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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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Mouse that Roared

Labourer Allan Mallard returned to work in triumph this week after being locked out, alone, for 10 weeks by an anonymous South Australian abbatoir.

The employer, who we are not allowed to name, locked the 56-year-old Meat Workers Union member out when he refused to join hundreds of colleagues on AWAs that stripped them of award minimums, including penal rates, long service and holiday entitlements.

The company wouldn't allow Mallard back on the job until AIRC senior vice president O'Callaghan ruled enough was enough.

O'Callaghan forbade publication of either party's name for fear of breaching Workplace Relations Act provisions which prevent the identification of parties to AWAs.

Workers Online understands that the AWA between them expired in January.

Mallard gave permission for his name to be published but the company, understandably, has not followed suit.

Meat Workers Union South Australian branch secretary, Graham Smith, said Mallard would be better off on the safety net award although it was three years old.

He praised Mallard's determination in resisting 10 weeks of company pressure.

"One of the problems we have is that although people might oppose their AWAs they have real problems in sticking these things out so they can be challenged," Smith said.

"What he has done will be helpful to others who find themselves in similar lockout predicaments."

Central to the farce is the Federal Government's Workplace Relations Act. It talks "freedom of choice" but denies this to new empoyees offered unilateral AWAs, on the basis that they are not employees until they accept.

Once the documents expire, however, workers have a theoretical right to opt for award coverage. When Mallard tried to exercise this right he was locked out indefinitely.

"Where a company can effectively say - go away until you sign on our terms - there is no freedom of choice," Smith said.

"In this situation, the company operates as usual and faces no downside to its industrial action. The individual has no ability to fight back and our argument is that this is plainly unfair."

Senior vice president O'Callaghan said it was clear the employee was waiting for "hell to freeze over" and the ingredients existed for an "interminable wait".

O'Callaghan said that unless he granted the union an order under Section 127 of the Workplace Relations Act, the lockout would effectively end Mallard's employment.


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