Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bosses reveal: Union miners earn more

Mineworkers on collective agreements typically earn more than $100,00 per year, while those on AWAs typically earn far less than that. Yesterday’s statement by mining industry bosses that the new ALP threshold for non-Award employment contracts is too high confirms that mineworkers are better off when they are in a union.

On Tuesday 28 August Steve Knott from the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) and Mitch Hooke from the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) both stated that two thirds of mineworkers earned less than $100,000 per year, and so would not be able to be frog-marched onto non-Award employment contracts under the new ALP policy announced yesterday.

Meanwhile, over in the highly unionised coal industry, where ABS statistics show that most workers are on collective agreements, and AWAs are virtually non-existent, mineworkers workers earn an average of over $2,045 pr week, or over $106,000 per year.

Their colleagues on AWAs and inferior common law contracts in metal ore mining earn an average of $1,624 per week, or $84,450 per year. They get paid far less for doing the same job.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Employer Group Rejects Howard's Individual Contracts

At last an employer-backed study into the Australian Construction Industry has rejected the Howard Government's individual contracts and concedes the benefits of trade unions in making the industry more productive, the CFMEU said today.

Despite the spin by Leighton's CEO Wal King, the study from the Australian Construction Association reinforces the CFMEU view that strangling unions out of the industry will be counterproductive.

'This report is actually a slap in the face for the Howard Government and their union-busting agency, the Australian Building and Construction Commission,' CFMEU national secretary Dave Noonan said today.

The ACA study 'Four Years On' of insights from personnel in the building industry, following reforms from the Building and Construction Industry Royal Commission overwhelmingly found:

  • There is a continuing role for unions in the industry,
  • Many union officials are reasonable, if tough to deal with,
  • Moving to individual contracts could cause instability in the industry.

'This report shows the heavy handed tactics of the ABCC will ultimately be counterproductive and it should be immediately disbanded. 'In an industry where a worker dies every week, the union has an important role to play,' said Dave Noonan.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rich pickings for the richest!

James Packer's Publishing & Broadcasting is not only not paying any tax on last year's media sell-down to private equity - it even managed to get a tax credit.

Announcing its full-year profit yesterday, PBL posted a $1.53 billion gain from selling a half stake in most of its media businesses, including Nine Network and ACP Magazines, to buyout firm CVC Asia Pacific. Tax experts and analysts were mystified how PBL managed to book a $3 million tax credit from the sale, rather than having to pay capital gains tax of 30 per cent.

"It's surprising that when they make a gain of that magnitude, they don't appear to have a tax liability," said Ann O'Connell, an associate professor at the University of Melbourne's Law School, who teaches courses on capital gains tax.


Don't sign AWAy your redundancy pay

At least 30 workers who were recently laid off when a Queensland abattoir went into receivership will not receive redundancy payments because they signed Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs).

The Queensland president of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees' Union (AMIEU), Russell Carr, says anyone who has signed an individual workplace agreement now should be rushing to check the fine print.

South Burnett Beef went into receivership in May, with a debt of $16.5 million.

The company has been forced to lay off around 350 workers at the Murgon abattoir.

Mr Carr says that when about 30 of the workers lodged claims for their entitlements, they were dealt another painful blow.

"These people came up to us and explained that they've been told they weren't going to receive any redundancy because they signed an AWA," he said.

"We got those people to give us a copy of the AWA and we've had two different sets of legal opinions and both of them said that those employees had lost their entitlements through signing the AWA."

Mr Carr says the meatworkers who chose to stay on their collective agreement will receive their full entitlements.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Court orders restoration of Haneef's work visa

The Federal court today quashed the government's controversial decision to cancel the work visa of Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef on character grounds after terror charges against him over the foiled UK terror plot were dropped.

In a major loss of face for the Australian government, federal court judge Jeff Spender in a decision in Brisbane ordered restoration of Haneef's visa, allowing the Bangalore doctor to return to this country, work as a doctor and resume his studies -- unless the authorities contemplate further action.

Haneef, 27, who worked as a junior doctor at the Gold Coast Hospital, was charged with "recklessly" providing support to a terrorist organisation on July 14, following 12 days in detention under anti-terror laws. A Brisbane magistrate granted him bail on July 16.

But his detention continued as Australian Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews Andrews cancelled his work visa saying he had a reasonable suspicion that Haneef had "associated" with terrorists, specifically his second cousins Kafeel and Sabeel Ahmed, both allegedly involved in failed car bomb plot in the UK in June.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

ABCC bans Eureka flag! (153 years too late!)

Eureka: Workers on a Melbourne building site fly the banned flag.

