Sunday, July 29, 2007

Howard’s Hidden Agenda: discussion paper

Prepared by Tom McDonald,
former National Secretary, CFMEU (Download pdf)

The central aim of the Howard Government and the Business Council of Australia IR reforms is to destroy all institutions and systems that have in the past helped to improve and protect the wages and conditions of Australian workers, and protect their family and recreation time.

Howard’s reforms include:

* Dismantle the Industrial Relations Commission (i.e. the independent umpire);
* Destroy the Award system which was a safety net below which employers could not go;
* Reduce employees minimum legally protected conditions of employment to only five items;
* Allow employers the right to absorb into the wage rate long held conditions of employment so
that they will be lost over time;
* Replace Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs) with take-it-or-leave-it Australian
Workplaces Agreements (AWAs);
* Reduce wages below Award entitlements, by abolishing various allowances or other Award
payments such as penalty or shift work rates;
* Abolish the legal protection that has existed in Awards to limit intrusion of work into
family/recreation time;
* Abolish legal protection for about four million workers from being unfairly dismissed;
* Abolish the principles on which our IR system has been historically based -
* * A fair go for all
* * Equal pay for work of equal value
* * A living wage for all full time adult employees;
* Outlaw pattern bargaining, which was the vehicle through which all major improvements in
national conditions of employment has been achieved (see Role of Unions);
* Give employers a monopoly of power by abolishing various workplace rights and by seriously
restricting the access of unions to the workforce;

And Howard wants an IR system that will allow governments and employers to further cut wages and to further erode conditions of employment whenever the Australian economy goes into an economic recession.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Support Cochlear workers

LabourStart campaign

Support Cochlear workers.Successful Australian hearing implant manufacturer Cochlear, continues to ignore the wishes of its workforce to be represented by their union, locking the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union out of wage negotiations. In two secret ballots conducted by the AMWU, workers overwhelmingly called upon Cochlear to negotiate with the union. Cochlear workers have also twice rejected the company's attempts to force them into a non-union agreement. Cochlear is deaf to their wishes. Cochlear workers have now been denied their annual pay rise because of their demand for union representation. Australia's unfair industrial relations legislation doesn’t give workers who want a union agreement any bargaining rights. Cochlear workers have commenced a campaign to restore their rights to a fair deal negotiated by their union.

send message

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

WorkChoices: family stress, lower pay

Research from the University of South Australia suggests that the Federal Government's workplace reforms have caused stress and financial loss for SA families.

The study of 20 families has found that WorkChoices brought them pay cuts, less job security and less predictable working hours.

Professor Barbara Pocock says the Federal Government should follow up with a more extensive study on the wider effects of WorkChoices.

She says the initial results contradict Government claims that WorkChoices delivers more flexibility for employees.

"People feel less confident in negotiating with their employer not only about their pay but their working hours and about their security at work," she said.

"So it's having quite a significant effect and it's across the labour market, not just those on lower incomes. It's a wider effect than that."


More IR lies ... more taxpayers money

The public face of the Federal Government's new "fairness test" for workers, Barbara Bennett, changed her evidence to a Senate committee about meeting a former public servant retired on compensation payments.

Ms Bennett, who has controversially appeared in television advertisements in her new role as director of the Workplace Authority, told a committee in January that she had met the man - only to say a week later she had only "generically" met him.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

ACTU demands Govt apology

Jeff Lawrence says the Federal Government owes Australian workers an apology. (File photo) The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) wants the Federal Government to apologise for passing industrial relations legislation it knew would leave some workers worse off.

Extracts from a new biography about the Prime Minister, published in the Fairfax newspapers, reveal that Cabinet ministers were told in 2005 that the WorkChoices legislation would disadvantage some workers.

Incoming ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence has told Channel Nine the revelations vindicate the union campaign against the legislation.

"We now know that John Howard and the Government knew that workers would be disadvantaged by WorkChoices and despite that they pressed on with the legislation," he said.

"We think that the Government owes the ACTU, Greg Combet and Sharan Burrow and particularly all those workers who were disadvantaged and actually had the courage to tell their case, it owes all of them an apology for what's been done."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Today's Sacred Text

Hansard, 14 May 2003.

JOHN HOWARD: Not only was the military operation completed quickly and successfully but it is also worth recording that all of the doomsday predictions, particularly the many that came from those who sit opposite, were not realised. The oilwells were not set on fire; there were not millions of refugees; ... and there was no long, drawn out, bloody, street-to-street fighting in Baghdad. For all of this we must be immensely grateful, but it is a reminder of the hysteria and the doomsday predictions that often accompany operations of this kind ... the predictions on this occasion have been proved wrong. The decisive victory of the American-led coalition reflects enormous credit on the strength and the determination of the leadership of President Bush. Again I remind the House of the way in which his role was vilified ... by many of those who sit opposite and of the way in which speaker after speaker from the Australian Labor Party impugned his integrity, assaulted his judgement and called into question his ability to lead the United States in this very difficult conflict. History has proved them wrong.

