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Issue No. 223 04 June 2004  

Last Year�s Model
Economists keep telling us things have never been better, all the economic indicators say so. Which sparks the obvious question: why are so many of us feeling so low?


Interview: The New Democrat
Canadian activist Judy Rebick explains how she's using lessons from Brazil to rebuild the labour movement.

Bad Boss: The Ugly Australian
Prime Minister John Howard is in California spruiking the "merits" of this month�s Bad Boss nomination �

Unions: Free Spirits and Slaves
International capital demands guest labour � legal or illegal � as a way of beating down wages and conditions and, as Jim Marr discovers, the Australian Government seems happy to oblige.

Industrial: National Focus
Noel Hester reports on another workplace death (we-will-not-RIP NOHSC), heartburn for the Canberra consensus and all the action from around the states in our national wrap.

History: A Class Act
The problem of forgetting the primacy of class in favour of other ideas of community is highlighted in a new book, writes Neale Towart

International: Across the Ditch
NZ Nurses Union leader, Laila Harr�, is in Sydney this week, comparing notes with the Australian Nurses Federation and seeking transTasman support for New Zealand�s highest profile industrial campaign.

Economics: Home Truths
Sydney University's Frank Stilwell argues that tax policy is driving the housing boom.

Review: No Time Like Tomorrow
The Day After Tomorrow is one part Grim Reaper of the environmental movement and two parts fictitious fable dramatically window dressed with extreme special effects, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Silent Note
Resident Bard David Peetz uncovers the current public service motto � "Don't tell the Minister!".


 Trade Deal a $47 Billion Dud

 Ground Staff Spread Fashion Wings

 Ghan Raises Trans-Continental Stink

 Union Busters Bank on Labor

 Witnesses Face Casual Duress

 Rail Workers Cop �Beer Nannies�

 Sun Shines on Green Bans

 Big Business Plan to Cripple Compo

 Money Can�t Buy Me Love

 Federal Election in Doubt

 Safety Defects Plague Adelaide

 Police Investigate Assault Claim

 Activists What�s On!


The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part I
The Australia Institute's Clive Hamilton questions the assumptions underlying a society that defines happiness in dollar terms.

The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part II
Clive Hamilton concludes his analysis, looking at how more and more Australians are pulling back from a marketplace that is no longer providing the goods.

The Locker Room
Sack �Em All!
Phil Doyle puts his job on the line, but doesn�t everyone these days?

The Westie Wing
The NSW Government has an agenda on the table but the test is finding innovative ways to finance it, writes Ian West

 Liberal Laugh
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Ghan Raises Trans-Continental Stink

A company accused of showing "scant regard for the safety of its own workforce" is being fingered for moving disabled passengers off luxury trains with forklifts.

Great Southern Railways, which operates the Indian Pacific and The Ghan, is also alleged to be emptying dunnies on its way across the World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains.

According to the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) safety has been an ongoing issue with the operator since its inception in 1997.

Crews, who are often working shifts of up to 17 hours with only one or two breaks, point to understaffing with 75 percent of all trains departing short handed.

Two staff are expected to look after the needs of up to 126 passengers.

"Imagine running a hotel with 126 guests with only two staff," says Greg Harvey from the RTBU, who believes that the company's scant disregard to its workforce is now extending to its passengers. "One person is expected to make 48 bunk beds in an hour while the train is travelling through the Blue Mountains."

Other issues that have been highlighted by workers include hospitality staff having to manually unblock toilets (leaving them covered in waste, for which they have been given an apron), burns from unsafe kitchen appliances, untagged electrical equipment, needlestick injuries and inadequate amenities.

"The carpet in the staff accommodation is so dirty that mushrooms are growing in the corner," says Harvey. "One employee was hit in the face by an unsecured fridge door, which left their glasses broken. The company refused to replace the glasses because they didn't want to 'set a precedent'."

According to the RTBU Great Southern Railways, who are covered by South Australian safety laws, has a high rate of casualisation - leaving workers frightened to speak up through fear of the company failing to give them work.

"There's nine crews operating on the Great Southern Railway and we wanted health and safety representatives on each crew," says the RTBU's. "but they offered us one or two, which is ineffective."

"I'd like to say it was unbelievable but nothing surprises me any more," says Harvey of the use of forklifts for disabled passengers. "Why should they resort to that when there are things like mobile platforms and ramps that have been used in the past."

Management are on the record claiming that the forklift procedure was "100 percent" safe.


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