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Issue No. 185 04 July 2003  
E D I T O R I A L

A Recipe for Conflict
Without making any excuses, Tony Abbott’s hand wringing at this week’s airing of a secret video of picket line violence was a bit like watching Don King condemn boxing.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: As They Say In The Bible ...
One the movement’s great characters, Public Service Association general secretary Maurie O’Sullivan, is calling it a day. He looks back on his career with Workers Online.

Industrial: Just Doing It
Sportswear giant, Nike, is the first company to sign off on an agreement that purports to protect Australian clothing workers, wherever they labour, writes Jim Marr.

Unions: Breaking Into the Boys Club
For a 23-year-old woman who has never worked in the trade, recruiting young construction apprentices into the union has its challenges, reports Carly Knowles.

Activists: Making the Hard Yards
Mal Cochrane came to the smoke as part of an Aboriginal avalanche that redefined the face of Rugby League. Today, he serves his community through the trade union movement.

Bad Boss: In the Pooh
What do you give a boss who makes his workers labour in raw sewage? A nomination for the Tonys.

Unions: National Focus
In the national wrap Noel Hester finds a Victorian Misso delo who is redistributing lucre from Eddie McGuire into workers’ theatre, South Australian unions taking that Let’s Get Real stuff seriously, an American unionist fronts up at a distinguished ‘meeting of the brains’ in Adelaide and a look at the line up for ACTU Congress.

Economics: Pop Will Eat Itself
Dick Bryan wonders if we can be insured against pop economists promising financial nirvana as well as financial market instability.

Technology: Dean for President
Paul Smith looks at how the internet is helping one Democrat candidate to the front of the primary pack

International: Rangoon Rumble
Union Aid Abroad's Marj O'Callaghan looks at Australia's weak response to developments in Burma.

Education: Blackboard Jungle
Lifelong learning shouldn’t mean cutting jobs, but that's exactly what the Carr Government is proposing, argues Tony Brown

Review: From Weakness to Strength
Labor Council crime-fighter Chris Christodoulou catches up with his boyhood hero, the Incredible Hulk

Poetry: Downsized
Resident bard David Peetz pens the song the Industrial Relations Commission needed to hear

N E W S

 Aussie Workers Cradle-Snatched

 Morris McMahon Workers Say Thanks

 Violence: Emerson Fingers Abbott

 Cowboys Face Contracts Ban

 TUTA Rises From the Ashes

 Teased Teachers Fight Back

 Labor Fails TAFE Test

 Coke Called on to Stop the Rot

 Bridgestone Drops Doughnut on Workers

 AIRC Locked in Dark Ages

 Maternity Breakthrough in Hotels

 Labour Rights: Even Bush is Better!

 Long Winter for Seasonal Workers

 Activist Notebook

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Cleaning Up
Rabbi Laurie Coskey from San Diego adds her voice to the global campaign for just for cleaners in Westfield malls.

The Locker Room
The Name In The Game
In an age of the sportsperson as celebrity it seems that names are overtaking the games, writes Phil Doyle.

Postcard
The Beach
Southern Thailand’s terrorist activities: facts or fiction asks HT Lee

L E T T E R S
 A Tribute to Brian Miller
 Orange Peel
 After the Accident
 Cuba - the Debate Continues
 Old Ted
 Greetings from Japan
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Editorial

A Recipe for Conflict


Without making any excuses, Tony Abbott’s hand wringing at this week’s airing of a secret video of picket line violence was a bit like watching Don King condemn boxing.

Here was the architect of industrial confrontation condemning the very forces his policies have unleashed - the law of the jungle with no umpire to control proceedings.

No one condones violence anywhere and the official involved in the video has apologised unreservedly for his actions. But before we tie any individual to the stake let's remind ourselves of a few important truths.

The Howard Government came to power promising that no worker would be worse off. It then went about ripping down the industrial safety net that had created the egalitarian society that many took for granted.

No change was more instrumental in this demolition job than the removal of the powers of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to compel employers to bargain in good faith.

That was all the workers at Morris McMahon would have needed to force an unreasonable employer to the negotiating table. Instead, they were forced to stand outside the factory gates for more than four months.

They were fighting against another of the Howard Government's reforms - secret individual contracts that trade away collective bargaining rights, with an up front cash inducement sufficient to meet the flimsy 'no disadvantage test'.

At Morris McMahon the workers held out. Despite being offered $1500 to sign up to AWAs, they refused to bend. With the support of hundreds of unionists from across the movement, they preserved their right to be in the collective.

Every morning they would hold their ground as management and scabs broke the picket - two immovable forces meeting.

They should have been in the AIRC talking. But thanks to Tony Abbott and his crew, they were on the ground shouting at each other and worse.

The great tragedy of the week is that the Morris McMahon's workers historic win was greeted the same day by the video nasty. Worse still, it will be used to diminish all unionists by those sections of the media that see this as their historical mission.

Rather than pontificating about the evils of unions, Tony Abbott would be better served explaining how his laws contributed in a real way to the ugly situation occurring.

The genius of Abbott is to talk about the rule of law while he promotes his real agenda of industrial deregulation. In doing so, he paints an economic agenda as a moral one.

To unleash anarchy and then use the chaos that ensues as vindication is the ultimate in hypocrisy. Even for a congenital hypocrite, Abbott hit a high watermark this week.

As for the Howard Government, if you want an image of their attitude to workers, picture a couple in their family car being buffeted by Liberal politicians and big businesses; Peter Reith is kicking the tyres, Peter Costello is pouring cold tea on the roof. And Tony Abbott? He's laying a golly on the windscreen.

If you were to capture it on film, you'd call it an outrage.

Peter Lewis

Editor


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