Workers Online
Workers Online
Workers Online
  Issue No 40 Official Organ of LaborNet 19 November 1999  




*  Interview: No Quick Fix
Online pioneer Marc Belanger explains why the Internet, on its own, will not save the union movement.
*  Unions: Organising With A Mission
Entries are beginning to trickle in for the Labor Council Organiser of the Year. With just two weeks to deadline, we look at the TWU's nominee.
*  History: Rhyme and Reason
Poems written by workers provide us with an insight into their experiences and also how they felt about their work and working conditions.
*  Health: The Food Police
Three times a day you take your life in your hands. How? When you sit down to eat a meal.
*  Politics: East Timor: Defeat or Victory for the Left?
John Passant's "Requiem for the Left" advances some rather extravagant charges regarding the left and East Timor.
*  International: Kiwi Unions Rebuild from Ground Up
After fifteen years as a right wing laboratory New Zealand is about to change tack. New NZCTU chief Paul Goulter outlines the challenge ahead.
*  Satire: Australian Democrats Revealed as Student Hoax
The Chaser has obtained an exclusive background report on the extraordinary story which reveals how and why Cheryl Kernot defected from the Democrats.
*  Review: The Best of the Best
Once again Channel Nine has out done itself with it’s new Ray Martin program “Simply the Best”.
*  Labour Review: What's New at the Information Centre
View the latest issue of Labour review, our resource for officials and students.
*  Deface a Face: 25,000 Teachers Can’t Be Wrong!
Angry teachers yesterday voted overwhelmingly for Education minister John Aquilina to take the mantle of this week’s face to deface.

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Workers Online - 2nd place Labourstart website of the year


Wobbly Radio


The Man Who Would Be Metherell

Contracts Fear as Teachers Sidelined
NSW unions have warned that Carr Government moves to deal directly with teachers are the first step towards individual contracts for the state’s public servants.
[ Full Story » ]

Reith Calls on States to Split Entitlement Costs
Workplace relations minister Peter Reith has told the States they will have to split the costs of any entitlement protection scheme on a 50-50 basis.
[ Full Story » ]

Burrow's Plea: Net-Heads Must Take Leadership Role
The woman tipped to be the next ACTU president has called on information technology specialists to "assume a leadership mantle" within their unions.
[ Full Story » ]

Ozemail Downloading Leave Entitlements
Management at Ozemail, one of Australia’s most successful Internet Service Providers, are refusing to bring workers’ holiday leave entitlements into line with the statewide norm.
[ Full Story » ]

Geeks Claim 400 Per Cent for Millennium Bug Patrol
Computer technicians monitoring the impact of the Millennium Bug are seeking a 400 per cent bonus for working New Years Eve.
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Hospital Crisis Looms as Nurses Set Deadline
Nurses across the state have given the Health minister Craig Knowles three weeks to resolve a funding crisis in hospitals or face unprecedented industrial action.
[ Full Story » ]

Pre-Fab Shelter Wins UN Support in East Timor
The CFMEU has completed erecting the first of 14 multi-purpose shelters in Dili. The 30 by 12 meter pre-fabs were erected by 10 Australian construction workers with the help of local Timorese.
[ Full Story » ]

Rail Authorities Back Down on Surveillance.
The State Rail Authority has agreed to drop disciplinary charges against staff based on secret monitoring of data captured in automatic ticketing machines.
[ Full Story » ]

Rio Tinto Black List Exposed at Blair Athol
A forensic expert this week gave evidence in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission which exposes the existence of a Black List targeting union activists at Rio Tinto’s Blair Athol coal operation in Central Queensland.
[ Full Story » ]

Needle Stick Fears Spark Industrial Action
Outdoor workers employed by Fairfield City have taken industrial to address the serious needle stick injury problem that they face every day on the job, particularly around Cabramatta, a centre of Sydney's heroin trade.
[ Full Story » ]

Round One to the Cleaners
Two thousand school cleaners employed by the Menzies company cut short a three-day strike after winning their key demands in just one day.
[ Full Story » ]

Telstra's Greed Puts Service at Risk
Telstra unions have accused senior management of double standards following the company's decision to impose a new agreement on its Customer Contact Workforce.
[ Full Story » ]

Tragic Death Leads to Lift in Contractor Safety Standards
An outcry over the death of a young worker in mid-1997 has led to tougher requirements for contractors working on Road and Traffic Construction projects.
[ Full Story » ]

Oldfield in the Pub
Fireworks are assured when One Nation MLC David Oldfield debates the Multicultural Future of NSW with Labor’s first Asian-born MP Henry Tsang at this weekend’s Chippo Politics.
[ Full Story » ]

Letters to the Editor
  • Letter of the Week

  • Republican Post Mortem

  • Aquilina's Horror Award

  • CCT - Destroying Rural Communities

  • Timor Pride Not Cause for Requiem

  • Editorial

    A Done Deal

    The ACTU will next week announce that most trade unions have signed up to its deal with web entrepreneurs Virtual Communities to provide cheap computers to members in return for the right to market e-commerce through the user network it creates.

    Virtual Communities were the sponsors of a two-day conference, Unions OnLine, in Melbourne this week, although there was no discussion of the enterprise there. After all, it's a done deal.

    Workers Online has been critical of both the concept and the detail of the deal. Simply, we believe unions should not be selling off their membership networks to a commercial enterprise whose aims is to make money from them.

    Instead, we say we should be incrementally building our own online presence in such a way that it becomes an asset to be used for our purposes. We see it as the difference between looking at our constituents as members rather than consumers. Or in the jargon of the 'new ACTU' - the difference between organising and servicing.

    We have attempted to run these arguments as the deal was considered (and modified to meet some of our concerns) but it is obvious now that our key objection has fallen on deaf ears. Whether the national leadership understand or care about the issues is unclear. Bill Kelty has been delivered his swansong.

    I had the opportunity to meet the businessman behind Virtual Communities, Chris Clark, this week - a personable enough guy who appears to passionately believe that computer access is the key to opportunity in the Information Age. We hope he's right that it's that simple.

    I gave Clark an undertaking that I will repeat here. Once the deal is done, Workers Online will not undermine it - no matter how misguided we believe it to be. That would be churlish and against the interests of the unions that have signed up.

    However we will continue to scrutinise the commerce and content it offers union members in a bid to 'keep the bastards honest'.

    And we will continue to develop LaborNet and Workers Online to show the movement's leadership the real potential of this technology to do what the ACTU claims it is committed to - that is communicating with members and organising the workforce.

    So, good luck to Clark and the ACTU's senior leadership; the more workers online the better. But if you think that giving them a cheap computer is all unions should do; then you should have been at the conference.

    Peter Lewis


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