Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rich Staging a Coup

The Rich Are Staging a Coup This Morning ... 
a message from Michael Moore


Let me cut to the chase. The biggest robbery in the history of this country is taking place as you read this. Though no guns are being used, 300 million hostages are being taken. Make no mistake about it: After stealing a half trillion dollars to line the pockets of their war-profiteering backers for the past five years, after lining the pockets of their fellow oilmen to the tune of over a hundred billion dollars in just the last two years, Bush and his cronies -- who must soon vacate the White House -- are looting the U.S. Treasury of every dollar they can grab. They are swiping as much of the silverware as they can on their way out the door.

No matter what they say, no matter how many scare words they use, they are up to their old tricks of creating fear and confusion in order to make and keep themselves and the upper one percent filthy rich. Just read the first four paragraphs of the lead story in last Monday's New York Times and you can see what the real deal is:

"Even as policy makers worked on details of a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry, Wall Street began looking for ways to profit from it.

"Financial firms were lobbying to have all manner of troubled investments covered, not just those related to mortgages.

"At the same time, investment firms were jockeying to oversee all the assets that Treasury plans to take off the books of financial institutions, a role that could earn them hundreds of millions of dollars a year in fees.

"Nobody wants to be left out of Treasury's proposal to buy up bad assets of financial institutions."
Unbelievable. Wall Street and its backers created this mess and now they are going to clean up like bandits. Even Rudy Giuliani is lobbying for his firm to be hired (and paid) to "consult" in the bailout.

The problem is, nobody truly knows what this "collapse" is all about. Even Treasury Secretary Paulson admitted he doesn't know the exact amount that is needed (he just picked the $700 billion number out of his head!). The head of the congressional budget office said he can't figure it out nor can he explain it to anyone.

And yet, they are screeching about how the end is near! Panic! Recession! The Great Depression! Y2K! Bird flu! Killer bees! We must pass the bailout bill today!! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

2 December: Noel Washington Rally


Supporters of civil rights and construction workers will rally against the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) on Tuesday December 2 - the date and time that CFMEU official Noel Washington goes on trial for refusing to submit to an ABCC interrogation.

Noel Washington faces six months in jail, because he stood up for workers.

The ABCC can force construction workers and their union representatives to attend interrogations, record union meetings without workers’ knowledge, and remove the right of workers to choose their own legal counsel.

The ABCC is a legacy of the Howard government that ensures workers in construction are treated differently from all other workers in Australia. This issue affects hundreds of thousands of construction industry workers across Australia.

Bush Cheney Mob Fairwell song

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cleared worker hits at ABCC

In 2007 building worker Brian Shearer was charged with two counts of threatening to kill, two of threatening to kill a public official and two of assault. It was alleged that Mr Shearer threatened inspectors from the Australian Building and Construction Commission at a construction site in Mill Park on December 6, 2006.

Last year, the then minister for industrial relations, Joe Hockey, said the alleged incident was proof of a "pattern of behaviour" by unions and attacked ALP policy to abolish the watchdog if elected. 

The charges were struck out in the Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday after police decided there was insufficient evidence.

"I'm glad to be moving on with my life ... it's concerning to me that other building workers continue to be at risk of being used as a tool in the campaign to protect the ABCC," Mr Shearer said.

IR reform must not discount the unions

Work Choices is on the way out and the new industrial-relations laws can't come quickly enough.

Collective bargaining as the centrepiece of a new IR system will turn Work Choices on its head; however there are still gaps in Labor's plan.

Unions are concerned about: the scope of bargaining and the challenge of a modern workforce; collective bargaining rights for working Australians that may fail if the independent umpire does not have the power to settle disputes, particularly for the low paid; and unfair-dismissal protection for those workers in enterprises where there are less than 15 colleagues.

A strong and independent umpire is essential for collective bargaining to work. You wouldn't send an umpire into the grand final without a whistle and expect them to make the game work fairly, so why would we do that to the industrial umpire?

Unless the new industrial umpire, Fair Work Australia, has enough power to settle disputes, employers will be able to frustrate negotiations and prevent workers achieving a result. Just ask workers in Telstra or Cochlear or other workplaces where the employers just say no.

Extra power for the umpire to settle disputes will be particularly important to help workers in low-paid industries, including many women, who have previously been disadvantaged by their limited access to multi-employer collective bargaining. The proposed bargaining stream for low-paid workers is visionary and fundamental to social equity and essential as our economy becomes more deeply divided, but if it is to be successful the independent umpire must be able to settle those final matters in dispute when parties become entrenched.

The restrictions proposed on the scope of what employees can bargain collectively with their employer are unnecessary, unfair and outmoded. Why should there be any limit on what workers and their employers can agree to? Business representatives are selling short the workplaces of the future if bargaining cannot accommodate workforce planning, skills of the future or numbers of apprentices. Employees have a legitimate interest in a wide range of issues, including how to save energy, reduce waste and support climate-change solutions in their workplace.

One of the major problems with the Coalition's Work Choices laws was the red tape for businesses in complying with complex restrictions on the content of workplace agreements.

How unfortunate if Labor were to prevent workers from negotiating innovative solutions to workplace issues and add to red tape on business by artificially limiting what managers and employees can agree to in employment arrangements.

Collective bargaining could also be adversely affected by Labor's proposals on so-called unprotected industrial action. There will be times - such as when factory closures or redundancies are announced - when workers will want to stop work to consider the implications. Deducting four hours' pay is unreasonably harsh and could lead to greater work disruptions as there will be no incentive for workers to return to work for half a day.

