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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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World War

Europe has suddenly come aflame with industrial action, Andrew Casey reports.


The whole continent seems to have become a battleground between a growing militant trade union movement and governments who want to privatise or corporations who want to downsize.

Union members throughout Europe seem to be chanting the old labour slogan: threaten one, threaten all.

There are solidarity strikes, marches and protests being reported everywhere.

The firefighters strike in the UK has become a cause celebre among union activists. Many are darkly talking about it as being the trigger for a historic end to the links between New Labour and the unions.

Last Tuesday was the worst day for strikes in London for two decades with the tabloid Fleet Street press in full-cry about militant unionism rearing its head again.

In France unions this week challenged the recently elected right-wing government's massive privatisation plans. Reports of strikes and blockades and street demonstrations by truckers, railway, subway and bus workers, air traffic controllers, nurses, civil servants, postal workers, telecoms, radio and TV workers dominated the nightly TV all this week. Hundreds of thousands of union members shook the cobblestone streets of Paris and other major French cities.

According to the International Transport Workers Federation, "unions from Luxembourg, Germany, Great Britain, Austria and the Ukraine traveled to the Paris to show their solidarity" with the strikers.

In the UK working-class solidarity will be the theme of one of the biggest ever demonstrations of British union power expected on Saturday week to support the firefighters' strike.

The TUC has organised a huge union protest in the centre of London in support of the FBU - every major union in the UK has thrown their support behind the firefighters.

Many of the big public sector unions are now threatening to walk away from the Blair Labour Government's proposed civil service reforms if the PM does not sit down and do a deal with the FBU.

John Edmonds, leader of one of the UK's biggest unions, the GMB, has told the media: "This is no longer just a dispute between the Fire Brigades Union and the Government - it has descended into a fight between the Government and the whole of the union movement."

At the same time as the firefighters walked out, we have had major teachers' strikes and local council worker strikes in London and the rest of the UK.


An interesting footnote to the industrial turmoil is a strike by a group of 'scab' coal miners scheduled for today. History will be playing in reverse when the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM) stages its first strike.

The UDM was formed to "break" the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) strike of 1984, with its members crossing NUM picket lines. But when the UDM members walks out on strike today, they face the likelihood of their NUM colleagues - who have never forgiven what UDM scabs did to their leader Arthur Scarbigll - will cross their picket lines.


* In Italy 20,000 workers, including many Fiat employees, marched in Rome against job cuts.

* In Germany: Verdi, the largest union in the country with 2.8 million members, is threatening a wave of warning strikes in December as part of its campaign for a 3% wage hike, which employers are refusing to meet. Private security workers - who are members of Verdi - are joining the strike after their bosses shook on a new union contract, walked out of the meeting and changed their minds. The head of the DGB, the German national trade union centre, has predicted that "it will be a dispute-filled winter."

* In Portugal: The main confederation of unions has called a general strike on 10 December to protest a proposed new labour law which threatens to take away the gains made following the country's 1974 democratic revolution.

These extraordinary developments are not limited to western Europe. The formerly-Communist Eastern European countries are also experiencing a wave of protests and strikes. In the last seven days we reported on these:

- Poland: Several thousand policemen, coal miners, steel workers and nurses have been marching through the cities chanting 'thieves' at the representatives of the government in Warsaw. The original trigger for the protests were government plans to close 'unprofitable' coal mines. But while nurses , police, steel workers and teachers have backed the coal workers, the mine union is backing the public sector workers who are angry at plans to cut back the civil service, the state sector and the contracting out of public functions.

- In Macedonia 500 miners - who have been on strike for a week - have now gone on a hunger strike to demand their unpaid wages.

- While next door in Croatia more than 1,500 angry workers from a bankrupt steel mill scuffled with riot police as they attempted to march towards the capital

to demand unpaid salaries.


*    For all latest international labour news, go to Labourstart

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