||Year End 2006|
Interview: The Terminator
Industrial: Vive La Resistance
Unions: Breaking News
History: Seven Deadly Sins
Economics: Back to the Future
Politics: Organising and Organisations
International: Web Retrospective
Review: Shock Therapy
All the Best
Vive La Resistance
In 2006 Aussies faced the full blast of John Howard's commitment to class warfare.
Key weapons, including AWAs, unjustified dismissals, 457 guest labour visas and draconian building industry laws, were used to attack earnings and job security.
Real wages fell, for the first quarter in years, as members of the Prime Minister's corporate cheer squad helped themselves to ever- expanding salaries, bloated by "bonuses" of up to seven figures.
Yet, everywhere, the resistance increased.
Teenagers stood up for themselves, grandmothers went public, whole workplaces resisted conditions stripping individual agreements, and in November, a quarter of a million Aussies voted with their feet on streets around the continent.
Even exploited guest workers, on precarious legal ground, found their voices.
Some of the highlights included:
Sydney teenager Amber Oswald put the dills at Pow Juice through the blender. Oswald went public when the company tried to slash her wages, and those of workmates, by using AWAs.
She went to her union, the SDA, which won a back pay settlement after the IRC found Pow hadn't dotted its I's and crossed its T's.
Oswald's campaign led to the NSW State Government passing new legislation to ensure school kids would be ring-fenced from the worst excesses of Howard's workplace regime.
Howard didn't just prove himself the Prince of Pork on WorkChoices, the forked tongue got a workout on the vexed issue of 457 visas.
Repeatedly, his ministers claimed, they didn't dud Aussies, just allowed guests into the country to fill labour shortages in an expanding economy.
Unemployed Ballarat youngster, Chris Walters, gave the lie to that when he revealed how a local company, boasting record profits, shelved his apprenticeship when it got the green light to import a consignment of Chinese welders.
Walters was one of 35 locals given the bullet by trailer manufacturer, Maxi TRANS. He described the company's move as a "kick in the guts".
Age No Liability
A 60-year-old grandma stood up to Greer Industries to win a compensation settlement after the company took up WorkChoices' invitation to sack her.
Karen Palmer said the boss told her she was a "liability" when she returned to work from a shoulder injury sustained on the job.
Because she had less than 100 workmates she wasn't able to challenge her dismissal but unions and unionists outed the company in an AMWU-spearhead publicity campaign.
Back Pay Bonanza
Unions took up the cudgel for dozens of imported Chinese workers being paid hundreds of dollars a week less than going rates on a Sydney construction site.
They had the job stopped for a fortnight, after authorities discovered 40 health and safety breaches, and won more than $750,000 in back pay from Chinese government controlled, Hunan Industrial Equipment Installation.
Academics Stand Firm
University of Ballarat staff nailed a collective agreement that refuted Howard's insistence that AWA staff would be better off.
So much so, that the University agreed to protect people who signed AWAs through "policy" to ensure they were not disadvantaged against their collective agreement workmates.
The breakthrough followed a length stand-off, and the departure of Ballarat vice-chancellor, Kerry Cox, who took it on himself to run the Coalition's IR agenda on the campus.
Four hundred and fifty staff stared down Cox's threat that if they didn't sign AWAs by his deadline, all employment offers would be withdrawn.
Boeing Crashes to Earth
One of Australia's longest-running strikes bore dividends when Boeing suddenly ditched its objection to collective contracts.
The US-based armaments giant, that locked out workers for nearly 300 days because they wouldn't sign AWAs, finalised a collective deal with maintenance workers.
It delivered on virtually everything the locked out workers had held out for with one notable exception. With the backing of the Prime Minister, Boeing locked unions out of the deal.
Bank On It
Bank workers forced Westpac to shelve plans to offshore 485 Australian jobs and a truckload of sensitive customer information.
Their revelations produced a public backlash against a scheme to send information from the Concord Transactions and Unsecured Lending Originations Centre to an undisclosed destination in India.
It followed hot on the heels of the Commonwealth Bank being embarrassed into rejecting the off-shoring model.
St George employees in Sydney put their bank under the public spotlight when employees hit the media circuit to explain why they had turned down the company's invitation to train up foregn workers so they could take their jobs.
Mum's the Word
The mother of a bashed teenager rained on the Prime Minister's victory parade when she said unionists had been the only people who looked after her son.
Howard's Building Industry Taskforce did nothing for Cook Islander, Samuel Kautai, after his boss allegedly bashed him with a claw hammer.
Kautai had his skull smashed, his jaw and teeth broken, and lost sight in one eye.
