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August 2003   

Interview: The New Deal
US union leader Amy Dean expands on her agenda to give unions a real political voice

Unions: In the Line of Hire
Unions have lobbied and negotiated in a bid to stem casualisation and insecurity. Now, Jim Marr, writes they are seeking protection through a formal Test Case.

Culture: Too Cool for the Collective?
Young people are amongst the most vulnerable in the workforce. So why aren't they joining the union, asks Carly Knowles

International: The Domino Effect
An internal struggle in the biggest and strongest industrial union in Germany IG Metall has had a devastating wave effect across not just that country, but also the rest of Europe, writes Andrew Casey.

Industrial: A Spanner in the Works
Max Ogden looks at the vexed issue of Works Councils and the differing views within the union movement to them.

National Focus: Gathering of the Tribes
Achieving a fairer society and a better working life for employees from across Australia will be key themes at the ACTU's triennial Congress meeting later this month reports Noel Hester.

History: The Welcome Nazi Tourist
Rowan Cahill looks at the role Australia's conservatives played in supporting facism in the days before World War II.

Bad Boss: Domm, Domm Turn Around
Frank Sartor might have shot through but Robert Domm still calls the IR shots at Sydney City which pretty much explains why the council is this month�s Bad Boss nominee.

Poetry: Just Move On.
Visiting bard Maurie Fairfield brightens up our page with a ditty about little white lies.

Review: Reality Bites
The workers, united, may never be defeated but if recent episodes of Channel 10 drama The Secret Life Of Us are to be believed, this is not necessarily a good thing, writes Tara de Boehmler.


The Soapbox
Fighting Words
Craig Emerson gave what could be the most spirited Labor spray in a decade to the NSW Labor Council this month. Here it is in all its venom.

Out of Their Class
Phil Bradley argues that Australia's education system should not be up for negotiation in the global trade talks.

The Locker Room
The ABC of Sport
Phil Doyle argues that the only way to end the corporate madness that is sport, is to give it all back to the ABC.

Locks, Stocks and Barrels
Union Aid Abroad's Peter Jennings updates on the situation in Burma, where the repression of democracy is going from bad to worse.


The Secret Life of Us
The fact that casual workers are too scared to come forward and testify about the need for job security seems to prove their basic point � no matter how long or how well you work, you can never feel safe in your job.


 Tough Women Draw Line at Sacking

 Witness Protection Urged on IRC

 Max Swings Axe at Safety

 Sick Twist in Drug Testing

 Sacked Mum Goes to the Top

 Cuts Sour ADB Birthday Bash

 Howard Enlists Russians for Military

 Vic Workcover Invests in Worker Misery

 Public Hole in Power Shortage

 Whistleblower Sacking Sparks Zoo Walkout

 Truckie With Conscience Wins Back Job

 Indigenous Labour honours Tobler

 Asbestos Blocks Liverpool Road Works

 Activist Notebook

 Bullies in the Ranks
 It Is Still About The Members Isn't It
 Tom's Purpose
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Reality Bites

The workers, united, may never be defeated but if recent episodes of Channel 10 drama The Secret Life Of Us are to be believed, this is not necessarily a good thing, writes Tara de Boehmler.

When last year popular Secret Life character Gabrielle started working for a union it looked like the program was shaping up to be the perfect vehicle for educating people about workers' rights and the vital role of trade unions in ensuring they were given a fair go.

Week after week Gabrielle the unionist went compassionately into battle on behalf of workers subjected to bullying, intimidation, and other infringements of their basic rights.

She was raw and naive but her clear commitment to her union's members won the hearts and minds of viewers everywhere. And when her over-enthusiasm threatened to derail an entire anti-discrimination campaign many sympathised as her boss reprimanded her for behaving like a "loose cannon".

A trade union is a group and a ction must be taken as a group, she was told.

That was months ago and much has changed as far as Gabrielle is concerned. The question now foremost in her mind is whether a moral stance is possible within an environment based on a united front.

What led to this was a storyline that ran suspiciously like one side of a case currently before the Melbourne County Court - so much so that the hit series is now the subject of a contempt of court complaint lodged by the lawyer of former metals union boss Craig J ohnston.

The episode in question featured an unruly mob of union officials proceeding to terrorise a group of contractors who had been called in during an industrial dispute.

Gabrielle was aghast when told that if she didn't donate to a union fighting fund to help support the officials, she would have no choice but to leave her job.

She packed her bags, argued unfair dismissal, won reinstatement, but turned down the offer because she no longer believed in the movement. Her entire belief system was thrown into doubt and she felt moved to question whether a moral stance was really possible within an environment based on a united front.

If recent events behind the scenes are anything to go by the answer would surely be yes.

Cast members from The Secret Life Of Us were among many soapie stars participating in a recent stop work meeting held in support of extras and guest stars. The participants used the meeting to show they were united in opposing shabby treatment of theses actors, who were often required to spend long periods of time on 'stand-by' in case required on screen, meanwhile risking the loss of money from other work. The Daily Telegraph even ran a photo of the Secret Life cast members to accompany the story.

More recently star cast member Claudia Karvan also addressed a large group of entertainers on the dangers a free trade agreement with the US would pose to Australian cultural industries. Once again it was by forming a united front that people in the entertainment industry hoped to make their voices of opposition heard.

But if a moral stance really can coincide with unity then the script does not reflect it. Standing alone, Gabrielle was fast to write off an entire movement committed to the very ideals her own character professed to stand for. She allowed her perception of one event to stand for the morals of the whole and she gave up fighting upon encountering her first hurdle.

But all may not be lost. It was recently revealed certain Secret Life characters may be in the midst of their Saturn Return - a cataclysmic astrological event apparently afflicting human beings once every thirty-odd years. Under this planetary influence if anything might go wrong it probably will, but at the end of the road it is all supposed to make perfect sense.

So with Gabrielle now intent on entering politics, the best we can now do is keep watching as all will (perhaps) make sense in due course, esoterically speaking.


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