MV Function and Right of communication
Gardiner asked what MV meant by saying one of the more senior at NTC and asked MV to define
MV I am despite my background and qualifications at the lowest possible level………
In terms of age…it is hard to find anyone older
Gardiner: and you hold yourself out to the employees as being quite knowledgeable
MV No sir…….. that is a judgement for them
G You provide advice on a number of issues? I do
G On a variety of issues? I do G. through your Newsletter? Yes
G As an example you provide advice on personal finance M I’m not quite sure what you meanWas he trying to get me to say I was providing financial advice in an illegal manner ??
G Newsletter December ’95 you talk about the concept of negative equity M yes
G and that relates to personal finance MV If you read the credit at the bottom you will see it is a direct take from the VTU Credit Union publication. I was a foundation director of that organization and one of the people responsible for it being set up for the workers
G You provide advice on savings, it seems in Newsletter 19 MV O yes I am with you yes.
MV Please when you say that my answer is not yes, It is yes I recognize the document.( really he was being hopeful, a sneaky trap but not this time young fella) The material was taken from Nightly Business Review and from and from various university research
G if you turn the page …10 point positive plan, a lifestyle type plan as part of your newsletter
MV That’s a statement of fact it is there
G Well I put it to you that in doing so you hold yourself out as being someone of some considerable knowledge and experience(quoting from a named source)
MV Considerable experience is one thing that I think is obvious over 65 years, unless I have repeated the same experience 65 times. I haven’t
G And in your capacity as a delegate you provided advice and assistance to employees?
MV Yes that is my function
G And it is not surprising if some of those employees relied upon you for your advice ?
MV They are not required to. Advice, general advice, recommendations, the benefit of long term experience is there. People can accept it if they so desire or reject it
G I did not ask if they were required to. I asked you ----- I understood that was what you were asking me.
G I did not ask whether they were required to rely on your advice but they might come to rely on your advice ? ------- MV How can I answer that ?
G Did you have people ---- I would have to be in somebody else’s mind to know that
G Did you have people coming to you for advice? MV On occasion Yes
G And on other occasions you went to them to impart your advice ?
MV Not deliberately, no I didn’t solicit. I have enough functions to perform already
G Which you disagree? MV If I knew the direction in which you were going perhaps I could help you.
Queston of influence
G Would you disagree that you are in a position of some influence as a delegate and someone of your experience some influence over the employees?
MV I think you misunderstand my nature. As an educator my function has always been to make information available to people. I never claim it is the truth – sorry, I always claim that what I say is the truth I do not claim it is the complete truth and it is there for people to make up their own minds. I have a history over 30 years in education of hoping that people would, at times disagree with me.
G You do not profess then to say that everything you say or write is the complete truth ?
MV No. What I say is everything I write is to the best of my knowledge, the truth. I am a highly truthful person. My function is and has been over a lifetime to—
G Do you not----- MV help people to think for themselves and tell the truth
Do you not concede that younger, less sophisticated, less experienced staff may be influenced by you in the views they form----- MV Why just by me? They may be influenced, look I concede that point . yes
G If you would Just answer the question MV yes but that applies to almost everybody
G But not everybody produces the Nighthawks Newsletter do they Mr. Vogt.
MV That is a statement of fact.
We now went to a consideration of an article on Resource Rebalancing and a phrase "in effect Telstra
lied to us" A CPSU Bulletin had been issued on the matter without that phrase.(Resource Rebalancing was a euphanism used by Telstra for staffing cutbacks, they had denied to the Senate that there was such a program. In fact I had a copy of the document but could not reveal the fact as it could have compromised my source. The document was eventually revealed to the Senate but with shoe sections deleted as "Commercial in Confidence)
Asked where he had seen it MV replied in the Industrial Relations Commission determination, which had been published before in other documents. G do you have that document with you? No, I had no idea you were going to ask that question. Had you let me know I would have brought it. If I had brought all the materials on which these newsletters were based I would have needed a small truck.
G offered a copy of the AIRC decision and sought to get MV to identify where it said that. MV pointed out that the wording was from a CEPU document.
G In any case you cannot be certain that that is accurate can you ?
MV yes ……. I do not make statements without having resourced my material well
G Well would you be surprised then, Mr Vogt to learn that, in effect there was nothing in the decision which said that Telstra mislead anybody on resource rebalancing.
MV It would surprise me, extremely so, and let me have a look. If I could refer you to Newsletter 32 page 2 under "Industrial Relations Commission" the industrial relations commission is quoted that extract was taken. MV pointed out that it was a direct quote… Is that not saying that they had failed to honour their contract?
