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Issue No. 203 14 November 2003  

Beyond the Workplace
The NSW union movement’s intervention this week into the debate over the future of public transport is an important step in redefining what unions are all about.


Interview: Union for the Dispossessed
The Welfare Rights Centre's Michael Raper on 20 years of activism, the politics of punishment and how to make Australia egalitarian again.

Unions: Joel's Law
Building Workers have overcome powerful forces to push workplace safety back up the national agenda. But, Jim Marr writes, their "success" has come at an unacceptable cost.

National Focus: Spring Carnival
It must be spring: punting in Victoria, singing in South Australia, fighting in America. It’s all there in the national wrap from Noel Hester plus an Australian union movement rugby world cup class consciousness poll.

Bad Boss: Fina and Fiends
They sacked the job delegate, reinstated him after an IRC hearing, and sacked him again two weeks later. But that was just the beginning.

Industrial: The Price of War
Mass industrial action is brewing in Israel as the policies of the right-wing Sharon Government come home to roost, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Who's Got What
Frank Stilwell pours over the latest BRW Rich List to build a picture of the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots.

History: Containing Discontent
Racism against minorities has always been a stock in trade of politicans, writes Phil Griffiths

Review: An Honourable Wally
Most Australians probably look at our politicians and feel they could do a better job but when redundant meatworker Wally Norman gets the chance to find out he realises getting elected is a major hurdle, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: The Colours of Discontent
A thousand blossoms bloomed during the US President's spring-time colonial visit last month.


 Hamberger Bad for Kids

 BHP Faces UN Sanction

 Hardie Shareholders Face Death

 Road Workers Swing Left-Right Blows

 Joy Battles Goode at ANZ

 Developers To Kick Transport Can

 ACTU Names Its Price

 Death By A Thousand Cuts

 Ban Holes Water Police Deal

 Cleaners Mop Up Contracts Mess

 Workers Entitlements Dumped

 Overtime Goes Bush

 Libs Push Lawyers Picnic

 Unions Set To Stand Up To Bullies

 Jack Thompson Headlines Launch

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Bush's Faith-Filled Life
The President's conversion, 'sense of divine calling' and struggle with sobriety are subjects of a forthcoming book, writes Bill Berkowitz

The Not So Smart Money
Phil Doyle is sick of big money ruining grass roots sport, and he’s taking his bat and going home.

The Westie Wing
The ongoing challenge for Labor members of parliament is to make what the Premier calls the ‘creative partnership’ between the Government and the union movement a reality, writes our favourite MP Ian West.

Behind the Junta
Saw Min Lwin, Secretary for Trade Union Rights/ Human Rights for the Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB), outlines the struggle for workers in his country.

 Burma Up In Smoke
 Super Solidarity
 Perils Of Pauline
 Put A PM On The Barbie
 Tom Holds Water
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Road Workers Swing Left-Right Blows

Road workers, many tossed out of accommodation during a four-week strike, are muscling up to Abigroup under a revolutionary pact between traditional rivals, the CFMEU and AWU.

CFMEU organiser, Steve Dixon, credits the inter-union agreement with keeping together workers, paid around $300 a week less than standard industry rates.

"This is the way Abigroup works," Dixon says, "it goes to the bush and picks up blokes doing it tough, denies them the $330 living away from home allowance and then uses it to exploit them.

"In the past it has been able to play off one union against the other but not any more."

Dixon said that when workers demanded parity with others in the industry, Abigroup employed its usual tactic of telling the AWU the CFMEU had approached it for a single-union agreement, and telling the CFMEU its traditional civil construction rival had done the same.

"Trouble is," he said, "we told each other. We were able to go a meeting and tell the employer he was lying."

Dixon said the dispute was the most important in civil construction's recent history because Abigroup was determined to slash wages and conditions in a move competitors would have to take into account in future tenders.

The 60 strikers are employed on road or bridge jobs at Coopernook, Weatherill Park, Bangor and Katooomba. More than half those employed at the last two venues have had to either move out of caravan parks or rented accommodation since the dispute began.

The two unions are holding collections around Sydney, Newcastle and 'Wollongong sites and were this week able to make contributions towards strikers living costs.

AbiGroup is in the process of being taken over by German engineering company, BillfingerBurger, which already owns Australian construction heavyweight Balderstone Hornibrook.

The Left-Right union combination had its first workout in a recent dispute with the Abi-Leightons joint venture building the Western Orbital motorway. Protracted action beat off attempts to introduce AWAs and won significant wage increases.

The unions sealed their new approach in a formal agreement, brokered by NSW Labor Council representatives, and signed last Thursday.

Labor Council secretary, John Robertson, warned the industry the rules had changed as a result.

"If I was an employer in civil construction I would be very nervous," he said. "For the first time, in a very long time, these two unions are focused on the main game. Things will be very different as a result."

CFMEU representatives made a light-hearted presentation to AWU secretary, Russ Collison at last Thursday's Labor Council meeting with CFMEU president, Peter McLelland, apologising to delegates in advance for ruining much of the entertainment they had come to expect.

"The only place most delegates ever expected the CFMEU and AWU to bury the hatchet was in each other's foreheads," McLelland admitted.


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