Monday, August 21, 2017

NSWTF – All for one, and one for all

All for one, and one for all

Maurie Mulheron

Teaching is a profession that exists to create the future. It is why so much of what we do is couched in the future tense.

As teachers we harbour hopes that the children and young people we teach will become knowledgeable, well-balanced and inquisitive adults ready to take up their roles as fellow citizens committed to making this world a better place.

We want them to grow into adults who care for others, for their families, for their community, for humanity and for the planet.
It is why teacher unions just about everywhere refuse to be straightjacketed into a role that restricts our work to simply “wages and conditions”.

Of course, salaries and conditions will always be our core business but we fight for improvements in these knowing the broader social context in which we all live and work.
This brings me to the marriage equality debate that is now dominating national politics. As a union, we will add our voice along with other progressive organisations in support of the campaign to allow consenting adults the right to choose marriage.

The stand we have taken, determined in our democratic decision-making forums, should not come as a surprise to anyone who knows our history, a history that we have an opportunity to celebrate next year, our 100th anniversary.

Let me offer just a few examples.

In 1932, in NSW the Married Women (Lecturers and Teachers) Act was passed forcing all women who were married to leave the teaching service.
Fifteen years of campaigning by Federation led to the Act being repealed in 1947 but not before it had destroyed careers and led to enormous financial hardship.

Federation campaigned for equal pay for women teachers. Indeed, the issue was first carried as a campaign objective back in 1920, before any other union.

Despite objections from some quarters even within Federation, it remained a critically important campaign. It was not until 1958 that the NSW Government agreed to equal pay for women teachers but, even then, phased it in over five years.

On championing the rights of Aboriginal people, the Federation has a proud history and the story will be told in a feature documentary being filmed this year in preparation for the union's centenary year.

Federation has always promoted peace, believing that all wars are fought against children.
Many of our members throughout the state were closely and actively involved in the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War. Young male trainee teachers who were draft resisters were supported by the union.

The list of causes that tried to make the world a fairer place and which the Federation has supported over the years is long.

Yet so many, once regarded as radical, such as opposition to apartheid in South Africa and support for the Green Bans movement that successfully preserved so many of our historical buildings, are now accepted as politically mainstream.

We are a union that champions equality, not out of any loyalty to another’s political agenda, but because, as teachers, we want our children to grow up in a world that accepts all and celebrates diversity.

After all, it is what we practise, model and teach every day in our public schools. Despite this, however, we know that there are young people in our schools whose life is not easy.
These are the students who come to school each day frightened. Frightened of the physical assault they may suffer, whether it be a punch or a sly push from behind. Frightened of the insults. Frightened of being ostracised. Fearful of the name-calling they will endure. Scared of what life may hold for them. Silent in class, rather than answer a question and risk having their answer labelled as “gay” by a fellow student.

Many endure this for years; every day, on the bus to school, in class, at recess, at lunchtime and on the bus home. We also know that for many, home is not safe either.
These students may be gay or lesbian or just plain unsure of their sexuality. We know that many will become deeply depressed, some will attempt suicide.
Of course, we also know that there will be many who will find support at their school but far too many do not.

We also know that many teaching colleagues are targeted because of their sexuality. Sometimes this could be an insult by students they teach or an innuendo designed to embarrass. Sometimes it is more.

We also know that many of our students come from same-sex families.
So, now that the government has announced a $122 million sham opinion poll on marriage equality, it may be time to pause and reflect on just what kind of society we want. For most of our history, as a union, we have tried to make the education system in this country fairer, more inclusive and celebratory of difference.

But we have done this in the hope that our society will also accept all and care for all.
This is why we offer our support for the campaign to achieve marriage equality because we know that there will be many students and staff in our schools who may turn up to school if the nation shows its support for the change, a little less frightened.
Some years ago, I learned to play the main theme from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony on my five-string banjo.

