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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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Smirk Boss Loses Control

Twenty five Melbourne workers might have been conned into signing away half a million dollars when they put their names to one-page AWAs.

The fears were raised when Finlay Engineering boss, Jim Sutton, confirmed his auto components company was going into administration, last week.

He made his announcement five weeks after sacking the shop steward and another union activist, for smirking, then dropping sub-standard AWAs on those left standing.

Twenty five of the 28 remaining staff signed contracts that contained barely 140 words and reduced redundancy entitlements from three weeks a year, to 14 weeks maximum.

The AMWU has asked the Office of Workplace Services to investigate individual contracts that strip employees of around $500,000 they would have been entitled to under their union-negotiated collective agreement.

AMWU Victorian secretary, Dave Oliver, called the move a "rort".

"You only have to look at the sequence of events. He sacks the delegates, introduces AWAs the same day, then closes the door five weeks later with a minimum saving of half a million," Oliver said.

"This is John Howard's new world where genuine agreements can be undercut at will. Where's all the protections he spent $55 million advertising last year?"

When Sutton sacked the delegates, and another worker on sick leave, he gloated, on radio, that Howard's regime had given him unprecedented "control of his workforce".

A community protest forced him to reinstate all three men and, last week, he blamed the AMWU for the closure and job losses.

Oliver called that claim "political grandstanding".

He said mismanagement, lack of investment, and federal government's open door policy to cheap auto components were the real reasons behind Finlay's demise.

Oliver described conditions inside the West Heidelberg factory as "Dickensian".

Other factors that Sutton appeared to have overlooked included:

- His insistence, to the IRC 13 months ago, that he wanted out and the business was on the market

- The fact that Finlay Engineering had been in administration as recently as two years ago

- The agreement of employees to accept a five-year wage freeze

- The fact that, at the time of closure, staff had been whittled down to 28, from around 100, and that only four of those remaining were union members


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