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Issue No. 246 12 November 2004  

How It Comes To This
There are times when a worker has no real option than to take a stand, no matter the cost. This is the situation confronting NSW’s 15,000 rail workers right now.


Interview: The Reich Stuff
Robert Reich has led the debate on the future of work – both as an academic and politician. Now he’s on his way to Australia to help NSW unions push the envelope.

Economics: Crime and Punishment
Mark Findlay argues that the present psychological approach to prison programs is increasing the likelihood of re-offending and the threat to community safety.

Environment: Beyond The Wedge
Whether the great forestry divide can ever be overcome or whether it is best sidestepped for the sake of unity and sustainability in other areas is up for debate, writes Tara de Boehmler.

International: The End Of The Lucky Country
Linda Weiss, Elizabeth Thurbon and John Mathews show us How To Kill A Country

Safety: Tests Fail Tests
Nick Lewocki from the RTBU lifts the lid on the shonky science behind RailCorp testing

Politics: Labo(u)r Day
John Robertson lets fly at this years Labor Day dinner

Human Rights: Arabian Lights
Tim Brunero reports on how a Sydney sparky took on the Taliban and lived to tell the tale.

History: Labour's Titan
Percy Brookfield was a big man who was at the heart of the trade union struggles that made Broken Hill a quintessential union town writes Neale Towart.

Review: Foxy Fiasco
To find out who is outfoxing who, read Tara de Boehmler's biased review of a subjective documentary about corrupt journalism.

Poetry: Then I Saw The Light
Brothers and sisters! Praise the Lord! Brother George has saved the White House from an invasion by infidels, writes resident bard David Peetz.


 Workers Seize Cat

 Castle Hill Uprising

 Carr Flips on Rail

 Producers Call "Cut"

 Fly Me To … Anywhere

 Saint Buzz: Hymn the Man

 Patricks Attacks Westies

 Cold Comfort for Scientists

 Mothball Bowls Port Hedland

 Boss Rejects AWA

 Asbestos Audit Refused

 Bear Mauls Children

 "Leave or Leave," Telstra

 Activists What's On!


The Locker Room
In Naming Rights Only
Phil Doyle has Gone to Gowings

The Soapbox
Homeland Insecurity
Rowan Cahill tells us how the Howard Government’s appointment of Major-General Duncan Lewis to head up the national security division of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has received little critical comment, until now.

The Westie Wing
New proposed legislation in NSW provides a vital window of opportunity for unions to ensure they achieve convictions for workplace deaths, writes Ian West.

 What about the real crooks?
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Fly Me To … Anywhere

Mining giant, Newcrest, is being told to have a squadron of planes on standby as 500 construction workers threaten to quit its isolated Telfer site, en masse.

Newcrest sparked the showdown by refusing productivity payments to workers who took a day off out of respect for a supervisor who died at the camp, 300km inland from Australia’s hottest settlement, Marble Bar.

Earlier in the mine expansion project, Newcrest acceded to workers' demands for full payments when they stopped to mark the passing of another colleague.

On that occasion, workers pitched the $150 a head weekly productivity payment into a fund for the dead man's family.

AMWU organiser, Tony Lovett, says Telfer workers have taken up a collection for the dead Sydney man's wife and two daughters, despite the company's stand, but are insisting Newcrest honour the agreement struck earlier.

"A meeting at Telfer today resolved that unless Newcrest pays PIPs they will be seeking planes," Lovett said. "That mean mass resignations.

Lovett said Newcrest's reaction to last week's death brought simmering frustrations to a head.

Telfer is located just inside the Rabbit Proof Fence on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert. Construction workers are flown in from around Australia and do four consecutive 74-hour weeks, before getting one week off.

The site has been plagued by problems. Four months ago, the three largest sub-contractors threatened to walk out, claiming they hadn't been paid.

Cyclone Fay wrecked havoc with the rebuilding program and project costs have nearly doubled from the original $1 billion estimate.

Lovett says, without question, though, the biggest problems are isolation, accommodation and health and safety.

"We have won good rates but these guys deserve every cent," he says. "It's hard to imagine anywhere more isolated. They work 74 hours, over six days, and its not unusual for temperatures to hit 45, and sometimes, 50 degrees."

Lovett and a CEPU representative will fly to Telfer on Wednesday to try to broker a settlement.

Mining Companies Reject Safety Moves

The stand-off comes as mining companies prepare to fight Western Australian government moves to limit working hours on health and safety grounds.

An experts' report to WA's Worksafe Commission recommends limits on the hours and consecutive shifts at around-the-clock operations.

Fly-in, fly-out operations, like Newcrest, are specifically mentioned in recommendations that seek to introduce 72-hour weekly maximums.

Many WA mines require fly-in, fly-out staff to work nine consecutive 12-hour days.

The mining industry has slammed the health and safety proposals on the grounds of increased costs.

But ACTU organiser, Will Treacey, said limitations were a priority.

"The mining industry wants self-regulation but whenever industry is left to regulate itself, it doesn't work," Tracey said. "Production requirements over-ride safety, every time."

He said, only recently, a Henry Walker Eltin employee at the isolated Yandi mine filed an incident report after being required to complete a 24-hour shift, driving heavy machinery.

Tracey said the pit supervisor had defended that requirement on the grounds that the worker had had a one and a half hour break during the shift.

"At BHP sites, we get regular reports of people working in excess of 14 and 15 hour days," Tracey said. "These are dangerous environments in the first place and, the fact is, that fatigue kills."


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