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Issue No. 224 11 June 2004  
E D I T O R I A L

The Passion For Power
Arguably Midnight Oils’ greatest ever song ‘Powderworks’ starts off with the apocalyptic warning "there’s a shit storm a-coming."

The Passion for Power
Arguably Midnight Oils’ greatest ever song ‘Powderworks’ starts off with the apocalyptic warning "there’s a shit storm a-coming."

F E A T U R E S

Interview: The New Democrat
Canadian activist Judy Rebick explains how she's using lessons from Brazil to rebuild the labour movement.

Bad Boss: The Ugly Australian
Prime Minister John Howard is in California spruiking the "merits" of this month’s Bad Boss nomination …

Unions: Free Spirits and Slaves
International capital demands guest labour – legal or illegal – as a way of beating down wages and conditions and, as Jim Marr discovers, the Australian Government seems happy to oblige.

Industrial: National Focus
Noel Hester reports on another workplace death (we-will-not-RIP NOHSC), heartburn for the Canberra consensus and all the action from around the states in our national wrap.

History: A Class Act
The problem of forgetting the primacy of class in favour of other ideas of community is highlighted in a new book, writes Neale Towart

International: Across the Ditch
NZ Nurses Union leader, Laila Harré, is in Sydney this week, comparing notes with the Australian Nurses Federation and seeking transTasman support for New Zealand’s highest profile industrial campaign.

Economics: Home Truths
Sydney University's Frank Stilwell argues that tax policy is driving the housing boom.

Review: No Time Like Tomorrow
The Day After Tomorrow is one part Grim Reaper of the environmental movement and two parts fictitious fable dramatically window dressed with extreme special effects, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Silent Note
Resident Bard David Peetz uncovers the current public service motto – "Don't tell the Minister!".

N E W S

 Making Plans For Nigel

 People Importer Wants Indemnity

 Desperate Ambos Turn to Copper

 Victims Dusted in Asbestos Row

 Delos Bang Victory Gong

 Teaching 12 Percent Tougher

 Now Carr Faces Medical Bill

 Officers Hurt in Transit

 Support Unit Makes Canberra Debut

 Winter Beds Breakthrough

 Workers Wait For Bread

 HoWARd the A**sLIcKEer

 Activists What’s On!

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part I
The Australia Institute's Clive Hamilton questions the assumptions underlying a society that defines happiness in dollar terms.

The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part II
Clive Hamilton concludes his analysis, looking at how more and more Australians are pulling back from a marketplace that is no longer providing the goods.

The Locker Room
Sack ‘Em All!
Phil Doyle puts his job on the line, but doesn’t everyone these days?

Politics
The Westie Wing
The NSW Government has an agenda on the table but the test is finding innovative ways to finance it, writes Ian West

L E T T E R S
 Godbotherers Descend On Poor
 Sick Of This Job
 Office Junior’s Secrets
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

People Importer Wants Indemnity


FreeSpirit wants exploited South Africans to indemnify it against backpay claims that could exceed $100,000 as the price of keeping them in the country.

The company has been at the centre of a storm of controversy since the AMWU blew the whistle on its importation of 29 boilermakers, pipe fitters and welders who were paid effective rates as low as $11.50 an hour to work in Western Australia.

The day after two of the South Africans, Ronald Oliveira and Roland Claasen, went public about their predicament they were both sacked. In the case of Oliveira, at least, FreeSpirit has informed him in writing it is revoking his four-year immigration visa and seeking his deportation.

FreeSpirit refuses to negotiate with the AMWU although all 29 South Africans have joined the union.

Last week it offered some of the men undisclosed amounts on condition that they signed secrecy agreements and deeds of release with a wholly-owned subsidiary that would take over their sponsorships.

Their new employer would be FSP Technical Pty Ltd of 36 Clarence St, Sydney.

The deeds require the South Africans to release FreeSpirit from "all claims and actions in relation to the employment relationship".

Workers Online understands FreeSpirit argues its only salary obligation to the skilled tradesmen is to meet the minimum $37,820 a year required by DIMIA, irrespective of hours worked, or agreements that apply to Australian workers on the same jobs.

This rate, according to the new contracts, includes loadings for annual leave, long service, sick leave, statutory holidays, termination and other entitlements, as well as "provision for repatriation of You and Your dependents".

The proposed "sponsorship employment agreements" make it clear the South Africans are "casuals" who may be moved from job to job at FreeSpirit's whim.

"You will work for the periods and the hours required by Our Clients," it reads. "We will pay You no less than the minimum annual salary level, calculated on a pro rata basis, specified in Regulation 1.20B of the Migration Regulations ..."

The workers, already charged $5000 in South Africa for fees, paperwork and airfares, are required to make another "non-refundable contribution" of $650 towards costs of new sponsorship agreements. Many are still being charged interest, at 144 percent, on their original $5000 loans.

Workers are required to meet their own insurances.

FreeSpirit insists that terms of the agreements must remain "confidential", even after they have terminated.

FreeSpirit has been accused of engaging in "pyramid labour hire" by AMWU WA state secretary, Jock Ferguson.

His organisation is seeking to carry out time and wages inspections on behalf of each of the South Africans with a view to lodging claims in the Industrial Relations Commission.

Ferguson has written to other state branches in a bid to identify 1000 South Africans FreeSpirit says it has working in Australian on Section 457 visas.

Meanwhile, the AMWU is confident of being able to prevent the deportations of Oliveira and Claasen. It hopes to be able to confirm the identity of alternative sponsors within the next seven days.


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