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Issue No. 221 21 May 2004  

Wage Fixing
The Premier’s attempt to cajole the NSW Industrial Relations Commission - and his subsequent eleventh hour bid to reopen wage negotiations - is about a lot more than the teachers' pay claim.


Interview: Machine Man
It’s regarded as the most powerful job in the Party, but new NSW ALP general secretary Mark Arbib wants to build a bridge with the union movement.

Unions: Testing Times
Unions are not opposed to drug and alcohol testing, but they do want to see real safety issues addressed, writes Phil Doyle.

Bad Boss: Freespirit Haunts Internet
FreeSpirit forked out a motza for a whiz bang internet presence then disappeared right off the radar – once it was nominated as our Bad Boss for May.

Unions: Badge of Honour
Surry Hills is home to one of the world’s finest displays of union badges thanks to Bill "The Bear" Pirie and a supporting cast headed by Joe Strummer, Mark Knopfler, George Benson, Annie Lennox and other seriously big noises.

National Focus: Noel's World
Shrill bosses bleat over minimum wage rise, union spinmeisters congregate in Melbourne and Tassie’s nurses take the baton from their mob in Victoria reports Noel Hester in this national round up.

Economics: Safe Refuge
A humanitarian approach to refugees and an economically rational one?? I’d like to see that. Frank Stilwell did, when he went to Young in NSW to look into the impact of the Afghan refugees on temporary protection visas who came to work for the local abattoir

International: Global Abuse
Amnesty International have joined the chorus against the violation of trade union rights in the former Soviet republic of Belarus.

History: The Honeypot
To the Honeypot come those individuals anxious to get their hands on instant wealth. So it was in the early days of Broken Hill, wrties Grace Hawes in this homage to the mining town.

Review: Death And The Barbarians
This new take on coming of age films focuses on the coming of death and the dignity and maturity it can inspire among those touched by it - though not always easily in the overcrowded Canadian public health system, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Resident Bard David Peetz uncovers some of the unfolding mysteries of talk back radio.


 Chalkies Draw Line In Sand

 Porkies Leave Shearers In Tents

 Dust Flies In Asbestos Blue

 Joel’s Law One Step Closer

 BHP In Hedland Horror

 Occupation Focuses Anglo Minds

 STOP PRESS - Mitsubishi Carves Up SA

 Ties That Bind

 Fair Play At The Olympics

 Rally Demands Boss’ Head

 Nurses Stake Aged Claim

 Labor To Roll Up Sleeves

 Feds Take Axe To Safety

 AWU Remembers 9-11 Victim

 Activists What’s On!


The Soapbox
Rethinking Left and Right Part 1
Dr David McKnight, from the University of Technology, Sydney presents a new frame for looking at the competing ideas within Social Democracy.

The Soapbox
Rethinking Left and Right Part 2
David McKnight concludes the paper he presented to the ‘Rethinking Social Democracy’ conference, in London, April 15-17, 2004.

Out On A Limb
Phil Doyle becomes the first Australian journalist to state that the Olympics will be called off.

The Westie Wing
In the latest episode, Ian West explores what Disraeli called "Lies, damn lies and statistics".

Message from America
Searing snapshots from a landscape of uncertainty have plunged the Bush Administration into deeper crisis, writes WorkingForChange's Bill Berkowitz.

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BHP In Hedland Horror

Five employees from a company accused of overseeing "plumeting" safety standards are this week fighting for their lives in Western Australian hospitals.

A gas explosion at BHP Billiton’s Port Hedland briquette plant left four men suffering horrific burns and battling for survival after being airlifted to Perth by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Then, today (Friday) a teenaged apprentice was critically injured at a Pilbarra mine operated by the same multinational corporation.

BHP's Billiton's Port Hedland iron ore operation was the focus for accusations reported in last week's Workers Online resulting from the death of AMWU activist, Cory Bentley, whose head was crushed in an early-morning accident.

After Bentley's death, management began removing bright red posters that urged employees to "aim high, move fast" and spelled out massive tonnage targets required by the company.

AMWU secretary, Jock Ferguson, said it appeared BHP Billiton had put production before safety.

The claim was amplified by ACTU Pilbarra organiser, Will Treacy, who said safety standards had "plummeted" since the company launched a 1999 campaign to de-unionise its Pilbara operations.

BHP Billiton lured nearly 40 percent of the workforce onto non-union AWAs with massive inducements, worth up to $100,000 to some employees.

"The thing with these contracts is that they inhibit people from speaking out on safety for fear of being hammered in performance reviews," Tracey said last week. "Anyone who speaks out on safety is labelled a trouble maker."

A stunned Ferguson this week repeated his call for an independent safety audit of the whole BHP Billiton operation.

One of the men burned at Port Hedland this week, after hydrogen exploded during maintenance work, was said to have suffered severe burns to 90 percent of his body.

Three contract workers sustained "bad" burns to their faces and bodies in the same incident.

Their injuries sparked the West Australian newspaper to go digging and within 24 hours it was bringing readers stories from other workers who had been injured in explosions at Port Hedland.

Ken Te Wano told the paper he had been in an "almost identical" accident in July, 1999, while Mary Halls, the cousin of one of the men injured this week, confirmed she, also, had been burned while working at the facility.

"I can't believe this has happened twice to the same family, it is a really dangerous place," she told the West Australian.

Workers Online understands the teenager hurt in the mine accident was being sustained by a life support system.

"BHP makes a massive amount out money out its Pilbara operation but this senseless loss of lives has to stop," Ferguson said. "There has to be a change to its culture of production at all costs."


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