Monday, November 28, 2005

Signing the contract

Union Songs: 200,000 visits

Union Songs at had its two hundred thousandth visitor sometime yesterday

The collection is now approaching 400 songs and poems nearly half of them Australian and most of them written in recent times

Anyone wanting songs about AWAs or Individual Contracts (as proposed by our neocons) might find this selection of interest:

The Contract - Eric Bogle at
The Eight Hour Day - John Warner at
Rapping with Johnny Howard - John Tomlinson at
You're Fired! - David Peetz at
Solidarity Forever (2005) at
Mark Allen - John Warner at
Morris McMahon Picket Shanty - John Warner at
Bye Bye Awards - Bernard Carney at
Part of the Union - Bernard Carney at
Come to the Meeting - Don Henderson at
Bring Out The Banners - John Warner at
Stand Together - Bernard Carney at
Hold That Line - Geoff Francis and Peter Hicks at
United - Ginger Tom at
Black Armband - John Hospodaryk at
Call To Arms - Richard Mills at
Do the slowly-chokie - David Peetz at
Right That Time - Maurie Mulheron at
Stand and Defend - Jim Lesses at
Cowper Wharf - Phyl Lobl at
Dear John - Phyl Lobl at
The Telephone Tree - Wendy Lowenstein at
With These Arms - Tim O'Brien at
I Can't Abide - John Dengate at

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Cardinal Pell: IR changes threaten fair go ethos

The Federal Government's Workplace Relations Bill is likely to be passed by the Senate.

We probably won't see too much change immediately. But these are the most significant legislative changes for Australian workers in 100 years.

Major concerns are that the "no disadvantage" test has been removed so that minimum wage rates can be progressively reduced in real terms, conciliation and arbitration will be limited, entitlements such as overtime rates, penalty rates and rest breaks can be reduced and there will be much less protection against unfair dismissal.

This Bill will increase the "Americanisation" of the Australian workplace in some unfortunate ways through its hostility to unions and by further increasing the wage differentials between the very rich and prosperous and those battlers at the other end of the spectrum.

read more

Pittwater: historic Liberal defeat

PollThe NSW Liberal Party was in total disarray last night after its third safest seat, Pittwater, previously held by Coalition leader John Brogden, was captured by an independent.

Local mayor Alex McTaggart surfed to victory in the northern beaches seat on the back of a record-breaking swing of 25 per cent.

He obliterated the 20.1 per cent majority which Mr Brogden received at the 2003 state election and finished with a final preferential vote of 56 per cent, compared with 44 per cent for the Liberal candidate Paul Nicolaou.

read more

The Sunday Telegraph 27-11-2005 reported: "Howard and the NSW Liberals are on the nose. Last night, federal Cabinet ministers pointed to the PMs failure to sell industrial relations reform as one cause of the Pittwater revolt" and "Federally, this result is being watched closely by Howard's enemies. There is a sense that the PM may have lost his magic touch. NSW is his domain, but he is no longer master of it ".

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Singers of Renown: Paul Pobeson sings Joe Hill - December 5

John Cargher will broadcast his 2000th Singers of Renown program on ABC Radio National, 4pm on December 10.

On December 5 he will play a Paul Robeson recording of Joe Hill, which he sang on site to workers building the Sydney Opera House in 1960.

read more

David Williamson: Howard not battler's friend

Playwright David Williamson has accused John Howard of pretending to be the Aussie battler's friend.

"Howard used to win elections by posing as the battler's friend, defending them against the intellectual elites and their un-Australian agendas of multiculturalism, environmental concern, gay and ethnic rights, enlightened indigenous policies and their concerns about health and eduction," said Williamson.

"Now his new industrial relations laws have revealed he's anything but the battler's friend, and that he's all for the elites himself - the economic elites."

read more

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

BMUC: Politics in the Pub, Nov 26th

Hotel Gearin, 273 Great Western Highway, Katoomba
Saturday November 26th 2005 at 2.00pm (download Flyer)

"Be informed, alerted and alarmed"


Tim Ayres: Assistant Secretary AMWU
Peter Primrose: MLC Government Whip

The changes to the Industrial Relations Act
What is before the Federal Parliament: will debate be allowed?
The High Court challenge
How who and when?
How will this effect your employment
Part time, full time, casual, pensioners and young workers
These matters touch all of us

Monday, November 21, 2005

ILO: Building IR laws breach Freedom standards

The Federal Government’s new industrial relations laws will breach internationally recognised freedom of association standards the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has found.

