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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

Shrinking Act


Industrial cleaner Steve Archer cleans and maintains sewerage plants for a living.

His hourly rate of $16.50 didn't stretch far two years ago. Now, having received no pay rise in that time, he can feel his pay packet shrinking.

"Petrol prices have gone up, interest rates have gone up a few times, but my real wages are going backwards," says Archer, who's employed by maintenance contractor Harnleigh Facilities Management.

Archer's not alone. Average weekly earnings failed to keep pace with inflation over the last year, according to an ACTU analysis of data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

"Average earnings in the year to June 2006 dropped in real terms by 1% - that is, working Australians have experienced a fall in average weekly earnings of $11 a week as a result of downward pressure on wages and rising living costs," said ACTU Secretary Greg Combet.

"The historically low average earnings are caused by the Federal Government's 18 month freeze on pay rises for award wage workers as part of its new IR laws, and a fall in overtime, penalty rate and bonus payments to workers under the laws."

Two thirds of Australian Workplaces Agreements - the individual contracts at the heart of the new IR laws - scrap penalty rates, a third cut overtime pay, half get rid of shift allowances and another third do away with public holiday payments.

Archer and his colleagues at Harnleigh are paid slightly above-award hourly rates, but don't receive entitlements such as leave loading, overtime, shift rates and are required to provide their own personal protective equipment.

"It's not a feather duster job, you can literally be up to your elbows in shit," he says.

After rejecting an AWA two years ago, Harnleigh employees are trying to boost their conditions by negotiating a collective agreement with the help of the Australian Services Union. But they feel the threat of the Federal Government's new IR laws hanging over them, Archer says.

"When we've tried to negotiate they've said 'well, we could just work you to WorkChoices'," he says.

The high level of union membership among employees has probably protected their jobs.

"If we weren't in the union I think they would have just sacked us and put in new people on AWAs when WorkChoices came in," Archer says.


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