"I want to thank the unions for all their efforts," Atirua Kautai said outside a $1000 a head Sydney dinner to mark 10 years of Howard Government.
She told supporters Howard's assault on unions was an attack on young, vulnerable people like her son.
Fleas Bite Back
Bushies who refused to share digs with rats, feral cats and sewage beat off attempts by Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, to slug them with $28,000 fines.
Lawyers for Andrews' department hit workers who had taken action to improve their living conditions at Moranbah, central Queensland, with 30-page subpoenas.
After their unions shone a public spotlight on the conditions they had been forced to endure, prosecutors from Freehills, developed an advanced case of cold feet.
Andrews came out with some cock and bull story about a part of the legislation that wasn't even relevant and the federal court prosecutions dropped off the radar.
Not so in the west, where the jihad against building workers exploded on the Perth-Mandurah rail link. Workers around Australia send donations to 107 men, being lined up for $28,000 fines and the possibility of being sued for everything they owned.
They had gone on strike in support of a union delegate, sacked by the joint venture company for stopping the job when temperatures topped 38 degrees.
The actions where brought in the federal court by John Howard's Building Industry Commission.
Safety delegate, Mal Peters, put his job on the line and by taking annual leave for a five-day eastern states speaking tour with wife, Bernadette. Predictably, when Peters returned, he was sacked,too.
The CFMEU launched retaliatory action, claiming Peters had been discriminated against on the grounds of his union activity.
Teens Back a Winner
Two teenagers divvied up more than $13,000 in backpay after Sydneysiders backed their campaign to shame a boss who paid them $3.30 an hour on individual contracts.
Stephen Pemberton and Brett Conlon took to the streets with leaflets exposingt JAL Landscape and Construction, which employed them as apprentice carpenters.
As usual, Howard's Building Industry Commission was nowhere to be seen.
"Without the support of the CFMEU and members of the community who rang or emailed our employer we wouldn't have got anything," Pemberton said.
He and Conlon urged others to reject unfair individual contracts and to join the campaign to throw out WorkChoices.
Thousands of rank and file workers joined Your Rights at Works campaign committees in marginal seats across NSW, and then nationwide.
The initiative flowed from Unions NSW excursions into regional Australia in a bright orange, Your Rights at Work bus. They left behind 44 committees dedication to knocking off WorkChoices supporters at the next federal election.
Colleagues in other states thought this was a pretty good idea and found plenty of rank and filers itching to have a go in marginal seats around Australia.
No Sex for Guests
Eventually, guest workers started to speak out on the reality of life under Howard's 457 visas. Emboldened by a string of union successes in exposing excesses under the secret documents, three Filipinos joined the AMWU in Queensland.
They revealed how the Office of the Employment Advocate had registered AWAs they hadn't even seen. The tradesmen told Australians that massive deductions, for transport and accommodation, left them earning around $300 for 55 hour working weeks.
When they joined the union, they were sacked, so their union found them better employment and the local community jacked up affordable accommodation.
The AMWU produced contracts forced on other foreign workers that made union membership a deportable offence and included bizarre "no sex" clauses.
Flashes of Honesty
In a moment of candour, the Prime Minister's Employment Advocate blew $55 million of party political advertising out of the water.
Howard had forced taxpayers to foot the bill for a massive WorkChoices offensive at the heart of which were glossy brochures stamped "protected by law".
In the documents, the Prime Minister promised that six core entitlements would be sacrosanct.
When the Advocate was asked in Parliament, how Howard's AWAs were travelling, he confessed that every single one junked at least one of the protected clauses and that 16 percent ditched the lot.
Asked why his office registered those documents, Peter McIlwain, stripped away Howard's last defence: "I stick to the functions I have been given by Parliament," he said.
When Senate Estimates next rolled around the Advocate had undergone a co-operation bypass.
He refused to give any information about AWAs that dogged on the PM's promises, saying he no longer kept those records. And, he claimed, to general incredulity, there had been no political influence on his decision.
But it wasn't just the Advocate who gave up his leader.
Master Builders Association boss, Brian Seidler, confirmed the real agenda behind controversial Independent Contractors legislation when he said it would be used to strip building workers of rostered days off.
Seidler predicted the Independent Contractors Act would be "far more detrimental" to building industry unions than anti-worker legislation already in place.
And, over in WA, Finbar Hanssen boss, Dick Smith, was explaining the true attraction behind the PM's controversial guest labour visas.
"If they want to change employer then they have to go back home," Smith told ABC Radio.
"I'm not saying they're of a lower level of intelligence or anything like that, it just seemed that they can do one task and not want to do something different until they're told to do something different."
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