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February 2003   

Interview: Agenda 2003
ACTU secretary Greg Combet looks at the year ahead and how a union movement can keep the focus on the workplace at a time of global crisis.

Peace: The Colour Purple
Local communities across Australia are taking stands against war by displaying purple banners. Jim Marr visits one.

Industrial: Long, Hot Summer
As Workers Online took its annual break, the world kept turning � at an increasingly alarming velocity.

Solidarity: Workers Against War
Joann Wypijewski reports on how union locals in the USA are fighting the hounds of war at home.

Security: Howard And The Hoodlums
With all the talk of terror, the Howard Government�s Achilles heel is its tolerance of Flags of Convenience shipping , writes Rowan Cahill

International: Industrial Warfare
Scottish freight train drivers have already acted to disrupt the war effort in the UK with crews of four freight trains carrying war supplies to ports walking off the job, writes Andrew Casey

History: Unions and the Vietnam War
The Vietnam experience steered some unions towards social activism for the first time. Unions are today key players in the anti-war movement, writes Tony Duras.

Review: Eight Miles to Mowtown
Mark Hebblewhites looks at two summer movies that tap into different sounds of American culture - white boy rap and motown blues.

Poetry: Return To Sender
Resident bard Divd Peetz discovers that Elvis has become the latest shock recruit to the peace cause.

Satire: CIA Recruits New Intake of Future Enemies
CIA Director George Tenet announced today that the agency has begun recruiting future enemies for the year 2014.


The Soapbox
Getting On with The Job
Premier Bob Carr chose Trades Hall as the venue to launch Labor's IR policy for the upcoming state election.

Justice in Bogota
Sydney lawyer Ian Latham knows how to pick them. He�s gone straight from the Cole Royal Commission to justice Colombian-style.

The Locker Room
Heart Of Darkness
There is a school of thought that there is, in fact, only one World Cup - and it doesn�t involve cricket, writes Phil Doyle.

Danger Mouse
John Howard's politics have trapped him into supporting an unpopular war. He is in political trouble, Leonie Bronstein argues.


A Call To Arms
Workers Online returns from our summer break to face a world on the brink, the structures of global cooperation being crushed by the iron will of the earth�s last remaining superpower.


 The Cuffe Link � Taxpayers Cough Up

 Carr: Secret Lib Plan to Slash Public Sector

 Abbott Comes Out Swinging

 Thanks a Million: Cole�s Lawyers Clean-up

 Corrigan Dogs On Jobs Promise

 Gnomes Fess Up � Unionism Best For All

 Owens Survives 30-Year Ban

 Ribs and Rumps Something for Government to Chew On

 Badges of Honour

 Guards Rail Against Assaults

 Workers Online Scoops Global Prize

 Currawong Must Pay It�s Way

 Let�s Get Real! 2nd Australasian Organising Conference

 Guard Knocked Out in Villawood Escape

 Activists Notebook

 Bouquets and Brickbats
 War Talk
 A Tale of Two Malls
 Talk Back Tom
 On The Beach
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Long, Hot Summer

As Workers Online took its annual break, the world kept turning � at an increasingly alarming velocity.

Home Burns

Bushfires ravaged large chunks of the eastern seaboard and ACT. By December 6, more than 4000 volunteers were battling to save lives and property to the north, south and west of Sydney. These fires claimed two lives and dozens of homes but worse was to come. Six weeks later, extreme temperatures and winds combined to set Canberra ablaze. Four people died and hundreds were treated at local hospitals during a horrific mid-January weekend. Blazes were still burning, out of control, in rural NSW and alpine Victoria as January turned into February. The disasters saw pollies of all shapes and sizes looking to make electoral capital. Few, if any, addressed the link between global warming and John Howard's about-face on the Kyoto Protocol.

Waterfall Tragedy

Six City Rail commuters and train driver, Herman Zeides, died in a derailment at Waterfall, on Sydney's southern outskirts, pushing rail safety to the top of the NSW election agenda. As politicians launched claims and counter-claims, the RTBU maintained a dignified silence with state secretary, Nick Lewocki, saying he was confident an inquiry ordered by Transport Minister Carl Scully, and conducted by Supreme Court judge Peter McInerney, would reveal the truth.

Johnny Jumps High

The Prime Minister's desire to crawl into any orifice George Bush made available was embarrassingly obvious as he signed on as a founder member of the Gang of Three promoting war in Iraq. As countries like New Zealand, France and Germany urged respect for established international law, Howard embraced Bush's radical doctrine of pre-emptive first strikes, donating hundreds of Australian service men and women to the cause.

