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Issue No. 178 16 May 2003  

Shit Sandwich
It took a few well-chosen comments by the sole Howard Government minister with a grasp on reality - or at least a penchant for a bit of takeaway - to blow Peter Costello’s Federal Budget to pieces.


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

Bad Boss: 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.

Industrial: Last Drinks
Jim Marr looks at the human cost of the decision to close Sydney’s Carlton United Brewery

National Focus: 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.

Politics: 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.

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

Legal: 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

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

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

Review: 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.

Poetry: 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.

Satire: 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.


 Costello Whacks Women

 Abbott Picks Fight with Nurses

 Simon Slams Big End

 Hands-Off Howard Loses Seamen

 Safety Net Slips Disabled

 Clerks Put Boot In

 Bank Hold-Ups Expose Compo Failings

 Low Paid Dirty on Lawyer

 WIN Tactics a Big Turn Off

 ABC Jobs On Line

 Della’s Dallying Could Cost Miners

 Ministers of Misinformation Scoop Orwells

 Death Squads Strike

 Currawong Cottages Waiting for You

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
What May Day Means to Me
Reader Marlene McAlear penned this tribue to May Day and worker solidarity.

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

The Locker Room
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.

 Ron The Tool
 In Defence of Tom
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Safety Net Slips Disabled

Rates of pay in sheltered workers are under the spotlight, with claims some workers are earning as little as $1.50 per hour under agreements being rubber stamped by the industrial umpire.

The Labor Council of NSW has called a forum this week to discuss the status of disabled workers, while the Australian Industrial Relations Commission is so concerned its reviewing whether enterprise agreements should even apply.

Fears that disabled workers are getting second class workplace protection, even by the standards of the Workplace Relations Act, have prompted the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to announce a special forum on the issue.

The forum will air claims by disabled advocates that enterprise agreements enterprise are being rubber stamped although they fail to meet No Disadvantage Tests or carry the "consent" of disabled employees.

The AIRC full bench decision, in the Safety Net Review, comes as NSW Labour Council prepares to again grapple with employment issues facing workers with disabilities.

The Council and the community organisation, People with Disabilities, will host a conference next Tuesday at the Redfern Town Hall where organisers hope to establish a formal Alliance to push for better conidtions.

Labor Council secretary John Robertson said unions needed to work with disability groups to ensure "some of society's most vulnerable people are not exploited".

The issue has come to a head as the Howard Government moves to formalise wages and conditions by requiring funding for the 'Business Services sector' (the official term for sheltered workshops) to be linked to registered agreements.

As part of that process, which becomes law in December 2004, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission has reviewed a rash of questionable agreements.

These include the Warnambool-based Vantage Incorporated, which has recently had an agreement registered providing for hourly rates of $1.71 across its half dozen operations. A Bendigo provider employs 30 persons on a weekly payroll of $800.

Advocacy groups have long argued that employees of Business Services should have their wage rates based on the type of independent assessment of disabilities applied to counterparts in open employment.

Under that regime a trained, independent assessor puts a percentage figure on the employees' capacity, and wage rates are struck accordingly. The exercise is repeated annually.

The AIRC, in calling its forum, has asked whether enterprise agreements are even appropriate for disabled workers, questioning in some instances, their "legal capacity" to give the required consent.

Some unions have argued for awards to underpin disabled work while others see themselves as industrial professionals ideally placed to give independent advice that would satisfy the issue of consent.


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