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Issue No. 293 20 December 2005  

Waves of Destruction
2005 was the year book-ended by two waves of destruction - the first causing untold suffering across the Indian Ocean; the second reawakening our darker angels on beaches closer to home.


Interview: Back to the Future
James Gallaway collars Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, on threats, challenges and opportunities.

Unions: A Real Page Turner
Jim Marr glances through Workers Online’s 2005 news stories and finds there is more one way to skin a Rat

Industrial: The Pin-Striped Union
Rachael Osman-Chin profiles a white collar union that is having some almighty blues.

International: Around The World In 365 Days
It was a year of online activism, as LabourStart's Eric Lee reports

Legends: Terrific, Tommy
Jim Marr tackles a champion.

Your Rights At Work: Worth Fighting For
The Your Rights At Work campaign has been a big part of this year and, as Phil Doyle reports, it is making a difference.

Politics: The Year That Was
Frank Stillwell looks at year that saw the politics of fear; and finds many reasons to be very afraid.

Economics: Master and Servant Revisited
Evan Jones asks if the Neo Liberals are taking us back to the future

Culture: 2005: The Year of Living Repetitively
Nathan Brown ignores Oasis and decides to look back in anger after all

Bad Boss: The Bottom Ten
Nathan Brown digs through his voluminous dirt files and comes up with the top 10 grubs of the year.

Religion: Hymns from a Different Song Sheet
James Gallaway on the Way, the Truth and life according to Brian.


 Melbourne Burns AWAs

 Corporates Defend Costello

 Speaker Won't Talk

 Bank Pays on Dodgy Contracts

 Plan to Save Jobs

 Harper's Bizarre Excuse for Failure

 It's Not Fair: Business

 Workers Walk As Warnings Wiped

 Teenager Hit With Shrapnel

 Pay Day “Unlawful”

 Tassie Rail Win

 Professionals Fear for Their Kids

 Boss Pings Rorters Charter

 New Ways to Take a Share

 An Hour of Need

 Boeing Steals Christmas

 Trouble at the Mill

 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 2006.

The Soapbox
The Things People Say
It was a year of quotable quotes, reports Phil Doyle.

The Westie Wing
Ian West checks the rear vision mirror on 2005, and plants his foot down

The Locker Room
The 2005 Workers Online Sports Awards
After years of being overlooked by selectors at club, representative and national levels, Phil Doyle and Jim Marr, agreed to hand out our 2005 sports gongs.

Postcard from East Timor
In East Timor entertainment also spreads an important message into the community

 Pension Pinching
 Free to Rat
 Tax Cuts and Cockroaches
 Proportion, Not Distortion
 Corp That!
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New Ways to Take a Share

One major tactic of trade unions will remain untouched by next year's new IR laws.

The growing trend of unions voicing workers' concerns as shareholders in big companies will take an increasing important role.

However, despite the IR laws' central aim of making life harder for unions, a lack of options is not the reason for record levels of shareholder activism, which are set to increase.

'They would have anyway, but the new IR laws will simply push more unions towards shareholder activism more quickly," says Unions NSW secretary John Robertson.

His comments come as unions and the business community wait for a landmark decision on shareholder activism between the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the Finance Sector Union to be handed down by the Federal Court.

In that case the CBA argued the FSU, which is a CBA shareholder, tried to "coerce" it into signing a new enterprise agreement by writing to members of the board and trying to get a resolution passed at the 2004 AGM for the bank to regularly review its "Which New Bank" restructure, which has resulted in around 3700 job losses to date.

Robertson's comments follow the release of a report from the University of Melbourne's Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation earlier this month.

A key question posed by the report is whether Australian whether unions will link with superannuation funds to bring even more resolutions to shareholder meetings, as has occurred in the US.

"Absolutely," says Robertson, adding unions will also seek to join other groups, such as shareholder associations, in an effort to increase the effectiveness of such campaigns.

Over the last five years the CFMEU, the TWU, the AWU, the ASU and the ACTU have engaged in shareholder activism against major employers such as Rio Tinto, Boral, ANZ, BlueScope Steel, Qantas, NRMA and James Hardie,

While no resolution put forward by a union to date has been passed at a company's AGM, the publicity surrounding such action had huge ramifications, for example the ACTU's campaign for adequate compensation for asbestos victims from James Hardie and the ASU's campaign comparing the 66 per cent pay rise Qantas wanted to grant its non-executive directors compared to the 3 per cent pay rise offered to other staff in 2004.


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