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Issue No. 205 28 November 2003  
E D I T O R I A L

Australia Deserves Better
You only have to scan through recent issues of Workers Online to see why the leadership of the ALP is so important – not to the political insiders who judge the beauty contest that is federal politics, but to the millions of workers who are affected by its output.

F E A T U R E S

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.

N E W S

 Labour Hire Boosts Tech Wreck

 Call Centre Throws Safety Out the Door

 Miners Tackle Million Dollar Sidestep

 Bouquets for Bosses

 Mandarins Nail Carpenters

 BHP Burrow-ed By UN

 ACT Rejects Manslaughter Bullying

 No Joy for Fat Exec Packages

 WorkCover Walks Away From Racetrack

 Contractors Scramble Foxtel Signal

 Safety Derails Train Talks

 Sydney Uni Strikes At Feds

 Workers Up For Safety Awards

 Activists Notebook

C O L U M N S

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

Sport
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.

Politics
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.

Postcard
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.

L E T T E R S
 Mad Monk’s Medicare Minus
 A Tale Of Three Cities
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Labour Hire Boosts Tech Wreck


Labor hire companies have been allowed to flood the new-tech job market with short-term immigrants, leaving around 2000 Australian IT specialists out of work.

The Immigration Department blew the whistle on IT "visa rorting" when it announced its intention to apply regulations that have lain dormant since 1997, provoking the IT Workers Alliance to warn Aussie job seekers not to get their hopes too high.

Spokesman Michael Gadiel drew attention to published comments from a labour hire spokesman who said DIMIA was not trying to affect "sponsorship by recruiment companies".

"Let's wait and see what DIMIA actually does," Gadiel said. "These regulations have been around for six years but, until now, there has been no suggestion that they would be enforced.

"Instead, the Federal Government has taken a two-pronged approach to the efforts of IT workers to organise themselves. They have encouraged companies to outsource IT functions to India and allowed the wholesale abuse of temporary visas to undermine Australian wages and conditions.

"It has been a covert campaign and the results are obvious. A recent survey by a computing organisation revealed 11.9 percent unemployment amongst Australian IT workers, almost twice the national average.

"The move to enforce the regulation should mean 2000 more jobs but we will have to wait and see."

IT policy, to this point, has run counter to accepted principals of immigration economics.

Instead of using immigration as a way to overcome shortfalls in domestic skills, body hire companies have been encouraged to scour the world for immigrants prepared to take up positions at significantly lower than market rates.

The labour hire outfits, rather than the direct employers, got visas of up to four years duration from DIMIA, then placed the overseas workers with Australian companies.

Countries like Ireland, Britain and the US specifically forbid this practice because they are aware of the scope for abuse by labour hire companies, paid by the body rather than the skilled vacancy filled.

Several Sydney-based IT workers have told Workers Online they have worked alongside "dozens" of Indian immigrant colleagues who had no more than "basic" skills widely available here.

There have also been reports that labour hire companies boost below-standard wages for immigrants by deducting considerably less tax than would be paid by Australian counterparts in an apparent understanding with the ATO.

"Someone has made a significant decision that, not only can labour hire firms sponsor temporary workers in defiance of stated policy, but there will also be formal agreements between DIMIA and labour hire companies to allow them to do it bulk," Gadiel said.

"We are entitled to know - who and why?"


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