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Issue No. 201 31 October 2003  

Criminal Logic
It has taken the tragic death of 16-year-old Joel Exner to focus public opinion on laws that allow an employer guilty of killing a worker to get off paying a measly $1800.


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!


 It's Official - Life Worth $1800

 Bank Fesses-Up on Robbery

 Corrigan Straddles Robot

 Striking Guards Beat Chubb

 Killer Company Cuts And Runs

 Call Centre Loses Its Sensis

 Greens Set to Bowl Workers’ Homes

 The RSL With No Beer

 Law Rewritten To Get Workers’ Cash

 Pressures Lead To Truckie Deaths

 Soup Kitchen Signals Bleak Future For TAFE

 Art For Workers Sake

 Carr Sweeps Cleaners Off Their Feet

 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.

 Child Labor
 Industrial Manslaughter
 The Miracle Of Tom
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Killer Company Cuts And Runs

Construction giant James Hardie Industries wants to wash its hands of up to 42 000 Australians expected to die from asbestos related diseases by 2020.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) secretary Paul Bastian has lashed the move to shift the obligation onto NSW taxpayers as "an act of corporate bastardry".

In 2001 James Hardie Industries established a fund to compensate victims of asbestos related diseases; this fund now faces an $800 million shortfall and the company is refusing to guarantee future liabilities.

James Hardies claimed that the establishment of the fund - known as the Medical Research & Compensation Foundation' - would "manage James Hardie's asbestos liabilities and related litigation, compensate sufferers of asbestos related diseases and fund medical research to find treatments for these diseases".

At the time, asbestos victims and unions warned it was a dodge to try and avoid escalating liabilities. That position was set out in a AMWU letter to James Hardie Industries, warning the company could not duck its legal and moral responsibilities.

"I particularly remember the two spivs who turned up on behalf of James Hardie's to sing the praises of this wonderful fund," says Labor Council Secretary John Robertson. "They turned up with ready-to-go press releases we were supposed to endorse.

"We were very suspicious, and as it's turned out quite rightly so. This is an absolutely appalling situation. James Hardie has profited for many years by exposing workers to asbestos."

Media reports have put the bill for compensation for asbestos related diseases at $6 billion. The move by James Hardie is believed to be an attempt to shift the bill for compensation onto the public purse - forcing victims suffering from asbestos related diseases to go to the NSW state government for compensation.

The AMWU says the company knew the effects of asbestos and profited by tens of millions of dollar from continuing production but now wants the public to pick up the health bill.

It flagged the James Hardie campaign months ago when the company's insurer, Allianz, began sounding out politicians about changing compensation laws.

The AMWU has received support from the NSW Labor Council to conduct a campaign to ensure James Hardie and insurer Allianz meet their responsibilities to the victims of asbestos related diseases.

"It appears that James Hardie has deliberately contrived its corporate structure to quarantine itself from any legal action related to future compensation claims," says Bastian. "We are not going to tolerate that. We will continue to hold them accountable.

"The management of James Hardie either deliberately lied or has been grossly incompetent."

Asbestos is a deadly substance with its fibres known to cause lung cancer and mesothelioma. It was commonly used in the construction industry until the 1980's even though its risks have been known since the 1950's.


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