Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Stop the sell-off: International support

Monday 23 June was World Public Services Day and the International Public Sector union, PSI, has announced its support for New South Wales unions fighting the Iemma Government’s plans to sell the public power generators.

The Asia-Pacific Chair of Public Services International (PSI), David Carey, told Unions NSW and the PSA of New South Wales that the International Union supported the unions fighting the privatisation of power in Australia.

Mr Carey said, "All round the world today public sector workers are declaring their support for a strong public sector which delivers quality public services."

The United Nations declared the 23rd of June as the day to stand up for public services all round the world.

Mr Carey said "The sale of New South Wales power is likely to be another in a long series of privatisation failures."

"Whether it is the sell-off of school cleaning and maintenance in Queensland, the Cross City Tunnel in Sydney, or the Victorian power and railways, privatisation has lead to job losses, poorer services, higher prices and all too often, a government bailout at taxpayers expense.

"After 20 years of pro-privatisation policies, the world is neither a better nor a fairer place. The gap between rich and poor has widened and 54 countries are poorer than they were in 1990. There are many examples of privatisation failing, particularly in water and energy services".

Mr Carey said, "You can look at the UK or you can look at Indonesia. You can look at Africa or the USA. The International union was right every time. Power privatisation has led to the same thing - higher costs, poorer services.

The New South Wales government should learn those lessons. Invest in public services, don't sell them for quick cash".

PSI is a global union federation made up of more than 650 trade unions. It represents more than 20 million workers who deliver public services in 160 countries around the world.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Union Mosaic: Justice in Zimbabwe!


Wellington Chibebe and Lovemore Matombo are Zimbabwean union leaders going to trial on 23 June. This photo, organised by the TUC, is a mosaic of thousands of photos of trade unionists from around the world who are expressing their solidarity. The mosaic will appear on banners and placards at demos around the world as the trial starts.


ACTU ad: Collective bargaining

Pete Seeger: The Power of Song

A highlight of the Sydney Film Festival this year was Pete Seeger: The Power of Song a documentary directed by Jim Brown. This clip comes from PBS via YouTube.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Howard buried Work Choices data

Workplace Relations Minister Julia GillardThe Howard government deliberately suppressed masses of data on the ill effects of its Work Choices legislation, Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard says.

Ms Gillard said the former government attempted to shoot the messenger when it attacked Sydney's Workplace Research Centre ahead of last November's federal poll.

Former industrial relations minister Joe Hockey and other senior ministers accused the centre of political bias last October, after the release of its AustraliaWork study.

The study found low-skilled workers on AWAs were paid $100 less per week than equivalent workers on collective agreements.

Speaking at the centre's annual conference today, she said the organisation's dire warning about Work Choices had been proved true.

"This animosity between the previous government and the centre can be summed up in three words - it's about the government shooting the messenger," Ms Gillard said.

"We know that the previous government was sitting on masses of data it had to suppress because it proved the critics of Work Choices were right."

The centre is a 20-year-old research organisation based in the Sydney University's economics and business faculty.

"Joe Hockey said famously, or perhaps infamously, that the centre was full of, and I quote `former trade union officials who are parading as academics'," Ms Gillard said.

"Given the way the Liberals treated higher education I'm not sure what words he meant as the worst insult - trade union official or academic - both were insults under the former government but certainly not under us."


Monday, June 16, 2008

Workers get new employment standards

The Labor Government's new National Employment Standards (NES) announced today are an important step towards plugging the gaps in workers' rights and entitlements that have been left by Work Choices say unions.

The new standards will ensure that all Australian workers have a guaranteed set of minimum employment conditions that are non-negotiable.

In conjunction with modern, flexible awards, these standards will help prevent workers suffering the widespread loss of entitlements to public holidays, overtime pay, penalty rates, leave loading and other conditions that occurred under the former Liberal Government's WorkChoices IR laws.

