTION

When I began my examination of the AIDS related documents held on file at the National Office of the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers' Union, I very quickly became aware that, in some years, many more documents seemed to have been issued than in others. It seemed that the best way to illustrate this feature was by means of a simple graph. The following is a very approximate graphical representation of the numbers of AIDS related items recorded by me from the files and journals of the LHMU for the period 1981 to March 1995.

graphical representation

Although the graph is not an exact interpretation of the AIDS documentation held by the LHMU, the graph would appear to indicate a clear quantitative trend over the years 1981 to 1995. It should also be noted that the documentation for 1995 does not reflect the complete year because my investigative study only encompasses the period up to the end of August 1995.

6.2
INTERPRETATION OF THE GRAPH PEAKS

1985

This was a year in which there was greater community awareness in Australia of the possible impact of AIDS. Consequently, there was much greater activity in relation to AIDS education and training the Trade Union Training Authority (TUTA), for example held a two day seminar for Union officials, "AIDS Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome: A Union Issue".

This year also saw the advent of various Australian publications on AIDS. Typical of these was AIDS and Australia, written by Drs Brass and Gold and published in Sydney by Bay Books.

The New South Wales Nurses' Association endorsed certain education and training strategies including those relating to the application of precautions to the provision of care for AIDS patients.

One of the main activities of the FMWU for 1985 was to file an application with the Secretary of the Prison Officers' Tribunal in the Northern Territory for an award variation for prison officers having responsibility for prisoners with AIDS.

Various other union publications appeared during the year, including one from the Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees' Union in the form of an AIDS information leaflet for its members. The Printing and Kindred Industries' Union (PKIU) produced a document called "An Occupational Health and Safety Agreement 1985 Policy" which, although it does not make specific mention of AIDS, covers general aspects of Occupational Health and Safety in such a way that AIDS related precautions could easily be incorporated into it.

1987

By 1987, Australia had already recorded 385 reported cases of AIDS.

The AIDS related documentation on file increased enormously, as did the FMWU's AIDS related workplace policy development activities.

Recommendations were made from the ACTU that the National AIDS Education Campaign be endorsed and supported. ACTU affiliates were urged to lobby Federal and State governments to ensure that the necessary back up services were provided for the duration of the Campaign.

AIDS related workplace policy development continued within the union movement, as did the provision of AIDS related educational seminars.

Towards the end of 1987, the AIDS Council of New South Wales (ACON) sent out a circular letter to Union Secretaries advising of a forthcoming draft policy statement on AIDS to be circulated by the ACTU Assistant Secretary, and urging unions to support the principles expressed in the document.

Finally, at its 1987 Congress, the ACTU produced its first Health Charter, two paragraphs of which specifically referred to education and promotion of community awareness of the transmission of AIDS, and to consideration of the special health and social needs of people who are infected with the HIV virus.

1989

At the beginning of 1989, the ACTU put out a Health Industry Discussion Paper for consideration by the health unions. Later in the year, the FMWU, sent out a letter to all Branches enclosing a copy of the policy which had been adopted by the Federal Executive of the ACTU at its February meeting.

One of the more substantial documents on file at the FMWU National Office was a complete copy of the Australian Nurses' Journal of April 1989, a special issue devoted entirely to the subject of AIDS.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian maintained their public scare campaigns in relation to the AIDS epidemic.

Worksafe Australia continued to publish important and influential HIV/AIDS related pamphlets.

In June 1989, the FMWU wrote to the ACTU to advise that the FMWU was prepared to be part of the ACTU's Health Industry AIDS Project.

The FMWU Federal Executive made a series of decisions at its July 1989 meeting concerning AIDS related occupational health and safety issues and released draft policies applying to a range of health issues.

The Victorian Ministry of Housing and Construction published occupational health and safety Infection Control Guidelines in August 1989.

A long awaited item finally appeared in the FMWU journal, Federation News, in September 1989 in the form of a four page pull out section which comprised a statement from the General Secretary entitled "AIDS and You".

The New South Wales Anti Discrimination Board published a fact sheet, "AIDS and Discrimination", in December 1989. At the same time, the Board produced a leaflet entitled "AIDS and the Workplace What You Should Know."

As can be seen both from the graph and the summary of comments relating to each of the graph's "peaks", the years 1985, 1987 and 1989 were the most productive years in terms of the development of AIDS related policies, strategies and education campaigns not only within the trade union movement but also within the wider Australian community. However, in spite of these findings, the ultimate conclusion which seems to come through is that there has been a marked reduction in discussion of AIDS related issues from 1991 onwards.

6.3
GENERAL DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS

The major thrust of the documentation examined during the "data collection" phase of my study indicated that policy development was seen as urgently needed, was accorded a high priority by the LHMU (and its predecessor, the FMWU), and was carried out in close co-operation with the ACTU. Issues such as discrimination in the workplace, injury such as needle stick injury in the workplace, and providing care for AIDS affected people in hospital situations, all appear to have been addressed through policy formulation and promulgation.

What does not appear to come through, in any way whatever, is either the amount of information actually received by rank and file union members in their workplaces or the nature of the reactions/responses those workers may have to the information provided - if, in fact, they were receiving it. There is evidence to suggest that educational documentation was translated into a series of community languages to help in addressing the communication barriers which may have been encountered by the members of various ethnic groups within the ranks of the Union's membership. However, there is no confirming evidence that such people received the documents, let alone understood them.

Surprisingly, (at least to me) was the fact that I could not find any evidence of membership feedback. Furthermore, I was surprised to find that even in the Union's journal, no provision had been made for "feed back forums" of any kind. The idea of providing for letters to the Union's journal appears to have been a very recent one.

