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Issue No. 179 23 May 2003  

The Game’s Up
Research into executive pay commissioned by the NSW Labor Council makes explicit what most of us have suspected for some time: the multi-million packages are a rolled gold rort.


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.


 War Declared on Mega Salaries

 Poms Prick Golden Parachute

 Picket Breaks Abbott

 Abbott: Unions are Winning

 Hotel Silences Poverty Witness

 We’ve Lost A Lion

 Nurses Refuse to be Shelved

 Boss Picks Porters’ Pockets

 Left, Right Meet at Sea

 ACTU Prescribes Pan Medicine

 Tycoon Tuned Out

 MUA Clout in Wollongong Punch-Up

 Pusey Roams Dark Side

 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.

 Hard Copy
 Bad Language
 Modern Management Theory
 Tom's Revival
 Off the Rails
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Letters to the Editor

Tom's Revival

The opportunities for pushing the benefits of Union membership are not as some pessimists would have us believe as rare as Hens teeth , they are manifold and all around us , it is the belief in the reality of mythology , and the ineptitude and apathy of those who are entrenched in well paid Union positions suffering from domestic blindness , or burning up with their own personal hatreds or crusades , that lead this vanguard of the blind.

Recently I was employed as a casual street sweeper through a Labour Hire Company during the period May 9 - May 16.

I believe there were 20 people hired to participate in a Cleansing Blitz, people of whom I considered, other than myself, to have no experience of working in heavy traffic conditions either pedestrian or vehicular and certainly with suspect training in the area of Occupational Health and safety, this incompetence not only creating a personal exposure of danger to them, but also members of the public and agreeing to sign any document even a Faustus pact just to obtain employment.

This is no reflection on these people , who like myself have found it necessary to work without complaint , in less than secure environments for fear of losing a position , which although pays little , supplements the rapidly decreasing social wage paid by the Commonwealth.

We were sent to work on Sydney's busy roads during the torrential rain, which created further safety hazards through poor visibility for both the workers and the motorists. We were directed to work without the protection of accredited traffic control officers or even the mandatory instruction or signage; we were required to use noisy portable hand blowers without instruction , safety instructions , or personal protection equipment including Ear Protection, the only apparent purpose in the use of these noisy machines in the hands of willing but inexperienced staff being to move the litter from one position to another , with little or no apparent concern as the damage to private property including legally parked cars which are left covered in filth and damage from loose metal , twigs and branches blown with high pressure against their body panels , or dents caused by brooms being forced under cars parked close to the kerb.

Another area of great concern, was not only the deficiency of accredited instruction on the disposing of "Sharps", that is the myriad discarded syringes that abound the streets of Sydney, or the lack of freely available provision of equipment to collect and contain these potentially deadly implements, with the necessity to utilise discarded soft drink containers in which to place these 'sharps', possibly creating a greater danger if these are not immediately removed from public access.

No instruction on environmental protection was given to these workers, such as litter is not to be swept into the Stormwater Gullies as this goes directly into Sydney Harbour...

This environmental pollution being exacerbated by the constant rain preventing a build up at the gully grates thereby providing some antiquated method for the of catchment of litter.

There can be no ignorance by either this Council or Work Cover in relation to this display of not only blatant disregard of public or employee safety but active participation at every level, as I made both aware of these dangerous work conditions.

The point of my correspondence is ; why did a Union not Approach these Casual Employees and offer them advice on their rights as to a safe working environment, or contact Work Cover as the outrageous conditions they were permitted to work under , if only to protect their current members.

Well you may ask did these workers continue to work under such conditions , perhaps they like many other Australian families have mouths to feed , feet to shod , backs to clothe and children to educate and through a sheer necessity they are now forced to tramp the Hungry Mile of the 21st century.

On a personal note, my desire to provide for mine own demands that if need be, I will work under these conditions and for less money, not through greed but necessity and I will continue to do so.

Bravo Mr. Keating, your Competition Policy has worked wonders for the Australian Battler.

Bravo, Messrs Kelty and Hawke on your accord.

Bravo Ms. Burrows on your Global Fair Trade Campaign

And finally Bravo Greg Combet on your working poor campaign, from our experience it has been an outstanding success.

A poem by Ernest Anthony

They tramp there in their legions on the morning dark and cold

to beg the right to slave for bread from Sydney's lords of gold;

they toil and sweat in slavery, 'twould make the devil smile

to see the Sydney wharfies tramping down the hungry mile

on ships from all the seas they toil, that others of their kind

may never know the pinch of want or feel the misery blind

that make the lives of men a hell in those conditions vile

that are the hopeless lot of those who tramp the hungry mile.

The slaves of men who know no thought of anything but gain

who wring their brutal profits from the blood and sweat and pain

of all the disinherited who slave and starve the while

upon the ships beside the wharves along the hungry mile

but every stroke of that grim lash that sears the souls of men

with interest due from years gone by shall be paid back again

to those who drive these wretched slaves to build the golden pile

and blood shall blot the memory out - of Sydney's hungry mile

The day will come, aye, come it must, when these same slaves shall rise

and through the revolution's smoke ascending to the skies,

the master's face shall show the fear he hides behind the smile

of these his slaves who on that day shall storm the hungry mile.

And when the world grows wiser and all men at last are free

when none shall feel the hunger nor tramp in misery

to beg the right to slave for bread, the children then may smile

at those strange tales they tell of what was once the hungry mile.

Tom Collins


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