||Issue No. 128||15 March 2002|
Why I'm Marching
Interview: The Wedge Buster
History: Fighting for Peace
Unions: Rattling the Gates
International: Facing Retribution
Technology: How Korean Workers Used The Web
Industrial: Working Futures
Review: Rumble, Young Man, Rumble
Satire: GG Survival Doomed: Fox-Lew In Charge Of Rescue Bid
The Locker Room
Week in Review
Girl's Maiming Sparks Entry Plea
Textile Clothing and Footwear Union secretary, Barry Tubner, says the case of Yu Ge will be presented to the Carr Government as unions argue for immediate entry rights as part of the five-year review of the NSW Industrial Relations Act.
Tubner says the restoration of immediate entry rights is the only protection against a repetition of the human tragedy in which a youngster had half her right hand and thumb amputated after being caught in a machine at premises operated by River Island Clothing Ltd.
Yu Ge also suffered damage to her right foot, reducing sensation and limiting the growth of her calf in the accident that occurred in 1999 but has only now made it to the courts.
"It is obvious that when you are required to give 24-hours notice you are never going to find a 10-year-old working a sewing machine," Tubner says.
"The Department of Industrial Relations and Workcover deal with things after the event but the real issue is prevention. The only organisation able and prepared to deal with that is the trade union movement but entry restrictions leave us handcuffed.
"Vulnerable immigrants, and their children, are the losers.
Right of Acess
Theoretically, unions have immediate access on health and safety grounds but, in practice, these rely on rare tip-offs. They cannot enter sweatshops on the off-chance safety regulations are being abused.
A recent NSW State Government Sweat Shop Taskforce uncovered a string of clothing industry rorts. Health and safety top a list which also features bodgy wage and personnel records; and persistent evasion of superannuation and workers compensation payments.
David Tritton, a TCFU official who worked on the Taskforce, explains the practical difficulties.
"There are operations in Sydney I visited as a union official, giving 24 hours notice, who presented wage records showing six employees. When we visited those same places with the Taskforce, which had immediate access, we found 20 and more people on the sewing machines.
"These people cover their tracks. Give 24 hours notice and you will find workers, machines and records all gone."
Tritton says besides immediate entry there must be a requirement to keep records on the premises if governments are serious about health and safety, and rooting out child labour.
Five Year Review
Prompted by Taskforce discoveries, immediate access is a key Labor Council submission to the State Government's five-year review of industrial law. Those submissions closed on December 21 and the council is yet to hear anything from the Department of Industrial Relations or minister, John Della Bosca.
Yu Ge won't get her hand, her sport or her dexterity back but her family is looking for some level of justice through the legal system..
Traumatised by their daughter's disfigurement the family plans a new life in New Zealand. Even those dreams are in disarray after the system failed to come up with a judge when the case was listed for hearing in Sydney this week.
Yu Ge v River Island Clothing is rescheduled for June.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson says the best his organisation can do for Yu Ge is convince government that similar incidents should not happen again.
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