The Official Organ of LaborNET
click here to view the latest edition of Workers Online
The Official Organ of LaborNET
Free home delivery
Issue No. 147 09 August 2002  

A Call to Action
While there has been a lot of angst, anger and no shortage of tub-thumping over Simon Crean's push to cut union influence in the ALP, the end result of the Hawke-Wran review is that it is a call to action for unions to reclaim their party.


Interview: Save Our Souls
Labor's superannuation spokesman Nick Sherry expands on his recent discussion paper into the industry.

Unions: Rats With Wings
As the Cole Commission continues to sidestep safety, another Sydney building accident puts workers at risk this week, Jim Marr reports

Bad Boss: If The Boot Fits
Royal Commission favourite and S & B Industries top dog, Barbara Strong, carts off this week�s Bad Boss nomination.

History: Political Bower Birds
Rowan Cahill looks at a new resource detailing the fading history of the Communist Party of Australia

International: No More Business as Usual
Global unions are stepping up their campaign against corporate rip-offs

Corporate: The Seven Deadly Sins of Capitalism
Shann Turnbull outlines a new set of rules that should govern capital in the post-Enron environment

Industrial: Stiffed!
A backyard horror story has left funeral workers worrying about mooted changes to industry regulations, Jim Marr reports

Review: Prepare To Bend
If it�s a feel good flick that you want, Bend It Like Beckham is sure to satisfy on every level, writes Tara de Boehmler

Satire: Bush Boosts Sharemarket Confidence: Shares his Cocaine Stash
President Bush has rushed to re-establish confidence in the US market by distributing cocaine from his own Presidential stash to Wall Street.


 Mainstream Media Vacates IR

 Ten Click Walker 'Unfit for Work'

 Unions Push for Baby Nest

 Casino Workers Overtime Jackpot

 Abbott�s Task Force �Rank Hypocrisy�

 Shipping Policy Blamed for Reef Damage

 Dropping The Ball On Training

 Combet Pushes Consultative Vehicle

 Maternity Leave for Pacific Workers

 Hit List of Forced Closures

 Magistrate Endorses Health and Safety Rights

 Contracts a Thorn in Workers' Side

 Fringe Success for Workers� Pick

 Activists Notebook


Workers on Film
Last issue we asked you for your ideas on a union film script to match Ken Loach's The Navigators. Here are the best responses.

The Soapbox
Driving Together
ACTU Secretary Greg Combet argues that the Australian car industry needs a partnership between business and labour.

The Locker Room
Dogs And Underdogs
Phil Doyle explains why losers are half the equation in each and every sporting contest

Week in Review
Filfthy Rich and Claptrap
While Labor and the Democrats are tearing themselves to shreds, Little Lachie and Rich Ray address the main game �

Muddy Waters
It was a week when the Prime Minister washed his hands despite mounting evidence that the corporate world is out of control.

 Fraser No Workers' Hero
About Workers Online
Latest Issue
Print Latest Issue
Previous Issues
Advanced Search

other LaborNET sites

Labor Council of NSW
Vic Trades Hall Council
IT Workers Alliance
Unions on LaborNET
Evatt Foundation

Labor for Refugees



Rats With Wings

As the Cole Commission continues to sidestep safety, another Sydney building accident puts workers at risk this week, Jim Marr reports


Pigeons are the only things moving on the eastern end of Westfield's $320 million shopping centre redevelopment at Bondi Junction. Even they pick their spots on the giant concrete floors and exposed steel reinforcing rods, and their caution is well advised.

At least three serious incidents on the Adelaide St end of the redevelopment have the CFMEU and Labor Council demanding a joint Workcover-union construction industry safety blitz.

Since workers went onto that part of the site a giant underground steel pin has been driven through a power cable, cutting electricity to Bondi and putting at least one commercial radio station off the air; a concrete slab, roughly 20m by 20m, has broken off and tumbled nearly two metres to the deck; then, on July 31, demolition labourer Willie Tawhai fell four floors when the concrete roof he was working on broke away.

Tawhai was admitted to St Vincent's Hospital with a broken arm, severe bruising and lacerations. Not bad, considering.

Visitors said he told them he thought his number was up.

One moment he was standing on the roof, hosing down the surface to keep the dust from nearby shoppers. Next thing, he was falling. Tawhai opened his eyes, thinking he was dreaming, until seeing workers from the adjacent Westfield site clambering towards him.

