Thursday, June 30, 2005

Beazley addresses 100,000

250,000 take part in workplace rights protests

Part of the crowd at the huge Melbourne protestUp to 120,000 workers and union supporters took to the streets of Melbourne today to protest the Howard Government’s workplace laws agenda.

Media reports are saying that across Australia more than 250,000 Australians and their families have taken part in rallies today.

And more Australian working families will be in the streets tomorrow as NSW holds what is billed as Australia's biggest ever workers' meeting.

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Petty cartoon: "back to basics"

Andrews claims protests are "illegal"

Federal Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said the action taken by workers - including the estimated 100,000 who amassed in the centre of Melbourne - was in breach of the Workplace Relations Act.

"Today is a political action rather than industrial action ... most of today's action would be unprotected in relation to the Workplace Relations Act."

Mr Andrews' department is reportedly threatening fines of up to $6,600 against workers of packaging giant Visy who marched in a rally last year for asbestos victims in breach of an order from the Industrial Relations Commission.

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More than 100,000 protest against IR changes

An estimated 100,000 workers filled the streets of Melbourne. Tens of thousands of people have also rallied in Adelaide, Hobart, Darwin and across Queensland against the Federal Government's proposed industrial relations changes.

The Government wants to enforce the use of individual contracts, abolish the state-based industrial relations systems, and remove unfair dismissal protection for workers sacked from businesses with less than 100 workers.

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Part of the Union: Bernard Carney song

Part of the Union

A song by Bernard Carney©Bernard Carney

Oh we are gathered on this hill
To oppose the unfair bills
If they go ahead our rights are dead
It can only bring us ill
Conditions all will fade
There's nothing left to trade
These new workplace agreements soon
Will see us underpaid

Oh oh

You don't get me I'm part of the union
You don't get me I'm part of the union
You don't get me I'm part of the union
Till the day I die
Till the day I die

Well are they taking us for fools
In our hospitals and schools
As they shoot the blame to a log of claims
But never their new rules
There's a legislative tide
And it threatens to divide
So raise your voice there's little choice
And sing this song with pride

It's a gathering of wills
To oppose the unfair bills
If they go ahead our rights are dead
It can only bring us ill
Conditions all will fade
There's nothing left to trade
These new workplace agreements soon
Will see us underpaid

read more

IR changes report card

Seventeen of Australia’s leading academic researchers in the fields of industrial relations and labour market issues, employed in universities across Australia, have released a series of papers analysing the details of the Howard Government’s proposed changes to Australia’s industrial relations laws and the likely effects of these changes.

A media conference will be held for the launch of the papers at The University of Sydney Law School on Tuesday 21 June at 10:30am.

Prof R. Lansbury
02 9351 3119

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Boeing AWAs: 43 Hour Week - No Penalties

NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, John Della Bosca, said the Boeing dispute in Newcastle was a perfect example of the unproductive conflict ahead, should the Howard Government proceed with its radical industrial relations takeover.

"Boeing has handed its maintenance workers at Williamtown individual contracts with a 43-hour working week, no overtime, no weekend penalty rates, no leave loading," Mr Della Bosca said.

Naively, local Liberal MP Bob Baldwin has suggested the dispute be settled in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

"That would be a good idea Bob, except your Government has already passed laws preventing the federal Commission from adjudicating on these matters," Mr Della Bosca said.

"It underlines the problem in the industrial relations debate, when even a member of Mr Howard's own Government doesn't understand how bad his policy really is.

"And the Liberal Member for Paterson is right: The Federal Commission should be able to solve disputes like this - just as the NSW Commission has been doing for more than 100 years."

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IR changes an assault on fairness, says Rann

South Australian Premier Mike Rann has condemned the Federal Government's planned industrial relations (IR) changes as an assault on fairness.

Mr Rann has told a gathering of workers in Adelaide that his state's impressive industrial relations record will be threatened if the system is taken over by the Commonwealth.

"Nobody in the industrial relations movement, no one in the unions fears change, but what we're facing from the day after tomorrow is a whole new industrial and political landscape where the hard-won balance that we have here in South Australia could be badly upset." he said.

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Howard and unions: a Catholic response

Neil Ormerod, Professor of Theology at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney, writes:

"When the very notion of the common good is itself under threat, when politics is actively seeking to marginalise unions and leave workers unprotected from the ever increasing demands of employers to do more with less, unions may feel impelled to act politically: "union activity undoubtedly enters the field of politics, understood as prudent concern for the common good".

It is difficult to see how Kevin Andrews, Minister for Workplace Relations, reconciles his workplace reforms with his Catholic faith. And where will that other prominent Catholic minister in the Howard government, Tony Abbott, stand in relation to these proposed reforms. And finally, it will also be interesting to see how a certain Catholic prelate, who has often sided with the Howard government, will respond to a policy so at variance with Catholic social teaching."

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Precious will not go to my head...

Your Rights at Work protest in Brisbane

Liz Coffey is like many other child care workers – loves her job especially the children – but she’s decided to take the time to attend the big union Your Rights at Work protest in Brisbane.

