||Issue No. 254||04 March 2005|
Thatís Our Team
Workplace: Dirt Cheap
Industrial: Daddy Doesnít Live With Us Anymore
Economics: Who's Afraid of the BCA?
International: From the Wreckage
Politics: Infrastructure Blues
History: Meat and Three Veg
Savings: Super Seduction
Politics: Popping the 'E-Word'
Poetry: To Know Somebody
Review: Off the Rails
The Locker Room
Janetís Job No Victory
Royal Finger Lickers
Will $20 Restore Carr?
Rev Kev: Innocent Shall Be Guilty
In a move labelled "extraordinary" by the Australian Financial Review, Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews, is pushing anti-building worker legislation, including massive fines and prison terms, that will be back dated to an unspecified time.
The laws, specific to the building and construction industry, aim to hold down wages and strengthen employer moves to roll back family friendly provisions.
They will be reinforced by turning Nigel Hadgkiss' controversial Building Industry Taskforce into a permanent Australian Building and Construction Commission with sweeping coercive powers.
Key features of the Bill, to be introduced to parliament this week, include ...
- making it illegal to back date wage settlements, even if the parties want to
- making it illegal to campaign for people doing the same work to receive the same pay and conditions
- making lawful strike action contingent on time-consuming secret ballots
- declaring legal strikes illegal once they go beyond 14 days
- introducing fines of up to $22,000 for individuals involved in "illegal" industrial action
- making unions liable to fines of up to $120,000 for breaches
- giving Hadgkiss' Commission the right to investigate and initiate potentially crippling actions on behalf of "third parties"
- removing the right to silence from people interviewed by the Commission, and forcing them to produce documents, on pain of gaol
Thousands of building Industry agreements are due to expire in October and workers have already started talks with employers on a new round of deals.
Already, the Master Builders Federation has announced its intention to roll back the 36-hour week.
The Coalition will not gain control of the Senate until July and it is unlikely far-reaching legislation could be rammed through until August, at the earliest.
But Andrews office has been writing to building industry bosses threatening the loss of government contracts if they agree to claims for improved wages or conditions.
Now he has moved to further strengthen their resolve by announcing that penalties and sanctions in his Building and Construction Industry Improvement Bill will be applied retrospectively.
Andrews has refused to say when they will be back-dated to.
Atlab, which recorded a $7.4 million profit last year, has refused to discuss a new agreement for employees who haven't had a pay rise for more than two years.
Workers are employed under the terms of a non-union agreement, drawn up by a Sydney law firm, that doesn't include many standard clauses and makes no provision for wage increases.
When the majority of Lane Cove workers voted to join the AMWU, Atlab turned on pizza and catered lunches but ducked behind federal legislation that doesn't require good faith bargaining.
Fortescue says if Atlab doesn't "lift its game" filmgoers will suffer.
"We want to sit down and negotiate an agreement but if Atlab won't even talk our members will have to escalate their action. They don't want to but, under this system, they don't have many options," Fortescue said.
Atlab members struck for a day in January and have imposed bans in support of their claim for a new agreement.
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