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Issue No. 326 29 September 2006  
E D I T O R I A L
F E A T U R E S

Interview: Australia’s Most Wanted
The ACCC is the latest state agency to turn its guns on the construction union. National official, Dave Noonan, discusses the implications.

Industrial: The Fox and the Contractor
With new laws looming for “independent contractors”, Foxtel subbies have had the carpet pulled from under their feet, writes Nathan Brown.

Unions: Industrial Wasteland
A group of inner-Sydney veterans appear to be working to strip their families of retirement incomes. Jim Marr records their desperation.

International: Two Bob's Worth
German and British workers are participating in business decisions while WorkChoices locks Australians out of the conversation, writes Anthony Forsyth.

Economics: National Interest
John Howard claimed that interest rates would always be lower under a Coalition government than under Labor, Neale Towart crunchess the numbers.

Environment: The Real Dinosaur
Economic ignorance remains at the top and the critics are oblivious says Sol Power

History: Only In Spain?
The experiences of self management during the Civil War have been the one positive factor to come from that tragic event, and the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation thrives today.

Review: Clerk Off
Nathan Brown draws solace from some fellow social misfits.

N E W S

 Death Sites Under Construction

 Bank Pledge - Safe as Houses

 Brush Big Business: Keating

 Sydney the New Mumbai

 CFMEU Blocks Vets Sale

 Workers Go Cattle Class

 Pay for Work Scheme Floated

 Howard Blesses His Brethren

 Uni Flunks AWA Test

 Minchin Takes Back Door Route

 Solid Group Goes Grassroots

 Shrinking Act

 Activist's What's On!

C O L U M N S

Legends
Westie Wing
MLC Ian West ventures beyond Macquarie St and into the desert of the eco rats.

The Soapbox
Testing Times
Former RLPA secretary and Newcastle Knights prop, Tony Butterfield, fires up over dawn raids.

Obituary
Dare to Win
The union movement has lost an inspirational leader of working men and women, writes Jeana Vithoulkas

Fiction
Tommy's Apprentice
Chapter Two - Tommy’s Tale.

L E T T E R S
 Seditious Intention
 Botched Surgery
 Values Call
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Death Sites Under Construction


The vulnerability of the non-union construction worker is laid bare in a harrowing coroner's report into the deaths of two men at Lake Cargellico.

NSW Senior Deputy State Coroner, Jacqueline Milledge, catalogues a scenario that sounds like a scene from the ACCI's dream of the perfect workplace, and its fatal consequences.

BGA won a contract to construct a new water tower in the dry NSW central west by undercutting competitors by more than 13 percent.

Once there, South African principal Anton Beytell hired on individual contracts, used imported labour, paid below industry standards, and thumbed his nose at the 40-hour week.

Beytell was equally flexible on health and safety and the NSW Department of Public Works did nothing to enforce its own standards.

BGA didn't supply a Site Specific Safety Management Plan or submit a Safe Work Method Statement.

On October 22, 2002, formwork collapsed, pitching five men into 140 tonnes of setting cement.

South Australian construction worker Craig McLeod drowned in concrete and Beytell, himself, died from a penetrating blow to the head in the fall.

Three other workers - Michael Abel, Scott Wood and Stephen Molothane - were rescued from the tangle of cement and steel with "significant injuries".

The only workman who didn't fall from the tower roof, Ralph Storr, suffered post traumatic stress.

Shockingly, the coroner found, McLeod knew the job was a death trap but felt he could do nothing about it.

"Craig McLeod knew there were problems on site," Milledge said. "He had confided in his good friends Ms Brauman and Mr Quinn. He also told his brother that he had real concerns the formwork would not hold.

"Mr McLeod was in a difficult position. He was miles from home and without sufficient funds. Like others in that small community he needed work ... They should have been able to rely on the Department of Public Works and Services to manage the project properly."

The coroner heard evidence McLeod had arranged for a city crane driver, Quinn, to tip off a WorkCover inspector about the site. But, for some reason, a planned WorkCover visit never eventuated.

Milledge laid bare Beytell's disregard for workplace standards.

She found Malothane, imported from South Africa on a temporary visa, had been a virtual slave. And there was a suggestion that after being injured he was bribed to keep his mouth shut.

"Malothane slept in the laundry of Beytell's apartment on a piece of cardboard," Milledge reported. "He often worked 11 or 12 hour days, six day per week.

"His wages were non-existent.

"The treatment of Mr Malothane is indicative of Beytell's lack of ethical behaviour as far as his employees were concerned.

"Despite Mr Malothane being severely injured in the collapse, he was somehow removed from the hospital and flown back to his homeland. Mr Malothane did not want to be discharged as he was undergoing treatment.

"When he arrived home, a great sum of money was deposited into his bank account, far more than the wages owed to him. He was told the money came from Beytell's wife.

"Malothane says Mrs Beytell 'warned me not to speak to anyone about the accident'.

"On this evidence it is clear it was intended to 'buy' his silence."

She found local mens wear retailer, Scott Wood, had needed the labouring work to supplement dwindling business income. He worked a 60-hour week, without overtime or penal rates, and didn't get super, sick or annual leave.

Milledge said the isolated workers had been paid "intermittently" and didn't have enough money to sustain themselves.

"Costs were contained by instigating miserable work practices that not only deprived the workers of fair and timely recompense but also skimped on safety to the detriment of all on site," she said.

Lawyer Ian Latham, who represented McLeod's family at the inquest, said the evidence raised serious questions about moves to limit regulations and place greater power in the hands of employers, especially in regional Australia.

"These people were defenceless," Latham said. "They had nobody to look after their interests and Craig McLeod, for one, wasn't confident to raise serious health and safety concerns.

"They were employed on take-it or leave-it individual contracts that left them at the mercy of their employer.

"Like much of regional Australia, the level of unionisation and safety inspection was low. The lack of those protections led almost inevitably to this tragedy."

Milledge directed the coronial file to WorkCover to consider prosecutions under NSW OH&S laws.


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