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Issue No. 189 01 August 2003  

The Secret Life of Us
The fact that casual workers are too scared to come forward and testify about the need for job security seems to prove their basic point � no matter how long or how well you work, you can never feel safe in your job.


Interview: The New Deal
US union leader Amy Dean expands on her agenda to give unions a real political voice

Unions: In the Line of Hire
Unions have lobbied and negotiated in a bid to stem casualisation and insecurity. Now, Jim Marr, writes they are seeking protection through a formal Test Case.

Culture: Too Cool for the Collective?
Young people are amongst the most vulnerable in the workforce. So why aren't they joining the union, asks Carly Knowles

International: The Domino Effect
An internal struggle in the biggest and strongest industrial union in Germany IG Metall has had a devastating wave effect across not just that country, but also the rest of Europe, writes Andrew Casey.

Industrial: A Spanner in the Works
Max Ogden looks at the vexed issue of Works Councils and the differing views within the union movement to them.

National Focus: Gathering of the Tribes
Achieving a fairer society and a better working life for employees from across Australia will be key themes at the ACTU's triennial Congress meeting later this month reports Noel Hester.

History: The Welcome Nazi Tourist
Rowan Cahill looks at the role Australia's conservatives played in supporting facism in the days before World War II.

Bad Boss: Domm, Domm Turn Around
Frank Sartor might have shot through but Robert Domm still calls the IR shots at Sydney City which pretty much explains why the council is this month�s Bad Boss nominee.

Poetry: Just Move On.
Visiting bard Maurie Fairfield brightens up our page with a ditty about little white lies.

Review: Reality Bites
The workers, united, may never be defeated but if recent episodes of Channel 10 drama The Secret Life Of Us are to be believed, this is not necessarily a good thing, writes Tara de Boehmler.


 Tough Women Draw Line at Sacking

 Witness Protection Urged on IRC

 Max Swings Axe at Safety

 Sick Twist in Drug Testing

 Sacked Mum Goes to the Top

 Cuts Sour ADB Birthday Bash

 Howard Enlists Russians for Military

 Vic Workcover Invests in Worker Misery

 Public Hole in Power Shortage

 Whistleblower Sacking Sparks Zoo Walkout

 Truckie With Conscience Wins Back Job

 Indigenous Labour honours Tobler

 Asbestos Blocks Liverpool Road Works

 Activist Notebook


The Soapbox
Fighting Words
Craig Emerson gave what could be the most spirited Labor spray in a decade to the NSW Labor Council this month. Here it is in all its venom.

Out of Their Class
Phil Bradley argues that Australia's education system should not be up for negotiation in the global trade talks.

The Locker Room
The ABC of Sport
Phil Doyle argues that the only way to end the corporate madness that is sport, is to give it all back to the ABC.

Locks, Stocks and Barrels
Union Aid Abroad's Peter Jennings updates on the situation in Burma, where the repression of democracy is going from bad to worse.

 Bullies in the Ranks
 It Is Still About The Members Isn't It
 Tom's Purpose
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Tough Women Draw Line at Sacking

Being kicked, bitten, punched and scratched is all part of the job for Rachel Hodges, Megan Colman and their workmates at Dural. But when the Autism Association sacked their boss they walked off on the job in disgust.

The disability support workers this week rejected an IRC recommendation to return to work, holding out for the reinstatement of team leader, Jennifer Cumming, who was dismissed for refusing to cut staffing levels at the day care facility.

Job delegate, Hodges, told NSW Labor Council the issue was health and safety.

"A lot of our guys have very colourful histories of assaulting their families, our staff and other clients, resulting in hospitalisation for a few unlucky people," she said.

"I think you will understand what I mean when I say that unsafe, for us, is potentially fatal."

And not just for themselves. Colman and Hodges reel off a list of "incidents" they have seen with their own eyes, sometimes from very close range...

- a fellow worker wrestled to the ground and nearly suffocated

- biting and scratching on a near daily basis

- workmates and clients being punched

Colman has had chairs thrown her at work.

Both clearly recall the day they had to lock themselves in a van and call for back-up as a 130kg client turned a day visit to St Alban Botanical Gardens into a riot, attempting to punch and kick them.

While they took cover, a second client marched into a nearby supermarket and started eating "stuff". The man had a range of allergies and the

women, responsible for his welfare, knew one bad choice would mean a serious allergic reaction.

Another time, a client cut loose at the Parramatta Bowling Alley, assaulting five staff before he could be subdued.

Colman is one of a number of staff, required to carry a PRN sedation drug, at all times.

Some of the workers at Dural earn less than $14 an hour for performing a service to the community most would run from.

Colman has a six-year-old with autism, and a number of workmates have family members with the condition.

Adequate staffing, she says, is a "must", in everybody's interest.

"Even with the present staffing, things get hairy," she says

Cumming, who sold up in New Zealand to become the third manager of the Autism Association's Dural facility in two years, won the respect of

workers by refusing a budget-driven demand to "lose three staff".

Autism Australia is playing hard ball, changing locks on the building, refusing reinstatement and calling police to the picket line. But workers have been buoyed by the response of local people, especially the

parent and client who joined their picket on Thursday.

"We also have people that abscond at the first opportunity." Hodges said. "But we love our jobs. We make a difference."


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