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Year End 2005   
F E A T U R E S

Interview: Back to the Future
James Gallaway collars Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, on threats, challenges and opportunities.

Unions: A Real Page Turner
Jim Marr glances through Workers Online’s 2005 news stories and finds there is more one way to skin a Rat

Industrial: The Pin-Striped Union
Rachael Osman-Chin profiles a white collar union that is having some almighty blues.

International: Around The World In 365 Days
It was a year of online activism, as LabourStart's Eric Lee reports

Legends: Terrific, Tommy
Jim Marr tackles a champion.

Your Rights At Work: Worth Fighting For
The Your Rights At Work campaign has been a big part of this year and, as Phil Doyle reports, it is making a difference.

Politics: The Year That Was
Frank Stillwell looks at year that saw the politics of fear; and finds many reasons to be very afraid.

Economics: Master and Servant Revisited
Evan Jones asks if the Neo Liberals are taking us back to the future

Culture: 2005: The Year of Living Repetitively
Nathan Brown ignores Oasis and decides to look back in anger after all

Bad Boss: The Bottom Ten
Nathan Brown digs through his voluminous dirt files and comes up with the top 10 grubs of the year.

Religion: Hymns from a Different Song Sheet
James Gallaway on the Way, the Truth and life according to Brian.

C O L U M N S

Predictions
The Crystal Ball
Workers Online consults a raft of leading psychics to find out what readers can look forward to in 2006.

The Soapbox
The Things People Say
It was a year of quotable quotes, reports Phil Doyle.

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Ian West checks the rear vision mirror on 2005, and plants his foot down

The Locker Room
The 2005 Workers Online Sports Awards
After years of being overlooked by selectors at club, representative and national levels, Phil Doyle and Jim Marr, agreed to hand out our 2005 sports gongs.

Postcard
Postcard from East Timor
In East Timor entertainment also spreads an important message into the community

E D I T O R I A L

Waves of Destruction
2005 was the year book-ended by two waves of destruction - the first causing untold suffering across the Indian Ocean; the second reawakening our darker angels on beaches closer to home.

N E W S

 Melbourne Burns AWAs

 Corporates Defend Costello

 Speaker Won't Talk

 Bank Pays on Dodgy Contracts

 Plan to Save Jobs

 Harper's Bizarre Excuse for Failure

 It's Not Fair: Business

 Workers Walk As Warnings Wiped

 Teenager Hit With Shrapnel

 Pay Day “Unlawful”

 Tassie Rail Win

 Professionals Fear for Their Kids

 Boss Pings Rorters Charter

 New Ways to Take a Share

 An Hour of Need

 Boeing Steals Christmas

 Trouble at the Mill

 Activists What's On

L E T T E R S
 Pension Pinching
 Free to Rat
 Tax Cuts and Cockroaches
 Proportion, Not Distortion
 Corp That!
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Interview

Back to the Future


James Gallaway collars Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, on threats, challenges and opportunities.

Most enduring image of 2005?

My most enduring image of 2005 would be the march on July 1 down the "Hungry Mile". The footage is quite impressive. And the banner hanging off the southern pylon.

Has the threat of the Federal IR changes affected the way unions campaign?

Absolutely, I think the way we have campaigned this year has been sensational in regards to dealing with some of things that we have been talking about for the last 10 years, we have finally done it and the other thing is it has given us the capacity to push the envelope in the way we have campaigned. Things like running adds, actions on the ground, the Last Weekend, the Sky Channel broadcast, the targeted seats campaign. A lot of this came out of the organising model, six to eight years ago, and is now being implemented. I think what we have done is grabbed the bits that would work in the Australian context from the US and have actually applied them in this campaign successfully. It hasn't just been the ads that have moved people, it's been the bus around NSW, community meetings, and setting up the regional networks. All those things are about building political power, but it also builds a presence within those regional areas. With every threat comes a lot of opportunities and the outcome of this is to grab those opportunities and make them work. I think in 2005 we've done that.

Is the threat, or the opportunity, bringing a sense of unity, is that what you're saying?

NSW has been moving towards that for some time. We are now in a position where unity is paying dividends and I think that's made us more unified. We're getting the dividends from not being sidelined by the factional stuff and that has led, by and large, to the campaign that has been run nationally being driven out of NSW, I mean the things that you see happen nationally are the things that we signed off with our Secretaries in March this year, the sky channel broadcast, the bus. Other states are now doing something on a similar things and, together, we've shifted public opinion in nine months more then anyone could have believed possible.

Young people are the only group not opposed to the changes. This group is likely to be the one facing the changes first - how do you intend engaging with this group of workers?

