||Issue No. 250||21 December 2004|
Beyond The Law
Interview: The King of Comedy
Unions: Ten Simple Rules
Politics: Rampant Indivdualism
International: Global Struggle
Economics: Cashing in the Year
History: Grass Roots
Review: Cultural Realities
The Locker Room
The Price Of Tea In China
Cry For Me, Argentina
Ho Bloody Ho
Right Is Wrong
Business As Usual
All In The Family
Swing Left Wishful Thinking
Hadgkiss Gives Mourners Grief
The Taskforce filed writs after efforts to get its hands on the personal bank accounts of employees at Melbourne’s Concept Blue site were rejected by Justice Marshall, in the Federal Court, as "foreign to the workplace relations of civilised societies, as distinct from undemocratic authoritarian states."
Individual Multiplex employees face fines of up to $12,000 on charges of accepting payments for periods of "industrial action" and breaching disputes resolution procedures, under draconian penalties introduced by the Howard Government.
Nigel Hadgkiss' Taskforce has levelled the same charges against the CFMEU which could be fined $66,000 for backing a practice that sees sites closed for safety audits after building industry deaths.
The writs were filed less than a year after Hadgkiss told a Senate Estimates hearing his organisation did not prosecute employers for award breaches.
"These writs confirm the bias of the federal government and its taskforce," Victorian CFMEU representative, Jesse Madisson, said. "They don't prosecute employers for award breaches but they don't hesitate to go after us or our members."
State secretary, Martin Kingham, called Hadgkiss' manoeuvre a "gross abuse of power".
"I have been around a long time and seen many things but I am shocked at how far they have gone this time," Kingham said. "Effectively, they are taking individuals to court for having a meeting to organise a collection for the widow of a fellow worker."
Kingham said Melbourne practice drew attention to workplace safety, allowed workmates to pay their respects, and provided support to bereaved partners and dependents.
He said following the most recent Victorian fatality, in St Kilda Rd, the CFMEU set up a trust fund for the infant child of the dead man. That fund, and immediate assistance, was supported by collections at meetings across the city.
Since allegations, in the Senate earlier this year, that Hadgkiss' taskforce was paying teenagers for information and illegally recording conversations, the Howard government has introduced legislation to beef-up its powers.
Meanwhile, the CFMEU is urging the government to take off its blinkers and act against employers who kill its members.
National secretary, John Sutton, pointed to recent safety convictions against Baulderstone Hornibrook, arising from the deaths of building workers in South Australia and Victoria.
The company was fined $55,000 after pleading guilty to two charges arising from the Glenelg death of 26-year-old Lee Alexander. That came just months after the Victorian Magistrate's Court imposed a $375,000 fine over the 2001 death of Fred Smith.
Sutton said, taken together, the two sanctions represented 0.043 percent of Baulderstone Hornibrook's annual turnover.
"Instead of wasting taxpayers' dollars on prosecutions of workers trying to protect their safety, the Howard Government could introduce measures that forced employers to take the issue seriously," Sutton said.
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