Workers Online
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Workers Online
  Issue No 97 Official Organ of LaborNet 25 May 2001  




.  LaborNET

.  Ask Neale

.  Tool of the Week

*  Interview: The Big Bribe
ACTU president Sharan Burrow emerges from the Federal Budget lock-up to ask where is the Howard Government’s vision for the future?
*  Compo: Where To Now?
As the dust settles in the WorkCover war, we look at what's been achieved and what still needs to be resolved.
*  Unions: The Real Big Brother
Have you ever got the feeling someone is watching you? If you work in one of the 4000 Call Centres in Australia then you’re probably right.
*  International: The Not-So Shakey Isles
NZ Council of Trade Union secretary Paul Goulter looks at life for the workers under a Labour Government.
*  Corporate: BHP: The Bit Australian
The BHP Billiton merger was an act of corporate tyranny. And, as Zoe Reynolds report, humanity does not figure on a corporate balance sheet.
*  History: A Proud Tradition of Mediocrity
Budgets always generate hype and a media circus, especially in the lead up to elections. This one is no exception and the Coalition consistency in panic and lack of ideas is reassuring in its lack of ideas.
*  Review: Ideologically Sound
Mark Hebblewhite trawls through the CD rack to dispel the notion that there's no politics left in pop.
*  Satire: HIH Recovers Own Losses
The collapsed insurance company HIH has lodged a claim with another insurer to be reimbursed for its $4 billion loss.

Tales of Budgets Past

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Not on the Balance Sheet

Spotlight on HIH’s WorkCover Link
Failed insurer HIH’s role in the push to privatise the state’s WorkCover scheme should be referred to the Royal Commission into the nation’s largest ever corporate collapse.
[ Full Story » ]

Construction Industry Faces Safety Crisis
The failure of WorkCover inspectors to investigate a serious accident has sparked a new wave of anger that will boil over in a major building industry rally on State Parliament next Tuesday.
[ Full Story » ]

Statewide Strike Off But Della on Notice
Workers across the state have put the Carr Government on notice that they are ready to re-ignite industrial action, despite reaching agreement on a process for workers compensation reform this week.
[ Full Story » ]

David and Goliath Battle at IBM
IT workers are gearing up for a major campaign against IT giant IBM GSA as enterprise bargaining talks have stalled.
[ Full Story » ]

Natasha’s Democrats Face Senate IR Test
The Australian Democrats industrial relations credentials will be put on the line before the federal election, after the Howard government moved to push through laws banning service fees for non-unionists.
[ Full Story » ]

Howard Abandons Working Families
An analysis of Tuesday's Budget tax changes shows a working couple on average weekly earnings will now pay almost $100 more in tax each week than a retired couple on the same income.
[ Full Story » ]

City Councils Recognise Birth – Now for the Bush
A campaign to secure public sector rights to paid maternity leave has been agreed to be city councils, but country shires face demonstrations next week after resisting the proposition.
[ Full Story » ]

BHP Forced to Back Off Kembla AWAs
A push to introduce individual contracts into BHP’s Port Kembla steelworks has been rebuffed after a week of all-out industrial warfare.
[ Full Story » ]

Impulse Bores Workers Into Submission
Workers of the failed airline Impulse are being directed to take annual leave or sit in a room and do nothing all day.
[ Full Story » ]

Coach Drivers Win Permanency
Private sector bus drivers have won commitments to increase the number of permanent jobs as part of an agreement with the Bus and Coaches Association.
[ Full Story » ]

Boss Pockets Compo Payment
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (Printing Division) has been forced to recover a member’s workers compensation payment back from administrators because the boss decided he needed it more.
[ Full Story » ]

Union Wins Battle in AWA War
After three years of complex legal action by the CPSU, the Federal Court has found Employment National used ‘duress’ to force staff onto Australian Workplace Agreements
[ Full Story » ]

Publicans Want to Reduce Bar Pay
Pub bosses want to take money out of the pockets of their workers in a new application to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
[ Full Story » ]

Abbott Agrees to Ban Asbestos
The ACTU has achieved an important break-through in the asbestos crisis following the decision of the Commonwealth-State Workplace Relations Ministers' Council last Friday to ban the importation of raw asbestos and products containing the substance.
[ Full Story » ]

Union Acts to Save Leichhardt Refuge
Australian Services Union members will be holding crisis talks with the Department of Community Services on Monday, 28 May, in an attempt to save the Inner West's only refuge for young women in crisis.
[ Full Story » ]

Trade Union Choir Turns Ten
The Sydney trade Union Choir is holding its 10th Anniversary concert on June 16 – and will cut a CD to mark the event.
[ Full Story » ]

Activists' Notebook
Action on Burma, politics in a mountain pub and a rally for public education are all on this week's activists' agenda.
[ Full Story » ]

Letters to the Editor
  • Thanks from Indonesia

  • Hester Spot On

  • Fuelling Voter Anger

  • May Day - The Debate Continues

  • Not a Chaser Fan

  • Editorial

    Lessons for Labor

    The partial resolution of the bitter workers compensation dispute carries some important lessons for the State Labor Government.

    While some in the media have tended to turn the dispute into a pitched battle between the ALP and the trade unions, it is more accurate to see it as a battle between styles of governance.

    Through this prism the story unfolds like so: the Carr Government attempts to impose a reform model over the top of an existing process of consultation and incremental change embodied in the Workers Compensation Advisory Council.

    For three years, government, trade unions and employer representatives worked together to bring in several rafts of measures to reign in costs. It was incremental change, it was driven by consensus, and it worked. Costs were being brought under control.

    In agreeing to refer contentious issues to tripartite review structures, including the Sheahan Inquiry, the government is now accepting that this is the best model to drive reform of the scheme.

    Revelations of the role that the Advisory Council played in blocking the privatization of the workers compensation system add further weight to the importance of this stakeholder model.

    Left to its own agenda, the Carr Government would have privatised the scheme in October 1998, exposing it to an estimated $800 million in further losses in the wake of the collapse of HIH today.

    That would have equated to a fully fledged crisis in workers compensation scheme. And every employer and worker in the state should today be thanking the trade union movement for preventing this catastrophe.

    The Lesson for Labor is simple: no matter how frustrating, or even anti-reform - they sometimes are - trade unions are a Labor government's direct line out of the halls of power to the reality of the people the party was established to represent.

    And it's not just a lesson for the Carr government. As he prepares to tackle the federal election Kim Beazley will be calling on the resources of the union movement to help consign Howard to history.

    With the CFMEU in Abbott's sights, Beazley may well be called on to defend Labor's link with the trade union movement during the campaign. But it is a link that is totally defensible - an institutional connection with the heartland.

    In fact, the links with trade unions should be portrayed as a plus, a guarantee that Labor can not lose touch with the people it is elected to represent.

    The message from WorkCover is clear: unions are not a building or an official or even an individual campaign, they are the expression of the interests of the Australian workforce. Ignore them at your own peril.

    Peter Lewis


    Soapbox Lockerroom From Trades Hall Toolshed
    Soapbox lockerroom trades hall Toolshed
    Mark Latham - What is Right? Jim Marr - Crisis What Crisis? Neale Towart's Labour Review Peter Does Dallas



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