"It seems there was a real gap between the initial contemplation of introduction of new initiatives and reductions in staff in concept and the presentation to the unions of a fairly detailed and program without there being an opportunity for the involvement of the unions and in accordance with the requirements of the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement from the contemplative stage."
And my comment there is ---- my highlighting there is there of "and failed to honour their contract and obligations" In effect, I would believe that is saying In effect they lied to us.
G: That is your spin on the matter, your interpretation of the matter though; is it not, Mr. Vogt.
Wraight : If I might just interrupt ? It is not an objection, but if I might clear up the point, if my friend could look at the page before that. I mean this could be done in reexamination, but just to save time, there is a quote there from the Senate. Perhaps it might be what my friend is looking for.
G: I am not looking for anything. It is of not assistance whatsoever, thank you. But the words "they in effect lied to us" is your spin on the matter. It is your interpretation is it not.(This is really labouring the point what newspaper in this country? What bulletin ? is required to be balanced? Certainly there is no Telstra publication which is or was balanced. So what is the point?)
Amongst others yes.
Would you say that your view that you impart in your newsletters is balanced?
Wait please may I add to that, at any time the management, if they disagreed with this had the ability and the right to approach me and I would have published at any time any comment they may have had. They were silent.
Chair: Can I ask one question on this? You said "in effect Telstra has lied to us on the resource rebalancing"". Do you have knowledge as to whether that is also the view of the CPSU.---- I believe so, yes
The reason I ask about it is I believe this is a highly contentious matter between the union and the Corporation and there are some very strong views held on it and there have been all sorts of allegations made, as I understand it, as to who has complied with what and who has breached what and--( This indicates that the chair was aware of the situation therefore DAB decision concerning accuracy appears unsupportable)
Gardiner That is correct
MV Might I please add that Telstra has a different interpretation of it, and that interpretation was indeed given in "Our Future"(a Telstra magazine circulated widely and to all staff on a regular basis. It contains only management bias and views there is no criticism . The publication was then, and is now referred to by the staff as "No Future")
Gardiner: In the final decision of the Commission, 21st March 1997 the Commission says "In sum both sides had failed prior to the involvement of this Commission, to act in accordance with their responsibilities pursuant to the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement"
Chair Thank you for that. Is there any reference in your newsletters about the union's failure to honour their responsibilities ? MV No.
Is there anything in Telstra's communications which gives the Union's point of view ?
MV It is not my function to defend what I consider a management which has failed to honour its agreements
(The chair itself raised this issue. In the light of the vitriolic nature of the final decision of the Board this comes to the point of being biased and unconscionable. It would appear that management which is in a position of power can be biased but others cannot. Justice ? Democracy ? railroading?)
Gardiner Is it your function to attack management ?
MV Where it has attacked my members. In retaliation, yes. As a union delegate it is part of my function to protect my members and that protection has to be against where management has done things which are, in my mind, incorrect, inaccurate and unconscionable in some cases. Bearing in mind I'm back in this game. I'm 65 years old. I did not need this sort of hassle. The reason I am in it is because of the numbers of members of staff who actually came and cried on my shoulder because they couldn't meet the rent, because they couldn't pay their- for their food, because Telstra had mucked up their pay and would not even apologize, would not even recognize. I've got 4 books in preparation. I would much rather write those, but I am back in the fight for this very reason.
Gardiner Newsletter 35 In that newsletter you will concede that you used highly emotive and alarmist language do you not MV No
Gardiner You do not concede that? MV That’s your definition. I don't.
Gardiner Emotive? MV I don’t have any objection to being emotional. I get emotional when people's rights are being trampled on. I admit to that.
Gardiner You purported to have concerns about the leasing of the building
MV There is no need to use the word "purported". Yes I did.
Gardiner They were your concerns?
MV They were the concerns of my members
Gardiner Your members and colleagues and staff were given assurances in relation to the leasing arrangements were they not?
MV No. Why do you think for 18 months I was fighting this? I'm trying to get from the management - the management only at the 11th hour and after threat from the union released the fact that the lease would be renewed. At the 11th hour and I had people the whole time coming to me concerned about the management. If you consider putting out a statement that says "Oh, its still under negotiation" as reassurance I can assure you it failed dismally as a communication………………
Gardiner To make people aware of your concerns Mr. Vogt?
MV Of everybody's concerns and, please could you pronounce my name correctly, because it has been asked a number of times. It is a proud name in the legal profession. It is 600 years old. It is a German, germanisation of the term "advocate" which is a Latin term. That's where my name derives from. We defended people who were not permitted to defend themselves up to 600 years ago.
There followed questioning about the cartoon taken from three quarters of a million cartoons. MV pointed out he used different characters in each. That the meeting concerned had not been chaired by Holland but by another who incidentally looked nothing like that. MV pointed out that the cartoon person was short and plumpish and Holland was tall and thin. MV All bald-headed people with a moustache are Robert Holland? That's casting a long bow.