"Childcare is an industry already vulnerable to workplace pressures. Taking away our unfair dismissal rights will make this industry even more unstable," the young worker explained.

"We need stability and assurances of job security if we are going to build a good professional structure for this important employment sector which supports so many other Australian working families," Liz Coffey said.

" If governments undermine security in the childcare workforce then they are really undermining other working mums and dads who need a stable childcare service if they are going to have peace of mind in their own workplace."

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Church leaders uneasy about IR laws

Church leaders have voiced their concerns about the Government's industrial relations bill and have asked to meet the Prime Minister, John Howard, to discuss the planned changes.

The National Council of Churches, which includes leaders from Catholic, Anglican, and Uniting churches, and 12 other national church groupings, said they were worried about the changes' impact on workers. "We are uneasy about the bottom line in all this," said the council's general secretary, Reverend John Henderson.

"The value of each worker is not as a commodity, but as a person, a human being, loved by God. Our community has values that are more important than economics." He asked the Government to "slow down and step back from its apparent haste".

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

AWAs: Attacking Workers Again

The implication of the Government's attempts to engineer increased numbers of workers on to individual contracts, known as Australian Workplace Agreements, is possibly the least understood plank in its reform package. Individual contracts have been around since 1997. But the uptake has been slow. With Government control of the Senate, the gloves come off.

Under the proposals, bosses will gain huge new freedom to offer contracts to individual workers that undermine almost every condition in the award. Bosses will be able to unilaterally dispense with penalty rates, shift allowances, minimum lengths of shifts and other conditions without having to, as now, compensate by increasing base pay.

Bosses will rule. They alone will set terms and conditions. The research undertaken on the operation of workplace agreements up to now shows workers appear to have had no input in drafting them. There is nothing "individual" about individual contracts.

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RailCorp Shocker

Allowing labourers to perform electrical work on Sydney’s train lines threatens the safety of the public and workers, according to rail workers.

Rail, Tram and Bus Union and Electrical Trades Union members are fighting a RailCorp decision to allow unqualified contractors to perform work on overhead electrical lines.

RailCorp's new rules put the public, contractors and RailCorp employees at risk of electrocution and being hit by falling objects, according to RTBU Infrastructure secretary Gary Talbot.

"Railcorp is more concerned about lessening standard than maintaining it,'' Talbot said.

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Wage freeze planned for 1.6 million low paid

The Government's intention to cut the wages of 1.6 million award workers has been revealed in an announcement today that there will be a six month wage freeze in the transition to a new minimum wages system.

Condemning the six month wage freeze for the low-paid, ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said:

"A newspaper report today confirms Employment Minister Kevin Andrews is planning a six month wage freeze for 1.6 million award workers.

This wage freeze reveals the Government's hand. The Howard Government's sole reason for changing the way minimum wages are set is to make them lower.

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

AMWU: IR challenge to bosses

The AMWU is challenging manufacturing bosses to sidestep John Howard’s plan to rip up the workplace rulebook.

National secretary, Doug Cameron, floated a union-employer Board of Reference at a top-level meeting with Australian Industry Group (AIG) chiefs, this month.

The Board of Reference would provide a clear avenue of dispute resolution and a channel for unions and employers to negotiate.

It would be able to settle industrial disputes after the Federal Government takes that power away from the Industrial Relations Commission.

Cameron warned manufacturing employers that an embrace of Howard’s agenda would mean more disputes and a collapse of trust across the sector.

read more

Monster meeting: July 1 Sky Channel venues

A complete list of venues for Australia's largest ever workers meeting.
Friday, July 1, from 8.30am.

Around the Blue Mountains...

BLAXLAND New Lapstone Hotel

15 Great Western Hwy, Blaxland

EMU PLAINS Emu Plains Sporting Club
Leonay Parade, Emu Plains

KATOOMBA Katoomba RSL All Services Club
86 Lurline Street, Katoomba

KATOOMBA Gearin Hotel
273 Great Western Hwy, Katoomba

LITHGOW Lithgow & District Workmen's Club
7 Tank Street, Lithgow

OBERON Royal Hotel

Lethbridge St, Penrith

SPRINGWOOD The Royal Hotel
220 Macquarie Road, Springwood

Check for a venue near you...

$20 million to sell IR changes

There are rumours that the Liberal Party's advertising agency will be paid $20 million of taxpayers money to persuade taxpayers of the 'benefits' of the industrial relations changes.

But you have to wonder how they'll sell this one - happy bosses 'free' to fire workers? Smiling families on lower wages? Workplaces liberated from the union?

No matter what they spend, what they don't have is the personal commitment of the thousands of workers who will take part in the Week of Action of the next seven days; people who are taking a stand not just for themselves, but for their children and their children's children.

