||Issue No. 237||10 September 2004|
Interview: True Matilda
Politics: State of Play
Industrial: Capital Dilemmas
Unions: Rhodes Scholars
National Focus: Rennovating the Lodge
International: People Power
Economics: A Bit Rich
History: Mine Shafts
Safety: Sick Of Fighting
Organising: Building a Wave
Poetry: Anger In The Bush(es)
Review: The Battle Of Algiers
Culture: The Word On The Street
The Locker Room
Hardie Fighters Go Dutch
Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia member, Ella Sweeney, will join trade unionists Paul Bastian (AMWU) and Lindsay Fraser (CFMEU), in urging shareholders to dump CEO, Peter Macdonald, and come clean with people dying from contact with James Hardie's products.
"We are going to stare down the board and shareholders, face to face, over the injustices their representatives tried to get away with," Bastian said.
"In light of the board's conduct, and failings, we will be saying they shouldn't be given any discretion whatsoever. Their plans and schemes must be fully disclosed at an open shareholders' meeting."
Specifically, the trio will seek Macdonald's dismissal; rejection of annual accounts that have no contingency for the compensation of asbestos disease sufferers; and the thumbs-down for a planned share buy back.
Their organisations have bought James Hardie shares so the voices of lung disease sufferers can be heard in Holland.
They will demand accountability from executives, including Macdonald and Peter Shaffron, who were subject to adverse evidence in the NSW Commission of Inquiry into how a James Hardie trust fell more than a billion dollars short of being able to compensate people dying from contact with its products.
At the time of its creation, Macdonald dismissed union and victim concerns about the trust.
"It is fully funded. Of course it is fully funded," he insisted.
Shortly after the company parked its asbestos-associated subsidiaries in that foundation, the parent company got the green light from the NSW Supreme Court to move its head office to the Netherlands.
James Hardie assured the Supreme Court, in 2001, it would leave behind $1.9 billion worth of partly-paid shares for the benefit of creditors, including asbestos victims. However, at a secret meeting in 2003, board members cancelled that arrangement without informing the court, state government, victims or unions.
Senior counsel assisting the NSW Inquiry, John Sheahen, SC, has called for adverse findings against the company, key executives and advisers. He has suggested Macdonald and Shaffron could be prosecuted for fraud.
James Hardie's September 17 annual general meeting will take place four days before Commissioner David Jackson, QC reports his findings to the NSW Government.
Bastian said that timing was another matter of concern. He, Fraser and Sweeney will call on the board to commit to an Australian Shareholders Information Meeting and a Special Emergency General Meeting after the Jackson report is published.
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