The Guardian 26 October, 2005

Family grieves for "enterprise" worker

Craig McLeod was John Howard’s "enterprise" worker. The experienced tradesman negotiated his own contract but, within months, it had cost him $17,000 and his life. The Coroner’s Court, sitting in the NSW town of Griffith, has been hearing evidence about the 2002 Lake Cargellico water tower collapse that cost the 34-year-old boilermaker his life.

"I know he wasn’t happy with the way things were going. On the Friday before the accident, Craig rang home, but he wouldn’t tell me too much because he knew I would worry", said his mother Joan.

"He did say he had too much to lose to pack up and come home.

"After he died, the union recovered what he was owed."

The principal contractor accepted a claim by the Construction Division of the CFMEU that Mr McLeod had been dudded $17,000 in his few months at Lake Cargellico. The money has been paid to his estate.

The amount — covering wages, allowances and super — was based on award minimums, rather than the higher enterprise bargaining rates that apply on most unionised sites.

The family’s lawyer, Ian Latham, said evidence tendered to the inquest showed Craig McLeod had been working at least 50 hours a week for an all-in hourly rate of $25.

A skilled tradesman, he had travelled from his home at Port Pirie, South Australia, to central NSW to get work.

He didn’t get overtime, weekend payments, super, leave or expenses in an arrangement remarkably similar to that being promoted by the Federal Government’s Office of the Employment Advocate. Often, according to evidence, he didn’t get paid at all.

"He was concerned that the site was unsafe but he couldn’t leave", Mr Latham told Workers Online. "Effectively, he was stuck there until the job finished and his employer paid up but, before that happened, they were both dead.

"From the evidence, it seems, he sold himself into slavery."

CFMEU NSW Secretary, Andrew Ferguson, described the case as "distressing".

"Our thoughts are with Craig’s family", he said. "Money doesn’t seem very important when you have a lost a son or a brother.

"The evidence highlights the dangers we face when people are left to their own devices without any support, monitoring or regulation."

The inquest is continuing.

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