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Issue No. 321 25 August 2006  

Crude Politics
It is one of the great mysteries of Australian politics that the Prime Minister has managed to emerge unscathed from one of the most profound geo-political misadventures since history was first recorded.


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.


 Howard Amps Up Repression

 Andrews on the Fiddle

 Robbo Flags Mobile Holidays

 Shop Group Maroons Kids

 Condition Critical

 BHP Confronts Chilean Resistance

 The Thin Yellow Line

 Safety Goes to the Dogs

 Pollies Wings Clipped By Junket Ban

 Technicians Win Action Ballot

 Academics Take Contract Lessons

 Hardie, Ha, Ha - Directors Laughing

 Amcor Sends Hundreds Packing

 Warren Goes to Ground

 Activist's What's On!


The Locker Room
Ruled Out
Phil Doyle plays by the rules

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

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

 Seek and Ye Shall Find
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Andrews on the Fiddle

Kevin Andrews is fiddling with his GEERS while dodgy companies plan the wholesale plunder of retirement incomes.

Last week's move to double GEERS cover for lost entitlements, to 16 weeks, has been criticised by unions who have seen long-serving members dudded millions of dollars.

Marrickville auto component manufacturer, Tristar, is a stark example.

If Tristar closes its doors after next month's expiry of its collective agreement, Andrews' GEERS changes would mean long-serving employees could be short-changed up to $135,00, instead of $141,000.

AMWU organiser, Martin Schutz, said entitlements were central to the retirement plans of many long-serving production workers.

"A lot of these people earn $700-$800 a week. Obviously a nine percent super levy isn't going to provide much of a nest egg," he said.

"Their families rely on the entitlements they have built up over decades of service and they are entitled to, it's their money."

Tristar has slashed its workforce from around 350 in 2001 when Tony Abbott accused them of "treason" for striking in a bid to protect their entitlements, to about 60.

Those left are long-term employees, with up to 40 years of service, and the most accrued entitlements.

Tristar agreed to take out a $17 million insurance bond to cover those entitlements but it is part of the collective agreement and, under Howard's regime, a company can apply to terminate an agreement, leaving staff with only bare bones legal minimums.

Nobody is saying Tristar will try it on but the threat exists and the fear amongst those left is palpable.

Unions, including the AMWU, have lashed GEERS as corporate welfare that rips off taxpayers as well as workers.

They have pushed for insurance bonds and industry-wide insurance schemes to cover defaulting employers.

GEERS was introduced after National Textiles, headed by John Howard's brother Stan, went bust in the lead-up to a federal election, leaving employees without accrued entitlements.

ACTU secretary, Greg Combet, said Andrews' adjustment to GEERS wouldn't even cover the average displaced worker until he or she found a job.

Studies show the average length of unemployment for redundant Australian workers is 22 weeks.

Combet said the federal government should be moving to protect jobs, rather than planning to lose them.

"What we are seeing is a federal government that has waved the white flag on Australian jobs and industries," Combet said.

"What displaced workers want is what they are entitled to - 100 percent of their entitlements."


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