I could find no apparent evidence of homophobia in any of the Union documentation on file. In fact, quite to the contrary, it would appear that, at least from the point of view of the Union bureaucracy, there was a great deal of sympathy and understanding for those living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, there was clear evidence of a genuine concern for the well-being of members whose work-related duties brought them into contact with HIV/AIDS affected people. The policy documents drawn up by the ACTU and affiliated unions such as the FMWU/LHMU also appear to be supportive both of the particular occupational health and safety needs of workers who work in "high risk" workplaces and of the Union members who may have contracted HIV/AIDS. Issues such as the need for confidentiality and non-discriminatory treatment appear to have been handled with insight and sensitivity.

What is not in evidence in the documentation are the responses of those trade union members who may have been infected/affected by the AIDS epidemic.

What is clear from the documentation on file is that there appears to have been a "falling off" - certainly since 1991 - of Union-based educational activities relating to AIDS in the workplace. Since the epidemic began in this country in the early 1980's there would now be a new generation of workers who would need to receive leaflets, pamphlets, and other educational material - including translated material. Evidence of such being available in workplaces for easy accessibility by all concerned is lacking in the documentation.

Among the conclusions which may be drawn from my investigation into the responses of the Liquor, Hospitality, and Miscellaneous Workers' Union to the AIDS epidemic are that the falling off in AIDS related documentation at this time, 1995, is probably part of a trend apparent in the wider community and characterised by an apathy associated with a general attitude of "it can't happen to me I'm not in an at risk group and I do not involve myself with at risk behaviour." (Penny, 1995). Professor Penny concludes his article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 16 October 1995, "Grim Reaper still stalks us" by stating that "(t)he Prime Minister is to be congratulated for his support of the HIV program, but significant bold initiatives are now needed to continue this support of Australians to contain this terrible epidemic."

In his article, Penny also talks about those areas in which he believes we, as a society, have clearly failed:

The high level of general scientific expertise that existed in the early '80s led to unrealistic expectations of an AIDS cure and or vaccine.

Education and prevention programs have failed to lower the level of new infections in homosexual men below an estimated 500 new cases a year.

We have failed to address adequately the needs of Aborigines and Torres Straits Islanders.

After 10 years, we have failed to get condoms into prisons. In NSW, however, prisoners can be put on methadone programs, while bleach is available to sterilise injecting equipment.

More worryingly, there was a significant reduction in the Federal Government's implementation of policy and priorities during the '90s. This lack of focus was also identified by the World Bank consultant, Professor Richard Feecham, in his recent independent evaluation of the Second National Strategy which covered 1993 1995.

Finally, we have failed to fully redress discrimination and prejudice in employment, accommodation, education and health care. (p. 15)

If one trade union's responses to the AIDS crisis have tailed off in the '90s in the way that Professor Penny has detailed in his article, then that union, with a membership of approximately 1/4 million, will also be seen to have failed its members in continuing education and infection prevention programs.

6.4
IMPLICATIONS

What, then, of the future?

Strategies need to be put in place, and to be seen to be put in place, in which worker participation is seen to be obvious, and major concerns such as education, discrimination, ethnic understanding, and the need for resources (including specialist advisory services), are addressed.

Trade unions like the Australian Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers' Union, have such large memberships that they have the potential to wield an enormous amount of power in the HIV/AIDS debate; instead of following, such unions should be leading.

The Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers' Union is in a position to liaise with governments, at both federal and state levels, for access to resources to assist in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It is also well positioned to liaise with the organisations in which its members are employed to ultimately do away with the workplace discrimination which still exists and does so much harm to individuals and communities.

The Union is also in a position to push for educational programs to be conducted within the formal education systems at primary, secondary and tertiary levels by virtue of the diversity of its membership.

The battle will only be seen to be being won when there are significant reductions in the rates of new HIV infections in the community, and will only be won when the rate of new infections is reduced to zero. The community at large has a long way to go to achieve either of these goals. It is my contention, based on my investigation of the LHMU's documents on file, that this Union needs to, and is able to, contribute significantly to the achievement of the ultimate AIDS related goal - the total elimination of new infections.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Introduction
References
Trade Union Issues - Part 1
Trade Union Issues - Part 2

Australian AIDS Quilt Web Site - Part 1 - Blocks 1 to 40

Australian AIDS Quilt Web Site - Part 2 - Blocks 41 to 80

Australian AIDS Quilt Web Site - Part 3 - Blocks 81 to 120

World AIDS Day Australia

World AIDS Day NSW 2007

HIV/AIDS ISSUES PART 1
HIV/AIDS ISSUES PART 2
HIV/AIDS ISSUES PART 3
HIV/AIDS ISSUES PART 4
HIV/AIDS ISSUES PART 5 (Quilt Displays)
HIV/AIDS ISSUES PART 6
SPAIDS PART 1 - SYDNEY PARK AIDS MEMORIAL GROVES HOME PAGE
SPAIDS PART 2 - SYDNEY PARK - DEVELOPMENT PLANS - SPAIDS PROMINENCE
SPAIDS PART 3 - SPAIDS SIGNAGE
SPAIDS PART 4 - PLANTING DATES
SPAIDS PART 5 - OBITUARIES
SPAIDS PART 6 - PHOTOGRAPHS
SPAIDS PART 7 - PHOTOS AFTER 10 YEARS AT THE 30TH PLANTING, 25 JULY 2004 AND INCLUDING PHOTOS TAKEN EARLIER AND LATER
SPAIDS PART 8 - NATIONAL HERITAGE LISTING APPLICATION
SPAIDS PART 9 - A PICTORIAL HISTORY - FROM INCEPTION DATE 15 MAY 1994
SPAIDS PART 10 - WORLD AIDS DAY WALKS
Photos of the Groves


Obituaries

Photos of the Groves in 2004 and a few historic comparisons


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