The ILO directive relates to punitive new workplace laws the Federal Government wants to introduce in the building and construction industry.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the ILO decision confirmed union concerns that new IR laws would remove from Australian workers some of their most basic and internationally recognised workplace rights.

"It is outrageous that the Australian Government should seek to treat workers in this way. What the ILO has confirmed is that under the Government's new workplace laws Australian workers in the building and construction industry will not have access to basic employee rights like freedom of association, the right to participate freely in union activities and the right to bargain collectively with employers."

read more

Gittins: WorkChoices' class war

Whenever anyone says the rich don't pay enough tax or wants to cut back his generous grants to top private schools, John Howard always accuses them of trying to take us back to the bad old, long-gone days of class conflict.

But, though it's had remarkably little acknowledgment from commentators, his own industrial relations changes are an undisguised assault on the Liberal Party's traditional class enemies: the unions, unionised workers and workers generally.

By hitting so hard at the long-hated union movement, Mr Howard is also striking a blow against his political opponents of the past 30 years, the Labor Party. This consequence has escaped many people; you can be sure it hasn't escaped the most successful - and thus most carefully calculating - politician of his generation.

read more

Thursday, November 17, 2005

November 15 Rally: Online video

Tue Nov 15, 2005

Real workers recall past struggles at Nov 15 broadcast. Watch Quicktime Video or Windows Media Video

Tue Nov 15, 2005

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet's Nov 15 speech & workers' stories. Watch Quicktime Video or Windows Media Video

Tue Nov 15, 2005

'Prime Minister John Howard' said a few words at the Nov 15 rally. Watch Quicktime Video or Windows Media Video

Nov 15, 2005

ACTU President Sharan Burrow's Nov 15 speech & messages from religious leaders. Watch Quicktime Video or Windows Media Video

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Repressive IR laws: union defiance

Greg CombetThat defiance began yesterday when, according to the ACTU secretary, Greg Combet, 600,000 people nationwide took to the streets to protest against the changes. And more is to come. Mr Combet said union members and their leaders would refuse to pay fines for illegal industrial activity and a spokesman for Unions NSW said some officials had already begun divesting themselves of assets to avoid penalties.

"As a union leader let me make this clear, I will not pay a $33,000 fine for asking for people to be treated fairly," Mr Combet told protesters from a satellite uplink. "I will be asking other union leaders to do the same."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Australia: half a million rally against Howard

Unions estimate that a record 600,000 people attended rallies and protests across the country today as part of Australia's largest ever national workers' protest ... workers rallied for the massive day of protest at 300 venues around Australia.

In the Blue Mountains town of Katoomba both venues were at capacity more that 300 at the RSL and over 100 at the Hotel Gearin. The rallies were linked by satellite to the largest rally in Melbourne.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

House passes IR bill after debate gagged

The House of Representatives has passed the Federal Government's industrial relations (IR) bill after debate on the legislation was gagged.

The Government moved to guillotine the debate, arguing it had been the longest one in the history of the Parliament.

That angered the Opposition; there were more than 20 Labor MPs yet to speak.

The Government's Leader in the House, Tony Abbott, told the Parliament 77 MPs had taken part in the debate over a total period of 24 hours.

"We have had very, very extensive debate," he said.

"I put it to you Mr Speaker how much debate, how much more debate could this bill possibly require?

read more

Bishop attacks IR laws 'from the 19th century'

"The Government should withdraw the legislation and consult more widely," Philip Huggins, the Anglican bishop of Melbourne's northern region, told the Senate's workplace relations committee. The bishop, who has a background in economics, said the onus of proof was on the Government, which had had months to prove its case.

He said the present system was stable and had evolved over time on sound ethical principles.

