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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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Miner Shafts Democracy

Corporate Australia is seeking massive fines against the AMWU and four rank and file delegates in a bid to deny workers the opportunity to serve on local councils.

A proposal to grant Collie tradesmen local government representation leave is one of half a dozen clauses Westfarmers Coal is seeking to have ruled "not pertaining" to the employer-employee relationship.

Westfarmers has issued writs for unspecified damages against WA AMWU officials, Jock Ferguson, Colin Saunders, four workplace delegates, and their union.

The case, arising from the High Court's controversial Electrolux ruling, is set down for hearing in Perth on November 4 and 5 before Justice French in the Federal Court.

Westfarmers has also taken exception to clauses that seek to control contracting and deliver right of entry, delegate education and leave provisions.

Arising from the Electrolux decision, employers are expected to argue that months of on-again, off-again industrial action at Westfarmers Coal was "unprotected", exposing the union, its officials and delegates to damages that could run into millions of dollars.

Corporate lawyers, Clayton Utz, are representing Westfarmers Coal in an action Ferguson says will be a "lawyers' picnic".

"Lawyers will be the big winners in this and everyone else will pay through the nose," Ferguson said. "It's not hard to guess what John Howard did before he went into Parliament.

"This situation will settle down eventually but, in the meantime, there will be a lot of pain, suffering and expense.

"The High Court has opened up a difficult situation because nobody knows what the rules of engagement are any more. All protected action over the last six years appears to be up for grabs as a result of its Electrolux ruling.

"Workers who genuinely believed they were acting within the law, can be sued retrospectively for millions of dollars over actions that employers also believed were lawful at the time.

"This case is a classic example. Westfarmers Coal is going to the Federal Court to have clauses ruled unlawful that it has already agreed to in negotiations."

There will be intense interest in the Westfarmers case from workers, employers, lawyers and politicians.

Senior Sydney-based industrial lawyer, Lachlan Riches, told Workers Online recently that the High Court had left IR operatives high and dry with its Electrolux ruling.

"They have left it ambiguous as to what the ground rules are and, as a result, fundamental rights that go back 80 years will be challenged and re-examined," Riches warned.

Immediately after the ruling, a string of employers, including Dandenong-based truck manufacturer, Iveco, tried to have clauses rubbed out and industrial actions declared illegal.

Industrial law firms began circulating employers with advice that long-agreed provisions might now be illegal and render entire documents, including wages, unenforceable.

Justice Michael Kirby warned fellow judges in a dissenting opinion on Electrolux that their decision would have a "chilling effect" on collective bargaining.

He called the majority view "impractical" and "narrow", suggesting it was divorced from workplace reality.

"To expose an industrial organisation of employees to grave, even critical, civil liability for industrial action, determined years later to have been unprotected, is to introduce a serious chilling effect into negotiations that such organisations can undertake on behalf of their members," Kirby wrote.


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