They won't have the support of the broader community, from churches to sporting organisations who - when the conversation starts - already know deep down the damage that further labour market deregulations will cause our communities.

read more

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Changing unfair-dismissal laws opposed by 54pc

According to an Ipsos poll conducted for The Australian Financial Review, 54 per cent of people don't support the changes to unfair-dismissal laws planned by the Federal Government.

The poll of 1003 people on June 14 and 15 showed that just over one-third supported a new regime for businesses of up to 100 people, with ALP and Greens voters overwhelmingly opposed to the exemptions. Even among coalition voters, backing for the changes was modest at 53 per cent.

Younger workers aged 25 to 44 were most strongly opposed to the changes, with 59 per cent not in favour. Randall Pearce, general manager of Ipsos Mackay Public Affairs, said that no one could accuse the Howard government of following public opinion on this issue.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Walk softly and carry a big stick...

Ship of shame found guilty of Reef pollution

The owners of the container ship Pacific Quest were fined $180,000 in the Brisbane District Court on June 2.

The successful prosecution is the result of a joint investigation into the spill by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Federal Police and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Six ships were in the vicinity at the time of the incident (Christmas Day, 2002) but chemical analysis of oil samples obtained from the Pacific Quest in New Zealand and satellite images proved the case.

The International Transport Workers' Federation pointed out that it was a flag of convenience ship.

"Yet again it is a FoC vessel that is to blame for environmental vandalism," said ITF Australia Co-ordinator Dean Summers. "This is the second to date, with another Panamanian flagged vessel, Pax Phoenix, fined $85,000 last October for yet another act of deliberate pollution on the Reef in 2001."

read more

Retired against IR reforms

"Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of NSW Inc (CPSA) stands with the trade unions in opposition to the Australian Government's proposed industrial relations changes" said Morrie Mifsud, CPSA State President.

"Howard told us nothing about these proposals before the election last year. He lied by omission and now he claims a mandate to destroy working conditions. Many of our members and constituents we serve campaigned long and hard to get decent conditions in their industries. They are not going to stand idly by while Howard tries to wreck our living standards.

"Not only does the Australian Government want to abolish basic working conditions, they also intend removing the power of the Industrial Relations Commission to set the minimum wage. This is not only bad for paid workers; it is also detrimental to pensioners. The pension in Australia is calculated against Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE) at 25 percent. If MTAWE goes down so will pensions. This will mean pensioners will have even more difficulty paying skyrocketing bills for essentials such as food, housing, transport and health services. And how are people going save up enough in superannuation to afford a decent retirement?

"The proposed industrial relations changes are unjust, regressive will guarantee greater inequality and poverty for years to come. CPSA supports a concerted effort to make this legislation dead in the water" said Mr Mifsud.

IR plans: Damaging the fabric of Australian society

A group of leading industrial relations academics has released a damning report of the Federal Government's proposed Industrial Relations reforms, saying workers and families will suffer.

One of the authors, Professor Russell Lansbury of the University of Sydney, says workers will be forced onto individual contracts and casual work, job insecurity will get worse and wages will fall.

"The proposed changes will do nothing to address labour and skills shortages or the productivity slowdown."

"They will however damage the fabric of Australian society by encouraging poorly paid jobs with irregular hours, little security and a worsening work family balance."

"Economic growth has been good, but it's now stalling and we feel that for people to feel secure in their jobs and to feel motivated by their work is the way to go, and not to make people feel insecure and that their livelihood is threatened."

"What we see in this legislation is that it's flexibility for the employer, not flexibility for both sides, and we feel that to gain the support of workers, it needs to be a two-sided process," he said.

read more

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Rights At Work TV advertisements

The first of the Rights At Work TV advertisements focus on two of the main concerns working people have about the changes - unfair dismissals and the spread of individual contracts.

Both issues are linked with rising concerns about job insecurity and the loss of control of working hours. They are based on real scenarios emerging in the modern workforce.

Click on the links below to view the tv ads:

High Bandwidth - Low Bandwidth

Ad 1 - Tracy -

Part 1 Part 1
Part 2 Part 2

Ad 2 - George

Part 1 Part 1
Part 2 Part 2

email Liberal leaders

Tell The Liberals What You Think About Their New Workplace Laws

Why do you want to change the way minimum wages are set to make them lower?

Why shouldn’t working Australians have the right to choose to bargain collectively and have access to unions at their workplace?

Why shouldn’t I have an entitlement to redundancy pay or protection from unfair dismissal if I work for a small business?

Why should the powers of the independent umpire be weakened and overridden by political decision makers?

email here

Monday, June 20, 2005

Truckie protest brings Sydney to a halt

More than 600 truckies took their feet off the pedal yesterday in a go-slow to protest against the Government's planned industrial relations reforms.

The NSW secretary of the Transport Workers Union, Tony Sheldon, said that under the Government's proposals drivers classified as small business operators or independent contractors faced the loss of goodwill, access to the Industrial Relations Commission and safe systems of work regulations.

"Under the Howard Government, drivers could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of goodwill in their business," Mr Sheldon said.

