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Issue No. 205 28 November 2003  

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.


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.


 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


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.

 Mad Monk’s Medicare Minus
 A Tale Of Three Cities
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Miners Tackle Million Dollar Sidestep

A coal giant’s $5 million bid to avoid legal scrutiny over the deaths of four Hunter Valley miners looks set to be scuttled by retrospective legislation.

Miners have put a national coal strike on hold while the NSW Government considers legislation to thwart the latest manouevre in a three-year Xstrata campaign to keep the deaths from legal scrutiny.

CFMEU Mines division president, Tony Maher, is confident the Government will trump Xstrata's latest move to have 12 charges against Gretley Mine management dismissed because the wrong Minister, allegedly, authorised the prosecutions. It followed the filing of 16 interlocutory injunction in the space of three years.

"We have had useful meetings with the Carr Government and expect retrospective legislation will be introduced, if necessary," Maher said.

"We expect the issue will be resolved justly but the possibility of a stoppage still exists. The problem with these multi-national mining companies, when it comes to any concept of justice, is that their pockets are incredibly deep."

It has been seven years since John Hunter, Damon Murray, Mark Kaiser and Edward Batahan lost their lives at Gretley and a spokesman for then owner, Oakridge Mining, promised to "co-operate fully" with all investigations.

Since Oakridge was taken over by Xstrata, however, families of the miners have been frustrated by one legal manouevre after another in a bid to keep cases from being decided.

The CFMEU estimates the company will have spend $5 million on lawyers by the time the Gretley case ends.

But Maher says Gretley is just one example of safety standards, and accountability levels, miners find unacceptable.

"The records show that employers pay $88.40 for every miner killed," Maher said. "Our communities and families say coal miners lives are worth a lot more than that."

He based his maths on the fact that there have only been two successful prosecutions, bringing total fines of $221,000, in a state where more than 2000 coal miners have been killed on the job.

NSW and Queensland are both in miners' sights.

The union is demanding better protections in Queensland where mining companies are regularly handed OH&S exemptions and the industry is policed by persons who have to have been mine managers.

Maher says there has never been an OH&S prosecution in Queensland, successful or otherwise, stemming from any of its more than 500 fatalities.


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