Sunday, April 27, 2008

Welfare to Work: need for overhaul

A new report into welfare to work is calling on the Federal Government to make urgent changes to the policy in the May Budget.

The report was funded by the New South Wales Department for Women and looks at 70 single parent mothers and how they coped with the introduction of the policy in 2006 and 2007.

It found women were being forced to leave their careers and move into low-paid, unskilled work to meet the policy's requirement of working 15 hours a week, or having welfare payments cut off.

One of the report's author's, Eva Cox, says the Federal Government needs to make core changes to the system.

"I think what we should be looking at is not a 'one size fits all', not a rigidity - about 15 hours - but looking at people who can earn a reasonable amount of money in the time they're working, regardless of whether that's 10 hours or 15, or even eight in some cases," she said.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

International solidarity against Mugabe arms shipment

MUA news

ITF affiliates MUA and RTBU in solidarity with South African dockers and truck workers ban on arms to Zimbabwe as reports of voilence and repression under the Mugabe regime increase

Bans by South African dock workers in Durban have forced the Chinese ship An Yue Jiang to sail from the South African port of Durban without unloading.

The bans which have the support of the International Transport Workers' Federation have now spread to other African nations. The ship is reported to have bypassed Maputu were local unions were also mobilising against the weapons transfer.

Global union federation the ITF reports that the ship has switched off its transponder (which broadcasts its exact location), but is believed to be heading for Luanda, Angola next, and may be running low on fuel.

As well as mobilising workers in the region the ITF is calling on Cosco, the Chinese Government, the officially approved All China Federation of Trade Unions, and the Chinese Seamen's and Construction Workers' union to think of the safety of the ship's crew and return to its home port.

SATAWU,last week declared its port members would not unload the weapons from the ship. It also declared that none of its members in the trucking sector would move the cargo to Harare by road.

SATAWU, a member of the COSATU trade union national centre says a peaceful solution must be sought to the political instability in Zimbabwe.

Both ITF Australia affiliates Paddy Crumlin, MUA and Greg Harvey, RTBU have written letters of solidarity to SATAWU in support of the SA workers' stand.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Power privatisation update: 139 to 1

The State Government's attempt to privatise NSW electricity is creating sparks with a Labor Party branch pushing to have Premier Morris Iemma and Treasurer Michael Costa kicked out of the party.

The Alexandria branch laid internal party charges against the Premier and Treasurer with the party's head office, alleging the two were breaching party rules over the planned sell-off.

These charges will not be dealt with until at least a month after the state Labor Party conference because the next meeting of the Administrative Committee is not until June. ALP members believe the Premier and the Treasurer are breaching party rules by committing to the privatisation without the agreement of the state conference.


Of the 140 branches and electorate councils that have submitted resolutions on privatisation, only the Kiama state electorate council on the South Coast has endorsed it.

A report of the ALP's finance and economic committee, which is compiling submissions from party branches before the conference, shows the Kiama council was outnumbered by 139 party organisations demanding that power generators and retailers stay in public ownership. ALP branch leaders say overwhelming opposition to the sale among members signals that the Government's attempt to push privatisation through the conference is doomed.

Most unions, including the ETU, the USU, the CPSU, and the CFMEU have pledged to vote down the privatisation proposal.

Robyn Fortescue, a vice-president of the ALP's Darlington branch said "This will be very damaging to Iemma if he stays on this course. If they don't get the message from Labor Party members, who put them in their jobs in the first place, I don't know what will."

The Unions NSW assistant secretary, Matt Thistlethwaite, said the finance and economic committee report, reflecting hostile branch sentiment, had sealed the fate of the privatisation attempt.

"If both halves of the conference - unions and rank-and-filers - are against this, it's almost certain to go down in May," he said. "The Premier and Treasurer should just back off."

The Minister for Housing and Tourism, Matt Brown, who holds the seat of Kiama, has confirmed that two of his personal staff serve on the electorate council. Kiama branch members pointed out that only two of the five branches affiliated to the state electorate council had supported the privatisation proposal, but Mr Brown's staffers "had rammed the motion through".

Flexibility - not bending over backwards

The AMWU is pushing for safeguards for workers so that they are not disadvantaged by flexibility clauses in employment agreements.

AMWU National President Julius Roe said that flexibility clauses should not be allowed to ride roughshod over Award conditions.

“We don’t want a situation where workers are worse off than what they would be under an AWA. And if you had a flexibility clause that says you can agree to change anything in the award, that would be worse than an AWA.”