Jeff Lawrence, ACTU Secretary said:

"These ten new National Employment Standards provide the bare minimum that every Australian worker should expect.

"The Work Choices IR laws were riddled with inconsistencies and gaps which left many workers, particularly young, vulnerable workers, worse off.

"It is good to see that the Rudd Labor Government has moved to fill these gaps and provide an absolute safety net that no one can fall through.

"The standards will also put into place an important right for working parents to request flexible and part-time work from their employer — a right which Work Choices took away.

"However the ACTU believes the Government could have gone further by putting an onus on employers to give fair consideration to the requests of employees and for workers to be able to appeal unreasonable refusals.

"In the future, unions will be looking for improvements to these minimum standards. We will particularly be looking for a new basic entitlement of paid maternity leave for women workers.

"These National Employment Standards are another step towards fixing the damage caused by Work Choices.

"But it is important to remember that much of Work Choices is still in operation while the Rudd Government's main set of new IR laws has yet to be introduced into Parliament," said Mr Lawrence.

The NES are:

1. Maximum weekly hours of work
2. Request for flexible working arrangements
3. Parental leave and related entitlements
4. Annual leave
5. Personal/Carer's leave and compassionate leave
6. Community service leave
7. Long service leave
8. Public holidays
9. Notice of termination and redundancy pay
10. Fair Work Information Statement.

June 16, 2008 ACTU

MUA: The Hungry Mile Dedication

NSW Power Sell-off delayed!

The legislation to sell our power assets has been delayed again, giving us another chance to let our parliamentarians know how we feel about electricity privitisation. Blue Mountains local member, Phil Koperberg, has been quoted in a couple of media articles saying both that he will vote against the sale and that he has not yet decided. What is clear is that he is relaying our concerns and listening to the mountains community.

We have had a big impact with this campaign and with just one more concerted effort, this shocking plan to privatise our electricity can be stopped.

The Sun Herald: http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/power-sale-delay-likely-in-face-of-defeat/2008/06/14/1213321682789.html.
The Australian: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23869287-5013945,00.html

So, now is our opportunity to talk to friends and family in the Blue Mountains about electricity privatisation and urge them to contact Mr Koperberg's office. It would also be great to thank Mr Koperberg for his efforts so far to raise our concerns with his colleagues in parliament and in the media.

Contact details:

Shop 3,
107-109 Macquarie Road,
Phone: (02) 4751 3298
Email: bluemountains@parliament.nsw.gov.au

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Refugee Week: A Place to Call Home

REFUGEE WEEK 2008 - June 15-21

The theme for Refugee Week in Australia is "A Place to Call Home". For World Refugee Day in 2008, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is globally promoting the theme of "refugee protection", whether that’s shelter or fair treatment or the right to seek asylum - particularly as the world this year prepares to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Australia's Refugee Week theme of "A Place to Call Home" encourages people to think about the global themes of protection and human rights by focusing on the fundamental right to a secure place to call home. It encourages Australians to think about our common obligations to people who have no secure home, as well as to acknowledge the 700,000 refugees and humanitarian migrants over the past 60 years who have made Australia their home.


Wages: Government accepts 4.2% to keep up

MPs have received an allowance increase of 4.2 per cent from the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal to keep in line with inflation.

Unions New South Wales secretary John Robertson says that if the Government acknowledges that MPs need inflationary increases, why not give them to teachers, nurses and firefighters.

"Everybody has a reason to be angry, particularly those that are currently going through a set of negotiations being told all they're entitled to is a 2.5 per cent increase," he said.

"That was the figure that was in the Budget that was released by the Treasurer just under a month ago and within a month, we see members of parliament being paid increases in allowances and the like of anywhere between 4.1 and 14 per cent."


Friday, June 13, 2008

Fairest pay deal! Harper pockets 53%

A decision by the Remuneration Tribunal to give public office holders a 4.3% pay rise from 1 July 2008 sets the benchmark for what low paid working Australians should at least expect from the forthcoming Fair Pay Commission minimum wage case decision says the ACTU.