Without the ability to bargain collectively, owner drivers would be thrown into an "auction market where they'd lose out on remuneration for their work" and would be forced to cut spending on vehicle maintenance.

read more

Saturday, June 18, 2005

ACTU launches super web site

The ACTU has launched a superannuation web site designed to inform and educate workers about super.

“The introduction of choice of fund means that many employees will be looking for information about super” said ACTU Secretary Greg Combet.

The site provides a wealth of information including:

* Employees’ entitlements to superannuation
* Information about choice of fund
* The inadequacy of many employees’ retirement incomes
* ACTU policy and submissions on superannuation and corporate governance.

The site also provides a history of super in Australia.

“Many people are not aware that universal superannuation is a relatively new entitlement and that in the 1980’s union members campaigned for its introduction. In 1985 only 39% of employees had super, now 97% have super” said Greg Combet.

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Car detailers ditch contract that "hertz"

Car detailers at Perth airport are being threatened and abused in a bid to keep them on below-par individual contracts.

They are trying to ditch unregistered contracts forced onto them by the WA manager for the hire car company.

"We signed an agreement we didn't agree with," says Transport Workers Union delegate Nicki Shea. "We were forced to sign, there was no negotiation."

The car detailing facility works 365 days a year and employees want union wages and penalty rates for working evenings and giving up weekends and public holidays.

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Rail Workers: Right to union representation

Railway signalling staff in Melbourne, have underlined their stance on workers’ rights to union representation. This follows a dispute with a major transport operator over the harassment of an employee.

The worker was denied trade union rights, including the right to union representation at disciplinary hearings; management also stated that the employee would be penalised if union involvement was sought.

Connex’s attempted removal of the worker from his signal box on 6 June prompted further action on the same day.

On 7 June the matter was brought before the Industrial Relations Commission, where the RTBU and Connex agreed to abide by the commission’s determination; further industrial action connected with the dispute was called off.

“In taking this action signallers have sent a crystal clear message to Connex about the rights of our members to union representation,” commented Vic Moore, RTBU’s Rail Operations Division Secretary.

read more

Friday, June 17, 2005

Employers praise NSW IR system

BlueScope Steel's executive vice-president, human resources, Ian Cummin, praised the current NSW IR system.

"Under the NSW system the parties have swift access to effective remedies against the misuse of industrial power, without the need for crippling economic damage.

"The existence of these remedies is often sufficient to create the expectation that these agreements ought to be, and most often are, resolved constructively and directly between the parties involved.

"In other words, people understand, accept, and work within the boundaries. Nevertheless, exceptional and destructive circumstances do arise.

"In recent years, and in a measured way, this commission has demonstrated its resolve to restore and maintain respect for the processes of constructive dispute resolution."

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Government take over of IR condemned

The president of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, Justice Lance Wright, condemned the Government's plans to take over industrial relations systems across the country.

"Despite some suggestions otherwise in the uninformed part of the current debate over federal industrial relations policies, the reality is that industrial disputation is still of significance in Australia. Contrary to some suggestions otherwise, fairness is not an outdated concept, and market forces play only a limited, and thus inadequate, role in ensuring fairness in workplace relations."

Justice Wright said the state's least powerful workers, often women or migrants, were protected by the commission in bargaining with employers.

"Any proposal for change which would remove this institution, with its role as an independent umpire, has to be seriously questioned," he said.

read more

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Public Forum: Industrial Relations Changes

John Howard"s proposed changes to Industrial Relations Legislation will not only have enormous impact on unions. They also aim to stifle any form of political activism and protest by community groups on issues as diverse as fair trade, the environment, indigenous issues, women"s rights, refugees, youth and a range of others.

National Secretary, Doug Cameron, who has been at the forefront of the campaign against the proposed changes will join community, political and union leaders in a public discussion of the likely impact on both unions and other community groups.

The forum will also discuss possible responses and how to become involved in an effective campaign against the legislation.

Saturday 18 June 2005

Tom Mann Theatre, 136 Chalmers St, Surry Hills (opposite Central Station)

2pm to 5pm - further information contact Jan on 9897 2011.

Royalty dodge by Rio Tinto and BHP-Billiton

Western Australia’s hospitals, schools and communities will be $60 million poorer next year because of a royalty dodge by mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP-Billiton.

The royalty racket has been going on for decades with producers taking advantage of concessions allocated to the companies the 1960s, despite a 70% increase in iron ore prices in recent times.

The AMWU has backed calls for the miners to be brought to account and for a tangible benefit for the WA community from the miners through increased use of the state’s manufacturing sector.

"The non-payment of appropriate royalty concessions has provided these companies with yet another way to avoid investing in the long-term future of WA," says AMWU State Secretary, Jock Ferguson. "Whilst these companies have generated millions of dollars from WA resources, the WA community has been repeatedly robbed of job opportunities due to a lack of local content and training strategies."

read more

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Religious leaders speak out against IR changes

A number of religious leaders have recently publicly opposed the Howard Government Industrial Relations plans.

