The Guardian 19 October, 2005

Dingo bytes

The rivers of blood in Iraq lead to a torrent of profits for major transnational corporations, and not only those operating in the war torn nation. Construction company Lend Lease — here in Australia part of the crusade to destroy the building unions — is making billions in the US with its Actus military housing operations. In the past year alone Actus had a fourfold profit increase to US$22.5 million. And no wonder. The US Defense Department is in the process of privatising its military family housing, all US$20 billion worth. Next up for Actus is the privatised upgrade of military hospitals (US$13 billion) and barracks (US$20 billion).

Against all logic and in the face of every independent analysis, PM Howard continues to claim the government’s all-out attack on workers’ rights will be good for workers. Well, what other angle can he take? The latest is a spin on individualism. Here’s Johnnie on getting rid of unfair dismissal laws: "If you live in a small business environment — you’ve got say five or eight people in an office or a workshop, and one of them is a pain in the neck and is making life difficult for everybody else — it’s workers in many cases more than the boss that would like to see the back of him." For Howard the law of the jungle is what the world is really about, a cut-throat existence along the lines of the kill-or-be-killed environment of the corporations. Except for workers it will mean increased exploitation, more unemployment and greater hardship.

Under the changes to Comcare announced by Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews, the government is going to make it harder for Commonwealth employees to gain access to workers’ compensation by narrowing the guidelines that determine whether a worker is permanently impaired. In the current system, Commonwealth workers when injured receive time-off-work payments and a one-off lump sum payment if they can prove they have suffered a 10 percent permanent bodily impairment. With the changes workers will have to prove an 18 percent permanent impairment (proving the 10 percent is already almost impossible). The one-off payment will be dumped.

CAPITALIST HOG OF THE WEEK: is Industrial Labour Solutions. Sounds like a proactive, positive organisation out to resolve problems in the workplace, doesn’t it? It’s really a slimy little think tank pushing the Howard Government’s anti-union drive, promoting a plan to convert workers into contractors so as to "take employers outside the industrial regime" (i.e. de-unionise workplaces) and allow employers to work their employees "without your current restraints". In a letter to businesses Industrial Labour Solutions states: "In conjunction with the new IR laws we are able to fix the situation permanently and move your company outside the legislative jurisdiction of unions. No more EBAs. No unfair dismissals. No casuals forced into full-time. No redundancies [payments]. No unions. No problems. Decreased costs." There’s the class war for you.

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