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December 2002   

Interview: Trade Secrets
Federal Labor�s trade spokesman Craig Emerson is on a mission to bring the shady world of trade talks into the open

Industrial: It�s About Overtime, Stupid
An overtime free-for-all is at the heart of Australia�s hours explosion and it's time to look at a cap on hours, reports Noel Hester from the ACTU�s Working Hours Summit.

Unions: Full Steam Ahead
After two weeks of rallies around the state, rural Rail Towns are making a stand for jobs and safety. Jim Marr reports.

Bad Boss: The BBQ Battle Axe
Manly restaurateur, David Diamond, is a shoo-in for this month�s Bad Boss nomination, leaving Workers Online looking for a good employer who can undo some of his damage.

Economics: Different Dimensions of Debt
Professor Frank Stilwell presented the big picture on debt policy at the Evatt Foundation�s Breakfast Seminar

History: Raking the Coals
Labour historians Rae Cooper and Greg Patmore explain why today�s organisers have much to learn from the lessons of the past.

History Special: Wherever the Necessity Exists
Rae Cooper tracks NSW union organising between 1900-1910 to argue that today�s activists should be looking closer to home for inspiration

History Special: Learning from the Past
Ray Markey looks at union membership growth in the 1880s & 1900s to argue that today�s unions must engage to grow.

History Special: A 'Cosy Relationship'
Barbara Webster looks at Rockhampton between 1916 � 1957 to debunk the �dependence� theory of trade union growth.

Politics: Regime Change for Saddam
Labour lawyer Jim Nolan looks at the challenge for the Left in the current geopolitical stand-off in the Middle East.

International: World War
Europe has suddenly come aflame with industrial action, Andrew Casey reports.

Corporate: Industrious Thinking
Neale Towart looks at the influence of German immigration on Australian industry policy in the post-war period.

Review: Jack High
Mick Molloy�s new flick Crackerjack tells the tale of a traditional bowling club struggling to stay afloat in an industry dominated by pokies, pokies and more pokies, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Culture: Duffy�s Song
Former Labor Council official Mark Duffy�s Sydney super band Sundial clocks in a bit of a corker.

Satire: A Nation of Sooks
The Strewth Institute's Tony Moore looks at the spate of defo suits and wonders if Australia has gone soft.

Poetry: Mr Flexibility
One of the key challenges facing unions, as the ACTU celebrates its 75th anniversary, is confronting the problems of increasing working hours and work intensity under the guise of "flexibility". Our resident bard, David Peetz, takes up that theme this week.


The Soapbox
Economic Migrants
A man - a worker - risks death by machine gun to escape what he is told is a 'workers' state'. He flees East Berlin through a tunnel, dug beneath a cemetery.

And the Winner Is �
It�s that time of the year when we honour the best. In the past week, both the IR Writers fraternity and ACTU have got in the act with more to come.

The Locker Room
More Post-Colonial Madness
Phil Doyle joins the fools and Englishmen out in the midday sun, and finds that it all comes at a price.

Call Waiting
The Howard Government backs off its plans to privatise the rest of Telstra under market pressure. But it�s nothing like the pressure that former HIH directors are under.

Month In Review
Way Down
As Elvis might have said, if he had had a longer-term perspective �ooh, what a month it was, it really was such a month ��


Lessons from History
History has a seemingly infinite capacity to create and debunk myths, as the latest offering from the Journal of Labour and Social History shows.


 And On the Seventh Day � Satan Joins Union

 Security Masks Political Bans

 Members Offered Spotters' Fee

 Casuals Written Out of the Script

 New Mining Bully On the Block

 ACTU Examines The Cap Option On Hours

 No Sweetener for Diabetic Workers

 Pressure Goes on Apartheid Employers

 ASIC Turns Blind Eye on Dodgy Boss

 Family Test Case a Priority Campaign

 Echoes of Prestige Hit Home

 Brutal Bashing Sparks Prison Strike

 Minister Challenged by Cleaners

 ABC Journos Off The Air

 Union Says RSCPA "Kills"...

