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Issue No. 207 22 December 2003  

Backs to the Wall
How does one judge a year like 2003, when on the surface the powers of darkness – read Bush and Howard and union-busting bosses - can point to the scoreboard and claim ‘we won!’?


Interview: Robbo’s Rules
Labor Council secretary John Robertson rules the line through 2003 and looks forward to a bigger and better year to come.

Unions: Fightback 2003
Tony Abbott, no less, summed up the tone of 2003 when he complained workers were frustrating his agenda, as Jim Marr reports.

Bad Boss: Madame Lash Whips Tony
Jim Marr explains how a local can manufacturer knocked off a quality field, including a notorious American call centre operator, in the race for Bad Boss honours.

Politics: United Front
Facing a new leader and new rules, Jim Marr speaks to key union players about the hot issues at January’s ALP National Conference.

Economics: Looking Back - Looking Forward
The year ends with the thought that 2004 must be better, writes Frank Stilwell in his annual review of all things economic.

International: Net Benefits
International editor Andrew Casey looks back on a year where workers stood up globally for services we once took for granted.

History: The New Guard
Who were Australia’s fascists in the 1930s and was John Howard’s father in the New Guard? Labour historian, Andrew Moore, uncovers some surprising information about Australia’s fascist past.

Poetry: What is the PM singing this Christmas?
Our Kirribilli spies, led by resident bard David Peetz, have been listening in on the PM's preparations for Christmas, and have recorded the Howard family rehearsing this new Christmas carol.

Review: Culture That Was
2003 saw the Howard Government signal its readiness to swap culture for agriculture in a free trade deal with the US and film maker George Miller lament that Aussie's had run out of stories to tell anyway, writes Tara de Boehmler.


 No Joy for ANZ - This Time

 Nurses, Teachers Win Big

 Govt Coy on Sackings Threat

 NSW: State of Discomfort

 Fashion Police Collar Moe

 Telstra Picks Up Union Signal

 E-Missiles Strike White House

 STOP PRESS: Doubts Over Driver Test

 Juggler Catches Union Gong

 Chubb Beats Up On Own Guards

 Commuters Face Long, Hot Summer

 MUA Members Play Santa

 Bennelong Grinch Strikes Again

 G’day To Union Made Wines

 Activists Notebook


The Guessing Game
We have consulted our regular list of mystics and gnostics to offer these throughts for the future.

Folk You Mate
Jan Nary looks at the role of workers songs in the upcoming National Folk Festival.

Shane Maloney – Crime Writer
For a crime writer whose books are set against a backdrop of unions and Labor Party politics, Shane Maloney confesses to little direct experience of either.

The Locker Room
Workers Online Sports Awards
Noel Hester and Peter Moss give their annual rundown of the good, the bad and the ugly in the world of sport.

The Web We Weave
Social Change Online's Mark McGrath's annual review of how unions are using the web to grow.

 Tom On Mark
 Looking The Otherway At Christmas
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NSW: State of Discomfort

Bus drivers are piddling in bottles, and in the case of at least one female driver using a bucket, because of a chronic lack of toilets around NSW.

Drivers have slammed "third world conditions’ under which they work, saying the issue is an industry wide problem and that operators and government are failing to address a serious public hygiene problem.

The private bus industry services many expanding areas of Sydney and the Central coast where amenities for drivers are either inadequate or non-existent.

"We normally have to go out on shifts that are mostly five hours long," says Ron McGill, who works out of the Westbus depot at Northmead. "We all have bodily functions. The times we get to do these things are very tight. People are often forced to contain themselves."

McGill says that the time pressure issues are compounded by a lack of facilities.

"Under OH&S legislation employers are supposed to address these things, but the solution needs a global approach."

Drivers would like to see stakeholders - including local governments and chambers of commerce that benefit from bus services in their areas - recognise the problem and reach consensus on a common sense solution.

Former bus driver and Transport Workers Union organiser Mick Pieri echoed McGill's concerns.

"The drivers have to hang on for hours on end. A lot of time when you need to go to the loo you have to go through passengers just to get to the toilet. The passengers can be irate because the bus is running late," says Pieri, who says that the issue is more than just toilets. "We've been fighting thee issues for ten years. We need facilities with hot and cold running water, proper meal rooms, proper amenities."

Pieri told of one instance where drivers were issued with towels and soap, but nowhere to use them. Drivers are often forced to take their breaks by the side of the road.

As well as the public hygiene risks in not providing appropriate facilities for workers who come into contact with hundreds of members of the public on a daily basis, drivers are also concerned about the long term health effects.

"I have no doubt its got to have some effect on the bladder and the kidneys," says McGill.

Pieri also suspects that being forced to hold off going to the toilet on such a regular basis could be linked to high incidence of prostate problems among bus drivers.

In the meantime drivers across the private bus industry are frustrated at the slow progress in addressing their concerns and are seeking to highlight their situation to gain the support of the public.

There has been some agreement from state rail to incorporate bust driver facilities at redevelopments of major transport terminals, but this fails to address the problems at the end of runs that are often in recently developed subdivisions.

"The rate of progress is slow,' says McGill. "There is no privacy [in the new subdivisions]. It's not like you can go behind a tree."

"We have to press for these improvements. Unless [the stakeholders] are embarrassed and can be more objective."

Until then bus drivers remain frustrated that they can't enjoy the sort of facilities that other people take for granted.


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