We have to reached out to them on their level and talk about how it is impacting on them now. The notion is they just get up and walk away and get another job, but the fact is that when they go to get that next job it may not be any better then the one they just left, so eventually the labour market gets to a point where they are not in a position to leave and go and get a better job somewhere else where they are treated decently. We haven't communicated that well for a whole range of reasons and I think the notion that only young people will connect with the young is a pretty strong message that we take on board. We will be relying a lot more on the young people in Unions NSW, and the wider movement, to advise us about how to do those things. I've had a few people approach me about things like concerts, I need to be convinced that that is one means that we connect with young people. I'm open to being convincedbut I really want to do more than simply those sorts of things if we're reach out to young people.

Regarding the importance of a positive agenda. You have advocated backing an independent Inquiry - at what stage are we with this?

This notion of an independent Inquiry means effectively we I guess let go of some of that stuff and find a good figure head with a partner organisation and allow them to go off and do an inquiry into laws and more broadly what is happening in our communities. Because the key thing about these laws is and one of the important features of the first stage of the campaign is that we said what happens in work impacts on the time we spend the family and the things you do within your community. What we have to do is let any inquiry go and run its course. It would be a vehicle from which people will be able to put their view forwards, not only about what is happening to them at work but also what is happening in their local communities, what's happening to the time they are spending with their families, the pressures that they are under, not just in a financial way but also in a time way. facilitate policies that actually allow people to actually be less time poor. One of the greates lines I have heard is It's not work and family - it's work or family" and I think what we've got to do is come up with policies that accept we can have both.

An inquiry, I hope, would take on board people's concerns - including business people's concerns - to try and develop an alternate model that facilitates work and family rather than work or families. A proper inquiry would present an opportunity for a positive agenda, an agenda developed in consultation with the community not in some room somewhere by a bunch of economists.

The sale of Currawong - why is this important and what will you do with the proceeds?

First thing is that it is a difficult decision to make. It's something that the organisation has aimed for for quite a long period of time. It's also important because of the sort of climate we are in now and the year we are about to enter. We've got to be able to, not just talk about being able to act strategically and make the tough decisions, but actually being able to do that. The sale of Currawong was one of those tough but strategic decisions that we had to make. We need finances, we needs funds basically to run an effective campaign.. Like any organisation, you start to look at where your assets are, and you look at the ones that are performing and the ones that aren't and you try and get a better return. The fact is that Currawong has never made money and there's been an argument about whether it should have ever made money, but the fact is, in this environment, we can no longer afford to subsidise holidays for people, so we made that decision. The fact that we had two unanimous votes in accordance with the rules, is a demonstration of the fact that the union movement is well aware of the challenges that lie ahead, that we have to take these decisions in light of where we are.

We will invest most of the money and use the returns to finance the campaign, so we're not just going to spend the money. Some of that money will be used, but the vast bulk of it will be invested so that we're actually getting a return on our investment for the cash in such a way that we can continue to do the things that we are doing. Fund our campaign against these changes for as long as it takes and position ourselves so that, irrespective of what the future brings, the organisation will be there, not just in name, but to there to provide an effective presence and an alternative view to that of the Federal Government.

What does returning to the old building signify?

For me personally, it's satisfying sitting in this position, because all of the people who've sat in my position have tried to do it. More importantly, while everybody is saying the union movement is in decline, we're going back to our home. But we're going back to our home from where we were born but not to hide, but to actually come out next year, reinvigorated and to go hard and really go after this Government and go after any employer that tries to exploit working people.

To go back to Trades Hall is significant. It's a fantastic heritage building for Sydney and for us I think it is a demonstration we're far from dying. We can spend that sort of money on refurbishing that sort of building and do it in such a way that says this is the home of the union movement, this is where we belong. If you're looking for us next year this is where we'll be and we'll be fighting for working people.

How will you gauge success in 2006?

I'll gauge success two ways. One is that the public opinion on these changes continues to stay where it is, that is that people continue to be concerned about it and it continues to be at the forefront of people' minds. Effectively, this campaign will be successful if we go to the next election with industrial relations is one of the top five election issues. I'll gauge success by the number of people who are involved in the campaign, rank and file people that are actively involved in our campaign in the regional networks in the targeted seats. The most obvious guage will be if our unions continue to grow as they have done this year, that would be success.

That said, the whole point of this campaign isn't simply about growing union membership, it's about raising public awareness and providing people with an opportunity to have a voice. Far and away for me, success would be reaching out to the broader community, to the faith organisations, the sporting groups and other community organisations and standing shoulder to shoulder with them in this campaign for a decent Australia.


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