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Issue No. 240 01 October 2004  

The Premiership Quarter
After spending the past month with a decidedly sinking feeling, there’s a whiff of hope and expectation that the Howard era could actually be coming to an end.


Interview: The Last Bastian
AMWU state secretary Paul Bastian has been at the centre of the three year battle to bring James Hardie to account.

Unions: High and Dry
Jim Marr unpacks the recent High Court Electrolux decision to test whether the ruling matches the media hype.

Security: Liquid Borders
The Howard Government loves to trumpet its national security credentials but a close look at its record in shipping sinks the myth argues MUA’s Zoe Reynolds.

Industrial: No Bully For You
Phil Doyle reports on how bringing dignity and respect to the workplace is undermining bullies.

History: Radical Brisbane
Radical Brisbane extends the 'Radical City' series into the Red North. Two experienced activists, academics and writers turn South East Queensland history on its head.

International: No Vacancies
More than 1400 hotel union workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 2, are on strike at four major hotels in San Francisco, California, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Life After Capitalism
A situation that all anarchists dream of? Michael Albert has been more than dreaming., writes Neale Towart

Technology: Cyber Winners
Labourstart's Eric Lee looks at a good news story of global online campaigning that has delivered a victory.

Poetry: Do It Yourself Poetry
Teaser: Wondering why the polls are all over the place? Ask our resident bard and psephologist.

Review: Hard Labo(u)r
The Voice of Southern Labor highlights the role music played in the 1930's US textile strikes, but more than that it provides a lucid insight into the roots of modern capitalism and some truly organic organising, writes Tara de Boehmler.


 Kev Cooks the Books

 Black Hole In Libs Kids Plan

 Xerox Copies Waterfront Tactics

 Hardies Asbestos Woes "Snowballs"

 Air Fleet Grounded By Job Cuts

 Musos Lung For Better

 Customs Officers Declare

 Dumbing Down The Trades

 Pacific National Sidetracks Hunter Jobs

 Witch Hunt For Whistleblower

 Black Diamond Deaths Spark Mining Inquiry

 Pensioners Strip Over Pension Strip

 Activists What's On!


True Lies
Labor Council secretary John Robertson argues It’s Time – for an IR reality check.

The Westie Wing
Much work has been done in the past to ease the plight of clothing outworkers in New South Wales. It's time to step up the pressure, as sweatshops and clothing contract work are thriving stronger than ever, writes Ian West.

The Soapbox
Who Started the Class War?
Evan Jones looks across the Australian political landscape and asks who are the real class warriors?

The Locker Room
First Past The Post
Phil Doyle is coming up in class and is all the better for recent racing

Westie Wing
Our favourite state MP returns for his monthly Macquarie Street wrap.

Positive Action
Australian unionists are helping give hope to Filipino workers living with HIV/AIDS.

 Donkey Vote
 Problem Solved
 How To Run Society
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Dumbing Down The Trades

John Howard’s new policies on trades training will reduce training quality, downgrade the TAFE system and do little to address Australia’s skill shortage.

AMWU National President Julius Roe says Howard's plan to hand training over to employers would lead to poor quality education focused on the needs to individual businesses rather than on turning out well rounded tradespeople.

"Recent announcements by the Federal Government have favoured short term, narrower trade training, which will lead to mechanics who can't fix the whole car, just part of the car," says Roe.

Over the last decade the AMWU has fought to get trade qualifications recognised across state boundaries and to establish a national training system. But the Howard plan would see separate entities deciding on their own courses for the skilled trades.

If the looming skills crisis is to be averted, Roe believes resources need to be shifted from short term low quality training and into high quality training and nationally recognised qualifications in the manufacturing industry.

Recent ACTU research has shown in the next decade there will be a national shortage of 250,000 traditional trades apprentices which will cost the economy $9 billion in lost opportunities.

Unions have criticised Howard because though "traineeship" numbers have increased many are not in traditional trades, but in new areas such as retail, clerical, tourism and hospitality.

In addition, many perspective apprentices fail to qualify for government training subsidies because they have already done much shorter "apprenticeships" at fast food shops or retail stores.

As a consequence traditional trades have had trouble attracting candidates, especially in printing, metal and electrical occupations.

To address the crisis Roe says pay rates and career opportunities for youngsters entering the trades need to be increased.

"Many of these young people can earn more working casually at a fast food store than in the first years on an apprenticeship," says Roe.

Roe believes there also needs to be a systematic program in schools to encourage trade training and careers.

"We need technical schools of the future, involving all states and territories, which offer real opportunities for school students who wish to enter quality education and training pathways, including careers in the trades," he says.

Roe says University research shows privatisation and labour market deregulation are the biggest causes of falling traditional apprenticeship training.

In the 1970's thousands of tradesmen came our to local and state government workshops every year, and the private sector keenly snapped up the finished product.

But with the rush to privatise government enterprises in the 1980's came accountants who transformed apprentices from investments into costs.

"It is quite clear private industry has woken up to the fact these policies which were advocated by business are now creating a major skills shortage."

"What is needed is an industry plan for the manufacturing sector.

"The solution of these problems are not quick fixes but proper interventionary arrangements to lift the amount of training and investment by government and employers," says Roe.


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