The latest decision of the Remuneration Tribunal will add more than $5,000 a year to the pay packet of Professor Ian Harper, the part-time head of the Fair Pay Commission, lifting it to $124,990 a year.

The Tribunal sets the pay for federal politicians and holders of public offices including the Fair Pay Commission, the body set up under the former Howard Government's WorkChoices IR laws to lower minimum wages.

Over the past two years the head of the Fair Pay Commission has enjoyed a pay rise of 53% while ACTU research shows that the pay of more than a million workers on awards has gone backwards under WorkChoices by up to $2,000 a year in real terms.


US Supreme Court backs "laws and constitution"

The United States Supreme Court on Thursday (12 June 2008) delivered its third consecutive rebuff to the Bush administrations handling of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay, ruling 5 to 4 that the prisoners there have a constitutional right to go to federal court to challenge their continued detention.

The court declared unconstitutional a provision of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that, at the administration's behest, stripped the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions from the detainees seeking to challenge their designation as enemy combatants.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the truncated review procedure provided by a previous law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, "falls short of being a constitutionally adequate substitute" because it failed to offer "the fundamental procedural protections of habeas corpus."

Justice Kennedy declared: "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times."


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tom Uren backs Rudd ban the bomb plan

Tom Uren, a Labor minister in the 1970s and long-time anti-nuclear campaigner, says he hopes disarmament can happen despite scepticism about the Prime Minister's plan.

"I think there's concerns by major nations around the world that something should be done about proliferation and not only that, but the question of disarmament.

"Whilst there's nuclear weapons in this world, there's always that fear of that threat.

"I'm really pleased and very proud that as new Prime Minister, he has taken the initiative. It gives me great hope.''

Mr Uren says he hopes Australia and Japan can help make a difference to the nuclear disarmament debate.

"Because, after all, Japan is the only nation where a nuclear weapon has been dropped on them, exploded on them."'

The World War II veteran was a prisoner of war at Omuta - about 80 kilometres from Nagasaki - when the US dropped its second atom bomb in August 1945.

"I saw the discolouration of the sky and that never left me, that crimson colour that ... I didn't see the mushroom cloud ... I saw the crimson sky," Mr Uren said.

"Now, like every other prisoner of war, I was just glad, we didn't know what it was at the time, and I was glad that the war was over.

"But as I've lived and worked on anti-nuclear questions and understood the nuclear industry, I really do believe the dropping of a nuclear weapon on Japan was a crime against humanity."


Monday, June 09, 2008

Industrial Relations: where to now?

The defeat of workchoices delivered the union movement a stunning victory at the last election.

So what’s the future for Australian workers in 2008 and beyond?

To debate the question and provide some answers, BMUC invited two major figures in the labour movement – ACTU President Sharan Burrow and NSW senator elect Doug Cameron to address a politics in the pub at Katoomba’s Family Hotel on Saturday 17 May.

download PDF

Rudd lays wreath for Hiroshima victims

Kevin Rudd visits Hiroshima memorial Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has used his visit to the Japanese city of Hiroshima to lay a wreath to the victims of the atomic bomb which was dropped on the city in 1945.

Mr Rudd is the first Australian prime minister to visit Hiroshima's Peace Park and Memorial.

Accompanied by the city mayor, he laid a wreath and then toured the park's museum, which graphically demonstrates the impact of the bombing in which more than 200,000 people are believed to have died.

Mr Rudd used the visit to call for renewed efforts to curtail nuclear proliferation.

"Hiroshima should cause the world community to resolve afresh that all humankind must exert their every effort for peace in this 21st century," he said.

"We, the people of the Asia-Pacific region, should resolve afresh to make this Asia-Pacific century a century of peace and, for the world at large, that we should aspire now for a world free of nuclear weapons."


