Sometimes important national news stories emerge in the most unlikely of places. In this case I am talking about The Melbourne Times newspaper, part of the sometimes surprisingly feisty Fairfax Community Network. The Melbourne Times has a history as a larrikin force to be reckoned with, but has been blander in recent times under the Fairfax ownership.

But in the last issue reporter Andrew Fenton has picked up on a story which seems to have been completely missed by the bigger journalistic end of town. It is about Union Solidarity, a new umbrella organisation which has been set up to get round the industrial relations laws. The Times reports:

As an unregistered organisation, without assets, Union Solidarity is not liable for the huge fines or damages registered unions risk when they take industrial action.

Union Solidarity does not even have formal membership. According to the Times the group was set up in late 2004 after the Government won control of the Senate and the impact of the industrial relations changes became clear. Union Solidarity is able to conduct picket lines, or what they prefer to call “community assemblies” and other action in support of striking workers. The Melbourne Times has an interview with the organiser, former Builders Labourers Federation official Dave Kerin. He is claiming some significant victories already. The organisation’s website is here.

This issue of The Melbourne Times has been out for almost a week, but the larger Fairfax has yet to follow up. It’s a shame. The issues raised deserve wider coverage than just the inner suburbs of Melbourne.

Peter Fray

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