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Issue No. 195 12 September 2003  

Coalition of the Swilling
As the world stopped to mark the second anniversary of the September 11 attacks and its horrendous human toll, attempts at writing new rules for global trade were hitting their own immovable object


Interview: Crowded Lives
Labor frontbencher Lindsay Tanner talks us through his new book on the importance of relationships and why politics is letting the people down.

Activists: Life With Brian
Work by men like Brian Fitzpatrick is exposing new Australians to old truths. Jim Marr reports

Industrial: National Focus
A showdown looms in Cancun, Qantas gets bolshie, casual and lazy in its response to aviation challenges, and long festering disputes fester on in Victoria and Tasmania reports Noel Hester in this national wrap.

Unions: If These Walls Could Talk
Trades Hall is preparing for a major facelift but first, Jim Marr reports, it must bid farewell to the colourful bunch who have populated its dusty corridors in recent years.

Economics: Beating the Bastards
Frank Stilwell looks at some of the proposals for building a fairer finance sector.

Media: Three Corners
So its come to this. Four Corners, one of the world's longest running television programs is now under pressure from an ABC Executive that is less cultural visionary than feral abacus.

History: The Brisbane Line
Percy Spender was Menzies' foreign minister, but, Neale Towart asks, was he also prepared to serve as Prime Minister in a Japanese controlled Australia?

Trade: The Dumping Problem
Oxfam-CAA helps set the scene for this month's World Trade Organisation in Cancun.

Review: Frankie's Way
In The Night We Called It A Day Frank Sinatra learns 'sorry' Down Under is a loaded word and refusal to say it when due will lose fans in important places, writes Tara de Boehmler.


 Teachers Attack National Stitch-Up

 Safety Off The Rails

 Lion King Delivers for Kids

 Five Grand Extra for Unionists

 Telstra Gets Curry for Take Aways

 WTO Trips on Cancun Hurdle

 Workers Kicking Goals

 Dial NRMA for Stuff-Up

 This Is Your Operator Freaking

 Millionaire Takes Candy from Carers

 Working Women Get New Voice

 Community Burns Rubber Giant

 Grass Roots Campaign Beats Bush

 Unions-Council Strike ‘Clean Hands’ Partnership

 Call For Campaign To Save Bush Trains

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Staking Our Territory
ACTU secretary Greg Combet argued for a fairer Australia in his keynote address to last month's ACTU Congress.

The Locker Room
Seasonally Agisted
Spring is a season when a person’s thoughts turn to…horse racing. Phil Doyle reports on the fate of nags and folk heroes.

Beyond the Block
We are wild about the people who live in The Block but not too interested in those who are on the streets outside, writes Michael Rafferty.

The Westie Wing
Workers friend Ian West MLC, reports form the Bearpit about a project to raise awareness about trade unionism amongst young people.

The Awkward Squad
Paul Smith meets one of the new generation of British union leaders who is taking the ball up to the Blair spin team.

 Life Wasn’t Meant To Be Frankie
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This Is Your Operator Freaking

Overworked Victorian emergency call operators, some facing trauma counselling, are on the brink of strike action.

"They'd be better off at McDonalds," says CEPU state secretary Len Cooper, of members dealing with traumatic situations on shifts of up to 12 hours that attract no penalty rates.

Their employer Emergency Communications Victoria is crying poor - leaving emergency call centre staff angry that conditions at ECV, formerly known as Integraph, have not improved significantly since the days of Jeff Kennett.

Integraph, one of Jeff Kennett's privatisation disasters, was a controversial operator of the 000 service. When the Bracks' government was elected the operator was brought back into the public sector and re-named amidst promises that working conditions would be brought up to community standards.

"They're often beaten around emotionally," says Cooper. "They are so short staffed on weekends and nights that there is a problem in their capacity to serve the emergency services."

Workers often have to undergo counselling because of the traumatic nature of the work and the long hours are having a big toll on the call centre workers, with short staffing leading to extended periods of overtime. This overtime attracts no penalty rates on top of what is already a low wage.

An interim EBA offered some increase in wages with a promise of shift penalties.

The call centre workers have received support from the Victorian Emergency Services and Industrial Relations Ministers but the Victorian treasury has demanded that any increases in workers pay and conditions be met out of existing budgets. ECV are now claiming an incapacity to pay for any improvements.

With ECV offering penalty rates of $1.50 an hour the call centre workers are looking to take industrial action in support of a better penalty rate regime and a whole new set of working conditions.

ECV has flagged job cuts at the already understaffed operation - threatening to wipe out 70 positions in a workforce of 280 - a situation that Cooper says would "cripple" the 000 service.

"With everyone crying crocodile tears over terrorism there is a real question mark over the capacity of this service to deliver," says Cooper.


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