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Issue No. 169 07 March 2003  

Re-considering The Accord
The twentieth anniversary of the Hawke Government�s election provides an opportunity to ponder the Accord�s historical conundrum: how at the moment of the union movement�s greatest influence did it suffer its greatest loss of members?


Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Through a distortion in the time-space continuum, we have found a recording showing how people a few years into the future will deal with health care.

Interview: League of Nations
ICFTU general secretary Guy Ryder on the war, core labour standards and why Australia is an international pariah.

Industrial: 20/20 Hindsight
A retrospective analysis of the Accord is needed to help develop future strategies. Is it worth trying again? And if so, what would need to be different?

Organising: On The Buses
A new rank and file leadership team is standing up for the harried bus driver in the run-up to the NSW State Election

Unions: National Focus
A gaze around the country reveals some inspiring and innovative organising initiatives, a fruitful connection with young workers in South Australia and some typically robust industrial campaigns reports Noel Hester.

History: The Banner Room
On the eve of it�s refurbishment, Jim Marr ventures into one of Trades Hall�s best kept secrets; the room that houses relics of labour�s halcyon days.

International: The Slaughter Continues
Chilling new statistics from Colombia's main trade union confederation CUT: nine trade unionists assassinated in the first two months of this year.

Legal: A Legal Case For War?
Aaron Magner looks at the legal implications of the crusade of the Coalition of the Willing

Culture: Singing For The People
When there�s a struggle for social justice, when a war is brewing or rights are being eroded, the first ones to pen, paper and protest are often the folkwriters.

Review: The Hours
On the eve of International Women�s Day Tara de Boehmler follows the tale of three women who would rather choose death than a life devoid of personal choice.

Poetry: I Wanna Bomb Saddam
Scarier than Star Wars, the latest weapon to be deployed in the battle for Iraq is the Singing Dubya.

Satire: Diuretic Makes Warne's Excuses Look Thin
Australian cricketer Shane Warne today admitted that he was still feeling the after effects of the diuretic he tested positive to.


 Sacre Bleu � It�s �La Gong� Now

 Mum Raises Labour Hire Bar

 Investigate the Buggers

 NSW Libs Madder Than The Monk

 Kits Strike Terror into Govt

 West Braces for Shelling

 Executive Pay Under Senate Spotlight

 Clean Energy�s Jobs Bonus

 Zoo Workers Buck �Mercy Killing�

 Canberra Firefighters Win Union Backing

 Global Equity Under Spotlight

 Aussie Workers Fight Indian Child Labour

 Water on the Brain

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Workers Friend
Shock jock Alan Jones snubbed his Liberal mates to bucket the Cole Royal Commission and launch Jim Marr's book

The Locker Room
Boer Bore Boring
In the face of oppression Phil Doyle falls asleep in front of the TV

Guest Report
Dead Labor
The Hawke and Keating legacy is John Howard, Leonie Bronstein argues.

Hands Off, Tony
John Della Bosca argues the NSW Industrial Relations System gives his State a competitive advantage.

Groundhog Day
Another year, another round of corporate excess. Bosswatch returns from its summer slumber to find the same old dogs up to the same tricks.

 Re - Core/Non Core promises.
 Strangers in the House
 Nursing Home Concerns
 Catholic Tastes
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Re-considering The Accord

The twentieth anniversary of the Hawke Government�s election provides an opportunity to ponder the Accord�s historical conundrum: how at the moment of the union movement�s greatest influence did it suffer its greatest loss of members?

The architects of the Accord have been out in the media this week, defending their legacy - a period of responsible power sharing where workers received benefits way beyond their pay packets.

They point to compulsory superannuation, their position on the Reserve Bank Board that gave a real input into the economy and the array of social wage benefits that would never have been possible with spiralling wage claims as evidence of the fruits of restraint.

Even critics of the ACTU would be churlish not to concede that self-sacrifice and vision of the union hierarchy was central to the opening up of the Australian economy and the higher levels of growth that have flowed from this.

But they would point to the undeniable fact that in delivering benefits to working people from the top down, the Accord created a framework that fundamentally weakened the union movement.

Every Accord rise came as a deal brokered at the Big Table, workplace activism was surplus to requirements, until it seemed like the rises just happened.

At the same time, stronger union areas were being stymied, leaders holding back their members from claims they could have persues on the grounds of the broader interests of society.

And what did these workers get in return for their restraint? Less security, more pressure and the constant fear that they would be thrown on the scrap heap because their business could not generate the hyper-profits that footloose global capital came to demand.

The deeper question to ponder after 20 years is whether the union movement would be in stronger shape today if the ACTU had played it differently.

It's unlikely that the union movement could have prevented the economic reforms of the Hawke-Keating era; no world economy, save the wreckage that is now Argentina, has managed to insulate its dollar from the world market.

So, the conditions of a globalised economy that make it difficult for unions to organise today - an economy focussed on the service sector, smaller workplaces with more mobile labour markets - would still have come to pass.

But with the benefit of hindsight, the ACTU through the Accord could have set better limits to the way the process occurred - limits on the powers of the banks that were allowed to enter the economy, tighter safeguards on the operations of privatised state businesses, guarantees on protections for the victims of change.

Rather than taking the role of power-broker, more care could have been taken advocating for union members, translating the macro changes to the experience at the workplace.

Ironically, this is very much the philosophy of the ACTU's new focus on grassroots organising: empowering workers to campaign on the issues that matter to them; rather than ceding all wisdom to those on a national executive.

This, more than any political power dynamic, is why a formal Accord between unions and the ALP is unlikely to ever be repeated.

It was like the game got away from us and the Accord was a victory lap that took place while the match was still in progress. Only now are unions rebuilding, with the sort of activists networks that should have been erected as part of the Accord process.

Peter Lewis



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