Inside the system

Welcome to our new column, Inside the System, where we collect the month’s most outrageous exploits and efforts at exploitation from those at the top.

Workers helping flood effort stopped—to be briefed on sackings!

At the height of the devastating Queensland floods in late January Ergon Energy maintenance workers were prevented from entering a Bundaberg flood zone so they could be briefed on redundancies. This unbelievably low act saw about 50 workers temporarily stood down as they prepared to begin repairs on the city’s flood-damaged central power substation. The following day 11,000 homes were still without power in the South East of the state. The Electrical Trades Union’s state organiser said: “The Premier is out there publicly thanking Ergon workers, while privately his ministers direct Ergon to implement front-line job cuts. When communities are trying to pull together these heartless bastards are tearing them apart.”
One of the workers who attended the briefing rightly called it a “slap in the face”, and said, “We have been working flat out, we have been flogged by the storms.”
The deep cuts at Ergon were ordered in September 2012 and are typical of the Newman government’s determination to slash and burn jobs and services across the state. A perceptive Ergon spokesperson said “We have to concede it was very poor timing.”

…But there’s money for Clive Palmer’s “Dino Park” and fake Titanic

No money for jobs in Queensland, but Palmer's got money for a dinosaur park

QLD mining billionaire Clive Palmer has begun to realise his mad plans to build both a functional full-scale replica of the Titanic and a Jurassic Park inspired “dino park” called (seriously!) Palmersauria. The latter involves installing 150 full-scale, animatronic dinosaurs in the grounds of the Palmer Coolum Resort. Palmer has said he will finish the Titanic II regardless of how high costs become and has established an in-principle deal with China’s Jingling Shipyard to build the replica. As Campbell Newman’s savage public sector cuts force ordinary people to fight for jobs and basic services, Palmer’s lunacy is criminal.

“Prison is good for Aboriginal people”: Bess Price

Notoriously right-wing Northern Territory MP Bess Price has disgracefully claimed that prison is good for Aboriginal people. The Country Liberal Party member for Stuart has been a high profile Aboriginal supporter of the NT Intervention and is a darling of the Murdoch press. She made the comments in an address to Parliament in support of a nasty piece of legislation that would extend mandatory sentencing.
“While they are being imprisoned, they don’t get to drink, they don’t get into trouble, they are fed three times a day. They are in there with their family members. They sleep in their language groups and they all come out of prison much healthier.”
These stomach-churning remarks came as the NT Intervention entered its sixth year. Since it began incarceration rates have exploded, increasing by 80 per cent.

NSW Liberals demand firefighters act as ambos

The NSW Liberal government has announced a crackpot scheme to use firefighters to make up for a shortage of ambulance services. A recent NSW Health report indicated growing demand for ambulance services. But rather than actually provide more, the O’Farrell government wants to place a double burden on firies and endanger patients—all to save a buck. The proposal involves firies playing the role of first responder along with the ambulance service. Overstretched firefighters are already facing station closures and cuts of their own and currently receive only basic first aid training.

Food multinationals making a buck out of killing children

New research shows a who’s who of food multinationals have been using predatory marketing techniques and bribes to sell breast milk substitutes that lead to infant deaths. The vile practice is exposed in a recent report by Save the Children. According to their approximations, 95 babies an hour could be saved if mothers breast-fed their babies immediately after giving birth. The reason for this is that the mothers first milk, called colostrum, kick-starts the child’s immune system tripling the likelihood of survival. On top of this, breastfeeding in the first six months of life makes children up to 15 times less likely to die from pneumonia and diarrhoea.
Save the Children’s research shows that companies including Nestle, Danone, Mead Johnson, Abbott, Enfamil and Friso have been systematically trying to ensure this natural process doesn’t happen, especially preying on poor communities in developing nations. Danone Indonesia has bribed midwives and health workers with cash and free flights to Mecca in exchange for pushing infant formula. A 2012 survey from Pakistan said 10 per cent of health professionals reported receiving free samples of breast milk substitutes, the majority from Nestle and 20 per cent had received branded gifts from companies.

Amazon uses neo-Nazis to control immigrant workers

Amazon has been caught red handed using neo-Nazi security guards as standover men to intimidate its 5000-strong immigrant workforce in packing and distribution in Germany. It was forced to end the arrangement after being exposed by a TV documentary.
Paramilitary style thugs, with shaved heads and heavy boots were deployed in and around the hostels and cheap hotels used for worker accommodation. Photographic evidence substantiated workers’ reports of frequent harassment, with searches of accommodation and kitchens. Workers lived in a climate of fear and shockingly even reported being frisked after breakfast—in case they try and take extra bread rolls!
The HESS security company that employs the guards is directed by a repulsive man known as Uwe L, an associate of far-right football hooligans and neo-Nazi criminals.
His boot-boy security guards were caught on film proudly sporting Thor Steiner designer clothing. The garments are synonymous with the German far-right. Amazon actually stopped selling the brand for this reason in 2009. Why does the company need to employ fascist thugs? Well, all temporary workers can be fired at will and almost all are lured to Germany with pay offers that are cut on arrival.

Research and writing by Adam Adelpour

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