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Issue No. 221 21 May 2004  
E D I T O R I A L

Wage Fixing
The Premier’s attempt to cajole the NSW Industrial Relations Commission - and his subsequent eleventh hour bid to reopen wage negotiations - is about a lot more than the teachers' pay claim.

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

 Chalkies Draw Line In Sand

 Porkies Leave Shearers In Tents

 Dust Flies In Asbestos Blue

 Joel’s Law One Step Closer

 BHP In Hedland Horror

 Occupation Focuses Anglo Minds

 STOP PRESS - Mitsubishi Carves Up SA

 Ties That Bind

 Fair Play At The Olympics

 Rally Demands Boss’ Head

 Nurses Stake Aged Claim

 Labor To Roll Up Sleeves

 Feds Take Axe To Safety

 AWU Remembers 9-11 Victim

 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
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Editorial

Wage Fixing


The Premier’s attempt to cajole the NSW Industrial Relations Commission - and his subsequent eleventh hour bid to reopen wage negotiations - is about a lot more than the teachers' pay claim.

The reality is that the Carr Government has worked itself into a little bit of a tangle over the upcoming round of public sector wage negotiations.

By concocting a mini-Budget crisis and then crying poor, Treasurer Michael Egan may have thought he'd be able to set a lower ceiling in the upcoming round of pay claims.

Instead unions have sniffed the wind and more and more of them are deciding that if the government is not prepared to negotiate in good faith, they'll take their case directly to the independent umpire and argue a case based on their work value.

At present we have teachers, nurses, public sectors and firefighters pursuing this course. Other public sector unions may consider following a similar course to deal Treasury out of the wages process.

While unions have drawn a line in the sand over the Premier's comments about the IRC, there are more profound inconsistencies in these attacks.

The Premier has won three terms of government campaigning on the need for increased resources for health education and community protection. These have been effective campaigns, assisted by a dopey NSW Opposition that still views public services as a problem rather than a solution to society's problems.

Either way, the Premier has enjoyed significant electoral success by appealing to the public's desire for the quality provision of core government services.

There is also a lesson in the lukewarm response to the Federal budget - reinforcing a growing trend that people would prefer improved government services to tax cuts.

At a state level, government services are not abstract things - large bureaucracies or poorly targeted programs - they are schools and hospitals and trains and emergency services.

And every parent with a child knows the school is really the teacher, the hospital is the nurse and doctor, the police station is the cop , and - as we've discovered recently - trains don't run without train drivers!

Public sector wages are not just another wage bargain, they are a test of a government's commitment to the provision of public services.

After his foray into umpire-bashing this week, it is hoped that the Premier at the very least allows his Commission to play the role of independent arbiter and ensure that the work value that our public sector workers deliver is reflected in their wage rates.

Anything less would be a breach of core and fundamental Labor values.

Peter Lewis

Editor


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