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Issue No. 177 09 May 2003  

Joining The Dots
ACTU secretary Greg Combet’s call for unions to develop a clear set of values to organise around on a broader social canvass is an important next step in the process of renewal.


Interview: Staying Alive
CPSU national secretary Adrian O'Connell talks about the fight to keep the public service - and the union movement - alive.

Bad Boss: The Ultimate Piss Off
Wollongong workers on poverty-level wages are losing up to $5000 for taking toilet breaks, according to the union representing staff at a Stellar call centre.

Industrial: Last Drinks
Jim Marr looks at the human cost of the decision to close Sydney’s Carlton United Brewery

National Focus: Around the States
If Tampa told us that John Howard circa 2003 is the same spotted rabid dog from 1987, this week’s assault on Medicare confirms it reports Noel Hester in this national round up.

Politics: Radical Surgery
Workers are vitally interested in Medicare, not least because they traded away wage rises to get it. Now, Jim Marr writes, the Coalition Government is tearing apart the 20-year-old social contract on which it was founded.

Education: The Price of Missing Out
University students and their families will pay more for their education following the May Budget, writes Tony Brown.

Legal: If At First You Don't Succeed
Love is wonderful the second time around, goes the famous torch song. But is the same true for legislation? Asks Ashley Crossland

History: Massive Attack
Labour historian Dr Lucy Taksa remembers the general strike of 1917 to put the recent anti-war marches into perspective

Culture: What's Right
Neale Towart looks at a new book that looks at the failings of the Left, while reasserting the liberal project

Review: If He Should Fall
Jim Marr caught Irish folk-rock-punk legend Shane MacGowan at Sydney’s Metro Theatre. He was surprised but not disappointed.

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.

Satire: IMF Ensures Iraq Institutes Market Based Looting
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has agreed to monitor the Iraqi economy to ensure that the reintroduction of looting into the economy conforms with free-market theory.


 Combet Calls On Unions to Muscle Up

 HR Honours Death List Author

 Hotel Workers Trump Living Wage

 Abbott Brushes Security Concerns

 Rebates Thorn in Medicare Side

 Bosses Infected With SARS Hysteria

 Entitlements: Bargaining Chip Ploy Fails

 Nelson Plan Faces Higher Hurdle

 Public To Pay For Patrick Closure

 Airline Ratbags Bigger Than Texas

 Credibility Crisis for World Bank

 Acid on Billion Dollar Banks

 CSIRO Budget Fears

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
What May Day Means to Me
Reader Marlene McAlear penned this tribue to May Day and worker solidarity.

The Toast
Labor Council secretary John Robertson's toast to the annual May Day dinner in Sydney.

The Locker Room
The Numbers Game
In life there is lies, damned lies and sporting statistics, says Phil Doyle - but who’s counting.

Brukman Evicted
ZNet's Marie Trigona reports from the streets of Argentina in the rundown to last week's presidential election.

The Costs of Excess
Some tall business poppies had their heads lopped this week as the laws of economic gravity applied their always chaotic theory.

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Joining The Dots

ACTU secretary Greg Combet’s call for unions to develop a clear set of values to organise around on a broader social canvass is an important next step in the process of renewal.

It comes as unions are evaluating the success of the [email protected] strategy, the manifesto that Combet adopted on taking the top job that called on unions to shift resources to grassroots organising.

Over three days of workshops, more than 700 organisers took stock of where the movement had gone in those four years and how much further they had to travel before they could safely discard Michael Crosby's 'scary graph' of falling union numbers to the dustbin of history.

If the most recent statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing a further decline in union numbers after two years of minor growth are anything to go by, that quantum leap has yet to be achieved.

It shows that despite the undoubted need for trade unions to shift their resources to the shop floor and concentrate on organising around nuts and bolts workplace issues, more is needed to create the wave of unionism that will really turn around our density.

That's where the broader union agenda needs to come into play - values based around fairness, equity, social justice and, yes, aspiration, that provide a road-map for every workplace struggle.

We are a diverse movement that can't be dictated to by doctrine - members' interests on individual issues will inevitably clash at times. What will remain consistent though is a clear sense that unions are on the workers' side and not sitting with the boss.

It is this core value, more than anything else, that the Accord years compromised and the ongoing monogamous relationship with an ALP that does not return the fidelity continues to undermine.

The input of the leaders of the peak councils Greg Combet, Paul Goulter from New Zealand and John Robertson, reinforced that the time has come to reassert the movement.

Robertson's challenge to abandon mindless factionalism and territorialism, Combet's call to review our political reliance on the ALP and Goulter's simple call to be more courageous in everything we do, amount to a challenge to think bigger.

It's why health care and higher education and international trade agreements and peace are core, not fringe union issues.

They are about building the momentum to give unionism a resonance that lingers after the EBA has been negotiated or the bastard manager pulled into line.

It's about joining up the dots; from the shop floor to the industry to the broader society.

As the graduates from this year's Organising Works campaign showed cheering each other on as they received their certificates at the Conference Dinner: it doesn't matter what your age, your culture, your dress-sense or, God forbid, your political faction - it's all about being Union.

It all comes down to values.

Peter Lewis



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