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December 2006   

Interview: Flying High
The Australian international Pilots Association has rejoined the ACTU and president Ian Woods is taking it into new airspace.

Unions: TUF on Toll
As transport giant Toll expands across the region, unions are working together to boost their bargaining power, writes Jackie Woods.

Industrial: Forward to the Past
Anti-union building laws draw their inspiration from a century ago, writes Neale Towart

Economics: Debt and the Economy
Household debt is at record levels. Interest rates are rising. Production of real things is not increasing. The military generates most demand. How long can it go on?

Obituary: The Charlatanry of Milton Friedman
Evan Jones busts some myths about the grand-daddy of free market economics

Environment: Low Voltage
Nuclear Power and Prime Ministerial Pronouncements are seriously short of a few volts, writes Neale Towart

Legal: The Fair Deal
Anthony Forsyth proposes a social partnership agenda for Australia

Review: A Little History
The Little History of Australian Unionism is exactly that; fifteen thousand words on the topic, writes Rowan Cahill.


The Soapbox
Address to the Nation
ACTU secretary Greg Combet's speech to the National Day of Action

The Westie Wing
Ian West recalls a time when the earth was flat, unions ran the country and Honest John Howard was the workers’ best friend.

Sick System
Punitive IR laws and a commercially-driven workers compensation scheme are conspiring to bully injured workers, writes Dr Con Costa.


Seven Year Itch
For the past seven years, over 335 issues, Workers Online has been chronicling events in the labour movement and passing our judgments on all things union.


 Global Campaign for Jailed Iranian Union Leader

 Bully Tactics Can’t Dull Protests

 Which Bank Slashes Work Rights?

 Sunday’s The Day For Future Rallies

 Carmel Saves Job, Loses Bonus

 Case Dismissed: No Justice in WorkChoices

 China (S)trains Procurement Policy

 Contracts Out on Sole Traders

 Car Companies Do The Dirty

 Historic Case Restores Security

 Final Hurdle for Medibank Sell-Off

 One Reader, At Least
 Boss With a Heart
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A Little History

The Little History of Australian Unionism is exactly that; fifteen thousand words on the topic, writes Rowan Cahill.

It is packaged with a sprinkling of Bruce Petty cartoons in a 96 page pocket or handbag sized book measuring about 150mm by 110mm, retailing for $9.95. Publication has been variously supported by the ACTU and thirteen unions.

Author Sean Scalmer is a trade unionist, labour historian, and sociologist who lectures at Macquarie University (Sydney). He comes from a working class, trade union background, and is the author of two well received books on social movements. His Melbourne based publisher, Vulgar Press, is a small, innovative, independent outfit specialising in working class and radical literature.

Scalmer tells the story of Australian trade unionism from its origins during the early nineteenth century through to the present. In telling and explaining what is sometimes a tumultuous story, he takes a chronological approach, deftly, and at times evocatively, sketching the broad sweep of history in straight forward, accessible language.

At the same time Scalmer ensures that intellectual and scholarly rigour is not lost in the process; nor is there any hint of condescension in his text. Scalmer's achievement is not only the successful telling of this story, but in showing how trade unionism is a major part of the Australian story. He also amply demonstrates that collectivism is an integral part of Australian culture, not the alien construct the Howardistas would have us believe.

Contrary to neocon propaganda, the unionism Scalmer portrays is not a nineteenth century fossil frozen in time, but a dynamic phenomenon that has variously changed and adapted to substantial challenges and circumstances created by the movements of time and history. And contrary to the neocon version of history, Scalmer also makes clear that trade unionism has, over the years, greatly improved the quality of life of all Australian working people, even those who have never been union members.

The book is aimed at the lay reader, and potential unionists. It would be an excellent text to use in secondary schools where there are curriculum opportunities to teach about Australian unionism. Vulgar Press is willing to negotiate discount rates for class sets. Generous discounts for bulk orders are available to unions. To contact Vulgar Press email [email protected] , or phone: 03 9348 2140.

In an interview Scalmer has explained how he envisages the book being used:

"The LITTLE HISTORY is designed as a promotional tool for unions. I hope to explain to a younger generation of Australians why unions exist; how they have been organised; and what they have achieved. The current industrial changes have made many more citizens conscious of the importance of 'industrial relations' and work. There is a hunger for knowledge about these issues; the book is designed to satisfy at least part of that hunger".

Scalmer's book should prove a useful organising tool in the current political climate, given previous general accounts of Australia's trade union history are long out of print. So buy a few copies, use it, keep a copy handy, give one to a friend, give one to a wavering unionist, give one to a non-unionised workmate. All union organisers should have a copy; all union journals and newspapers should carry a promotional piece at least, or a review. The book's message is one the smirkers on the Government benches are not keen for working people to be familiar with. I would not be at all surprised if the Howardistas are already reaching for their matches and trying to figure out how to add Book Burning to their ideologically framed catechism of Australian Values.


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