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Issue No. 197 26 September 2003  

Coming to the Party
The coming NSW ALP State Conference marks an important moment in the changing relationship between the political and industrial wings of the Party.


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.


 Violence: Rail Workers' Hot Spray

 Corporate "Branch Stack" in Court

 Entitlements: Ball in Carr’s Court

 Asbestos Prospect for Home Buyers

 "Stand Over" Claims at Hilton

 US: Iraq on the Block

 Sheeps Of Shame

 Teachers Applaud TAFE Backdown

 Council Delays Sweat Shop Action

 Monk Aims Muscle at Unis

 Cobar Beats Off CBH Assault

 Sign Here For Reconciliation

 Workers Denied Home Loans

 Casual Approach No Holiday

 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.

 The Clown and the Magician.
 Shorter Hours
 A Sick War
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Violence: Rail Workers' Hot Spray

A female City Rail worker, urinated on twice in the course of her job, is pleading for upgraded security as angry workmates flag industrial action during the Rugby World Cup.

Train guard, Isabelle Mills, said she had seen other workers spat on and repeatedly witnessed masturbation during her time as a City Rail employee.

"We shouldn't have to threaten industrial action," she told Workers Online.

Train guards - who have been pulled from moving trains, spat on, abused, had objects thrown at them and had to deal with violent and unruly passengers on a day to day basis - are calling for security on train services to be beefed up.

"I had a man come up with his hand in his pocket in the shape of a gun and he went 'bang'," says Mills, who has found the abuse to be a regular part of her job. "It affects people very much. It affects your family life."

Incidents are not confined to late night services with one rail worker describing how a passenger broke a beer bottle over his own head on a mid-morning service in the Hunter Valley. In that incident a rail guard was forced to deal with two potentially violent men who abused and intimidated other passengers on the service.

Train guards receive no training in how to deal with violent passengers or those affected by drugs and alcohol.

Rail workers are calling on management and the NSW state government to address the issue in the in the interests of staff and the comfort of other passengers.

"The railways have something to gain from improving the situation,' says Mills, who has described overcrowding on state rail services as a "recipe to be abused."

Mills says that rail workers want passengers to enjoy their train travelling experience, but that violence is hindering efforts to maintain safety.

"The feeling is that management would take the side of the person who is assaulting you," says John Henry who has 21 years of experience as a train guard. "If you get abused by someone it can be traumatic."

Henry says that the situation facing rail workers is deteriorating with violent incidents on the increase. His experience is backed up by statistics that show a marked increase in violence on state rail services since the Olympics.

"We're filling in security incident reports day after day,' says Henry. "Just about every train has an incident on it."

Workers Online understands City Rail employees are set to refuse to operate services during the Rugby World Cup unless management addresses their safety concerns.

Rail Tram and Bus Union Newcastle organiser Mick Schmitzer has attacked State Government hypocrisy over underfunding for rail services, leaving frontline rail staff as the "meat in the sandwich" and bearing the brunt of management decisions.

Newcastle based rail staff want to see a greater profile for the new Transit Officers, with a full time 'depot' for the officers based in Newcastle.

"Transit Officers have made a big impact," says Henry. "They do a good job."

Rail workers believed an increased presence by Transit Officers would lead to a decrease in anti-social behaviour on trains.

The NSW Labor Council will be convening a forum to address the problem of violence against rail workers on Tuesday September 30.


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