THE Federal Government's building industry watchdog has banned the Eureka flag and ordered construction companies to remove it from sites, saying its presence intimidates people into joining the union.

The Age has obtained a copy of an email from an Australian Building and Construction Commission staff member in Melbourne, Carol Hage, to an Adelaide building company telling them to remove the flag.

"The flag represents the union and gives the impression that to work on the site you need to be a union member. This is therefore a breach of freedom of association," Ms Hage wrote on July 5.


ps Howard's puerile antipathy to the Eureka Flag was dramatically shown on the 150th anniversary of the Eureka Rebellion (2004) when every parliament in Australia flew the flag EXCEPT Federal Parliament the only house that Howard controlled!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sydney: Cochlear Dispute Heats Up

Cochlear, the manufacturer of bionic ear implants that help hearing-impaired people around the world, is simply not listening. Twice its workers have voted to reject management offers -- and now management is saying it will impose individual contracts in a bid to smash the union.
A strike now looms and your support is needed more than ever. Thousands of you from all over the world have been flooding Cochlear with messages urging the company to negotiate with the union. We need thousands more messages to be sent.

If you've not yet done so, please go right now to this page and send your message.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

New Film: Constructing Fear

The film you must see before the next election!

A documentary exposing the activity of an industrial inquisition targeting building workers across Australia. “Constructing Fear” shows how these workers are the front line in an attack on civil liberties that has implications for every Australian.

Since 2005, the Australian Building Construction Commission (ABCC) has targeted hundreds of workers. The ABCC conducts closed tribunals and seeks individual fines of up to $28,600. Those summonsed cannot refuse to attend a hearing; they cannot refuse to answer questions and they cannot tell anyone, including their families, what happened in the hearing. Penalty? Six months in prison!

The ABCC’s operations have been described as "…foreign to the workplace relations of civilised societies, as distinct from undemocratic and authoritarian states." (Federal Court Justice Marshall, 2004)


WorkChoices: Howard's end!

Last night, at a speech to big business, Mr Howard let the cat out of the bag.

Speaking about WorkChoices he said:

"If the Government is returned, then I confidently predict that the reforms that have been made over the last few years will never be dismantled.

Because by the time of the next and subsequent elections, they will have become so much part of the economic and industrial fabric of this country, that will be quite impossible."

Mr Howard and the Liberals had no mandate to introduce the IR laws. They didn't make a peep about their radical workplace changes at the 2004 election.

If we allow the Howard Government to be reelected, the existing unfair laws will be entrenched. And their workplace changes will be taken even further.

Mr Howard said, "No issue will be more keenly argued in that campaign than the fate of the Government's reforms to Australia's workplace system.

Let us understand without any ambiguity and without any polite words, but there is a very clear choice."

Yes, there is a very clear choice.

A vote for a Liberal Government is a vote for no protection from unfair dismissal. It's a vote for AWA individual contracts that cut pay and conditions and reduce time with family. A vote for the Liberal party is kissing goodbye to rights at work not just for you, but for your kids and grandkids.

Read our factsheet on the clear choice we are presented with this election. Please pass it on to your friends.

Mr Howard also told the assembled crowd of big business people:

"If the Government is defeated and the reforms are over-turned, I do not believe a future government of my persuasion will again be able to re-introduce those reforms."

Please tell your friends, family, and everybody you know that this election, there is indeed a clear choice.

Making the Howard Government's WorkChoices our new reality - or getting rid of them forever.

Howard's letter to Iraq!

August 15Illustration: Dyson

Monday, August 13, 2007

Women’s chances worse under WorkChoices

A national report released today demonstrates that WorkChoices isn’t working for low paid women and their families.

The report, which documents interviews with over 120 low-income women across all mainland States and the ACT, shows that many women working in sectors such as retail, hospitality, aged care and childcare are doing it tough. These sectors have been studied because earlier research on women’s wages and conditions showed these to be the sectors where women were most at risk. The report recommends changes to the Commonwealth legislative framework to redress these problems, including restoration of unfair dismissal rights and more effective guarantees of minimum conditions.

The report Women and WorkChoices: Impacts on the Low Pay Sector was commissioned by the NFAW, WEL Australia and YWCA Australia and was undertaken by leading industrial relations researchers.

NFAW Spokeswoman Marie Coleman said: “This report provides government and policy makers with vital information and recommendations on how to redress these workplace abuses. It is clear from the current advertising campaign that the Government is already aware that many employees are not receiving their entitlements. Our report bears this out and outlines additional issues. We urge the Minister to listen to the women, not to attack the messengers.”


