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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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Bennelong Grinch Strikes Again

The Federal Government has delivered a double dose of festive gloom, dumping on casuals and increasing pressure on the states to roll out his anti-worker agenda.

As the year draws to an end Federal Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews has blundered into the Labor Council's Secure Employment Test Case, while deputy Prime minister John Anderson has threatened state funding of the building industry.

Andrews applied to formally oppose Labor Council's case, designed to establish basic rights for millions of Australians employed on casual or labour hire terms, at last week's directions hearing in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.

The Test Case is the first attempt to establish basic rights for the growing number of casual and labour hire workers.

The Case has three main objectives:

- Casual workers who receive regular work of six or more months should have the option to convert from casual to permanent.

- Companies using labour hire should ensure that workers are paid no less than the company's own employees.

- Employers should consult with their workers and unions before contracting out, ensuring employees and contractors receive the same pay and conditions for similar work.

NSW Labor Council secretary, John Robertson, said unions would present evidence that shows workers in the same job working regular shifts for five years were still being classified as casuals and denied the permanency benefits such as redundancy pay, paid holidays and sick pay.

"While there are workers who are suited to casual employment, there are many more who would take secure work if given the choice," Robertson says. "If you want to take out a loan for a car or home, for instance, you have no hope if you can't show you have secure work.

"In opposing our claim the Howard government is saying workers should have no say in their form of employment and are just cogs in the machine rather than human beings.

"Australia has one of the highest rates of casualisation in the developed world - and it is clear that the Howard Government wants to keep it that way. In contrast, unions believe workers deserve the real choice as to the form of their employment.

Meanwhile, the federal government has upped its assault on the state's, threatening to withhold federal funding to any construction project that doesn't comply with the draconian federal code.

Robertson says the NSW Government has held out from the pressure to date

But acknowledged that any new federal funding could become an industrial battleground.

"The crazy thing is that the Howard government is attempting to over-ride state laws that deliver better productivity outcomes than the federal system," Robertson says.


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