Blue Mountains: Water rip-off

Increases in developer charges of up to 414 per cent have led Blue Mountains mayor Jim Angel to label Sydney Water "deceitful and misleading".

"The residents of the Mountains are being singled out for special attention and it is quite simply unfair," he said.

"On two council projects alone, the Blaxland waste and Lawson town improvements, we estimate that the extra Sydney Water charges will amount to around $3.3 million."

Angel said charges for other Western Sydney Local Government areas were nowhere near those imposed on the Blue Mountains.

"In the Quakers Hill District they are paying wastewater charges of $1462 per residence compared to $19,125 per residence in the Blue Mountains and we are paying more than 10 times more for light commercial and light industrial development.

"How can these increases in the Mountains be justified?"


Sign an AWA, earn 16% less!

A new Government report released today shows that typical Australians on AWA individual contracts earn 16% less than their counterparts on collective agreements.

The President for the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Sharan Burrow, said the new study was proof that the Howard Government’s AWAs were being used to drive down workers’ wages and conditions and to sideline the role of unions in helping workers bargain collectively.

The study found a major pay gap between workers on AWA individual contracts and those on collective agreements.

Australia-wide, people employed on AWA individual contracts were paid a median of $20.50 an hour — $4 an hour less than workers on median Collective Agreement earnings.

The AWA pay gap is worse for women than it is for men, with female median AWA earnings almost 19% lower than that for women on collective agreements.

The study also cited a survey of AWAs registered under the WorkChoices IR laws last year that found most AWAs abolished or reduced so-called ‘protected’ award conditions:

• Around 90% of AWAs abolished or reduced penalty rates;
• 88% of AWAs abolished or ‘modified’ overtime rates;
• 89% abolished or ‘modified’ shiftwork loadings;
• 82% abolished or ‘modified’ public holiday pay;
• 83% abolished or ‘modified’ rest breaks.

The study found that AWAs paid on average well below Collective Agreements in the manufacturing industry, construction, transport and storage, health and community services, property and business services and the ‘personal and other services’ industries.

It found that where the wages gap between AWAs and Collective Agreements was narrow, this was in pockets where AWA individual contracts were being used by employers to avoid negotiation with unions.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Nuclear leak after earthquake in Japan

The Independent: 17 July 2007
By David McNeill in Tokyo

A strong earthquake struck central Japan, killing at least eight people, injuring hundreds and causing a fire and radioactive leak at the world's biggest nuclear power plant.

The 6.8-magnitude quake levelled buildings, derailed trains and buckled roads after it struck about 10 miles off the coast of Niigata yesterday. The local media reported that four elderly women and a man were crushed to death by falling buildings and at least 800 people were hurt, some seriously.

Anti-nuclear campaigners have reacted with alarm to the leak and to reports that the blaze took as long as 90 minutes to put out. "I was watching it on television and was very surprised it took so long," said Chihiro Kamisawa, a researcher with the NGO, Citizens Nuclear Information Centre. " If they're having problems putting out a small fire, what will they do when a bigger one strikes?" Staff at the plant said fire engines were " busy" at other sites.

Japan has a fast-growing nuclear industry, with 55 plants operating and another 11 planned. Nuclear power currently provides a third of the country's energy needs but Tokyo wants to boost this to 40 per cent. The plans are opposed by environmentalists and local residents who say the government is inviting disaster by building so many reactors in a seismically unstable country.

Mr Kamisawa said: "This is the second large earthquake in the same place. They should rethink concentrating so many plants in these dangerous areas."


FSU Secures BankWest East Coast Expansion

13 July 2007

The Finance Sesctor Union welcomes the HBOS announcement of the planned opening of 160 branches and the employment of 3000 new employees in the eastern states of Australia.

The working conditions for new staff in the Retail Stores in the east will be governed by a separate enterprise agreement worked out between your union and HBOSA.

The conditions, agreed under a Union Greenfield Agreement, provide certainty and security for the planned 3000 new staff and a capacity for HBOSA to challenge for business in a new market.

The Union Greenfield Agreement and its conditions do not apply to BankWest staff in existing operations and will only cover staff employed to work in the new concept Retail Stores. This Agreement will not apply to employees working in Western Australia.

