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Issue No. 329 20 October 2006  
E D I T O R I A L

Sucking the Oranges
Every three years the Australian union movement comes together for a gathering that is part policy forum, part Jamboree, the ACTU Congress.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Cowboys and Indians
Finance Sector Union national secretary Paul Schroder is standing between the big banks and a bucket of money.

Industrial: Seven Deadly Sins
Chris Christodoulou gives seven reasons why WorkChoices is bad for business

Unions: The IT Factor
The future of Australian IT looks grim as big companies lead the rush to India and China, writes Jackie Woods.

Politics: Bargain Basement
Simple principles of democracy underpin the ACTU's collective bargaining proposal, insists ACTU Secrteary Greg Combet.

Environment: An Inconvenient Hoax
Al Gore may be warning of climate breakdown, but what hope the truth when he's up against such a well-oiled machine? asks Paul Sheridan

Corporate: Two Sides
Bilateral trade agreements are a good idea – just ask the US multinationals. The rest of us should strongly disagree says Pat Ranald

International: Unfair Dismissals
Nearly 10,000 workers were fired for their trade union activities in 2005, an annual trade union survey shows.

History: A Stitch in Time
Neale Towart takes some lessons from female textile workers while considering the case for recognition ballots.

Review: The Wind that Shakes the Barley
A film charting the turmoil of the Irish war for independence against British occupation during the 1920s might seem an odd choice for top honours at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006.

N E W S

 Bananas in the Mail

 Dragons Slay St George

 Collective Contracts Still Rule

 Boeing Bombs Individual Contracts

 Multis Raid Nest Eggs

 "Guests" Stood Over, AMWU

 Aunty Off the Air

 Ban Ki-Moon, Koreans Warn

 Super Shafting at Telstra

 Qantas IT calls Bangalore home

 Three Question Method

 AWAs: Kids Stuff

C O L U M N S

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Ian West takes a walk around the backyard with the Prime Minister…

The Soapbox
Rise Up
Hugo Chavez's explosive address to the United Nations

Culture
The Fear Factor
A new analysis of the history of fear takes us from the war on terror all the way to the modern workplace.

L E T T E R S
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News

"Guests" Stood Over, AMWU


A Brisbane labour hire company accused of exploiting Filipino guest workers has forced them to sign new contracts they couldn't understand while barring union representation, the AMWU claims.

The workers, who last week appealed to the their union for help over underpayment and substandard conditions, claimed their employer stood over them yesterday and told them the Prime Minister was on his side.

The welders were picked up from work as usual yesterday afternoon but instead of going home were taken to the offices of their labour hire employer, Dartbridge Welding.

Their boss Dennis Hickman denied access to union officials who attended at the men's request.

AMWU state secretary Danny Dougherty said the welders were held in the office for over two hours while Hickman made them sign the new contracts for their rental accommodation.

"They were told that they either signed the letter or they weren't allowed to go home, and if they didn't sign they would be kicked out," said Dougherty.

"The men didn't understand the content of the agreement, English is not their first language, and they weren't allowed to take the contract home.

"Hickman told them that John Howard was on his side in this dispute, that the Prime Minister was backing him."

The welders were brought to Australia two months ago on 457 visas under the Government's skilled migration scheme by Dartbridge, who on-hired them to Ipswich-based Kador Engineering.

The workers signed contracts before they left the Philippines, but were not shown details of their employment conditions.

Union representatives told the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission yesterday they were promised $40,000 a year. Instead they:

- were on $27,000 a year, about $15,000 below the industry average

- were accommodated eight to a four-bedroom house and direct debited $175 a week for rent , about six times the market rate

- were employed as casuals giving them no sick or holiday pay, despite being on four-year visas

- regularly worked 55 hours per week with no shift allowances or penalty rates

- were illegally charged for their own health insurance

Three of the welders were sacked this week after appearing on ABC television and appealing to the AMWU for help in improving their conditions.

"The government has allowed this to happen. It's a system that the government has put in place, but it doesn't force employers to be accountable," said Dougherty.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone has complained of a 'set-up' and told the workers they should have complained directly to the government instead of the union.

But the AMWU provided the Department of Immigration with a list of concerns regarding maltreatment of workers on 457 visas in June, and has received no response, Dougherty said.

Vanstone said this week that 180 employers, 2 percent of those using workers on 457 visas, were being investigated for alleged breaches of the scheme including inappropriate deductions from wages, underpayments and the kind of work being carried out.

But companies face no penalty for exploiting workers on 457 visas.

The most recent figures available from the department - for 2004-05 - show that just 19 employers were warned over employee mistreatment and nine were excluded from the guest visa scheme for improperly treating workers but faced no prosecution.


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