 Guards Demand Campus Security

 Uni Backs Down On Regional Review

 Peace Returns to US Docks

 Activists Notebook

 Oh Bugger Me!
 State Based Organising
 Gino on the Gong
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Full Steam Ahead

After two weeks of rallies around the state, rural Rail Towns are making a stand for jobs and safety. Jim Marr reports.


Next stop Goulburn - Conductors Mark Morey and Michael Gadiel are halfway through their Rail Towns tour of NSW and learning that life is different when you pull into a station outside the urban network.

Out here the local TLC chairman, Stuart Woodward, is an undertaker and activist in the Funeral Workers Union.

He's joined on stage by community representatives who understand only two well the implications of research that shows $3 million is stripped out of the economy for every downsized fulltime worker.

It's not every day that you get business representatives and conservative politicians behind a Labor Council campaign. But they're all there - Chamber of Commerce president Angela Starrier, Mayor Max Hadlow, Bob Munce from the Greens, and even a representative standing in for state National Party MP Katrina Hodgkinson.

They've commandeered Belmore Park to tell Bob Carr that turning over state rail infrastructure to the Federal ARTC is bad for Goulburn.

Two hundred and fifty locals, from all walks of life, add their voices to the protest. Their central concern is the ARTC plan to axe 1500 jobs in rural and regional NSW by contracting out track maintainance to the lowest bidder.

In established rail towns like Goulburn the locals know that means less business, smaller class sizes, fewer teachers and the disappearance of services across the spectrum.

It's even worse for smaller centres in the state's northwest, already ravaged by drought and its effect on the pastoral infrastructure. Residents of cotton-dependent, Narrabri, and nearby Binnaway, with its 25 rail jobs, know their towns would be brought to their knees by the flagged job losses.

The caravan rolls on, taking the message to Newcastle, Grafton, Lismore, Maitland, Bathurst, Orange, Dubbo and Moss Vale. Everywhere the response is the same. The joint unions campaign might be run under the Labor Council banner but it elicits broad support from business and community organisations.

Everywhere, a hard-core group of locals stays behind to watch a screening of the gritty British docu-drama, The Navigators. Directed by Ken Loach, its parallels with the NSW situation are striking, telling not just of family and community breakdowns but the safety problems inevitable when infrastructural and communcations systems are contracted out and duplicated.

Safety is a key button being pushed on the Rail Towns caravan. NSW's Rail Infrastructure Corporation (RIC), set up as a response to the Glenbrook disaster which claimed nine lives, is less than two years old.

"The state Government went to contestability and ended up with Glenbrook. RIC was established to bring the system back together and now it looks like we have to go through the process all over again," Gadiel explained. "It doesn't make sense."

Not only did the Glenbrook Inquiry call for a single rail infrastructure system but the message has been reinforced by inquiries into British disasters.

A spate of accidents after privatisation in the 1990s led to Lord Cullen finding that divided ownership and outsourcing of maintenance had a "negative effect on the safety of the system" in his report on the Ladbroke Grove disaster.

The Howard Government is asking NSW to hand rural and Hunter Valley mainline tracks to ARTC so it can make the lines more attractive to big business.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation would run the lines for maximum profit, dividing network ownership and contracting out maintenance. In order to achieve this it will only guaranted 800 of the 2300 existing maintenance jobs beyond three years.

Concentration on the profit motive is likely to threaten the very existence of services to places like Lismore, which despite being a sizeably population centre, is located on a branch line not central to the efficient movement of freight between capital cities.

Combined Unions, including the RTBU, ASU, ETU, APESMA, AMWU and AWU took community concerns to a meeting with state treasurer Michael Egan during the week. Spokespeople described his response as "inconclusive".

Unions will meet again on Monday to consider the next step in their campaign and it seems likely they will rely on delegates in Rail Towns to muster enough community support to turn the future of rail into an election issue.


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