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Issue No. 204 21 November 2003  
E D I T O R I A L

Holes in the Net
The Medicare debate may be clouded by the minutae of the health delivery system, but it really boils down to an old-fashioned ideological battle between user-pays and state responsibility.

F E A T U R E S

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.

N E W S

 US Giant Attacks Aussies

 Exposed – OEA in Kids Scandal

 Left-Right Flattens Abigroup

 ANZ Cops Fine Over Robbers

 Classroom Stoush Gets Personal

 Seven Workers Pass "Intelligence" Test

 Stop Press: Coal Strike

 Nurses: MedicarePlus Points to America

 ‘Joel’s Law’ Gathers Momentum

 Skilled Picketers Confront Patrick’s

 Yahoo Censors Union Ad

 Labor’s Cotter Court ‘Faking’ It

 TAFE Puts Best Foot Forward

 Wharfies, Actors, Seafarers Unite

 Debus Gives Up On Lawyers Picnic

 Nelson Backdown Not Enough

 Online Pay Check

 Activists

C O L U M N S

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

Sport
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.

Politics
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.

Postcard
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.

L E T T E R S
 Jack Lives Here
 Saving Jobs
 Public Transport A Bit Rich
 The Smirker
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Left-Right Flattens Abigroup


Civil Construction companies are being brought to heel by combined AWU-CFMEU action that has seen 60 Abigroup employees win increases of up to $300 a week in the hand.

The regional road and bridge workers ended a five-week strike under the joint-unions banner by voting up average 33 percent increases at a meeting, last Thursday.

The success was the second chalked-up under the recently-signed AWU/CFMEU Demarcation Industry Pact that pledges co-operation between the traditional Right-Left foes. Workers from both organisations had recently joined forces to win similar increases and knock off AWAs proposed by the AbiLeighton joint venture building Sydney's western orbital motorway.

CFMEU organiser, Steve Davis, says the successes haven't gone un-noticed by workers or employers.

"These guys fought for five weeks and won increases in excess of 30 percent but, the truth is, they were coming from a very low base," Davis said.

"Traditionally, civil construction has been under-resourced and under-represented by both unions. The unity pact means we are in a position to change that.

"One of the most pleasing comments in the last five weeks came from an experienced worker at a mass meeting. He said that for the first time in civil construction you couldn't tell the difference between an AWU organiser and a CFMEU organiser.

"The blokes are very supportive of us working together. They reminded us regularly that one of their problems has been that the two organisations spent too much time fighting each other rather than their bosses."

Abigroup has been the most strongly anti-union industry player. Traditionally, it has picked up workers in regional towns and refused to pay living-away allowances, leaving employees susceptible to below industry standard wages and conditions.

During this dispute, around half the workers were forced to abandon accommodation because they couldn't keep up payments. Collections by both unions, on other sites, provided hardship payments and meat distributions.

On the day the Abigroup dispute was resolved, other leading civil construction outfits, Barclays and Theiss, both indicated their willingness to begin negotiations on new agreements.

If they can be signed up to the pattern agreement, all major players in NSW civil construction will be committed to the same wages and conditions for the first time in most workers' memories.


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