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Workers Online
  Issue No 43 Official Organ of LaborNet 24 February 2000  




*  Interview: Parting Gestures
Outgoing ACTU president Jennie George looks back on her time at the helm and charts some challenges for young women in the union movement.
*  Unions: While We Were Sleeping
It’s been a long hot summer for Australian workers - from the showdown in the Pilbara to the victorious National Textile workers. We look at the stories Workers Online missed while we were in the banana chair.
*  Media: Freudian Slips
The coverage of Jennie George’s final days as ACTU President were a case study in the art of psycho-tabloid.
*  Legal: Cookies’ Fortune
The breakaway union led by a man personally backed by the Prime Minister has been refused registration in a ruling that raises questions over the whole enterprise.
*  Politics: True Deceivers
In his controversial new book, Andrew Scott argues that Labor's rhetoric has outstripped its achievements.
*  Review: Rebel With a Cause
A new Michael Moore has emerged at the frontline of subversive television. His technique? Combining organising with silly suits.
*  Satire: Victorian ALP shock: "Apparently We're in Power!"
A recent survey conducted by the Victorian State ALP has revealed that the party is in government.
*  International: Right Hand Drive
The rise of the extreme Right in Austria carries some important lessons for our own society.

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The View from Stan's Place

Did Taxpayers Fund PM’s Rogue Union?
Court documents have raised questions about whether taxpayer money was used to fund the failed registration bid by a rogue postal union whose leader had been personally endorsed by Prime Minister John Howard.
[ Full Story » ]

Woodlawn: Two Years Is Long Enough
The Howard Government could end two years of anguish for workers retrenched from the Woodlawn Mine by agreeing to underwrite a proposal to transform the disused quarry into a rubbish dump.
[ Full Story » ]

Bus Drivers Strike Olympic Bonus
The first special Olympic pay bonuses have been locked in with private coach drivers to earn an extra $1.50 per hour to compensate for working on Sydney’s clogged roads during the Games.
[ Full Story » ]

Office Email Access for All
The NSW Law Reform Commission has been urged to provide all workers with the right to receive union information by office email.
[ Full Story » ]

Test Case for Bank After Hold-Up
The Commonwealth Bank is facing an historic test case following an armed hold-up in one of its country branches last year.
[ Full Story » ]

Mad Monk Misses the Mark
Employment services minister Tony Abbott’s kneejerk witchhunt against the innovative deal between the Labor Council of NSW and Job Futures misses one vital point: the deal is good for workers, employers and the taxpayer.
[ Full Story » ]

Crosby to Unions: Don't Lose Your Nerve
The director of the ACTU-Labor Council Organising Centre has called on unions to hold their nerve in the wake of official figures showing a further decline in union membership.
[ Full Story » ]

The Bald Truth - Unions Hit the Campuses
Unions are moving to raise their profile amongst university students, with a four-campus tour to be held early in the first semester featuring Labor Council secretary Michael Costa.
[ Full Story » ]

Moait Takes Reins as President
The NSW Labor Council’s first female president has presided over a union that has defied the national trend to register a 14 per cent increase in union membership since 1994.
[ Full Story » ]

Mardi Gras to Pay Tribute to Jennie
Union participants in the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras will pay tribute to outgoing ACTU president Jennie George for her contribution to ‘industrial glamour’.
[ Full Story » ]

Pay Equity Cyber Picket on Premier
Supporters of equal pay for women are being urged to join a cyberpicket on the offices of NSW Premier Bob Carr calling on his government to give meaning to the long-running Pay Equity Inquiry.
[ Full Story » ]

Log-In Every Day on LaborNet!
Finally, we begin a new era today with the launch of our LaborNet portal, which we hope will become the home-base for all Workers Online readers.
[ Full Story » ]

Letters to the Editor
  • Desperately Seeking Lithgow Ladies

  • Just a Suggestion!

  • Where is the Nexus?

  • Editorial

    Disparate Voices

    It ended up a hot summer - with the successful campaign by the National Textile workers and the TCFUA reasserting the importance of collective activity.

    The fact that activists around the country rallied to keep the heat on Howard with rallies, petitions, even a barbecue outside brother Stan's house was proof positive that unity still counts.

    But at the same time official statistics show union membership continues to decline - down to just 25 per cent of the total workforce, ensuring the heat stays on the leadership of a movement that is now struggling for survival.

    The reasons for this are many and varied - Jennie George gives her take on some of them in this issue. But the bottom line is that unions are not penetrating the areas of the economy that are booming.

    In this context, the national campaign being planned to organise call centres over the next 12 months is just as important as the battle for workers entitlements.

    One of the challenges this campaign will face is that the workers in these new service industries have different needs and aspirations to the union movement's traditional blue collar constituency. Issues like job security, for instance, may resonate with some; but for others it is mobility, the ability to move between jobs that is far more important.

    These difference point to the real challenge for unions in the 21st century: how to become an effective representative for disparate workers with differing priorities and interests.

    Peak bodies like the ACTU and Labor Council need to embrace this shift s a strength rather than a weakness. Instead of promoting the master plans and big solutions, they need to transform into a medium for differing, sometimes competing, agendas.

    Improving the information flows between unions, their delegates and their members is one way to promote this diversity. LaborNet at - which is relaunching in conjunction with this issue, shows how this can occur. It should be an exciting year. Be part of it with LaborNet.

    Peter Lewis


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