Friday, December 29, 2006

Howard: safety underminer!

John Howard wants the states to change occupational health and safety requirements so responsibility for mine accidents are not focused solely on mine managers, as he says is presently the case in some jurisdictions.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) president Tony Maher says Mr Howard's claim that mine managers are solely responsible for accidents is false, and that any changes would lower safety standards.

"What Howard says in his letter is wholly false," Mr Maher said.

"The legal liability does not solely rest on mine managers.

"The legal liability is placed on all employees, and employers in the industry.

"That's proven by the fact that companies are prosecuted, managers are prosecuted, those lower in management ranks have been prosecuted, and ordinary rank and file mine workers have been prosecuted.

"It's all well and good to put your arms around the Beaconsfield survivors, and shed crocodile tears about mine safety.

"But the laws that we have around the country have been built on the backs of the deaths of over 4,000 Australians.

"There'll be lower standards if they are changed. Basically he'll have blood on his hands. More people will die. More people will be injured."


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Voter penalty rates: Howard Out!

The Christmas press is full of examples of people forced to work over Christmas without any extra payment because of Scrooge Howard's industrial relations laws. There are warnings too, that Howard's days as PM are numbered as this excerpt from a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald reveals:

"justice will be delivered at the next election. This is not dog-eat-dog America and we are not going your way, Mr Howard. It's Australia and the workforce is sick of overpaid chief executives shoving decent, ordinary working people around. Retribution is just months away now - it's going to be sweet. There are more of us than there are of you. You should have done the maths before you decided to treat us with contempt.

And mate, I voted for your party last time and the time before that. Without the industrial relations laws I would have voted for you again. You are screwing hard-working people and we are not going to take it".


Friday, December 22, 2006

Iran: Osanloo freed by union campaign

Iran - Mansoor Osanlou, Tehran, undated photo
Mansour Osanloo (file photo)

And he is, in part thanks to the thousands of LabourStart readers who sent messages of protest to the Iranian government. (Photo: IASWI).

Click here for the latest news on his release on 19 December.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Loggers lies exposed

If we are going to take a firm step in tackling climate change, it is important to read, understand and acknowledge the science that has been conducted over the past decade on climate change, and the role native forest and woodland ecosystems play in ameliorating the process, and what happens when we log and clear them.

For example, research conducted (and peer-reviewed) by independent scientists from the Australian National University, Melbourne University and Monash University show that almost 10,000 hectares of Victoria's native forest and woodlands were logged last year, and this process released about 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. This is the equivalent to an extra 2.4 million cars on Victoria's roads for a year.

An important part of this analysis is that it accounted for all the carbon that could have theoretically been stored in wood products, generated from the logged timber.

The 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide released came from other elements of the native ecosystems being logged, including carbon found in the stems, litter and the soil.

Not surprisingly, these carbon emissions are never accounted for by the native forest industry in their reports, or in their opinion pieces.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Qantas "fry the flag" sell off - sell out

After years of trying to outsource every skilled job from maintenance work to pilots, while still claiming to be Australian, Qantas finally shows it's true flag the flag of convenience, the surrender to the global asset strippers with shonky money sloshing around for another slice of what the taxpayer and employees built up over generations.

One striking aspect of this modern craze of "debt financed" takeover is that the $11 billion buyout will increase the Qantas debt from $4 billion to $18 billion! Tax dodging writ large, yet Howard says his government "will not take sides".

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Acting National Secretary Dave Oliver said the take-over bid by Macquarie Bank and Texas Pacific Group was not in the national interest and would make the loss of jobs and a decrease in safety standards more likely.

“Qantas is an Australian icon and the service, safety and standards that it is famous for are all down to the Australian workers who make up the Spirit of Australia.”

“It is against the national interest for the Prime Minister and Treasurer to sign-off on this take-over bid.”

“We are extremely concerned of the likely approach Texas Pacific will take going from their previous willingness to sack workers and send the jobs overseas.”

“For example their take-over of airline catering company Gate Gourmet in the UK led to the sacking of 3000 workers, and when they took over German Grohe Water Technology they commissioned a study that recommended sending production to China and then sacked around a fifth of the workforce.”


Unions are also troubled by the fact that the Howard Government's new IR laws have made the take over of Qantas a more attractive proposition because they allow major cuts to workers' wages and conditions in a number of ways. Qantas has already started the process of cutting workers' pay through the introduction of Australian Workplace Agreements.

In the likely event the company is restructured, it is also possible under the IR laws for workers to lose all their terms and conditions including entitlements to public holidays, leave loadings, penalties, allowances and redundancy pay - receiving only $13.47 per hour and four other minimum conditions.


More important than the future of Qantas is the whole phenomenon of "private equity" and where it's likely to take us. Private equity is negative gearing for companies. No wonder wise heads are warning it will end in tears.

The company's desire - under present or proposed owners - to continue enjoying the profits flowing from government protection as the "national carrier", while continuing to cut costs and reduce service.

In this it's a typical Macquarie Bank acquisition. Macquarie has roamed the world seeking to control government-granted monopolies that have been privatised and inadequately regulated. Wherever politicians screw up, there is Macquarie clipping tickets.


