||Issue No. 240||01 October 2004|
The Premiership Quarter
Interview: The Last Bastian
Unions: High and Dry
Security: Liquid Borders
Industrial: No Bully For You
History: Radical Brisbane
International: No Vacancies
Economics: Life After Capitalism
Technology: Cyber Winners
Poetry: Do It Yourself Poetry
Review: Hard Labo(u)r
The Locker Room
How To Run Society
Hardies Asbestos Woes "Snowballs"
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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