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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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Combet Calls On Unions to Muscle Up

The head of the ACTU has called for a rethink of the way unions do politics, calling on them to reassert their role beyond the workplace and hold all political parties accountable for promoting their members’ interests.

ACTU secretary Greg Combet told a meeting of more than 700 trade union organisers in Sydney that a clearly articulated set of values, that transcends industrial relations, is needed to rebuild union power.

Combet was launching 'Future Strategies - Unions Working for a Fairer Australia' - a document reviewing and building upon the 1999 [email protected]

That report calls on unions to maintain a relationship with the ALP but also look beyond Labor to build relationships with community groups and other political parties based on a clearly defined set of values.

A set of values, to be debated in the lead up to ACTU's August Congress would include: - democratic rights, a fair distribution of wealth, the right to be employed, access to health and education regardless of your income or social status, decent minimum living standards, a fair tax and social security system, access to housing, respect for indigenous rights, and diversity in the community, a sustainable environment, equal treatment before the law and international cooperation and peace.

These would sit alongside the union's core set of workplace values: the right to decent pay and conditions, safe and healthy workplaces, protection against unfair treatment or dismissal, gender equality, the right to collectively bargain and to organise and cooperation instead of conflict.

Combined, they would create a clear roadmap for all union members and a focus for broader political activity.

"Unions in the US are increasingly adopting a hard-headed approach to politics," the report says. "They make sure political candidates seeking union support actively support union objectives."

In his speech Combet acknowledged the widespread frustration in union ranks about politicians and political parties:

"There is a justifiable feeling that much more could be done to assist working people and union organisation, particularly by Labor Governments. I think we should take a constructive approach to this issue - to turn the frustration into a positive strategy.

"We should draw upon our values to develop a clearer set of goals for union political activity.

"Are we effectively making the case within the ALP and more broadly for improvements for casual workers, for collective bargaining rights, for improved safety and workers compensation, for low paid workers?

"Are the candidates supported by unions for parliamentary elections genuinely committed to our social and economic justice goals?"

In his address, Combet also called on unions to:

- debate changes to the industrial relations system, including the idea of European-style Works Councils;

- consider a single national telephone number for contacting unions;

- build the number and skills of workplace delegates;

- modernise union communication and campaign methods;

- invest more heavily in membership drives in growing parts of the workforce; and

- and develop innovative recruiting tactics such as visiting workers in their homes.


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