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Issue No. 159 01 November 2002  

Why The User Should Pay
Unions have often been the victims of the user-pays ethos – the pointy end of the assault on the State by the Top End of Town that has left our public sector looking like the poor relation to the corporates.


Interview: Life After Keating
Labor's foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd looks at the world and wonders what might have been ...

Industrial: That Friday Feeling
Anthony Stavropoulos has been working six days a week for the last eight years and now he wants his weekends back. “Remember that Friday feeling?” he asks. “You just don’t get that anymore.”

Bad Boss: Begging to Work
They may put themselves about as the Saints of the Fourth Estate, but bosses at the Big Issue Magazine have been nominated by their own vendors for this month’s Tony award.

Organising: Project Pilbara
Sydney University’s Bradon Ellem reports on how unions are bouncing back in Rio territory

Unions: Off the Rails
The Federal Government is attempting to turn NSW Railways into a political football with a proposal that threatens the safety of freight and passenger trains in NSW and life in our rail Towns, writes Phil Doyle.

International: Brazil Turns Left
Union stalwarts throughout the American hemisphere are cheering the election of Lula – the peanut seller and shoeshine boy, turned union leader - who has been elected as the first working-class President of Brazil.

Environment: Brown Wash
Stuart Rosewarn argues the Johannesburg Sunmmit was a gripping showcase of Australia’s lack of a strategic vision.

History Special: Learning from the Past
Ray Markey looks at union membership growth in the 1880s & 1900s to argue that today’s unions must engage to grow.

Corporate: Will the Bullying Backfire?
Job insecurity, unemployment, a growing gap between rich and poor, massive global poverty and environmental danger are the big issues for the protests at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Sydney.

Technology: Danger Lurks For The Passive
If unions fail to exploit opportunities on the web to gain members, other organisations are likely to fill the void and provide services to workers on the internet.

History: In Labour’s Image
Neale Towart looks at a long-overdue initiative to around NSW through the eyes of the workers.

Politics: Without Power Or Glory
South Coast contributor Rowan Cahill gives his take on the Cunningham by-election result.

History Special: A 'Cosy Relationship'
Barbara Webster looks at Rockhampton between 1916 – 1957 to debunk the ‘dependence’ theory of trade union growth.

Culture: Blood Stains the Wattle
Former Queensland Treasurer Keith De Lacey has turned up in print with a rollicking tale of life during the famous Mt Isa strike of the 60s.

Satire: Iraq Pre-empts Pre-emptive Strike
Saddam Hussein has launched a pre-emptive strike on the United States to prevent it from pre-emptively striking Iraq first.

Poetry: The Executive Pay Cut
Executives accepting pay freezes, or even pay cuts? This outrageous proposal has been put on the table by some capitalists themselves, and taken up by our bard.

Review: Time Out
When a family man invents a new life after losing his steady job, Tara de Boehmler watches his charade escalate until there is no turning back.


 Bargaining Fees In the Dock

 Deadly ‘Slave Labour’ Racket Exposed

 Zoo Workers Buck Indecent Proposal

 Cabinet Takes Stick To Abbott's Carrot

 Cyber Action Behind Hilton Win

 Aussies Back On Board

 City Workers To Help Country Cousins

 Sour Taste for Wine Workers

 Government Grounds Ansett Levy

 TAB Workers Winners as Cup Strike Averted

 Aussie Post Gets Mail On Sick Leave

 Council Backs Community Radio Venture

 First Steps to Compo Clean-Up

 Workers Out! Conference Opens In Sydney

 Aussie Union Rep Power, Yes Please: TUC

 New Burma Shame File

 Activists Notebook


Month In Review
War and Pieces of Work
The Bali Tragedy dominated the news this month, leaving many questioning the motive and wondering if this is fallout from Australia’s unquestioning support of George Dubya’s ‘War On Terror’.

The Soapbox
Beware of Greeks Bearing Historical Allusions
Roland Stephens argues that the current popular line that the USA is a modern day version of the Roman Empire is flawed.

The Locker Room
Over The Fence Is Out
Phil Doyle warms up for another season of hard hitting and fast bowling in the park, making the rules up as he goes along.

The Sea of Hands
Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation are five years old. Spokeswoman Dameeli Coates addressed labor Council to mark the event.

Tokyo Youth Call
Tokyo unions are relying on young organisers to infiltrate workplaces as part of a major organising campaign, which focuses on non-unionised companies, reports Mary Yaager.

Still Crazy After All These Years
With new research suggests CEO carry similar personality traits to psycho-paths, the AGM season is proving that there’s little room for logic in our nation’s board rooms.

 Trashing the Siren Theory
 More Bali Feed Back
 Clean Election Laws Now!
 And Now, Some Fan Mail!
 Policy Vacuum
 Tom's Postscript
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Tool Shed

Wisdom of Solomon

Coles Myer boss Solomon Lew has found refuge in the Tool Shed using backpackers and push polling as he fights a rear guard action to save his seat on the retail giant’s board.

In desperation, Solly has taken on Lynton Crosby's PR firm to push poll shareholders with underpaid backpackers working out of a call centre in Artarmon. They are phoning the estimated 560 000 shareholders of Coles Myer as part of a multi-million dollar campaign to keep his seat on the board of the retail giant. "The work is shite, but at least it's pretty easy,' one backpacker was reported as saying in the [I] Financial Review. [/I]

Despite the spin-doctor's efforts to stop the smell, Solly's history is coming home to roost, which makes the member of the Business Review Weekly's wealthiest 200 list's effort to paint himself as 'the friend of the little guy' all the more pathetic. His effort to save his seat on the board has all the hallmarks of a slick political campaign, complete with the usual fertiliser. Like John Brogden, he's prepared to run around and tell anyone want they want to hear in order to grab their vote. Some media reports have the one time rag merchant shelling out over $10 million in publicity.

His call to re-introduce the Shareholders Discount Card is another gimmick, as it would be unlikely to succeed at the board level. There is also some confusion over what Lew's position was when the generous scheme was terminated back in March. Similarily his charge against overpaid executives reeks of no small amount of hypocrisy, given his own remuneration during times when retail staff at Coles Myer have faced the sack. And how could we all forget when Solly threatened to save Ansett jobs, before he took his bat and ball and went home.

Now he wants shareholders to forget the controvertial Coles Myer-Yannon deals, which ended up costing shareholders $18 million, and was seen as a hangover from the excesses of the eighties and nineties. There must have been great sighs of relief around Coles Myer when an Australian Securities and Investments Commission inquiry recommended no prosecutions. The inquiry lasted four years and raised eyebrows across the big end of town when no suggestion of impropriety was found.

Those opposed to Solly keeping his seat on the board at Coles Myer point to his numerous other business interests and their transactions with the Coles Myer company. In the 2000-01 Lew companies supplied Coles Myer goods worth $63 million, down from $75 million a year earlier. Lew, as an old retailer, should know that, regardless of the propriety of such transactions, it's the perception that can bring you undone.

Coles Myer is Australia's biggest private-sector employer, with more than 160,000 employees on its books. The group includes the Coles supermarket chain, Myer, Grace Bros, Target, Kmart, Officeworks and Harris Technologies. All of this talk of millions here and millions there must be re-assuring to the tens of thousands of retail workers who face the axe as the company gears up for yet another round of 'restructuring'.

It's just a pity there isn't a corporate player out there who can't show as much commitment to the staff that make the profits, rather than the shareholders that reap the rewards.


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