At least, in the Prime Minister's defence, his "me too" role in the chorus avoided some of the embarrassment Britain attracted for its up-front advocacy on behalf of the US. Possibly the most cringe-making example came when large tracts of a British dossier, promoted as intelligence and praised by secretary of state Colin Powell in his UN address, turned out to have been, well, nicked. Blair told the House of Commons his "intelligence" revealed a "huge infrastructure of deception and concealment" by Iraq. The real deception and concealment became clear when it was admitted most of the "intelligence" had, in fact, been lifted from a post graduate's thesis, dealing with 13-year-old evidence. Worse still, while spelling and grammatical errors had been retained, the Brits had added their own exaggerations to strengthen the US case.

Nike Does It

International trade unions joined forces behind more than 2000 workers tipped out of jobs at the Doson factory in Indonesia without their legal entitlements. The factory closed when its sole customer, Nike, cut orders. The Doson closure followed in the running shoes of Thailand-based Bed and Bath Prestige which shut down owing employees back and severance pay. That company supplied international giants, including Nike, Adidas and Levis. The two issues were highlighted by unions at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre and the concurrent, World Economic Forum at Davos.

A joint statement from international trade unions, entitled Democratising Globalisation, called for democratic global governance to put an end to the culture of "corporate irresponsibility" which, it said, was at the heart of the world's economic woes. US-based ICFTU secretary, Guy Ryder, said billions of people were being left behind while a small minority reaped the befefits of liberalisation and deregulation.

The World Watches

Michael "Wacko" Jackson made an absolute spectacle of himself, courtesy of a world television exclusive. Ros Coward, writing in The Guardian, put an interesting, and disquieting, spin on the whole performance. Below are the first and last paragraphs of her thought-provoking review:

"The general consensus about the Michael Jackson interview on ITV on Monday is that it revealed how truly mad he is. It did the opposite for me, making me wonder more about the craziness of the culture that produced him. For Jackson's wacky life is the embodiment of many dearly held western beliefs: that you can be anything you want, buy anything you want, create any lifestyle and indulge any needs you have...

"This western libertarianism often ends up protecting madness. Nowhere is this clearer than in Jackson's love of pyjama parties and 12-year-old boys in his bed. No one feels competent to intervene because they can't tell the difference between a harmless lunatic protected by individual rights or freedoms and individual rights used to protect a harmful lunatic from scrutiny. Perhaps the smokescreen of eccentricities, talent, money and civil rights, created by Jackson, means even the protagonists don't know what's going on. Most worrying, as we advance towards a war to protect western values, is that Jacko may not be an aberration but their logical outcome."

While the Mad Monk Imitates King Canute

Tony Abbott, itching and scratching for a public stink with his tormentors on building sites, maintained his rage about pattern agreements as employers, around the country, signed off on deals to give building workers 36-hour weeks.

NSW Labor Council co-ordinated deal with Westfields, providing for six shutdown weekends on a big Bondi Junction development was endorsed by the IRC, as NSW CFMEU secretary, Andrew Ferguson, claimed "nearly 90 percent" of the state's building contractors had agreed to similar "leisure time" provisions.

In Victoria, Electrical Workers moved the trend beyond construction, finalising a deal with employers' association, NECA, to phase in the 36-hour week. Eventually, 10,000

10,000 sparkies in construction and servicing. The electrical workers arrangement culminates, in February 2006, with full implementation of a nine-day fortnight.

Other significant industrial developments over the silly season included:

- Grocon Victoria moving away from an Abbott-backed showdown with the CFMEU and finalising an EBA, brokered by Industrial Relations Commission vice-president Iain Ross. Significantly, Grocon agreed to abandon legal action against the union, while the CFMEU withdrew industrial threats.

- On the eve of a state election, NSW IR Minister John Della Bosca again rebuffed worker demands for industrial manslaughter legislation, arguing that sufficient deterrence existed in the Crimes Act.

- The ACTU highlights fat cat salaries and golden handshakes in launching its 2003 minimum wages case. It will argue that around 1.7 low-paid Australians should get a weekly top-up of $24.60.

- Abbott confirms plans to introduce legislation punishing union officials who defy court or IRC orders. The bill would allow the Workplace Relations Minister (Abbott) to seek civil penalties and orders disqualifying cited individuals from holding union office.


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