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  Issue No 82 Official Organ of LaborNet 20 December 2000  




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Millennial Milestones

By Peter Lewis

In a year of highs, some trade union stories stuck in the collective consciousness. Here's ten of the best.


A Unionised Olympics

Who would have thought we'd be able to unionise the Olympics? Not only were the marvelous sites built with union labour - on time and under budget - but thousands of workers during the actual Games in security, catering and cleaning chose to join Unions 2000. With affiliates working together and pooling resources, Unions 2000 emrged as a model for future organizing that cuts across traditional demarcation lines.

Reith HitsTrouble

If the Olympics weren't enough to make us smile - Peter Reith's run-in with a Telecard was sweet justice. The bumbling sun, Madame X and Mr Y - it became a cloak and dagger thriller that left Reith visibly shaken, but still managing to hang on to his ministry - proof that standards of behavour in the Howard Government are now officially obselete. Importantly, Reith is now so politically damaged unlikely to see him trying on the outrageous attacks on unions that have become his stock and trade.

All in the Family

Perhaps the most bizarre industrial dispute of the year was National Textiles. It started with a group of Newcastle workers left without their entitlements but quickly drew in national attention when it emerged the boss was none other than Stan Howard, brother of the PM. Federal Cabinet's one-off relief package looked a little close to home and it wasn't long before the workers were barbequeing outside Stan's Harbour foreshore home.

Fair Trade or Free?

The most interesting debate of the year had to be over trade policy. Doug Cameron's mantra "I'm for fair trade not free trade" went to the very heart of globalisation. To supporters, he was tapping into a growing anti-corporatist movement that climaxed at the S11 protests outside the World Economic Forum. To his critics hye's a dinosaur offering workers the hope of a world of trade protection that no longer exists.. One thing's for sure, the iossue has split the factions in new directions. As one observer at the ALP's Hobart Conference put it - if there had been a free vote, half the Left would have voted for free trade and half the Right for fair!

Wealth Gap Increases

In terms of economic indicators, the big story of the year were statistics showing the gap between rich and poor is widening. As the Australian newspaper reported, the disappearance of the middle class is emerging as a key effect of globalisation. Instead we have an increasing number of winners and losers. Executive salaries spiral out of control, while the number of working poor continue to increase. All of which shows the importance of the ACTU's Living Wage claim for $28 per week, currently before the AIRC.

NSW Pushes IR Envelope

The Carr Government proved that IR is not a static issue with an inquiry into labour hire being chaired by former ACTU President Jennie George. Unions waved goodbye to Jeff Shaw, who pulled the pin mid-year to return to the industrial bar,hailing him as the best NSW industrial relations minister ever. By year's end the new IR minister John Della Bosca had picked up the reformist ball and was looking at new online rights for wired workers.

Casino Workers Strike

It started with a row over what socks workers could wear and ended in the first ever strike at Sydney casino. When the LHMU members walked at 3am, they were making history and showing that organizing in the new economy can deliver results. Later the workers voted to reject a management offer to grant big pay rises providing the union was written out of the equation, The workers stood firm and unionism gained a foothold at Star City.

Joy Workers Triumph

After one of the longest lockouts in Australian industrial history, Joy Mining workers emerged victorious after a seveb month dispute. Lawyers for the company through everything at the workers and their supporters - descending to covertly videoing rallies and taking out personal writs against identified protestors. But the Moss Vale workers stood firm, winning back their jobs and re-energising the South Coast region with their solidarity,

Solidarity on Fiji

The coup on our doorstop highlighted the importance of international solidarity and the role the Net can play in a crisis. As the drama played out in Fiji, The LHMU's Andrew Casey was receiving daily reports from the Fijian trade union movement; he was placing these on the LaborNet Lives News Feed, which became a primary news source, often breaking stories before reporters on the ground. Meanwhile, the ACTU and individual affiliates backed the Fijian workers with a series of bans - placing far more pressure on Speight's junta than the limp-wristed Howard Government.

New ACTU Team Beds Down

The Combet-Burrow team has quietly gone about their business of remaking the ACTU. An indication of the cultural change is the emphasis now being put on organizing and communications and the quality of the young people being brought into the organization. On this note, we are sad to be saying goodbye to Noel Hester who has been poached after his brilliant effort editing Workers Online this year. All they need now is to follow my fashion advice to Greg - sideburns and paisley.


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 82 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Being Michael Costa
Labor Council�s secretary on the 2KY sell-off, the Olympics and his plans for the future.
*  Unions: Millennial Milestones
In a year of highs, some trade union stories stuck in the collective consciousness. Here's ten of the best.
*  International: Eric Lee's Year in Review
The editor of Labourstart looks back on the global issues that mobilized labour in the past 12 months.
*  Organising: Dispatches from the Field
Despite the 'Botsmanesque' critiques which have been levelled at Organising, it would be hard to deny that the year 2000 has seen more and more unions in NSW latch onto the approach - at least in principle anyway.
*  Economics: Who Gets Gold??
At the end of this Olympic year, Sydney Uni's Frank Stilwell charts the winners and losers in the new sport of redistribution of income.
*  Politics: Election 2000: The Winner is Gridlock
In the last in his series on the US Federal Election Campaign, Michael Gadiel, our roving reporter, gladly signs off.
*  Satire: Chaser Launches Book
In the great tradition of repackaging old material to cash in on Christmas, the team from The Chaser & Silly 2000 has produced its first book.
*  Review: Cultural Wasteland
The spotlight was on Australian culture in 2000. But was it a missed opportunity, asks Peter Zangari.

»  Mad Monk's Secret Union Past
»  New Life for Trades Hall
»  Top Cop is Our Organiser of the Year
»  All We Want for Christmas
»  Summer for Social Justice
»  Unions Return to Mosh Pit
»  Unions Head West
»  Big Bastard Censors Dissidents
»  South Coast Labor President Steps Down
»  As a Died in the Wool Westie Steps Up
»  Dying Workers' Asbestos Plea
»  Workers at Centre of Turn Of the Century
»  Truth about S11 Starting to Come Out

»  The Soapbox
»  The Locker Room
»  Trades Hall
»  Tool Shed

Letters to the editor
»  The Greatest Team Ever?
»  ABC Online Did Strike
»  Why Nader Vote was not Wasted
»  John Scrooge's Christmas Gift

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