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Issue No. 214 26 March 2004  

The Security Shift
As the War on Terror spirals out of control, the political dynamics of security are starting to shift – and those banging thee drums of war may become the unlikely casualties.


Interview: Baby Bust
Labor's Wayne Swan argues that the plight of our aging workforce is only one side of our demographic dilemma.

Safety: Dust To Dust
Failure by authorities to police safety in the asbestos removal industry is threatening the lives of members of the public, writes Phil Doyle.

Bad Boss: Shaming in Print
Delegates from print shops around Sydney will publicly shame this month’s Bad Boss nominee with a rally outside his new Alexandria operation next Thursday.

National Focus: Work's Cripplin' Us
Noel Hester reports on a spin doctors' talkfest, workplace pain, stroppy teachers and IWD party time in the national wrap.

International: Bulk Bullies
An extraordinary five month struggle over affordable health care, by nearly 70,000 Californian supermarket workers, has just come to an end, writes Andrew Casey.

History: The Battle for Kelly's Bush
Green Bans saved a piece of bush before they saved much of the Sydney’s built environment, writes Neale Towart

Economics: Aid, Trade And Oil
Tim Anderson reveals Australia’s second betrayal Of East Timor is playing out before our eyes.

Review: The Art Of Work
Workers and westies are being celebrated as the cultural icons they are thanks to two Sydney exhibitions reminding us there is a world of art in the everyday, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Sew His Lips Together
Wondering where the next porkie is going to come from? Resident bard David Peetz knows.


 Terrorism: Workers In Front Line

 ‘Racist Throwback’ on Rail Project

 Green Light for Council Code

 Underground Mines a Time Bomb

 Teachers Delete Email

 Bush Uses Burma Sweatshops

 Family Mourns Dead Worker

 Call Centre Shocker

 Bosses Touched Up With Wet Lettuce

 Andrews Throws Last Dice at CFMEU

 Smelter Contractors Clear Air

 Activists What’s On!


The Soapbox
Iraq and Your Mortgage
How high interest rates go will be a key issue in 2004 and if you are looking for a clue, there's no better place to look than the war in Iraq, writes Michael Rafferty.

Hang Onto the Day Job
Show someone else the money, says Phil Doyle.

Westie Wing
Ian West shows why Eveleigh Street’s not so far away from Macquarie Street

Don’t Give Up the Fight
Get Up, Stand Up is the logo of choice on a popular range of subversive condoms. Ken Davis from Union Aid Abroad reports from Zimbabwe’s second city

 More On Green Bans
 But Will He Get the Trains To Run On Time?
 Uniting For Peace
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‘Racist Throwback’ on Rail Project

In a reprise of the bad days of 'coloured' labour, Aboriginal and Kanaky-descended workers have been shipped from northern Queensland to Victoria to work under colonial conditions.

Unions on the Traralgon-Melbourne arm of the state’s Very Fast Rail Project have discovered at least 19 Aboriginal and Kanaky-descended being short-changed by labour hire outfit, Skilled Engineering.

Gippsland Trades and Labour Council leader John Parker says when the project delegate came across the Queenslanders, they were sharing pies and sandwiches, unaware they could use smoko rooms or toilet facilities.

The Queenslanders were sleeping in cars or bunking in caravan parks. One was wearing size 9 1/2 work boots although his foot size was 11.

Many had been hired by Skilled under the terms of Federal Government's STEPS program, providing employers with $4500-a-head bounties. "It's Government's way of getting them off the dole," Parker says.

Investigations by project unions - the AMWU, CFMEU and RTBU - revealed they had been underpaid at least $4 an hour on the project rate and, worse, had spent three weeks with no incomes at all.

Contrary to the project agreement, they had been laid off and not offered work for at least eight days when they made contact with unions. Another group, apparently, had been flown south, put through medicals, then told they were not wanted.

"You imagine hungry construction workers who haven't been paid for three weeks. They were fairly hostile and there was talk of them going into Traralgon to have it out with Skilled," Parker says.

The unions have won back pay for the Queenslanders, including living away from allowance of around $400 a week; guarantees of at least six weeks on full pay; as well as commitments to fly them home at the end of their contracts.

Officials said while unions were fighting for local jobs in the La Trobe Valley, where unemployment is still 17 percent, there was "no way" they were going to stand aside and see the Queenslanders "exploited and discriminated against".

AMWU organiser, Steve Dodd, called their treatment "outrageous". "It was a throwback to the racism of the past," he said.


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