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Issue No. 147 09 August 2002  

A Call to Action
While there has been a lot of angst, anger and no shortage of tub-thumping over Simon Crean's push to cut union influence in the ALP, the end result of the Hawke-Wran review is that it is a call to action for unions to reclaim their party.


Interview: Save Our Souls
Labor's superannuation spokesman Nick Sherry expands on his recent discussion paper into the industry.

Unions: Rats With Wings
As the Cole Commission continues to sidestep safety, another Sydney building accident puts workers at risk this week, Jim Marr reports

Bad Boss: If The Boot Fits
Royal Commission favourite and S & B Industries top dog, Barbara Strong, carts off this week�s Bad Boss nomination.

History: Political Bower Birds
Rowan Cahill looks at a new resource detailing the fading history of the Communist Party of Australia

International: No More Business as Usual
Global unions are stepping up their campaign against corporate rip-offs

Corporate: The Seven Deadly Sins of Capitalism
Shann Turnbull outlines a new set of rules that should govern capital in the post-Enron environment

Industrial: Stiffed!
A backyard horror story has left funeral workers worrying about mooted changes to industry regulations, Jim Marr reports

Review: Prepare To Bend
If it�s a feel good flick that you want, Bend It Like Beckham is sure to satisfy on every level, writes Tara de Boehmler

Satire: Bush Boosts Sharemarket Confidence: Shares his Cocaine Stash
President Bush has rushed to re-establish confidence in the US market by distributing cocaine from his own Presidential stash to Wall Street.


 Mainstream Media Vacates IR

 Ten Click Walker 'Unfit for Work'

 Unions Push for Baby Nest

 Casino Workers Overtime Jackpot

 Abbott�s Task Force �Rank Hypocrisy�

 Shipping Policy Blamed for Reef Damage

 Dropping The Ball On Training

 Combet Pushes Consultative Vehicle

 Maternity Leave for Pacific Workers

 Hit List of Forced Closures

 Magistrate Endorses Health and Safety Rights

 Contracts a Thorn in Workers' Side

 Fringe Success for Workers� Pick

 Activists Notebook


Workers on Film
Last issue we asked you for your ideas on a union film script to match Ken Loach's The Navigators. Here are the best responses.

The Soapbox
Driving Together
ACTU Secretary Greg Combet argues that the Australian car industry needs a partnership between business and labour.

The Locker Room
Dogs And Underdogs
Phil Doyle explains why losers are half the equation in each and every sporting contest

Week in Review
Filfthy Rich and Claptrap
While Labor and the Democrats are tearing themselves to shreds, Little Lachie and Rich Ray address the main game �

Muddy Waters
It was a week when the Prime Minister washed his hands despite mounting evidence that the corporate world is out of control.

 Fraser No Workers' Hero
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A Call to Action

While there has been a lot of angst, anger and no shortage of tub-thumping over Simon Crean's push to cut union influence in the ALP, the end result of the Hawke-Wran review is that it is a call to action for unions to reclaim their party.

The move to reduce the institutional votes of unions at Party Conferences may be reactive, insulting and ultimately symbolic, but it does provide a new avenue for trade unionists to have a greater influence in the party.

But in advocating for workplace based ALP branches and placing responsibilities on all MPs to engage with union activists on a regular basis, the review is broadly consisting with the union movement's own modernisation agenda.

While the headlines will undoubtedly chronicle how a Labor leader has won his battle to 'cut union power', it doesn't capture the essence of where organised labour is today.

- unions have never exercised their collective power in the ALP because they have traditionally given their votes to the political factionsgiz. When unions combine their votes on key issues, such as the human treatment of refugees or power privatisation, they will still have a profound influence on Labor's agenda.

- the views of unions and the rank and file are rarely at odds. The tension within the party is typically between the leadership and the rest of the party. How many rank and file members supported the Carr Government's cuts to workers compensation entitlements? If this policy had been subjected to a Party Conference, unions would not have needed 60 per cent to carry the vote - they could have got there with six per cent.

- unions enjoy far greater public approval ratings than any political party. What leader wouldn't swap their polling for the unions' 86 per cent rating? Plus, unlike the membership of the major political parties, our numbers have increased for the past two years.

- finally, unions are several years into their reform process, a process that shifted power to their membership and replaced the certainties of institutional power with the ongoing challenge of activating its rank and file.

The bottom line is new party rules that encourage grass-roots activism and give members a greater say can only benefit the interests of a defactionalised, energised and growing industrial wing.

While the symbolic push to 'reduce union influence' by dint of the party conferences may be portrayed by some as a defeat for unions, the reality is that rank and file unionists will have more reason than ever to get involved at a political level.

If the causes that unions have championed within the Party through their institutional strength can be translated into rank and file causes, it will make it harder rather than easier for the apparatchiks to stifle them.

If the end point of the Hawke-Wran review is that it motivates both affiliated and non-affiliated unions to transfer their grassroots industrial organising strategy into the political arena, it will have been a valuable process.

Peter Lewis



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