||Issue No. 212||12 March 2004|
Interview: Baby Bust
Safety: Dust To Dust
Bad Boss: Shaming in Print
National Focus: Work's Cripplin' Us
International: Bulk Bullies
History: The Battle for Kelly's Bush
Economics: Aid, Trade And Oil
Review: The Art Of Work
Poetry: Sew His Lips Together
Seven Good Reasons To Save Medicare
Naked Leading The Blind
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.
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