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Howard's legacy: Judiciary stacking

What remains to be suborned to the will of Canberra? If you search the horizon it is apparent the constitution has pretty comprehensively been redesigned and state powers picked off, while distant indigenous people, the public service, the military and the press gallery are all pretty much under the thumb of the ancien regime.

Clearly, it's the judiciary's turn for a bit of refurbishment, in what remains of the mandate.

That's not to say the process isn't well under way. Already we've had some startling appointments to the Federal Magistrates Court, including a cub lawyer from the staff of Kevin Andrews, and a hardline Christian fundamentalist.

The appointment of judges to the Federal Court recently has been accompanied by overtures (i.e., lobbying) from Liberal backbenchers and even the wives of federal ministers.

With a full basket of fresh federal laws to interpret and enforce (including Work Choices, crime and terrorism, tax, administrative appeals and surveillance) judicial selection must be carefully managed. Little wonder Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has spoken up against any changes to the present method of appointing federal judges, which is "leave it all to me".

The ways in which judges are being rounded up to fulfil the Government's legislative purpose are none too subtle.

For instance, judges who sit on terrorism cases have to apply to do so and then are screened by the Government for any subversive (independent) tendencies.

Why the judiciary plays along with this insult is a mystery.


US: Labor Day Buttons

Friday, August 10, 2007

AMWU members avoid sting in the tail

The AMWU was successful in securing redundancy pay for workers at Trailcraft after the company told them they weren't going to pay it.

WA company, Trailcraft, which sold its caravan building division and laid the workers off, told them they wouldn't be getting paid redundancy.

The workers contacted the union asking for assistance and organiser Ian Dobson found some anomalies regarding their working conditions.

Some of the workers had signed AWAs that the company hadn't bothered to register.

We took their case to management and eventually they agreed to pay them what they were owed.

The workers who were employed by the new owners are now employed under a union-collective agreement that protects their entitlements.

One of the workers said to me 'I never thought I'd need the union, but the day came when I did.'

Mr Dobson said that the new members were spreading the word about how the union helped them among their mates in the same industry.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Alexander Downer: tantrum time

The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, may have taken a cue from the Sesame Street character Oscar the Grouch yesterday when a 17-year-old got under his skin on a live panel interview dealing with climate change.

Alexander Meekin, from Canberra's Narrabundah College, was one of four high school students participating in a filmed session sponsored by the National Australia Museum and the Parliamentary Education Office.

He asked if Mr Downer was a climate change sceptic. Mr Downer calmly acknowledged that scientists did "tend to favour" the view that greenhouse gases were a contributing factor.

The persistent student asked whether it was "appropriate" that Government figures such as the Finance Minister, Nick Minchin, did not believe humans were to blame. Mr Downer shot back that people should "escape from intolerance" about others' views.

But Alexander wanted to know if Mr Downer saw a moral comparison between tackling climate change and the recent 200th anniversary of the British Government outlawing slavery.

"No," Mr Downer replied curtly.

But was not climate change enslaving future generations to today's conspicuous consumption, queried Alexander. His peer audience signalled its approval at that inquisitorial strike.

The minister hit back with "Not too many people I know support slavery."

Yes, agreed Alexander, but slavery was abolished by the British only after a long, bitter debate about whether or not it was justified.

As the jousts continued, Mr Downer's temper frayed.

His tormentor asked why a regional program to reduce greenhouse gases was only worth about $20 million a year for five years - less than the Government was spending on political advertising to get re-elected.

His interjection as Mr Downer was answering another student was too much. "I am trying to answer her question and you are trying to make some sort of cheap shot about the Liberal Party," he said, later implying some questions were Labor Party plants.

Alexander later made a point of shaking Mr Downer's hand and denied being affiliated with any political party. He said he thought the minister was being a "bit paranoid".


Australia: what we are!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Weapons of Mass Distribution

The US military cannot account for 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to the Iraqi security forces, an official US report says.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the Pentagon cannot track about 30% of the weapons distributed in Iraq over the past three years.

The Pentagon did not dispute the figures, but said it was reviewing arms deliveries procedures.

About $19.2bn has been spent by the US since 2003 on Iraqi security forces. GAO, the investigative arm of the US Congress, said at least $2.8bn of this money was used to buy and deliver weapons and other equipment.


Peaceful protests – Violent World Leaders

MUA - Sydney Branch

The Sydney Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia rejects entirely any suggested implication that demonstrating against the injustices of globalisation and war means support for violence.