Mr Roe said there are some things that employers should not be able to change by individual agreement.

“Working hours and overtime are issues that shouldn’t be up for grabs. It’s easy to imagine a situation where a boss could find a vulnerable worker who will agree to work on Saturday.

“If none of the other workers want to work on Saturday, that flexibility disadvantages them because it undermines the collective view.”

Carbon Capture: Historic Alliance

In an historic alliance, industry, union and environment organisations today called on the Federal Government to establish a National Carbon Capture and Storage Taskforce to combat climate change.

The new taskforce, proposed by the Australian Coal Association (ACA), the CFMEU, The Climate Institute (CI), and WWF, would be charged with developing and implementing a nationally coordinated plan to oversee rapid demonstration and commercialisation of 10,000 GWh of carbon capture and storage (CCS) electricity per year by 2020.

ACA Executive Director Mr. Ralph Hillman said: "The proposed CCS taskforce will play a vital role in ensuring that Australia is CO2 storage-ready before 2020."

"The black coal industry is now funding a number of demonstration projects through its billion dollar Coal21 Fund with the aim of deploying commercial scale low emission coal technology in the power sector by 2020."

CFMEU National President Mr. Tony Maher said: "Rapid demonstration of CCS in Australia is essential to securing employment prospects in regional Australia – jobs in coal mining and jobs in new high-tech CCS power plants."

"Mineworkers know that their industry and their jobs only have a future if coal use – and gas use - becomes a low emission industry here and overseas. And with coal being Australia’s largest export industry, we need to lead the way in the development of that technology."

The Climate Institute CEO Mr. John Connor said: "Australia has a choice - it can be a technology maker or a technology taker. Ensuring all new electricity load is met by clean energy sources will position Australia at the forefront of the global boom in these technologies – and cut the long term cost of reducing emissions."

"Australia's leadership in the development of CCS can also contribute to emissions reduction in emerging economies such as China and India."

WWF CEO Greg Bourne said: "Rapid deployment of low and zero emission technologies, including CCS, is needed if we are to avoid dangerous climate change."

"Unfortunately market forces and emissions trading alone will be insufficient to overcome barriers to commercial scale deployment of CCS."

"We need to build demonstration plants now if we expect commercialisation before 2020. The only way we can ensure this will happen is through a coordinated effort by Commonwealth and State Governments and by industry."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mugabe arms shipment blocked

The Chinese ship An Yue Jiang carrying a consignment of 77 tonnes of weaponry for Zimbabwe left South African waters yesterday after a court blocked the onward overland shipment of the cargo.

South African dockers had refused to unload the arsenal of small arms, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

The Durban high court ruled that the shipment could not be dispatched north across the border into Zimbabwe.

Several hours later, the An Yue Jiang weighed anchor and left Durban harbour, reportedly headed for Mozambique.

The court ruling followed an application brought with the support of the South African Litigation Centre under legislation prohibiting the supply of arms to "governments that systematically violate, or oppress ... human rights and fundamental freedoms".

The director of the centre, Nicole Fritz, said: "It is hard to imagine clearer circumstances in which South African authorities were obliged to refuse to grant any conveyance permit."

The Congress of South African Trade Unions said the vessel "must return to China with the arms on board, as South Africa cannot be seen to be facilitating the flow of weapons into Zimbabwe at a time where there is a political dispute and a volatile situation".

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Abolish the ABCC

Why do workers who build this nation have less rights than other Australians?

(download flyer)

Construction workers fought hard to remove the Howard Government and its extreme WorkChoices laws at last year’s election. However, more needs to be done for a fair workplace relations system for our own industry.

Right across Australia, construction workers are still under attack from Howard’s IR laws, as the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABCC) continues to use its draconian powers.

Over 50 ordinary men and women have been forced to attend secret interrogations by Howard’s ABCC enforcers. If they refuse to answer questions – about issues like what happened at a union meeting – they can be jailed for six months.

Many more are being threatened with $22,000 fines and loss of pay if they stop work for any reason – even over safety, in what is one of Australia’s most dangerous industries. These powers are bad for construction workers and bad for the industry.

Howard-employer scare tactic
Labor Party leaders were panicked by Howard’s and employer scare campaigns during the election and pledged to keep the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) until January 31, 2010.

So, 150 enforcers are employed, and 33 million taxpayers’ dollars are spent annually, to continue this intimidation of ordinary construction workers.

