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October 2003   

Interview: No Ifs, No Butts
Rugby League Professionals Association president Tony Butterfield on his battle to deliver a collective agreement for NRL players.

Unions: National Focus
In this month’s national wrap: Noel Hester meets a heavy hitter talking up open source unionism, truckies front the suits at Boral’s AGM, tales of corporate bastardry and Medicare birthday revelry.

Industrial: Fools Gold
Unions have thrashed out a string of protocols with the NSW Labor Government. Some, now, are questioning whether they are worth the cheap, imported paper they are written on, reports Jim Marr.

Bad Boss: Bones of Contention
Byron Bay chicken boners have nominated thier boss for a Tony after seeing their entitlements plucked.

History: The Gong Show
In late September the South Coast Labour Council (SCLC) celebrated 75 unbroken years championing the rights of workers in the coastal Illawarra region 80 kilometres south of Sydney, writes Rowan Cahill.

Politics: The Hawke Legacy
The election of the Hawke Labor government twenty years ago holds some salient lessons for today’s Labor Party, writes Troy Bramston.

International: Sick Nation
As Australia celebrates 20 years of Medicare’s universal health coverage the crisis facing American workers in need of medical care is a useful reminder of what we’ve got – and what we stand, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Closed Minds
Philip Mendes looks at the political influence of right-wing think tanks, their financial backing and asks why the left hasn’t been able to get its ideas out there.

Review: Mixing Pop and Politics
He's had relations, with girls from many nations... but Billy Bragg seems to like us Aussies as much or even more than any of the others, writes Pádraig Collins.

Poetry: One Size Fits All
There once was a man from the Lodge - Who tried hard, our poems, to dodge... Resident bard David Peetz is back!


North By Northwest
Phil Doyle returns from up north, where he survived on nothing but goodwill, good people and a great big orange bus.

The Soapbox
The $140 Million Patriot
It would be hard to imagine a steeper slide from hero to zero than the experience of Richard Grasso, the now-deposed head of the New York Stock Exchange. writes Jim Stanford.

Bush's Bad News Blues
The Bush Administration is cooking up a new campaign 'to shine light on progress made in Iraq', writes Bill Berkowitz.

The Locker Room
A Tale Of One City
Phil Doyle gazes into the crystal ball for signs of life, and finds that somewhere the horses are running in the wrong direction.

With Banners Furled
There is no better account of the glory that was the annual Labour Day marches than that given by Kylie Tennant in Foveaux, her fictional account of life in inner Sydney in 1912, the year she was born.

The Westie Wing
Our favourite Macquarie Street MP, Ian West MLC, reports on the world of NSW politics.

The Cancun Wash-Up
The dramatic collapse of the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico, last month has been followed by a deafening quiet from Geneva, Brussels and Washington, writes Peter Murphy.


The Monk Off Our Back
It should come as no surprise that Tony Abbott has been dragged from his workplace relations portfolio just as his $60 million assault on the CFMEU finally unravels.


 Concrete Boot for Democracy

 Picketers Get Blue Ribbon Result

 ICAC Call at Mudgee Abattoir

 Telstra on Charges

 Unis Walk Over Federal Bullying

 IRC Shoots Rooster that Quacked

 Ugly Australian Riles Timorese

 Medicare Gets Abbott For Birthday

 Business Council Opposes Salary Vote

 Rail Workers Call For Self Defence

 ACT Leads On Industrial Manslaughter

 Thumbs-Up for Awards Binding Subbies

 Entitlements Crash into Hangar

 Blackouts on NSW Horizon

 State Govt Told To Clean Up Contracts

 Would-be Presidents Face Union Probe

 Activists Notebook

 A Hard Act To Follow
 Which Boss?
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National Focus

In this month’s national wrap: Noel Hester meets a heavy hitter talking up open source unionism, truckies front the suits at Boral’s AGM, tales of corporate bastardry and Medicare birthday revelry.

Open Source Unionism

Esteemed labour economist Richard Freeman (Harvard University, London School of Economics and about 48 pages of citations to confirm a heavy hitter status in his field) has been touring the country arguing for unions to add another spoke to our wheel with what he calls open source unionism. Richard sees a key role for the Internet in union renaissance and worker well being. Open source unionism would see a new union form evolve that combines worker desire for representation , information and communication via the web with a wider definition of ‘membership’. In workplaces lacking the clout to impact via collective bargaining an open source union would use its reputation for providing accurate information to set the agenda with management, to shape public debate and to marshal resources from outside the workplace to support workers in disputes. For those who have been trying to get unions to be serious about making the Internet central to how we work read Richard’s speech –for a bit of validation, as the self-help gurus would say. Other sceptics should read it and get with the program.

