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Issue No. 191 15 August 2003  

Three Year Itch
The triennial ACTU Congress meeting Melbourne this week comes at the most difficult of times for the union movement, as the horror prospect of seven years of conservative government becomes an ongoing reality.


Interview: The New Deal
US union leader Amy Dean expands on her agenda to give unions a real political voice

Unions: In the Line of Hire
Unions have lobbied and negotiated in a bid to stem casualisation and insecurity. Now, Jim Marr, writes they are seeking protection through a formal Test Case.

Culture: Too Cool for the Collective?
Young people are amongst the most vulnerable in the workforce. So why aren't they joining the union, asks Carly Knowles

International: The Domino Effect
An internal struggle in the biggest and strongest industrial union in Germany IG Metall has had a devastating wave effect across not just that country, but also the rest of Europe, writes Andrew Casey.

Industrial: A Spanner in the Works
Max Ogden looks at the vexed issue of Works Councils and the differing views within the union movement to them.

National Focus: Gathering of the Tribes
Achieving a fairer society and a better working life for employees from across Australia will be key themes at the ACTU's triennial Congress meeting later this month reports Noel Hester.

History: The Welcome Nazi Tourist
Rowan Cahill looks at the role Australia's conservatives played in supporting facism in the days before World War II.

Bad Boss: Domm, Domm Turn Around
Frank Sartor might have shot through but Robert Domm still calls the IR shots at Sydney City which pretty much explains why the council is this month’s Bad Boss nominee.

Poetry: Just Move On.
Visiting bard Maurie Fairfield brightens up our page with a ditty about little white lies.

Review: Reality Bites
The workers, united, may never be defeated but if recent episodes of Channel 10 drama The Secret Life Of Us are to be believed, this is not necessarily a good thing, writes Tara de Boehmler.


 Public Backs Services Over Tax Cuts

 Seafarer Awards – Full Steam Ahead

 Sunnybrand Plucks Workers

 Call Centre Stink Over Time in Loo

 Reynolds Banks on Safety

 Workers To Back League Stars

 Witnesses Line Up for Test Case

 Unfair Legislation Dismissal

 Tax Office "Bites" Its Own

 Bosses Grab Massive Pay Hikes

 IR Staff Walk Over Job Cuts

 Government Kills Manslaughter Bill

 Rail Workers Spitting Mad

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Fighting Words
Craig Emerson gave what could be the most spirited Labor spray in a decade to the NSW Labor Council this month. Here it is in all its venom.

Out of Their Class
Phil Bradley argues that Australia's education system should not be up for negotiation in the global trade talks.

The Locker Room
The ABC of Sport
Phil Doyle argues that the only way to end the corporate madness that is sport, is to give it all back to the ABC.

Locks, Stocks and Barrels
Union Aid Abroad's Peter Jennings updates on the situation in Burma, where the repression of democracy is going from bad to worse.

 Tom’s Tool
 Neighbourhood Watch
 MUA CD Launch
 The Remittance Man
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Government Kills Manslaughter Bill

Unions and Government were divided over industrial manslaughter laws following a forum on the issue in Bathurst last week.

NSW Minister for Industrial Relations John Della Bosca MLC, NSW Attorney General Bob Debus MP and the architect of the failed Victorian legislation David Moody from Slater and Gordon spoke at the event, which was held by the ALP's Employment and Industrial Relations and Law Reform and Constitutional Processes Policy Committees.

The Ministers present did not commit themselves to passing any new legislation but Minister for Industrial Relations John Della Bosca indicated his willingness to look at shortcomings in the OHS law. He said that as a result of discussions in Bathurst the NSW Government would look closely at the operation of the OHS Act in relation to fatalities. The minister said he had also approached the Attorney General regarding sentencing guidelines for OHS prosecutions.

"There are several suggestions from our discussions which I am now examining," he said.

CFMEU Says Current Laws Inadequate

The CFMEU, who support of the creation of an offence of corporate manslaughter/killing in the Crimes Act, pointed to cases like the death of Dean McGoldrick. His employer was fined $20 000; a sign of the inadequacy of the current OHS laws on workplace fatalities.

The CFMEU's Rita Malia, who was present at the conference, used the recent Pan Pharmaceuticals crisis to argue tougher measures were needed to protect against negligent bosses.

"If the Pan Pharmaceuticals crisis had resulted in the death of a customer the public would expect the company to be charged with manslaughter. And if the Crimes Act was not able to convict the company, then the public would expect that the law be amended.

"The death of workers should be investigated and prosecuted by the Director of Public Prosecutions just like any other fatality caused by gross negligence such as negligent driving. NSW here has the opportunity to become a world leader in addressing fatalities at work caused by gross negligence," said Malia.

The Victorian Experience

David Moody, who drafted legislation in Victoria that was subsequently defeated in that state's upper house, pointed out that it is currently "practically impossible" to prosecute a corporation or a director of a large corporation for the crime of manslaughter but that amending our laws would enable this to happen.

"Criminal law in Australia is not practically capable of being used successfully in prosecuting corporate criminal behaviour which results in the death or serious injury of workers,' said Moody. "It is not uncommon for a company facing OHS/criminal charges to go into liquidation, thus avoiding payment of any fines which might be imposed on the corporation.

"There is nothing which focuses a senior officer's mind more on OHS issues than the prospect of gaol time in the event of a breach."

Moody argued that inclusion of new corporate criminal offences in the existing OHS Act would lead these offences to be "regarded by both the public and the courts as 'second rate crimes' not worthy of serious attention and certainly not worthy of real criminal sanctions (such as gaol terms)".

Moody said the failure of the Victorian legislation was due to the consultative process, with only four of over forty submissions on the legislation coming from unions or victims groups.

The View From The NSW Govt

"The Carr Government takes workplace safety very seriously," said Della Bosca after the forum. The Minister set out the NSW Government's record on workplace safety including the establishment of a Fatalities Unit in WorkCover with expertise in criminal prosecutions.

"In addition to monetary fines of up to $825,000, current laws also provide for custodial sentences," said Della Bosca. "I was particularly interested to hear one of the architects of the (now withdrawn) Victorian Bill explain that the Victorian legislation would be unable to deliver what NSW unions are calling for. It is a complex and difficult issue."

"In 1997, Professor Ron McCallum recommended that because there is an existing crime of manslaughter when workplace deaths are caused by grossly negligent and/or reckless conduct, there was no need to place the crime of industrial manslaughter in the Occupational Health and Safety Act," Mr Della Bosca said.


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