Under WorkChoices, employers commencing new operations can choose to employ staff on AWAs, write their own Employer Greenfield Agreement or negotiate one with the union. It is a testament to the commitment of both FSU and HBOS, that an agreement has been struck that secures conditions and benefits, allowing the business to attract and retain staff and take on its competitors in the East.


Minister reacting recklessly

Julian Burnside, QC, said today Kevin Andrews had abused the Migration Act by cancelling Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef's visa and placing him in immigration detention, hours after a Brisbane magistrate had granted him bail.

The act provides for a person to be deported once their visa has been cancelled, but the government has said the Gold Coast-based doctor will be held in immigration detention while his court proceedings are under way - which could take years.

"They want to keep him here for trial. They waited to cancel his visa until they saw whether he got bail," Mr Burnside told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

"If he didn't get bail then they weren't going to cancel the visa.

"This is a misuse of power in bad faith for the explicit purpose of trumping a magistrate's order that he should be let out on bail.

"I think it's disgraceful that Andrews has lent himself to doing it, because as a lawyer, he ought to know better.

"We are supposed to be a democratic society. I thought the war against terrorism was an effort to preserve our democracy.

"But here we are trashing it left, right and centre in the name of saving it."


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Childcare back to valuing workers

Union agreement will help set new standards for the industry

"The agreement will greatly improve the entitlements of the people who care for our children in the more than 1400 child-care centres now controlled by ABC. In the process, it will help to set new standards for the industry," Anne Summers wrote.

Anne Summers, who led the Office of the Status of Women in the early 1980s, is a best selling Australian author, journalist and speaker on political and social, especially women's, issues.

Winning organising campaigns despite unfriendly attitude towards unions

"Under the agreement, workers who have historically been undervalued and underpaid have gained large wage increases and a number of sought-after non-wage benefits.

" The LHMU Chilcare Union started organising ABC employees more than two years ago, before WorkChoices became law and after it became concerned at the increasing corporatisation of the child-care sector and the unfriendly attitude towards unions," Anne Summers said.

The column praises ACTU Secretary-elect, Jeff Lawrence, who is finishing up in a few weeks as the national secretary of the LHMU , for his role in ensuring union efforts benefit some of our lowest paid, yet most important, employees.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Jez Ya Good Ya Mongrel

play mp3 or

Way way outback in Australia
Just a few minutes ago
Came some shocking news we already knew
But didn't really want to know
They told of untold things ... abuse
Alcohol and and social pollution
And Johnny Howard come and had a look
And said "this isn't a problem, it's a bloody solution"

Jez ya good ya mongrel
You pulled another one out of the hat
You got the opposition sittin back sayin
"Now how did he do that?
I mean it's baby overboard time again
Only this time they're all Black"
He's using smoke and mirrors
Just to get the Party back on track

In our little dreamtime
There's a petrol station every hundred yards
And the pubs are open 24/7
And we sit down all day playin cards
The police are there for laughin at
Or at least for chuckin stones
And politicians stay in Canberra
A leave us mob alone

But in Johnny's little dreamtime
He's in the Lodge for three more years
And when he's standing tall when he's really small
And he's playin on our fears
Like Houdini and Madrake before him eh?
He's pulled another one off the shelf
God it's a funny little dreamtime
When you wake up to yourself

Jez ya good ya mongrel
You pulled another one out of the hat
You got the opposition sittin back sayin
"I mean how did he do that?
It's baby overboard time again
Only this time they're all Black"
And he's using smoke and mirrors
To get the Polly back on track

Yes he's using smoke and mirrors
To get the Party back on track

AWAs being fought off at Minto

Come help 15 workers fight off AWAs at Sydney's South West. Esselte, a stationary company, has been trying to put its workforce on AWAs for two years. Each time, the majority of the 20 strong, unionised workforce has said NO! 

Howard has named the unionists in the company in Parliament in an attempt to intimidate the workers. Government officials have been sent to interrogate workers. 

One worker was interrogated for 7 hours with questions 'Why didn't you sign the AWA'/'which worker argued against this AWA'and so on. The workers have refused to be intimidated! They are on their 4th week on the grass! 

Go to visit them :
They are outside the factory from 8 till 3.
Esselte Penbrooke Rd, Minto
Take train to Minto
Call NUW Organiser Mark 0414 993 873 or Rach 0403 798 420

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Secret Howardly Business?

Despite a decades old practice of releasing such surveys under freedom of information laws, the Government has blocked access to 2005 research on ads promoting Work Choices on the grounds that releasing the material is contrary to the public interest.