Saturday, June 07, 2008

Peter Garrett: Courts wrong place for art debate

Federal Arts Minister Peter Garrett says a decision not to proceed with charges against photographer Bill Henson is the right one.

Twenty of the artist's photographs were seized from Sydney's Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery last month after complaints from the public.

Charges against Henson and the gallery were dropped yesterday, after the New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions told police there was no reasonable prospect of a conviction.

Mr Garrett says the courtroom is not the right place to debate the merits of art.

"The courts were not the appropriate forum for resolving strongly held views in a debate which I think is much wider than just the impact or otherwise of works of art," he said.

"We shouldn't see the police knocking on the doors of art galleries to try to resolve matters which are really better resolved by the community having mature debate."


Power sale opposition reaches Parliament

Blue Mountains MP, Phil Koperberg, warned the Premier, Morris Iemma, that there is a growing list of Labor MPs prepared to cross the floor in the lower house to defeat the Government's planned sale of electricity assets.

If the Opposition were to oppose the bill, joined by independent MPs and six of seven Labor MPs understood to be prepared to cross the floor on the sale, it would be defeated.

Paul Gibson, Robert Coombs, Sonia Hornery, Gerard Martin, Alison Megarrity, Paul Pearce and Kerry Hickey are the MPs who have indicated they are prepared to vote against the sale.

At least three Labor upper house MPs are understood to be prepared to vote against the bill should the Opposition oppose the sale.

The Government has already met several conditions governing the sale demanded by the Opposition, but has failed to meet one, that the Auditor-General produce a report on the sale.

Mr Koperberg said he had not decided which way to vote on the proposal but that it was being overwhelmingly rejected in his electorate.

The Labor Party's chief governing body - its administrative committee - passed a resolution on Friday inviting Mr Iemma to attend next month's meeting of the committee to attempt to sort out the dispute between the party machine and the Premier over his decision to defy the state conference of the party and press ahead with the sale.

"The decision of the leadership … to proceed in open defiance of the policy of the NSW branch … constitute the most serious threat to the balance of relationships within NSW Labor since the 1939 Unity Conference reunited the party in this state," the resolution said.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Unions warn: Budget must not cut PS pay

Frontline services will suffer if today's State Budget delivers a cut in take-home pay to the state's 330,000 public sector workers including police, fire-fighters, teachers and nurses, Premier Morris Iemma has been warned.

Unions NSW Secretary John Robertson today said that if the NSW Budget persisted with last year's ceiling of 2.5 per cent wage rises, the government would face a staffing crisis and possible industrial action.

"At a time when inflation is running at nearly four per cent, a 2.5 per cent wage increase represents a cut in take home pay of around $750 per annum for an average public sector worker," said Mr Robertson.

"A budget that is based on a pay cut will be a budget based on shaky foundations.

"Public sector workers like everyone else in NSW are feeling the pinch from rising interests rates, petrol prices and other household costs.

"The 330,000 workers in the public sector cannot afford a cut in take home pay and will fight for a fair wage increase that keeps pace with the cost of the living.

"2.5 per cent is both insulting and unacceptable to the workers on the frontline in our hospitals, schools and communities.

"If the Iemma Government ignores the concerns of nurses, police, teachers and other workers these people will leave the sector.

"Many of these workers are already stretched to breaking point - a budget that cuts their take home pay will push many over the edge."


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Troops pull out of Iraq

NASSIRIYA, Iraq (Reuters)

PhotoAbout 500 Australian combat troops pulled out of their base in southern Iraq on Sunday, fulfilling an election promise by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to bring the soldiers home this year.

A British military spokesman in the southern city of Basra said the pullout from Talil base in Nassiriya was under way, but a spokesman for the governor of Dhi Qar province said it had been completed, with U.S. forces replacing the Australians.

"The Australian battle group is pulling out," the British military spokesman said.

Rudd, who won elections last November, had promised to bring home frontline troops this year. Polls show 80 percent of Australians oppose the war.