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April 2003   

Interview: Picking Up The Peaces
Walk Against the War Coalition convenor Bruce Childs outlines the challenge for the peace movement in the lead up to Palm Sunday.

Unions: The Royal Con
Jim Marr argues the Cole Commission can only be taken seriously by people kept ignorant of the way it actually operated.

National Focus: Around the Grounds
Unions maintain the pressure for peace as the upcoming organising conference takes on added significance, reports Noel Hester.

Economics: The Secret War on Trade
Overseas-based multi-nationals are coming after our film industry, electricity, water, pharmaceutical benefits and even childcare. Or are they? Nobody knows, as Jim Marr reports.

International: United Front
Workers and their unions around the world have possibly never been as united in their commitment to campaign together against the War in Iraq, writes Andrew Casey

History: Confessions of a Badge Collector
Bill Pirie has one of the largest collections of trade union badges in the world. After 20 years the collection now numbers some 6,000 badges.

Politics: Stalin’s Legacy
Fifty years ago last month Josef Stalin died. How could it be that a democratic and socialist revolution produced one of the monsters of the twentieth century, asks Leonie Bronstein.

Review: Such Was Not Ned’s Life
The life of Ned Kelly is what we in the world of journalism term a “ball tearing yarn” so why have writers of the movie adaptation felt so impelled to dress it up with fiction, asks Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Osama's Top Recruiter
Through our extensive intelligence networks, we have managed to track down the top recruiter for the global terror network of Osama bin Laden.

Satire: Woolworths CEO Denied Bonus After Company Posts Profit
Woolworths chief executive Roger Corbett was devastated today to report an 18.3% rise in profit under his management over the last year.


The Soapbox
Factional Free-For-All
Chris Christodoulou looks at the fallout from the selection of the new Carr Ministry and what it means to the factional warlords.

The Locker Room
The Best Season Since Last Year
Phil Doyle goes trudging through the mud in search of the heart of the matter beneath the corporate biffo

Books on Bombs
In times like these, reading inevitably turns to America and war. Chris White wades through Pilger, Chomsky, Eco, Moore and Vidal.

Postcard from Harvard
Labor Council's Michael Gadiel was elected to give the valedictory speech to this year's Harvard Trade Union Program.


The Fog of War
As the War Without a Mandate proceeds apace, any notion of a domestic political agenda has become surplus to requirements.


 Cole Launches Civil Rights Assault

 Protests Target Arncliffe “Shocker”

 Commerce Swallows DIR

 Abbott, Bosses Turn Guns on Low Paid

 Fat Cats Should Justify Salaries - LHMU

 Black Humour for a Dark Issue

 Minister on Threats, Coercion

 Bosses Stonewall Union Dues Ruling

 Private Hospitals Pay Out on 15 Percent

 Councils on Hotel Workers’ Agenda

 Sharon Hammers Israeli Workers

 Shangri-La Blue Ends

 Inaugural Orwell Awards

 Activist Notebook

 The Rule of Law
 Trots Bomb Back
 Tom's Turn
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United Front

Workers and their unions around the world have possibly never been as united in their commitment to campaign together against the War in Iraq, writes Andrew Casey


Over the last fortnight, since the bombing started, not a day has gone by when the mass media has not reported a strike, rally or protest organised by workers and their unions in Europe, Asia, the Pacific or the Americas.

The most intense activity seems to be happening in Korea, where unions are concerned that once the Americans finish off Iraq they will turn their attention to the Korean peninsula - and the whole region might be thrown into nuclear turmoil.

But this week there have been successful general strikes in Greece and Cyprus against the war - and a call for an anti-war general strike in both Spain and Italy, in a week's time, has just been issued by one or more of their national trade union centres.

The wonders of the web have helped get information about all this union activity around the world within moments of it happening - and it is simply feeding back into triggering more and more protests.

Only US unions seem to have had a change of heart

Only in the USA have we seen a change in heart among union leaderships about the war.

Initially the AFL-CIO went against its own historical traditions and opposed the Administration's push to go to war.

Taking a stance against war had never ever happened before for the US national trade union centre . The AFL-CIO had backed the US Administration in Korea, Vietnam, Somalia etc etc.

But before the first bombs went off over Baghdad the AFL-CIO came out opposed to war.

Once the war started the AFL-CIO quickly adopted a more nationalistic stance saying they had to back the US troops.

