||Issue No. 207||22 December 2003|
Backs to the Wall
Interview: Robbo’s Rules
Unions: Fightback 2003
Bad Boss: Madame Lash Whips Tony
Politics: United Front
Economics: Looking Back - Looking Forward
International: Net Benefits
History: The New Guard
Poetry: What is the PM singing this Christmas?
Review: Culture That Was
The Locker Room
Looking The Otherway At Christmas
Backs to the Wall
If 2003 was a year when Australia mindlessly followed the US into a war of pre-emption which trashed the multilateral global consensus, it was also a year where millions took to the streets and said 'not in our name'.
If 2003 was a year when the corporate cowboys continued to rule the land, it was also a year when a unionist armed with a positive agenda campaigned for the seat on the board of a major bank.
And if 2003 was a year when the political climate was hostile to unions, it was also a year when the Howard Government failed to 'reform' the construction and higher education systems by writing unions out of the equation.
The list goes on - Howard's political ascendancy matched by Latham's rise; Rio Tinto's contracts agenda headed off by unions at the UN; the spread of casualisation addressed by a ground-breaking case that could shift the rules of tenuous employment forever.
If the storm clouds were gathering the silver lining was also evident, and it was a lining based on a new model of unionism - fighting smart with our backs to the wall, rather than expecting to exercise power as of a right.
And all the while, a union movement deep in its reform phase starting to do something more than just reacting - running its own positive agenda for a new set of rules for the workplace.
Key to this was the work at the NSW ALP State Conference where former factional foes laid out their common political agenda and surprised noone except themselves by triumphing. How this model translates to the national conference will say much about the type4 of government that replaces the Howard regime.
The wins this year should not be overlooked: world-leading protection from email surveillance at work, real movement in the push towards industrial manslaughter laws and the mainstreaming of the debate on maternity leave that can only lead to political action before the next election.
Meanwhile, we saw collective action delivering benefits across the workforce - nurses and teachers alongside building workers securing improvements in pay and conditions.
And new faces too, actors acting together, league players playing as a team, breaking the stereotype that unionists are bald, fat old men sitting around whingeing about the good old days.
From the peace marches, to the safety rally to every little workplace battle for justice, the message is that Working Together works - and if you don't win every single battle at least you have more fun than going through life on your own.
These are the themes the union movement needs to spread as it draws the line on 2003 and looks to a New Year: the triumph of the individual is really just a sentence of loneliness; we are a society and when we start acting like one wonderful things can happen.
Merry Christmas and a safe New Year to all of Workers Online's subscribers, thanks to all our 2003 contributors too many to mention and to the NSW Labor Council who continues to publish this journal fearlessly and independently.
We'll be back in mid-February for our sixth(!) year of frank and fearless union news, views and people.
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