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Issue No. 287 28 October 2005  

A Sick Set of Laws
The Howard Government’s inexorable push to strip workers’ rights continues; despite the warnings of unions, churches, community groups, labour market economists and now, epidemiologists.


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.


 Howard's Fatal Laws

 Saving Private Buy-In

 PM Scoffs at Wollongong

 Commo Bank in Denial

 Family Values

 Johnny Fails Comprehension Test

 Dole Bludgeoning - Andrews Comes Clean

 Jason Turns Leave into Leave!

 Halfback Puts the Boot In

 Business, As Usual

 Terror Laws Strike Fear

 Asbestos Giants Claw Back Compo

 Staff Told to Take a Hike

 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.

 Rung Out
 PM's Fatal Flush
 Sign of the Times
 Labor's Love Lost
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Jason Turns Leave into Leave!

Serial rorter, Jason Coughlan, sent a stranger to the home of a seven-year childcare veteran to sack her in the middle of her holidays.

Colleen Hughes, 27, has launched legal action through her union, the LHMU, in a bid to hold Coughlan to account before the federal government passes laws that would give him a free hand.

The former director of the Kids Club Kindergarten in Cronulla's Wooloowara Rd, said the new owner of the business had instructed her to sack staff who did good jobs.

"If I had gone ahead and sacked them it would have meant we did not have the proper staffing which could have endangered our ability to operate under the law," Hughes explained.

"I had no reason to sack anyone. I've been working there for seven years and would have known if there were any staff problems but everyone working there loved the children and worked hard for them."

Coughlan was fingered in federal parliament as one of people involved with the notorious Metro Shelf company that folded in 2003 and took more millions of dollars of workers entitlements, including $800,000 in unpaid super contributions, down the gurgler with it.

Metro Shelf was one of a number of companies operated by Hommous Khoshaba, and Paul and Craig Coughlan, who set up an intricate web of relationships that could see workers, at the same site, employed by different legal entities.

Four years earlier, Metro companies had been involved in a spectacular dispute with the CFMEU. Workers and picketers joined forces, on that occasion, to defend regular employees the company was trying to replace with labour hire casuals.

Local MP, Robert McClelland blew the whistle on the Coughlans' modus operandi in a parliamentary statement in August, 2003.

"In the years before he placed the Metro group of companies into voluntary administration, Paul Coughlan went to his accountant and arranged an asset protection scheme quarantining his family's extensive property interests through an intricate web of transactions," McClelland said.

"In the months before the administration, Paul Coughlan and his sons, Craig and Jason, transferred their employees to subsidiaries that had no assets. In the weeks before the administration, Paul Coughlan and his sons presented a financial report which said that the subsidiaries had promised not to call on the holding company should they themselves collapse.

"In the hours before Metro Group collapsed, Paul, Craig, and Jason Coughlan spirited their luxury cars--including Mercedes and cruisers--away from the family's million-dollar waterside mansion at Burraneer Bay.

"Despite his family's massive financial resources, when Paul Coughlan finally announced the administration on 10 July he said that there was no money to pay the more than $9 million his 300 employees were owed in entitlements--including more than $800,000 in superannuation which had gone unpaid for a year.

"Last week several of his other unsecured creditors, small businesses and tradespeople who had been supplying Metro Group, announced that they themselves would be forced into administration because of the non-payment of debts by Metro."

LHMU president, Jim Lloyd, said Hughes' unfair dismissal case could be one of the last heard by the Industrial Relations Commission.

"Once John Howard passes his laws people like Colleen Hughes will not be able to contest unfair dismissals before the Commission," Lloyd said.


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