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Issue No. 299 17 March 2006  

For Queen and Country
There’s nothing like a Commonwealth Games – and one on home turf to boot – to get one thinking about Australia’s relationship with Britain and the monarch who still reigns over us.


Interview: Organising In Cyberspace
Workers Online speaks to the ACTU's Union Organiser of the Year, Greg Harvey from the RTBU, who has been using cutting edge ways to communicate with a blue-collar workforce spread across five states.

Industrial: How Low Is Low
Neale Towart looks at the much hyped link between minimum wages and employment

Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
The Howard Govwernment has begun rolling out workshops to inform employers on how to use WorkChoices. Sean Ambrose sneaked through the doors for Workers Online.

Unions: Bad Medicine
Nathan Brown reports on how Australia Post’s dodgy Faculty Nominated Doctor system is leaving sick workers feeling worse.

History: Right Turn, Clyde
Bob Gould believes news of Clyde Cameron’s demise may be premature

Economics: Long Division
Kenneth Davidson looks at a successful political strategy

International: Union Proud
A University of California librarian calls for union labels to increase worker visibility

Politics: Howard’s Sick Joke
Phil Doyle looks at an attack on one of the great achievements of the union movement

Indigenous: The year of living dangerously
That mob in parliament house seems to be hopelessly out of touch with Indigenous Australia. So much so, that Graham Ring wonders if the House on the Hill is becoming a ‘cultural museum’.

Review: Lights, Camera, Strike!
Mandrake the Electrician has been down to the video store over the summer and rounded up the Top Ten Union Movies of all time.

Culture: News Front
If the owners are selling off papers, perhaps the unions should buy them says Mark Dobbie.


 Fleas Bite Back

 Visa Boss Restrained

 Howard's Holiday Secrets

 Picket Buster Carpeted

 No Ticket No Start For Asbestos

 On The Road Again

 WorkChoices Goes Mental

 United Cuts Hit Turbulence

 Bad News for Bullies

 Vegie Contracts Poisonous

 Mac Attack

 Work Choices Canned

 Work Pressure Kills: Judge

 Activist's What's On!


The Soapbox
Australian Fascism
Rowan Cahill critiques Gerard Henderson’s unique take on history

Westie Wing
Will Westie's Wings be clipped, or will the Hills Angels repent and deliver?

The Locker Room
The Heart Of The Matter
Phil Doyle rolls up the red carpet and celebrates the death of an old foe

 Revelations of St John
 Save Frost
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Howard's Holiday Secrets

Canberra's infatuation with secrecy is driving campaigns to steal public holidays and slash the living standards of South Australian families.

Secrecy underpins the terms of guest labour visas and Australian Workplace Agreements. They come together at South Australian meatworks where the terms of thousands of workers, including hundreds of imported Asian labourers, are kept secret, by law.

The focal point is Naracoorte, where industry giant, Teys Bros, has locked out 20 locals for choosing not to sign pattern AWAs that strip their rights to an Australia Day holiday and reduce annual leave and overtime entitlements.

One locked out member of the Meat Workers Union discovered that when he reverted to the safety net award, his hourly rate was higher than on the Teys AWA.

While union members are locked out, Teys employs 20 imported Chinese guest workers on temporary Section 457 Visas.

At the state's biggest abattoir, Murray Bridge, around 200 of the 750 strong workforce are "guests" from Asia, employed on AWAs.

Meat Workers Union state secretary, Graham Smith, says the widespread use of guest labour is an "absolute rort", costing locals wages, condition and jobs.

He says the Murray Bridge region has the highest unemployment rate in South Australia, after being rocked by last year's Clipsal shutdown.

And, he says, government-enforced secrecy is preventing an informed debate.

Government policy decrees that holders of four-year Section 457 visas must receive $39,100 per year, irrespective of existing agreements or going rates.

But, that doesn't apply to regional Australia, where no earnings floor has been prescribed.

"Get this," Smith says, "for the purposes of these visas, the whole of South Australia, including downtown Adelaide, is a regional area.

"We have got no idea what these people are earning, or their minimum conditions, and nor has the public.

"AWAs are secret and so, in regional Australia, are the minimum terms for guest workers."

Regional applications for Section 457 Visas are triggered by endorsements from local Chambers of Commerce.

Theoretically, according to government and Immigration Department spin, they are only issued if skills cannot be sourced locally.

But, Smith says, Naracoorte and Murray Bridge prove that claim is "rubbish".

"There are not 200 skilled positions at the Murray Bridge Abattoir. At best, if these positions were all genuine there would not be a skilled Australian worker in the place and that is certainly not the case.

"As for Naracoorte. The guest workers are labourers but, it doesn't matter how you paint it, you can't claim to be affected by a skills shortage when you turn around and lock out your skilled workers."

The Meat Workers Union is expected to challenge the legality of the Naracoorte lockout.

Webcke Uses Fend

Meanwhile, Brisbane Broncos star and Teys Bros spruiker, Shane Webcke, has distanced himself from the company's behaviour at Naracoorte.

The Kangaroo prop features on the Teys Bros website, promoting the company as an employer offering "top-notch training", a "promising career path" and "good money".

"In no way have I endorsed Teys Bros or any of their employment practises," Webcke told Workers Online.

"They were offering local people jobs and skills training at their plant in Rocky (Rockhampton) and that's why I allowed myself to get involved.

"I grew up in regional Australia and I am all for local people getting local jobs, that's why I was happy to do it, but the relationship is over now."

On the issue of Australia Day, Webcke said he thought Australians got too many public holidays.


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