ABCC inspectors have no qualmsabout the tactics they use. Their aim is Howard’s agenda — to reduce support for unions and union membership on construction sites. They harrass construction workers at their job sites and with phone-calls and notices at their homes.

Howard’s construction laws have been condemned by the International Labour Organisation five times, for breaking conventions Australia has ratified. They offend every principle of fairness for working people.

The Rudd Government should not wait until 2010. They should give construction workers and their families back the same rights as other Australians by abolishing the ABCC and the laws that support it now.


Close The Gap campaign

Close The Gap postcardThe Close The Gap campaign calls on federal, state and territory governments to commit to closing the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation.

The campaign is supported by more than 40 Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations, and seventy-five thousand Australians have already pledged their support to Close the Gap.

National Close The Gap day

National Close the Gap Day - Tuesday 22 April 2008 - gives Australians the opportunity to come together and show their support for closing the 17-year life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians.

This campaign has come a long way in the past 12 months. Organise your own small-scale event to celebrate the gains that have been made and to remind our governments that you expect them to meet their recent commitments to Close the Gap.

Oxfam Australia is organising National Close The Gap day. Please go to the Oxfam website to register and get resources to promote your event.


Secret cabinet document on ferries

Unions have responded to revelations of a secret cabinet document revealing a push within the NSW Transport Department for privatisation of Sydney ferries.

"This is a slap in the face for every Sydney Ferries worker and commuter," said Warren Smith, Sydney Branch Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia.

"The Department's declaration goes directly against the goodwill demonstrated by workers and unions who first and foremost want to be part of delivering world class ferry services to Sydneysiders.

"Despite pathetic push polling trumpeted by the Government the community simply does not accept that privatisation is the best solution.

"In fact the evidence from elsewhere clearly indicates that privatisation leads to poorer services, job losses, higher fares and compromised safety standards.

"The Maritime Union of Australia and Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union have been working with management and Government since the Walker Report was handed down to implement changes that will lead to better outcomes for workers and commuters.

"But privatisation is not the answer - Sydney Ferries are an iconic part of our city and they should remain in public hands, not be flogged off to private operators.

"It's time this government stopped looking at Sydney Ferries as a problem to be sold off, and started seeking out smarter ways of making the ferry system work for Sydneysiders.

"On the issue of fleet replacement the last thing we want to see is another Cross City Tunnel style fiasco where the public pays for the problems while private enterprise reaps the profits."

Acting State Secretary of the AMWU, Tim Ayres said, "The Walker Report into Sydney Ferries said the workers are highly skilled and doing a good job to keep the service functioning.

"There is simply no evidence that a privatised ferry service would deliver the very high standard of service that Sydney passengers deserve.

"In our view the Government should respect the overwhelming view of the public, keeping this iconic asset in public hands, but it should also invest strategically in the infrastructure, training and equipment it desperately needs to make the best use of the service."

Mr Smith warned that handing control of Sydney Ferries to private owners had been tried twice previously and twice the State Government had been forced to come in and rescue the service - in 1951 and 1974.

"Rather than trying to make a quick buck this Government should be focussed on better service delivery including the coordination of ferries with other transport services; strategies to market ferry services in off-peak times; better ticketing based on the UK Oyster Card; and recognition of the environmental benefits of ferry patronage."


Friday, April 11, 2008

The Hungry Mile Dedication

With actor Jack Thompson, Peter Garrett, Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Frank Sartor, Minister for Planning, Minister for Redfern Waterloo, Minister for the Arts, folksong and poetry.

As part of the MUA's weeklong labour festival being held in conjunction with the 10th Anniversary of the Patrick Lockout and its national conference:

The Hungry Mile dedication:

7 Darling Harbour
2pm, April 11th

2.30pm Launch of "The Hungry Mile and other poems"
by Ernest Antony

Reading by actor Jack Thompson

Folksongs with Bob and Margaret Fagan, Mark Gregory, Margaret Walters and John Warner, including "Pickup Shed", "Join the MUA", "Justice Delayed", "Boonaroo " and "Bring Out The Banners"

Poetry in the Pub
3pm "The Big House" (Moretons )

"The Fremantle Picket" and "Sea Poems" by Bryn Griffiths

The Hungry Mile by Keith Gow, Jock Levy and Norma Disher

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

NSW teachers stopwork April 8

Statewide stopwork

Sky Channel meetings of up to two hours will proceed on Tuesday April 8.

The broadcast will start at 9am.

The meetings will consider a recommendation for a 24 hour statewide stoppage in term 2.

