The Official Organ of LaborNET
click here to view the latest edition of Workers Online
The Official Organ of LaborNET
Free home delivery
September 2003   

Interview: Crowded Lives
Labor frontbencher Lindsay Tanner talks us through his new book on the importance of relationships and why politics is letting the people down.

Activists: Life With Brian
Work by men like Brian Fitzpatrick is exposing new Australians to old truths. Jim Marr reports

Industrial: National Focus
A showdown looms in Cancun, Qantas gets bolshie, casual and lazy in its response to aviation challenges, and long festering disputes fester on in Victoria and Tasmania reports Noel Hester in this national wrap.

Unions: If These Walls Could Talk
Trades Hall is preparing for a major facelift but first, Jim Marr reports, it must bid farewell to the colourful bunch who have populated its dusty corridors in recent years.

Economics: Beating the Bastards
Frank Stilwell looks at some of the proposals for building a fairer finance sector.

Media: Three Corners
So its come to this. Four Corners, one of the world's longest running television programs is now under pressure from an ABC Executive that is less cultural visionary than feral abacus.

History: The Brisbane Line
Percy Spender was Menzies' foreign minister, but, Neale Towart asks, was he also prepared to serve as Prime Minister in a Japanese controlled Australia?

Trade: The Dumping Problem
Oxfam-CAA helps set the scene for this month's World Trade Organisation in Cancun.

Review: Frankie's Way
In The Night We Called It A Day Frank Sinatra learns 'sorry' Down Under is a loaded word and refusal to say it when due will lose fans in important places, writes Tara de Boehmler.


The Soapbox
Staking Our Territory
ACTU secretary Greg Combet argued for a fairer Australia in his keynote address to last month's ACTU Congress.

The Locker Room
Seasonally Agisted
Spring is a season when a person�s thoughts turn to�horse racing. Phil Doyle reports on the fate of nags and folk heroes.

Beyond the Block
We are wild about the people who live in The Block but not too interested in those who are on the streets outside, writes Michael Rafferty.

The Westie Wing
Workers friend Ian West MLC, reports form the Bearpit about a project to raise awareness about trade unionism amongst young people.

The Awkward Squad
Paul Smith meets one of the new generation of British union leaders who is taking the ball up to the Blair spin team.


Relatively Speaking
At its heart, political debate has always been a struggle between competing views about how a society should organise itself to maximise the benefits for the majority of its citizens.


 Truckies Tip Safety on AGM Floor

 Geelong Lockout Claims Family Homes

 Aussie Labour Laws Fail US Test

 No Accident � Insurance Dough Rises

 Union Mum Wins

 Rheem Runs Cold On Entitlements

 Unions Take It Up for Footballers

 Drug Boss Fails Workers

 Ministers Urged to Take Responsibility

 Museum Jobs Face Extinction

 Less News And More Of It

 Legal Costs Threaten Access

 Learning for Life

 Activists Notebook

 Lyon Roars
 Spicey and Tart
 Tony and Pauline
 PNG Bags Plastic
 Fighting Words Craig Emerson
About Workers Online
Latest Issue
Print Latest Issue
Previous Issues
Advanced Search

other LaborNET sites

Labor Council of NSW
Vic Trades Hall Council
IT Workers Alliance
Unions on LaborNET
Evatt Foundation

Labor for Refugees



The Awkward Squad

Paul Smith meets one of the new generation of British union leaders who is taking the ball up to the Blair spin team.


The New Leaders of UK trade unions will attempt to fill the New Labour� vacuum with a constructive policy agenda for working Britain at the TUC and Labour Party conferences this month.

The confidence of these Leaders who want to Reclaim our Party� is buoyed by the belief they are far more in touch with public opinion than the Government, and far more trusted to represent citizens.

Awkward for Who?

'The awkward squad'� is the media term for the newly elected leaders to Britain's union top posts. Since the 2001 British election, the four largest unions, and numerous others have elected new leaders.

The story of these elections has all the successful candidates stood on a platform of asserting members' interests to government and employers The UK Media likes the story of conflict with the government but their tag, 'Awkward squad'� does not tell the story, but instead obscures it.

Rather than being throw backs to a prehistoric age that have nothing positive to offer, the new leaderships of the Unions putting forward an approach to policy that will attempt to re-engage their memberships and redirect government.

Reclaiming our Party

Kevin Curran, Secretary of the 700,000. G.M.B is one of the new generation of leaders that spoke at the recent Reclaiming our Party conference, and will play a pivotal role in the redefining the Union/labour relationship, dislikes the labels are given to the given to the new leadership

"I have only one label and that is secretary of the GMB and I am accountable to its members and seek to represent their interests."

The Union, which claims an ancestry back to 1747, has been affiliated to the party since its inception when its legendary figure Will Thorne played a important early role and Union currently sponsors over 80 Labour MP's. Eyebrows were raised when on election he said the GMB would "review� the GMB�s relationship with the Labour Party".

Labour Relationship fundamental

However media talk of a break with Labour misses the point, as none of the leaders of the larger affiliated unions will seriously consider that option.

Curran describes the relationship as 'fundamental'� but if the Union is to represent its members then the relationship has to advance the interests of its members.

"We were delighted when Labour was elected in 1997 but also realised that difficult issues lay ahead. The GMB consulted it membership who decided at a special conference that supporting Labour to a second term was fundamental to their broader interests but we should review that mid way though the second term."

Membership led policy

"Our review is a member ship led review and it will be decided by the members, not by the unions leadership. The members are the ones who will decide whether they want to vote for a Labour government, work for the party, sit on their hands or look for an alternative."

For Curran the robust discussion will be a an opportunity to re-energise the relationship.

Curran contrasts the strength of the union's debate with the secrecy of New Labour.

Spin results from lack of policy confidence

Curran sees New Labour's obsession with spin and secrecy that is eroding confidence in the government as result of New Labour being the product of a "lack of confidence� in what it Labour stands for".

"It ironic that when many of things we argued for in the 80's are now supported by the majority of the public, it the Labour government that is set against the majority on so many issues.

"I have yet to here a coherent argument for privatisation yet they refuse to debate it with us."

Currans' view of New Labour is that they are a "minority

group centred around a very small group of people� who are afraid of broader discussion and prefer to rely on spin and secrecy because they are a minority."

A new citizens movement

Unions for Curran play a role not just as advocates at work, but as "advocates for its members as citizens."

"The unions September will be pushing for broad changes not just in policy but approach from New Labour.

"That will help the government reconnect with their members who as citizens are voters. They would do well to listen to us as we are their friends."


email workers to a friend printer-friendly version latest breaking news from labornet

Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue

© 1999-2002 Workers Online
Workers Online is a resource for the Labour movement
provided by the Labor Council of NSW
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005

Powered by APT Solutions
Labor Council of NSW Workers Online