Submitted by AWL on 9 April, 2004 - 10:15

By Lynn Smith

So cheating is standard practice with the big telcos?

Remember the Worldcom debacle of a few months back? It was the largest corporate crash in US history. WellÂ… three new directors of the now resuscitated company hired William Lucas (ex director of enforcement for the US Securities and Exchange Commission) to conduct an internal investigation into why Worldcom got itself into trouble.
The way he summed up the Worldcom corporate culture was interesting. Lucas said he found "fairly significant securities fraud above and beyond what is already out there".

If you think staff owed wages and creditors get whatever money is left in the kitty after a company goes broke, here's news for youÂ…

a huge chunk goes straight into the coffers of the liquidators!

Guess how much Ferrier Hodgson has earned in fees for collecting money owed to the now defunct One.Tel? A cool $700,933 + GST. And that's for just three months work.

Wondering why most of us have given up hope of buying a house?

Largely because the rich are heavily into real estate speculation. The number of people with over A$1.5 million in assets (excluding the family home) rose by five per cent in Australia last year. According to Merryl Lynch and Cap Gemini who have just conducted a survey into how local millionaires are doing it, "a much greater proportion of local (millionaires') money was in the property market" compared to the US where the rich are putting their lazy megabucks into other things.

This has been a significant factor in pushing the price of the average house to $400,000 plusÂ… way beyond the reach of most wage earners.

Big shot "benefactor" responsible for wages that are below the poverty line

Frank Lowy is managing director of Lend Lease and Australia's second richest person. He and his family own and operate Westfield shopping centres throughout Australia and in the USA, Canada, NZ and the UK. Lowy recently donated $30million towards setting up a "think tank" on "international policy". But you don't have to be an egghead to work out Frank Lowy's international policy: it's to make sure cleaners' wages are the lowest (get it) in the developed world.

Lowy is the key target in a campaign by unions here and in the USA who are fighting to improve the wages and conditions of cleaners (called janitors there). The unions are running what they call clearance sales at Westfield shopping centres with the theme "Everything unjust must go". Westfield routinely awards contracts to cleaning outfits that put in the lowest bids.

In Australia, Westfield cleaners get far less than what contractors who employ LHMU members are paid. On top of this, Westfield cleaners sometimes go for weeks without pay.

In the US it's even worse, with poverty-level wages, contractors cutting back hours without reductions in workloads and offering little or no benefits. And in a country with no public health care, this can be disastrous if a worker has an accident or becomes ill.

In fact, June 15 is designated by US unions as "Justice for Janitors Day" to commemorate a peaceful demo by immigrant cleaners in California which was attacked by police. The campaign has now become internationalised: hundreds of cleaners in Australia staged protests at Westfield shopping centres in various states over the past weeks. For more, go to

When phoned about this issue by ABC radio in early June, Frank Lowy had "nothing to say".

It pays to flunk outÂ… if you're a CEO, that is

Leland Brendsec, ousted CEO of US Mortgage giant Freddie Mac is likely to get US$60 million in salary, bonuses and stock, according to the financial press. This is on top of "hundreds of thousands of dollars" Mr. Brendsec will also receive in annual pension payments.

You see, the ex-kingpin was not sacked exactly. There were suggestions that he resign, which he duly did. Few workers are given such genteel options.

Looks like the directors of NSW rail don't travel on trains

Â… if they did, they would surely have done something to save their own skins after they were given a major safety warning 15 years ago.

It's all come out in an inquiry now taking place into the Waterfall train disaster ( January 31) in which seven people including train driver Herman Zeides were killed and many more were injured. On June 16, the inquiry was told that independent consultant TMG warned rail bosses in 1988 that the "dead man's" mechanism on Sydney's Tangara trains could be over-ridden and could fail, even when a driver died at the controls.

The solution to this problem proposed by TMG (a "vigilance control" button that had to be pressed periodically by the driver) was never implemented.

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