Bishop Manning has written to the Prime Minister raising his fears about the changes which he says "promises little joy for the poor".

Uniting Church Reverend Elenie Poulos has raised concerns about the changes to the minimum wage, warning that the most vulnerable would be forgotten in the 'rush for profit'.

Archdeacon Derek Howe from the Anglican Church spoke of the sacredness of Sundays, how a strong family life required time and rest and how deregulating work laws attacked these basic goods.

Michael McDonald from the Australian Catholic Commission for Employment Relations spoke of how both the current and previous pontiff believed the right to work with dignity was at the core of a fair and good society.

David Knoll, president of the NSW Jewish Board of deputies, claimed Moses was the first advocate of workers rights - the founder of a faith that has always been based on building work around family and not the other way around.

"Moses taught us that the obligation of every employer was to create the conditions to allow family life to flourish," Knoll said.

read more

Monday, June 13, 2005

Uncharted Waters: Book launch

Uncharted Waters by Greg Mallory will be launched by Jack Mundey.

Saturday 2 July - Sydney, Sydney University, 9th National Labour History Conference, lunch-time

Sunday 3 July - Port Kembla, MUA Building, afternoon

Saturday 9 July - Katoomba, Politics in the Pub - Blue Mountains Unions Council, Hotel Gearin 2.00pm, launched by the author Greg Mallory

Friday 15 July - Melbourne, Victorian Trades Hall Council bar, 5.30pm

Sunday 24 July - Brisbane, jointly launched by Jack Mundey, Drew Hutton and Hughie Williams, MC accompanied by Combined Union Choir - Paddington Workers and Community Club, 2.00pm.

Tuesday, 26 July - Canberra, Australian National University, Menzies Building, Noel Butlin Archives Centre, 5.30pm

Thursday, 28 July - Sydney, Supreme Court Bistro, Philips Street, Sydney, overlooking Woolloomoolloo and Victoria Street, 5.30pm

To place an advance order, or for more information, contact:
Greg Mallory
Ph: 0407 692 377

Uncharted Waters: New book by Greg Mallory

In the early 1970s, the NSW Builders Labourers Federation refused to demolish buildings and destroy parkland in parts of Sydney.

"If it wasn’t for that civilising of the building industry in campaigns of 1970 and 1971, well then I’m sure we wouldn’t have had the luxury of the membership going along with us in what was considered by some as ‘avant-garde’, ‘way-out’ actions of supporting mainly middle class people in environmental actions. I think that gave us the mandate to allow us to go into uncharted waters"
(Jack Mundey, former Secretary of the NSW BLF)

In 1938 the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia refused to load tin clippings and pig-iron on the Dalfram at Port Kembla.

"we met the reactionary government and the monopolies head on and, in the process, we struck heavy blows for democracy...We concluded the battle with no physical casualties and emerged as a much stronger organisation. We won a political victory of enormous national and international importance"
(Ted Roach, former Secretary of the WWF South Coast Branch)

These unions would not allow their labour to be used for what they considered 'destructive' purposes.

Uncharted Waters examines the political theories and movements that influenced these two disputes. Mallory argues that the unions vindicated a social responsibility when they challenged the government and the employers in the areas of foreign policy, control of labour and the destruction of the urban environment. He contends that the NSW BLF pioneered a ‘new way of thinking’ about the nature of work and the trade union movement’s relationship with the wider community.

In order for the trade union movement to develop, it must promote this 'new way of thinking' on social responsibility.

Friday, June 10, 2005

You're fired!

A song by David Peetz

play tune

Rollin', rollin', rollin'
Keep them contracts rollin'
You don't wanna sign one?
You're fired!
You'll work in foulest weather
Do as I say - whatever!
Wishin' you had somewhere to hide.
Don't think of what you're missin',
One squeak and I'm dismissin',
Keep smiling or you'll find that you're fired!

Push 'em on, speed 'em up
Speed 'em up, Push 'em on
Push 'em on, speed 'em up
You're fired
Shove 'em in, Wear 'em out,
Wear 'em out, shove 'em in
Shove 'em in, Wear 'em out,
You're fired!

We're movin', movin', movin'
And we're disapprovin'
Life sure ain't improvin'
If you're fired!
He's holdin' the whip hand 'n
Thinks we don't understand 'im
One day there's a reckoning' required
My hearts calculatin'
For Johnny will be waitin',
Be waitin' when we tell him "You're fired!
"You're fired!"
"You're fired!"

AWAs: No good for men; even worse for women

A report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that in May 2004, non-managerial men on registered individual contracts received an average of $23.40 per hour, which was 2 per cent less than men on registered collective agreements ($23.90 per hour).

Women on AWAs had hourly earnings some 11 per cent less than women on registered collective agreements. The gender pay gap was worse on AWAs: whereas women on registered collective agreements received 90 per cent of the hourly pay of men on such agreements, women on AWAs received only 80 per cent of the hourly pay of men on AWAs.

read more

Workplace Danger: AWAs

A damning report into mine safety in the Pilbara by Perth-based lawyer, Mark Ritter slams Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs). The state government ordered the Ritter Inquiry in response to a campaign led by the AMWU and Pilbara Mineworkers Union.

