||Issue No. 300||24 March 2006|
Of Milestones and Millstones
Interview: Organising In Cyberspace
Industrial: How Low Is Low
Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
Unions: Bad Medicine
History: Right Turn, Clyde
Economics: Long Division
International: Union Proud
Politics: Howard’s Sick Joke
Indigenous: The year of living dangerously
Review: Lights, Camera, Strike!
Culture: News Front
The Locker Room
Year Zero Set for Monday
Dozens of disputes, legally pursued under Howard Government laws, will become illegal today (Monday) and go on ice, for at least eight weeks, while affected workers are put through a series of bureaucratic and legal hoops.
One of the first beneficiaries will be Howard Government backer and WorkChoices promoter, Geoff Dixon, whose airline, Qantas, is trying to claw thousands of dollars out of family incomes, and send skilled Aussie jobs offshore.
Angry maintenance workers protested at Melbourne and Sydney airports, last Friday, when they learned they would have to go back to square one to protect themselves and their unions from massive fines.
AMWU national president, Julius Roe, called the legislation "extraordinary" and "hypocritical".
"Our people have been fighting this campaign, industrially, for three weeks. They have dotted the i's and crossed the t's to satisfy federal law," Roe said.
"With a stroke of a pen, the Minister has changed those rules, midstream.
"It's extraordinary legislation because it purports to treat industrial matters as corporate matters, under corporations law.
"It's totally hypocritical because, in its treatment of workers, it ignores the basic safeguards applied to corporations.
"If a corporation enters into a contract, it is binding and can't be altered. Under this law an employer can sign a contract one day and is encouraged to undercut it, the next, by using an AWA.
"Under corporate, and criminal law, when new legislation is passed, part-heard matters continue under the rules they started under. We are part way through important campaigns and the rules have been changed, with seven days notice."
Qantas is just one of dozens of workplaces around the country, where Australians resisting employer offensives, will be forced to abandon legal industrial campaigns by Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews.
Roe pointed to Melbourne's lift operators strike, into its fourth week in an effort to halt $120 wage cuts, and EBA action at Portland Aluminium and Preston Motors as others that would be immediately curtailed.
He revealed that the sudden change of regime, imposed by Andrews, would almost certainly cost trades apprentices $50 a week.
The increase was won by the AMWU, before the AIRC in a bid to stem the nation's damaging skills decline, and was to have been flowed onto awards across the trades.
However, under Andrews regulations, those awards lapse and, worse still Roe says, there is no alternative vehicle to see the decision applied to thousands of young trades people.
Meanwhile, Qantas negotiator Glenn Thompson, says the airline and the Minister shouldn't start counting their chickens, just yet.
"It's frustrating and it's unfair but we are used to that," Thompson said.
"They have tried to hamstring us industrially but they can't hamstring us in the community.
"Australian people know the score on skilled jobs and safety. They expect unions to campaign on those issues and they won't be disappointed."
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