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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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Bring It On Costa

Michael Costa’s use of Howard Government laws that impose fines and imprisonment on striking workers threatens to destroy co-operation between political and industrial Labor in NSW.

Labor Council secretary John Robertson made that plain this week when he challenged his predecessor to "bring it on".

"We are not going to watch one, two or three of our affiliates being picked off because this Government is trying to protect its own arse from the shambles it has created in rail or health," Robertson told Council delegates.

"If they (State Government) are looking for a blue with the trade union movement, then bring it on. We are ready for this."

Robertson was reacting to rail management's use of Section 127 orders to force striking rail maintenance workers back to the job on pain of gaol, escalating fines and deregistration. There had been tacit agreement between unions and politicians that State Labor Government would not use the far-reaching orders, devised by former federal Workplace Relations Minister, Peter Reith, against NSW employees.

Workers had been protesting against the disciplining of workers under new drug and alcohol testing policies forced through by Costa without consultation.

AMWU secretary Paul Bastian said his organisation had been trying to meet with Costa over the issue since last October.

"Let me make it perfectly clear the union has never objected to drug and alcohol testing," he said. "In fact, it is rail workers themselves who are at most risk from a fellow worker unfit for work.

Bastian said the union had been insisting that tests were objective and reliable; administered fairly; and backed by education and rehabilitation systems.

He called Costa's willingness to reach for Coalition legislation "extraordinary" and a "grave warning" to all trade unionists.

Antagonisms were heightened by orders only being sought against members of the AMWU, although industrial action was also being undertaken by workers belonging to the ETU and RTBU - traditional members of Costa's Labor Right faction.

RTBU secretary, Nick Lewocki, endorsed Bastian's warning.

"Our members will now be looking to a future federal Labor Government to protect us from the Howard-Costello and Carr-Costa anti-worker policies," he said.

Five years ago, when Costa was Labor Council secretary, he sponsored a resolution demanding answers on why the State Rail Authority, back then, had "contravened the NSW State Labor Government policy of not using Section 127 orders against a trade union".

Robertson accused state rail management of manipulating the dispute to heighten public disruptions.

"The reality is any disruption that occurred was the fault of management who went out of their way to "defect" as many trains as they possibly could.

"It's clear the rail system is in a mess and management, and now the state government, are trying to shift the blame for that onto their own employees," he said.

Observers are predicting a major showdown if State Government is unable to patch up its relationship with Labor Council affiliates before rail enterprise bargaining agreements expire over the next couple of months.

Big Brothers Bad For Business

Meanwhile a report in a leading UK safety magazine has slammed secret monitoring of employees as a "folly" that affects the business bottom line and is bad for productivity and workers health.

'Stop snooping', a report by Hazardsmagazine revealed that secret cameras installed in a female locker room used by staff to change were discovered by workers - with the employer claiming that the cameras were "installed in the wrong room".

The full Hazards report is available online at


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