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Issue No. 260 22 April 2005  

Praying Mantras
The election of a new Pontiff is a moment of cultural significance, a point where the world’s moral compass comes under scrutiny, and not just for the world’s billion-odd Catholics.


Interview: [email protected]
Labor's Penny Wong has the job of getting more people into the workplace and keeping companies honest. In her spare time ....

Unions: State of the Union
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson unveils the annual survey of attitudes of workers to their jobs, thier lives and the union.

Industrial: Fashion Accessories
Jim Marr unpacks the unlikely claim of a suburban house to be considered the New Mecca of the New Right …

Legal: Leg Before Picket
Chris White looks at how the federal industrial changes will impact on the basic right to strike.

Politics: Business Welfare Brats
Neale Towart asks why the only form of legitmate welfare seems to be going to the top end of town.

Health: Cannabis Controversy
Zoe Reynolds looks at how drug and alcohol testing is leading to some addled outcomes.

Economics: Debt, Deficit, Downturn
As the indicators head south, Frank Stilwell wonders whether it is the way we do economics that is to blame.

History: Politics In The Pubs
Phil Doyle reports on the increasingly-popular Struggles, Scabs and Schooners day out.

Review: Three Bob's Worth
Doing their best Margaret and David, Tara de Boehmler and Tim Brunero have different takes on the new Australian flick Three Dollars.

Poetry: Do The Slowly Chokie
Workers Online bard David Peetz teaches how workers to dance to Howard's industrial laws.


 Pope Backs Rights At Work

 Trade Deal Built On Corpses

 AWAs Go – So Do Long Hours

 Sunday Too Far Away

 True Lies at RailCorp

 Mushrooms Mums Fed Bull

 Sewage In The Streets

 Taskforce Stands Over Vet

 Engineers in Driving Seat

 Backyard Funerals Targeted

 Work Deaths Get Permanent Reflection

 Yanks Brawl With Mall

 Activist’s What’s On


The Soapbox
Notes From a Laneway
Mental Health Workers Alliance member Toby Raeburn shares a week on the frontline.

The Locker Room
War, Plus The Shooting
The Socceroos aren’t their own worst enemy after all, or so says Phil Doyle

Life Imitates Art
The jokes have been around for some time about the economic rationalist's approach to the orchestra, writes Evan Jones.

The Westie Wing
Ian West takes the secret passage out of Macquarie Street to deliver his take on NSW Parliamentary Committees and other goings on.

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Mushrooms Mums Fed Bull

A group of mushroom picking Mums from Mildura who refused to sign individual contracts that slashed their pay by $150 per week have convinced the Howard Government’s own union-busters that their boss was out of order.

The Office of the Employment Advocate upheld the women’s appeal against the contracts and instructed Merbein Mushroom farmer, Geoff Izard to pay shortfalls in their wages dating back to the start of the year.

The OEA ordered the AWA back down after separate court decision found four of the women, who were sacked after refusing to sign contracts, had been unfairly dismissed.

Izard, introduced the new pay regime to his 45 strong workforce two months ago after state law forced him to pay higher wages on January 1. The contracts also cut penalty rates and bonuses, replaced hourly pay with "piece" rates and maintained all staff as casuals.

The four mushroom pickers took Izard to the Federal Court after they were sacked for objecting to the new pay regime, but were ordered back to work in March.

Now the OEA has torn up the AWA's for all the 45 pickers after finding they had been coerced into signing under threat of dismissal.

One mushroom picker who took a stand against the AWAs, Sue Simes, says she feels vindicated by the decision. "The AWAs were stopped because it didn't meet certain requirements, so we were right, we do feel it has been a victory for us."

Staff are now furious because Izard kept them in the dark about the AWA's cancellation for three weeks.

The mushroom pickers union, the AWU, will take legal action against Merbein Mushrooms over the delay.

The AWU believes the result is an embarrassing setback for the Federal Government's preferred form of individual contract.

AWU national secretary, Bill Shorten said he was concerned the Federal Government's forthcoming changes to industrial relations laws will allow AWAs to cut workers' pay and conditions by being forced on people without their proper consent.

"John Howard should publicly rule out any changes that would allow the compulsory introduction of AWAs that undercut Award pay and conditions," Shorten said.


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