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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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Entitlements Revamp – Acid on States

With millions of Australians now denied basic entitlements states will be urged to establish a portable national fund to circumvent Federal Government inaction on the issue.

The coast-to-coast state system would ensure access to, and safety for, billions of dollars in workers money at risk from business failures.

The radical proposal, involving similar protections regimes across the nation's states and territories, will be given substance at August's ACTU national congress.

NSW Labor Council secretary John Robertson said he would meet with counterparts from around the country, during congress, to finalise proposals to be recommended to Labor administrations in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, WA, South Australia, the ACT and Northern Territory.

Entitlements have become a key issue since a raft of companies folded leaving workers without accrued holiday pay, long service leave, redundancy and other owed monies, sometimes including super contributions.

Federal Government made promises, especially in the build-up to elections, but delivered little. When Ansett crashed last year it began slugging travellers $10 on every ticket to supplement its safety net program but, even so, jobless workers are being short-changed millions of dollars.

Robertson told this week's Labor Council meeting workers were "sick and tired" of being left in the lurch when companies hit the wall and intended doing something about it.

"This is our money we are talking about, money we have earned over the years. It's alright arguing about where we stand on the creditors' list but when there is nothing left in the kitty it doesn't really matter," he said.

"One of the answers is trust funds but Federal Government is not going to do it.

"We will push state governments to make the running. If we can convince them all to do it, I think we can move forward."

Initial approaches to the NSW Government were rebuffed on the grounds it could make the state uncompetitive. A joint approach, coast-to-coast, would allay that concern.

Robertson was responding to a challenge laid down by National Entitlements Security Trust (NEST) CEO, Andrew Wyllie, in a speech to mark the first anniversary of the revamped union-backed protection fund.

Wyllie asked unions to consider employment statistics that revealed

- 20 percent of workers were now in "atypical" employment relationships, labour-hire or the like

- one third of private sector workers had no access to paid sick or holiday entitlements

He said various funds, including his own, had been successful in protecting billions of dollars worth of entitlements but there were billions more exposed to uncertainty.

Portability, he said, had become a critical issue in an uncertain environment.

"It is time to ask that every worker has a universal leave entitlement irrespective of where they work," Wyllie said. "Then we need to protect those entitlements as they accrue. The issue is not who but whether or not we can build more portability into the system."


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