||Issue No. 203||14 November 2003|
Beyond the Workplace
Interview: Union for the Dispossessed
Unions: Joel's Law
National Focus: Spring Carnival
Bad Boss: Fina and Fiends
Industrial: The Price of War
Economics: Who's Got What
History: Containing Discontent
Review: An Honourable Wally
Poetry: The Colours of Discontent
Perils Of Pauline
Put A PM On The Barbie
Tom Holds Water
Hardie Shareholders Face Death
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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