Ritter found BHP's aggressive use of AWAs, at the centre of Prime Minister John Howard's workplace change agenda, had contributed to serious health and safety shortcomings.

It's use of individual contracts, he said, was a "factor which has impacted and continues to impact on the successful implementation of safety systems".

read more

Australian workers support Koreans

Construction workers in Ulsan, the home of the Hyundai motor company, have taken to the streets over a three-month strike to gain a collective agreement.

Over seven hundred members of the Korean Federation of Construction Industry Trade Union (KFCITU) have been attacked and involved in stand offs with local riot police. They have been bashed, harassed and intimidated for taking a stand over the poor standard of their working conditions.

"What's happening in Korea could easily happen in Australia if the Howard laws are allowed through," says CFMEU Korean organiser Byang Jo Kang. "These workers are feeling very isolated and we need to send our support."

On May 23 just under 600 union members, including KFCITU leaders, were arrested during a peaceful demonstration in Korean capital Seoul.

read more

Educate, Agitate, Organize, Sell Books Online

If you ever want to be a best-selling author, take my advice: don't write books about and for trade unionists. Our movement with its millions of members does many things very well but one thing we do not do well is buy and read books that are written for us.

A couple of years ago, I was having a discussion with what might be called a "labor intellectual" at a conference in Chicago. He was bemoaning the fact that even the most intelligent and best-informed trade union leaders he knew simply did not read the books that they should be reading, if they read books at all.

The best-seller lists reflect this. Even though there are millions of union members, the books aimed at trade unionists are never listed there. If you're a gardener, or a cook, or a movie-goer, the books targetted at you may sell in the tens of thousands. History books are sometimes big best sellers -- but not books about labor history.

read more
Recent LabourStart Books of the Day

Australia's industrial relations system.

Dr Chris Briggs, University of Sydney. Canberra Times, Monday 6 June 2005.

For decades, one of the distinctive aspects of Australian society was its commitment to a ‘fair go’ for all employees - reflected in widespread support for an independent body, the IR Commission, to set minimum wages and employment conditions.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, announced major reforms to our IR system last week to a torrent of media comment – but the debate is so technical most people are probably still unsure what it means and how it will affect them.

The existing system works like this. Most occupations have a minimum wage and basic employment standards set out in a legal document called an ‘award’. The IR commission updates the minimum award wage annually for employees who have no bargaining power.

For the rest, their wages and conditions are set through a workplace agreement with their employer which must meet the ‘no-disadvantage test’ – overall employees cannot be worse off than they would be under the award. So awards act as a ‘safety net’, especially for employees in non-union workplaces.

John Howard says his latest reforms retain awards and the IR commission, modernising our employment system without disadvantaging employees – but the reality is the reform package will set in motion changes which will signal the death of the award safety net.

read more

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Workers not happy about Federal Government's proposed security tests

Dock workers are unhappy about security tests proposed by the Federal Government.

Steve O'Shannessy, a wharfie for 23 years, is no fan of plans to screen and sack workers with a criminal record.

"Even if there are criminals in our industry, everyone's entitled to a second chance," he said. "Whatever happened to rehabilitation?"

He was not alone with such thoughts on Melbourne's waterfront yesterday, where the Federal Government's plans to conduct background checks on thousands of maritime and airport workers were met with fear and anger.

MUA state secretary Kevin Bracken said workers felt victimised by the move and were reminded of the 1998 waterfront dispute, in which many dockers were made redundant. "If people have committed crimes in the past and they've done their time, how can you stop them from trying to get on with it and work? People just don't think it's right."

Mr Bracken said the idea that criminal activity was rife at the docks was a myth created by the media's portrayal of the waterfront over many years.

World ‘Asbestos Ban’ call by unions

Unions will kick off a world campaign to ban the use of asbestos on 8 June in Geneva, where some 4,000 worker, employer and government representatives from around the world have gathered for the annual conference of the UN’s 178-member International Labour Organization (ILO).

Guy Ryder, General Secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), will announce at a special event organised by Global Unions, the beginning of a country-by-country process that trade unions hope will bring an end to the death and destruction caused by asbestos, which continues to kill over 100,000 people per year throughout the world and inflicts suffering among millions more.

Global Unions have formally delivered a letter to every government attending the ILO Conference, asking them to become involved in nationally banning asbestos or in supporting a world ban on the commercialization and use of the product.

read more

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

No Mr Big on the waterfront

The Government should focus its search for crime syndicates operating across borders on the big end of town, not the wharves, according to the MUA.

"There's no Mr Bigs down on the waterfront," said Sydney Branch Secretary Robert Coombs. "Those days are gone. They're all in business suits in city skyscrapers or chartering ships and containers. And the ship's they are bringing in are hiding behind flags of convenience, so you just can't track down their owners."

