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November 2003   

Interview: Union for the Dispossessed
The Welfare Rights Centre's Michael Raper on 20 years of activism, the politics of punishment and how to make Australia egalitarian again.

Unions: Joel's Law
Building Workers have overcome powerful forces to push workplace safety back up the national agenda. But, Jim Marr writes, their "success" has come at an unacceptable cost.

National Focus: Spring Carnival
It must be spring: punting in Victoria, singing in South Australia, fighting in America. It’s all there in the national wrap from Noel Hester plus an Australian union movement rugby world cup class consciousness poll.

Bad Boss: Fina and Fiends
They sacked the job delegate, reinstated him after an IRC hearing, and sacked him again two weeks later. But that was just the beginning.

Industrial: The Price of War
Mass industrial action is brewing in Israel as the policies of the right-wing Sharon Government come home to roost, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Who's Got What
Frank Stilwell pours over the latest BRW Rich List to build a picture of the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots.

History: Containing Discontent
Racism against minorities has always been a stock in trade of politicans, writes Phil Griffiths

Review: An Honourable Wally
Most Australians probably look at our politicians and feel they could do a better job but when redundant meatworker Wally Norman gets the chance to find out he realises getting elected is a major hurdle, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: The Colours of Discontent
A thousand blossoms bloomed during the US President's spring-time colonial visit last month.


The Soapbox
Bush's Faith-Filled Life
The President's conversion, 'sense of divine calling' and struggle with sobriety are subjects of a forthcoming book, writes Bill Berkowitz

The Not So Smart Money
Phil Doyle is sick of big money ruining grass roots sport, and he’s taking his bat and going home.

The Westie Wing
The ongoing challenge for Labor members of parliament is to make what the Premier calls the ‘creative partnership’ between the Government and the union movement a reality, writes our favourite MP Ian West.

Behind the Junta
Saw Min Lwin, Secretary for Trade Union Rights/ Human Rights for the Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB), outlines the struggle for workers in his country.


Governing the Corporates
Suburban branch manager Joy Buckland’s bid for a position on the ANZ Board raises important questions about the way our major companies are governed.


 Taskforce Sleeps As Cranes Crash

 Scabies, Filth in Upmarket Annandale

 ANZ Jumps For Joy

 Race That Couldn’t Stop Nangwarry

 Mandarins in $120m Disappearing Act

 BAT Stubs Out Junta

 Millions on Entitlements Line

 Workcover in Hold-Ups Gun

 Phoenix Rises … Again

 TAFE Takes To Thong Slapping

 Casual Work Is Health Hazard

 Activists Notebook

 Veterans' Compo
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Bad Boss

Fina and Fiends

They sacked the job delegate, reinstated him after an IRC hearing, and sacked him again two weeks later. But that was just the beginning.


They subjected staff to three, four and five person verbal assaults; refused to sign wage cheques when they fell due, and that wasn't the end of it either.

They harassed a woman of 13-years service, refused to allow her union or other representation in meetings with management, then put her off on unspecified leave while dark tales whistled around town. Eventually, under public pressure, their barrister gave an undertaking they would provide a list of concerns. It took another six weeks for them to cobble together a list of questions that spanned 30 pages.

When the union advised Kathy Tsanis not to answer while she was on workers compensation, as a result of their intimidation, they sacked her.

So, who are they that so capture the essence of Tony Abbott's approach to workplace relations, even after the Monk has wandered away and found a new icon to descrate?

You may well think it would be some nasty multi-national but you would be wrong. In fact, this month's Tony Award nomination goes to the publicly-funded Illawarra Ethnic Communities Council and new-broom leaders, for want of a better term, who have turned staff lives to misery.

Heading the list is local real estate agent, turned Community Council treasurer, Gaetano Fina. High up also are the organisation's chairman, one Ken Habak, and fellow board member, Dr Eli Storey.

It was Storey, according to employees, who delivered the immortal words that told job delegate, Elio Gatti, that his services were no longer required.

At least two of their number insist Storey's speech went very much like this: "By the power invested in me, I dismiss you."

It came well after normal finishing time on a Friday evening as board members tried to square away their decision not to pay employees that week.

Storey's memorable contribution to Illawarra IR lore occurred shortly after the fiery Fina had asked the delegate to pass him the phone book so he could ring police to have Gatti removed.

Gatti's sacking, the lack of wages and the apparent disappearance of stood- down administrative manager, Tzanis, provoked 16 ASU members to strike for three days.

But it seems to have been the odd-ball treatment of Tzanis that has knotted most knickers. Not least, publication in the local media of legal advice that she had been "dancing" while off under a Workcover certificate.

Well, yes, Tzanis says, she did have a dance that night during an evening hosted by the Spanish and Italian communities she had worked with for years.

Her representatives point out that the leave she was on stemmed from the unexplained stand-down masterminded by Fina. As the accusations and pressure mounted her health had deteriorated.

Suffering heart troubles and depression, Tzanis, the 13-year servant of the Council who had worked her way up to administrative manager, was receiving medical and psychological treatment.

The strong recommendations, from both sources, was that she get out and live as normal a life as possible while her future hung in the balance.

It was, Workers Online sources say, not as though she tried to hide anything. She was taken to the event by former colleagues in the knowledge that Community Council board members would be present.

But it's not only the workers being mowed through by Fina and friends. They also wrestled the organisation's books away from the auditor appointed by the annual general meeting, and voted out board members who felt staff should have been treated with a little more respect.

Fina, Habak, Storey and their version of the Illawarra Ethnic Communities have well and truly earned this month's Bad Boss distinction.


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