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May 2003   

Interview: Staying Alive
CPSU national secretary Adrian O'Connell talks about the fight to keep the public service - and the union movement - alive.

Bad Boss: The Ultimate Piss Off
Wollongong workers on poverty-level wages are losing up to $5000 for taking toilet breaks, according to the union representing staff at a Stellar call centre.

Industrial: Last Drinks
Jim Marr looks at the human cost of the decision to close Sydney’s Carlton United Brewery

National Focus: Around the States
If Tampa told us that John Howard circa 2003 is the same spotted rabid dog from 1987, this week’s assault on Medicare confirms it reports Noel Hester in this national round up.

Politics: Radical Surgery
Workers are vitally interested in Medicare, not least because they traded away wage rises to get it. Now, Jim Marr writes, the Coalition Government is tearing apart the 20-year-old social contract on which it was founded.

Education: The Price of Missing Out
University students and their families will pay more for their education following the May Budget, writes Tony Brown.

Legal: If At First You Don't Succeed
Love is wonderful the second time around, goes the famous torch song. But is the same true for legislation? Asks Ashley Crossland

History: Massive Attack
Labour historian Dr Lucy Taksa remembers the general strike of 1917 to put the recent anti-war marches into perspective

Culture: What's Right
Neale Towart looks at a new book that looks at the failings of the Left, while reasserting the liberal project

Review: If He Should Fall
Jim Marr caught Irish folk-rock-punk legend Shane MacGowan at Sydney’s Metro Theatre. He was surprised but not disappointed.

Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Through a distortion in the time-space continuum, we have found a recording showing how people a few years into the future will deal with health care.

Satire: IMF Ensures Iraq Institutes Market Based Looting
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has agreed to monitor the Iraqi economy to ensure that the reintroduction of looting into the economy conforms with free-market theory.


The Soapbox
What May Day Means to Me
Reader Marlene McAlear penned this tribue to May Day and worker solidarity.

The Toast
Labor Council secretary John Robertson's toast to the annual May Day dinner in Sydney.

The Locker Room
The Numbers Game
In life there is lies, damned lies and sporting statistics, says Phil Doyle - but who’s counting.

Brukman Evicted
ZNet's Marie Trigona reports from the streets of Argentina in the rundown to last week's presidential election.

The Costs of Excess
Some tall business poppies had their heads lopped this week as the laws of economic gravity applied their always chaotic theory.


Solidarity Forever
Another May Day, another year gone, another year to look back on our history and celebrate the past and talk about how we can make our movement strong again.


 Mystery Men Behind Pan Bungle

 Charities Brace for Medicare Backlash

 Court Throws Out Cole Prosecutions

 Child Actor Dodges Broken Voice

 Rio Tinto: $40 Million for Boss, Eviction for Workers

 Child Care for Oldies Too

 Winning Poster Shouts at Freeloaders

 May Day Tragedy Claims Union Lives

 Westfield Cleaners to Down Mops

 Question Marks Over Nursing Home

 Burn Payout Highlights Compo Fears

 Costa Blows Whistle on Canberra Raid

 Hoops Bet on National Body

 Tear Us Down, Buttercup

 Activist Notebook

 Is Labor History?
 Bob Gould Sprays Gerard Henderson
 War and Peace
 A Strange Light
 A Little History
 Does It Have To Be?
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Brukman Evicted

ZNet's Marie Trigona reports from the streets of Argentina in the rundown to last week's presidential election.

"We don't want eviction, we don't want police repression, we want dignified work for the workers of Brukman and Zanon," echoes throughout the streets of Buenos Aires as thousands mobilize to defend the worker occupied clothes factory, Brukman. For 16 months the workers of Brukman have maintained the factory without time-clocks, bosses or an owner. April 18, 2002 production was stopped after a judge ordered hundreds of police to evict the factory.

"They sent 600 police to evict the 4 workers guarding the factory, this was illegal and irrational," says Maria Zalamon, lawyer defending the factory. Police continue to surround the vicinity, following Judge Rimoldi's orders for police to stay until the factory is in the owner's hands.

The factory's owner Jacobo Brukman abandoned the factory in December without paying or informing workers. For years the owners of Brukman had decreased workers' salaries until finally they completely stopped paying workers. The 115 workers were left without enough money to return home, so they stayed and waited for the foremen and owner to return. They never did. Celia Martinez, a worker in her 40s describes the event: "December 18 we had strong conversations with the owners.

