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Issue No. 186 11 July 2003  

Beyond the Possible
For a union movement that is struggling to break through the constraints of time and place, the visit of US union leader Amy Dean this week has been a breath of fresh air.


Interview: As They Say In The Bible ...
One the movement’s great characters, Public Service Association general secretary Maurie O’Sullivan, is calling it a day. He looks back on his career with Workers Online.

Industrial: Just Doing It
Sportswear giant, Nike, is the first company to sign off on an agreement that purports to protect Australian clothing workers, wherever they labour, writes Jim Marr.

Unions: Breaking Into the Boys Club
For a 23-year-old woman who has never worked in the trade, recruiting young construction apprentices into the union has its challenges, reports Carly Knowles.

Activists: Making the Hard Yards
Mal Cochrane came to the smoke as part of an Aboriginal avalanche that redefined the face of Rugby League. Today, he serves his community through the trade union movement.

Bad Boss: In the Pooh
What do you give a boss who makes his workers labour in raw sewage? A nomination for the Tonys.

Unions: National Focus
In the national wrap Noel Hester finds a Victorian Misso delo who is redistributing lucre from Eddie McGuire into workers’ theatre, South Australian unions taking that Let’s Get Real stuff seriously, an American unionist fronts up at a distinguished ‘meeting of the brains’ in Adelaide and a look at the line up for ACTU Congress.

Economics: Pop Will Eat Itself
Dick Bryan wonders if we can be insured against pop economists promising financial nirvana as well as financial market instability.

Technology: Dean for President
Paul Smith looks at how the internet is helping one Democrat candidate to the front of the primary pack

International: Rangoon Rumble
Union Aid Abroad's Marj O'Callaghan looks at Australia's weak response to developments in Burma.

Education: Blackboard Jungle
Lifelong learning shouldn’t mean cutting jobs, but that's exactly what the Carr Government is proposing, argues Tony Brown

Review: From Weakness to Strength
Labor Council crime-fighter Chris Christodoulou catches up with his boyhood hero, the Incredible Hulk

Poetry: Downsized
Resident bard David Peetz pens the song the Industrial Relations Commission needed to hear


 Stop Thief: Shelf Company Owes Millions

 Axed Workers Take on Max

 Seven Bowls Bouncer at Umpire

 Smokescreen Clouds Morris McMahon Win

 Rail Boss Locked In

 Actors To Be Paid Their Dues

 Ruddock Urged to Block Immigration Scam

 Silicon Workers Seize Their Valley

 Wage Case Swings on Fare Go

 Fire, Pepper Spray all in a Day’s Work

 Taking It Up for Medicare

 Shelved Worker Fights Back

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Cleaning Up
Rabbi Laurie Coskey from San Diego adds her voice to the global campaign for just for cleaners in Westfield malls.

The Locker Room
The Name In The Game
In an age of the sportsperson as celebrity it seems that names are overtaking the games, writes Phil Doyle.

The Beach
Southern Thailand’s terrorist activities: facts or fiction asks HT Lee

 Union Posters
 Tom's Lessons
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Stop Thief: Shelf Company Owes Millions

A company with form has cost 70 Sydney production workers $2.5 million in super and entitlements, sparking calls for a major rewrite of company law.

Metro Shelf, the most public face of the Metro Group of Companies who manufacture supermarket supplies for the likes of Coles and Woolworths, went into administration yesterday, owing around $30 million to banks alone.

Down the gurgler with Metro went around $1.6 million in owed entitlements and at least $700,000 in super contributions, unpaid for the past year in contravention of existing law.

Metro had been negotiating a new EBA with unions, including the AMWU, AWU and CFMEU for the past three months, without tipping off anyone to its true financial position.

The company predominantly manufacutures supermarket trolleys with a workforce of around 90 people, the majority of whom are Vietnamese Australians. It has kept on 20 people in an effort to trade its way out of administration which unions label "optimistic".

AMWU secretary, Paul Bastian, said the time had come for Federal Government to "get serious" about protecting workers' money.

His union is insisting on a three-pronged approach to protect super and entitlements, whilst ensuring that directors of bust companies don't continue to run other businesses into the ground.

The AMWU recipe calls for:

- workers' money to be put beyond the reach of employers through industry funds such as NEST

- reverse onus on directors of companies in administration or receivership, requiring them to prove their "hands are clean" before they can act as directors of other businesses

- the ability to extract money owed from related companies, based on shared directorships

"The law has to change because ASIC isn't interested in chasing these bastards, even when there is evidence in creditors' reports of illegal activities. ATSIC only follows through on the cases it considers sexy," Bastian says.

"Metro Shelf is not a one-off case. It is happening all the time and our people are losing out."

Meanwhile, he says, time and again, directors get to keep big houses, flash cars and continue operating other businesses.

Between December, 2001, and December, 2002, 6000 Australian businesses failed, costing 55,000 workers their jobs and many of them their entitlements.

Metro Shelf is one of a number of companies operated by Hommous Khoshaba, and Paul and Craig Coughlan. They have set up an intricate web of business relationships which can see workers at the same site, doing the same job, employed by different legal entities in a reminder of the notorious Patrick arrangement, green-lighted by the Howard Government.

Metro companies were involved in a spectacular dispute with the CFMEU four years ago. Workers and students picketed Woolworths stores to prevent the company dumping regular employees in favour of labour hire casuals.

Two years ago, sacked AMWU members struck and picketed for months before winning reinstatement and significant financial compensation.


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