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June 2004   

Interview: The New Democrat
Canadian activist Judy Rebick explains how she's using lessons from Brazil to rebuild the labour movement.

Bad Boss: The Ugly Australian
Prime Minister John Howard is in California spruiking the "merits" of this month�s Bad Boss nomination �

Unions: Free Spirits and Slaves
International capital demands guest labour � legal or illegal � as a way of beating down wages and conditions and, as Jim Marr discovers, the Australian Government seems happy to oblige.

Industrial: National Focus
Noel Hester reports on another workplace death (we-will-not-RIP NOHSC), heartburn for the Canberra consensus and all the action from around the states in our national wrap.

History: A Class Act
The problem of forgetting the primacy of class in favour of other ideas of community is highlighted in a new book, writes Neale Towart

International: Across the Ditch
NZ Nurses Union leader, Laila Harr�, is in Sydney this week, comparing notes with the Australian Nurses Federation and seeking transTasman support for New Zealand�s highest profile industrial campaign.

Economics: Home Truths
Sydney University's Frank Stilwell argues that tax policy is driving the housing boom.

Review: No Time Like Tomorrow
The Day After Tomorrow is one part Grim Reaper of the environmental movement and two parts fictitious fable dramatically window dressed with extreme special effects, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Silent Note
Resident Bard David Peetz uncovers the current public service motto � "Don't tell the Minister!".


The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part I
The Australia Institute's Clive Hamilton questions the assumptions underlying a society that defines happiness in dollar terms.

The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part II
Clive Hamilton concludes his analysis, looking at how more and more Australians are pulling back from a marketplace that is no longer providing the goods.

The Locker Room
Sack �Em All!
Phil Doyle puts his job on the line, but doesn�t everyone these days?

The Westie Wing
The NSW Government has an agenda on the table but the test is finding innovative ways to finance it, writes Ian West


Last Year�s Model
Economists keep telling us things have never been better, all the economic indicators say so. Which sparks the obvious question: why are so many of us feeling so low?


 Trade Deal a $47 Billion Dud

 Ground Staff Spread Fashion Wings

 Ghan Raises Trans-Continental Stink

 Union Busters Bank on Labor

 Witnesses Face Casual Duress

 Rail Workers Cop �Beer Nannies�

 Sun Shines on Green Bans

 Big Business Plan to Cripple Compo

 Money Can�t Buy Me Love

 Federal Election in Doubt

 Safety Defects Plague Adelaide

 Police Investigate Assault Claim

 Activists What�s On!

 Liberal Laugh
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Bad Boss

The Ugly Australian

Prime Minister John Howard is in California spruiking the "merits" of this month�s Bad Boss nomination �

As Pilbara families mourn and the State Government announces an "independent" inquiry into BHP Billiton safety procedures, the Big Australian has unveiled plans to double the speeds of monster trucks and do away with "safety spotters".

The move to speed up "haul paks" roaming its Mount Whaleback mine, in the Pilbara, is being opposed by workers from a range of unions.

BHP Billiton wants speed limits increased from 30 to 60kph around the iron ore pit, and to reduce the number of safety spotters, charged with preventing the crushing of human beings.

Prior to its latest initiative, BHP had already been accused of "putting production before safety" by ACTU Pilbara organiser, Will Tracey, and representatives of the AMWU and CFMEU.

They spoke after the May 2 death of Port Nelson iron ore facility delegate, Cory Bentley, and before incidents that claimed the lives of Boodarie tradesman, James Wadley, and Iron Ore Body 25 apprentice, Ross McKinnon.

Wadley sustained burns to more than 90 percent of his body when a gas explosion ripped through the BHP Hot Briquetted Plant. Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft from Derby, Meekatharra and nearby Port Hedland had to be mobilised to transport injured workers to hospitals.

Three of Wadley's former workmates are still in hospital recovering from burns.

McKinnon lost his life when he was struck in the head by a "piece of equipment" at a mine, near Newman, operated for BHP by Henry Walker Eltin.

Tracey told Workers Online the deaths followed a "number of near misses" at the company's Pilbara facilities.

He claimed safety standards had "plummeted" in the five years since BHP moved to drive organised labour out of its operations.

In 1999, the resources giant took it on itself to lead the push to deunionise the Pilbara, luring 40 percent of its workforce onto non-union federal AWAs, courtesy of salary packages $10,000 to $20,000 a year better than it was prepared to offer trade unionists.

On top, it whacked up super payments from eight to 14 percent of gross earnings.

Tracey said, inevitably, there was a catch. Significant elements of annual earnings would come from company-evaluated performance reviews.

"The thing with these individual contracts is that they inhibit people from speaking out on safety for fear of being hammered in performance reviews," Tracey said.

"Anyone who speaks out on safety is labelled a trouble-maker."

As Bentley was being buried in Perth, company representatives began removing posters from Port Nelson that urged workers to higher production levels.

"Aim high, move fast" was their central message. They carried graphs outlining how far workers had fallen behind massive targets set by management.

"The countdown is now on," the posters read. "Between January and December 2004 the Port must ship 100 million tonnes of ore."

Workers at a mass meeting passed a unanimous resolution calling for an independent safety audit of all BHP's Pilbara operations. When Wadley and McKinnon were killed less than three weeks later, the state government signalled its agreement.

BHP Billiton is one of the world's biggest minerals companies with interests across the resources sector. It stands to make an absolute killing from the deepening oil crisis but its Pilbara activities mark in down as a Bad Boss natural.

The Tony was crafted as a reminder of Tony Abbott's commitment to absolute employer power. In the Pilbara, at least, BHP Billiton tries to live the dream.


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