||Issue No. 302||07 April 2006|
The Cowra Clause
Interview: Head On
Unions: Do You Have a Moment?
Industrial: Vital Signs
Economics: Taxing Times
Environment: It Ainít Necessarily So
History: Melbourneís Hours
Immigration: Opening the Floodgates
Review: Pollie Fiction
Poetry: The Cabal
The Locker Room
Belly Spreads The Word
Lying Lies And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them
Abattoir Boss Slaughters Andrews
A letter written to 29 workers on Thursday withdrawing their terminations directly refutes claims made by federal workplace relations minister Kevin Andrews 24 hours earlier that he had solved the dispute.
The manager of the Cowra Abattoir, Ray Petterson, told meatworkers that the decision to withdraw the notices of termination had "nothing to do with the government".
In a letter to the meat workers union on Wednesday, Petterson said he would "withdraw the notice of termination" as "a show of good faith" because "union officials have indicated that they are prepared to enter into further negotiations".
When the WorkChoices Minister told a press conference in Melbourne on Tuesday that 29 sacked meatworkers would get their jobs back following an investigation by the OWS it was news to both the company and the workers.
"When Andrews announced the notices of termination would be withdrawn it was the first we had heard of it," said Charlie Donzow from the Meatworkers Union. "We were stunned.
"We were in meetings with the company that day and at no time did they indicate that they would withdraw the notices of termination.
"On the Wednesday they [Cowra Abattoir] told us that they hadn't indicated their decision to the government."
The timing of Andrews' maiden attempt to defend Australian jobs has been portrayed as a desperate ploy to disguise the real intent of WorkChoices.
Both the Prime Minister, and Andrews, were on the public record denying that their legislation allowed companies to sack workers and rehire them on inferior wages and conditions - precisely what the abattoir proposed.
The Australian described Andrews' reaction as "red-faced" and industrial lawyers backed union accusations that the Cowra manoeuvre was exactly what WorkChoices green-lighted.
Anthony Longland, a partner at law firm Freehills which helped draft WorkChoices, told a conference on March 23 that protected conditions under the new laws were "smoke and mirrors" and that employees were "protected but not protected".
ACTU secretary Greg Combet said the comments confirmed unions' fears about the new laws.
"This is exactly what the ACTU has been saying from the outset, we've been accused of running a scare campaign, accused of trying to elevate unnecessary concerns about these laws, but here we have a partner of the firm who helped write the laws saying exactly what we have been putting.
The 29 meatworkers had been sacked and invited to re-apply to the abattoir for 20 jobs on new employment contracts that involved pay cuts of up to $180 a week.
Combet said it was good news that the workers would get their jobs back but The fact remained that it was legal to act as the company had done.
Andrews claimed the company had backed down after pressure from his Office of Workplace Services, saying it was evidence that employees were protected.
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