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Issue No. 212 12 March 2004  

Unfriendly Fire
The decision by Rail Corp to invoke Peter Reith’s hardline industrial laws against NSW rail maintenance workers could cause more casualties than intended.


Interview: Baby Bust
Labor's Wayne Swan argues that the plight of our aging workforce is only one side of our demographic dilemma.

Safety: Dust To Dust
Failure by authorities to police safety in the asbestos removal industry is threatening the lives of members of the public, writes Phil Doyle.

Bad Boss: Shaming in Print
Delegates from print shops around Sydney will publicly shame this month’s Bad Boss nominee with a rally outside his new Alexandria operation next Thursday.

National Focus: Work's Cripplin' Us
Noel Hester reports on a spin doctors' talkfest, workplace pain, stroppy teachers and IWD party time in the national wrap.

International: Bulk Bullies
An extraordinary five month struggle over affordable health care, by nearly 70,000 Californian supermarket workers, has just come to an end, writes Andrew Casey.

History: The Battle for Kelly's Bush
Green Bans saved a piece of bush before they saved much of the Sydney’s built environment, writes Neale Towart

Economics: Aid, Trade And Oil
Tim Anderson reveals Australia’s second betrayal Of East Timor is playing out before our eyes.

Review: The Art Of Work
Workers and westies are being celebrated as the cultural icons they are thanks to two Sydney exhibitions reminding us there is a world of art in the everyday, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Sew His Lips Together
Wondering where the next porkie is going to come from? Resident bard David Peetz knows.


 Bring It On Costa

 Dodgy Tests Cost Drivers

 Peeking Dicks Roasted

 Serial Killer Cops Fine

 Printers Defy Age

 Actors Bucket "Crap" Deal

 Burrow Lashes Independents

 Perth Loses Ugly Fight

 Ambos Bans -Free Rides

 Millions Rung Up on Telstra

 AWU Publishing Coup

 Deliveries Scratched

 Activists What's On!


The Soapbox
Iraq and Your Mortgage
How high interest rates go will be a key issue in 2004 and if you are looking for a clue, there's no better place to look than the war in Iraq, writes Michael Rafferty.

Hang Onto the Day Job
Show someone else the money, says Phil Doyle.

Westie Wing
Ian West shows why Eveleigh Street’s not so far away from Macquarie Street

Don’t Give Up the Fight
Get Up, Stand Up is the logo of choice on a popular range of subversive condoms. Ken Davis from Union Aid Abroad reports from Zimbabwe’s second city

 Bring Back Gough
 Seven Good Reasons To Save Medicare
 Naked Leading The Blind
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Unfriendly Fire

The decision by Rail Corp to invoke Peter Reith’s hardline industrial laws against NSW rail maintenance workers could cause more casualties than intended.

Because rail workers have always been employed under the federal award system, they have been subject to Reith's laws since they came into force, but this week was the first time the reviled section 127 orders were utilised against them.

Section 127 is anathema to the unions for two reasons; first it gives the Industrial Relations Commission the power to outlaw industrial action on the grounds of economic impact; and secondly, it provides hefty penalties against individual workers if these orders are breached.

When the laws came into force, unions campaigned strongly that 'economic impact' was no reason to over-rule a workers' right to strike - indeed the ability to strike where there is an economic impact is one of the few leverages a worker has.

But even more obnoxious are the penal provisions that, unlike the NSW Labor model, can see workers personally punished for participating in industrial action.

In defending his decision to run section 127 to his disillusioned Caucus colleagues this week, Transport Minister Michael Costa attempted to portray the workers as reckless recalcitrants, who are hell bent on resisting drug and alcohol testing at work.

This glosses over the fact that unions have never denied the testing for drug and alcohol - they just want it to be part of an agreed disciplinary policy that treats substance abuse as a health and safety issue, rather than grounds for summary dismissal.

But even if you accept Costa's justifications, it still goes way across the line of how a Labor Government should treat workers acting through their union.

You either accept a cooperative framework or you don't and, by stepping outside the NSW industrial relations model when things get a little hard, Costa has delivered a free kick to the Howard Government.

And how can rail workers embark on their upcoming Enterprise Bargaining negotiations with any sense of confidence that their employer will treat them with respect and decency, when it's already signalled they're prepared to make them pay for any industrial action they take.

In a week when the NSW Parliament rejected a proposal to ban drunk MPs from the House even as one pickled member got sprung, you really have to ask yourself who should be getting swabbed.

Peter Lewis



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