||Issue No. 319||11 August 2006|
Good Versus Evil
Interview: A Life And Death Matter
Unions: Fighting Back
Industrial: What Cowra Means
Environment: Scrambling for Energy Security
Politics: Page Turner
Economics: The State of Labour
International: Workers Blood For Oil
History: Liberty in Spain
Review: Go Roys, Make A Noise
The Locker Room
The Cruellest Cut
Sprung: Light on Day
The stunning admission came at Senate Estimates, last week, renewing speculation that Independent Contracts Australia is a front for forces that want to remain hidden.
The shadowy organisation has been ultra-secretive about membership and funding, since it emerged five years ago.
But, under Senate questioning, executive director Ken Phillips, testified the ICA only had "a couple of hundred members".
According to its own propaganda there are more than 1.9 million independent contractors in Australia.
Phillips' evidence means around one in every 9500 contractors has chosen to join an organisation that purports to speak for them.
CFMEU assistant national secretary, Dave Noonan, says the admission raises questions beyond the ICA's political credibility.
"Now they have to come clean on their funding," Noonan said.
"This mob should publish membership figures and accounts so people know who their real masters are. Obviously, they don't run their show on membership fees."
Phillips told Senate Estimates some members pay a $5 token fee on top of a $50 annual website charge.
A best-case scenario would give ICA membership income of around $11,000 a year.
For that, Independent Contractors Australia, employs an economist with strong links to the federal government as its chairman and right wing extremist, Phillips, as executive director.
It has travelled to Geneva for each of the last two years to monitor ILO discussions relating to independent contractors, and it makes long-winded submission to virtually every parliamentary committee or statutory body it thinks might be able to wind back workers rights.
On top of that, it has started to breed front organisations of its own - most recently, Owner Drivers Australia, a paper entity, based at the Independent Contractors website, that also specialises in making submissions to parliamentary committees.
Independent Contractors Australia has been dodgy from the off.
Supposedly established to look after the interests of independent contractors, it was founded in 2001 by one of Australia's largest builders, millionaire political activist Bob Day.
Day was simultaneously chairman of ICA and national president of the peak employer body, HIA (the Housing Industry Association).
He only quit the top position at ICA, last year, but not because of the glaring conflict of interest. The organisation's website confirms he remains on its national committee.
Day has had a number of run-ins with real independent contractors as the owner of a number of building companies.
Workers Online is aware of at least one case when Day's Homestead Homes was taken to the federal court by a disgruntled brikkie sub-contractor, alleging unfair contracts.
Homestead spent plenty on its defence, forcing the brikkie into the High Court before making a settlement.
Workers Online understands Day's company spent in the vicinity of $20,000 to settle that claim, with legal costs on top.
CFMEU SA vice president, Ben Carslake, says the brikkie only got a settlement through union representation.
"Individuals can't pursue these cases by themselves. It's far too expensive and big businessmen, like Bob Day, know that," Carslake says.
"That's why they are determined to stop sub-contractors banding together and to prevent them being represented by unions.
"Bob Day had a very poor reputation down here. Individuals can't get redress against people like him if they are left to their own devices."
Day, Ken Phillips and the only "human" named on the Owner Drivers website, Don D'Cruz, all have longstanding links with the right wing HR Nicholls Society, founded by Peter Costello.
The HR Nicholls Society has been agitating for legislation similar to John Howard's WorkChoices for more than 20 years.
It is a key supporter of Howard's proposed Independent Contractors Act, along with the ICA and Owner Drivers Australia.
Bob Day and his Independent Contractors are lobbying hard for provisions that would deny contractors union representation in unfair contracts disputes.
They are also demanding:
- removal of protections for outworkers
- removal of state protections for NSW and Victorian owner drivers
- removal of small claims access from outworkers
"They would, wouldn't they?" Noonan says. "They represent the interests of big businessmen like Bob Day.
"We don't have a problem with them agitating but we do have a problem with them passing themselves off as independent contractors, without any verification whatsoever."
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