||Issue No. 228||09 July 2004|
Thai-ed in Knots
Interview: Power and the Passion
Unions: Tackling the Heavy Hitters
Industrial: Seeing the Forest For The Wood
Housing: Home Truths
International: Boycott Busters
Economics: Ideology and Free Trade
History: Long Shadow of a Forgotten Man
Review: Chewing the Fat
Poetry: Dear John
The Locker Room
Libs have Got To Go
A Boring Bastard
A Home Of Their Own
Carr "Prefers" Americans
Unions are seeking an urgent meeting with Carr over his decision to sign off on Government Procurement Policy, included in John Howard’s US-Australia Free Trade Agreement, while Federal Labor is still wrestling with the implications for jobs and sovereignty.
Labor Council assistant secretary, Mark Lennon, says AUSFTA is not a free trade agreement at all.
"It is a preferential trade agreement between two countries and, unfortunately, all the preferences run in favour of the US," Lennon says.
AMWU secretary, Paul Bastian, said Carr's move would strip NSW of the right to direct taxpayers' money into NSW goods, services and jobs. Given the relative size of the two economies, he argued, that would translate into major disadvantages for NSW manufacturers, service providers and workers.
"The Premier has endorsed an agreement which sees NSW lose all rights to prefer local goods and services," Bastian said. "Yet the US retains its right to subsidise its own goods and services.
"It will be disastrous for local employment."
Bastian highlighted the case of Smithfield-based Berri fruit juices which recently beat off a takeover bid by Coca Cola. USFTA, he said, would leave companies like Berri "defenceless" against US corporate predators.
Australia Thais Into Sweat Shops
Australians will be forced to compete with workers earning $4.60 a day under a free trade agreement signed with Thailand, this week.
The warning was delivered by AMWU national secretary, Doug Cameron, who said the agreement, signed by Prime Minister John Howard, "totally ignored" core labour standards.
The AMWU argues Australians will lose job and business opportunities because of a massive disparity in labour standards between the two countries.
Thai wages, averaging between $A4.60 and $5.80 a day, are set by provincial committees and, even these rates, are poorly policed, Cameron says.
Other key elements of the Thai labour set-up include ...
- migrants being paid even less than the minimum rates
- civil servants barred from joining unions or taking strike action
- the ability of employers to legally terminate employment for any reason
- the frequent dismissal of workers who attempt to form trade unions
- little attempt to stop forced or bonded labour
- the widespread existence of sweat shops
Cameron says the Thai agreement shows Howard's version of "free trade" is a mechanism that allows global business to slash costs, irrespective of affects on local workers, families or communities.
"This agreement makes a mockery of the argument that free trade agreements are about creating level playing fields," Cameron says.
"How can Mr Howard expect Australian workers to compete with workers from a country with effectively no labour rights at all?"
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