Workers Online
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Workers Online
  Issue No 27 Official Organ of LaborNet 20 August 1999  




*  Interview: Stepping Up To The Plate
ACTU secretary-in-waiting Greg Combet talks about his report on international trade union trends and the need to adapt for the future.
*  Work/Time/Life: The Good Type of Wharf Security
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has locked in better job security for casuals as part of its collective agreement with P&O Ports.
*  International: Venezuela Warned By Global Labour Group
Venezuela's new Constituent Assembly has drafted a decree providing for the dissolution of the country's national trade union organisation, the CTV.
*  Legal: Politically Motivated Case Against Unionist Fails
A politically motivated extortion case against Eric Wicker, a long-time trade unionist on the Port Kembla waterfront has failed.
*  Republic: Direct Election Republicans who say YES � and MORE!
Despairing at the sight of Ted Mack and Phil Cleary fronting for Kerry Jones and the Australians for A Constitutional Monarchy? Appalled at the disastrous strategy and paralysis of the Australian Republican Movement? A significant group of Republicans has an answer for you!
*  Unions: Technology for the Times
New technology offers exciting opportunities which help union growth, according to this extract from Unions@Work.
*  History: Australian Unions and Industrial Action 1788-1900
A project is under way to compile a comprehensive record of unions, informal worker organisation and strikes from the period of European settlement to 1900 using a specially designed computer database.
*  Review: Stage Left! - Workers Theatre Hits the Mark
'Rare' is the word on the Melbourne Workers Theatre production, 'Who's Afraid of the Working Class?' currently touring the eastern states of Australia.
*  Satire: Australia's Most Earnest
Strewth magazine scours the cultural landscape for its inaugural Earnest Bastard of the Year Award.


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So long, and thanks for all the...

Combet�s Call - Double Effort Needed Now
Australian trade unions need to double their efforts at attracting new members if they are to turn around the trend in declining union numbers, according to the man poised to take the reins of the ACTU.
[ Full Story » ]

Rally or Surf Party? It�s the Workers� Call
This week�s Sydney rally against Reith�s second wave will be a first opportunity to put the principles behind Greg Combet�s shift to an organising culture into practise.
[ Full Story » ]

Vizard Agenda Analysed
With the ACTU executive expected to discuss the Vizard computer proposal this week, Workers Online have sent our spies out looking for details. Here�s what we�ve been able to uncover:
[ Full Story » ]

Truckies Face Another Oakdale
The ink�s not dry on the Howard Governmet�s Oakdale settlement and another company has gone into liquidation owing ten workers an estimated $200,000.
[ Full Story » ]

Former Union Leader to Investigate SOCOG Uniforms
Former textiles union boss and SOCOG Board member Anna Booth will travel to Fiji to inspect the production of Sydney 2000 uniforms following union concerns they are being made in breach of a labour Code of Practise.
[ Full Story » ]

Second Steggles Mum Wins Job Back
A woman who quit her job after having family-busting hours imposed on her has been guaranteed her job back as chicken manufacturer Steggles battles negative publicity about its work practices.
[ Full Story » ]

Strip Leads to Fair Wear Win
A clothing store targeted for a risque city protest by flesh-flashing building workers has finally agreed to sign the FairWear code of conduct.
[ Full Story » ]

Rail Security: Scully Cuts Staff as Assaults Rise
Transport Minister Carl Scully�s push to slash rail station staff has run off the rails with more statistics highlighting the rise is platform assaults.
[ Full Story » ]

Civil Libertarian Support Sought Against "Big Brother"
The CFMEU has written to the Victorian and NSW Councils for Civil Liberties to draw their attention to the Employment Advocate's attack on the display of union posters on construction sites.
[ Full Story » ]

Dita Sari takes Sydney by Storm.
Hundreds of people packed out the Trades Hall Auditorium this week to hear from a true hero of the Labour movement, Indonesia's Dita Sari.
[ Full Story » ]

Letters to the Editor
  • Thanks for Einstein

  • A Non-Unionist's Sympathy

  • A Mexican on Piers

  • Group Homes Claims Disputed

  • Rallying Cries

  • Security Overload

  • Editorial

    Starting Over

    Australian workers have a lot to thank Bill Kelty for, none moreso than the ultimate timing of his resignation this week.

    Kelty has handed the stage to heir apparent Greg Combet at the right moment, as he prepares to deliver a report into future directions in the union movement (see this week's interview).

    In typical style, not even Combet knew the announcement was coming; he was more worried on how to get a focus for the 'Unions @ Work' release, a report that must resonnate with unions if they are to survive. In his own tactical way, Kelty has placed the spotlight on the future, it is now up to Combet to sieze his time in the limelight.

    The grace of Kelty's departure can only be diminished, if as reported, he insists on pushing through his one last great project, the computer deal with entrepreneur Steve Vizard.

    It's not that Vizard won't deliver cheap computers, it's just that anyone could. As the Information Economy develops, computer hardware will become cheaper like mobile phones, while Internet connections will become free as the market becomes a contest to secure users.

    The problem with the Vizard model is more conceptual. It's the idea of giving a businessman, who's in it to turn a profit, control of trade union content, membership services and information.

    It's also the idea that unions, who hold one of the most fundamental assets of the Information Age - its network of members -- would be willing to sell that resource off to the first available bidder, without even taking the time to look at how we could use the asset for ourselves.

    As Combet launches has directions statement for a shift to an organising culture, his supporters on the ACTU must really think about what he is advocating. If unions are really going to refocus their energies at the workplace level, it must develop cutting edge technology to communicate with its members through controlled means of dissemination.

    The Kelty-Vizard plan is an Industrial Age response to the challenges of the Information Age. It is about coming up with a master plan; putting computers on members' tables without thinking about what they will receive online. Is it to be just the Nine-MSN view of the world? Or should we have our own channels of information?

    The shortcomings of this deal must be pointed out to Kelty before he forces the movement down a very costly dead-end. After such a significant career, it would be a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions if he were now to leave as his legacy a deal that would tie unions up to the fruits of his folly for years to come.

    Peter Lewis


    Soapbox Lockerroom From Trades Hall Toolshed
    Soapbox lockerroom trades hall Toolshed
    The Hacks Remember Kelty A Union Fighter Michael Costa on the Kelty Legacy Piers in the Dark



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