"Our many honourable employers don't need a return to 19th-century class warfare — the kind that led to trade unions. Nor do our very many good employers need to be unfairly stigmatised by divisive legislation," he said. He also criticised the Government's haste, asking: "Is this the way a healthy democracy should function?"

Bishop Huggins said the theological starting point was the dignity of humankind and of work, and people should not be reduced to servants of an economic philosophy. He said issues of work stress "appear only to be worsened by … this bill".

read more

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Barnaby Joyce: vow to scrutinise IR laws

Coalition Senator Barnaby Joyce vowed last night to be an active participant in the Senate inquiry into the Government's contentious industrial relations legislation.

He said he would not give his casting vote until he was satisfied with every element of the Bill.

Senator Joyce was also scathing of some of his Coalition colleagues who did not read legislation before voting.

The Senate committee conducting the inquiry into the legislation has set tomorrow as the closing date for submissions.

The inquiry will hold up to five days of public hearings at Parliament House the following week and report by November 22.

Senator Joyce said he would return to Canberra for the hearings and take an active part in the proceedings.

He said he would not be pressured into declaring his attitude to the Bill until he had heard the evidence. Some of his Coalition colleagues had told him they would vote for the Bill without knowing the details.

They had an "unfathomable belief" that all government legislation was right, he said.

read more

Leunig: The stretch limo of Doom

Monday, November 07, 2005

Sydney Trade Union Choir: 20 November

Singing for our Rights
Rights at Work & Human Rights

A tribute to our former member Norm Clark

Sunday 20th November
3pm – 5pm

Annandale Neighbourhood Centre
79 Johnston St Annandale

$15 ($10 concession) – refreshments provided
Enquiries or bookings -

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Billy Negotiates An AWA

A song by David Peetz

'Who wants to have a little work?' "I do!"
'Who wants to toil hard, not to shirk?' "I do!"
'Who wants a job that has all the mod cons?'
"With all the mod cons!
Hey man! Right on!"
'Who has their loyalty to pledge?' "I do!"
'To a firm on the cutting edge?' "I do!"
'Who wants to have incredible pay?'
"I do!" 'Then you should - sign this AWA!'

"Who wants to pay penalty rates?" ' I don't!'
"Who wants to give their staff meal breaks?" 'I don't!'
"Who wants to pay annual leave loading each year?"
'Leave loading each year?
Not while I'm here!'
"Who wants to pay for overtime?" 'I don't!'
"Who wants to give me what is mine?" 'I don't!'
"Who offers more than minimum wage?"
'I don't!' "Why should I - sign this AWA?"

'Who wants to get cut off the dole?' "I don't!"
'Who wants to spend their life in a hole?' "I don't!"
'Who is the Employment Advocate's mate?'
"The Advocate's mate?
That'll be the day!"
'Who has his lawyers at his call?' "I don't!"
'Consultants, advisers and all?' "I don't!"
'Who has the upper hand all the way?'
"I don't!" '" Then let's both - sign this AWA"'

....from Workers Online

Leunig: The Little Howard Dictionary

Your Employer Does Not Need You!

Terror Laws

It was poetic really, the WorkChoices legislation, all 1,000 plus pages of it, introduced into Federal Parliament this week under the cloak of terror.

No sooner had the legislation lobbed than the PM was diverting the media with talk of an imminent terror attack; and all eyes went straight to the birdie.
At least we have the political dynamic of the next 18 months in stark relief. The Howard Government will use everything in its power to shift the focus to national security to divert attention from these nasty, extremist, ideologically driven laws.

How else can we describe a set of laws drafting by corporate laws that, in the name of deregulation, set out to criminalise industrial activity, give the government unprecedented power to impose its will on individual workplaces and strip the long-held rights of Australian workers.

read more

Libs Chicken Out

Nervous Liberal Party powerbrokers have blocked MPs discussing radical new workplace laws at meetings in their electorates.

Government's determination to limit the workplace debate was confirmed when AMWU Queensland state secretary, Andrew Dettmer, was a late scratching from a scheduled IR round table in Brisbane.

