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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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Biscuit Bosses Crumble

A workforce made up largely of migrant women is celebrating its first EBA after putting the bite on Sakata.

Workers claimed they were bullied and blocked from joining the union before they walked out and picketed the Victorian rice cracker manufacturer for 10 days.

Sakata workers also said they had been forced to work without pay after being injured at work.

"They have a right to an EBA, they have a right to feel safe at work, and they have a right to be represented by their union, and this agreement gives them all of those things," says National Union of Workers (NUW) state secretary Martin Pakula.

"I said all along that this dispute was about justice - justice for this workforce consisting largely of migrant women - and I think we have achieved that."

It took months to drag a reluctant management to the negotiating table but the negotiated agreement tackles safety concerns, labour hire and casualisation, with casuals to be offered permanency after 12 months.

Labour hire workers will be covered by special site rates.

News of the dispute at Sakata's Laverton North plant spread as far as Japan where unionists conveyed concerns to senior Sakata bosses in Japan.

"Our members really have shown that you can only push people so far before they react," says Pakula. "They have been waiting three years for this EBA, and once they had made up their mind to stand up and fight, there was no turning back.

"The past 10 days have been extremely difficult for everyone on the picket line, but there was never any suggestion that these workers would back down."

The NUW slammed the Howard government for a system that forced the workers to strike as a last-ditch effort to get the company to negotiate in good faith.

"It is ludicrous that we have an industrial relations system which forces workers to take industrial action if companies refuse steadfastly to negotiate agreements," Pakula said.


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