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Issue No. 318 03 August 2006  
E D I T O R I A L

Don't Bank on Costello's Oil Shocker
Did the economy slip on a banana skin or an oil slick?

F E A T U R E S

Interview: A Life And Death Matter
Macquarie Street and Canberra are squaring off over safety in the workplace, NSW Minister for Industrial relations, John Della Bosca, explains what's at stake.

Unions: Fighting Back
When John Howard's building industry enforcer started threatening people's homes, one couple hit the road. Jim Marr met them in Sydney.

Industrial: What Cowra Means
The ruling on the Cowra abattoir case highlights the implications of the new IR rules, according to John Howe and Jill Murray

Environment: Scrambling for Energy Security
Howard Government hypocrisy is showcased in its climate change manoeuvring, Stuart Rosewarne writes:

Politics: Page Turner
A new book leaves no doubt about whether the faction came before the ego, Nathan Brown writes.

Economics: The State of Labour
The capacity of the state to shape the political economy and thus improve the social lives of the people must be reasserted, argues Geoff Dow.

International: Workers Blood For Oil
A new book by Abdullah Muhsin and Alan Johnson lifts the lid on the bloody reality of US backed democracy for Iraq's trade unions

History: Liberty in Spain
Worker Self-Management is good management. The proof in Spain was in Catalania, Andalusia and continues in the Basque Country, as Neale Towart explains.

Review: Go Roys, Make A Noise
Phil Doyle thought he'd find nostalgia, but instead Vulgar Press' new book, Maroon & Blue is a penetrating insight into the suburban mind under stress.

N E W S

 Ah, Sol

 Telstra Contractors in Bush Raid

 Spooks Go “Nuclear”

 Drivers Under Attack

 Stacks on the Hill

 Advertising Works

 29 Face Secret Interrogations

 Bureaucrats Sit on Wages

 Blue Mountains Fit Through Loophole

 G Spot for Rally

 Chalkies Give WorkChoices An F

 Howard Base Shaky

 Deaf Workers Lose Voice

 Canberra Scratches WorkChoices Handicap

 MUA Hungry for Change

 Vanny Changes Story

 Activists What's On

C O L U M N S

The Locker Room
Ruled Out
Phil Doyle plays by the rules

Fiction
Tommy's Apprentice
Chapter One - Tommy and "The Boy"

Politics
Westie Wing
Ian West wonders what might happen if the NSW Coalition actually did win power next March at the State elections.

L E T T E R S
 Bussies Are Tops
 What Was He On About?
 Belly On Balance
 Help Wanted
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Bureaucrats Sit on Wages


As inflation hits a 10-year record, John Howard's Office of the Employment Advocate is stalling wage rises for thousands of Australians.

A number of unions have complained the OEA is holding up collective agreements, sometimes for months, then delivering non-specific judgements that further delay settlements.

On the other hand, non-negotiated AWAs become effective on lodgement without any form of checking against minimum standards.

Affected unions are loathe to go public because they fear any comment will rebound on their chances of delivering for members through a system that has become secretive and bureaucratic.

Under WorkChoices, employers have to lodge collective agreements and they can be fined thousands of dollars if they agree to anything the federal government doesn't like.

It is a defence against including this "prohibited content" to get sign off from the OEA but, increasingly, the Office is playing Pontius Pilate on anything it suspects might help union organisation.

The OEA admitted to Senate Estimates that it was taking 60 days to turn around collective agreements.

"Increasingly, the OEA is making assessments about what it thinks a clause might mean rather than what it actually says," ACTU industrial officer, Michelle Bissett, said.

"They are saying clauses 'could' fall foul of WorkChoices rather than giving a direct answer.

"If the OEA says a clause could be prohibited there is an argument that the employer then has no legal defence.

"The federal government argued the IRC was interfering in negotiated agreements well this situation is much worse. It is a level of bureaucracy that can't be penetrated because the whole process is secretive."

Under the old system, the IRC published agreements but, under WorkChoices, they are kept secret.

There is concern the OEA could be litigating and re-litigating the same issues because, under Howard's law, nobody but the immediate parties can access what finally passes master.

Dozens of agreements, signed off on by bosses and workers, are awaiting a clean bill of health from the Advocate.

Bissett says the problem is exacerbated because workers have no control over the lodgement process and any question about prohibited content makes employers "understandably nervous".

While employers are fined if they lodge any clause that is not WorkChoices compliant, workers and their unions don't get off the hook.

They can be fined for asking for the inclusion of provisions such as union safety training paid time off for delegates, or limits on the use of AWAs or labour hire.


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