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February 2004   
F E A T U R E S

Interview: Trading in Principle
AMWU national secretary, Doug Cameron, a key figure in the Labor movement, discusses the big issues - from Mark Latham to Pavlov’s Dogs.

Unions: While We Were Away
While Workers Online was washing sand from between its toes and enjoying an Indian summer at the cricket, there was a reality show chugging relentlessly away in the background, Jim Marr reports.

Politics: Follow the Leader
Worker’s Online tool man, Phil Doyle, dives into the ALP’s Darling Harbour love-in and nearly drowns in treacle.

Bad Boss: Safety Recidivist Fingered
The CFMEU has come up with a killer nomination to kick off our 2004 hunt for Australia’s worst employer.

Economics: Casualisation Shrouded In Myths
British academic, Kevin Doogan, sets the record straight on casualisation and warns unionists about the dangers of scoring an own goal

History: Worker Control Harco Style
Drew Cottle and Angela Keys ask if it's worth rememberinng the 1971 Harco work-in.

Review: Other Side Of The Harbour
The 1998 maritime dispute threatened to tear many a family apart but Katherine Thomson's Harbour tells the tale of at least one that it brought back together - albeit reluctantly, writes Tara de Boehmler.

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Dog Whistlers, Spin Doctor and Us
John Menadue argues the "better angels" of the Australian character are having their wings ripped off by an ever-expanding group dedicating to keeping the public at arms length from our decision-makers.

Postcard
Something Fishy In Laos
Phillip Hazelton fishes around in Vientiane, Laos, and looks at the impact of Bird Flu on those relying on feathered friends for survival.

Sport
Magic Realism
Phil Doyle discovers that literature and sport may have more in common than you would think

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Trickle, flood or drought? Workers friend Ian West, MLC, is wet, wet, wet on the issue of bilateral Free Trade.

E D I T O R I A L

All The Way With FTA?
Question marks over the bi-lateral Free Trade Agreement with the USA have only begun to scratch the surface.

N E W S

 Rail Safety Back On Track

 Commuter Headaches Continue

 Ban "Ruthless" Operators - Judge

 Telstra Provokes Jobs Fight

 Taskforce Ignores Million Dollar Rorts

 Musos Tune-Up for Election Rock

 Chubby Fingers in Timorese Pockets

 Postal Workers Wrap Boss

 Aussie Sites Doing the Business

 Feds Abandon Aged

 TAFE Stands Over Poor Students

 Round the World on Aid

 Activists Notebook

L E T T E R S
 Reality TV
 TAFE Support
 State Of Confusion
 Scambuster
 History Lesson
 Generation Angst
 Give Them A Medal
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Bad Boss

Safety Recidivist Fingered

By Jim Marr

The CFMEU has come up with a killer nomination to kick off our 2004 hunt for Australia’s worst employer.

Giant property developer, Australand, has earned February's gong after 150 union members were forced into a week of industrial wrangling to win safety improvements at adjacent Eastern Creek sites on Sydney's western fringe.

The CFMEU members voted to take action over safety concerns after a contractor was observed working at height, near the edge of one of the developments, without a harness or any other protective equipment.

Readers familiar with the activities of shonks in the construction industry might argue, so what, construction contractors cut safety corners every day of the week? A senate inquiry was listening to evidence to that effect, from employers and worker representatives, as Australand workers voted for action.

But, as CFMEU secretary Andrew Ferguson points out, it was on an Australand site at Eastern Creek, barely three months earlier, that 16-year-old Joel Exner lost his life after a fall.

Workmates alleged that Exner, just three days out of school, had been working without a restraint, or harness, or any other form of fall protection.

His death led to an emotional rally of 10,000 NSW workers baring down on Macquarrie St and demanding industrial manslaughter legislation from embattled legislators. After a meeting with Exner's bereaved mother, and the families of other people killed at work, Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca promised changes that would hold rogue employers accountable.

Ferguson described the latest Australand safety failure as "unbelievable".

His members voted to teach the developer a lesson as it announced a record annual profit to the stock exchange, revealing it had pocketed $95.2 million for the year to December 31, from earnings of $1.4 billion.

And it wasn't just the union that pointed the finger. State safety authority, Workcover, wrote out prohibition and improvement notices to both Australand and one of its Eastern Creek contractors.

Workers Online was unable to ascertain the current cost of a safety harness but understands adequate scaffolding on typical residential developments might set a developer or contractor back between $20,000 and $40,000 on sites where profit margins can often be counted in millions.

News February 12, 2004

WorkCover's Fatality Investigation Unit last week confirmed completion of its official report into Exner's death at Eastern Creek. Chief executive officer, Jon Blackwell, said the report had been forwarded to both the NSW Coroner and Workcover's legal branch for consideration of prosecution, "subject to the outcome of the coronial inquest".

Blackwell pledged his organisation would "bring the full weight of the law to bear on all those involved in this tragic accident".

"We will be closely examining the case against those concerned in the management of the companies involved," he said.

Australand is a worthy nomination for an award commemorating the attitudes of former Workplace Relations Minister, Tony Abbott, who launched a $60 million Royal Commission, partly on the strength of his contention that safety was just another tool in the building workers' kit bag for industry domination.


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