Dettmer had accepted an invitation to discuss John Howard's "Workchoices" at a Wynnum Chamber of Commerce meeting on November 14. He was to have shared the platform with Liberal Member for Bonner, Ross Vasta, and IR consultant, Laurie Maloney.

"I thought it was a good opportunity to get the issues into the open but, bugger me, last Friday I got a call from a conference organiser asking if she could un-invite me," Dettmer said.

"She said Vasta's office had told her Government MPs have been barred from addressing any meetings on industrial relations until the legislation is through Parliament, so the debate was off."

read more

Howard Barges Into Workplace

The Howard Government has given itself the right to veto negotiated conditions under legislation it says will get third parties out of Australian workplaces.

Legal experts say the new Act will empower the Minister to disallow sick leave, notice provisions, redundancy pay and a host of other conditions in AWAs, collective agreements and State awards, without reference to Parliament.

The powers lie in obscure 'Henry VIII' clauses that give the Minister the power to change the legislation by regulation.

The Henry VIII clauses are scattered through the Bill, but the most alarming example gives the Minister for Workplace Relations power to over-ride the will of contracting parties with the stroke of a pen.

"He can just decide he doesn't like them," says barrister Adam Searle.

Legal experts fear the Government is keen to use the new power to scratch provisions he thinks are too generous

"The Government has been waiting for years to be able to cut back employees' work conditions in such a way," says barrister David Chin.

'The first attempt to use regulations in such a way was in July 1997, " he says, adding the only reason Government failed on that occasion was that, unlike now, it did not control the Senate.

read more

Friday, November 04, 2005

Michael Fitzjames: Howard's law

Moir: New Simplified IR Legislation

Jail if you disclose information about AWAs

Unions NSW secretary John Robertson said he had received legal advice that Section 83B of the legislation would provide for the jailing of people who disclose the parties to an AWA. It appears that under these laws such disclose would be illegal, opening the way for those to be disclosed to be jailed.

"This is an outrageous attack on free speech and on the right of workers to raise genuine issues about their rights at work.

"This clause shows the contempt the federal government has for the Australian public," Mr Robertson said.

"It knows that these AWAs will lead to exploitation - and that this exploitation will lead to widespread public anger.

"Instead of making the laws fair, the government will make it an offence to make the details public."

read more

Howard's 'Oliver Twist' clause: don't ask for more!

Under the Government's proposed laws, union officials and employees will be fined up to $33,000 simply for asking an employer to include in an enterprise agreement provision for:
  • Protection from unfair dismissal
  • Union involvement in dispute resolution
  • Allowing employees to attend trade union training
  • Committing the employer to future collective bargaining
  • Protecting job security in the event that people are replaced by labour hire or contractors
  • Any other claim the Minister decides should be illegal.

That's $33,000 for each and any of these 'offences'.

read more

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Class War — It’s on

The sweeping attacks on workers' rights, including the very existence of trade unions in Australia, represents a reversion to old fashioned class warfare, says John Sutton Construction & General CFMEU.

'This Federal Government is acting as the out and out agents of big business and their clear aim is to shift the economic share going to capital and away from labour.

'There is little doubt that Australia will become a much more unequal, non-egalitarian society once these laws filter through Australian workplaces.

'In our view, history is merely repeating itself. These short-sighted actions by employers and their Government will re-invigorate the trade union movement and ultimately be healthy for Australian democracy.

'Strong trade unions are a cornerstone of any democratic country. The Howard Government and big business assault will remind Australian workers why trade unions grew in the first place. None of the industrial rights and protections we have in the workplace today fell out of the sky. Workers had to endure great suffering, lengthy strikes, assaults by police, gaol terms and many other hardships to establish the conditions Howard is going to take away with the stroke of a pen,' Mr Sutton says.

'The employers have declared the class war on. The period ahead won't be a time for the faint hearted.'

read more

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Extreme & Radical IR Legislation

Hookup VenuesNew workplace legislation introduced into Federal Parliament today will strip away one hundred years of respect for workers’ rights, remove legal protection for many employment conditions and will set a new low for the future workplace conditions of Australian workers, the ACTU said today.

