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Issue No. 198 03 October 2003  

The Monk Off Our Back
It should come as no surprise that Tony Abbott has been dragged from his workplace relations portfolio just as his $60 million assault on the CFMEU finally unravels.


Interview: No Ifs, No Butts
Rugby League Professionals Association president Tony Butterfield on his battle to deliver a collective agreement for NRL players.

Unions: National Focus
In this month’s national wrap: Noel Hester meets a heavy hitter talking up open source unionism, truckies front the suits at Boral’s AGM, tales of corporate bastardry and Medicare birthday revelry.

Industrial: Fools Gold
Unions have thrashed out a string of protocols with the NSW Labor Government. Some, now, are questioning whether they are worth the cheap, imported paper they are written on, reports Jim Marr.

Bad Boss: Bones of Contention
Byron Bay chicken boners have nominated thier boss for a Tony after seeing their entitlements plucked.

History: The Gong Show
In late September the South Coast Labour Council (SCLC) celebrated 75 unbroken years championing the rights of workers in the coastal Illawarra region 80 kilometres south of Sydney, writes Rowan Cahill.

Politics: The Hawke Legacy
The election of the Hawke Labor government twenty years ago holds some salient lessons for today’s Labor Party, writes Troy Bramston.

International: Sick Nation
As Australia celebrates 20 years of Medicare’s universal health coverage the crisis facing American workers in need of medical care is a useful reminder of what we’ve got – and what we stand, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Closed Minds
Philip Mendes looks at the political influence of right-wing think tanks, their financial backing and asks why the left hasn’t been able to get its ideas out there.

Review: Mixing Pop and Politics
He's had relations, with girls from many nations... but Billy Bragg seems to like us Aussies as much or even more than any of the others, writes Pádraig Collins.

Poetry: One Size Fits All
There once was a man from the Lodge - Who tried hard, our poems, to dodge... Resident bard David Peetz is back!


 Concrete Boot for Democracy

 Picketers Get Blue Ribbon Result

 ICAC Call at Mudgee Abattoir

 Telstra on Charges

 Unis Walk Over Federal Bullying

 IRC Shoots Rooster that Quacked

 Ugly Australian Riles Timorese

 Medicare Gets Abbott For Birthday

 Business Council Opposes Salary Vote

 Rail Workers Call For Self Defence

 ACT Leads On Industrial Manslaughter

 Thumbs-Up for Awards Binding Subbies

 Entitlements Crash into Hangar

 Blackouts on NSW Horizon

 State Govt Told To Clean Up Contracts

 Would-be Presidents Face Union Probe

 Activists Notebook


North By Northwest
Phil Doyle returns from up north, where he survived on nothing but goodwill, good people and a great big orange bus.

The Soapbox
The $140 Million Patriot
It would be hard to imagine a steeper slide from hero to zero than the experience of Richard Grasso, the now-deposed head of the New York Stock Exchange. writes Jim Stanford.

Bush's Bad News Blues
The Bush Administration is cooking up a new campaign 'to shine light on progress made in Iraq', writes Bill Berkowitz.

The Locker Room
A Tale Of One City
Phil Doyle gazes into the crystal ball for signs of life, and finds that somewhere the horses are running in the wrong direction.

With Banners Furled
There is no better account of the glory that was the annual Labour Day marches than that given by Kylie Tennant in Foveaux, her fictional account of life in inner Sydney in 1912, the year she was born.

The Westie Wing
Our favourite Macquarie Street MP, Ian West MLC, reports on the world of NSW politics.

The Cancun Wash-Up
The dramatic collapse of the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico, last month has been followed by a deafening quiet from Geneva, Brussels and Washington, writes Peter Murphy.

 A Hard Act To Follow
 Which Boss?
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Concrete Boot for Democracy

If Boral directors get their way only shareholders worth more than $90 million will be able to propose significant policy changes at future AGMs.

The extraordinary proposition is Boral’s response to small shareholder demands for improved workplace safety, and shareholder control over executive remuneration.

TWU secretary, Tony Sheldon, is in no doubt that the directors' proposal, mailed to stockholders in the lead-up to this month's annual general meeting, is retaliation for the campaign mounted by truck drivers agitating under the Boral Ethical Shareholders umbrella.

Sheldon labeled the proposal, listed as Resolution 3 on the AGM notice of meeting, an "outrageous attack" on corporate democracy and accountability.

"In effect, it would transfer all meaningful decision making powers at Boral to the board of directors," Sheldon said. "All shareholders would be disenfranchised and small shareholder groups would have absolutely no say in the direction of their company."

Currently, items going to Boral's constitution can be forced onto the AGM agenda by the combined weight of 100 stockholders, large or small.

Directors, however, are proposing that the company's constitution be changed to restrict that right to the board of directors or shareholders controlling at least five percent of the company's stock.

This week there were 343, 848, 587 ordinary Boral shares and they traded at $5.30.

If directors get their way, shareholders wanting significant policy changes would need to control around 17 million shares, valued at more than $91 million, to have their issues discussed.

Sheldon said this would "completely disenfranchise" every one of the 5300 Mum and Dad investors in the concrete company. Between them they hold just 4.15 percent of Boral stock.

Two of the resolutions forced onto this month's AGM by Boral Ethical Investors and supporters, including church groups, seek the formation of a board sub-committee to monitor health and safety, and that director remuneration be subject to AGM control.

Both, technically, go to the company's constitution and could in future be denied a hearing by a board that has written to shareholders recommending that they be rejected.

Meanwhile, the Boral Ethical Shareholders campaign has been boosted by public support from Uniting Care, a church-based charity holding more than 200,000 company shares.

TWU members will take a Uniting Care letter to institutional investors it is meeting in the lead-up to the AGM.

"We have been advised of a number of incidents of safety, which are of concern to us," Uniting Care executive director, Rev Harry Herbert, writes to Boral bosses.

"We understand that Boral was fined $130,000 in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission following the death of a Boral employee who died after being crushed between pallets of bricks. Again, in the Queensland Commission in another case, the fitting of an unsuitable turntable led to the overturning of a truck and tanker. Finally, we have been advised that your company was fined $60,000 following an accident in your timber mill at Tumbarumba (NSW).

"Of particular concern to us are comments that your company is not conscientiously seeking to put training and procedures in place in order to minimise or, if possible, eliminate accidents of this type.

"You will appreciate that it would be a matter of serious concern to us should there not be a concerted attempt by your company to address these matters."


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