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Issue No. 271 08 July 2005  

Polls Apart
The tragic bombings in London may knock industrial relations off the front pages over the next few days, but it is unlikely to end the groundswell of opposition to the Howard Government's mad grab at workers' rights.


Interview: Battle Stations
Opposition leader Kim Beazley says he's ready to fight for workers right. But come July 1, he'll have to be fighting by different rules.

Unions: The Workers, United
It was a group of rank and filers who took centre stage when workers rallied in Sydney's Town Hall, writes Jim Marr.

Politics: The Lost Weekend
The ALP had a hot date, they had arranged to meet on the Town Hall steps, and Phil Doyle was there.

Industrial: Truth or Dare
Seventeen ivory towered academics upset those who know what is best for us last week.

History: A Class Act
After reading a new book on class in Australia, Neale Towart is left wondering if it is possible to tie the term down.

Economics: The Numbers Game
Political economist Frank Stilwell offers a beginners guide to understanding budgets

International: Blonde Ambition
Sweden can be an inspiration to labour movements the world over, as it has had community unionism for over 100 years, creating a vibrant caring society, rather than a "productive" lean economy.

Training: The Trade Off
Next time you go looking for a skilled tradesman and can�t find one, blame an economist, writes John Sutton.

Review: Bore of the Worlds
An invincible enemy has people turning against one another as they fight for survival � its not just an eerie view of John Howard�s ideal workplace, writes Nathan Brown.

Poetry: The Beaters Medley
In solidarity with the workers of Australia, Sir Paul McCartney (with inspiration from his old friend John Lennon) has joined the Workers Online resident bard David Peetz to pen some hits about the government's proposed industrial relations revolution.


 Then There Were Three

 Dad's Choice Goes AWAL

 OEA Invokes Sgt Schultz

 CFMEU Resists Standover Tactics

 Tall Tales and Two

 Corrine Throws Stones

 Cardinal Adds Weight to Concerns

 Bosses: Unions Beat AWAs

 16 Hours to Recover Worker

 Choice Gets Confusing

 Attack Derailed In Qld

 PM Pulls Rank On Ads

 HT Lee Gravely Ill

 Activists Whats On!


The Soapbox
State of the Union
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson lifts the lid on �The Nine Myths of Modern Unionism�

The Locker Room
Wrist Action
Phil Doyle trawls the murky depths of tawdry sleaze, and discovers Rugby is behind it all.

To Hew The Coal That Lies Below
Phil Doyle reviews Australia's first coal mining novel, Black Diamonds and Dust.

The Westie Wing
Our favourite State MP, Ian West, reports from Macquarie Street that the Premier is all the way with a State Commission.

 Don�t Call Me Customer
 Do It Yourself?
 Vale the Eight Hour Day
 The vision thing
 Campaign Pushes Right Buttons
 It�s Time to Punt the PM
 Bob Each Way
 Ads Value
 Travel Allowance?
 Hits the Mark
 Reforms not an Erosion
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OEA Invokes Sgt Schultz

More than 80 percent of AWAs being lodged with the Office of the Employment Advocate cover new starters who get no choice in the matter, according to a senior staffer.

On the condition of anonymity, he said last week, that "around 85-90 percent" of new AWAs coming across the Advocate�s desk are for new starters.

OEA press flak, Bonnie Laxton-Blinkhorn, says the Office knows nothing of the claim which goes to the heart of the Prime Minister's "freedom of choice" argument.

New starters can be forced to sign an AWA (Australian Workplace Agreement) as a condition of employment.

"We don't collect that information, it's not in our reporting system," she told Workers Online. "If we don't collect that information, there is certainly nobody else that would.

"It's not that we don't have the capability. It's just that we don't do it."

When Workers Online asked her to use the Office's capability to check the validity of the allegation, she said it would be "impossible".

Workers Online's source established his credibility, last year, when he outed the Employment Advocate for green-lighting batches of AWAs before checking they conformed to the government's minimum-standards, "no disadvantage" test.

His claim was tested, and vindicated, by subsequent court proceedings in Western Australia.

Workers Online is aware of dozens of AWAs that have passed the Advocate's no-disadvantage test, despite ripping negotiated conditions and penalty rates away from employees.

When the Advocate forms the view an AWA does not pass his test, the filing employer is given three options - challenge the ruling in the IRC; put up a public-interest argument; or undertake to increase the rates.

Our source at the Office says the proportion of AWAs requiring such undertakings has jumped from "around five percent to around 12 to 13 percent", since last year.

AWAs, used by employers to undermine collective contracts, remove penalty rates and cut earnings, are at the heart of the Prime Minister's plan to hold down the living standards of Australian families.

Howard and Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, have spun a "freedom of choice" line, arguing AWAs give workers the right to choose a "flexible individual contract" over a collective agreement. But their legislation allows new starters to be forced onto AWAs as a condition of employment.

They set up the Office of the Employment Advocate and funded it to promote AWAs at the expense of collective agreements.

The Office has done that aggressively, sparing employers the expense of drafting their own documents by preparing pattern AWAs and offering them to groups of companies as "template" agreements.

Workers Online has learned the Office has cut back on marketing recently, confident there will be a flood of employers taking up AWAs after Howard's IR changes require them to meet only four or five legislated, minimum community standards.

Part of the Office's sales drive has been getting high-profile "AWA Ambassadors", such as Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, to pitch their merits to other employers. Last month, the OEA flew ambassadors around the country, business class, on a promotional tour.

Our source says at least two official AWA Ambassadors file individual contracts that fail to meet the no disadvantage test and require "undertakings" before they are okayed.


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