Is it possible to remove the contribution step in the basic workflow?

Our client wants complete control on the the steps and users for each step of the workflow.
This is the approach they want to follow.
There would be a default workflow associated for all content. Any updates to any manged content will have to go through this workflow. There will be only one step having one user for this workflow. Whenever content changes the workflow routes to this user. This user will then decide to define the steps and users for the steps of workflow to be asscoiated to this content.
We thought of making it simple by using a critera workflow and basic workflows to achive this. The default workflow which I was saying would be the criteria workflow. Now once the workflow taskt comes o the user's basket he will then create a basic workflow for the content id with required steps and the users. He will then accept the criteria workflow and start the basic workflow immediately. But we have to ensure somehow that this content of criteria workflow should not be published. We are using content publishing uitility. Hope we can do something there. What I mean by not published here is that content changes made in the basic workflow should not be visible to the end site but they should be visible in the basic workflow.
Now the concern is that in basic workflow there is a mandatory contributor step which is not really required for us. How can we avoid it. And we how to ensure that the approved contents of criteria are not published unless the basic workflow is approved?

I think you will have to mix several standard mechanisms to achieve what you are looking for.
Note that there are two basic ways to achieve that an item is not accessible:
- item's state (sending an item to a workflow or leaving it in pending state before the item is published belong to this option)
- item's security (security groups, accounts, ACLs, etc.)
If you want to have an item in a state that it has not entered a workflow (I'm not sure, but I think it wouldn't be a good idea to mix criteria and basic workflows), but it has to be accessible to a certain group of users, you may have to:
1) check the item in so that it is accessible to the selected group of users only (published, no workflow)
2) have the users start the workflow
3) somewhere (most likely at the beginning of the workflow) relieve the security restriction so that "normal" users can access it during the workflow
4) as soon as the workflow finishes, it will be available to everyone
as for 1) I'd consider ACLs (Collaboration Manager component)
Another option is to write a component with your own logic - if from any reason the standard mechanisms will have too many obstacles to overcome.
I'd also recommend to consider using BPEL workflows rather than basic workflows - they are equally flexible (if not more) and they can be more easily combined with criteria workflows. You could:
1) create a general criteria workflow which would grab any new item
2) the criteria workflow would have just two steps: step 1 - grab an item, wait until BPEL workflow is defined/selected, then continue; step 2 - a synchro step which wait until BPEL workflow finishes, then continue or finish right away

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