It is important that all Federation members attend the Sky Channel meetings, to hear a report on latest developments and to vote on future action in this campaign to protect the statewide staffing system.

For Sky Channel venues visit the Federation's website at

DG casts aside staffing agreement

Director-General Michael Coutts-Trotter has declared the Department of Education and Training's intention to abandon 15 years of industrial relations practice by casting aside the schools staffing agreement.

In a letter to the Federation on March 12, DET outlined changes designed to dismantle the service transfer system and replace it with local selection in each school.

These changes, effective from the commencement of term 2, mean that schools staffing procedures will no longer be governed by a legally enforceable industrial agreement between union and employer.

This departure from established industrial relations practice gives the Director-General the power to determine policy and procedures at his own managerial prerogative.

Monday, April 07, 2008

MUA: Howard 'waterfront strategy' exposed

A cabinet document reveals that the Howard government plotted the 1998 confrontation on Australia's waterfront.

The document urges an "interventionist approach", in which the government would provoke a strike on the nation's docks, allowing stevedores to replace unionised workers with non-union labour.

While the document, Waterfront Strategy, was released in mid-1998, the University of NSW historian Christopher Shiel has identified it as the first of two papers written by the consulting firm ACIL in 1997 and supposedly kept confidential.

The document was initially mistaken as advice from bureaucrats in the Department of Workplace Relations. But Dr Shiel, who has analysed the report for a book to be released this year, said its content had not been generated by public servants.

Dr Shiel said the document: "defines the terms of the activist strategy that the cabinet signed off on. It canvassed the prospect of industrial action that would give the stevedores the option of dismissing their employees. That means cabinet approved provoking a national strike and that is sensational."

The Maritime Union's national secretary, Paddy Crumlin, said the reports would "expose the conspiracy between the Howard government and Patricks that the High Court found was probable".


Friday, April 04, 2008

Kimiko Nezu and 19 others punished

Twenty public school teachers were punished for disobeying an order to stand and face the flag during the singing of the national anthem in graduation ceremonies in March, the Tokyo board of education said Monday.

The punishments ranged from a 10 percent salary cut for between one and six months to six-month suspensions from work and nonrenewal of contracts for temporary or part-time workers.

The board decided on the penalties during a meeting Friday.

The board has been punishing teachers since ordering public school principals in October 2003 to instruct teachers and students to stand and sing "Kimigayo" at graduation and entrance ceremonies.

About 400 teachers have been punished so far.

There was speculation this year that Kimiko Nezu, a home economics teacher at Minamiosawa Gakuen School for Children With Special Needs, might be dismissed for having defied the order since October 2003.

Instead, she was suspended Monday for six months.

"Pushing just one view (onto people) must not happen in a democratic society," Nezu said.

Forcing children to sing the anthem without telling them about its history or the history of the Hinomaru flag is not education, she added.

Nezu had been punished several times over the years for remaining seated during the anthem. The penalty has become more severe each time.

"I assumed I would be dismissed this year," said Nezu, who was punished not only for disobeying the order but also for wearing a sweater at her school emblazoned with the phrase "Objection Hinomaru, Kimigayo."

She speculated that the significant public support she has received stopped the board from dismissing her this year.

Nezu, other defiant teachers and their supporters have actively protested the order over the past two months.

"I felt that when many people take some action together, things can be changed," Nezu said during a news conference.

"It's been proved today that no matter how many times you remain seated, you won't be fired," she said.

Victoria: Private Electricity chaos

Victoria's Energy Minister Peter Batchelor has defended the government's efforts to reconnect power to homes across the state after Wednesday's violent storms.

More than 20,000 homes remained without power early on Friday, prompting calls for a swifter response from emergency services.

Electrical Trades Union Victorian secretary Dean Mighell criticised the delays, questioning whether privatisation of the power industry was to blame.

He said the new power companies had cut staff and maintenance.

"It's times like this we are totally unprepared, totally undermanned," Mr Mighell told Fairfax Radio Network.

"The pressure on the guys out there is immense at the moment and the last couple of days, it's huge, and they just haven't got the workforce beside them to help get them there.

"The old SEC (State Electricity Commission) when it did exist, had the manpower to deal with situations like this."

A spokesman for power supplier Alinta said the company had 300 workers fixing the problems.

A 38-year-old Alinta worker died on Thursday while working on damaged power lines in the Mornington area, south-east of Melbourne.

Mr Mighell said it was still unclear what led to the death.

