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Issue No. 142 28 June 2002  
E D I T O R I A L

Safety First
This week's Safety Summit, called by the Carr Government, is a timely opportunity for the union movement to put occupational health and safety into a contemporary perspective.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Safe as Houses
Labor Council secretary John Robertson outlines the union movement's priorities in the lead-up to this week's Safety Summit.

Safety: Ten Steps to Safety
On the eve of the NSW Safety Summit, Workers Online went looking for the ten biggest workplace health issues and what needs to be done to address them.

History: Staying Alive
Neale Towart winds the clock back to discover that contemporary arguments that regulators should stay out of workplace safety and let the market do its business are nothing new.

Unions: Choose Life
While Commissioner Cole struggles with the concept of unions trying to improve workers’ wages, out in the real world, bosses daily thumb their noses at safety authorities, as Jim Marr discovers.

International: Seoul Destroyers
The rise and rise of the Korean national football team in the World Cup competition was more than matched by the rise and rise of the number of imprisoned Korean trade unionists.

Corporate: Crash Landing
Did Ansett workers’ productivity really crash Ansett? Jim McDonald weighs up the evidence.

Activists: The Refusenik
At 20, Rotem Mor has spent more time analysing how he will live his life than most people twice his age. A month in prison and another 18 serving in the Israeli army saw to that.

Review: Dumb Nation
Michael Moore's new book, 'Stupid White Men' exposes the rorts behind the Bush presidency with bitter humour, writes Mark Hebblewhite.

Poetry: Helping Out The Rich
From proposals to 'deregulate' (ie raise) university fees, to attempts to restrict workers' right to strike in the name of 'genuine' bargaining the Government's rhetoric about helping out the battlers is wearing just a bit thin.

N E W S

 Redundancy Bonus for Members Only

 Tax Office Backs CFMEU Case

 Lib MP Named in Cole Commission

 Sentencing Guidelines for Safety Breaches

 Revealed: Costello’s Hit List

 Virtual Cold War Over

 Safety Lock-Out Enters Second Week

 Unions Seek Talks With New Airport Owners

 Journos Attacked by NRMA

 Strip Bosses Face Dressing Down

 Beattie Called Into Bargaining Impasse

 Nurses Deliver Largest Ever Petition

 US Braces for its Own Waterfront War

 Activists Notebook

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Back to the Future
McKenzie Wark argues that the future of the book relies on the future of a sphere of public debate.

Bosswatch
Chain Reaction
The Big Australian discovers a uranium mine it never knew it had, a corporate fraud sparks a worldwide market plunge and the price of investing ethically.

The Locker Room
Three Colours Blue
After a World Cup that saw post-colonial cultural theorists chanting 'we beat the scum one-nil' on the Terraces of Inchon, it was the natural order of things that prevailed, writes Phil Doyle

Postcard
Poll Positioning
Unions Tasmania secretary Lynne Fitzgerald gives an overview of the State Election called earlier this week.

Week in Review
The Weight of Office
Apart from the Teflon John, power walking at his own pace, would-be leaders everywhere turned in shockers as Jim Marr discovered.

L E T T E R S
 Link Wages to CEO Pay
 Voodoo Unionism
 Good News from the Pilbara
 Go Mark, Go
 Double-Standards
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Editorial

Safety First


This week's Safety Summit, called by the Carr Government, is a timely opportunity for the union movement to put occupational health and safety into a contemporary perspective.

In many unions, Occupational Health & Safety is a back-water, something divorced from the day-to-day activities of industrial negotiations and the forward looking organising agenda.

But talk to workers, and it's the issue at the forefront of their minds. A recent poll of CFMEU members, for instance, found 71 per cent believed protecting workers' safety was an important union service - way ahead of wages and conditions

That's why there's been such resonance in the union's resistance to the Cole witch-hunt - by campaigning on health and safety the CFMEU has actually thrown down the gauntlet to the Commission to address life and death issues, rather than Tony Abbott's self-serving rhetoric.

It's also why last year's battle for workers compensation in NSW was such a passionate one - and ironically, out of the ashes of that conflict, come opportunities to move forward and reinvigorate work health and safety.

Upcoming changes in OHS legislation NSWgive extra impetus to this push - the requirement that all workplaces have a workplace safety representative provides a golden opportunity.

Where unionism is weak the safety rep structure provides a way in. Where unions are already strong these new structures are a way to engage members with campaigns that actually mean something

And it's not just about safety on building sites - its about sustainable workloads, reasonable hours, bullying and victimisation - it is above all, about the humanity of any given workplace.

It's about factories and hospitals, schools and shopping centres, chemical labs and coal mines; it doesn't what colour collar a worker wears, they have a legitimate expectation for a safe workplace.

There is a lot of science in OH&S but there's nothing scientific about mobilising workers around their basic right to earn a living without ruining their bodies through lax safety, poor work practices or unsustainable targets.

Perhaps the time has come to mainstream work safety - recognise it's a hot issue for workers and therefore fertile ground for organising.

How ironic it would be, if amidst all the complexity of the modern workplace and the nightmare of labour market deregistration, the simple demand for a safe workplace becomes the rallying call for a new generation of unionists.

Peter Lewis

Editor


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