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Issue No. 311 16 June 2006  

Big Target
Well, he’s finally done it. Opposition leader Kim Beazley has wrestled with his internal doubters and staked his future, and one suspects the next election, on workers rights.


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.


 Esselte Occasioning Workplace Harm

 Andrews Backs State Laws

 Death Sentence for BHP

 Unions Deliver: Freehills

 No Job is Safe: AIRC

 Klan Backs Jan

 Village People Clean Up

 Dad Heads for Blacktown

 Indonesian Guards Occupy Office

 Qantas Passes the Bucks

 IR Laws a Loser: Lib

 Business Bombs Beazley

 OECD Undercuts Howard

 Leafy Council Rewards Choppers

 High Price Of A Low Wage

 Actvist's 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.

 Lost in the Supermarket
 Career Opportunities
 A Nuclear Error
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Unions Deliver: Freehills

Union negotiated agreements deliver wage increases 72 percent greater than AWAs, according to the federal government's favourite law firm.

Freehills, the largest beneficiary of Canberra's workplace legal crusade, has revealed that union agreements contain 4.3 percent average annual wage movements, against 2.5 percent for non-negotiated, individual contracts.

The fact, contained in a hush-hush presentation prepared by the Melbourne law firm, undermines government claims that workers are better off on AWAs.

The timing is significant because it fills a vacuum created when the Australian Bureau of Statistics decided it would no longer measure relative movements in different types of agreement.

That decision was taken after surveys consistently showed employees on union-negotiated contracts earned higher hourly rates than those on AWAs.

The latest completed survey, in 2004, showed non-managerial workers on registered individual contracts earned two percent less than those on registered collective agreements.

In the subsequent silence, Prime Minister John Howard and Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, have loudly claimed better outcomes for Australians on AWAs.

Andrews started claiming that AWA workers were "on average" 29 percent better off but he has reduced that to the Prime Minister's figure of 13 percent.

Industrial Relations professor, David Peetz, insists both figures are based on "bodgy statistics".

Peetz says both men refer only to "weekly earnings" which are skewed towards AWAs because a large number of those on collective contracts are casual or part-time.

There are also a preponderance of AWAs covering senior managers in the public service where Canberra has made them a condition of employment.

Peetz says the latest available hourly comparisons, from the ABS, show, across the whole workforce, people on collective agreements earn two percent more.

He said the survey showed that women on AWAs earned 11 percent less, per hour, than those on collective contracts.

"For casual workers, AWAs paid 15 percent less. For part time workers, AWAs paid 25 percent less. Indeed, amongst permanent part-time employees, even those on the award minimum, earned an average eight percent more than those on AWAs," Peetz said.

The Freehills document, dated 22 February, 2006, warns employers with enterprise agreements of the 'potential threats" posed by competitors who use AWAs to eliminate overtime, penalty payments and loadings.

It suggests one sentence for AWAs that can be used to eliminate entitlements to all six conditions the federal government claims are "protected by law".

Freehills has been sucking heavily on the public teat since Canberra diverted millions of taxpayer dollars to its campaign against trade union members.

Only, last month, Senate Estimates heard Freehills had pocketed $791,000 in the 11 months to May 8 by the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

It also works for Andrews' Department of Workplace Relations and was one of the key firms involved in writing the WorkChoices legislation.


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