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Issue No. 262 06 May 2005  

Rights and Wrongs
Something unseasonal and hitherto untoward has been occurring up at Macquarie Street in recent weeks, a flurry of legislative activity around workers rights.


Interview: Fortress NSW
NSW IR Minister John Della Bosca on how to win the battle for workers rights - and save the state system.

Unions: Fashions Afield
With new anti-sweatshop creations being paraded at this year's Australian Fashion Week, is equity the new black and are sweatshops the new fur? asks Tara de Boehmler.

Industrial: Pay Dirt
John Burgess argues that the flow-on effect from changing the minimum wage could be more than we bargained for.

Politics: Infrastructure Blues
With much attention given belatedly to the shortage of infrastructure, little attention has been given to the structure of infrastructure, writes Evan Jones

History: Big Day Out
Neale Towart looks back on the events that created the May Day heritage.

International: Making History
Hundreds of aid organisations, charities, trade unions and religious groups have formed a global alliance called � Make Poverty History�.

Economics: The Fear Factor
The solution to skill shortages is intelligent planning, argues John Spoehr

Review: The Robots Revolt
New kids flick Robot uses our electronic friends to teach audiences that inbuilt obsolescence is just a state of mind, writes Tara de Boehmler

Poetry: The Corporation's Power
The idea of a corporations power that could cure any ill has inspired our resident bard, David Peetz, to verse.


 Harmer FACS Families

 Brats Drive Bus Row

 Harsh Reality � Bella Turns Pink

 Rev Kev Blesses Bosses

 Workers Online Legit

 Howard Rides Kiwi Model

 Della Opts for Gaol

 Feds in the Dock

 Carr Race to Bottom

 Bosses Walk on Water

 Govt Gets Claws into Nurses

 Ion Faces Legal Probe


The Soapbox
May Spray
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson delivered the annual May Day Toast - and warned it is no time to be comfortable and relaxed.

The Locker Room
A Rucking Good Time
Phil Doyle reveals many things, some of them useful

The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West, is back to regale us with inside goss and intrigue from the Bearpit.

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Rights and Wrongs

Something unseasonal and hitherto untoward has been occurring up at Macquarie Street in recent weeks, a flurry of legislative activity around workers rights.

The sleeping giant is becoming a juggernaut, moving on workplace fatalities, adding protections against email surveillance, putting spine into the sweatshop code of conduct.

After nearly a decade of banging our heads against a brick wall we are witnessing real progress, with smart and targeted laws dealing with contemporary workplace issues.

The contrast with the firestorm brewing in Canberra could not be more stark - the Carr Government is protecting workers rights while the Howard Government is planning to take them away.

And you don't need to look far to see Labor's best political strategist John Della Bosca's fingerprints all over the place.

As Della tells Workers Online this week, the big mistake is to look at the coming industrial relations debate as being about state rights - this is a battle for workers rights.

The coming campaign has many dimensions. For unions it is about bargaining rights, for families it's about control of working hours, for communities it is about working patterns that allow citizens to commit.

For the ALP, it is a golden opportunity for brand differentiation - in an era when the Labor Party has been the big loser in the convergence of the parties and the shift to white bread politics.

The Carr Government's movement over the past week indicates that it sees the opportunity in being clearly on the side of a balanced system of rights at work in this upcoming showdown.

It's a similar conclusion that emerged as the union campaign was being developed, particularly through focus groups of workers, both union and non-union.

Employers and the Howard Government had attempted to stake out the battle ground for IR as being 'fairness' - remember the outrageous statement that there was no room for fairness in the workplace, proposed by BCA and endorsed by Kevin Andrews.

The problem with a fight for fairness though, is that no one thinks the workplace is fair anyway, probably never have, if the truth be known.

But what workers are concerned about are their rights at work, and when they get clear information about the rights they will lose they are not just angry, they are looking for someone to fight on their behalf.

On one level there is nothing new in this thinking - unions have always existed to improve their members' rights at work; but it constructed this around a collectivist ideology that at some point became more important than the outcomes.

The collectivism is intrinsic to unions and will always be; but it is a means of delivering objective, individual rights.

In a somewhat subversive way, it is this individualistic, objective framework, that will drive the broader labour movement's battle against the Howard laws.

Peter Lewis



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