The Maritime Union has not been the only ones warning the Government about deregulating the coast and allowing more of these ships onto the coast. Flag of Convenience shipping has a long criminal record for drug smuggling, gun running, people smuggling, environmental and labour abuse and now terrorism.

Only this April the Australian Strategic Policy Institute warned the government of the risks involved in employing foreign seafarers on the Australian coast.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Minimum wage will be increased by $17 to $484.40

The nation's 1.6 million lowest paid workers will receive an extra $17 a week following the Australian Industrial Relation Commission's (AIRC) minimum wage case hearing.

In it's ruling the AIRC said "the federal minimum wage will be increased by $17 to $484.40 per week."

The Federal Government pushed the AIRC for an offer of no more than $11 per week. Business lobbied for no more than $10 per week.

With the Federal Government planning to "gut" the AIRC this could be the last wage case settled by arbitration after 98 years.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

ACCER seeks meeting with Minister re IR changes

ACCER (Australian Catholic Commission for Employment Relations) has sought a meeting with the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations to outline its concerns with the government's proposed workplace laws.

Executive Officer Mr. John Ryan said that ACCER is concerned about the proposals and their impact on the working relationship between employers and employees.

ACCER has been actively seeking greater rigor in the setting of the minimum wage so that the needs of workers and families to live with dignity are taken into account.

“A fair system of workplace relations provides for the needs and circumstances of both the employer and employees so that the right decision is made on any matter, and not one made out of economic expediency or industrial self-interest,” Mr Ryan said.

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RAAF Workers in National Fight

RAAF maintenance workers who have been locked out of the Williamtown air base for refusing to sign individual contracts were today told they were standard bearers in the national battle for rights at work.

Unions NSW secretary John Robertson today told the Boeing workers they had the backing of the entire NSW trade union movement.

"The right of workers to bargain collectively is one of the basic rights under threat by the Howard Government," Mr Robertson said.

"And when the workers refused to sign up, the company imposed industrial action - lock outs - AGAINST their employees.

"This is the way big business intends to reform the Australian workplace - and John Howard's new laws will give them even more power to reduce the rights of Australian workers.

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

UNDER THE AXE if Howard gets his way!

UNDER THE AXE from July are

• your job: if the company you work for has 100 or less people on its books your boss can sack you no ifs no buts
• long service leave
• union picnic day
• penalty rates
• paid overtime
• public holiday loading
• rest breaks
• notice periods and variations to work
• incentive based payments;
• bonuses
• public holidays
• allowances
• loadings for working overtime
• redundancy pay.
• award safety net
• collective agreements for all but the bigger, unionised workplaces
• right to strike
• safety on the job
• protection of state awards

Fairgo for David

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Howard moves to curb Senate

The Howard Government is moving to weaken the Senate committee system - one of its deepest sources of embarrassment and the Parliament's most effective means of scrutiny.

Set to take control of the Senate on July 1, the Coalition is already preparing to use its power to veto damaging public inquiries into scandals - such as, for example, the children overboard affair or the wrongful detention of Cornelia Rau.

The Senate estimates process - described by the Clerk of the Senate, Harry Evans, as one of the best government accountability mechanisms in the world - also faces emasculation.

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Reaping what is sown

'Pontonostos' faces arrest in Burnie

Greek ship 'Pontonostos' arrived in Burnie on Wednesday to load logs for Forestry Tasmania.

The International Transport Workers Federation claims that the seamen on board, who are Filipino and Greek, are owed about $105,000 in wages, are not being fed properly and have been working for 20 months without a break.

The ITF attempted to board the ship yesterday, but was unsuccessful. A decision will be made as to whether the arrest will go ahead, and if it does, the ship may have to stay in port for several months, according to ITF assistant co-ordinator Matt Purcell.

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Political class pushes the envelope

The talcum powder affair is revolting. Not because of the boofhead who sent the envelope, but because of the nauseating response of our political class. The profuse expressions of shame, and the grovelling apologies to Indonesia, would have been unwarranted and distasteful even if the envelope did contain anthrax. But it didn't, and we need to ask why the Government and many in the media were so keen to assume it did.

It's important to focus on the two pieces of evidence we had: the white powder and the letter accompanying it. You always had to wonder about the powder. After all, anthrax is not easy to get hold of, and the chances of this being a hoax were high. But on Wednesday, the Prime Minister, John Howard, killed scepticism with the announcement that "it's not an innocent white powder", and said it came from the same family as anthrax.

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1000 march through Sydney over IR reforms

University teachers and staff march through Sydney for a rally about individual contracts.About 1000 university students and staff marched through Sydney in protest against the Federal Government's industrial relations plans.

Protesters were angry at Government plans to use new workplace relations powers to force staff to sign new individual contracts or face funding restrictions.

At the rally ACTU secretary Greg Combet highlighted the danger of "The Howard Government's legislative blank cheque to overturn industrial relations and higher education laws."

