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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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Pratt Backs Warwick Farm Loser

Visy Packaging workers are rejecting $1000 overtures from billionaire, Richard Pratt, to turn their backs on a national agreement.

Pratt's privately-owned company has had single-site, non-union agreements knocked back by workers at Warwick Farm, Dandenong and The Packaging Company, Smithfield, in the past week.

AMWU organiser, Juliana Dickinson, said Australia's second richest man should take the message on board and talk to worker representatives about a national agreement, overwhelmingly endorsed by employees at 14 sites.

"It's time Richard Pratt and his company listened to what the workers are saying. The overwhelming No vote is, in fact, a Yes vote for a national agreement," Dickinson said.

"The inducements haven't worked because people can smell a lemon from a mile off. They know they will be better off with the protection of an agreement that brings them together."

Dickinson was speaking after the first three ballot results were announced. Warwick Farm workers gave Pratt a 94-22 thumbs-down, while colleagues at Dandenong and Smithfield returned 97-57 and 48-3 results.

Those votes came after the company delayed Warwick Farm and Dandenong ballots by a week while managers aggressively promoted its single site case.

Over the next seven days, the Pratt proposal is scheduled to go before workers at Visyboard, Perth; Visy Paper, and Visyboard and Visy Recylcling sites, at Smithfield.

Visy has steadfastly refused to negotiate with the AMWU since formal moves for conciliation were initiated in August.

The company has warned that the interests of smaller site employees will be rolled by the weight of numbers at other workplaces.

"Union agreements are not about rolling anyone," Dickinson said. "Quite the opposite, they are about better outcomes and protections for everybody."

The AMWU, and its predecessors, have been involved in the Visy operation since it began with a single Brunswick site in 1948. Since that time it has grown into one of the world's biggest packaging operations with more than 4000 employees in Australia, New Zealand, the US and Asia.

In 2002, Pratt's personal wealth was estimated at $3.8 billion. Last year, Visy operations added more than half a billion to that figure. Business analysts estimate that Pratt trousers more than $60,000 a year for every person on his payrolls.

Yet, the billionaire is offering smaller wage increases than both his major competitors and wants to slash income protection rates.

He promised bonuses of $1000 a head to Warwick Farm workers if they would vote for his non-union agreement; $500 for Dandenong employees but nothing for their colleagues at Smithfield.

And that, in a nutshell, Dickinson says, is the problem with single site agreements.

"We believe people doing the same work, for the same company, should be entitled to the same improvements whether they are on a big site in WA, or a small one in Queensland," she said.


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