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July 2005   
F E A T U R E S

Interview: Battle Stations
Opposition leader Kim Beazley says he's ready to fight for workers right. But come July 1, he'll have to be fighting by different rules.

Unions: The Workers, United
It was a group of rank and filers who took centre stage when workers rallied in Sydney's Town Hall, writes Jim Marr.

Politics: The Lost Weekend
The ALP had a hot date, they had arranged to meet on the Town Hall steps, and Phil Doyle was there.

Industrial: Truth or Dare
Seventeen ivory towered academics upset those who know what is best for us last week.

History: A Class Act
After reading a new book on class in Australia, Neale Towart is left wondering if it is possible to tie the term down.

Economics: The Numbers Game
Political economist Frank Stilwell offers a beginners guide to understanding budgets

International: Blonde Ambition
Sweden can be an inspiration to labour movements the world over, as it has had community unionism for over 100 years, creating a vibrant caring society, rather than a "productive" lean economy.

Training: The Trade Off
Next time you go looking for a skilled tradesman and can’t find one, blame an economist, writes John Sutton.

Review: Bore of the Worlds
An invincible enemy has people turning against one another as they fight for survival – its not just an eerie view of John Howard’s ideal workplace, writes Nathan Brown.

Poetry: The Beaters Medley
In solidarity with the workers of Australia, Sir Paul McCartney (with inspiration from his old friend John Lennon) has joined the Workers Online resident bard David Peetz to pen some hits about the government's proposed industrial relations revolution.

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
State of the Union
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson lifts the lid on ‘The Nine Myths of Modern Unionism’

The Locker Room
Wrist Action
Phil Doyle trawls the murky depths of tawdry sleaze, and discovers Rugby is behind it all.

Culture
To Hew The Coal That Lies Below
Phil Doyle reviews Australia's first coal mining novel, Black Diamonds and Dust.

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Our favourite State MP, Ian West, reports from Macquarie Street that the Premier is all the way with a State Commission.

E D I T O R I A L

After the Action
After a National Week of Action that has had everything from mass rallies in all capital cities to IR chat rooms opening on the Vogue Magazine website it’s fair to say that the first objective of this campaign – to raise public awareness – has been achieved.

N E W S

 Don't Get Angry, Get Organised

 Feds Threaten Hardie Battlers

 Beasts of Bourbon Play Dog

 Churches on Workplace Mission

 Unions Are The New Black

 Muster Has Bosses in Fluster

 Workers Flood to Protests

 Official: Libs Don’t Know Own Laws

 Schools Out For Uni Bosses

 IR Campaign Taxing Andrews

 Air Safety at Risk

 Carr Runs Over Lib Laws

 Aga Khan Workers Gaoled

 Activists Whats On!

L E T T E R S
 Workers Give In FNQ
 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
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Unions

The Workers, United


It was a group of rank and filers who took centre stage when workers rallied in Sydney's Town Hall, writes Jim Marr.
 

*******

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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