Thursday, March 31, 2005

Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU)

Last week the government introduced legislation that will mean the end of University life as Australians have known it. The students of the future will have a much-diminished University experience. As we saw in the late 1990s when Western Australia experimented with Voluntary Student Unionism, without a universal service charge academic support, childcare facilities, sporting clubs and student societies, representation, student newspapers and welfare services will collapse.

In the last few days the public have had a chance to see the truth about student services and student organisations, to see what actually goes on at our Universities other than lectures and tutorials. Despite the Government's best efforts to portray the issue as one of 'freedom of association', and all the usual vitriol about political activism, their policy doesn't seem to have washed with the public.

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Behind the attack on Student Unions

The current debate around the federal government’s move to ban compulsory university service fees exposes more than a pathological hatred of all things ‘union’.

It also represents the mainstreaming a new way of thinking that is hostile to both social democratic and conservative principles - that is the active promotion of an individual's 'right' to opt out of the structures of their society.

The mistake is to look at this issue as simply a partisan ideological obsession - although for that generation of Liberals who cut their teeth of campuses in the 1970s it undoubtedly is.

The real drive behind VSU is linked to the rise in free market fundamentalism - a mind set that sees a person as an individual consumer rather than as a participant in and product of their society.

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Truckies worried after IR law changes

Moves by the federal government to remove state industrial relations frameworks would trigger a "race to the bottom" for safety standards in the trucking industry, owner-drivers have warned.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has given evidence to a House of Representatives committee inquiry into independent contractor arrangements.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Reality Show Provides A Taste Of Things To Come

Workers on prime-time reality TV show My Restaurant Rules on the Seven Network were given a nasty surprise this weekend.

It's not normally a place where you'd expect the ugly face of John Howard's new labour laws to pop up.

But there it was.

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Monday, March 21, 2005

ACTU National Campaign against Govt IR laws

The ACTU Executive has endorsed a national campaign to protect and promote the interests of Australian working families against the Federal Government's plans to radically change Australia's workplace laws.

Speaking at the conclusion of a two day meeting of the ACTU Executive in Melbourne ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

"For more than 100 years Australia has had a system of workplace laws that has kept our workplaces decent, safe and fair. It has made sure that working families are not left behind. This is the system the Federal Government now wants to get rid of.

"The Federal Government's plans are about taking Australia down the path to an American style system where minimum wages are just $5.15 an hour."

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CPSU opposes plans to destroy student unions

Community and Public Sector Union, which represents staff in student organisations, has called on the Federal Government to drop their plans to destroy student organisations by starvation.

CPSU Senior Industrial officer Mr Andrew Holland said "We have been inundated with calls from distressed members worried about their working future if the Federal Government gets their way.

"Education Minister Brendan Nelson wants to introduce voluntary student unionism to silence student dissent to his HECS fee increases and funding cuts. This is in spite of the jobs created and the services provided by hardworking staff and students in universities across Australia.

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VSU bill – attempt to cripple student unions

A compulsory student fee should be seen in the same way that rates and taxes contribute to the community life of every Australian. These taxes fund the infrastructure that supports our society including the state and federal parliaments and elected politicians. So too at our universities a compulsory fee ensures that child care, health services, sporting clubs, debating societies and many other campus-based organisations can survive. Student representative bodies are part of this democratic environment and play an important role in the representation of student interests in the internal governance of their universities.

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Facts ruin Government's minimum wage story

Peter Costello’s rationale for attacking minimum wage families has been blown out of the water by figures demonstrating Australian job growth surging ahead of that in the USA.

Treasurer Costello, the Prime Minister and Workplace Relations Minister, want a brake applied to the minimum wage on the grounds that it costs jobs.

Australian jobs growth three times the rate in USA

Figures released this week show that Australian employment has grown at three times the rate of low-minimum wage countries like the USA.

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Aboriginal workers miss asbestos payouts

Two hundred mainly Aboriginal residents of the NSW community of Baryulgil face being the only Australians affected by James Hardie asbestos who will not receive compensation.

Hardie has refused to accept legal or moral responsibility for the human consequences of the asbestos mine it owned in Baryulgil from 1944-76 using mainly Aboriginal labour.

Hardie's position outraged NSW Premier Bob Carr who told The Australian Hardie must pay valid claims

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Friday, March 18, 2005

Do skilled migrants need us?

Our dirty family secret is out! For years the Federal Government's policy approach painted a picture of wild immigrant hordes needing to be fenced off from our bountiful plains.

Now it would seem the bounty ain't what it should be, with the Government forced to admit what our history has always shown - Australia needs migrants.

