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Issue No. 280 09 September 2005  

The Perfect Storm
The mayhem and misery engulfing New Orleans and its surrounds is more than a human tragedy of mammoth proportions, it is the product of a convergence of events that could shift our worldview every bit as much as the attacks on September 11, 2001.


Interview: Polar Eclipse
Academic David McKnight challenges some sacred cows in his new book "Beyond Left and Right".

Industrial: Wrong Turn
Radical labour reform is on the horizon but some workers, like Sydney bus driver Yvonne Carson, have seen it all before, writes Jim Marr.

Unions: Star Support
It wasn't just families who backed workers' rights at The Last Weekend, but a bunch of musicians who set the tone, writes Chrissy Layton.

Workplace: Checked Out
Glenda Kwek asks you to consider the plight of the retail worker, and shares some of her experiences

Economics: Sold Out
The Future Fund and industrial relations reform are favourite projects of the PM and the Treasurer. Both are speculations on the future and the only guarantee with them is that you will be worse off, writes Neale Towart.

Politics: Green Banned
The impact of new building industry laws won’t be confined to one industry, writes CFMEU national secretary John Sutton.

History: Potted History
Lithgow is a place with a proud history as a union town. The origins of broader community solidarity lie in the early industrial development of the town and the development of unions. The Lithgow Pottery dispute of 1890 was a key event.

International: Curtain Call
The curtains have opened for East Timor’s young theatre performers, thanks to a Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA project.

Review: Little Fish
At last! An Aussie film with substance, suspense and a serious dose of reality, writes Lucy Muirhead

Poetry: Slug A Worker
In a shock development, the Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, gave a ringing endorsement to the poetry pages of Workers Online, writes resident bard David Peetz.


 Telstra Cuts Off Sick Mum

 CFMEU Pulls $3M Bank Job

 Life Imitates Ad

 Equal Pay Unlawful

 AWA Threatens Kids

 Howard’s Porky Exposed

 STOP PRESS: Bank Pinged

 Thongs Flap Into IR War

 Dad Sacked Over Safety Fears

 News Leader in Advertising Stink

 PM’s Spin Hit for Six

 Daffy Ducks Dud Deal

 Canada Shamed

 Combet Stars At Rooty Hill

 Vanstone Backs Ciggie Salaries for Detainees

 Flicking the Super Switch

 Activists What's On!


The Soapbox
Families First
New Senator Stephen Fielding turned a few heads with his Maiden Speech to Parliament.

The Locker Room
The New World Order
Phil Doyle declares himself unavailable for the fifth and deciding test.

The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West, reports from the NSW Government's Safety Summit

On The Bus
A bright orange bus travelling the state has become the focus of the campaign against federal IR changes. Nathan Brown was on board.

 Telstra Trauma
 Telstra’s Calling
 What Poor People?
 The Day
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Letters to the Editor

Telstra’s Calling

The revelations about Telstra that look likely to scuttle any chance of flogging off the last tranche of shares owned by the Australian people would come as no surprise to any readers of 'Workers Online.'

The CEPU has been raising the issue of the parlous state of the Australian telecommunications network for years. The CEPU has also raised this issue with Telstra. Telstra, typically, comes out slugging and shoots the messenger. The fact is the network has only kept going due to the commitment and dedication of those communications workers out in the field.

Telstra workers and customers have borne the brunt of management's spectacular stuff ups, offshore losses and demands for higher profit, year after year. Telstra workers, whose numbers have been slashed to the bone are

subject to punitive performance regimes which demand more work out of fewer people. Despite the rhetoric, Telstra could not give a damn about work/family balance or the effects of this on its workers.

In recent times it has come to light that Telstra workers in the field do not have the equipment that they need to do the job. Communications technicians have, in some instances, been told to hand over test equipment to contractors such as the TX120, a vital piece of equipment that the techs use primarily for determining the suitability of twisted copper pairs for use by Pair Gain Systems, ISDN and ADSL, but with application in the testing of such pairs for normal telephone services. The equipment is so fundamental to doing the job, but Telstra cannot find enough money left in the piggy bank to provide the equipment for it's own workers. Some equipment such as pit guards are not readily available. Telstra is quick however, to discipline workers who do not follow OH&S procedures such as using gas detectors and guards when working around pits. The hypocrisy is galling.

In the meantime customers have been subject to higher rental charges turning the telephone into a luxury item for many. Regional and rural customers cannot get access to broadband services, large areas are isolated by exchange failures and continued poor quality service, pair gain systems and other stop gap measures. What is unfolding is the real story of the privatisation of Telstra. A company that the workers, through it's union the CEPU warned was being starved of investment in the network, that does not have enough staff to fix the high level of faults. A company that has let faults escalate to an unsustainable level and then hidden that information from the market in order to keep happy the fat cat institutional investors.

In the media this week, a number of very credible commentators have started to openly discuss not just no further sell-off, but bringing the company back into public ownership. The continued provision and expansion of services to Australians demands it. Telstra workers cannot be expected to carry the burden of the run-down network on their backs any longer. If new CEO Sol Trujillo is about to commence another 'slash and burn' reduction in numbers of staff, as is being speculated, he should start at the top with the 'managers' who have benefited from the deception of Telstra shareholders and the Australian people, unless of course they can don a uniform, drive a van, haul cable, provide their own test equipment, and work ungodly hours in often awful conditions!

Len Cooper & Joan Doyle




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