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Issue No. 203 14 November 2003  

Beyond the Workplace
The NSW union movement’s intervention this week into the debate over the future of public transport is an important step in redefining what unions are all about.


Interview: Union for the Dispossessed
The Welfare Rights Centre's Michael Raper on 20 years of activism, the politics of punishment and how to make Australia egalitarian again.

Unions: Joel's Law
Building Workers have overcome powerful forces to push workplace safety back up the national agenda. But, Jim Marr writes, their "success" has come at an unacceptable cost.

National Focus: Spring Carnival
It must be spring: punting in Victoria, singing in South Australia, fighting in America. It’s all there in the national wrap from Noel Hester plus an Australian union movement rugby world cup class consciousness poll.

Bad Boss: Fina and Fiends
They sacked the job delegate, reinstated him after an IRC hearing, and sacked him again two weeks later. But that was just the beginning.

Industrial: The Price of War
Mass industrial action is brewing in Israel as the policies of the right-wing Sharon Government come home to roost, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Who's Got What
Frank Stilwell pours over the latest BRW Rich List to build a picture of the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots.

History: Containing Discontent
Racism against minorities has always been a stock in trade of politicans, writes Phil Griffiths

Review: An Honourable Wally
Most Australians probably look at our politicians and feel they could do a better job but when redundant meatworker Wally Norman gets the chance to find out he realises getting elected is a major hurdle, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: The Colours of Discontent
A thousand blossoms bloomed during the US President's spring-time colonial visit last month.


 Hamberger Bad for Kids

 BHP Faces UN Sanction

 Hardie Shareholders Face Death

 Road Workers Swing Left-Right Blows

 Joy Battles Goode at ANZ

 Developers To Kick Transport Can

 ACTU Names Its Price

 Death By A Thousand Cuts

 Ban Holes Water Police Deal

 Cleaners Mop Up Contracts Mess

 Workers Entitlements Dumped

 Overtime Goes Bush

 Libs Push Lawyers Picnic

 Unions Set To Stand Up To Bullies

 Jack Thompson Headlines Launch

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Bush's Faith-Filled Life
The President's conversion, 'sense of divine calling' and struggle with sobriety are subjects of a forthcoming book, writes Bill Berkowitz

The Not So Smart Money
Phil Doyle is sick of big money ruining grass roots sport, and he’s taking his bat and going home.

The Westie Wing
The ongoing challenge for Labor members of parliament is to make what the Premier calls the ‘creative partnership’ between the Government and the union movement a reality, writes our favourite MP Ian West.

Behind the Junta
Saw Min Lwin, Secretary for Trade Union Rights/ Human Rights for the Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB), outlines the struggle for workers in his country.

 Burma Up In Smoke
 Super Solidarity
 Perils Of Pauline
 Put A PM On The Barbie
 Tom Holds Water
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Hardie Shareholders Face Death

James Hardie Industries’ bid to keep asbestos disease sufferers, some carrying oxygen bottles, away from shareholders was foiled by sharp-eyed protesters in Sydney this week.

The company moved a shareholders meeting from the Marriott Hotel to its corporate headquarters but a dozen people dying of lung diseases tailed it to the new venue where they protested its bid to shift hundreds of millions of dollars of compensation liabilities onto the Australian taxpayer.

AMWU secretary, Paul Bastian, called the campaign an act of "corporate bastardry".

His union blew the whistle when the corporate giant's insurer, Allianz, began lobbying NSW and federal politicians for changes to dust diseases legislation, earlier this year.

Similar changes, absolving asbestos producers of their liabilities, were recently passed by the US Senate after Allianz lobbying.

James Hardie's then refused to top up subsidiaries, AMABA and AMACA, so they could meet claims from the growing number of Australians suffering asbestos-induced lung cancer and mesothelioma.

AMABA and AMACA were left to meet responsibilities to dying Australians by a corporate reshuffle that re-designated the parent company a Dutch operation.

As part of the 2001 rejig, James Hardie put $293 million into a new foundation, the Medical Research and Compensation Foundation, to be administered by AMABA and AMACA.

At the time, unions led by the AMWU, ETU and MUA, protested vigorously that $293 million would go nowhere near the company's liability to Australian victims.

Latest medical information, from Flinders University research, suggests the number of asbestos victims will continue mounting until 2020. By then, it estimates, 30,000 Australians will have died from resulting lung cancers and another 12,000 of mesothelioma.

Australia's other major asbestos producer, CSR, has agreed to put another $400 million into its compensation fund but James Hardie has rejected a plea from Llew Edwards, the man left in charge of its Medical Research and Compensation Foundation.

"James Hardie has no moral or legal responsibility for the liabilities of AMABA and AMACA," CEO Peter McDonald said in a public statement.

Bastian says James Hardie never put anything like enough money into its liability fund and everyone, including their own advisers, knew it.

"Blind Freddy could have told them that," he said. "It was a move to sanitise their name and quarantine the parent company. They can't be allowed to get away with it."


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