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February 2005   

Economics: Super Seduction
Sharks are circling your super. From July 1, banks and financial planners will have access to the nesteggs of an extra four million workers.

Interview: Bono and Me
ACTU Sharan Burrow lifts the lid on the rock star lifestyle of an international union leader.

Unions: The Eight Hour Day and the Holy Spirit
Rowan Cahill bucks conventional wisdom to argue the eight-hour day began in Sydney.

Economics: OEC-Who?
The OECD calls for more reform. But, Asks Neale Towart, who is really doing the calling?

Technology: From Widgets to Digits
How can unions grow and continue to successfully represent workers when their traditional structures are rooted in an industry, craft or fixed location?

Education: Dumb and Dumber
Unions are leading the fight against a political agenda that does away with smart jobs.

Health: No Place for the Young
The support of union members is required to help get young people out of nursing homes, writes Mark Robinson

History: The Work-In That Changed a Nation
February 17 marks 30-years to the day that sacked coal miners at the NSW Northern District Nymboida Colliery began their historic work-in at the mine.

Review: Dare to Win
The history of the militant and often controversial BLF is as surprising as it is fascinating writes Tim Brunero.

Poetry: Labor's Dreaming
With another change at the helm of the Labor Party, our resident bard, David Peetz, can't help but dreamily drawing on some political history.


Titanic Forces
There are book reviewers who have not read the book they have just reviewed and there are critics who have criticised films they have not yet seen. I want to review a novel that has not yet been written.

The Soapbox
Labour and Labor
Grant Bellchamber looks at the relationship between both sides organised labour

Aussie Unions Help Tsunami Victims
The union movement�s aid agency reports back on its relief effort in Asia.

The Locker Room
Game, Set and Yawn
Phil Doyle asks if tennis is evil or just boring

The Westie Wing
As a reshuffle of the State Ministry settles in and the Federal Government throws down the gauntlet, 2005 promises to be a new and vital chapter in the struggle for workers and their families, writes Ian West in Macquarie Street.


Polar Shifts
And so Workers Online makes our belated return to 2005 - and while we may have the same old familiar faces in Federal Parliament, politically, it�s a whole new ball game.


 Plastic Man Crosses the Line

 Taskforce Loses "Payback" Evidence

 Court Out � Again

 Blue Chips Fried in CBD

 Bosses Duck Decapitation

 Computer Driven Posties

 Stalking Horses in Safety Stampede

 Low Blow in Ferry Blue

 Howard "Unbalanced"

 Picketers Chase Millions

 Whistleblower Beats Bullies

 Mateship Shines Through

 Queensland Marks Power Grab

 Vale Laurie Aarons 1917-2005

 Nelson's Double Standard
 Morals Beat Hasty Retreat
 Uncounted Cost Of Asbestos
 Voting Farce Expands
 I Beg To Differ
 Politics Smolitics
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Dare to Win

The history of the militant and often controversial BLF is as surprising as it is fascinating writes Tim Brunero.


"There's no time in this job. You've got to make all your gains fast because when the last door goes on, the last lock's fitted, the job's completed, you're all down the road, out of there," Mick Sage, carpenter.

The construction industry has an exciting urgency and energy. It's probably the emotional manifestation of a workplace that changes everyday until finally it disappears altogether.

And at any level, it's a cut throat game. This only adds to the drama.

Into this world plunges Liz Ross author of Dare To Struggle, Dare To Win! with the daunting task of documenting the last 15 years of one of Australia's most militant and controversial unions.

Ross makes no feint at an undaring objectivity, quoting liberally from Marx, Gramsci, Luxemburg and Trotsky.

But this fastidiously detailed read only benefits from the storyteller's undeniable love for the institution.

An institution that dared to take its brief beyond sticking up for its members work rights but also to their concerns about other issues of the day.

The union threw its weight around in everything from environmental concerns to Aboriginal rights, from community campaigns to its forthright action on behalf of women's, migrant and gay campaigns.

The union slapped green bans on much of the Rocks and ensured no McDonalds was ever built in Centennial Park.

The union was so political it banned work once on a communications tower because of a union wide US bases out campaign, but then lifted it because it was to be used to spy on Russia's forces in Afghanistan - a project union elements believed in.

When the state beat up its members, the BLF downed tools on police station sites. And they weren't afraid to break a concrete pour or two either.

This kind of "opinionated" approach to IR raised the ire of not only employers but also governments - especially as construction represents five percent of the economy and greatly influences employment. It's a major political football, and an important barometer for the economy as a whole.

So it wasn't just the fact many BLF leaders were avowed socialists, that conservative forces sought to destroy it.

Indeed in the union's heyday in the 1960's and 1970's many were members of the CPA, including Jack Mundey and Norm Gallagher.

And so Ross's story begins with the Fraser government's 1981 tri pronged attack on the union - a Royal Commission, de-registration proceedings in the Federal Court and contempt proceedings against Gallagher.

And like the recent Cole Royal Commission into the building industry the media were able to run all of the Commission's unsubstantiated accusations.

But there was only limited success for the Fraser Government which had to threaten many employers to participate. And other more moderate union leaders refused to criticise the BLF for striking or enforcing No Ticket, No Start.

Maybe the public had learnt from Jack Lang's remarks from the 1930's that no

government ever set up a royal Commission without knowing the findings beforehand.

While the union was able to attack the commission as a political witchhunt in full page newspapers ads, the de-registration proceedings left a heavier toll.

So much so the union had to levy members to pay its legal bills.

But the union remained strong and confident, after all, it had had bee de-registered in the 1970's and had actually grown its membership.

But the tide was turning for the BLF.

The culture of radicalism was changing and with Labor sweeping into power in Victoria in 1982 and nationally in 1983, the BLF's 'go it alone' policy was to be its undoing.

Over the years it had made many enemies, not just in the major political parties and boardrooms, but also in the broader trade union movement.

The years ahead would be a struggle, the Accord and other policies of the Labor Governments, perhaps ironically, racheting up the pressure on the union.

But the bitterness and division the next few years would cause for the labour movement is tempered in hindsight by the achievements of a union which had nothing but great 'confidence'.

It's legacy, whether in the geography of the modern day rocks district, or in stopping building workers having to work in the rain, will never be forgotten.

Liz Ross, Dare To Struggle, Dare To Win!, The Vulgar Press, 2004, $35


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