workers online digest

Gould's Book Arcade ggouldsb at
Mon May 5 00:06:04 MDT 2003


Workers Online Issue No. 176 - 02 May 2003

Workers Online celebrates May Day with a call for solidarity, a new
message to workers and lots of healthy debate about where to go now.



Solidarity Forever
Another May Day, another year gone, another year to look back on our
history and celebrate the past and talk about how we can make our
movement strong again.

The conversation began at last night's May Day Toast, but will continue
through the next week as union organisers and delegates from all around
Australia converge on Sydney.

There is no doubting that organising has become the all-encompassing
ethos for union renewal in Australia, a reorientation from top down to
bottom up unionism which carries self-evident benefits.

While Workers Online has been critical of the tendency by some to turn
organising into a fetish, we do not take issue with this underlying
principle - it's the workplace, stupid.

For us, the big question is how to translate this orientation into a
workable, effective and growing union movement.

To simply say unionism is about training up delegates to run their own
issues is an example of outsourcing taken to extremes.

We need to mix delegate empowerment with a clear vision of what we are
as unions - to steal a bit of management speak, we need to define our
product and take it to the market.

Most with a view to labour history would say the union product is
collectivism - working together to score a result we could never
achieve by going one out.

But one of problems is the day to day activities of many individual
union 'brands' seem completely at odds with these values.

Demarcs, poaching wars, factional battles and on-site sniping of one
union to another is the cancer that undermines unionism in the

Yet today, in 2003, we still see many workplaces where unions battle
for members, undercut each other for coverage or dismiss a competitor
as 'yellow'. It all serves one purpose - to weaken the union brand.

As CPSU national secretary Adrian O'Connell says in this month's
interview, a modern union movement has no option but to confine these
traditional rivalries and petty jealousies to the dustbin of history.

Unions need to work together to organise industries; they need to put
their members before their political agendas and distance themselves
from factional politics.

One of the bright signs is that more and more unions are beginning to
carry the Workers Online newsfeed on their websites, meaning unions can
begin to share the struggles and celebrate the victories of each other.

We need to take this further, in an ideal world the stories you read
online each week would be reproduced in journals across the movement,
regardless of the union members involved in the activity. A workers'
press to challenge the dominant vehicle of the bosses through the Tele,
the Fin and the new neo-con daily, The Australian.

It's one of the ironies of union history that we celebrate a concept of
'solidarity' yet rarely practice it because we carry the historical
baggage of the tribe we inhabit.

Our May Day message is it's time to pull off the blinkers and build a
movement, not just a bunch of unions struggling to stay afloat.

Peter Lewis


This Issue Contains


  * Staying Alive
    CPSU national secretary Adrian O'Connell talks about the fight to
    keep the public service - and the union movement - alive.

  * The Ultimate Piss Off
    Wollongong workers on poverty-level wages are losing up to $5000
    for taking toilet breaks, according to the union representing staff
    at a Stellar call centre.

  * Last Drinks
    Jim Marr looks at the human cost of the decision to close Sydney's
    Carlton United Brewery

  * Around the States
    If Tampa told us that John Howard circa 2003 is the same spotted
    rabid dog from 1987, this week's assault on Medicare confirms it
    reports Noel Hester in this national round up.

  * Radical Surgery
    Workers are vitally interested in Medicare, not least because they
    traded away wage rises to get it. Now, Jim Marr writes, the
    Coalition Government is tearing apart the 20-year-old social
    contract on which it was founded.

  * Massive Attack
    Labour historian Dr Lucy Taksa remembers the general strike of 1917
    to put the recent anti-war marches into perspective

  * The Price of Missing Out
    University students and their families will pay more for their
    education following the May Budget, writes Tony Brown.

  * If At First You Don't Succeed
    Love is wonderful the second time around, goes the famous torch
    song. But is the same true for legislation? Asks Ashley Crossland

  * What's Right
    Neale Towart looks at a new book that looks at the failings of the
    Left, while reasserting the liberal project

  * IMF Ensures Iraq Institutes Market Based Looting
    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has agreed to monitor the
    Iraqi economy to ensure that the reintroduction of looting into the
    economy conforms with free-market theory.

  * If He Should Fall
    Jim Marr caught Irish folk-rock-punk legend Shane MacGowan at
    Sydney's Metro Theatre. He was surprised but not disappointed.

  * If I Were a Rich Man
    Through a distortion in the time-space continuum, we have found a
    recording showing how people a few years into the future will deal
    with health care.


  * What May Day Means to Me
    Reader Marlene McAlear penned this tribue to May Day and worker

  * The Toast
    Labor Council secretary John Robertson's toast to the annual May
    Day dinner in Sydney.