Although the Department of Workplace Relations says the results can be made public, it insists they remain secret until later in the year, when the election is out of the way.

The Government has paid more than $2 million to the social research company Colmar Brunton for tracking surveys of 5200 employers and 5200 employees to tailor its advertising campaigns explaining and promoting Work Choices.

On April 2 the Sydney Morning Herald lodged a freedom-of-information application seeking access to the earliest survey results, which were carried out before February last year and given to the Government's Ministerial Committee on Government Communications.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Howard Fair Pay Omission

The pay rise for award workers, the lowest in ten years, is below the rate of inflation and means the living standards of many working Australians will go backwards says the ACTU.

"The pay rise of between $5 and $10 a week for minimum award wage workers is below the Treasury's forecast of 2.75% inflation for the year, meaning low paid workers will suffer a pay drop in real terms.

Misleading claims from employer groups
This contradicts the misleading claims of employer groups, including Gary Brack from Employers First on Channel Seven's Sunrise program this morning, the Fair Pay Commission and the Government that have all understated the forecasted level of inflation," said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

Releasing an analysis of the Howard Government's Pay Commission's decision today, the ACTU said the Commission's head, Ian Harper, was also wrong to claim that the disposable incomes of minimum wage workers were keeping pace with the rest of the community.

Yesterday Professor Ian Harper wrongly claimed:
"When reductions in tax liabilities are also taken into account, the disposable incomes of employees receiving the standard FMW have not deteriorated relative to disposable incomes in the community" AFPC decision 5 July 2007, p 13

Insulting low-paid workers
But ACTU research shows that the Federal Minimum Wage (FMW) has declined to just 63% of average weekly earnings, after tax, from yesterday's pay commission decision.

"It is insulting that in a time of strong economic growth that the low paid should fail to receive a real wage increase and that their living standards should decline relative to the rest of the community," said Ms Burrow.

Howard's IR laws - Annette Harris's experience

Monday, July 02, 2007

New Zealand: Sedition will be repealed

Wellington: 9 June 2007

The Government has introduced a Bill to repeal sedition laws.

It said last month it would do this after four minor parties - the Greens, United Future, ACT and the Maori Party made a joint appeal for the laws to be scrapped.

The Law Commission has also recommended the repeal.

Justice Minister Mark Burton said yesterday the Crimes (Repeal of Seditious Offences) Amendment Bill would repeal sections of the Crimes Act which set out seditious offences.

"The sedition provisions infringe on the principle of freedom of expression and have the potential for abuse,' he said.

"The Government agrees with the Law Commission's finding that the present law of sedition attacks the democratic value of free speech for no adequate public reason."

Sedition is an ancient law intended to protect the Crown from attempts to undermine its authority. - In New Zealand it also covers the offences of inciting lawlessness and disorder.

The Law Commission reviewed the laws last year after a man was found guilty of sedition for putting an axe through the window of Prime minister Helen Clark's electorate office, and issuing a pamphlet calling on others to commit similar acts in response to the foreshore and seabed legislation.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Church attacks Fair Pay Commission

Just days before the Australian Fair Pay Commission is expected to hand down its second minimum wage decision, since the Howard Government established it, the Catholic Church has attacked the way the Commission makes decisions for low-paid workers.

"ACCER has also called for changes in relation to the setting of minimum wages in order to protect the financial position of families and to make fairness the primary obligation of the wage-setting authority,'' ACCER chairman Brian Lawrence said.

Return wage setting to the Industrial Relations Commission
"The wage-setting function should be returned to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) and all members of the Australian Fair Pay Commission (AFPC) should be appointed to the AIRC,'' the ACCER media statement said.

The ACCER found that Work Choices does not provide proper balance between the rights of employers and the rights of workers and changes are needed to address this.

New Govt fairness test rejected
"ACCER rejects the recently introduced fairness test as insufficient," Mr Lawrence said.

The Church body said Work Choices undermines the rights of working people to act collectively, frustrates unions in the representation of their members' interests and attempts to make them ineffective in the workplace.

Calling for more changes to Work Choices the ACCER said the work laws continue to give the Church body cause for concern in several respects.

Work laws must be changed
"The legislation does not make sufficient provision for unions to effectively represent their members and for workers to join together in the pursuit of collective enterprise agreements.

"Second, the AIRC, which has lost its century-long capacity to conciliate and arbitrate disputes according to law and industrial principle, has sufficient powers and breadth of jurisdiction to resolve the merits of industrial disputes.

"Third, the current provisions for the making and variation of awards are inadequate to secure a fair outcome for those who do not have the capacity to bargain for greater benefits.

"All of these require changes to the legislation."