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Issue No. 250 21 December 2004  

Beyond The Law
Despite the all-engulfing gloom emenating from our political wing right now, 2004 comes to an end on a strangely upbeat note for the trade union movement.


Interview: The King of Comedy
John Robertson looks back on a year when his comic genius was finally realised.

Unions: Ten Simple Rules
Accepted wisdom has unions all but retired as serious players in the Australian game. A glance through the major industrial stories of 2004, however, suggests improved footwork, and a commitment to boxing clever, might herald a comeback, writes Jim Marr.

Politics: Rampant Indivdualism
CFMEU National Secretary John Sutton gives his take on a year when the political debate took a turn to the Right.

International: Global Struggle
Labourstart's Eric Lee looks back on a year when the struggles for labour increasingly crossed international lines.

Economics: Cashing in the Year
Look back in sorrow or look back in anger? By any standards 2004 has been a hell of a year, writes Frank Stilwell.

History: Grass Roots
Worker solidarity in Australia in the first century of invasion can give us inspiration and clues for our upcoming battles, writes Neale Towart.

Review: Cultural Realities
In 2004 popular culture shifted from reality television to reality movies, and swapped last year's light-weight subject matter for the slightly more substantial, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Y-U-C-K
Workers Online resident bard David Peetz takes inspiration from The Village People for his latest prose.


 Unions Make Hardie Pay

 Hadgkiss Gives Mourners Grief

 Mum Gets "Hopson’s" Choice

 AWAs Crash on Broken Hill

 No Fun in the Sack

 Tax Office Draws Blood

 Origin Prop a Union Hit

 Good Guy Wears Black

 Security Crisis at Sydney Airport

 Biscuit Bosses Crumble

 Ardmona Urged to Can Racism

 Bomber Predicts Big Bang

 Stolen Wages Cut

 Tomorrow the World…

 Bosses Sack WorkCover

 Activists What's On!


The Crystal Ball
Workers Online consults a raft of leading psychics to find out what readers can look forward to in 2005.

The Soapbox
Scrooge Was Right
Christmas has been cancelled this year, writes our US correspondent Brooklyn Phil.

The Locker Room
The Workers Online Sports Awards
Continuing a tradition that dates back to the Twentieth Century, Phil Doyle dishes out the gongs for all things great and small in the world of sport during 2004.

The Westie Wing
Our favoutrite MP looks for a positive spin on the year at NSW Parliament

 Costa’s Hike Unfare
 Temporary Arrangements
 The Price Of Tea In China
 Cry For Me, Argentina
 Ho Bloody Ho
 Right Is Wrong
 Business As Usual
 All In The Family
 Swing Left Wishful Thinking
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Mum Gets "Hopson’s" Choice

A Newcastle woman who worked until three days before giving birth by caesarean section was fired while recovering in hospital.

Maree Cunningham was "horrified" when her policeman husband delivered the Greater Building Society’s version of "congratulations" to her bedside.

Amongst cards and good wishes from friends and family were two letters from the insurance company's human resources manager, Tim Hopson - the first confirmed she no longer had a job, and the second demanded that uniforms be returned within four days.

"The whole thing was just bizarre," Cunningham told Workers Online. "It was like going back to the dark ages when females were frightened to have babies in case they lost their jobs.

"I will fight them over this. It's disgraceful. We have to keep on top of our mortgage like everybody else."

The USU confirmed it would seek Cunningham's reinstatement through the IRC after being unable to convince the Greater Building Society its actions were unfair and discriminatory.

It is understood the company has put a gagging order on Cunningham's workmates, ordering them not to discuss her case with anyone outside the organisation.

Cunningham started with the Greater Building Society on March 1 and learned she was pregnant within three months. She knew she was not legally entitled to maternity leave but applied for unpaid leave while she recovered from the caesarean.

She told the company her husband had agreed to take extended leave from the police force to become the infant's primary carer.

Cunningham said the Greater Building Society's corporate secretary had told her he would recommend that her position be held open.

However, when Hopson became involved, her choices narrowed dramatically.

The HR supremo told her she would lose her job, and have to train a replacement.

Cunningham appealed to the general manager before bringing in the union. They have been to the IRC three times to try and get a resolution.

"I wasn't pregnant when I got the job and I didn't mean to get pregnant. It was an accident," she said, "but that's not the point. We have a beautiful baby which is great but I don't believe, in this day and age, that should cost you your job."


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