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August 2004   

Interview: Trading Places
New ACTU International Officer Alison Tate cut her teeth delivering aid to developing nations through APHEDA. Now she is helping chart the global union agenda.

Safety: Snow Job
James Hardie has been drilled into our collective consciousness as a story of power, greed and immorality. It is also, as Jim Marr reports, a tale of human tragedy.

Politics: In the Vanguard
Damien Cahill reveals how neo-liberal think tanks have been at the forefront of the corporate assault upon trade unions and social movements in Australia.

Unions: Gentle Giant Goes For Gold
Donít get between Sydney sparkie Semir Pepic and a gold medal in a dimly lit alley, writes Tim Brunero.

Bad Boss: 'Porker' Chases Blue Ribbon
Perfect Porker, Darren Vincent, brings a history of meat worker shafting to this monthís Bad Boss nomination.

International: Cruising For A Bruising
Europeís big unions are bruised as they watch companies roll over some of their best-organised unionised workplaces demanding longer work hours Ė without any recompense, reports Andrew Casey.

History: Under the Influence
Was John Kerr drunk when he wrote and signed the letter dismissing Edward Gough Whitlam from the Prime Ministership in 1975? Geraldine Willissee investigates.

Economics: Working Capital
Where superannuation fits, where it fails and what we should we do about it. Neale Towart gives the tough answers.

Review: Fahrenheit 9/11
There's many a must see moment in Mike Moore's new flick but beating the propaganda machine at its own game wreaks havoc with wearied bullshit detectors, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Bad Intelligence Rap
When Flood washed away the PM's sins, the truth was once again left high and dry.

Satire: Osama Bin Manchu
During a recent visit to an elderly relative in a nursing home, I was waylaid by an ancient gentleman who insisted I listen to what he had to say, writes Rowan Cahill.


The Westie Wing
The Labor Governments in each State must take the lead to stop the abuse of corporate law in Australia in the absence of action from the Federal Government, as the Inquiry into James Hardieís has highlighted, writes Ian West.

The Soapbox
Cleaners Deserve Our Support
It's time the state's cleaners were given some support, loyalty and long service leave, writes Chris Christodoulou.

The Locker Room
Half Time At The Football
Phil Doyle wants to have his pie and eat it too.

Faithful Servant
Frank Mossfield was one of the labour movementís quiet achievers. Former Labor Council secretary Michael Easson pays tribute.

Lessons From East Timor
Just back from a study tour to East Timor, National Reserach Officer with the Construction division of the CFMEU, Ben Stirling, writes about the experience for Workers Online.


Tarnished Rings
As our athletes approach the starting line in Athens, it is interesting to reflect on how the world has changed since Sydney was the centre of a global group hug just four years ago.


 Stink Rises from Hamberger

 ALP Embraces Collectivism

 Bully Drives Deckhand into Drink

 Fighter in Cancer Link

 Tunnellers Dig in for Safety

 Seconds Out in Newcastle

 Vale Josh Heuchan

 "Betrayal" Sparks Election Rethink

 Councils Wedge James Hardie

 Great Southern Death Rattler

 Libs Desert "War Criminal"

 Casuals Take Over

 ALP Star Hits The Waterfront

 Activists Whatís On!

 An Officer And A Teacher
 Tom Goes Asexual
 Road Rage At Work
 Democracy In Action
 Asbestos Bastadry
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Bad Boss

'Porker' Chases Blue Ribbon

Perfect Porker, Darren Vincent, brings a history of meat worker shafting to this monthís Bad Boss nomination.

Vincent is the director of what Meatworkers Union Tasmanian secretary, Grant Courtney, describes as "any number of bodgey, $2 shelf companies" - at least one of which has gone belly-up leaving processors without half a million dollars in owed wages.

Some of the outfits we can link with Vincent include Australian Food Group, Blue Ribbon Products, the Perfect Pork Group of Companies, 21st Picnic and Smine.

It was with the notorious Blue Ribbon Products, of course, that Vincent earned his Bad Boss spurs, sparking the longest industrial dispute in Tasmania's history.

Using the services of Victorian-based Newemploy his workers were transformed from employees to individual contractors, losing entitlements such as overtime, annual leave, public holidays and sick leave, at the stroke of a pen.

Seventeen workers, with up to 30 years of service, labelled the process a "scam" and picketed Blue Ribbon for 182 days.

Finally, in the spring of 2003, IRC commissioner, Pauline Shelley, delivered vindication, ruling the arrangements between Blue Ribbon and Newemploy had been a "contrivance to avoid award obligations and industrial consequences".

She ordered that the workers be reinstated and back paid for their six months on the grass.

One, Brian Wood, was prescient in his comments to local media, saying he would believe the back pay order when he saw the money.

Neither he, nor any of his colleagues, has seen a zac from Vincent who embarked on an appeal-athon.

First, though, he denied any relationship between Newemploy and Blue Ribbon, although both companies had been registered on the same day.

Blue Ribbon and Newemploy appealed to the full bench of the IRC which upheld Commissioner Shelley's ruling.

Blue Ribbon then appealed to the Supreme Court where Justice Blow upheld her decision. Then it went to a full bench hearing, before Chief Justice Cox and Justices Evans and Slicer. The case has been heard and the parties are waiting for a decision.

The only thing that wasn't appealing was Blue Ribbon which put up its hands and went into liquidation owing $650,000, with assets of $800.

Courtney also accuses the company of abusing tens of thousands of dollars worth of training grants laid on by state and federal governments. Many taxpayer-subsidised "trainees", he says, were already experienced operators.

He says Vincent put his hand out for $100,000 from the state government and then backed up for individual federal subsidies for employees of up $4000 a head.

"He double dipped and there was no real training going on," Courtney says.

His union has also demanded occupational health and safety investigations since its officials were barred from the premises in April, 2003.

Its worst fears were realised, last month, when 16-year-old, Matthew Hudson, was killed after a forklift he was driving collapsed on him. Blue Ribbon says Hudson was not an employee.

While workers wait for justice, at least one family grieves for a son, and, theoretically at least, Blue Ribbon Products is no longer with us, Vincent continues to churn smallgoods out of the premises.

They go into shops around Australia under guises such as Blue Ribbon, Perfect Pork, Vereynice and Island Fresh, and Courtney says it is time consumers used their discretion to send the boss a message.

"This operation is no good to anybody, except Darren Vincent," he says. "Low paid workers have lost money, a boy has died, and farmers and growers don't benefit either.

"He sources his product from overseas, mainly Denmark and Canada. There is nothing in it for the local community."

Vincent appears to be living proof that Tony Abbot was wrong when he claimed a bad boss was better than no boss.


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