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Issue No. 213 19 March 2004  

Pay For View
While the ABS latest figures show union density is stable, behind the headline rate of 23 per cent lie some interesting trends.


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.


 "Grubs" Derail Revolution

 Blackouts Hit Sydney

 Pig-Out at Restaurant

 Smith’s Charity Begins At Work

 Air Rage Set To Soar

 Boxers Union Lands First Blow

 Drug Tests On Hold

 "Anarchy" Warning from Builders

 Burmese Generals at it Again

 Sugar: Sweet Taste of Survival

 Workers Endorse "User Pays"

 State Water, Forests Face Sell-Off

 Pirates and Ports for Classroom

 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

 Grubby Poseur
 Tom On Drink
 Howard Screws Vets
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"Grubs" Derail Revolution

The "grubby" hand of Telstra has been fingered for nobody turning up when Foxtel fired the first shots in its $15 million "digital revolution", this week.

Representatives of striking Melbourne and Sydney technicians both caught a whiff of Australia’s largest company when Foxtel took a $400 a week interim payment off the negotiating table.

"It looked like we might have been able to reach an interim settlement on Monday but someone intervened and we suspect it was Telstra," Victorian CEPU secretary, Len Cooper said. "It had Telstra's grubby fingerprints all over it."

Cooper said the payment wouldn't have got technicians back in their vans but, prior to its withdrawal, the parties had been close to an interim agreement that would have allowed digital installation to proceed while contractual arrangements were being finalised.

Telstra is Foxtel's largest shareholder. It owns Australia's dominant pay tv network in partnership with Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd and Kerry Packer's PBL.

Cooper said Telstra technicians received messages on their mobile phones during the week, requiring them to make themselves available for Foxtel work.

"Telstra corporate managers have been complaining that the action by Foxtel technicians is a direct threat to their contracting out strategy," Cooper said.

NSW official, Shane Murphy agreed.

"Telstra is up to its neck in this," he told Workers Online.

The withdrawal prompted 800 sub-contractors around Australia to vote to extend their strike "indefinitely", last Thursday.

Murphy led a convoy of 200 vans all the way from Chester Hill in Sydney's western suburbs to Foxtel's Piermont corporate headquarters where technicians staged a raucous protest.

There were van blockades of other corporate offices around the city and similar actions in Brisbane. Melbourne techs blockaded the company's Victorian headquarters last Friday, then headed to state parliament for a protest rally.

Foxtel forked out $15 million to spruik its digital revolution but take-up has been thrown into disarray by newly-unionised contractors who have seen earnings tumble in recent years.


Technicians claim that around seven years ago the average contractor was grossing $160,000 but that repeated rate cuts have shaved that figured back to around $43,000, from which technicians have to pay expenses and tax.

Cooper says the re-unionisation of contractor technicians is highly significant for the labour movement.

"We are seeing subbies getting organised and returning to the family," he said.


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