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Issue No. 293 20 December 2005  
E D I T O R I A L

Waves of Destruction
2005 was the year book-ended by two waves of destruction - the first causing untold suffering across the Indian Ocean; the second reawakening our darker angels on beaches closer to home.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Back to the Future
James Gallaway collars Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, on threats, challenges and opportunities.

Unions: A Real Page Turner
Jim Marr glances through Workers Online’s 2005 news stories and finds there is more one way to skin a Rat

Industrial: The Pin-Striped Union
Rachael Osman-Chin profiles a white collar union that is having some almighty blues.

International: Around The World In 365 Days
It was a year of online activism, as LabourStart's Eric Lee reports

Legends: Terrific, Tommy
Jim Marr tackles a champion.

Your Rights At Work: Worth Fighting For
The Your Rights At Work campaign has been a big part of this year and, as Phil Doyle reports, it is making a difference.

Politics: The Year That Was
Frank Stillwell looks at year that saw the politics of fear; and finds many reasons to be very afraid.

Economics: Master and Servant Revisited
Evan Jones asks if the Neo Liberals are taking us back to the future

Culture: 2005: The Year of Living Repetitively
Nathan Brown ignores Oasis and decides to look back in anger after all

Bad Boss: The Bottom Ten
Nathan Brown digs through his voluminous dirt files and comes up with the top 10 grubs of the year.

Religion: Hymns from a Different Song Sheet
James Gallaway on the Way, the Truth and life according to Brian.

N E W S

 Melbourne Burns AWAs

 Corporates Defend Costello

 Speaker Won't Talk

 Bank Pays on Dodgy Contracts

 Plan to Save Jobs

 Harper's Bizarre Excuse for Failure

 It's Not Fair: Business

 Workers Walk As Warnings Wiped

 Teenager Hit With Shrapnel

 Pay Day “Unlawful”

 Tassie Rail Win

 Professionals Fear for Their Kids

 Boss Pings Rorters Charter

 New Ways to Take a Share

 An Hour of Need

 Boeing Steals Christmas

 Trouble at the Mill

 Activists What's On

C O L U M N S

Predictions
The Crystal Ball
Workers Online consults a raft of leading psychics to find out what readers can look forward to in 2006.

The Soapbox
The Things People Say
It was a year of quotable quotes, reports Phil Doyle.

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Ian West checks the rear vision mirror on 2005, and plants his foot down

The Locker Room
The 2005 Workers Online Sports Awards
After years of being overlooked by selectors at club, representative and national levels, Phil Doyle and Jim Marr, agreed to hand out our 2005 sports gongs.

Postcard
Postcard from East Timor
In East Timor entertainment also spreads an important message into the community

L E T T E R S
 Pension Pinching
 Free to Rat
 Tax Cuts and Cockroaches
 Proportion, Not Distortion
 Corp That!
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Letters to the Editor

Pension Pinching


Australia's 3.5 million pensioners stand to have increases to their allowances cut as a result of the Coalition Government's controversial new industrial relations reforms.

Not only does the Australian Government want to abolish basic working conditions, they also intend removing the power of the Industrial Relations Commission to set the minimum wage. This is not only bad for paid workers; it is also detrimental to pensioners.

The pension in Australia is calculated according to the Social Security Act, 1991.

The Base Pension (ie. not the pension supplement) is indexed twice yearly based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) but is also benchmarked against Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE) at 25%.

March, 2005 this year was the last time the pension went up.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) publishes the CPI quarterly. The Base Pension is then increased by the percentage change in the CPI over a six month period.

The new CPI indexed amount was then compared with the latest MTAWE figure.

As in previous years, if the new CPI indexed amount was less than 25 percent of MTAWE, an extra amount is added to the base single pension so that it is at least 25% of MTAWE.

The MTAWE figure includes the earnings of men on the minimum or junior wages as well as higher paid workers.

The Australian Government wants to take the minimum wage setting powers away from the Industrial Relations Commission and give them to it‚s handpicked Fair Pay Commission. We can only wait to see how much of an oxymoron this name becomes. The American equivalent hasn't increased their minimum wage since 1998.

The Fair Pay Commission will make it‚s first minimum wage decision in late 2006, and the implementation of this pay rise adjustment‚ could be delayed even longer.

The incumbent Australian Government, considers the minimum wage too high: it wants to take penalty rates out of awards. This will mean a catastrophic drop in wages for shift workers.

Naturally prices will continue to go up including the basic necessities of life (because of petrol prices of which more than 33% goes to the Government in tax).

When the MTAWE goes down so will pensions. This will mean pensioners will have difficulty paying skyrocketing bills for essentials such as food, housing transport and health services. One must ask how are people going to save up enough in superannuation to afford a decent retirement?

The proposed industrial relations changes are unjust, regressive and will guarantee greater inequality. The pension will be eroded in real terms relative to prices.

The IR changes must be opposed to prevent looming impoverishment of wage earners (the working poor will be a reality) and people on fixed incomes (pensions).

After 14 years of prosperity this is what we get offered. These changes must be opposed. If you are not happy with these IR changes, lobby your local Federal member.

Mike Hudson, NSW


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