"A recent police training video which featured MUA officials participating in legal non-violent protests is a disgraceful attack on democratic rights and the right of community members to oppose the injustices of globalisation and war" said Sydney Branch Secretary Warren Smith

"To highlight our union and other concerned members of the community in this way is a disgrace and should not be tolerated in a democratic society. This is about linking legitimate protestors to terrorism and violence. The real perpetrators of violence are among the participants of APEC who openly support the illegal war in Iraq" said Mr. Smith.

"If they want to see real terrorists they should be showing film footage of George Bush. If they want to see violence they should be looking at the devastation of the war in Iraq."

The MUA is unashamedly involving itself in the organisation of peaceful protests against APEC. It is these bodies of globalisation that are driving working people, including Australian maritime workers, to compete in a race to the bottom with the most exploited workers in the world.

This is what John Howard's WorkChoices is all about, forcing Australians to compete with third world standards. We are about raising third world standards not lowering Australia's standard of living.

The MUA calls on the police hierarchy to make public the so-called training video that they have already displayed to business leaders.

Contact: Warren Smith 0400 368 945

Save Howard? as your screensaver!

It's really easy to download the Rights at Work screensaver for your PC:

1. Click this image


Do you have a Mac? Install this version!

1. Click this image


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Howard NT takeover 'sickening'

Speaking at the 2007 Garma Festival, deep in the heart of a stringybark forest in north-east Arnhem Land, former Northern Land Council president, Galarrwuy Yunupingu, called on people to fight the Howard Government's takeover of Northern Territory Aboriginal communities.

"I have got a political agenda to run," he said.

"This government is a worrying government, not worried about us but worried about himself (Prime Minister John Howard) and worried about his few rich people and business people that support the coalition that puts them back into government to run amok in the nation."

Aboriginal leaders, politicians, academics, judges and artists have gathered at Gulkula, a dry community close to the mining town of Nhulunbuy, for Australia's leading indigenous festival.

Now in its ninth year, the theme of this year's festival is Indigenous Health: Real Solutions for a Chronic Problem.

But Canberra's unprecedented emergency intervention to combat child sexual abuse following a damning NT government report took centre stage on the first day of the four-day event.

"We in the Northern Territory are about to be dispossessed of everything, everything that we've got left from the original dispossession of our land and lives.

"That I should go and change my lifestyle and become a white man is worrying, worrying and sickening."

Mr Yunupingu called the federal government move "the lowest of anybody's form of policy".

"I am just reminding people that this is a struggle.

"I appeal to you to stand beside us to fight the rottenness that is ... the sickness of this government setting out to simply take away what's rightfully ours."


Howard "cheating on health"

August 4 Illustration: Ron Tandberg

Victorian Premier, John Brumby, takes on Howard:

"This business where the Federal Government is just shopping around Australia, trawling through marginal seats, finding a hospital that's struggling and saying, 'We'll bail it out' — it's the most appalling public policy I've seen in decades," he said. "It's an embarrassment."

"We have a good hospital system in Victoria — the best in Australia — but we don't have a hospital on every street corner," he said. "If you put a hospital on every street corner, you'll guarantee you will end up with a Third World hospital system.

"In recent years we've been cheated and robbed in relation to (Commonwealth) funding," he said. "For example, we're only getting 41 per cent of our hospital funding under the Medicare agreement. We're meant to be getting 50 per cent.

"So we need a better framework for federalism, in which to produce the best for the citizens of Victoria and Australia. But you can't do that if the Federal Government just bails out a hospital which is not viable."


Friday, August 03, 2007

Get ahead: be a bad boss

How do people get ahead in the workplace?

One way seems to be by making their subordinates miserable, according to an Australian study released today.

In the study to be presented at a conference on management this weekend, almost two-thirds of the 240 participants in an online survey said the local workplace tyrant was either never censured or was promoted for domineering ways.

"The fact that 64.2 per cent of the respondents indicated that either nothing at all or something positive happened to the bad leader is rather remarkable - remarkably disturbing," wrote the study's authors, Anthony Don Erickson, Ben Shaw and Zha Agabe of Bond University in Australia.

Despite their success in the office, spiteful supervisers can cause serious malaise for their subordinates, the study suggested, citing nightmares, insomnia, depression and exhaustion as symptoms of serving a brutal boss.

The authors advocated immediate intervention by industry chiefs to stop fledgling office authoritarians from rising up the ranks.

"As with any sort of cancer, the best alternative to prevention is early detection," they wrote.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Australian Nurses: Howard power grab concerns

Mercy Hospital The Australian Nurses Federation today expressed serious concern about John Howard's proposed takeover of Tasmania's Mersey Hospital saying it will not resolve the underlying problem of attracting medical specialists to the area.
ANF Federal Secretary Jill Iliffe described the announcement by Mr Howard to take control of the hospital as a 'power driven political stunt'.