"He seems to have been working among live electricity," Mr Mighell told Fairfax Radio Network.

"We don't know whether he knew it was live ... or it was a simple mistake or actually a fault."

Gosford Council: opposes Electricty sell-off



That Gosford City Council strongly opposes the NSW Government's plans to privatise NSW's publicly-owned electricity retailers and enter into long term leases of the State's generators, Council will:

a) support its community and in particular the significant number of people employed in the power industry by expressing its opposition to the State Government's proposal to privatize and lease the NSW power industry;

b) call on the NSW Government to better management NSW's future energy needs and take urgent action in response to climate change by investing in energy efficiency in homes and business and increasing its renewable energy targets;

c) the Mayor, Jim Macfadyen write to the Premier Morris Iemma opposing State Government's proposal to privatize and lease the NSW power industry;

d) write to each of the Central Coast State Members of Parliament requesting their full support behind the community opposing this plan;

e) the General Manager, Peter Wilson convey this motion to the NSW Premier, Morris Iemma and Treasurer Michael Costa and the NSW Local Government Association;

f) any and all future replies from State Members on the State Government's proposal to privatize and lease the NSW power industry be reported to Council and the Public through future business papers of Council;

g) Council's opposition of the State Government's proposal to privatize and lease the NSW power industry be widely advised including on the Council website and by media releases.

Electricity privatisation update

A group called the Alliance for NSW Future has been established to counteract "the unions' self-interested campaign against reform", the Sydney Chamber of Commerce said.

The open letter says the power sell-off will free up funds to renew other parts of the state's infrastructure.

Christopher Brown, managing director of the Tourism and Transport Forum, said the electricity industry was threatened by ageing power stations, making the sale a matter of urgency.

"We need new power stations. Essentially, if you're a seller, you need to sell now. We should have sold 10 years ago," Mr Brown said.

"I want to see (the state government) building public transport, schools and hospitals."

"With the emissions trading scheme and climate change around the corner and with the continued state monopoly, if they don't (privatise) the prices will get even higher. And we don't want them going up," Mr Brown said.

"We represent hundreds and thousands of businesses who depend upon efficient, clean, reasonably-priced supply of power.

"We want certainty in our power supply. We want NSW power companies to attract talented people to be able to retain customers. So, to do nothing is not an option."

Unions NSW assistant secretary Matt Thistlethwaite said the Alliance for NSW Future was pushing its own agenda of self-interest.

"The establishment of this group should send alarm bells through the community - because, just as they did with Work Choices, the business lobby is pushing their own agenda at the expense of the interests of working families," he said in a statement.

The business lobby could not explain how jobs and electricity assets would be kept in Australia, Mr Thistlethwaite said.

"Big business is rubbing its hands at the prospect of privatising power. The establishment of this group just gives the community further reason to be afraid," he said.

"With more than 80 per cent of the population opposing the sell-off, the government simply has no mandate to proceed."

At a meeting with business leaders recently newly elected Federal MP Greg Combet suggested he no option but to support the NSW privatisation as a minister in the Rudd government. This statement surprised many admirers of the former ACTU Secretary and undoubtedly most of those who voted for him in his electorate.

In the light of Combet's statement the Senator Elect member for NSW, Doug Cameron, made it clear at a meeting in Katoomba that he was opposed to privatisation, and saw no reason why his view had to change because he was about to enter the Senate as a Labor Senator.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Patrick Dispute 10 Year Anniversary

Dan Wollmering, a sculptor who entered a piece in the Contemporary Sculpture Competition at Docklands, won first prize with a piece called Waterfront. It is a work that is based on the events of the 1998 Patrick Dispute.

Next week will be the 10 year anniversary of the MUA/Patrick Dispute. However the MUA is holding a Public Event on Thursday 3 April at Docklands to unveil the piece.

The great dock's dispute inspires artists, actors, songwriters & sporting heros

The MUA would be grateful if Unions and supporters could attend this function to remember the assistance given by the Trade Unions that led to the success of the dispute (the MUA was not destroyed which was the key aim of the Howard government at the time). It is a time to remember what became an iconic dispute, that gained recognition all over the world as one of the few times when big business and the government conspired to do in a union and did not succeed.

WHEN: 3pm Thursday 3 April
WHERE: Shed 14 Harbour Esplanade Docklands (Opposite Channel 7 Sign)

More information:
Maritime Union of Australia
Victorian Branch
Ph: 03 - 9329 5477 Fax: 03 - 9328 1682