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October 2003   

Interview: No Ifs, No Butts
Rugby League Professionals Association president Tony Butterfield on his battle to deliver a collective agreement for NRL players.

Unions: National Focus
In this month’s national wrap: Noel Hester meets a heavy hitter talking up open source unionism, truckies front the suits at Boral’s AGM, tales of corporate bastardry and Medicare birthday revelry.

Industrial: Fools Gold
Unions have thrashed out a string of protocols with the NSW Labor Government. Some, now, are questioning whether they are worth the cheap, imported paper they are written on, reports Jim Marr.

Bad Boss: Bones of Contention
Byron Bay chicken boners have nominated thier boss for a Tony after seeing their entitlements plucked.

History: The Gong Show
In late September the South Coast Labour Council (SCLC) celebrated 75 unbroken years championing the rights of workers in the coastal Illawarra region 80 kilometres south of Sydney, writes Rowan Cahill.

Politics: The Hawke Legacy
The election of the Hawke Labor government twenty years ago holds some salient lessons for today’s Labor Party, writes Troy Bramston.

International: Sick Nation
As Australia celebrates 20 years of Medicare’s universal health coverage the crisis facing American workers in need of medical care is a useful reminder of what we’ve got – and what we stand, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Closed Minds
Philip Mendes looks at the political influence of right-wing think tanks, their financial backing and asks why the left hasn’t been able to get its ideas out there.

Review: Mixing Pop and Politics
He's had relations, with girls from many nations... but Billy Bragg seems to like us Aussies as much or even more than any of the others, writes Pádraig Collins.

Poetry: One Size Fits All
There once was a man from the Lodge - Who tried hard, our poems, to dodge... Resident bard David Peetz is back!


North By Northwest
Phil Doyle returns from up north, where he survived on nothing but goodwill, good people and a great big orange bus.

The Soapbox
The $140 Million Patriot
It would be hard to imagine a steeper slide from hero to zero than the experience of Richard Grasso, the now-deposed head of the New York Stock Exchange. writes Jim Stanford.

Bush's Bad News Blues
The Bush Administration is cooking up a new campaign 'to shine light on progress made in Iraq', writes Bill Berkowitz.

The Locker Room
A Tale Of One City
Phil Doyle gazes into the crystal ball for signs of life, and finds that somewhere the horses are running in the wrong direction.

With Banners Furled
There is no better account of the glory that was the annual Labour Day marches than that given by Kylie Tennant in Foveaux, her fictional account of life in inner Sydney in 1912, the year she was born.

The Westie Wing
Our favourite Macquarie Street MP, Ian West MLC, reports on the world of NSW politics.

The Cancun Wash-Up
The dramatic collapse of the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico, last month has been followed by a deafening quiet from Geneva, Brussels and Washington, writes Peter Murphy.


The Monk Off Our Back
It should come as no surprise that Tony Abbott has been dragged from his workplace relations portfolio just as his $60 million assault on the CFMEU finally unravels.


 Concrete Boot for Democracy

 Picketers Get Blue Ribbon Result

 ICAC Call at Mudgee Abattoir

 Telstra on Charges

 Unis Walk Over Federal Bullying

 IRC Shoots Rooster that Quacked

 Ugly Australian Riles Timorese

 Medicare Gets Abbott For Birthday

 Business Council Opposes Salary Vote

 Rail Workers Call For Self Defence

 ACT Leads On Industrial Manslaughter

 Thumbs-Up for Awards Binding Subbies

 Entitlements Crash into Hangar

 Blackouts on NSW Horizon

 State Govt Told To Clean Up Contracts

 Would-be Presidents Face Union Probe

 Activists Notebook

 A Hard Act To Follow
 Which Boss?
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Fools Gold

Unions have thrashed out a string of protocols with the NSW Labor Government. Some, now, are questioning whether they are worth the cheap, imported paper they are written on, reports Jim Marr.


Goulburn Gaol stands as a half-finished monument to the NSW Government's willingness to hand contracts to the lowest bidder - few, if any, questions asked.

The State's Department of Resources super-ministry gave gaol redevelopment work to Wallers after it undercut reputable operator, Camarda and Cantrill, on the extension work.

Unlike Wallers, Camarda and Cantrill, had carried out the first part of the gaol redevelopment and built a working relationship with the CFMEU, including signing-off on an EBA that ensured workers would receive industry-standard wages and conditions.

