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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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Drug Tests On Hold

A direct appeal to the NSW Premier has won rail workers a moratorium on a drug-testing regime that has claimed jobs and tens of thousands of dollars in lost wages.

The compromise was thrashed out following a long campaign in which workers argued testing was being used as a "disciplinary" rather than a "safety" tool.

The dispute came to a head when Minister Costa backed Railcorp management's use of Section 127 Orders that could have subjected striking AMWU members to fines or imprisonment.

"Rail workers are not opposed to drug and alcohol testing," says John Robertson, secretary of the NSW Labor Council. "Rather than dealing with the safety of workers and the public, this is being used as a 'big stick' by Railcorp management, including the CEO and the Minister."

"This is a safety issue, not a disciplinary issue."

Railcorp is seeking to introduce a regime that is even more stringent than that employed by the NSW Police Force.

Drug testing will continue at Railcorp, but the moratorium has been introduced on disciplinary action against staff until research is conducted into the effectiveness and methods used to measure drug use by workers. Railworkers will not be allowed to continue working if they test positive but it will stop the practice of workers being summarily dumped for "failing" a drug test, rather than being offered counselling or rehabilitation.

Railcorp have refused to budge on the way alcohol testing is being conducted.

Rail workers representatives have labelled RailCorp's approach to drug and alcohol testing as hypocritical. Senior Railcorp management will not be subject to the drug and alcohol testing policy, jobs are being slashed from safety critical areas while this policy is being implemented and that recommendations from earlier inquiries into rail accidents still haven't been acted upon.

"Let's get fair dinkum about safety," says Bernie Riordan NSW secretary of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU). "All sorts of recommendations came out of the inquiries into the Glenbrook and Waterfall accidents, including improvements to communications equipment, that haven't been acted upon."

For rail workers, the real safety issue is impairment. Front line rail workers have pointed out that there are more issues that affect rail safety than being under the influence, including being impaired by other factors including being short staffed due to job cuts.

The drug testing methodology has also come under question, with some drug tests taking up to 24 hours to return a result - which does not address the ability of safety critical staff to perform


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