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Issue No. 240 01 October 2004  

The Premiership Quarter
After spending the past month with a decidedly sinking feeling, there’s a whiff of hope and expectation that the Howard era could actually be coming to an end.


Interview: The Last Bastian
AMWU state secretary Paul Bastian has been at the centre of the three year battle to bring James Hardie to account.

Unions: High and Dry
Jim Marr unpacks the recent High Court Electrolux decision to test whether the ruling matches the media hype.

Security: Liquid Borders
The Howard Government loves to trumpet its national security credentials but a close look at its record in shipping sinks the myth argues MUA’s Zoe Reynolds.

Industrial: No Bully For You
Phil Doyle reports on how bringing dignity and respect to the workplace is undermining bullies.

History: Radical Brisbane
Radical Brisbane extends the 'Radical City' series into the Red North. Two experienced activists, academics and writers turn South East Queensland history on its head.

International: No Vacancies
More than 1400 hotel union workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 2, are on strike at four major hotels in San Francisco, California, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Life After Capitalism
A situation that all anarchists dream of? Michael Albert has been more than dreaming., writes Neale Towart

Technology: Cyber Winners
Labourstart's Eric Lee looks at a good news story of global online campaigning that has delivered a victory.

Poetry: Do It Yourself Poetry
Teaser: Wondering why the polls are all over the place? Ask our resident bard and psephologist.

Review: Hard Labo(u)r
The Voice of Southern Labor highlights the role music played in the 1930's US textile strikes, but more than that it provides a lucid insight into the roots of modern capitalism and some truly organic organising, writes Tara de Boehmler.


 Kev Cooks the Books

 Black Hole In Libs Kids Plan

 Xerox Copies Waterfront Tactics

 Hardies Asbestos Woes "Snowballs"

 Air Fleet Grounded By Job Cuts

 Musos Lung For Better

 Customs Officers Declare

 Dumbing Down The Trades

 Pacific National Sidetracks Hunter Jobs

 Witch Hunt For Whistleblower

 Black Diamond Deaths Spark Mining Inquiry

 Pensioners Strip Over Pension Strip

 Activists What's On!


True Lies
Labor Council secretary John Robertson argues It’s Time – for an IR reality check.

The Westie Wing
Much work has been done in the past to ease the plight of clothing outworkers in New South Wales. It's time to step up the pressure, as sweatshops and clothing contract work are thriving stronger than ever, writes Ian West.

The Soapbox
Who Started the Class War?
Evan Jones looks across the Australian political landscape and asks who are the real class warriors?

The Locker Room
First Past The Post
Phil Doyle is coming up in class and is all the better for recent racing

Westie Wing
Our favourite state MP returns for his monthly Macquarie Street wrap.

Positive Action
Australian unionists are helping give hope to Filipino workers living with HIV/AIDS.

 Donkey Vote
 Problem Solved
 How To Run Society
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Hardies Asbestos Woes "Snowballs"

La Trobe Valley power workers were kept in the dark about the danger of asbestos to the point where they threw "snowballs" of the deadly dust at each other and wiped films of it off their coffee cups at work.

The revelations come as the wave of action against James Hardie gathers steam, with high-level talks in Sydney and workers claiming victimisation for protesting in Melbourne.

As union negotiations began, workers in the Gippsland revealed how they used to play with the deadly substance as recently as the eighties.

The Gippsland, which suffers seven times the national average in asbestos deaths, is still battling with the problem due to the widespread use of the material in the local power industry.

"There are still problems with various government's attitudes to removing asbestos from power stations," says John Parker, secretary of the Gippsland Trades and Labor Council. "There is a lot of the fibrous stuff around that becomes highly airborne."

Local trade unionists have been battling for contractor Able Demolition to be held accountable for what workers claim is inadequate safety measures.

An independent hygienist, WorkSafe Victoria and unions have all been kept out of an Able Demolitions job at Lurgi Gas Plant.

"In the past this company imploded a chimney at the old power station, blowing asbestos all over Yallourn," says Parker. "They let a worker fall through a sheet of asbestos. "Workers are still being exposed to asbestos from the demolition of the Lurgi plant."

The Gippsland Trades and Labor Council is working with the Gippsland asbestos r elated Diseases Support Group (GARDSG) and the local La trobe Council to develop a community response to the widespread incidence of asbestos in the community.

The disturbing news of the history of State Electricity Commission workers was contained in a Melbourne University report, 'Work and Health in the La Trobe valley' compiled by Tony LaMontagne and Hannah Walker.

Gippsland unionists have accused the Victorian government of "sitting on its hands" over the issue.

< b>Sack Threat For Asbestos Victims

Meanwhile, workers at a German multinational in Victoria became the latest victims of the ongoing James Hardie debacle after being threatened with the sack for protesting against the asbestos giant.

The news comes as legal pressure mounts on James Hardie bosses after US based CEO Peter Macdonald stood down this week.

German multinational KSB is taking disciplinary action against 45 Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) members working at Tottenham in Victoria, because they participated in a protest rally against James Hardie.

KSB Ajax Pumps had demanded that they machine asbestos without protection in the past, according to employees. Workers asked for asbestos protective equipment at the time but were denied it by the company.

AMWU members employed by KSB Ajax pumps stopped work and joined thousands of workers at a rally to protest against James Hardie's attempt to limit compensation rights of those exposed to asbestos.

"The workers and the union gave the company plenty of notice that they would be attending the protest demonstration," says Julius Roe, National President of the AMWU. "KSB Ajax Pumps decided to threaten the employment of our members for their decision to go to the rally. It issued written warnings to the workers and threatened to sack them if it happened again.

"It is the only manufacturing company in Victoria to do so."

Workers at KSB Ajax struck for 24 hours in protest over the company's refusal to lift the threat to sack them.

"Many members who have worked for the company for decades with an unblemished record are deeply offended that the company have targeted them in this way," says Roe. "We believe that this company has no right to threaten workers with termination for exercising their human right to protest over corporate misbehaviour on asbestos."

The Victorian Trades Hall Council executive has unanimously decided to back the workers at KSB Ajax if called upon by the AMWU.

The AMWU have also written to the Chairman of the company in Germany, as well as to German trade unionists as part of their campaign.

Hardie's Boss Cuts And Runs

The move by James Hardie CEO Peter McDonald to stand down follows the release of the Jackson Inquiry report into James Hardie's dealings over its asbestos liabilities.

Inquiry Commissioner David Jackson, QC, found the CEO had misled and deceived the public.

The NSW Premier Bob Carr lifted legal protection from James Hardie, opening the company up to investigations by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Mr Jackson also found that both Mr Macdonald had breached the Trade Practices Act and the Fair Trading Act.

The misconduct occurred when Mr Macdonald claimed in February 2001 that enough money had been set aside to cover all future asbestos-related claims.

Pressure from unions and NSW Premier Bob Carr has pushed embattled James Hardie chairman Meredith Hellicar to announce that the company would "work with the ACTU, as requested by Premier Carr".


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