A matter of months later, just days after convincing the Resources Department it should pocket another $519,000 progress payment, Wallers hit the wall, leaving collateral damage scattered across NSW building sites.

Dozens of workers lost their jobs but, if anything, sub-contractors who didn't see a cent from the $519,000 did it even tougher.

The principal of a Canberra-based plastering company, owed $141,000, had to sell his family home to stave off the banks. A Ballina brick layer was forced to write off $43,000, and one of the men behind a Gold Coast roofing company, owed just under $80,000, is understood to have suffered severe mental health problems.

Extensions at the correctional institution have gone nowhere for the best part of six months as the Department tries to unravel its mess, not the least of which is work undertaken by its preferred contractor that will have to be ripped down and started again.

The CFMEU's Mick Lane says Wallers put the roof up, without any services behind it.

"The way I understand it, the whole thing has to come down," he explained. "It's unsalvageable, they put the bloody roof up without installing any electricity, plumbing or air conditioning.

"It begs the question about what the geniuses actually checked before they handed over the $519,000 progress payment."

Industry scuttlebutt suggests there is only one company in serious contention for the re-let contract, plus the rectification work. You guessed it, Wollongong-based Camardra and Cantrill, the outfit given the flick because it came in above Wallers' non-union quote.

The Goulburn shambles, according to NSW trade unions, highlights a dilemma for modern governments - the attraction of right wing economics over any sort of Labor principle.

In a blow for the community, they will ask state conference delegates to insist their parliamentary representatives pay more than lip service to principle via a detailed procurement policy.

NSW Labor Council spokesman, Chris Christodoulou, holds up the actions of Roads Minister, Carl Scully, over the vexed Western Orbital motorway as an example to his colleagues.

In the middle of a strike of AWU and CFMEU members against head contractor AbiLeighton, Scully banged employer heads together, told them to recognise the unions, negotiate an agreement, and get on with the job.

At essence, AbiLeighton had used the Western Orbital to try to bring Tony Abbott's IR agenda to life in NSW, pushing workers into a two-week strike to try and defend basic conditions and fight off AWAs .

Christodoulou called Scully's action a "Labor response" to the Federal Workplace Relations Minister's constant championing of individual contracts and refusal to deal with building companies who have signed agreements with unions.

"In theory, we have a range of civilised agreements in place with the NSW Government but, too often, they don't work in practice," Christodoulou says.

"We have a Memorandum of Understanding on goods and services but the reality is that some Ministers and beauraucrats are less than committed to it and it gets side-stepped.

"All we are asking is that they put their money where their mouths are and take the social impact into account when they spend our money."

Specifically, the state conference resolution, would instruct Ministers to order their departments to take the following criteria into account, as well as cost, when buying goods or services...

- Australian Jobs and Local Content

- Australian Suppliers and Industrial Relations Standards

- Regional Development

The resolution "Procurement of Good and Services - the Labor Way" -calls for contractors and suppliers to meet ILO standards and for companies prepared to work within the NSW IR framework, based on collective bargaining, to be given preference for NSW work.

It's not just in construction and roading where unions say their members have been dudded on Government contracts.

They point to the loss of 60 textile jobs, in Victoria as it happens, and the removal of rehab opportunities for NSW prisoners when the Department of Health sourced linen from a Chinese supplier able to undercut Australian prison labour costs.

Clothing and manchester is a key area of concern.

Only a year ago, Luigi and Anthony employed more than 100 garment workers in the heart of Labor's Marrickeville stronghold. Since Qantas abandoned its buy Australian policy and the Health Department placed an off-shore order for its uniforms, 80 of those jobs have disappeared.

Luigi and Anthony survived by shifting its manufacturing base to Fiji. The losers were the Marrickeville Mums it used to employ, their families and local businesses.

TCFUA secretary, Barry Tubner, says nobody should point the finger of blame at the company - "it was a miracle it held on for as long as it did".

The Health Dept contract, alone, he says, is worth over $2 million. All the uniforms across the NSW Public Service probably add up to more than $10 million a year.

The question for the Carr Government, he says, is simple. Do they want that money to go back into NSW or are they happy to send it off shore?

"Price is one element, for sure," Tubner concedes, "but it is only part of the equation. We have to take into account the social cost of these spending decisions.

"That was Michael Costa's catch phrase before he swapped jobs. It was a good argument then and it's still a good argument now."


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