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Issue No. 263 13 May 2005  

A Fistful of Dollars
And so the great political debate of our time has become who gets the money and how quickly they can pocket it – the Howard Government’s latest application of the base art of wedge politics.


Interview: Fortress NSW
NSW IR Minister John Della Bosca on how to win the battle for workers rights - and save the state system.

Unions: Fashions Afield
With new anti-sweatshop creations being paraded at this year's Australian Fashion Week, is equity the new black and are sweatshops the new fur? asks Tara de Boehmler.

Industrial: Pay Dirt
John Burgess argues that the flow-on effect from changing the minimum wage could be more than we bargained for.

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: Big Day Out
Neale Towart looks back on the events that created the May Day heritage.

International: Making History
Hundreds of aid organisations, charities, trade unions and religious groups have formed a global alliance called “ Make Poverty History”.

Economics: The Fear Factor
The solution to skill shortages is intelligent planning, argues John Spoehr

Review: The Robots Revolt
New kids flick Robot uses our electronic friends to teach audiences that inbuilt obsolescence is just a state of mind, writes Tara de Boehmler

Poetry: The Corporation's Power
The idea of a corporations power that could cure any ill has inspired our resident bard, David Peetz, to verse.


 Bikies Needle Heroines

 Bosses Play China Card

 Giant Collapses on Ankle

 NAB Cuts More Than Jobs

 Left Footers Kick Back

 Oh Brother, Tim Plays House

 WA on the Block

 Patrick Fails to Hide Asbestos

 Budget Hits Civil Rights

 Combet Launches Shark Attack

 Childcare Wage Grows Up

 US To Drain More Aussie Brains

 Dictators Beg Eric To Stop


The Soapbox
May Spray
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson delivered the annual May Day Toast - and warned it is no time to be comfortable and relaxed.

The Locker Room
A Rucking Good Time
Phil Doyle reveals many things, some of them useful

The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West, is back to regale us with inside goss and intrigue from the Bearpit.

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Bosses Play China Card

Major NSW employers are using John Howard’s free trade agreements to slash jobs and demand $250 a week wage cuts.

Auto component manufacturers, Tri Star and Spicer Axle, have targeted 800 employees for the dole queue and at least two other manufacturers, employing more than 600 people, say job losses are inevitable.

US-owned Spicer Axel has hit the AMWU with demands for sweeping cuts in order to retain some of its Yennora workforce.

Spicer is demanding 15% clawbacks for existing employees and wants rates for new starters slashed by 20 percent. The company, which manufactures components for Holden, Ford and Aston Martin, employs more than 1000 people around Australia.

AMWU organiser, Martin Shutz, says Spicer's claim would mean weekly wage cuts of between $75 and $150 a week for the families of process workers with dependents of skilled trades people losing up to $250 a week.

Yennora workers have been caught in a John Howard pincer movement. Free trade deals with both China and the US have flooded the market with low cost alternatives.

Spicer has lost its contract to supply Holden and, as a result, will bullet 200 employees from April, next year.

It says Ford is demanding 30 percent price reductions in light of the impending free trade agreement with China.

Marrickville based Tri Star has lost steering and suspension contracts with Mitsubishi, Toyota and Holden. It has started imported product from India and is negotiating to open a plant in China from which it will import components.

Tri Star began shedding staff, last week, and intends closing down within 12 months.

AMWU state secretary, Paul Bastian, said the job losses were the "deliberate and inevitable" result of Howard's push for free trade with China.

"These companies are classic examples of what happens when you sign free trade agreements that aren't underpinned by basic labour or human rights," Bastian said.

"John Howard is telling Australians to compete on labour costs, with an economy where core standards do not apply. There is no level playing field."

Bastian rejected massive wage cuts as a way to protect auto component jobs.

"We don't accept workers should bare the brunt of bad government policy," he said. "Our members won't allow a company to use that situation to start driving down wages and conditions across the board."

Workers Online understands two other major NSW manufacturing operations have approached unions about sweeping job cuts because of the effect of free trade agreements.

One of them is believed to be an innovative operation that spends large sums on research and development.


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