Australian IT workers unite online

A union organisation in Australia last week set up an online trade union specifically aimed at IT workers, promising to address issues such as health and safety, long working hours and unfair contracts.

          A union organisation in Australia last week set up an online trade union specifically aimed at IT workers, promising to address issues such as health and safety, long working hours and unfair contracts.

          The IT Workers Alliance (ITWA) says that up to now IT workers have not joined trade unions in large numbers, and that the aim of the website is to create a culture that IT workers will want to be part of. ITWA will act as a virtual trade union, providing news, information and services tailored to the needs of programmers, system administrators and other IT staff, ITWA says in a statement.

          The union expects to attract people who use IT in the workplace as well as those who work for IT, internet and telecommunication companies. ITWA says that various unions around Australia have begun to take up important issues on behalf of IT workers including the issue of email surveillance in the workplace.

          Among the health issues, ITWA says that IT workers can encounter eye strain, inadequate lighting, repetitive strain injury (tendonititis), excessive hours without a break, poor air conditioning, limited space at and around workstations, radiation and lack of ventilation around photocopiers.

          ITWA says it was also monitoring the area of contractors, and employers' responsibilities towards them. Several contributors to the site also derided the IT industry's view that there is an IT skills shortage in either Australia or the US, citing detailed research carried out in the US by Norman Matloff of the University of California at Davis.

          The ITWA has been set up by trade union umbrella group, the Labour Council of New South Wales.

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