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Issue No. 123 21 December 2001  
 
E D I T O R I A L

The Unmaking of History
The new millennium has got off to an ominous start. The fireworks, circuses and self-congratulation of 2000 were a thing of the past and we were left with the task of redefining ourselves in a new era.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Braveheart
Labor Council secretary John Robertson looks back on a turbulent year and forward to a dynamic 2002.

International: Global Year in Review
Labourstart's Eric Lee gives his take on a year where the world changed forever.

Unions: A Year at the Barricades
2001 was a year when workers were forced to fight for what they once took for granted.

Technology: Unions Online 2001
Social Change Online's Mark McGrath looks at the advances unions made in web development in 2001.

Republic: Terror Australis
ARM national director James Terrie asks where to now for the Republic?

Economics: 2001: Annus Horribilis
Frank Stilwell looks back at a troubled year and looks forward to the challenges for the labour movement.

Campaign Diary: Melanie and Me
Strewth's Steve Cannane went into the viper's nest on election night and emerged with an ordinary feeling.

Politics: Tony Moore's Final Word
Wide boys, spivs, spin doctors and hereditary idiots have hijacked a once great Australian institution.

Review: You Are the Weakest Program
Cultural theoritician Mark Morey deconstructs the televisual subplots of our collective consciousness.

Legal: The New McCarthyism
The “war on terrorism” declared in the wake of the American events of September 11 dramatically threatens Australian democratic life.

N E W S

 Unions Take Lead in Refugee Rethink

 Workers Christmas Wish List

 Sparkie Snares Organiser of the Year Title

 Bosswatch Gets International Attention

 Bank Workers Get Serious in 2002

 Qantas's Warfare Agenda Exposed

 Cabin Crew Stand Up for Themselves

 Win for Medibank Workers

 City Council's Tactics Rival Worst in the World

 Dynamic New Start for Musos

 Unions in the Mosh Pit

 Scholarship Opportunity

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Into the Crystal Ball
What will happen in 2002? We asked some of the players in the world of industrial relations to look into the crystal ball.

The Locker Room
The 2002 Workers Online Sports Awards
There may have been no Olympics, but there were some stellar performances in 2001, from madass bad boys to terminated talents, these are the big ones.

Trades Hall
Neale Towart's Labour (Year in) Review
Sporting a Costa crew-cut, a new look Neale looks back on some issues of 2001 that look likely to the centres of debate for unions in 2002.

Tool Shed
Tool of the Year? You're Standing In It
After a year when Australians brought out the worst in themselves, we all stand condemned for a stint in the Tool Shed.

L E T T E R S
 A Fair Go For All
 The First Bastion
 Tom Collins' Christmas Wish
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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International

Global Year in Review


Labourstart's Eric Lee gives his take on a year where the world changed forever.

 
 

Eric Lee

**************

Every magazine and newspaper in the world is going to have to rewrite their end-of- year surveys to reflect the significance of the events of September 11th -- and this is just as true for the labour movement.

Prior to September 11th, most of what was happening in the world of labour was a continuation of events from the previous year and years. The global economy was moving into recession; social democratic governments, elected with the support of unions, were often proving inadequate to the job; a grassroots rebellion against capitalist globalization seemed to be brewing, with big demonstrations in Genoa, Melbourne, Seattle, London, Prague and elsewhere.

All of that, and more, changed forever when knife-wielding terrorists hijacked four US airplanes and slammed them into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and the fields of Pennsylvania.

The recession which had been building up slowly suddenly burst forth with volanic power. Hundreds of thousands of workers were immediately layed off, with some sectors utterly devastated -- such as the airline industry, hotels and tourism. New York City suffered not only thousands of deaths but tens of thousands of layoffs as businesses fled as far away as they could from Ground Zero.

The anti-globalization movement, as it came to be known, which had gone from strength to strength, was suddenly paralyzed and speechless. In Qatar, the World Trade Organization was able to meet for the first time without having to cope with mass street demonstrations, and took a range of decisions which spell bad news for workers everywhere.

Moderate left-wing governments, such as Tony Blair's New Labour, which had previously faced the threat of trade union rebellions against their policies of privatization, suddenly found themselves popular once again, as unions rallied around nation and flag in the early days of the war against terror.

On top of all this came the anthrax attacks -- working people around the USA, particularly postal workers, were the primary victims as fears of biological attack spread throughout workplaces around the globe. Unions played a key role in spreading accurate information, demanding that employers take precautionary measures, and so on, in the first major health and safety crisis of the twenty-first century.

The September 11th events had an extraordinary effect on the unions worldwide: for the first time in living memory, trade unions around the globe united in condemning an act of terror. Unions from Cuba to Israel, including unions in Muslim countries like Palestine and Pakistan, rushed to condemn the terrorist attack in unequivocal terms. For the first time, the formerly-Stalinist World Federation of Trade Unions was in agreement with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. The lion, it seemed, was laying down with the lamb.

But it was not to last. The US decision to launch military operations in Afghanistan ripped the coalition asunder, with some unions rushing to condemn the attacks (the South African and Korean unions come to mind) while others offered unqualified support to Operation Enduring Freedom (with the American unions in the lead).

The year ended with a trade union movement which had briefly united now once again bitterly divided over the war. More important, unions faced new challenges, such as an erosion of civil liberties and massive layoffs, for which they were utterly unprepared.

The world that existed before September 11th is no more, and unions -- like everyone else -- have to adapt to a new world, one which is more frightening and full of uncertainty. In such a time, unions will be needed as never before to protect the interests of working people and to preserve the possibility of a better world.


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