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Issue No. 255 11 March 2005  

A Skillful Ruse
If you ever wanted a case study into the adage that big business is all about ‘privatising the profits and socialising the losses’ then look no further than the current skills crisis.


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 Doesn’t Live With Us Anymore
Andreia Viegas’ 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 – 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


 Killer Company Sent Down

 Once Upon a Time in Bexley

 Defence Contractor at War

 Steeple Takes a Tumble

 Tribunal Goes the Bash

 Nurses On Top

 Uni Rolled on Casuals

 Howard Strips GEERS

 Septics Dump On Aussie Jobs

 Banks Safety Interest

 Feds Should Help Kids

 Safety Stars at Opera House

 Three Dollars Free For Readers

 Toast the Days Of Old

 Clinton Boycotts Hotel

 Activist’s What’s 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.

 The Auld Mug
 Banks Are Great
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Once Upon a Time in Bexley

A Bexley sweatshop is paying women $4 an hour to produce garments for sale by glamour retailers, including David Jones and Myer, in a foretaste of life under John Howard’s "Americanised" IR regime.

TCFUA representatives raided a suburban bungalow, this week, under NSW rights the Prime Minister intends to strip away when he gets control of the Senate.

Inside, they found seven seamstresses and an employer, Chung Sheng Tan, who they said claimed to know nothing of workers compensation or superannuation.

They said, the fashion industry bottom-feeder undercut "legitimate" operators, then required women to bid for the right to operate his machines.

"Whoever bids the lowest gets the work," TCFUA secretary, Barry Tubner, said.

"The paperwork we uncovered indicated he was paying rates as low as $4 an hour and, as far as he was concerned, workers compensation and super were the workers' responsibilities.

"To earn that money, women were working six and, sometimes seven, days a week.

"This is the American system in action and it will become the norm if John Howard takes over the state systems.

"When he takes away the rights of unions, Workcover and the Office of Industrial Relations to inspect these operations he will remove all protection from workers and honest employers.

"No legitimate manufacturer can compete with this type of exploitation."

Tubner said Howard's proposed contracting legislation would seal the deal. The federal government intends broadening the scope of "contractor" and blocking union representation.

It is the contention of Goldbridge Clothing that Bexley seamstresses are "independent contractors", running private businesses.

"These people are employees, under NSW law, Australian tradition and any reasonable test," Tubner argues.

Tan, who owns the Bexley residence and operates Goldbridge, confirmed the definition of contractor was central to the argument in correspondence with the union.

The union says an hour-long video of the Bexley operation and paperwork supplied by Goldbridge back its claims.

They reveal Goldbridge was making garments for name retailers including Myer, David Jones and labels like Cooper Street.

Follow its raid, NSW Workcover inspectors visited the house and wrote out five notices for non-compliance with occupational health and safety requirements.

New state regulations, imposing a code of conduct on the industry, come into force on July 1, the day the Coalition takes Senate control with a policy to override NSW industrial laws.


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