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Issue No. 252 18 February 2005  

Wood for the Trees
In the book that may never become a film, ‘Eucalyptus’, a father will not give his daughter away unless her suitor can name every tree on the property.


Economics: Super Seduction
Sharks are circling your super. From July 1, banks and financial planners will have access to the nesteggs of an extra four million workers.

Interview: Bono and Me
ACTU Sharan Burrow lifts the lid on the rock star lifestyle of an international union leader.

Unions: The Eight Hour Day and the Holy Spirit
Rowan Cahill bucks conventional wisdom to argue the eight-hour day began in Sydney.

Economics: OEC-Who?
The OECD calls for more reform. But, Asks Neale Towart, who is really doing the calling?

Technology: From Widgets to Digits
How can unions grow and continue to successfully represent workers when their traditional structures are rooted in an industry, craft or fixed location?

Education: Dumb and Dumber
Unions are leading the fight against a political agenda that does away with smart jobs.

Health: No Place for the Young
The support of union members is required to help get young people out of nursing homes, writes Mark Robinson

History: The Work-In That Changed a Nation
February 17 marks 30-years to the day that sacked coal miners at the NSW Northern District Nymboida Colliery began their historic work-in at the mine.

Review: Dare to Win
The history of the militant and often controversial BLF is as surprising as it is fascinating writes Tim Brunero.

Poetry: Labor's Dreaming
With another change at the helm of the Labor Party, our resident bard, David Peetz, can't help but dreamily drawing on some political history.


 Families On the Rack

 Detention Centre for Darling Harbour

 Transit Officers' Close Shave

 Truckies Drive Mac Attack

 We Have Way of Making You Walk

 Howzat – Murali Spun Out

 Show Me The Money

 Walter’s Mates Pay

 Retailer Sells Out Workers

 Financiers Squash Capital Idea

 Taskforce Stands Over Families

 Big Australian Changes the Rules

 Bodyguards Stabbed In Back

 Big Brother Stirs Up Porridge

 Carr Sees Trees for Wood

 Activist’s What’s On


Titanic Forces
There are book reviewers who have not read the book they have just reviewed and there are critics who have criticised films they have not yet seen. I want to review a novel that has not yet been written.

The Soapbox
Labour and Labor
Grant Bellchamber looks at the relationship between both sides organised labour

Aussie Unions Help Tsunami Victims
The union movement’s aid agency reports back on its relief effort in Asia.

The Locker Room
Game, Set and Yawn
Phil Doyle asks if tennis is evil or just boring

The Westie Wing
As a reshuffle of the State Ministry settles in and the Federal Government throws down the gauntlet, 2005 promises to be a new and vital chapter in the struggle for workers and their families, writes Ian West in Macquarie Street.

 Toxic Talk
 Millstone Revealed
 But Then Again
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Families On the Rack

A chorus of employer cheer groups is urging the Howard Government to take a big stick to Australian families.

Employers First and the Business Council of Australia laid out the strategy, this week, with demands to slash weekend penalty payments, end wage cases for the low-paid, and strip back minimum award conditions.

Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, called the wish-list "a direct attack on families' living standards, security and the way our children are raised".

He was joined by ACTU chief Greg Combet and NSW Premier, Bob Carr, in highlighting how the employer agenda would impact on battling families.

In NSW, Employers First has applied to the IRC to chop penalty rates paid under the Clerical and Administrative Employees Award.

Female intensive call centres, shops, medical centres and offices would be hit by effective wage reductions of up to 25 percent.

Nationally, the Business Council of Australia (BCA), representing the country's largest 100 companies, is demanding that the Howard Government outlaw award negotiations on anything outside six limited matters.

Redundancy pay, normal hours of work, rest breaks, allowances, penalty rates and long service leave would be banished under a scenario limiting "allowable matters" to wages, leave and dispute resolution.

Where this would leave employer insistence on bargaining "flexibility" was not made clear.

The BCA is also calling for an end to minimum living wage cases before the Industrial Relations Commission.

The BCA says another round of workplace "reform" is necessary because "it is 10 years since the last one".

Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, stopped short of publicly endorsing the BCA proposals but conceded they represented "a good summary of the government's intentions".

Robertson accused the BCA of extremism that short-changed ordinary Australians and the society they live in.

"The BCA argue that fairness has no role in the workplace and the only reason business operates is to maximise profits," he said. "It is an extremist position which does away with the fiction of trickle down economics and replaces it, for the first time, with a vision of work totally devoid of morality.

"At the end of the day, the BCA agenda is for more contract work, longer working hours and less security for Australian families."

Nasty Medicine

Meanwhile, arguments that wage rises must be backed by productivity gains have been shredded by Sydney Morning Herald economics editor, Ross Gittins.

In an article headlined "Porkies Used to Support Industrial Relations Reform", Gittins calls on economists to come clean with the public about "calumnies and distortions" used by politicians.

He was particularly damning of Treasurer Peter Costello's argument that another round of workplace "reform" was necessary to stop a surge in interest rates.

"It is possible Mr Costello spouts this economic illiteracy because he knows no better, being a barrister," Gittins writes. "But it's hard to believe Treasury would have failed to brief him adequately.

"No, it's more likely he's dreamt up his own bit of convenient bulldust in the belief it will make the nasty medicine of labour-market deregulation easier for the mug punters to swallow.

"Of course, there's a specific reason why hell would freeze over before the economists felt moved to point out the nonsense the treasurer is spouting on industrial relations.

"It's that almost all economists share the conviction of businesspeople and Liberal politicians that, if only we could get rid of unions and eliminate the evil of collective bargaining, so that bosses had the drop over each individual worker, this grossly unequal bargaining power would make the world a better place.

"So economists are prepared to ignore all the porkies on the grounds that the end justifies the means."

For the full Gittins argument visit:


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