Monday, December 11, 2006

30 November: rally broadcasts


Guest workers forced to sign illegal contracts

Core Values Must Underpin New Labor Leadership, says Doug CameronThree Filipino guest workers who were sacked from Dartbridge Welding after they joined the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union have lodged complaints with the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission.

AMWU Queensland Secretary Andrew Dettmer said not only had the three men been discriminated against, their case was an example of regular intimidation of guest workers not to join unions.

"The AMWU has now seen a number of cases where guest workers have been forced to sign contracts containing anti-union clauses, or they have been threatened with deportation if they contact a union over their pay and conditions."

"This is illegal, yet the Federal Government does not seem to care."

"Like other guest workers, these men have been exploited. They were brought here as casual workers who could be laid off at a days notice, forced to pay inflated costs for their accommodation and transport, they were paid less than Australian workers and they were threatened with deportation when they questioned their employer."


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Cole omission


Howard's "flour power"

John Howard and Alexander Downer sparked Australia's biggest biological terror scare last year when they exaggerated test results to claim white powder sent to the Indonesian embassy in Canberra — later shown to be flour — was a "biological agent".

Documents from ACT Pathology and the Australian Federal Police, obtained under freedom of information laws, show the microbiologist who examined the powder on June 1 last year and the AFP never called it a "biological agent" and described it as a commonly occurring bacteria; gram-positive bacilli.

On June 1 last year, Mr Howard said: "It's not an innocent white powder, it's some kind of biological agent."

The documents reveal that some days after testing began, the powder was shown to be flour, something Howard failed to mention at the time.

Opposition homeland security spokesman Arch Bevis says the Government exploited the situation to suggest a bigger threat.

"I think what it proves is that John Howard and a number of his senior ministers are far more interested in trying to get some political spin for their own benefit instead of protecting Australia's national security interests," he said.

"I mean to claim that a white powder was anthrax, which is what the Attorney-General did in radio interviews at the time, when the Federal Police and other agencies had directly said it's not anthrax, it's not a biological agent."


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Federal Court: urgent Hicks hearing

Lawyers for Australian Quantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks have been granted an urgent hearing in the Federal Court amid hopes he can be brought home before Christmas.

Hicks' lawyers today lodged papers with the court in Sydney, accusing the federal government of failing to provide adequate assistance to an Australian citizen abroad.

A directions hearing has been granted before Justice Brian Tamberlin on 15 December.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and the federal government have all been named in the papers filed with the court today.

9 December demos

Which Bank Slashes Work Rights?

Australia’s largest bank launched a WorkChoices offensive this week – denying staff time off to attend Thursday’s Your Rights at Work rallies and introducing a standard, bank-wide AWA which drastically reduces conditions.

The Finance Sector Union wrote to the bank requesting permission for staff to take time off to attend the union-organised day of action against new IR laws. Permission was denied, said FSU national secretary Paul Schroder.

In the same week, the bank began offering new and existing staff an AWA individual contract that does away with a raft of long-held award conditions including overtime payments, shift penalties, weekend and public holiday loadings and rostered days off. It also waters down redundancy and parental leave rights and gives the employer carte blanche over work duties, hours and location.

The Commonwealth Bank becomes the first major employer to introduce AWAs on a large scale.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Rudd not Ruddock!

... and Gillard not Howard

Labor's leadership has been passed on to Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, a combination that seems to please both the union movement and the wider community, while also setting aside some of the rivalry inside the Labor Party.

Maybe it's another drover's dog election looming ... certainly the battle to boot out Howard will now have to be taken taken more seriously.

Former leader Kim Beazley has called on his colleagues to unite, now that the leadership has been decided.

"We in the Labor Party will need to be solidly behind Kevin because John Howard is the most formidable conservative politician of his generation, the most formidable conservative I've served in Parliament with," he said.

"He is not going to be an easy man to beat and he'll not be beaten by a rabble."


Friday, December 01, 2006

30 November: rally roundup

Fill the 'G' IR Rall...The employers said it was a fizzer and then complained how much it had cost "the country" as they like to imagine themselves. Peter Hendy, head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry calculated the cost at $31 million per 100,000 who protested, while the Master Builders Association of Victoria estimated a loss of $20 million just for the building industry where up to 15,000 building workers stopped work.

Action … protesters near Central Station yesterday.

One thing was made clear at the rallies; This was the start of the push to topple Howard ... time for regime change!

The MCG was more than half full with over 50,000 present, followed by a march that filled the wide streets from the cricket ground to Federation Square and grew to 100,000. Sydney saw a rally and march of 40,000 and the protest was strong in other capital cities (Brisbane 20,000, Adelaide 7000, Perth 3000, Darwin 2000, Canberra 1000, Hobart 500) and some 300 locations across the country. (100,000 in NSW).

In the Blue Mountains close to 300 rallied at the Katoomba RSL and a similar number at Springwood's Royal Hotel, a rally that grew as it became a march through Springwood followed by an open air protest meeting.

Overseas saw support protests from unions outside the Australian High Commission including Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, outside Australia House in London and ouside the Australia Mission in Geneva.

The real fizzers of the year have been the electoral losses of the Libs and Nationals at the state level. In three elections Howard's IR laws have cost the coalition votes (over the 10 years of the Howard government the coalition of Liberals and Nationals have lost 20 State elections!). How can Howard keep his IR laws out of next years Federal election? Watch out for things going overboard!