ACTU Secretary, Mr Greg Combet said that the legislation confirmed everything that unions had been warning the community about, and worse.

Mr Combet said:

"Now that we know the detail, this legislation confirms all of our criticisms of the Governments plans.

"Unfair dismissal rights are gone for nearly 4 million workers, individual contracts will be able to cut take home pay and basic conditions, the award safety net is to be removed as the 'no-disadvantage test' which underpins workplace bargaining, the real value of minimum wages will be allowed to fall, and workers will have no enforceable legal right to collectively bargain.

"This legislation tears up 100 years of the social contract in Australia. Since Federation our industrial relations system has been built on the idea that ordinary hard-working Australians got to participate in the benefits of economic growth, and that there were protections there for people when times got tough. This is the system that the Federal Government's laws will attack.

"Under these laws, unions can be fined $33,000 and individual workers $6,600 for even asking for workers to be protected from unfair dismissal or individual contracts, or for clauses that protect job security."

read more

Biggest Ever Workers' Meeting: 15 November

Australia's Biggest Ever Workers' Meeting: 15 November

The National Day of Community Protest against the Howard Government's radical industrial relations changes will include Australia's biggest ever meeting of workers.

Hundreds of thousands of workers across Australia are expected to participate in the event.

The Australia-wide hook-up will feature a briefing on the details of the Government's industrial relations reforms that Workplace Minister, Kevin Andrews tabled in Parliament on 2nd November.

The hook-up follows the success of the NSW July hook-up when an estimated 250,000 attended the meetings

Selected Blue Mountains Venues 9.00 am sharp

Venue Address
Katoomba RSL All Services Club 86 Lurline Street, Katoomba
Gearin Hotel 273 Great Western Hwy, Katoomba
New Lapstone Hotel 15 Great Western Hwy, Blaxland
The Royal Hotel 220 Macquarie Road, Springwood

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Maori Workers Take Haka to Canberra

More than a hundred Maori workers will perform a mass 'Haka' in front of Parliament House in Canberra tomorrow (November 2) to protest Howard's planned workplace laws, which mirror laws that caused hardship for New Zealand workers in the early nineties.

Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union organiser Steve Keenan said he organised the protest along with other Maori workers who had fled New Zealand for Australia after individual agreements resulted in wages dropping by up to a third and workplace conditions deteriorating.

"In New Zealand many workers saw their take home pay slashed almost overnight," he said. "We lost overtime pay, paid public holidays, annual leave and other basic entitlements, which resulted in a mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders across the Tasman to Australia where we could receive decent pay and conditions.

"We have seen first hand the terrible consequence of these laws, not only on our work, but on our families as hours increased, pay dropped, and workplace deaths and injuries occurred more often."

read more

Peter Garrett: dangers of sedition laws

The Opposition arts spokesman, Peter Garrett, said the proposals would presumably include civil disobedience of the kind practised by Gandhi, by many Australians during the Vietnam War, or in protests against the Jabiluka uranium mine.

Mr Garrett sought legal advice from senior counsel Peter Gray which said "Australians involved in the artistic and creative fields are particularly vulnerable to the risk of prosecution".

Mr Garrett said promises that art would "almost certainly not" be prosecuted were not good enough. "There should not even be a possibility of prosecution," he said. "If these clauses will never be used, why have them?

"It is in the hands of the attorney-general to decide if an artist should be prosecuted, which will be cold comfort to those who've witnessed the failure of Mr Ruddock to protect core principles of our legal system."

read more

IR ads bill hits $55m

Taxpayers have been hit with a $55 million bill to advertise the Howard Government's unpopular industrial relations revolution, with $1.4 million a day spent on advertising in the past three weeks.

Many of the lucrative contracts for the publicity blitz went to companies that run the Liberal Party's election campaigns, sparking Labor accusations the Government is channelling public money to its mates.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet yesterday revealed the budget for advertising the WorkChoices package was now $55 million. That included $44.3 million for ads, $8.1 million for call centres and $2.6 million on 16-page brochures. Labor senator John Faulkner branded the spending a "disgrace" and Democrats senator Andrew Murray said it was "immoral".

read more