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Issue No. 243 22 October 2004  

The Perfect Storm
The storm clouds are gathering on the industrial horizon, an unholy trinity of a hostile legislative agenda, a radical High Court decision and emboldened employers.


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 MUAís 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.


 Hardie Rewards Asbestos Rats

 Kentucky Fried Kids

 Miner Shafts Democracy

 Fine Drop in Ocean of Blood

 Sydney Water Outsources Brains

 Head Injuries to No Injuries

 Bosses Celebrate with Sack-athon

 Kangaroo Strikebreakers Spotlighted

 Officers Change Customs

 Union Backs League

 Carr Trouble At Port Botany

 Pratt Backs Warwick Farm Loser

 Students Fight Summer Blues

 Activists What's On!


True Lies
Labor Council secretary John Robertson argues Itís Time Ė 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.

 Historical Reversion?
 Whose prosperity?
 Shop Till the Worker Drops
 Unreported Views
 Bobís Silver Anniversary
 Hit And Myth
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The Perfect Storm

The storm clouds are gathering on the industrial horizon, an unholy trinity of a hostile legislative agenda, a radical High Court decision and emboldened employers.

The threats to organised labour are poised to intersect some time after July next year and the Hanrahans are already starting up their chorus 'we'll all be rooned"

One only has to look at the current attitude of Qantas to see where the doomsayers are coming from: a 66 per cent pay rise for directors, three per cent for staff - those whose jobs aren't shunted offshore.

For cabin crew contemplating Industrial action there is the threat of trained teams of strike-breakers; which management now calls ' customer protection' and a PM telling workers to get used to it, while the markets reward Qantas with a higher share price.

There is no doubt there are challenges ahead for the union movement - federal legislation will make it harder to bargain collectively, the courts have narrowed the scope of what can be covered in agreements and the Hard Right is positively baying for blood.

For the first time in 30 years the conservatives will control the industrial agenda through a majority of both houses of federal parliament. What they can't control is the way the union movement responds.

The storm may be out of our control, but the level of damage will be directly linked to the way we prepare for the onslaught.

The days ahead are important - we need to understand what is coming; take steps to minimise the damage, but also get on with life, continuing to do what we have always done, argue the case for working people.

The alternative is to leave ourselves exposed to the mercy of the elements raging against the Tempest like some kind of latter day King Lear.

So what is to be done? We must prepare ourselves for the storm by building strong durable delegate structures - work that is already well underway through the focus on organising workplaces from the ground up.

We also need to be smart; staying indoors when the lightening is striking rather than setting ourselves up to take the blast.

That means being strategic in our reactions to the attacks that are coming; avoiding the obvious points of engagement; defending workers by campaigning on a positive agenda around conditions, training and retirement savings - causes that can not be silenced by an act of parliament or a court decision.

And we need to realise that all storms inevitably pass; after the downpour, there is grief and awe at the damage but also a time of renewal and regeneration.

Played well, the next period could actually be a time of opportunity - at last we will be confronted with John Howard unplugged, unencumbered by the Senate, exposing his real agenda once and for all.

And a workforce that has taken the hard-won protections for granted for so long will be reminded what it is like without them.

Our challenge in this difficult period will be to sow the seeds of a resurgent union movement, even as the storm rages.

Peter Lewis



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