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July 2003   

Interview: As They Say In The Bible ...
One the movement�s great characters, Public Service Association general secretary Maurie O�Sullivan, is calling it a day. He looks back on his career with Workers Online.

Industrial: Just Doing It
Sportswear giant, Nike, is the first company to sign off on an agreement that purports to protect Australian clothing workers, wherever they labour, writes Jim Marr.

Unions: Breaking Into the Boys Club
For a 23-year-old woman who has never worked in the trade, recruiting young construction apprentices into the union has its challenges, reports Carly Knowles.

Activists: Making the Hard Yards
Mal Cochrane came to the smoke as part of an Aboriginal avalanche that redefined the face of Rugby League. Today, he serves his community through the trade union movement.

Bad Boss: In the Pooh
What do you give a boss who makes his workers labour in raw sewage? A nomination for the Tonys.

Unions: National Focus
In the national wrap Noel Hester finds a Victorian Misso delo who is redistributing lucre from Eddie McGuire into workers� theatre, South Australian unions taking that Let�s Get Real stuff seriously, an American unionist fronts up at a distinguished �meeting of the brains� in Adelaide and a look at the line up for ACTU Congress.

Economics: Pop Will Eat Itself
Dick Bryan wonders if we can be insured against pop economists promising financial nirvana as well as financial market instability.

Technology: Dean for President
Paul Smith looks at how the internet is helping one Democrat candidate to the front of the primary pack

International: Rangoon Rumble
Union Aid Abroad's Marj O'Callaghan looks at Australia's weak response to developments in Burma.

Education: Blackboard Jungle
Lifelong learning shouldn�t mean cutting jobs, but that's exactly what the Carr Government is proposing, argues Tony Brown

Review: From Weakness to Strength
Labor Council crime-fighter Chris Christodoulou catches up with his boyhood hero, the Incredible Hulk

Poetry: Downsized
Resident bard David Peetz pens the song the Industrial Relations Commission needed to hear


The Soapbox
Cleaning Up
Rabbi Laurie Coskey from San Diego adds her voice to the global campaign for just for cleaners in Westfield malls.

The Locker Room
The Name In The Game
In an age of the sportsperson as celebrity it seems that names are overtaking the games, writes Phil Doyle.

The Beach
Southern Thailand�s terrorist activities: facts or fiction asks HT Lee


A Recipe for Conflict
Without making any excuses, Tony Abbott�s hand wringing at this week�s airing of a secret video of picket line violence was a bit like watching Don King condemn boxing.


 Aussie Workers Cradle-Snatched

 Morris McMahon Workers Say Thanks

 Violence: Emerson Fingers Abbott

 Cowboys Face Contracts Ban

 TUTA Rises From the Ashes

 Teased Teachers Fight Back

 Labor Fails TAFE Test

 Coke Called on to Stop the Rot

 Bridgestone Drops Doughnut on Workers

 AIRC Locked in Dark Ages

 Maternity Breakthrough in Hotels

 Labour Rights: Even Bush is Better!

 Long Winter for Seasonal Workers

 Activist Notebook

 A Tribute to Brian Miller
 Orange Peel
 After the Accident
 Cuba - the Debate Continues
 Old Ted
 Greetings from Japan
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Breaking Into the Boys Club

For a 23-year-old woman who has never worked in the trade, recruiting young construction apprentices into the union has its challenges, reports Carly Knowles.

But for Karen Iles, the CFMEU's apprentice officer, being young and female has advantages.

A woman in the construction industry is such a rarity that Karen's arrival at a TAFE campus causes a buzz of interest. Unfortunately for her, it's not always because there is trouble at work.

"I've copped a little bit of sexual harassment. Nothing major, but they're 16, 17 and 18 year old boys - testosterone is on overload."

But she does say that being young helps her do the job. The perception that union officials are a bunch of "boofy blokes" is being broken down, through work like hers.

Results vary depending on which TAFE she's talking to, how unionised their workplaces are and their employers' attitudes towards the union.

In a class of 13 second year Lidcombe TAFE students, six are already members of the union. This is higher than average as most work on highly unionised sites.

Their knowledge of entitlements and the way unions work is varied. Some don't know whether they are part of the union or not, and one student doesn't know he isn't getting paid enough until he looks at the award.

"What's the difference?" asks Jamie, "between being in the union and not?" Karen doesn't have to answer. Darren and Manning - already members - pipe up, "who's going to look after you mate, when you're in trouble at work? Who's going to fight for you?" The two have already been involved in industrial action.

These are the leaders that Karen looks out for. "A lot of it comes down to classroom dynamics", she says. "If you've got one or two people who start to say 'yeah, this rocks', then the rest come on board... it's really important to get them to speak up a bit."

She lets the class air their views on the recent Royal Commission.

"Why isn't John Howard under fire for spending a million bucks on a judge that didn't do anything?" asks Xav. "Why are we under fire for not doing anything wrong? People still doubt the credibility of the construction industry and the union, but nobody says anything to John Howard."

Despite the impassioned outburst, the union has copped a bad name amongst some young workers. "You can't trust the union... they scam you", says one.

Karen challenges them on where they get their information. "Of course your employers are going to tell you that", she says.

She encourages them to organise themselves on campus. "You guys see each other more often than I do" she says, "so you need to decide who your points of contact here are going to be."

The class elects Xav and Darren as their delegates. They will be responsible for making sure any work-related issues amongst their classmates are dealt with through the union. There is also talk about campaigning around apprentice-specific issues.

Although there are advantages if they join as apprentices, Karen says "I try not to sell it on that point, but try to get them to really commit to the idea of unionism."

It's a successful day. Five new members join on the spot.

A good result, considering as a woman, it can be difficult for Karen to earn their respect.

"If I'm ever asked 'what would you know?' I respond with 'I'm not here to tell you how to build a house, I'm here to tell you how to organise yourselves and what your rights are."


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