He had landed, fortuitously, between two concrete slabs, having avoided a mass of sharp, steel reinforcing rods on the way down.

The figures he saw were not angels but trained first aiders, Steve Hollis and Steve Healey, who had been working just outside the demolition zone.

Hard-bitten Westfield CFMEU site delegate, Bill Docherty, labels their efforts "heroic".

"When we got there Willie was lying in the rubble. Our blokes didn't think about themselves, they just went in to help. I believe, in all honesty, what they did was ridiculous but commendable, and I've told them that.

"They took a risk. We are all conscious of health and safety but, in emergencies, you find most construction workers will do what they think is right. That means helping someone in trouble."

Healey was first across with an oxygen bottle. Hollis was right behind him and Docherty arrived from the main site with the first aid kit.

It's important to understand that the demolition site isn't, technically, Westfield's responsibility. They've handed it over to demolishers, RJ Brady, until the demolition is completed.

Bob Brady is president of the Demolition Association and he wants greater regulatory oversight before he puts other employees at risk.

Brady is backing Labor Council moves to have the demolition division of Workcover reinstated. Equally important, he says, it should be a condition of Development Applications that builders register design specification for posterity.

"Honestly, you come onto some sites blind," he said. "You try and get the specifications off councils and they say they've been lost.

"What demolishers need is access to the as-built drawings so that when our grandchildren are tearing these places down they know the design philosophy

"They shouldn't get a completion certificate until that information is filed."

Back in the 70s, when this shopping centre was going up, the principal builder went bust. Different firms completed different sections and, with the fa�ade ripped away, their shortcuts have been exposed.

There is no reinforcement around some of the columns. Most of the concrete in the central columns is white, a sure sign that it doesn't include a hell of a lot of cement.

Looking at the exposed concrete floors is intriguing. On the Oxford St end they are thick with steel reinforcing but just 50m back there is barely any support at all.

CFMEU organiser Martin Wyer has seen it all before.

"You know what's happened here?" he asks, rolling back the decades like some archealogical detective. "The concrete's been ready, they haven't got the reinforcing in and the boss' said - f?** it, let's pour."

He shakes his head.

Brady's no more upbeat. He was on site when Tawhai fell.

"The column in the middle just went," he says. "One of the slabs pushed against it and it just collapsed.

"We knew the site was bad. It was worse than we thought, that's all."

A posse of unionists, including Wyre and Docherty, join Brady, his engineer and Westfield's site boss for coffee at the mall across the road.

The discussion's polite but there's an edge.

Experienced CFMEU safety officer, Brian Miller, holds the floor. He's reasonable, but insistent. Not just about the demolition site but the Westfield area as well. He wants protection for workers and he insists on improved barriers, and traffic control, to keep shoppers and the general public out of harm's way.

"You're going to have to shut that road and the council's just going to have to live with it," he insists. "If that wall tumbles out, people could be killed."

Brady takes copious notes.

Labor Council's Mary Yaager will set out all the issues by fax for sign-off by Brady or Westfield.

Westfield's man is in a hurry. His company is said to be losing tens, if not hundreds of thousands, every day the pigeons rule the roost.

Docherty wants hard info, so he can call his workmates together and tell them exactly what happened, next door, and why? Brady agrees to address their meeting.

Once the demolition phase is complete and building gets into full swing there will be 1000 workers employed on the site. With just 65 there at the moment, Docherty is confident he will have collected $2000 by the end of the week to help Tawhai and his family.

Driving back to the city, Miller is filthy.

"It's all bloody wrong," he says. "Some of these people don't really care about safety."

He has a few targets in his sights - Workcover for not taking action when it was informed of the first slab collapse; and councils in general, for not policing or encouraging safe practises in their jurisdictions.

The Cole Commission, he insists, is derelict in its responsibilities to industry workers and the public for failing to highlight the issue. Worse, Miller argues, it's become a screen dodgy bosses are increasingly hiding behind.


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 147 contents

email workers to a friend printer-friendly version latest breaking news from labornet

Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue

© 1999-2002 Workers Online
Workers Online is a resource for the Labour movement
provided by the Labor Council of NSW
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005

Powered by APT Solutions
Labor Council of NSW Workers Online