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Issue No. 355 01 December 2006  

Seven Year Itch
For the past seven years, over 335 issues, Workers Online has been chronicling events in the labour movement and passing our judgments on all things union.


Interview: Flying High
The Australian international Pilots Association has rejoined the ACTU and president Ian Woods is taking it into new airspace.

Unions: TUF on Toll
As transport giant Toll expands across the region, unions are working together to boost their bargaining power, writes Jackie Woods.

Industrial: Forward to the Past
Anti-union building laws draw their inspiration from a century ago, writes Neale Towart

Economics: Debt and the Economy
Household debt is at record levels. Interest rates are rising. Production of real things is not increasing. The military generates most demand. How long can it go on?

Obituary: The Charlatanry of Milton Friedman
Evan Jones busts some myths about the grand-daddy of free market economics

Environment: Low Voltage
Nuclear Power and Prime Ministerial Pronouncements are seriously short of a few volts, writes Neale Towart

Legal: The Fair Deal
Anthony Forsyth proposes a social partnership agenda for Australia

Review: A Little History
The Little History of Australian Unionism is exactly that; fifteen thousand words on the topic, writes Rowan Cahill.


 Global Campaign for Jailed Iranian Union Leader

 Bully Tactics Can’t Dull Protests

 Which Bank Slashes Work Rights?

 Sunday’s The Day For Future Rallies

 Carmel Saves Job, Loses Bonus

 Case Dismissed: No Justice in WorkChoices

 China (S)trains Procurement Policy

 Contracts Out on Sole Traders

 Car Companies Do The Dirty

 Historic Case Restores Security

 Final Hurdle for Medibank Sell-Off


The Soapbox
Address to the Nation
ACTU secretary Greg Combet's speech to the National Day of Action

The Westie Wing
Ian West recalls a time when the earth was flat, unions ran the country and Honest John Howard was the workers’ best friend.

Sick System
Punitive IR laws and a commercially-driven workers compensation scheme are conspiring to bully injured workers, writes Dr Con Costa.

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Contracts Out on Sole Traders

Big business will have the power to push down contract rates and threaten the take home pay of contractors under a new wave of changes to independent contractor laws tabled this week.

The ACTU says new law will give big business the upper hand in pay negotiations and fails to protect contractors who wish to bargain collectively.

"This law fails to help sub-contractors who are being pushed around by big companies," ACTU president Sharan Burrow says.

For example, more than 100 independent contractors working as telephone technicians in regional NSW for Telstra are facing cuts of between 25% and 50% to their contract pay rates as well as 'fines' for minor defects that are putting their incomes at risk.

The technicians are employed as sub-contractors for Downer Engineering but carry out the majority of their work on residential and business telephone lines for Telstra.

They say they cannot afford to accept most country work under the new contract rates which mean a cut in the rate of pay for repairing most rural telephone faults in NSW from $105 to $80 - a 24% pay cut.

Overall, Telstra's pay cuts could amount to as much as $25,000 less pay for the sub-contractors in a year.

But under their current terms of employment the 'subbies' have no capacity to negotiate directly with Telstra for decent contract rates and their legal rights to bargain collectively are severely limited.

"It is wrong for companies like Telstra to unilaterally decide on the pay rates for sub-contractors," says Burrow.

Unions are also concerned that the proposed new 'independent contractor' law will fail to prevent employers from pushing more workers into sham contracting arrangements where employees miss out on award rates of pay, annual leave, superannuation, workers compensation and other basic entitlements.


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