Then no one was here at the factory--the owners were gone, and there was no one in the office. The offices were open. They did not tell us they were going to leave the factory. December 19, we were left with no other option."

Today in Argentina, over 200 re-occupied factories and cooperatives are functioning all over the country, sending the message that worker control is a viable alternative to alleviate 58% of the population living below the poverty line and 10 million jobless. The worker controlled factory Brukman has been a symbol for social movements--auto-determination, direct democracy and cooperation. Struggling for dignified work has come with great costs but great rewards, working under the constant threat of eviction has demanded more than a 40 hour work week. Since its re-occupation, workers take turns sharing the responsibility of night guard duty. The factory has also organized street festivals, film showings, and a convergence point for meeting of other re-cooperated factories.

55 workers, mostly women have been struggling to keep their jobs while proving that production under worker control is viable. The formal owner left the workers with the factory in debt, which the workers have paid--electric bills and gas bills, along with buying new equipment.

Brukman now may see a viable factory, which without the workers would have been liquidated under a devaluated peso.

This is the third attempted eviction, the workers with strong support from piqueteros, assemblies, social organizations and neighbors were able to reoccupy the factory. In this eviction movements responded immediately, many of us received the news only moments after police arrived at the door. Alternative media and community activists have built a strong network, apparent at the hundreds who immediately to Brukman under the rain in the middle of the night. It's unknown if the police broke machines as they have in the past or confiscated materials. "There are 3,000 pants inside that we need to work on and deliver," said Celia during a press conference, expressing the urgency of the factory's re-occupation.

Argentina's government has definite interest in demonstrating hard-line methods against protest to curb dissent with upcoming elections April 27. "The hand of the government hits hard. They ask for an end to social conflict, but they have provoked us militarizing our factory to take away our work," maintained Elisa, Brukman worker. Buenos Aires Mayor, Anibal Ibarra has launched an eviction campaign in the past weeks, using police to force families out of occupied houses, workers from recuperated factories, and community assemblies from cultural centers.

The first eviction in this pre-election eviction campaign came a month ago and ended violently. Police brutally repressed 89 families residing in Padelai, an abandoned building occupied for 19 years that sits in historic San Telmo during an eviction ordered by the government. Residents and supporters were tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets and beaten. There were some 86 detained and 40 injured, among them minors and elderly. Less than a week ago, the social center Lezama Sur, home to the local assembly and activist media collective, Indymedia-Argentina was evicted and their equipment confiscated.

At Brukman thousands of supporters continue to defend the factory as negotiations between the national government, city government, human rights groups, lawyers representing the workers, Brukman's workers, and Judge Rimoldi (a judge from Argentina's military dictatorship).

Lawyers and human rights groups are claiming that the judge is unwilling to negotiate. Workers are pushing hard for the removal of the hundreds of police equipped with tear gas, tanks, riot gear, motorcycle brigades, rubber bullets, and some with lethal lead bullets continually surrounding supporters.

Defense barricades and the number of supporters make it clear that the factory will not be lost without a fight. Reminded of the popular rebellion December 19 and 20, where people went out to confront the state in the midst of a state of siege, supporters in front of Brukman are willing to confront that repression again, ready to physically enter the factory and confront the hundreds of police guarding the factory. "You don't have to negotiate with criminals, we have to re-cooperate the factory tomorrow, we have to defend our sources of work, we never negotiate," expressed a worker from the cooperative of San Justo.

The fight to re cooperate Brukman continues, with supporters determined to enter the factory. Yesterday, workers of Brukman, Zanon, other occupied factories, women from the assembly movement, and thousands lined up behind them stood linked arm in arm, willing to knock down police barricades and push police to enter the door of the factory just 50 feet away. Today, piqueteros and state employee union has been convoked to aid in the action. Human rights organizations and internationals will be present as well.

The workers of Brukman wish for a peaceful resolution, but unwilling to

lose the factory and hope that the factory has brought. This conflict has brought Argentina's movements together in solidarity with a symbol of resistance, Brukman. This conflict is ongoing and unclear how it will end. The workers of Brukman are asking for support from all over the world. Today, the streets surrounding Brukman flood with supporters and echo the message, "the factory will belong to the workers or it will belong to no one."


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