||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
Air Fleet Grounded By Job Cuts
The engineers, members of the Electrical Trades Union, are so concerned about the run down in maintenance standards that they staged a protest outside the Amberley RAAF Base in Queensland last week.
The workers do maintenance work on instrumentation for F-111s, missile guidance systems, and electronic components on other RAAF aircraft. The systems are vital to maintaining Australia's regional aviation supremacy.
ETU Queensland secretary, Dick Williams, says since 2001 the avionics maintenance workforce at Amberley has been more than halved from 110 to 50.
Maintenance work on the crucial Fighter-Bombers has been contracted out to private firm QANTAS Defence Systems (QDS).
Williams' believes Australia's defence capability is being eroded by bean counters at the firm, which is especially concerning in light of the war against terrorism
"The Queensland electricity supply industry is a classic case of what can go wrong when you slash maintenance workforce levels.
"I think many Australians would be concerned to learn that similar corporate behaviour could now be undermining our defence capability," says Williams.
"We took the matter to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission earlier this week...and the Commission recommended we take further action over the issue. Today's protest meeting is part of that further action."
As Victims Wait for Compo ...
Meanwhile, a Howard Government decision to delay compensation to dying F-111 flight engineers until after the election has been condemned by victim's groups, the ALAEA and the ALP.
A general health and medical study on the workers was handed to the RAAF two months ago.
A previous report found over 900 former and serving Air Force engineers are 50 percent more likely to develop cancer after working on fuel tanks of the Fighter-Bomber.
Author of the cancer study, Dr John Attia, says the combination of organic solvents, cramped working space, lack of protective equipment and hot temperatures many have led to the high rate of cancer.
For 30 years engineers at Queensland's Amberley Air Force base were required to enter the cupboard sized tanks and break down chemical seals with highly toxic solvents like SR51.
Many of the workers, some of whom are in their early 30's and late 20's, have developed cancers, cardio-vascular problems, skin conditions, lung complaints, and neurological disorders - some have been confined to wheel chairs.
The workers are calling for full compensation from the government.
Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association federal secretary, David Kemp, has urged the government to fully compensate affected personnel, many of who went into civilian life as members of the ALAEA.
"These are men who worked to protect our country by keeping a technical advantage over potential aggressors and now it looks like the government is prepared to abandon them," Kemp says.
Paul King, ALP candidate for Groom where many of the engineers live, said they should not have to wait for compensation.
"These people don't have a lot of time left," says King
"some of them are very, very sick."
For a victim's story click here
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