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Year End 2005   

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.


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.

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


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.


 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

 Pension Pinching
 Free to Rat
 Tax Cuts and Cockroaches
 Proportion, Not Distortion
 Corp That!
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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


There was a time when business could see workers coming. It wasn't difficult, given their barricades were stormed in front of their eyes but now, thanks to the Midget with Eyebrows, bad bosses are copping it from all directions.

By trying to spike their guns, John Howard has pushed Aussies into an industrial version of guerrilla warfare and, guess what, they're naturals.

The change in strategy was there for all to see with peak bodies like the ACTU and Unions NSW dismissing troglodyte calls for national strikes in favour of multi-faceted resistance.

Even leading voices in Howard's choir have conceded the ACTU's $8 million advertising campaign was better thought out and more effective than his $50 million spend.

Mind you, they didn't have much choice with poll results, conducted by all the major news agencies, heading south at an unprecedented rate, and respondent after respondent citing IR as a critical factor.

But ads were just one ingredient. The peak bodies built strong links across the community, and, perhaps belatedly, pressed modern technologies into service.

Linking Up

For years, Unions NSW has been utilising the internet as most Workers Online readers probably realise, but Sky Channel hook-ups were a new development that brought together workers across the continent in impressive displays of unity.

Unions NSW flicked the button by hooking up some 400 activist delegates in the early days of resistance to what would eventually emerge as Workchoices. Next-off, they hooked up more than 150,000 people at pubs, clubs and halls, across the state for July's first mass protest.

The ACTU picked up the ball in November. In a skilful merging of old and new, melded Melbourne's penchant for feet on streets, more than 300,000 of them, with Sky Channel venues right across the continent.

Talk about acting global and thinking local. The day split into dozens of rallies through towns like Wagga Wagga, Tumut, Bowral, Coffs Harbour and Lismore that gob-smacked Libs had always thought of as their own.

Guerrilla Suits

Back on the job, the possibilities seemed endless and workers, being workers, came up with a suite of guerrilla plays that would have brought a Ho Ho Ho from Uncle Ho.

In suburban Sydney, textile workers tipped off journos to a raid on what looked like a home in leafy Bexley. The grilles, gates and closed circuit tv set-ups were a bit of a give away but the scribblers got more than they bargained for when documentation indicated the sweat shop was paying skilled workers as little as $4 an hour.

Textile workers took their video nasty to the respectable types at Myer, David Jones and Cooper Street, along with evidence indicating they were profiting from the Bexley operation.

Down in Melbourne, ASU members declared war on defence giant Tenix after it insisted that they sign the Midget's AWAs against their wills. After trying out individual contracts for six years, they returned an 83 percent vote for a union-negotiated collective agreement.

When Tenix refused to surrender, they launched an international cyber attack, flooding management with more than a 1000 emails in the first 12 hours of the operation.

Their ASU sisters in Tamworth took their services to the streets when a welfare agency tried to make them redundant. They simply kept on working, helping and advising battered women until a reorganisation saw them back on the payroll.

No self-respecting guerrilla turns his/her back on opportunism and workers weren't above hitching their wagons to the dubious concept of Idolatory.

Australian Idols

The MUA, no less, was in the vanguard, gonging Adelaide wharfie Viron Papadoulous for taking out its first Working Class Idol competition.

Actually, it was a serious business, with wharfies and seafarers producing short films about their lives in a bit to refloat the union's historic film unit.

When Workers Online takes the low road, though, it really takes the low road, that's the thing about being tabloid. And one-time staffer, Tim Brunero, obviously learned something while he was here, bobbing up as the bullied intellectual on Big Brother.

Timbo pushed collectivism and a social conscience on a broad audience and then put some of his money where his mouth was by walking out of the Big Brother house and onto the Unions NSW Your Rights at Work bus, adding a dose of pop culture to bush campaigning.

There was more agit-pop when My Restaurant Rules brought the reality of AWAs into living rooms. Stunned sous chef, Peter, was seen confronting the boss of Pink Salt about individual contracts that would stiff staff of up to $300 a week.

Some judicious publicity, and a union email campaign, countered predictable support for the restaurant from the Office of the Employers Advocate.

Pink Salt boss Bella Serventi got the blues, first when she was forced to backpay $8000 and, second, when her restaurant was voted off the show.

Wave Goodbye

Federal government tried to neck Union Aid Abroad's fundraising efforts but rank and file workers showed international solidarity is alive and kicking in the wake of last Christmas' Asian tsunami.

Sri Lankan spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan visited the East Swanson docks in person to thank wharfies for co-ordinating the collection of $170,000 worth of goods and clothing.

Public servants, from agencies including DEWR and Centrelink, got in on the act, fighting fear with flair.

They resisted individual contracts and non-union agreements with long-running, low-key industrial campaigns but nothing annoyed the Midget's Mandarins quite as much as some slick artwork they found bouncing around the internet.

Tap Dancing

Over in WA, where Howard's Building and Construction Commission adopted standover tactics against efforts to maintain living standards, there were sniffs of intelligent resistance.

The Midget's favourite walloper, Nigel Hadgkiss, took to impersonating judges and denying building workers the right to choose their own legal representatives, but what really sent his temperature soaring was claims they were sneezing at his power.

Hadgkiss went crook at the thought that, having had any industrial action criminalised, they were orchestrating outbreaks of "Blue Flu" to have a say in their working conditions.

On the Buses - On the Grass

There were hundreds, if not thousands, of local actions against the Howard's boss power agenda.

Sydney bus drivers, fresh from raising thousands of dollars for young cancer sufferers, organised a three-day protest bike road to Canberra that attracted supporting police officers, ambulance drivers, building workers, clerks and railway workers.

Maori workers challenged the Midget with a mass haka in Parliament's grounds.

One irate commuter took to turning train carriages into lecture theatres with Workchoices 101 his specialist topic. A Gosford nurse letter boxed neighbours on the threats posed to their community by AWAs at a nursing home; while people in a Newcastle suburb held neighbourhood meetings to screen Unions NSW videos.

In the Blue Mountains workers organised barbecues, while Unions NSW got the support of the Hooley Dooleys and the Glass House's Corrine Grant for a giant picnic to alert people to threats to the Aussie weekend.

Families First

Confident of the merit of their WorkChoices argument, Unions NSW subjected the facts to academic scrutiny, producing scathing indictments from industrial relations specialists, statisticians, epidemiologists and, not least, Director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Don Edgar.

When Howard dogged on his election promise to expose legislation to family impact statements, Unions NSW filled the breech, sending Workchoices to Edgar for analysis that severely damaged the PM's family values credentials.

They also set-up Working NSW as a think-tank that could utilise academic expertise to counter the Hard Right agenda that has been spewing from big-business controlled agenda setters for decades.

And All the Other Bits ...

Still, organised labour found plenty of places to keep their industrial muscles in shape.

In the face of draconian laws, the CFMEU used pickets and bans to screw more than $10 million dollars out of beneficiaries of bust building firm Walters. Developers coughed up for wage workers, contractors and even Walters managers, who had joined the picketers.

Up in Newcastle, 20 casual sheet metal workers won increases of up to $250 a week within three months of joining the AMWU, and every state saw standard blues over wages and conditions.

But for each and every member involved in the movement in 2005, there was a feeling we were witnessing history - and not the sort of moment that will be remembered fondly. More like a train crash; where images of destruction change us fundamentally and, maybe, give us the courage to fight our battles with that extra bit of commitment which is sometimes the difference between victory and defeat.


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