I did it so I could sing the tune with new lyrics written by my musical mentor, the late Pete Seeger. I like to think his words could provide our union and, indeed, public education, with its anthem:

Build the road of peace before us
Build it wide and deep and long
Speed the slow, remind the eager
Help the weak and guide the strong
None shall push aside another
None shall let another fall
Work beside me sisters and brothers
All for one and one for all

Friday, August 11, 2017

ANMF – Outraged at Sacking of Blue Care Nurses

Wednesday 9th August, 2017

The country’s largest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is outraged that Blue Care, an agency of UnitingCare Queensland, has sacked 11 highly qualified enrolled nurses across its Bundaberg facilities.

ANMF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said the loss of so many nurses, in addition to a reduction of more than 1540 in nursing and care hours, will see vulnerable residents suffer.

  • “This is nothing short of a disgrace,” Ms Thomas said today.
  • “Sadly, it just proves that providers like Blue Care cannot be trusted in providing proper, safe levels of staff to deliver care to their nursing home residents.
  • “The ANMF is appalled that Blue Care can get away with sacking 11 enrolled nurses and then be cynically advertising for minimally-trained personal care workers to replace them, allowing untrained carers with only a First Aid Certificate to replace the sacked nurses.
  • “It not only diminishes the important roles that aged care nurses play in caring for vulnerable residents, many of whom suffer Dementia and have complex care needs, but it now will dramatically reduce the quality and quantity of care that residents will receive on a daily basis.
  • “Clearly, Blue Care doesn’t care and what’s disturbing is that the Federal Government is standing back and letting it happen.”

Ms Thomas said the ANMF’s ongoing national, online aged care survey has already identified cuts to nursing and care hours at nursing homes in Queensland and other States. Over 300 ANMF members have responded, with 94% reporting they are being asked to care for the same number of residents with fewer staff or less care hours. Over 89% say their current staffing levels simply aren’t adequate to ensure that basic care, including bathing and bed changes are being provided to residents.

“Now that Blue Care has gone ahead and made this unilateral decision to sack these nurses, we dread to think what the outcome will be for the residents in their Bundaberg facilities. The crisis in aged care has just got a whole lot worse,” Ms Thomas added.

Ms Thomas said the sacking of the Blue Care nurses will be “front and centre” of the ANMF’s urgent talks with Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt in Canberra this Thursday and will be followed by a “Rally for the Elderly”, to be held outside Blue Care’s Pioneer facility in Bundaberg, at 10am next Tuesday (15 August).

The ANMF, with over 259,000 members, is the industrial and professional voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.  

ACOSS – Energy Retailers can act to help relieve energy stress and drop electricity prices

Ahead of their meeting with the Prime Minister tomorrow, ACOSS joins other organisations to call for urgent action from energy retailers to help reduce high electricity costs, which are pushing low-income and disadvantaged households over the edge.

ACOSS CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie, said: “ACOSS is deeply concerned about the impacts of increasingly high prices on people who are disadvantaged and living on low incomes.

  • “The price of electricity has increased by 114% over the past decade, leaving many people having to choose between paying high bills and buying enough food to feed their family.
  • “There are some clear steps that can be taken immediately by the big energy retailers to protect disadvantaged people, such as ensuring people are on the best deal, without tricky terms and conditions, and assisting them to manage energy consumption and costs.
  • “Retailers also need to agree to standard industry language and improve transparency so people can understand their energy bill and more accurately compare offers by retailers.”

ACOSS supports the statement made by Energy Consumers Australia released today, which can be found here.

ACOSS also calls on the federal government to act now to relieve energy stress.

  • “The federal government should also step up and keep the energy supplement, which they are currently trying to repeal; increase social security payments, particularly Newstart; work with state governments to improve adequacy of energy concessions; and address barriers to energy efficiency,” said Dr Goldie.
  • “Electricity is an essential service. We must make clean energy affordable and available to all, and protect low-income and disadvantaged households from the rising costs of electricity.”

For further recommendations see the joint report from ACOSS, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, and The Climate Institute Empowering disadvantaged households to access clean, affordable energy.