And if trends are anything to go by, we are going to need more of them - a whole lot more of them. But will they want us? With population policy and stabilisation of the ratio of old to young workers, the Government fixated on fertility, epitomised by what came to be known as its "breeding budget" of 2004.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

ITF Calls for investigation of Port Security abuse

ITF Australia has today congratulated the Deputy Prime minister over his comments concerning striking foreign crew of a Flag of Convenience bulk grain vessel berthed in Wallaroo.

National ITF Coordinator Dean Summers says that "John Anderson is precisely correct in sending a message to the international shipping community and to Australian port users that Maritime Security is far too important to be used as an industrial lever".

After a bitter five day strike by Filipino seamen protesting against low wages and disgraceful living conditions, the ITF finally reached agreement with the Greek owners to have nine crew repatriated home, living conditions improved and an ITF minimum standards agreement signed for the next 12 months.

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Unions equal safety: the proof

The most effective tool that we have in ensuring good health and safety at work is trade unions, because organised workplaces are safer workplaces. That is one of the main reasons that people join and stay in a union. When asked, 70% of new trade union members considered health and safety a 'very important' union issue - more even than for pay.

The public also recognise the importance of unions having a key role in health and safety. In 1995 an NOP poll found that 98% of those asked believed 'people at work should have the right to be represented by a trade union if they want to on health and safety'

We know that the 200,000 trade union safety representatives make a difference because trade union involvement:

  • Helps reduce injuries at work
  • Leads to reductions the levels of ill-health caused by work
  • Encourages greater reporting of injuries and near-misses
  • Makes workers more confident
  • Helps develop a more positive safety culture in the organisation.
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UK: historic equal pay victory

UNISON has agreed the biggest ever equal pay award with North Cumbria Acute NHS Trust, for 1,500 women working at Cumberland Infirmary and at West Cumbria Hospital. The women each stand to gain between £35,000 and £200,000.

The union has waged an eight-year legal battle to gain equal pay and the offer will be recommended to members at a mass meeting to be organised shortly.

Equal value claims were lodged in August 1997 for 14 different working categories, using five different male comparators. The women range from nurses and healthcare assistants to catering assistants, domestics, clerical officers, sewing machine assistants, porters and telephonists. They compared their pay with that of craftsmen/joiners, building labourers/wall washers, works officers, craftsmen supervisors and maintenance assistants.

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Walter workers back at work

Hundreds of workers and subcontractors owed money by failed building giant Walter have returned to work on two NSW central coast hospital projects.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) said a deal was reached on Friday with the NSW Health Department and new builder John Holland Group to allow work on Wyong and Gosford hospitals to continue.

The deal provides full payment of all wages and entitlements owed to about 20 former direct Walter employees, as well as payment to 50 subcontractors on the site employing about 200 people, CFMEU organiser Rod Jarman said.

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Bread and Roses: militant women of the 1930s

The importance of unions listening to their members, being aware of the kind of workplaces and bosses they have to deal with, and the importance of unions in ensuring decent pay and conditions under a decent labour market system, at times when the employers and conservative governments have the upper hand is well illustrated by the recollections of militant women of the 1930s. Topsy Small and Flo Cluff were two of those whose story has been saved for us by Audrey Johnson in Bread and Roses.

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New Zealand Nurses' victory

Kiwi nurses are celebrating the end of an IR system being aped by John Howard with $10,000 a year wage increases.

Twenty thousand Nurses Organisation members voted up the historic "fair pay" settlement, last week, after years of community campaigning.

The deal, thrashed out in the first national collective agreement, since individual and single-site agreements were mandated by the 1991 Employment Contracts Act, delivers wage movements of between 20 and 30 percent.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation says it will "stem the tide of nurses flooding out of the health system".

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Monday, March 14, 2005

"Terrorist Threat" response to Strike

A Flag of Convenience Captain claims possible terrorist threat in an Australian port to stop help reaching exploited and injured crew.

Filipino crew on board the Maltese flag of convenience vessel Flecha voted to go on strike on Saturday after the Captain refused to negotiate with the International Transport Workers' Federation over pay and conditions.

When the crew called on the ITF for help on Saturday, and two of their comrades were hospitalised with injuries, the Greek master of the ship used an international security alert to raise the gangway and prevent the ITF representatives coming on board.

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International Women’s Day Address – 8 March 2005

Sharan Burrow, ACTU President and President of the global unions body – ICFTU.

Why March 8?

From the turn of the century women in industrially developing countries were entering the paid workforce in increasing numbers. They found employment in the textile manufacturing and domestic service industries where conditions were poor and wages low.