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Friday, June 03, 2005

Queensland to shield workers from Howard's IR regime

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie announced today that he would amend the State IR Act to protect conditions including long service leave, super, severance pay, notice of termination, dispute-settling procedures, weekend penalties, jury service and overtime and shift loadings.

Sydney University Dean of Law, Ron McCallum, who was one of the architects of the 1999 Queensland IR laws, said Beattie had the power to make such laws to cover federal award employees and independent contractors.

Beattie recognises that the Federal Government is in a powerful position to advance its plans. "This will be a hard-fought battle because, constitutionally, the Federal Government holds all the aces and will soon control the Senate".

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Bob Carr meets workers threatened with sack

Eighteen employees of Appaloosa Holdings' stationery warehouse in Banksmeadow were recently told to sign Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) or lose their jobs. The AWAs cancel all awards, and only guarantee an hourly wage rate.

Eight who are yet to sign the contracts were suspended from work, were granted a reprieve by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission which sent them back to work pending further hearings next week.

NSW Premier Bob Carr met the warehouse workers and said their plight sounded a warning against the industrial relations regime being planned by the Federal Government:

"This is precisely how it would work. If John Howard's takeover goes ahead these workers would be forced to sign up to agreements - individual agreements - or they would get the sack."

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ILO puts Howard Govt On Trial over Employee Rights

The Howard Government will go on trial next week at the International Labour Organisation over the alleged breach of fundamental human rights for working Australians.

The case is expected to begin in the next few days over whether Howard Government Workplace Relations and Building Industry laws are a breach of fundamental human rights including the right of employees to join a union and the right to bargain collectively.

The Federal Government will be forced to defend itself in the case which is being heard by the ILO's Committee on the Application of Standards. This ILO Committee is composed of a panel of international legal experts and is currently chaired by the government of Spain.

In hearing the case, the ILO's Committee on the Application of Standards will question Howard Government representatives about the legal and practical aspects of its adherence to international labour rights conventions in particular, The Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, number 98.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Howard’s economic black hole – trade deficit balloons

The National Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Doug Cameron said that foreign debt was now at record levels, rising to $424.7 billion or nearly $21 000 per man, woman and child in Australia.

"We have seen nothing from this Government, particularly in the last budget that suggests they are taking seriously the coming economic crisis."

"We have no effective national manufacturing policy, no long term commitment to skills and infrastructure investment, and no plans for what happens when economic growth slows."

"What is even more worrying than the continuing trade deficit, is the structure of the deficit. Australia is importing more consumer goods but reducing our investment in the machinery and equipment that will actually produce things here in Australia," Mr. Cameron said.

"Not only are we failing to spend more on capital equipment we are failing to attract foreign investment to secure jobs here."

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Outstanding example of how to use the net

LabourStart's Eric Lee writes:

"Every once in a while you see a trade union do something really original and innovative on the Internet. I saw one of these this morning.

If you go to you'll see what I mean.

A union in the United States wants to show its members and the general public what globalization really means.

Instead of just writing an article about it, or showing graphs and charts, they've created a terrific interactive online tool that shows the differences in buying power between two people working the same jobs in the US and in Mexico."

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

ABC shamed: bullying claims dominate Senate hearing

Last week ABC management got a grilling at a Senate Estimates hearing over bullying complaints. Questions were asked about the significant growth in workers compensation claims for bullying and harassment.

Questions were also raised about the most recent Employee Assistance Program (EAP) report that shows a disturbing level of cries for help from employees about workplace conflict. The report paints a picture of an organisation that is decidedly unhealthy. Over the past year workplace bullying at the ABC has been repeatedly raised in the Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC). Last month, the AIRC decided to conduct an independent inquiry into bullying in the Victorian News room.

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Howard's great crusade

It is the changes to awards and to bargaining practices that will occasion the really profound changes. To effectively comprehend just how far-reaching the new laws will be, it helps to look at a series of bullet points on the second page of the Government's outline of its new system. It reads:

"Our reforms will:

· Not cut minimum and award classifications.

· Not abolish awards.

· Not remove the right to join a union.

· Not take away the right to strike.

· Not outlaw union agreements.

· Not abolish the AIRC (Australian Industrial Relations Commission)."

Anyone familiar with pronouncements by any government will be able to decode this. It means awards, award rates, the right to strike, union agreements and the existing wage tribunal will all be seriously, if not fatally, diminished.

Of course, it could have been even more radical. The AIRC, rather than being allowed to wither on the vine, could have been wiped out.

What is left of the safety net could also have gone. But the effect will be sweeping, nonetheless. Weekend penalties, over-award payments, loadings for overtime - all these features of the Australian workplace are likely to disappear quite quickly.

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ABC employees dudded - 16% salary shortfall

Over the past years decade general community wages have increased in real terms (ie allowing for inflation) by 20%. In the ABC, they have only increase by 4%. The statistics confirm that employees have borne the brunt of the funding cuts at the ABC. Management has continued to expand services on the backs of it employees. Productivity has gone through the roof, but the benefits have not flowed back to staff.

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