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Issue No. 285 14 October 2005  

Howard’s Secret War
There are two wars being waged against Australian workers right now.


Interview: Under Fire
Michael Crosby outlines his agenda to save the movement – and explains why Australians have nothing to fear from the SEIU.

Politics: And the Winners Are ...
Wal King, Allan Moss, Roger Corbett, Chip Goodyear, Michael Chaney and David Murray have lots in common, writes Jim Marr.

Industrial: Un-Australian
Labour lawyer Clive Thompson argues the changes to IR are fundamentally at odds with the national tradition of consesensus.

Economics: The Common Wealth
As the policy wonks debate the future of our cities, Neale Towart mounts a simple argument: It’s the real people in a society, stupid

History: Walking for Justice
The Eight Hour Day, a very Australian celebration, had its origins in New Zealand it seems, writes Neale Towart.

International: Deja Vu
A group of trade unions have walked away from America's peak council, again. Labourstart's Eric Lee was there.

Legal: The Rights Stuff
Terror laws have sparked a fresh debate on a Bill of Rights - and workers have a bigger stake than ever before, writes Rachael Osman-Chin.

Review: That Cinderella Fella
Russell trades the phone for mitts in an inspiring cinematic slug-fest. Nathan Brown is ringside

Poetry: Is Howard Kidding?
Mel Cheal asks who Howard thinks he is kidding to the tune of the ‘Dad’s Army’ theme song.


 Call Centre Dials Up Future

 Greenfields Become Cotton Fields

 PM Endorses Billy Boy Tactics

 Stats Go Missing

 Paper Tiger in Protection Racket

 Thugs Are Go!

 Usual Suspects Bite Employers

 Pay Boss Opposed Living Wage

 Tele Enlists Boss’ Family

 Entitlements Go AWAy

 State Employees in Limbo

 Activist’s What’s On!


The Soapbox
No Place For A Woman!
Doreen Borrow spoke to the Public Service Association’s women’s conference in September about her experiences of working life that span seven decades.

North By Northwest
Phil Doyle returns from up north, where he survived on nothing but goodwill, good people and a great big orange bus.

The Locker Room
In which Whatsisname slams the recent poor form of Thingummyjig.

The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West MLC, gets all casual in his latest missive from the Bear Pit.

 JWH's Inspiration
 Hooray for Robots
 Government's Dream
 Come Clean
 Good Guy Done Bad
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Greenfields Become Cotton Fields

Canberra will promote individual contracts by allowing new businesses to negotiate wages and conditions with themselves, while threatening unions with bans, fines and deregistration.

John Howard's new workplace regime includes provisions for “greenfields” employers to write their own wages and conditions schedules.

The documents will last for 12 months but, already, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is pushing for that to be extended to five years.

At the same time, a range of prohibitions will be placed on unions trying to defend negotiated wages and conditions.

New laws will severely curtail their rights to bargain, enter workplaces, recruit, or engage in industrial action.

A whole series of existing conditions, agreed to by employers, will become prohibited matters and union members will be liable for fines of up to $33,000 if they even ask for them.

Prohibited matters will include equal pay for equal work; trade union training leave; paid meetings; prohibitions on AWAs; mandating union involvement in dispute resolution; and restrictions on the use of contractors or labour hire.

Rights of entry will be restricted, and eliminated, in the case of greenfields sites and workplaces where all employees are on AWAs.

Unions will be forced to undertake time-consuming postal ballots before engaging in "protected" industrial action, while employers will retain the right to lockout their workforces, or chosen individuals, with three days' notice.

Employers and third parties will be able to go to court to have "protected" actions called off.

The AIRC will also be able to halt legal stoppages if there is evidence of pattern bargaining (government code for equal pay claims across different sites), harm to a third party, or a union has failed to "genuinely" negotiate.

Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, said the regime would strip "any semblance of choice" from working Australians.

"This package is an extreme attack on freedom of choice and collective bargaining. The Prime Minister is using the power of the state to force people onto AWAs because they weren't choosing to take them up.

Besides the "greenfields" provision, existing businesses will be able to force all new employees onto AWAs, further undermining collective agreements.

Howard has also moved to strip protections from millions of Australians on state awards. When their agreements expire, they will only be entitled to five core conditions - the basic rate, personal leave, annual leave, unpaid maternity leave, and a theoretical 38-hour week.

With the impending scrapping of the no-disadvantage test, that measures AWAs against award entitlements, those conditions will also be the baseline for new individual contracts.

Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, has indicated even those protections will be rubbery. Annual leave can be halved to two weeks, and employers will be able to average out the 38-hour ordinary week over a full year.

Robertson questioned the value of legislating for ordinary hours, at all, when there is no provision for overtime, penalty or statutory holiday payments.


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