G: At the bottom of the page you refer that "Telstra has been so terrified of this newslettter that they have used unprecedented force and power in what is a futile effort to stop it"?
MV: Yes I'm engaged in it right now; aren't I? Freehill - your company is I understand, one of the biggest of its kind in the world. I was required to respond to these charges, which it took, I presume your company, eight months to formulate to 7 days. That is, I believe an abuse of power. It (Telstra) is able to employ your firm at large cost. I am an individual. Thank goodness I have the union,(ironic in the circumstances) Yes I justify that.
G So you are saying the charges against you amount to unprecedented force and power do they?
MV They attempt that. You have withdrawn 2 charges, which were obviously spurious and, by the way , in the report of the investigating officer I have never used the word "asperious" in my life, and yes I do.
G Is that not an overstatement of things Mr. Vogt
MV No. This is an organization - CC alone - Consumer and Commercial, the division I work in, is I understand the 7th largest employer in the country. Telstra itself would be one of the largest employers. They have decided to bring - instead of answering the questions I have raised, and bringing things out into the open, they have decided to use a blunt instrument to beat me over the head and to try and stop these newsletters. Now that may sound emotive language, but it is a statement of fact.
G: In 44 you say "Telstra management is prepared to violate the law and the constitution"?
MV I believe so, yes.
G That is your belief is it not?
MV That may well be tested before long, I believe they are in violation and I am careful in using the word, in violation of section 334 of the Industrial Relations Act, that they are in violation of s. 298k and l of the Workplace Relations Act, in that they are discriminating against me in my functions as a union delegate.
G: Mr. Vogt
MV That I believe is a violation of the law. By the way those statements have publicly been made within recent times by senators, and not of my political persuasion, I might add in the senate, and have been broadcast on nationwide television.
G: You are not certain that Telstra is prepared to violate the law and the Constitution?
MV In this case
G Again that is your interpretation and spin in the matter Is it not?
MV Everything is everybody's interpretation and spin on matters. Indeed lawyers would be out of business were it not.
G I just thought previously you said you were truthful.
MV I am truthful
G about things
MV I firmly believe that they are not only in violation of those matters, but also perhaps, and this is a matter of opinion. I guess, of the Australian Constitution, as in the case of Theophanus v News Limited perhaps even of the recent Lange v ABC. I have I believe, the freedom even if I were an individual to produce these things. (Which was by implication confirmed in the ultimate AIRC decision) I believe they may also be in violation of the Equal Opportunities Act as well. They are also in violation at least of a part of the United Nations Charter.
G Do you believe then that any criticism of an employer by an employee is justified?
MV Yes of course. I am a loyal Telstra employee. I am loyal to Telstra. The management is. Particularly in our section, I can't speak for other areas - in my belief, not particularly competent.(later events were to show this extended to the top management of the company, to the tune of Billions of Dollars) I continually have and I have said to the management, that any employer outside would give their eye teeth to have the union meetings we have, because most of them are concerned with trying to make our place more efficient and competitive. We are frustrated by the management and its incompetence. We seek to make - we know our jobs depend on us being competitive, particularly in this environment, and that is what we are trying to do. If managemnt would only sit down and be reasonable and accept instead of lying to us, and that is what they have done in these early matters.
Chair. Could we reduce the answers a little or we might be here for 2 weeks.
MV I believe all my criticism is justified.
G Refer to Newsletter 4 under heading of Human Resources. (Incidentally which RH in evidence had considered inoffensive - interesitng!)
G Do you say that you have justification fir the proposition that "The hierarchy of Telstra management, hungry for power and exorbitant profits would seek to have all the workers on short term contracts. Do you have justification for that proposition?
G That justification is not apparent in this newsletter though is it?
MV To you, perhaps not
G How could it be apparent to employees who are relying upon your newsletter for information?
MV I am not the only source of information for them, they have experienced what has been going on themselves, there was additional - this is only one of the sources of information which I made available to them, they were shown in particular in relation to this and I believe our CEO came from a company called AT&T. They were shown film of the cutting back of AT&T, documentation not from any radical source, it was from, I believe if my memory serves me correctly, from NBC, and American source, not noted for its extremism
G would not the showing of these videos of themselves cause concern in the context in which you set them?
MV Cause concern ? No they are providing information on which people can make their own judgements.( These were videos which had been broadcast internationally and available to anyone)
Wraight I object to this line because again it is going outside the realm of the charges
Chair I suppose if it is too broad we will be here for two months, not only two weeks, so perhaps if could confine the questions really to the newsletter.
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