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Issue No. 254 04 March 2005  

Thatís Our Team
Hereís a test. Hands up all those who watched the news last night. Who can remember the weather forecast for tomorrow? What about the forecast in Perth?


Interview: Dot.Com
Evan Thornley was a labour activist. Then he rode the tech wave. Now he's home with new ideas on how Labor can win the economic debate.

Workplace: Dirt Cheap
In her new book, Elizabeth Wynhausen learns how hard it is to live on the minimum wage.

Industrial: Daddy Doesnít Live With Us Anymore
Andreia Viegasí tells the story of the loss her young family has felt since her husband was killed at work, and the need for justice for families who fall victim to industrial manslaughter.

Economics: Who's Afraid of the BCA?
Big Business's agenda for Australia has gone from loopy to mainstream at the speed of light, writes Neale Towart

International: From the Wreckage
Working people across Iraq are struggling to build their own independent unions Ė and are successfully organising industrial action on the vital oil fields as well as in hotels, transport outlets and factories, Writes Andrew Casey

Politics: Infrastructure Blues
With much attention given belatedly to the shortage of infrastructure, little attention has been given to the structure of infrastructure, writes Evan Jones

History: Meat and Three Veg
A new book recounts the impact of the Depression on women workers, writes Neale Towart,

Savings: Super Seduction
Sharks are circling your super. From July 1, banks and financial planners will have access to the nesteggs of an extra four million workers, writes Jim Marr.

Politics: Popping the 'E-Word'
Federal shadow treasurer Wayne Swan unveils Labor's new economic doctrine.

Poetry: To Know Somebody
This week saw an appointment to the ABC Board that was even more breathtaking than that of Liberal Party figure Michael Kroger. Resident Bard David Peetz celebrates the occasion with a reworking of an old Bee Gees hit.

Review: Off the Rails
A new play on the impact of rail privatisation in Britain has a poignant message for Sydney commuters, writes Alex Mitchell


 Rev Kev: Innocent Shall Be Guilty

 Itís Official - Taskforce "Hopeless"

 Hollywood For Tropfest Evictees

 Miner Problem for Feds

 Students Driven to Sleep

 Brogden Dances On Graves

 Let Them Drink Beer

 Traffic Fines Parked

 The Airline That Flew a Kite

 Hundreds Resist Porridge

 Experts Back Better Childcare Pay

 Mushroom Mums Win

 Rotten Fruit Exposed

 Workers Sue Rumsfeld

 Activistís Whatís On


The Soapbox
The Big Picture
Think about this: It takes 150 tonnes of iron ore to buy a plasma TV, writes Doug Cameron.

The Locker Room
Reducto Ad Absurdo
Phil Doyle offers advice for the lovelorn, and finds that things are getting smaller

New Matilda
Work is In
The rise and fall of the working hours debate in france is relevent to Australian workers, writes Daniel Donahoo and Tim Martyn

The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP surveys the upcoming conservative centralist collective attack.

Postcard from Harvard
Australian union officials making the annual pilgrimage to the Harvard Trade Union Program learnt that, at least, they are not alone, says Natalie Bradbury.

 Stay Terra Firma on Tax
 Janetís Job No Victory
 Royal Finger Lickers
 Will $20 Restore Carr?
 Two Ideas
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Rev Kev: Innocent Shall Be Guilty

The Howard Governmentís latest assault on working families proposes $22,000 fines for bread winners who act within existing law.

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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