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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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Stats Go Missing

With lies, damned lies and statistics dominating the workplace debate, Canberra has decided to take statistics out of the equation.

An Australian Bureau of Statistics circular reveals the methods of pay setting component of the next two-yearly survey of Employee Earnings and Hours has been canned, ensuring there will be no statistical review of workplace change before Australians cast their ballots in the 2007 federal election.

"The ABS has decided not to include questions on pay setting arrangements in the 2006 EEH survey," the circular says.

The ABS is a federal government agency that comes under the control of Treasurer, Peter Costello, an aggressive advocate of secret individual contracts.

Methods of Pay Setting took up nearly half of the 2004 survey into Earnings and Hours.

But its key findings were a huge embarrassment to the federal government, revealing that, in the eight years since workers were given the "choice" of signing AWAs, less than 2.5 percent had taken it.

Since then, Canberra has turned choice over to employers, giving them the ability to force workers onto AWAs as a condition of employment. It has paid to have pattern AWAs developed, sparing business the cost, and scrapped the no-disadvantage test so employers can use individual contracts to undercut awards and other negotiated agreements.

The government has ditched the stats-based approach and gone for numbers supplied by its Office of the Employment Advocate.

Just last month, there was a blaze of publicity for a Melbourne function celebrating the take-up of the 750,000th AWA.

The figure, from the Office of the Employment Advocate, came less than two months after its spin doctor, Bonnie Laxton-Blinkhorn, told Workers Online it had no idea how many AWAs were in operation.

Laxton-Blinkhorn explained that the OEA keeps no current total, just the number of registrations since 1996.

Given that the majority of AWAs are for casual or part-time workers and that about 25 percent of Australians change their jobs every year, the running total is next to meaningless.

The ABS' 2004 data was also quoted by both the Prime Minister and Workplace Relations Minister to bolster their argument that employees would be better off on AWAs. Andrews claimed the differential, with collective agreements, was 29 percent while Howard settled for 13 percent.

When the ABS information was unpacked, however, both those claims were discredited.

Howard and Andrews chose weekly wages, for their comparisons, but ABS data revealed AWA employees worked significantly longer hours than collective agreement counterparts. Howard and Andrews included managers in their comparisons, and chose to leave out millions of Australians employed on state awards.

When researchers rectified those anomalies, they found hourly rates were higher for people collective agreements and that, for women, the differential was 11 percent.

Griffith University academic, David Peetz, used the ABS data to conclude that, across the board, AWA workers earned two percent less than those on awards or collective agreements.

"As Minister Andrews said, the facts on AWAs speak for themselves," he said.

Those facts will not be available in the build-up to the next federal election.


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