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Issue No. 208 13 February 2004  

All The Way With FTA?
Question marks over the bi-lateral Free Trade Agreement with the USA have only begun to scratch the surface.


Interview: Trading in Principle
AMWU national secretary, Doug Cameron, a key figure in the Labor movement, discusses the big issues - from Mark Latham to Pavlov�s Dogs.

Unions: While We Were Away
While Workers Online was washing sand from between its toes and enjoying an Indian summer at the cricket, there was a reality show chugging relentlessly away in the background, Jim Marr reports.

Politics: Follow the Leader
Worker�s Online tool man, Phil Doyle, dives into the ALP�s Darling Harbour love-in and nearly drowns in treacle.

Bad Boss: Safety Recidivist Fingered
The CFMEU has come up with a killer nomination to kick off our 2004 hunt for Australia�s worst employer.

Economics: Casualisation Shrouded In Myths
British academic, Kevin Doogan, sets the record straight on casualisation and warns unionists about the dangers of scoring an own goal

History: Worker Control Harco Style
Drew Cottle and Angela Keys ask if it's worth rememberinng the 1971 Harco work-in.

Review: Other Side Of The Harbour
The 1998 maritime dispute threatened to tear many a family apart but Katherine Thomson's Harbour tells the tale of at least one that it brought back together - albeit reluctantly, writes Tara de Boehmler.


 Rail Safety Back On Track

 Commuter Headaches Continue

 Ban "Ruthless" Operators - Judge

 Telstra Provokes Jobs Fight

 Taskforce Ignores Million Dollar Rorts

 Musos Tune-Up for Election Rock

 Chubby Fingers in Timorese Pockets

 Postal Workers Wrap Boss

 Aussie Sites Doing the Business

 Feds Abandon Aged

 TAFE Stands Over Poor Students

 Round the World on Aid

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Dog Whistlers, Spin Doctor and Us
John Menadue argues the "better angels" of the Australian character are having their wings ripped off by an ever-expanding group dedicating to keeping the public at arms length from our decision-makers.

Something Fishy In Laos
Phillip Hazelton fishes around in Vientiane, Laos, and looks at the impact of Bird Flu on those relying on feathered friends for survival.

Magic Realism
Phil Doyle discovers that literature and sport may have more in common than you would think

The Westie Wing
Trickle, flood or drought? Workers friend Ian West, MLC, is wet, wet, wet on the issue of bilateral Free Trade.

 Reality TV
 TAFE Support
 State Of Confusion
 History Lesson
 Generation Angst
 Give Them A Medal
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Commuter Headaches Continue

More chaos looms on Sydney�s beleaguered rail network as Transport Services Minister, Michael Costa, refuses to meet worker representatives over flaws in his controversial Transport Legislation Amendment Act.

As Costa patched up differences with train drivers last week, hundreds of maintenance workers angry about "gross inconsistencies" in drug and alcohol procedures flagged industrial action.

AMWU Rail Industry Corporation delegates were meeting in Sydney last Friday to determine the shape of their campaign to force Costa to discuss issues they have been trying to get onto the agenda since last October.

Frustrated AMWU secretary, Paul Bastian, said Costa's inflexibility was costing his members jobs.

"Our members are calling for industrial action primarily because we have a Minister who would rather see rail in chaos than talk to workers about problems that confront them," Bastian said.

"As far back as last October we tried to discuss this issue with him. In November, he handed down this legislation like tablets from the mountain, without any consultation.

"We wrote to the Minister again in December seeking to discuss our difficulties but he won't even talk about them."

His union has the employer in the Industrial Relations Commission, claiming unfair dismissal on behalf of a process worker sacked for blowing .02 in a random breath test.

Bastian said no part of the Act workers found objectionable had been recommended by the McInerney Report or any other safety audit.

"We're fully supportive of safety procedure, safety is every bit as much an issue for rail workers as the travelling public but this system is inflexible, arbitrary and characterised by gross inconsistencies," he said.

He listed the following practical difficulties with the present regime:

- .02 is well under the .05 required to put a car driver over the limit

- experts in the field have told his union that testing machines are callibrated to record .02 as a minimum alcohol reading

- workers have no idea whether or not they will blow positive in a random test after just a few beers with friends the night before

- there is no procedure for self-identification if workers have that concern, something provided in alcohol agreements with private employers

- some workers have been sacked for blowing .02 while others haven't

- there is no differentiation between workers in "safety critical" areas and those in other jobs ie a ticket seller at the station is treated in exactly the same manner as a passenger train driver

- there are no appeal procedures

Bastian called the current regime a complete denial of procedural fairness.

"We want a system that is fair and understood, that's all. Unfortunately this Minister is happy to perform for the press but will only talk to the workforce when it resorts to industrial action."


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