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Issue No. 250 21 December 2004  

Beyond The Law
Despite the all-engulfing gloom emenating from our political wing right now, 2004 comes to an end on a strangely upbeat note for the trade union movement.


Interview: The King of Comedy
John Robertson looks back on a year when his comic genius was finally realised.

Unions: Ten Simple Rules
Accepted wisdom has unions all but retired as serious players in the Australian game. A glance through the major industrial stories of 2004, however, suggests improved footwork, and a commitment to boxing clever, might herald a comeback, writes Jim Marr.

Politics: Rampant Indivdualism
CFMEU National Secretary John Sutton gives his take on a year when the political debate took a turn to the Right.

International: Global Struggle
Labourstart's Eric Lee looks back on a year when the struggles for labour increasingly crossed international lines.

Economics: Cashing in the Year
Look back in sorrow or look back in anger? By any standards 2004 has been a hell of a year, writes Frank Stilwell.

History: Grass Roots
Worker solidarity in Australia in the first century of invasion can give us inspiration and clues for our upcoming battles, writes Neale Towart.

Review: Cultural Realities
In 2004 popular culture shifted from reality television to reality movies, and swapped last year's light-weight subject matter for the slightly more substantial, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Y-U-C-K
Workers Online resident bard David Peetz takes inspiration from The Village People for his latest prose.


 Unions Make Hardie Pay

 Hadgkiss Gives Mourners Grief

 Mum Gets "Hopson’s" Choice

 AWAs Crash on Broken Hill

 No Fun in the Sack

 Tax Office Draws Blood

 Origin Prop a Union Hit

 Good Guy Wears Black

 Security Crisis at Sydney Airport

 Biscuit Bosses Crumble

 Ardmona Urged to Can Racism

 Bomber Predicts Big Bang

 Stolen Wages Cut

 Tomorrow the World…

 Bosses Sack WorkCover

 Activists What's On!


The Crystal Ball
Workers Online consults a raft of leading psychics to find out what readers can look forward to in 2005.

The Soapbox
Scrooge Was Right
Christmas has been cancelled this year, writes our US correspondent Brooklyn Phil.

The Locker Room
The Workers Online Sports Awards
Continuing a tradition that dates back to the Twentieth Century, Phil Doyle dishes out the gongs for all things great and small in the world of sport during 2004.

The Westie Wing
Our favoutrite MP looks for a positive spin on the year at NSW Parliament

 Costa’s Hike Unfare
 Temporary Arrangements
 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
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Hadgkiss Gives Mourners Grief

The Building Industry Taskforce wants 11 people fined for stopping work to honour a dead colleague.

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.

Blinkers Off

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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