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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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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


The Scottish industrial action comes ahead of global peace demonstrations this weekend, which will see union members playing key roles in rallies on every continent.

The leaders of five UK trade unions followed the lead of the rank-and-file train drivers by meeting this week to discuss plans to further disrupt the supplies going to the Gulf, if British troops take part in a US-led war.

These leaders have called for a special TUC conference to debate Tony Blair's push to commit British troops to Iraq - they claim 'massive strikes' can be expected in factories and industries within hours of troops being sent into battle without a UN mandate.

Across the other side of the globe similar threats were made last week by a group of unions in Western Australia who said their members would stop work and disrupt the flow of goods to troops in the Gulf.

Unions everywhere opposed

Trade union voices everywhere have been raised in opposition to the War on Iraq. Unions have come out against the war much faster than they did during the era of Vietnam where unions and their members - especially in the USA - took a lot longer to line up under the peace banner.

The speed with which unions have taken up this call for peace has been much remarked upon.

Many in the USA believe that the huge swelling of support for the peace movement, so early in the process, is largely due to the organisational muscle of the labour movement, delivering thousands of members to rallies - especially from the blue collar unions.

Apart from the comparisons to Vietnam the other comparison being made is with the lead up to World War I when unions all espoused the peace cause but, when the war finally erupted, they meekly lined up behind their separate armies.

A few cracks in international unity

There are at the moment few cracks in this international unity - though some unions such as the American Federation of Teachers have come out in support of Bush and the war effort.

Similarly in Australia the WA branch of the TWU has moved to distance itself from other Perth unions promoting the peace cause and threatening industrial disruption. The TWU leadership in that State has said their members will support Australian troops in the Gulf by not participating in any union boycotts.

However support among unions for the war effort has miniscule support - with unions around the world issuing statements opposing the war and calling on their governments to resist the US pressure.

This does not mean that there is total unanimity. It is possible to discern differences of nuance between different unions and labour movements around the world on how best to push the peace movement forward.

The most important difference is between unions opposed to a War on Iraq without a UN mandate - and those unions who are opposed to the War with or without a UN mandate, because they argue that George Bush has corrupted the UN processes by bribery and bullying.

These different perspectives can be seen across the globe as well as here in Australia.

Joint AFL-CIO and TUC statement

The most significant statements have come from the UK and the USA - their two peak councils the TUC and the AFL-CIO issued a joint statement about the way their respective governments are driving the war effort.

"The goal of our policy now should be to take every possible step to achieve the legitimate ends of disarming Iraq without recourse to war," argued the general secretary of the TUC, John Monks, and his American counterpart, John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO in the unions' first ever joint statement.

"We urge you to continue to pressure all concerned to find a resolution to this situation that preserves peace and security for our countries and across the world.

"On behalf of our two labor movements, and on behalf of working people in both countries, we urge you to continue to lead the global fight against totalitarianism and terror through the United Nations to ensure that this fight is carried out by the broadest possible coalition, with the strongest international legitimacy."

In Europe national trade union federations from Italy to Germany have all come out against the war with the leader of the Italian CGIL saying: " I believe we have to adopt a position of clear opposition to this war with no ifs or buts .The great majority of Italians are against the war and will prove this in a clear and effective way next Saturday when they take part in the large peace protest."

The leader of the German DGB said German workers were firmly opposed to any attempt to achieve the goals of disarming Iraq through the use of military force.

Similar statements have come out of trade unions in other none-English speaking countries in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa.

You can read more about these different union statements by going to the special LabourStart page on Unions and the War in Iraq:


*    Go to Labourstart for comprehensive coverage on union responses to the war

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