  * The Numbers Game
    In life there is lies, damned lies and sporting statistics, says
    Phil Doyle - but who's counting.

  * Brukman Evicted
    ZNet's Marie Trigona reports from the streets of Argentina in the
    rundown to last week's presidential election.

  * The Costs of Excess
    Some tall business poppies had their heads lopped this week as the
    laws of economic gravity applied their always chaotic theory.


  * Snake Oil Jim
    Pan Pharmaceuticals disgraced hands-on CEO Jim Selim has rolled
    into the Tool Shed after putting hundreds of jobs on the critical

News - Latest News

  * Mystery Men Behind Pan Bungle
    Pan Pharmaceutical staff didn't know the men responsible for half
    of them losing their jobs and the others facing uncertain futures.

    AWU delegate, Paula Rich, a 14-year-veteran with the company,
    revealed that when directors appeared on television in the wake of
    Australia's biggest pharmaceuticals recall, it was an eye-opener
    for most of her workmates.

  * Charities Brace for Medicare Backlash
    Australian charities are bracing themselves for requests to meet
    medical bills for the first time in living memory.

    That was the stark warning from St Vincent de Paul spokesman, Peter
    Rigg, as unions, community groups, health professionals, churches
    and political parties met in Melbourne to organise resistance to
    John Howard's latest assault on Medicare.

  * Court Throws Out Cole Prosecutions
    Another court has delivered a blow to the credibility of the Cole
    Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry.

    A Melbourne magistrate today dismissed contempt charges against
    Victorian CFMEU secretary, Martin Kingham, and awarded costs
    against the Federal Director of Public Prosecutions.

  * Child Actor Dodges Broken Voice
    A broken voice has not spelled the end of an emerging star's
    participation in the hit musical 'Oliver!', thanks to a union code
    protecting the interests of child actors.

    Fifteen-year-old Benjamin Nicholas was facing the poor house after
    nature intervened mid-way through the production meaning he could
    no longer play the pivotal role of Dodger.

  * Rio Tinto: $40 Million for Boss, Eviction for Workers
    Rio Tinto is attempting to throw five families out of their central
    Queensland homes and slash health care from retired Utah
    steelworkers while authorising a $40 million retiremement payout
    for chairman, Robert Wilson.

    More than 2000 Western Australian trade unionists rallied outside
    the Perth offices of Hammersley Iron demanding a fair go for the
    miners and steelworkers on May Day before representatives put their
    cases to shareholders at the nearby AGM of parent company, Rio

  * Child Care for Oldies Too
    Unions have called for a major rethink of aged care policy, with
    workers responsible for their aging parents requiring the same sort
    of support that young parents receive through child care.

    The call came as more evidence emerged of employer inflexibility in
    the guise of Dick Smith Electronics, who have thrown two women out
    of work after refusing to take account of their family

News - Also News

  * Winning Poster Shouts at Freeloaders
    A poster asking workers whether they'd expect to drink all night
    for free has won the Labor Council's May Day Poster Competition.

  * May Day Tragedy Claims Union Lives
    South African unions have called for a week of mourning, after more
    than 60 trade unionists died when their bus crashed on the way to a
    May Day service.

  * Westfield Cleaners to Down Mops
    Parramatta's giant Westfield Centre is staring down the barrel of
    industrial action from cleaners abandoned without pay for up to six
    weeks and forced to abort planned holidays.

  * Question Marks Over Nursing Home
    The Health Services Union of Australia has questioned the
    accreditation for a further two years of a nursing home where
    patient care was found to be substandard and no-one worked at

  * Burn Payout Highlights Compo Fears
    Two workers this week awarded $3.7 million in the Supreme Court in
    compensation for horrendous burn injuries would have received less
    than 25 per cent of that sum under new workers compensation laws.

  * Costa Blows Whistle on Canberra Raid
    The Carr Government has ruled out accepting the Commonwealth's bid
    to take over the state's rural freight rail network, with new
    Transport Minister Michael Costa saying he has 'significant
    reservations' about the current offer.

  * Hoops Bet on National Body
    Jockeys are taking their organisation national in a bid to
    standardise racetrack safety around Australia.

  * Tear Us Down, Buttercup
    The company which closed down Broken Hill's Buttercup Bakery had
    been "unrelenting" in its bid to cut costs to the detriment of
    employees, according to the Barrier Industrial Council.

  * Activist Notebook


  * Is Labor History?

  * Bob Gould Sprays Gerard Henderson

  * War and Peace

  * A Strange Light

  * A Little History

  * Does It Have To Be?


  * Solidarity Forever
    Another May Day, another year gone, another year to look back on
    our history and celebrate the past and talk about how we can make
    our movement strong again.

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