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Issue No. 312 23 June 2006  

Striking Out Rights
As Australian trade unionist prepare for the latest National Week of Action, broader consequences of the IR changes are becoming apparent. And they are not good for democracy.


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.


 Tooheys Orders a Blue

 Safety Standards Go East

 Libs Laugh At Sacked Mum

 Stoner's Cognitive Faculties Functioning

 Rail Workers Gagged

 Post Delivers Threat

 Elderly Face WorkChoices Assault

 Good Yarn Hits Cyberspace

 Business Buckets WorkChoices

 Hands Off Our Vital Stats

 Telstra Plays Tag and Release

 Multi Yanks Howard's Chain

 Nurses Reject Low Road

 Micks Bone Up On WorkChoices

 Activist'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.

 More Proof
 Fire Up
 Big Dog
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Safety Standards Go East

A Chinese labour hire company is paying hundreds of dollars below going rates, and slashing safety standards, on a major Sydney construction job.

Despite safety improvement notices from Workcover, no workers comp premiums, and admissions of “payment irregularities”, the federal government has given Hunan Industrial Equipment Installation the greenlight to operate in Australia.

Now the state-controlled labour hire company is hawking itself around Sydney construction and manufacturing bosses on the basis that low-paid Chinese can slash their labour costs.

Hunan is using 24 Chinese workers on Section 457 visas to install a $60 million machine for ABC Tissues at Weatherill Park in Sydney's west.

It has no registered office in Australia and cannot be prosecuted under Australian law.

AMWU officials blew the whistle after being tipped off by members who had been brought in to train the "skilled" Chinese.

State secretary, Paul Bastian, said their first concern had been safety.

He said Hunan hadn't been paying Workers Compensation premiums and that employees, who didn't speak English, had no idea of safety procedures or warnings.

"The bottom line for the AMWU is that lives are precious," Bastian said.

"I'm sure the family of a dead Chinese worker would be just as devastated about its loss as an Australian family.

"There is a whole list of safety issues that start with the inability to speak English and include the use of tools, and safety equipment, that doesn't meet Australian standards.

"Our people have identified unsafe work practices, including a lack of fall protection."

Bastian says the use of a Chinese labour hire company, with no Australian legal responsibilities, to undercut wages and conditions takes 457 exploitation to a new low.

The AMWU is demanding an urgent inquiry into guest labour visas, introduced by the federal government to hold down wages, according to Immigration Minister Amanada Vanstone.

It wants the inquiry to address three priority issues:

- does Australia need long-stay guest labour, and, if so,

- what checks and balances are needed to ensure workers are not exploited

- how effective safety and skills training and monitoring regimes can be implemented

Bastian says no system will work, for locals or guest workers, unless employers are required to register in Australia so they are covered by domestic laws.

One Workcover notice issued, last month, and reprinted by the Australian Financial Review, read: "Persons working on-site are unable to speak or read English and are unable to read or follow the Site Evacuation Plan or Site Specific Occupational Health and Safety Management Plan."

ABC contracted the installation of the tissue making machine to Italian company, A Celli which, in turn, let the labour contract to Hunan Industrial Equipment Installation.

Hunan has assured the AMWU it is paying award wages but, Bastian says, those legal minimums fall far below going rates.

Even so, he said, Chinese workers, has disputed their employers' claim.

"They told us they are being paid Chinese rates and expect to receive bonuses when they get back home," Bastian said.

"These people need some legal protections. At the moment, they are entirely at the mercy of the employer. If they complain or visit authorities, they can be sent home immediately, no questions asked.

"They have no rights at all."

Vanstone confirmed her department had discovered "payment irregularities" to Hunan "visa holders" but said visas would not be cancelled.

Meanwhile, China will press for complete access to Australian jobs for its nationals in free trade negotiations with Canberra.

China wants the visa system opened up to give its people access to skilled and unskilled Australian jobs.


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