The AFL-CIO argues that there are union members fighting in the war so they have to show support for their 20,000 union comrades, who are largely Army Reservists employed in maintenance sections.

The AFL-CIO website has devoted a whole section to show support for this large union contingent and to outline the union rights of these Reservists. Almost every day they run a new story about a union member fighting in Iraq.

This change in stance on the war was supported by significant unions like the Teamsters, but not by the fastest-growing and biggest union in the USA - the SEIU. Nor did we see a change in stance by the traditionally militant left unions like the West Coast dockers, the ILWU.

One analysis of the different stances is based on race. The Teamsters leadership, and membership, is largely white working class - the white working class in the USA are for the war according to the pollsters.

The SEIU and the ILWU represent large groups of minorities - Blacks and Latinos - who are still firmly opposed to the war.

An interesting analysis of the US armed forces, published in this week's New York Times, argues the army is an overwhelmingly working class institution. However the so-called minorities, blacks and Hispanics, tend to be in administrative and maintenance tasks in the Army, while people from poor white working class backgrounds make up the bulk of the frontline troops.

Of the reported US servicemen killed the New York Times said they neatly mirrored the make up of the military. None were from well-to-do families; none had graduated from a top college or university; 20 were from white working class families; 5 were black and 3 were Hispanic.

Bush hands out contracts to anti-union firms

But while the working class are out their fighting for Uncle Sam - and many of them are loyal unionists - the Administration it seems is not embarrassed to hand out the goodies to anti-worker, anti-union companies seeking to make millions out of the contracts to reconstruct post-war Iraq.

One of the first contracts handed out by the Bush Administration was to a notorious union-busting company called Stevedoring Services of America (SSA) - they have been given a $10 million contract to run the Umm Qasr port.

Last year SSA led the charge against the US West Coast dockers union, the ILWU, during ugly negotiations over union contracts. SSA has been embroiled in bitter fights with dockworkers in several countries, the worst at the moment is in Bangladesh where dockworkers are fighting privatisation plans which would see SSA control their port.

While anti-worker, anti-union companies are reaping the benefits of the war in Iraq in many other countries unions are struggling to protect members from the washup of the war as jobs disappear.

You can now lose your job for taking the 'wrong' stance on the war in the USA.

A San Francisco Chronicle business and technology reporter has been suspended from work after being arrested peaceful civil disobedience action during an anti-war demonstration. And the Boston Globe has reported instances all over America of workers losing their jobs for taking a pro-peace stance.

And tens of thousand are losing their jobs as airlines and the hospitality industry around the world start to collapse into bankruptcy- almost all of these job losses are directly attributable to the war.

Even in Malaysia bosses are using the war as an excuse. They have started lobbying the government to ease workplace laws claiming the need to counter the effect of war. The Malaysian TUC - normally a timid organization - has actually come out fighting these proposals.

In Malaysia unions are traditionally not very vocal, but they seem to have been let off an invisible chain at the moment with several unions organising large anti-war rallies of their members.

Australia target of union protests

Australia has been the target of some of the union protests.

In the French Pacific island territory of New Caledonia the militant pro-independence union, the Union of Kanak and Exploited Workers (USTKE) organised several hundred members to protest outside the Australian consulate in the first week of the war. Similar anti-Australian union protests have been seen in other capitals around Asia - including Jakarta.

But most of the anti-war union activity is without a doubt happening in Korea - where not a day goes by without the media reporting some union-based protest.

In Korea even conservative unions are angered by the war

Traditionally the Federation of Korea Trade Union (FKTU) is considered the more 'conservative' of the two Korean national trade union centres, but it is this group, rather than the more militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), which has led much of the anti-war campaigning.

The FKTU took 50,000 of their members into the streets; they have participated in all-night vigils surrounding Parliament to protest plans to send non-combat troops to Iraq.

The FKTU and the KCTU have held join media conferences threatening to campaign against any politician - of whatever political stripe - who voted to send troops to Iraq.

The Seoul subway rail workers have voted to strike if Parliament sends troops to the war while the teachers' union has circulated classroom plans for members to push an anti-war message in the schools.

If Bush really does direct his attention to North Korea, after he finishes off Baghdad, the unions in the South have organised their members so well that US troops may find they have to fight the workers of the South, before they get to fight the troops of the North.


The international trade union web-site LabourStart has set up a special page to collate union news about the war - there are more than 400 news items here in English and a multitude of languages. Go to


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