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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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ACTU Names Its Price

The ACTU will seek a $26.60 a week wage rise next year for 1.6 million award workers in its annual Minimum Wages Case raising Australia's legal Minimum Wage to $12.50 per hour.

Announcing the 2004 Minimum Wages Case, ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said the claim was an opportunity to help reverse the growing inequality of incomes in Australian society.

For full time workers, the claim would boost the Minimum Wage from $448.40 per week to $475 per week, before tax.

The claim is the next step in the unions' wages strategy adopted at ACTU Congress in August, which set a target to progressively increase the Federal Minimum Wage to $14.50 an hour or $550 a week.

Combet says that to prevent further increases in inequality, debt and to address the crisis of low pay in Australia, substantial increases were needed in the incomes of low paid workers.

"More than half of award workers earn less than $15 per hour. Many cannot afford basic household expenses. It is no surprise that Australians are being forced into record levels of household and credit card debt," Combet says.

"Most award workers are women in part time and casual jobs. Their work often entails serving the needs of others in the hospitality, retail, health, childcare and community sectors. They deserve and need a decent pay rise next year."

Under the claim, award workers would receive an average annual pay rise of 4.5 per cent, compared with 6.2% in Average Weekly Earnings in the year to August and 7.3 per cent for CEOs in the year to June, according to this month's Australian Financial Review's annual salary survey.

Combet called on the Federal Government to break with tradition and support the ACTU's claim next year to help improve the living standards of the lowest paid workers.

The Howard Government has opposed the ACTU's Minimum Wages Case every year since coming to office, despite a robust economy. If the Government had had its way since 1996, workers on the minimum wage would be $35 a week worse off than they are now.

Combet says that the ACTU's claim is economically responsible and would have a negligible impact on employment levels. The claim is costed to add 0.1 per cent to economy-wide earnings and 0.08 per cent to inflation. The Australian Industrial Relations Commission will hear the case next year.


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