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Issue No. 310 09 June 2006  

I'm No Economist, But �.
I'm no economist, but there a few things about the national economic debate right now that I don't quite get.


Interview: Rock Solid
Bill Shorten gives the inside story on the Australian Workers Union's involvement in the Beaconsfield rescue.

Industrial: Eight Simple Rules for Employing My Teenage Daughter
Phil Oswald bought up his kids to believe in their rights; so when his 16-year old daughter was told to cop a pay cut she was never going to take it quietly.

Politics: The Johnnie Code
WorkChoices is encrypted deep in the PM's political DNA, writes Evan Jones

Energy: Fission Fantasies
Adam Ma�anit looks at the big business push behind the 'clean nuclear' debate that is sweeping the globe.

History: All The Way With Clarrie O'Shea
The WorkChoices Penal Powers are the latest in a long line of penal sanctions against trade unions, writes Neale Towart

International: Closer to Home
If Australia can forgive its debt to Iraq, why not to Indonesia and the Philippines, write Luke Fletcher and Karen Iles

Economics: Taking the Fizz
While the Treasurer has been popping the post-Budget champers, Frank Stilwell gives a more sober assessment.

Unions: Stronger Together
Amanada Tattersall looks at the possibilities of strengthening alliances between unions, environmental and community organisations

Review: Montezuma's Revenge
Tommy Lee Jones directs and stars in a film about racism and retribution, writes James Gallaway.

Poetry: Fair Go Gone
Employers in the land rejoice, for we are girt by greed.


 Grandmother Fights Fabrication Company

 Bog Standards, Hanssen Exposed

 Foxtel Channels Contracts

 Telstra Dials Up A Shocker

 Viva La Resolution

 Smirk Boss Loses Control

 Iemma Told To Change At Central

 On The Tiles

 APHEDA Offices Attacked

 Vanstone Sits On Wages

 PM Slap for Battered Women

 "Spineless" Andrews Apologises

 Howard Lags �Best Practice�

 Harper's Bizarre Theories

 Process Abused - Call Peter McIlwain

 Activists What's On!


The Soapbox
The Beaconsfield Declaration
As the Prime Minister feted Brant Webb and Todd Russell, their colleagues were outside with a message to the rest of Australia.

The Locker Room
Run Like You Stole Something
Phil Doyle observes that there are some tough bastards out there.

The Westie Wing
That fun-loving friend of the workers, Ian West, reports from the red leather of the Bear Pit.

Class Action
Phil Bradley draws the lines between education funding and the current skills crisis.

 Her Honour Judge Judith Scheindler
 Greens Are Good For You
 Calling All Micks!
 Coming Up Swinging
 Belly's Bit
 Mining For Gold
 Blood Spangled Banner
 Never To Be Repeated Offer
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Bog Standards, Hanssen Exposed

WA builder, Gerry Hanssen, forced an 18-year-old woman to share a toilet with around 100 male construction workers on one of his cut-price jobs.

Hanssen brushed repeated pleas for female facilities until the teenager quit, her boyfriend said.

"I asked Hanssen twice, in person, to provide a female toilet and told him the conditions were disgusting," labourer Josh Denford, told Workers Online.

"Eventually, I wrote him a letter and stuck it on the windscreen of his car but nothing happened.

"Kelly was the only woman at Terrace Rd and she had to share a toilet with 100 blokes. It was completely unfair."

Personal accounts of Hanssen horrors have started to filter out of WA since an anonymous employee poured cold water over the magnate's defence of his working conditions, last Friday.

A posse of journalists saw the labourer tip a mug of water over Hanssen and ask him how he liked working in the rain, during a media conference, outside one of his apartment projects.

Hanssen, an activist supporter of Canberra's IR agenda, has been at the centre of controversy since he was sprung importing Filipinos and Chinese, and working them seven days a week a week for around half what a WA construction worker would get.

Locals he does employ come through Construct Labour Solutions - formerly Tricord Personnel and, before that, Tricord Realty - and are classed as "independent contractors".

The manoeuvre allows Tricord, and Hanssen, to undercut other builders by absolving themselves of insurance, super, holidays and other liabilities.

According to the CFMEU, almost all workers that Construct provides are young and green, yet when skilled workers call Construct's employment ads in the West Australian, they're told that there's no work available in the Perth CBD. And the arrangement also muddies the water with regard to OH&S responsibilities.

But it wasn't just the facilities that drove Denford and his girlfriend away from Finbar Hanssen jobs.

Both suffered accidents at work and came to believe conditions were downright dangerous.

Denford was left swinging five metres above the ground when a crane tagline flicked back and hoisted him by the wrist.

"I was dogging (riding the hook) and rigging. I was loving it but I didn't have any tickets or experience," he said.

"We were lifting a tonne up when the tagline lashed back and hoisted me off the ground. It shook me up quite a bit, I can tell you.

"I had heard of plenty of injuries but the people just disappeared and you never saw them again."

Kelly, who didn't want her surname used, was employed to lag pipes but soon found herself doing scaffolding.

The teenager had a fall and crushed a nerve in her elbow.

Denford said he never held an industry green card until he left Hanssen's employment and completed a course at the CFMEU training centre.

Another Hanssen escapee said he earned $600 a week more since moving to a job covered by a union agreement.

Mike Bacci, 30, slammed the independent contractor set-up as a "complete sham".

He revealed that Construct made massive deductions out of wages that were already well shy of industry standards.

Workers are promised flat payments of around $23 an hour for 50-55 hour weeks, he said.

But Tricord rips back up to $5 an hour to cover insurance, super and expenses.

No standard safety gear is provided. Employees have to fork out for their own helmets, boots, gloves and glasses.

"I'm a bloody labourer," Bacci says, "who wants to contract themselves out as a labourer?

"He's found a scam and he's working it. I got $20 an hour, flat, and out of that they deducted $1 an hour for insurance and I had to pay my own super.

"They had me in charge of a steel fixing crew but I didn't have a clue.

"They give me a pair of nips and a reel, and off I went."

Bacci says those lack of standards could have serious implications for Hanssen projects, down the track.

He knew his way around the industry, especially air conditioning, but says he learned steel fixing by trial and error with minimal supervision.

"I know we made some mistakes but the engineer never checked. It's a bit late to go back when they're up to the fifth floor," he said.

Bacci lasted five months and warned others to think twice about working for the company, even as a stop-gap measure.

"Experienced blokes just won't stay. I must have seen 40 good tradesmen come and go while I was there," he said.

"Health and safety is probably the worst thing. I was there three months before I had an OH&S induction and it was the storeman who carried it out.

"I went down a hole which wasn't covered myself."

Employees told Workers Online the most visible shortcomings were lack of fall protection and uncovered steel rods.


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