'This hospital has experienced difficulties for some time and those difficulties will not be resolved by an ill-considered takeover by the Howard Government in an election year,' Ms Iliffe said. 'The problems faced by the hospital are not about lack of funding or poor management they are a direct result of the inability to attract medical specialists who can provide the required medical services to the community.

'The lack of consultation with the Tasmanian Government is a real concern. John Howard is behaving like a despot. If he really wanted to assist with solving the problem, consultation with the Tasmanian Government, doctors, nurses and the community is essential. You don't solve a problem by just throwing money at it.

'It is difficult to comprehend why Health Minister Tony Abbott is refusing to engage in consultations with the States on the next round of Australian Health Care Agreements while at the same time Mr Howard is going to extraordinary lengths to intervene in the operation of Tasmania's health system."


Business: return taxpayers' money!

Business groups that are planning a new pro-‘WorkChoices’ advertising campaign due to start in the next few weeks should first return the millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money they received from the Howard Government to pave the way for the introduction of the new IR laws says the ACTU.

The Business Council of Australia (BCA) which represents Australia’s biggest businesses as well as the ACCI, and other big business lobby groups are reported to be contributing up to $10 million for a new pro WorkChoices ad campaign to be run in the lead up to the federal election. The VECCI is reported today to have added another $750,000 to the business ad campaign kitty.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:
“It is an outrage for business groups to be spending large amounts of money on a pro-Liberal Party advertising campaign when these are the same groups that received almost $4 million from taxpayers to promote John Howard’s ‘WorkChoices’ laws when they were first introduced.

“Having received so much taxpayers’ money to promote the introduction of IR laws, it is wrong that they are now funding a pro-Liberal Party, pro-WorkChoices ad campaign in the lead up to the federal election.

“The Howard Govt’s ‘WorkChoices Employer Assistance Program’ (EAP) handed out over $40 million of taxpayers’ money to business groups including $600,000 to the Australian Mines & Metals Association and over $3.4 million to the state branches of the ACCI to ‘educate’ employers in using the new IR laws.

“The fact is that many employers used their knowledge of the new IR laws to rip off workers by removing penalty rates, overtime pay and other entitlements in the first year that WorkChoices was introduced.

“John Howard has been pressuring business groups to run an ad campaign in support of WorkChoices for a number of months and the fact that business groups are willing to put their hands in their pockets shows that they are just a mouthpiece for the Government.

“This big business advertising campaign is about nothing more than self-interest and ensuring that big employer groups hold onto their new-found power under the Howard Government’s unfair IR laws” said Ms Burrow.

Australia Post plans opposed

On July 19, 2007 Australia Post finally came clean about their plans for the closure of Fitzroy Delivery Centre. Their plans to close the centre have been known for some time. The staff and the union were aware that Clifton Hill & North Fitzroy (Postcode 3068 - 10 posties, 2 night-sorters and 2 parcel contractors) were to be relocated to Preston.

We have been asking for some time about the plans for Fitzroy, Abbotsford and Collingwood (Postcodes: 3065, 3066 & 3067). We have been told nothing was decided yet. Never did we think they would come up with such an unjust, expensive & unworkable plan.

The 17 posties involved have been told they can either work night-shift from 1am – 9.30am for 15% penalties, (A NIGHT SHIFT WITHOUT THE TRADITIONAL 30% PENALTIES – NO WAY!) or scramble for vacancies in other Delivery Centres.

As well as the 17 traditional posties, there are at least 5 night-sorters, 3 box-sorters, relievers, parcel contractors and supervisory staff affected by this site closure. Despite this, management have already started offering part of the Fitzroy work to part-time staff at City Street Delivery Centre who are co-located at CMPC.

Without consultation with the staff or the union, management handed out a Staff Preference Survey expecting staff to make a decision on their futures!

Sydney Ferries: union opposes privatisation

Scenes of Sydney Harbour, Sydney landmarks and the ferry fleet at work.

An inquiry in Sydney is hearing from a range of speakers who are discussing privatisation models for the city's ferry service.

The inquiry is being chaired by Bret Walker SC, who was asked by the New South Wales Government to look at ways of improving the reliability and efficiency of Sydney Ferries.

Among the options being discussed are a complete privatisation of the service, the tendering out of certain operations and also the prospect of the government entering into partnerships with the private sector.

The National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia, Paddy Crumlin, has told the meeting that the privatisation of the service is a bad idea, and will lead to a doubling of fares and will lower safety standards.

The MUA view has been backed by the lobby group, Action for Public Transport.

Options for keeping the service in public hands are also being discussed.