||Issue No. 232||06 August 2004|
Interview: Trading Places
Safety: Snow Job
Politics: In the Vanguard
Unions: Gentle Giant Goes For Gold
Bad Boss: 'Porker' Chases Blue Ribbon
International: Cruising For A Bruising
History: Under the Influence
Economics: Working Capital
Review: Fahrenheit 9/11
Poetry: Bad Intelligence Rap
Satire: Osama Bin Manchu
The Locker Room
Tom Goes Asexual
Road Rage At Work
Democracy In Action
Stink Rises from Hamberger
Forty-year construction industry veteran, Alan Kuret, told the Federal Court in Perth the office had registered a non-union AWA in his name although he had never seen, nor signed, the document.
He said, after an IRC inspection of the Burrup Fertilisers site, he had been asked to sign a pre-dated AWA by managers of Killarnee Formwork on Tuesday, March 2.
The following day, he refused, and a Killarnee supervisor had told him: "you are out of here today".
Kuret said that Killarnee boss, Paul Thompson, had informed him: "Everyone on the job is on an AWA, someone has signed for you."
He wrote to the OEA seeking the document it had registered and viewed it for the first time on April 14, 2004.
"The employee's signature that appears on the letter of offer and the AWA is not my signature," Kuret said in an affidavit. "I know this because I did not sign a letter of offer or an AWA prior to, during, or after commencing employment with Killarnee.
"None of the handwriting on the letter of offer or the AWA is my own."
Kuret's evidence was not contested.
It came in a case that also heard from the OEA's WA regional manager that his office registered electronically submitted AWAs outside the 21 days allowed by law.
Justice French called that practice "surprising".
He also heard that the OEA routinely accepted AWAs with no signatures.
The proceedings undermined key federal government claims for AWAs.
Former Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott, argued the individual, non-union contracts were about freedom of choice, flexibility and undermining pattern agreements.
However, some Burrup Fertilisers contractors will not give a start to anyone who refuses to sign an AWA. Indeed, the company at the centre of the Perth case, anti-union activist Len Buckeridge's, BGC, binds its sub-contractors to only employing on AWAs.
WA unions say similar practises abound, especially in resource development, where major employers refuse jobs to anyone who insists on a union agreement.
"AWAs are simply a strategy for deunionising the workplace," CFMEU WA secretary, Kevin Reynolds, says.
"There is no freedom of choice and there is no flexibility. It is AWA or the highway.
"Then this government rants about pattern bargaining but we've seen 100 AWAs from this contractor, alone. Each is the same, in form and substance.
"They are pattern agreements and the Office of the Employment Advocate is rubber-stamping them as fast as it can go, even when workers haven't seen them or signed them."
The OEA was established and funded by the Howard Government to both promote and police AWAs.
It has spent millions of dollars on promotion but take-up has been minimal with less than four percent of working Australians covered by them.
Last month, the head of the OEA, Jonathan Hamberger, was appointed to the IRC bench.
The federal government, employers like the Buckeridge Group, and the OEA have always contended unions had no right to approach, or speak to, employees that had been forced onto AWAs.
But, last week, Justice French ruled, the CFMEU had the right to enter Burrup Fertilisers and speak to AWA employees.
Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, immediately foreshadowed an appeal, or legislation, to overturn the implications of that decision.
Reynolds says the Minister would be better occupied trying to make the OEA comply with the law.
He has challenged Andrews to launch an independent review of the OEA and all electronically-lodged AWAs.
"The uncontested evidence clearly makes it possible for fraud to be committed and for the OEA to be none the wiser," Reynolds said.
"The challenges for the Minister are to ensure an agency under his control acts within the law, and that companies that have committed fraud are prosecuted."
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