Interview: Battle Stations
Unions: The Workers, United
Politics: The Lost Weekend
Industrial: Truth or Dare
History: A Class Act
Economics: The Numbers Game
International: Blonde Ambition
Training: The Trade Off
Review: Bore of the Worlds
Poetry: The Beaters Medley
The Locker Room
After the Action
Power and the Passion
Mao and Then
The Third Way Hits A Dead End
Unfair For All
What Is To Be Done?
Black Hawk Up
The Workers, United
Nurse Anne O'Connor and crane driver, Brett Gay, never imagined themselves as headline acts packing Sydney's venerable Town Hall to overflowing.
But they were smash hits as video presentations of their stories kicked off NSW's campaign against the federal government's workplace assault on Friday, July 1.
O'Connor and Gay were two of eight rank and filers who told simply of their families, their workmates, their conditions, their fears and their determination to fight the Prime Minister for as long as it takes.
When each vignette concluded, Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, introduced the worker to the crowd. And it went nuts.
There was cheering, roaring, stomping and even the odd wolf whistle of appreciation.
O'Connor, last in the Town Hall as a bright-eyed graduate contemplating a life in public hospitals, admitted her moment in the spotlight had been exciting.
"It was a privilege to be up there representing nurses," she said.
"I have got 30 or 40 years of nursing to go, with a bit of luck, and I want good conditions for myself and my workmates. But it's not just about us, it's our patients too.
"If the government gets its way the whole health service will be in trouble."
The 31-year-old clinical nurse specialist from St George Hospital pledged her workmates were in the campaign for the long haul.
Gay took the youngest of his five kids on stage. Little Madeleine said the reception for her Dad had been "scary but good".
The 25-year construction industry veteran was moved by the support of other workers for the predicament his workmates are om, with a special police force monitoring their moves, and fines and prison sentences hanging over any effort to improve wages or conditions.
Gay reckons the Prime Minister might have made a crucial mistake by spreading his attack too wide in a bid to be remembered as an Antipodean Margaret Thatcher.
"It's come to light in the last few months that it's not just building workers he is after, it's all of us," Gay said.
"It's going to be a long battle but there is a real sense of co-operation and support
"Poor old John Howard tried to set himself up as a Lion Heart but more and more people realise his is a lying bastard."
Along with Rebecca Powells; Paul Walsh; Tanya Barton, Lisa Burns, Coral Lovett, Dave Morris, Mark Supple and Jeff Pearson they put human faces on complex issues.
Morris, a railway worker with a big hat and a beard that makes him look a cross between Santa Claus and Karl Marx, drew a particularly enthusiastic response.
Their experiences were beamed simultaneously to more than 220 venues across the state - from Broken Hill to Tweed Heads, and Eden in the south.
They were centre stage in front of thousands at Newcastle and Wollongong and just eight hardy souls at tiny Werris Creek.
In hosting the presentation, Robertson was firm about the NSW strategy.
This battle, he argued, is about workers, union and non-union, their families, their workplaces, their communities and the shape of Australia for generations to come.
It will be won, he suggested, not by a general strike but by earning confidence and support in all those places, and more.
Workers, he said, were taking their messages to schools and churches, organising barbecues, and turning commuter carriages into discussion groups.
Robertson ruled nothing out, conceding industrial action will play a role as communities mobilise against companies that use Howard's blank cheque to "screw our mates".
"We will have people outside their gates within hours," Robertson pledged. "We will be naming them and shaming them and calling for consumer boycotts."
It was a campaign launch with a difference. The video links and slick presentation complemented, rather than contrasted, the previous day's news footage of 120,000 marchers bringing gridlock to central Melbourne.
There was almost a religious flavour to the start of proceedings as Robertson urged those in the Town Hall to turn around and greet the people behind them, swap names and a bit of information about where they worked.
In concluding, he said it was those bonds that would drive the NSW campaign.
And what about the weather? Eight days of torrential rain had cleared overnight to a brilliantly sunny day and temperatures pushing on for 20 degrees. Best to leave the implications of that to Rev Kev and the clerics, already squaring off over the meaning of family values.
When 20,000 spilled out of Sydney's Town Hall and environs to stretch their legs on a stroll down the Hungry Mile they were reminded that traditional methods still have their place.
Maritime workers on Chris Corrigan's docks had set up their own big screen, showing graphic scenes of goons, mercenaries and attack dogs trying to take their jobs, seven years ago.
A number had decided to give their poodles and terriers an outing for the occasion.
It was suggested to one proud handler that his canine was a bit smaller than those Howard had ushered onto the waterfront.
"Yeah mate, but he's just as bloody as useless," he grinned.
At Sydney's iconic harbour bridge marchers roared their approval as bridge workers unveiled a giant Rights At Work placard on the southern pylon - slap bang in the eyeline of the little bloke who lives at Kirribilli House.
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