ACTU – Xenophon and Hanson betray workers by voting for building code

10 August 2017

Cross bench senators from the Nick Xenophon Team and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation have betrayed workers in the construction industry by supporting the Australian Building and Construction Commission’s (ABCC) building code.

The code will remove many critical rights for workers, including the right to bargain for minimum apprentice positions in agreements and for priority to be given to local unemployed workers in new roles over temporary migrant workers. The ABCC and the Code attached to it, actually outlaws a union’s ability to negotiate for more apprentices in the industry.

Under the Code builders who’s EBAs included any of the following positive measures are unable to tender for Government work unless they become “code compliant”:

  • Limits on ordinary and overtime hours
  • Limits on use of labour hire and casual workers
  • Fixed rostered days off
  • Limits on number and use of overseas workers
  • Apprentice Ratios
  • Union representative structures and procedures.
  • Clauses that encourage the hiring of women and older workers.
  • Union stickers, posters and clothing

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Scott Connolly:

  • “This will cost local jobs by allowing big construction companies to bring in more temporary workers through visa programs.”
  • “We need to change the rules for working people, who need more rights at work not fewer. Rights are being stripped from construction workers today by corporations which have been given too much power. These rights were hard-won and should never be taken away.”
  • The last time this code was enacted was under the Howard Government and we saw a spike in workplace deaths, which was only reversed when the code was scrapped by the Gillard Government.”
  • “This code strips rights from workers. It will increase risk for workers on construction sights. It will lead to more unnecessary deaths in an industry which already sees far too many working people killed.”
  • “Senators Pauline Hanson and Nick Xenophon claim to be friends of working people but they have betrayed construction workers with this vote and given in to the fanatically anti-worker Turnbull Government.”
  • “This is a vote against apprentices. This is a vote which will deepen the crisis in youth unemployment. This is a vote which will make construction sights even less safe than they already are under the ABCC.”
  • “Make no mistake; there is no difference between a Xenophon, Hanson or a Liberal/National Senator. They are voting in lock-step against rights for working people.”

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

NZ – Historic day For Equal Pay Settlement

“This settlement will make a real difference to our members.  Our members in home support and disability support play a vital role in empowering people to live independent lives in their own communities. This settlement recognises the value of the work they do – and the people they support.”-- Erin Polaczuk, PSA National Secretary

Unions representing care and support workers are pleased to be jointly announcing with government a proposed equal pay settlement to 55,000 workers across the aged residential, disability and home support sectors.

The proposed settlement is a huge win and will make a real difference in valuing the work of care and support workers and the people they support, workers in the sector say. It is a significant step in addressing gender inequality in New Zealand.

The offer lifts care and support workers’ pay to between $19.00 and $23.50 from 1 July, rising to between $21.50 and $27.00 in July 2021.

It comes after 20 months of negotiations established by government to settle caregiver and E tū member Kristine Bartlett’s landmark equal pay case, lodged in 2012, which went all the way to the Supreme Court with the courts finding gender bias was the cause of Kristine’s low wages.

Kristine says “It will give us dignity and pride and make our lives worthwhile, knowing we’re being paid what we are actually worth. After years of struggling on low wages, hopefully we’re going to have a bit left over to actually enjoy life.”

Tens of thousands of care and support workers will now vote on the proposed settlement in coming weeks.

 Assistant National Secretary, John Ryall says the offer once ratified will mean a “once in a lifetime pay rise which will end poverty wages for this mainly female workforce and set them on the path to a better life. We’re delighted today’s proposed settlement recognises the justice of Kristine’s case and the wonderful work of Kristine and other professional carers.”

New Zealand Nurses Organisation Industrial Services Manager Cee Payne says that “This equal settlement delivers pay rates that truly reflect the skills and importance of the work that care and support workers undertake every day. Decent pay rates and the right to achieve qualifications will grow and retain skilled workers to care for our elderly. This will build public confidence that high quality care will be delivered to our families’ loved ones in our rest homes and hospitals.”

Unions say the government is to be commended for agreeing to negotiate this settlement offer, rather than waiting for years before the legal process was finally exhausted

Text source: