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December 2003   

Interview: Muscling Up
Labor�s Craig Emerson discusses how the changes to his party�s leadership will impact on the industrial relations agenda.

Unions: Thinking Pink
What�s the difference between a Nursing Home and an Aged Care Facility? More than semantics, according to nurses worried Australia is woefully unprepared for the crash at the end of the baby-boom cycle, writes Jim Marr.

Bad Boss: Global Bully
If nothing else, US-based call centre giant TeleTech is consistent. After being nosed out of last year�s Bad Boss gong it is back, bigger and badder than ever in its search for Tony honours.

Unions: National Focus
In this national round up by Noel Hester, Hugh McKay tells us how the young are sticking together in a bewildered society, the gongs get handed out at the ACTU awards and there is a chance to win as a worthy wordsmith.

Economics: Friend or Flunkey?
On New Years Day as you look at the wine stains and tread on a soggy puddle on the carpet, will you look for the phone and call a cleaner? Gabrielle Meagher gives a few ethical dilemmas to confront before you make that call.

History: Young Blood
Youth is no barrier to political leadership, as the 37-year-old John Watson proved 100 years ago, writes Neale Towart.

Industrial: Living For Work?
Mark Hearn reports from a recent conference addressing the dilemma of work, citizenship and community.

International: Fighting Together
The international trade union movement is launching a Global Unions HIV/AIDS campaign to combat the spread of the virus.

Poetry: Medicare Plus Blues
Is the Government's new health plan a plus for Medicare? Asks resident bard David Peetz

Review: Human Racing
Seabiscuit is a great horse movie but more than that it serves as a powerful metaphor for the importance of living for the future while maintaining passion and compassion in the present, writes Tara de Boehmler.


The Soapbox
Dear John
In his 500th piece of activist journalism, long-term Workers Online contributor Rowan Cahill sends a personal message to our prime Minister.

The Locker Room
Retired Hurt
Every innings comes to an end, some too soon, and others not soon enough, writes Phil Doyle.

Wedge Watch
Labor's Craig Emerson puts the spotlight on the Howard Government's politics of division.

The Westie Wing
Workers Friend Ian West MLC is back with his monthly round-up from Macquarie Street.


A New Mark for Labor
Few of us who care about the future of the labour movement would not admit to a surge of hope and sense of excitement following the election of Mark Latham to the federal parliamentary leadership.


 Peeking Dicks in Pickle

 Lights Out on Cheap Labour

 Blackout Hangs Over Sydney

 Contractors Hang Up on Telstra

 Uni Workers Too Smart For Minister

 Employer Bullies Vie For �Tony�

 South Coast Deal to Build Movement

 TeleTech Safety Rep Vows to Fight On

 Corporates Urged to Come Clean

 MP Too Busy For Teachers

 Bosses Block Good Shops Code

 Engineers Ground Safety System

 Workers Win At Safety Meet

 Merger Threats

 Activists Notebook

 Feds Ignore Building Deaths
 Bob Gould On Kicking The Liberals Out
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Muscling Up

Interview with Peter Lewis

Labor�s Craig Emerson discusses how the changes to his party�s leadership will impact on the industrial relations agenda.


We have a new Labor leader, what change will we see to Labor's attitudes to industrial relations?

Labor has already made it clear that we will oppose the 14 bills sloshing around the parliament. These are 12 bills introduced by the previous Minister Tony Abbott - the Dirty Dozen bills - and two bills introduced by the present Minister, Kevin Andrews.

All these bills further weaken the basic protections available to working Australians, and their capacity to bargain collectively and be represented by unions. I have said that these Bills are anti-worker and that therefore Labor will oppose them. My views reflect the views of the Shadow Cabinet, of which Mark was a member and is now leader.

The union movement is the foundation of the Labor Party and I will continue to make it clear that we are proud of our union links and heritage.

Mark Latham is on the record as saying he supports a move to smaller, work-based unions (Workers Online Issue #10). Is this an area where you see Labor making policy?

One of the great things about Mark is that he has lots of ideas on lots of issues. Our policies on industrial relations are already well known and are in the public arena.

The major trend in IR has been the rise of outsourcing and labour hire. NSW unions are pushing for new protections for casuals, such as the right to > apply for permanency after12 months. Is this a position federal Labor would support?

Labor is currently looking at a range of policy options to address the appalling growth of precarious employment, including labour hire and casualisation. These are serious issues that affect the health and financial security of many of the 2.2 million Australians who work as casual employees.

Another new challenge is electronic surveillance in the workplace. Should employers be free to spy on their workers?

A balance is needed between the privacy of employees and giving an employer reasonable scope to conduct their businesses in a secure way. I'm not keen on employers spying on workers.

As for the Howard Government, what was your interpretation of the decision to pull Tony Abbott out of the portfolio?

The Howard Government's industrial relations agenda comes from the top - from Howard himself. Howard is passionately anti-union. Abbott was looking for a make over from a bovver boy to sensitive new age guy, as he prepares to take on Costello for leader. The test of an effective minister is being able to implement the government's agenda - and Tony Abbott failed miserably on that score. He has put up stacks of anti-worker bills, virtually none of which has passed the Parliament.

Kevin Andrews appears to less confrontational. Will that change your approach to the government?

When Kevin Andrews first started as Workplace Relations Minister I called on him to take a new approach and dump some of Abbott's bills as a sign of a fresh start. But he's refused. He has continued with Tony Abbott's Dirty Dozen anti-worker Bills, and he has added two more to that list. Andrews is continuing Abbott's destructive work in the building industry, by introducing the so-called Building and Construction Industry Improvement Bill. This Bill would make it virtually impossible for workers in the building industry to take lawful industrial action and would severely restrict the ability of unions to represent their members, by restricting right of entry, even on State-regulated worksites.

But that's not all - Kevin Andrews has introduced his very own Bill - the even more appallingly-named Better Bargaining Bill. This Bill would allow anyone who might be affected by industrial action the right to apply to end that industrial action. This would mean that workers could only take legally protected industrial action if it was not going to have any impact on anyone. It is probably the most vicious bill since the First Wave legislation of 1996.

So I'm not about to change my approach - I am even more concerned by the Bills being put forward by Kevin Andrews than I was about those put by Tony Abbott.

In the lead-up to the election what role will work issues play?

Most Australian families are also working families. Issues relating to the balance between work and family are looming very large in our modern society.

John Howard has said that he thinks the balance is about right - Labor doesn't agree. We believe working families need more help to make sure they can be both good parents and good employees.

Part time work is one way that many parents find helps achieve this balance, and Labor has committed to increasing opportunities for part time work for parents returning to work after parental leave.

Finally, as one of the new breed of Labor politicians, what role do you see unions playing in the modern ALP?

Labor is of the union movement. The union movement gives us strength. I see forging stronger bonds between the union movement and the ALP as being fundamental to the success of Labor in forming good, progressive governments that deliver opportunity and a fair go to all those Australians whose life chances depend on us.


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