[International Women's Day] was of course formally recognised in 1977 by the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday for women.

However International Women's Day is the story of ordinary women as makers of history; its campaigns and its celebrations are rooted in the centuries-old struggle of women to participate in society on an equal footing with men.

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150 tonnes of iron ore = 1 plasma TV

Australia has been led down the garden path. For too long we have been content to be the world's farm and quarry. Despite the highest export prices in a generation we have just recorded the highest current account deficit in our history.

Our politicians seem content for us to dig up rocks, transport them around the world where they are turned into complex manufactured goods, and then buy them back with money borrowed from overseas. The result is that we now owe the world nearly $21,000 for every man, woman and child in Australia. In 2003 we had to export 150 tonnes of iron ore to buy one plasma television.

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The AIRC must stay

John Howard thinks that abolishing the minimum wage would be out of step with the Australian ethos of a fair go... Instead ... he wants to cut it in the belief it would create more jobs.

The Prime Minister presumably has in mind smaller future increases in the minimum wage as the way to achieve a cut in real terms. Well, it is happening already. It fell from a peak of 60 per cent of average weekly earnings in the early 1980s to 43 per cent in 2002.

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Friday, March 11, 2005


When: 19 March 2005
Start time: 3:00pm

Now in its 3rd year in Sydney, after big nights in Adelaide and Brisbane in the past 6 months.

Now confirmed for 19th March 2005 from 3pm.

4 pubs. 4 struggles. 4 speakers. A lot of singing (with passion, not talent).

Join us as we celebrate our great movement - remember & learn about great struggles, drink great beer, and recharge our enthusiasm for the next battle.

Tickets are $30 (unless we change our minds or go broke at the last minute), which includes dinner.

If you wanna get on board the bus (walkers are welcome & free), please let us know ASAP - you'll have a confirmed seat if you get us the money before the day.

RSVP to Chris ( or 0438 898 435) or Michael ( for more information.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Working with Monsters: psychopaths in the workplace

Criminologist John Clarke, a consulting profiler for NSW Police, has written a book about his work as a consultant to corporations who call on him to deal with workers who create problems in their organisations because they exhibit psychopathic traits.

His book, Working with Monsters, identifies the psychological tendencies of the workplace psychopath.

They are superficially charming, have a grandiose sense of self-worth, a need for excitement, and are pathological liars.

"They have an absolute lack of remorse, a lack of guilt for what they do," Mr Clarke said.

"It's a parasitic lifestyle, they live off other people, take credit for other people's work, ... have a sense of entitlement, are very narcissistic and often exhibit promiscuous sexual behaviour."

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Abolishing the system is the real endgame

The Federal Government's push for a single industrial relations body is all about ideology.

Less than three years ago, the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW celebrated the centenary of its foundation in 1902.

This widely respected institution may face oblivion after Kevin Andrews, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, announced that he would legislate state industrial relations systems out of existence when the government takes control of the Senate in July.

The justification is that moving workers into a federal system would make it less complex and less confusing for employer and employee alike.

Although this sounds superficially attractive, practitioners in the field of employment law - on both sides of the fence - know this to be nonsense. The Workplace Relations Act, enacted by the Howard Government in 1996, is renowned for its complexity, length and obscurity. More than eight years after coming into force, the High Court is still having to tell us what it means.

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Howard's Anti-Union Bill

The Howard Government’s latest assault on working families proposes $22,000 fines for bread winners who act within existing law.

The laws, specific to the building and construction industry, aim to hold down wages and strengthen employer moves to roll back family friendly provisions.

Key features of the Bill include ...

- making it illegal to back date wage settlements, even if the parties want to

- making it illegal to campaign for people doing the same work to receive the same pay and conditions

- making lawful strike action contingent on time-consuming secret ballots

- declaring legal strikes illegal once they go beyond 14 days

- introducing fines of up to $22,000 for individuals involved in "illegal" industrial action

- making unions liable to fines of up to $120,000 for breaches

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Pay gap widens by $80 a week

Women who work full-time are paid 18.4 per cent less than men, according to a Victorian Government-commissioned pay equity report released yesterday.

And the gap between male and female earnings is growing, jumping from $230 a week in 1996 to more than $310 a week now.

Victorian Industrial Relations Minister Rob Hulls established a working party last year to investigate the gender pay gap in the state.

The working party's report said there had not been a substantial improvement in women's pay as a percentage of men's pay since 1986.

According to the report, women earn less because they have weaker bargaining power, are more commonly employed in part-time and casual positions and in lower-paid occupations such as child care and retail. "Systemic discrimination" had also contributed to the gap.

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