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Issue No. 329 20 October 2006  

Sucking the Oranges
Every three years the Australian union movement comes together for a gathering that is part policy forum, part Jamboree, the ACTU Congress.


Interview: Cowboys and Indians
Finance Sector Union national secretary Paul Schroder is standing between the big banks and a bucket of money.

Industrial: Seven Deadly Sins
Chris Christodoulou gives seven reasons why WorkChoices is bad for business

Unions: The IT Factor
The future of Australian IT looks grim as big companies lead the rush to India and China, writes Jackie Woods.

Politics: Bargain Basement
Simple principles of democracy underpin the ACTU's collective bargaining proposal, insists ACTU Secrteary Greg Combet.

Environment: An Inconvenient Hoax
Al Gore may be warning of climate breakdown, but what hope the truth when he's up against such a well-oiled machine? asks Paul Sheridan

Corporate: Two Sides
Bilateral trade agreements are a good idea – just ask the US multinationals. The rest of us should strongly disagree says Pat Ranald

International: Unfair Dismissals
Nearly 10,000 workers were fired for their trade union activities in 2005, an annual trade union survey shows.

History: A Stitch in Time
Neale Towart takes some lessons from female textile workers while considering the case for recognition ballots.

Review: The Wind that Shakes the Barley
A film charting the turmoil of the Irish war for independence against British occupation during the 1920s might seem an odd choice for top honours at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006.


 Bananas in the Mail

 Dragons Slay St George

 Collective Contracts Still Rule

 Boeing Bombs Individual Contracts

 Multis Raid Nest Eggs

 "Guests" Stood Over, AMWU

 Aunty Off the Air

 Ban Ki-Moon, Koreans Warn

 Super Shafting at Telstra

 Qantas IT calls Bangalore home

 Three Question Method

 AWAs: Kids Stuff


The Westie Wing
Ian West takes a walk around the backyard with the Prime Minister…

The Soapbox
Rise Up
Hugo Chavez's explosive address to the United Nations

The Fear Factor
A new analysis of the history of fear takes us from the war on terror all the way to the modern workplace.

 Thanks Betina
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Sucking the Oranges

Every three years the Australian union movement comes together for a gathering that is part policy forum, part Jamboree, the ACTU Congress.

Workers Online have been to a few of these events, from the cyber wars of Wollongong in 2000, Melbourne Casino 2003 where debate was around cashing in the chips in the ALP, all the way back to 1994 when we all booed Brereton.

Typically, these are events are broad affairs, where everyone pushes their barrow, political points are scored and everyone makes up after the final Congress dinner.

But it is a sign of the seriousness - and success - of the current Rights at Work campaign that this week's Congress is a far more sober and focussed affair.

The Congress is being held at the rough half-way mark in the Rights at Work campaign - a little over 12 months since the laws and about 12 months out from a federal election that will decide once and for all the direction of workers rights in this country.

In this context it is a chance to take a deep breath, suck the oranges and contemplate where the campaign is placed.

If the polls are any guide, we are ahead on the scoreboard. The Rights at Work campaign has shifted a significant number of votes into the Labor column, with men in particular opposed, and naming industrial relations as an area of key concern.

Our team is also playing with its heads up. Despite its thumping in 2003, the ALP is competitive and the shine has gone off John Howard, but maintaining political momentum around an issue for two years is unprecedented and remains a challenge for unions.

On the field of Parliament, they have largely stuck to the game plan, after all WorkChoices has been described as like have Wayne Carey at centre half forward, every time you are in trouble you know he'll take a mark and kick it straight.

Their opponent's game plan is faltering - the government keeps switching message form 'take the pain for the greater good' to 'it's a scare campaign ' there is no pain. And whether the PM, the Rev Kev or bench player Sloppy Joe has the pill, it still ends up in out of bounds.

And importantly, the crowd is behind us - like never before rank and file workers are joining grassroots campaigns, building momentum even before the candidates have been chosen.

So we are well-placed at half time, not impregnable but in position to build on our lead.

The ACTU Congress brings a new tactic into play, a positive agenda to rebuild workers rights, based around enforceable bargaining rights and workplace democracy.

With this armoury, expect the campaign to run harder on collective bargaining - the initial wave of unfair dismissals has passed, now groups of workers are feeling the pain, forced to give up penalty rates and job security and sing the AWA.

There is another issue that has been itching for a run - the undercutting of Australian job security from both guest workers and off shore workers, just another way in which the Howard Government is putting the interests of big business ahead of those of ordinary workers.

And then there is the pending decision from the umpire - the High Court ruling on whether a hostile takeover of state industrial laws was really the intention of our Founding Fathers.

All this, before the election campaign proper kicks off and we are presented with a whole swag more of metaphors to slaughter. All this is ahead of us, in one of the classic match ups of all time.

Peter Lewis



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