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June 2004   

Interview: The New Democrat
Canadian activist Judy Rebick explains how she's using lessons from Brazil to rebuild the labour movement.

Bad Boss: The Ugly Australian
Prime Minister John Howard is in California spruiking the "merits" of this month�s Bad Boss nomination �

Unions: Free Spirits and Slaves
International capital demands guest labour � legal or illegal � as a way of beating down wages and conditions and, as Jim Marr discovers, the Australian Government seems happy to oblige.

Industrial: National Focus
Noel Hester reports on another workplace death (we-will-not-RIP NOHSC), heartburn for the Canberra consensus and all the action from around the states in our national wrap.

History: A Class Act
The problem of forgetting the primacy of class in favour of other ideas of community is highlighted in a new book, writes Neale Towart

International: Across the Ditch
NZ Nurses Union leader, Laila Harr�, is in Sydney this week, comparing notes with the Australian Nurses Federation and seeking transTasman support for New Zealand�s highest profile industrial campaign.

Economics: Home Truths
Sydney University's Frank Stilwell argues that tax policy is driving the housing boom.

Review: No Time Like Tomorrow
The Day After Tomorrow is one part Grim Reaper of the environmental movement and two parts fictitious fable dramatically window dressed with extreme special effects, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Silent Note
Resident Bard David Peetz uncovers the current public service motto � "Don't tell the Minister!".


The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part I
The Australia Institute's Clive Hamilton questions the assumptions underlying a society that defines happiness in dollar terms.

The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part II
Clive Hamilton concludes his analysis, looking at how more and more Australians are pulling back from a marketplace that is no longer providing the goods.

The Locker Room
Sack �Em All!
Phil Doyle puts his job on the line, but doesn�t everyone these days?

The Westie Wing
The NSW Government has an agenda on the table but the test is finding innovative ways to finance it, writes Ian West


Last Year�s Model
Economists keep telling us things have never been better, all the economic indicators say so. Which sparks the obvious question: why are so many of us feeling so low?


 Trade Deal a $47 Billion Dud

 Ground Staff Spread Fashion Wings

 Ghan Raises Trans-Continental Stink

 Union Busters Bank on Labor

 Witnesses Face Casual Duress

 Rail Workers Cop �Beer Nannies�

 Sun Shines on Green Bans

 Big Business Plan to Cripple Compo

 Money Can�t Buy Me Love

 Federal Election in Doubt

 Safety Defects Plague Adelaide

 Police Investigate Assault Claim

 Activists What�s On!

 Liberal Laugh
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National Focus

Noel Hester reports on another workplace death (we-will-not-RIP NOHSC), heartburn for the Canberra consensus and all the action from around the states in our national wrap.

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet used the platform of the National Press Club this week to push the national political debate wider than the claustrophobic parameters stuck to by the Canberra consensus.

Among the themes Greg covered were the need for more long term planning of our economic future – especially in infrastructure, skills development, and manufacturing, a more mature approach towards public debt and the need for regime change in Canberra (peacefully, democratically, without shock and awe.)

In his speech Greg flagged a campaign by unions to lift employer super contributions.

‘The failure of the (Howard) Government to chart a course for building retirement savings leaves unions with no choice but to put increased super contributions back on the bargaining table with employers,’ he said.

Polling conducted by Newspoll for the ACTU released the same day backed up this approach.

The poll revealed that a majority of people are concerned that their current level of super will not afford them a comfortable retirement and 73% of people indicated they would be interested in making a personal contribution to their super if it was matched by their employer or the Government.

The poll also threw up some other fascinating results. 87% of full time workers identified flexible working hours, the right to time off work for family emergencies, a choice for part time work, and more help for child care as more useful than an increase in Government family payments.

You can read Greg’s speech in full on the ACTU website.

Another workplace death: NOHSC (and we won’t let it Rest In Peace)

Maybe it’s a long bow to draw and then maybe it’s not. Twenty million bucks is a lot to have to find to pay for that outrageous TV propaganda campaign on Medicare. Axing the National OHS Commission to pay for it would not doubt appeal to a cynical bastard like Peter Costello. Let’s face it, there’s no votes to be gained from dead workers.

Here’s a few facts that aren’t mentioned by any of those smily people in those beautifully produced feel-good ads: Access Economics estimates that there are 4,900 work-related deaths each year in Australia. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that half a million Australians suffer work-related injuries or illnesses annually.

And the Howard Government’s response to these catastrophic numbers: kill off the existing authority with legislated powers and responsibilities and replace it with a toothless body with a purely advisory role.

Sounds like tory spirit – let the corporations self-regulate over our health and welfare and, bugger it why not, our lives.

To find out more read the ACTU’S position paper on NOSHC.

