||Issue No. 169||07 March 2003|
Re-considering The Accord
Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Interview: League of Nations
Industrial: 20/20 Hindsight
Organising: On The Buses
Unions: National Focus
History: The Banner Room
International: The Slaughter Continues
Legal: A Legal Case For War?
Culture: Singing For The People
Review: The Hours
Poetry: I Wanna Bomb Saddam
Satire: Diuretic Makes Warne's Excuses Look Thin
The Locker Room
Strangers in the House
Nursing Home Concerns
Investigate the Buggers
The gloves came off as the newly-created task force, headed by controversial federal policeman Nigel Hadgkiss, went in to bat for Brisbane employers facing protected industrial action this week.
Police insiders say Hadgkiss built his reputation on the use of telephone tapping and within days of his office tripling numbers in Brisbane, a range of union officials were reporting telephone "irregularities".
ETU Queensland secretary, Dick Williams, described what was bugging him.
"Sometimes, when I go to my message bank a recorded voice will come on the line saying only one person can be logged into this service at once," he said.
"Put it this way, I've been using a mobile phone for more than 10 years and I have never had a problem with my message bank until now. It's strange because I don't get it all the time, just every now and then.
"It started with one of my organisers and now, all of a sudden, four of us are getting the same message."
Williams' revelation came days after the Courier Mail reported the task force had offered Brisbane building companies help to play "hardball" against their employees.
The newspaper said this would include the "possible use" of a strike breaking force.
Building workers returned to dozens of Queensland sites this week, after 10 days of strike action in support of EBA claims which include a 36-hour week. Unions agreed to lift the stoppages and employers suspended legal moves while a solution was sought through the offices of the IRC.
The taxpayer-funded task force had, however, already caused a furore.
Federal Parliament heard allegations that one task force member had sought to use apprentices and contract labour as strike breakers, particularly on the high-profile Suncorp Stadium redevelopment.
Hadgkiss conceded he had six investigators examining alleged award breaches at Suncorp and told the Courier Mail his organisation was supplying legal advice to employers.
Labor MP Arch Bevis lashed the task force in parliament, alleging it had provoked the Suncorp dispute.
"Phone tapping citizens going about their lawful jobs is an extremely serious issue," he said. "It's a disgrace that warrants further and full investigation."
Victorian senator Gavin Marshall took Abbott's industrial police force to task in the Senate.
Both legislators have backed ETU calls for a full Senate Inquiry into the task force, its funding and operations.
Meanwhile, in Sydney, creditors are moving to have Building Industry Royal Commission favourite, S & B Industries, wound up in the Supreme Court.
One action against the company, run by husband and wife team Stephen and Barbara Strong, has been adjourned, apparently so a creditor owed even more money can take over the running.
The Strongs created a sensation with Royal Commission allegations of union standover tactics, threats and extortion attempts. However, a belated examination of telephone records cast severe doubt on the legitimacy of these allegations, seriously embarrasing Counsel Assisting who had already submitted that they should be believed in all regards.
Once again workers look like missing out. Prior to moves for the company to be place into liquidation, the CFMEU had filed claims, on behalf of four employees, for more than $10,000 in unpaid wages and entitlements.
Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission, earning up to $1.5 million a head, failed to put the Strong's business practices under any scrutiny at all, despite evidence of safety and other irregularities.
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