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Issue No. 219 07 May 2004  
E D I T O R I A L

The Mouse That Roars
A number of campaigns this week show how web campaigning is reaching a level of sophistication that is transforming it from a gee-whiz fad to a potent industrial tool.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Machine Man
It’s regarded as the most powerful job in the Party, but new NSW ALP general secretary Mark Arbib wants to build a bridge with the union movement.

Unions: Testing Times
Unions are not opposed to drug and alcohol testing, but they do want to see real safety issues addressed, writes Phil Doyle.

Bad Boss: Freespirit Haunts Internet
FreeSpirit forked out a motza for a whiz bang internet presence then disappeared right off the radar – once it was nominated as our Bad Boss for May.

Unions: Badge of Honour
Surry Hills is home to one of the world’s finest displays of union badges thanks to Bill "The Bear" Pirie and a supporting cast headed by Joe Strummer, Mark Knopfler, George Benson, Annie Lennox and other seriously big noises.

National Focus: Noel's World
Shrill bosses bleat over minimum wage rise, union spinmeisters congregate in Melbourne and Tassie’s nurses take the baton from their mob in Victoria reports Noel Hester in this national round up.

Economics: Safe Refuge
A humanitarian approach to refugees and an economically rational one?? I’d like to see that. Frank Stilwell did, when he went to Young in NSW to look into the impact of the Afghan refugees on temporary protection visas who came to work for the local abattoir

International: Global Abuse
Amnesty International have joined the chorus against the violation of trade union rights in the former Soviet republic of Belarus.

History: The Honeypot
To the Honeypot come those individuals anxious to get their hands on instant wealth. So it was in the early days of Broken Hill, wrties Grace Hawes in this homage to the mining town.

Review: Death And The Barbarians
This new take on coming of age films focuses on the coming of death and the dignity and maturity it can inspire among those touched by it - though not always easily in the overcrowded Canadian public health system, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Resident Bard David Peetz uncovers some of the unfolding mysteries of talk back radio.

N E W S

 Casual Affair Costs Family

 Dob a Driver Strikes Out

 Crash LAME’s Smoking Gun

 Axe To Fall On Skippy

 Internet Replaces Crayons

 Young Lives Crushed

 Feds Move Goal Posts

 Telstra Baulks at Two Percent

 Crane Death Brings Fine

 Worker Breaks Unwritten Law

 Private Nurses Short Changed

 RailCorp Wrecks Weekend

 Thunderbirds Are Stop

 Activists What’s On!

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Rethinking Left and Right Part 1
Dr David McKnight, from the University of Technology, Sydney presents a new frame for looking at the competing ideas within Social Democracy.

The Soapbox
Rethinking Left and Right Part 2
David McKnight concludes the paper he presented to the ‘Rethinking Social Democracy’ conference, in London, April 15-17, 2004.

Sport
Out On A Limb
Phil Doyle becomes the first Australian journalist to state that the Olympics will be called off.

Politics
The Westie Wing
In the latest episode, Ian West explores what Disraeli called "Lies, damn lies and statistics".

Postcard
Message from America
Searing snapshots from a landscape of uncertainty have plunged the Bush Administration into deeper crisis, writes WorkingForChange's Bill Berkowitz.

L E T T E R S
 Reprehensible?
 Justice For Victims Denied
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Dob a Driver Strikes Out


Sydneysiders nearly faced another day of gridlock when it was revealed disgruntled commuters could cost bus drivers their jobs for the price of a local phone call.

State Transit back-flipped over the dismissal of a Brookvale bus operator when workmates across the city, and Newcastle, announced they would walk out in response to an "unfair" disciplinary system.

The operator had his authority to drive cancelled three months ago after a member of the public alleged he had been drunk on duty.

Workers at all 13 depots across the city, Western Sydney and Newcastle voted for direct action, arguing State Transit required no tests or corroborating evidence to remove an operator's livelihood.

"How would you like it if I could just ring up and say you were drunk behind the wheel and police came around and took you licence without even conducting a test?" RTBU secretary Raul Boanza asked.

Last Thursday, the Brookvale driver received notification in the mail that his suspension had become a dismissal.

Drivers told State Transit they would strike from the first shift on Friday. Barely one hour later their workmate had been reinstated.

Boanza said the backflip had not resolved the issue because State Transit's "one-sided and unfair system" remained in place.

"We are not going to go through this performance every time a member of the public rings in to complain about an operator," Boanza said.

"Neither this union nor its members has ever condoned drink driving and never will.

"What we want is an agreed procedure that gives operators some fairness when they are accused."

Boanza said the Brookvale member had never been asked to undergo a blood test and no proof to sustain the allegation had been put forward.

When workers have their authority to drive removed they are put before the Department of Transport without the right to legal or any other representation.

"I have been to these disciplinary hearings that decide a workers' livelihood myself and been prevented from saying anything. I have been told, up front, I am not allowed to say a thing," Boanza said.

Boanza said, typically, a driver attracting a formal complaint would be suspended without pay and it often took another three months for the Department to determine whether or not to dismiss.

The approach, he said, was "fundamentally wrong".

"What is the family supposed to do about the mortgage or food for three months?" he asked.

Boanza said his union had written twice to Transport Minister, Michael Costa, requesting "procedural fairness" in disciplinary actions, but neither had attracted a response.


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