Truckies Front the Suits At Boral AGM

The AGM season used to be fun time for the corporate class. An opportunity to strut and preen in some mirror glass palace in the CBD and then have your next fat bonus rubberstamped. Now, post Enron, HIH et al, even the shareholders don’t trust their management. And when Boral, the building materials company holds its annual general meeting on October 21 some new, surprising voices will be heard from the floor.

120 truck drivers – members of the Transport Workers Union – will be pushing their shareholder activism campaign to the next level with some searching questions and motions to the Boral board about health and safety and executive pay. Each of the truckies have forked out $500 for a share package so they can get to have their say in the running of the company.

It is believed to be the first time a proxy resolution concerned with worker safety will be filed against an Australian company.

Boral likes to brag about its commitment to health and safety but a simultaneous OHS blitz by the TWU of 16 Boral concrete sites in June found serious deficiencies including electrical cords immersed in water, asbestos on site with poor screening processes and basic safety equipment malfunctioning. The TWU also points out that three Boral employees died in workplace accidents last year. And recently a truck driver sued the company after picking up a skin cancer while working for the company.

One of the truckies’ resolutions aims to link executive pay incentives to health and safety targets. They also want all executive packages put to shareholders for a vote.

Plenty Of Corporate Bastardry On Show In Victoria

Building workers employed by Grocon have been rewarded for the extra shifts and overtime they put in to get the MCG for the AFL Grand Final with 30 sackings and the promise of another 25 to be moved on next week. This follows hot on the heels of Geelong Wool Combing’s decision to close its Lara plant after a five-month lock out of 100 workers who refused to accept a 25 per cent pay cut and the casualisation of the workforce.

The Victorian Trades Hall Council Women's Committee has launched a survey investigating the issue of violence against women in the workplace. VTHC’s Ellen Kleimaker says the survey results will feed into the Brack's Government's state-wide Women's Safety Strategy. Women in Victoria who have experienced bullying, harassment or violence at work are encouraged to complete the survey. For a copy contact Ellen on (03) 9659 3575 or 0408 339 720. A copy of the survey can also be downloaded from the VTHC website

Queensland Medicare Birthday Bash

Queensland unions commemorated the 20th anniversary of universal health care and bulk billing with a birthday party for Medicare in the Queen St Mall on 1 October. A special birthday cake, complete with 20 candles, was cut by representatives of the Public Hospitals Health and Medicare Alliance of Queensland (which includes Queensland Council of Unions).

Queensland unions will rally to voice their concerns about the recent findings of the Cole Royal Commission and the draft bill by The Man Formerly Known As The Mad Monk In Charge Of Workplace Relations which seeks to implement 120 of the Commission’s recommendations. The rally will be held on Wednesday 8 October at the Roma St Forum from 10:30am.

The QCU is also establishing a committee made up of all buildings unions plus other affiliates to determine further action following the October 8 rally. The first meeting of this committee will be held at the QCU on 16 October.

The Queensland Council of Unions is holding an organising conference on 30 and 31 October designed to provide organisers and other officials with up-to-date information regarding the current state of the union movement in Australia and what some unions are doing to address declining membership.

The two day conference will address a range of issues including organising strategies and tactics, new methods of organising, community organising and case studies and delegate development issues with presentations and workshops on both days.

Speakers include Michael Crosby, ACIRRT’s John Buchanan former Secretary of the NZTCU and now ACTU Organising Centre Advisor, Paul Goulter.

The conference is recommended for elected officials, organisers, research staff, administrative and support staff and key delegates.

The QCU is continuing to support indigenous workers in their fight to reclaim lost and stolen wages withheld by successive Queensland governments.

A major public awareness campaign was launched in Brisbane on 8 August to highlight the plight of indigenous workers who have had their wages withheld. The main feature of the campaign was the launch of a set of three postcards which tell the story of the missing wages and outline the meagreness of the State Government’s offer.

Unions and community groups, including the QCU, ACTU and VTHC, have endorsed the campaign and undertaken to distribute up to 50,000 postcards.


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