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Issue No. 180 30 May 2003  

Headless Nation
So the Governor-General has voted himself out of the Big House, recognising that his capacity to discharge his duties as Head of State had been fatally compromised by the skeletons in his Yarralumla closet.


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.


 Sanitarium Casts Democracy into Hell’s Fire

 Mouse that Roared

 Abbott: Look After Number One

 Entitlements Revamp – Acid on States

 Strong Stuff – Commission Star in Court

 Think Before You Drink

 Maritime Hero Takes Final Journey

 All Ding but No Gong

 Aged Care in Terminal Condition

 Strathfield Joins War on Shonks

 AMWU Returns to the Fold

 Green Jobs In Offing

 Register for Action

 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.

 Language Most Foul
 Unions Deserve Reputation
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Abbott: Look After Number One

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott has told a Sydney job delegate to cut and run, leaving striking workmates to fend for themselves.

The extraordinary piece of industrial advice was offered after Abbott was badgered into talking to Morris McMahon delegate, James Bridge, by radio shock jock, Stan Zemanek.

Bridge, who has been on the picketline since Morris McMahon refused to negotiate with the AMWU 11 weeks ago, told Workers Online he would ignore the Ministerial recommendation.

He confirmed Abbott had told him - forget about this dispute - go and get another job.

Abbott's advice came within a week of appearing to have backed key worker demands after a picket line meeting. Last Friday, he supported workers' rights to union representation and to negotiate a collective agreement.

The Minister distanced himself from both those undertakings during the Zemanek interview.

"The company is, as I understand it, operating successfully enough with those workers who aren't on strike. Now, given that the company is apparently operating more or less successfully, why should it be forced to do a deal with a union, which it for some reason, I think some understandable reasons, has some animosity towards," Abbott said.

Can manufacturer Morris McMahon is owned by central city lawyer, Judith Beswick. Its employees voted for a union- agreement but Beswick refused to negotiate with the AMWU. She has offered staff $1000 lures to return on individual AWAs, championed by Abbott, and for weeks has bussed labor hire scabs past picketers.

The IRC, which under Abbott's regime has no right to mediate an agreement, has accused her of failing to bargain in good faith.

This week, Beswick again upped the ante, hiring PR consultants to spin her side of the story.

Profesional Public Relations obliged with a "Myth Sheet", listing 12 apparent "myths" about the dispute.

A couple of its myths, complete with spin, were

- "Myth 9: Morris McMahon is unfairly suing the unions for $700,000. Fact: We have been legally advised and believe it was proper to commence proceedings for damages as soon as possible."

- "Myth 10: The company has breached award conditions. Fact. Morris McMahon has never knowingly breached award conditions."

While Professional Public Relations were casting their spell, wharfies at Port Botany organised a collection that raised $10,000 to lessen the chance of strikers being starved back on Beswick's conditions.

Della Champions IRC

State IR Minister John Della Bosca has weighed into the wrangle, calling on Abbott to restore the powers of the AIRC.

Responding to a question in State Parliament, he said the Federal Commission was "powerless" to intervene in the Morris McMahon dispute.

"For 11 weeks, workers at Morris McMahon have been on strike due to the failure of the employer to negotiate with their union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union," Della Bosca said.

"This is despite the AMWU being a bona fide negotiating party under the federal Workplace Relations Act 1996."

Mr Della Bosca said it wouldn't happen under the NSW system which had retained an active role for the state IRC. He said he wasn't surprisde the dispute was "floundering" under federal provisions.

"I urge Mr Abbott to restore a true role for the independent umpire and unshackle the power of the Federal Commission," Della Bosca said..

He cited Morris McMahon as the "perfect example" of why NSW didn't want to have its industrial relations governed by a federal system based on conflict.


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