Around the states:

Unions Tasmania’s Darren Mathewson tells me the Tasmanian Government recently released the Rutherford Report, the outcome of a review of the workers' compensation system.

Tasmanian unions are still considering their response however the broad opinion indicates that the report does not go far enough in the areas of ongoing support for injured workers with a view to a return to work; improvement of financial compensation; and simplification of legalistic processes.

Tasmanian "Radiation Therapists" are campaigning through their unions (Health & Community Services Union and The Community & Public Sector Union) for the Government to deal positively with issues around recruitment and retention. If Tasmania is to attract and keep these workers then they need to be paid wages and post graduate allowances comparable to the mainland states.

With most public sector wage and conditions claims settled only these workers and the firefighters remain. The UFU is currently negotiating with Government.

The LHMU is holding stopwork meetings at the Tasmanian casinos soon for its members (around 800) to consider further action to get one of the state's largest and most profitable employers, Federal Hotels share its good fortune. The workers showed wage restraint in the last agreement so the Company could re-position itself in the market. With the acquisition of new properties and obvious growth the workers now want this to be shared in the new agreement.

The first Tasmanian Organising Conference is scheduled to be to be held in Launceston on 11 & 12 November to examine organising initiatives and experiences within the specific challenges Tasmanian unions face.


VTHC’S Andrea Maksimovic reports that in Victoria this month, love was in the air with left and right unions getting together to impress upon the Bracks State Government that they aren't happy. At the Victorian ALP State Conference, a number of motions were passed calling on the Government to shift into first gear on industrial issues. These included improving long service leave standards, introducing tougher penalties for negligent employers under the OH&S Act, re-thinking the proposed Emergency Powers legislation which gives the state government the right to halt industrial action in so-called essential service industries and getting together a procurement policy which supports Australian industry.

It's just a pity, she says, there were only three ministers left in the room when the motions calling on the ALP to hold true to its working class roots were being discussed.

The Bracks Government closed the deal with psychiatric staff – members of HACSU - giving them the same increase as general nurses (12% over 3.5 years) and an increase in staffing, two weeks additional maternity leave and funding for postgraduate scholarships.

The Australian Education Union held a 24 hour stoppage in the pre-school sector, calling on the State Government to take over the funding of pre-school education and introduce pay parity between pre-school and primary teachers. The Australian Nursing Federation was on the war path over the Victorian Government's decision to change regulations, following a victory for the union in the Federal court, regarding who administers drugs to patients in nursing homes.

Finally, on non-government related matters, Victorian postal workers held their first strike in 20 years calling on Australia Post to secure their jobs amidst a frenzy of outsourcing. And the Electrical Trades Union continues its fight for a 36-hour week, offering a reduction in its pay claim in return for shorter working hours. The power companies and the union continue to negotiate in the Industrial Relations Commission.

Tania Reeves from the Queensland Council of Unions reports that this year’s Anna Stewart Memorial project began on 31 May with 11 women from a number of Queensland unions participating in a two week course.

The women will spend the first two weeks with their own unions and then be hosted by other affiliates in the second week.

Thew QCU decided to revamp the project this year with the format taking in a full-day training course at the QCU on the first day, a mid-project report back meeting and the final day at the QCU.

The training provided to participants on the first day of the project included elements of the Advanced delegates course as well as information about the project and contemporary industrial relations issues.

In West Australian news, Unions WA’s Dave Robinson says union anger is high in the state about the three deaths on BHP sites in the Pilbara. There have also been a spate of other accidents at BHP. Delegates have been pointing out systemic faults at BHP for some time to no avail. A government inquiry is now in motion.

The WA Government is also running an inquiry on extended hours aiming at developing a code of practice with restrictions on the number of unreasonable hours.

There is new OHS legislation in the WA parliament with substantial penalties for fatalities or serious injuries, including jail terms for directors. There is also a workers comp law is in its second reading. Unions WA say there are some problems but also some increased statutory benefits so see it as a first step.

In South Australia Janet Giles from the UTLC says there is a lot of partying going on down her way as part of the UTLC’s 120 year celebrations. Over 1000 people turned up for a May Day Music Festival – Tim Freedman, Skulker highlighting – at the Governor Hindmarsh pub – apparently a favourite intellectual meeting ground for redback unionists.

South Australia has also had an Anna Stewart project in full swing but have upped the ante on the Queenslanders by making a film about the project and women in unions in general.

And finally Janet reports that unions are lobbying hard to get the new IR bill through parliament. The bill will be useful for unions as it deals with labour hire and subcontracting and gives unions right of entry provisions. There are also new powers for the commission and for best endeavour bargaining (the local patois for good faith bargaining.


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