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Issue No. 218 30 April 2004  
E D I T O R I A L

End of the Casual Affair
The Secure Employment Test Case that kicks off in the coming week in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission will be an important test of how far down the path of labour market deregulation we have travelled.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Terror Australis
The Howard Government has just discovered the nation's ports are a terrorist target. The International Transport Federation's Dean Summers has been warning them for years.

Unions: Graeme Beard's Second Dig
Hidden in the Australian Workers Union Sydney office is a mild-mannered industrial officer who once strutted the international cricket stage, writes Jim Marr.

Industrial: The Hell of Troy
On the basis of a couple of hours in the witness box, Building Industry Royal Commissioner Terence Cole described Troy Stratti as "credible". Six men who, together, have known the company director for the best part of 50 years beg to differ.

Organising: Miners Strike Gold
Traditional unions are rediscovering the power of grassroots organising. Paddy Gorman reports from the coal face.

Economics: The Accepted Wisdom
Evan Jones argues that economic policy making has been narrowed and rendered mechanistic and antiseptic.

History: Vicious Old Lady
Despite its Liberal leanings, the Sydney Morning Herald has never been shy of bashing unions, writes Neale Towart.

International: Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Thailand must end its crackdown on Burmese fleeing rights abuses in their military-ruled homeland, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

Review: War Unfogged
Want to go to war but not sure where to start? Look no further than Errol Morris' latest doco-drama for the definitive 11-step lesson plan, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: TAFE
A TAFE student struggling under the weight of fees shares his wordly wisdom

N E W S

 WA Bosses Duck for Cover

 Static Hits Digital Revolution

 Rising Sun Sets on Costello

 Terror Telegraphs New Era

 Dust Storm Greets Hardie

 Psych Nurses Seek Safety

 Work Bad for Your Health

 Govt Lays Death Track

 Howard Slugs Battlers

 APHEDA Wins Award

 Feds: Freedom Is Slavery

 Free Trade Fun Day

 Activists What’s On!

C O L U M N S

Postcard
A Voice for Peace
Palestinian trade union leader calls on militants to lay down their arms while the ICFTU protests harassment of Palestinian union leader.

The Soapbox
The Double Standard Bearers
Nicholas Way argues that when it comes to collective action, the Howard Government has different views depending on whether you are a unionist or a small business.

The Locker Room
The Fine Print
While the result mightn’t be everything, it does make the back of the newspaper more interesting, as Phil Doyle reports.

Politics
The Westie Wing
Ian West crunches the numbers in Macquarie Street and finds virtue in deficit.

L E T T E R S
 Tom is UN-Amazed
 Organ’s Manslaughter Pics
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

WA Bosses Duck for Cover


Employers, including WA’s powerful Chamber of Commerce and Industry, are protecting their backsides in the wake of immigration rort revelations.

Workers Online and the AMWU, last week lifted the lid on the abuse of dozens of tradesmen, imported from South Africa and paid as little as one-third of going rates.

The AMWU fingered three companies - labour hire outfit Freespirit, the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Pretoria-based Australian Business Associates - as ringleaders of a scheme that pays qualified boilermakers, pipe fitter and welders as little $11.45 an hour, after expenses.

In the wake of the revelations, Freespirit hired a PR company, Australian Business Associates rushed its South African representative to Perth, and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry made noises about extricating itself from the scheme. But, according to AMWU representatives on the ground, none of them would talk to affected workers.

"They are all pointing the finger at one another," state secretary Jock Ferguson told Workers Online. "But nobody will take responsibility for what has happened.

"Freespirit has hired a legal firm and a PR agency. We have made numerous requests for meetings to try and sort this out but, so far, nothing.

"We want these workers paid the appropriate rates that apply in the industry and we want an end to unfair conditions that are being applied. At the end of the day, we want a fair go for these people because they are working in our country.

"Someone, eventually, is going to have to face up to that."

The union is also concerned by allegations from the South Africans that they were instructed not to join trade unions on pain of deportation.

When a boilermaker from Johannesburg went public about his situation, two weeks ago, he was sacked from Perth engineering shop, RCR, the following day.

The scheme was revealed when 25 South African tradesmen walked off jobs in Perth, Port Hedland and Kalgoorlie, in protest at their treatment. They all signed up with the AMWU.

One boilermaker revealed he was earning $13.40 an hour, after expenses, alongside Australians at Port Hedland on $44 an hour union-negotiated agreements.

Members of the 25-strong group said they had answered advertisements in Johannesburg newspapers placed by Australian Business Associates.

They went to a meeting with a woman, claiming to represent both Freespirit and the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She told them four-year visas would be arranged and they would earn around $25 an hour.

When they arrived in Australia they were farmed out to a range of sites where all-in rates were eaten away by a $1 an hour health care levy; nine percent super deductions; and 12.5% kickbacks to the labour hire company.

On top of that, they faced $5000 slugs to cover airfares and administration costs on visas arranged through Australia's Immigration Department. Most said they were being charged 144 percent interest on that figure.

Unions say the scheme is being facilitated by a Federal Government prepared to use immigration to undermine the earnings of Australian families.

AMWU organiser Steve McCartney said the South Africans deserved praise for blowing the whistle on the practice.

"They've stood up to be counted on this. They don't know anyone in this country but they do know they are being shafted by Freespirit, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federal Government," he said.


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