We are also concerned that the Labor Government is out of step with community opinion on the issue of unfair dismissal. A recent national Galaxy poll indicated that about two in three respondents believe workers in small businesses should have the same protection from unfair dismissal as other workers. While Australians will breathe a sigh of relief to get back some security in workplaces with more than 15 employees, workers in smaller businesses must have confidence that the umpire is there for them, too.

Sharan Burrow | September 22, 2008 | The Australian

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Telstra must respect workers rights

Unions today urged Telstra management to respect the rights of its workers to be represented by unions after the company’s offer of a non-union job contract was rejected by employees.

Workers in Telstra's Wholesale and Service Advantage divisions have delivered a stunning rebuff to management’s divide-and-rule strategy by rejecting the company’s unilateral offer.

"Telstra workers have been treated very badly by the company’s management and it is no wonder they have rejected this non-union job contract," said ACTU Assistant Secretary Chris Walton.

"Telstra employees have been denied their right to union representation and subjected to almost every trick in the book by management.

"The small group of workers in these two business divisions showed great courage in holding firm against enormous pressure from management to sign up to a job contract that would have entrenched many of the worst aspects of Work Choices for years to come.

"The company's job contract would have turned new employees into second class workers with reduced entitlements to paid overtime, no guarantees of annual pay rises and reduced redundancy.

"The non-negotiable pay offer would also severely curtail employees' rights to meet with union representatives."

rights on site campaign

Senator Doug Cameron has used part of his maiden speech to the Senate, to describe the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) as undemocratic.

"It is unacceptable that rank and file union members and their officials can be dragged before a star chamber, interrogated, humiliated and face six months jail for undertaking union activities which are universally recognised as basic human rights," he said.

CFMEU national construction secretary, Dave Noonan, said the laws building workers faced were unjust and had no place in a democratic country.

"These laws and the body that administers them are political in their nature, they're oppressive in their nature," he said.

more at http://www.rightsonsite.org.au/

Monday, September 15, 2008

Campaign to restore workers rights

Brian Boyd, Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary, urged unions to "crank up" the campaign to have federal Labor restore genuine collective bargaining rights for workers.

He criticised the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister for favouring business when there was no recognition from the "big end of town" of the federal election mandate for a new and fairer national industrial relations system. "Rudd and Gillard bend over backwards to please the corporate sector, but get their noses rubbed in it nearly every day of the week," he said.

"No assistance from this sector for the fight against globalwarming; sackings occur on a huge scale undermining government economic credentials; and the blatant ongoing use of Work Choices is making them look silly."

Mr Boyd accused Ms Gillard of "mocking" employer and union representatives who were working through the details of the proposed new workplace relations bill. Ms Gillard said last month the Committee on Industrial Legislation thought nothing of sitting around a table and poring over clauses for hours.

"They love it. And we're going to keep slipping the pizza to them under the door and passing the cans of Coke through the service hatch until they get the details right," she said.

Mr Boyd said: "Julia Gillard might think it's a joke, but many hundreds of thousands of Australian workers who marched across the nation against Howard don't think it is funny.

"They expect IR laws that will give back their collective bargaining rights. They also want the Government to resist the push-back from employers intent on keeping as much of Howard's IR legacy in place as possible.

"In particular, workers expect their trade union negotiators to pay a lot of attention to the detail. From hard experience workers know the cashed-up employers will manipulate the law in the courts for years over any issue."

The Government's new workplace relations bill could be introduced late next month or in November. Mr Boyd said it was an understatement that unions were getting restless.

"On recent speculation about Peter Costello staying on or not in federal politics, Julia Gillard said she would welcome Costello being on the front bench of the Opposition and would relish reminding the Australian public that Costello was one of the key architects of the previous government's Work Choices legislation," he said.

"Fair enough, but as each day passes, as each month goes by, it is Gillard being seen as the new keeper and perpetuator of that very same draconian legislation."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Unions trump Telstra again

The Australian Industrial Relations Commission yesterday refused an application by Telstra to postpone mediation with unions until the telco's appeal about the commission's jurisdiction in the case could be held.

Telstra had applied for a stay order on hearings until an appeal on an AIRC decision earlier in the week — which said that the commission could play a role in resolving the ongoing dispute between Telstra and the unions. The stay order request was heard and denied today by AIRC president Geoffrey Giudice.

The unions had been negotiating with Telstra to form new enterprise bargaining agreements to replace expiring Australian Workplace Agreements. In July, negotiations broke down and Telstra refused to deal with the unions the month after.

If the stay order had been granted, a hearing scheduled for Saturday morning at 10am to consider whether the AIRC could order a ballot on whether employees wanted a union or non-union agreement would have been cancelled. Since the stay order was denied, the hearing will go ahead.

"The ballot is the most democratic way of giving employees a say in whether they want an employment agreement negotiated by unions," ACTU assistant secretary Chris Walton said in a statement after the hearing.

The refusal of the stay order was the third legal defeat for Telstra this week. The losing streak started with the AIRC decision early this week, followed by the Federal Court dismissing Telstra's allegations that its unions had been feeding its employees false statements.

Friday, September 12, 2008

No coal plant compo, urges miners' union

The miners' union has hit out at its own industry, calling on the Federal Government to deny coal-fired electricity plants "palliative care" in the form of compensation as it tackles climate change.

Responding to the Government's emissions trading blueprint, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's mining and energy division said there was no evidence that giving energy suppliers compensation would encourage them to cut greenhouse pollution.

If compensation was offered, the union said, it should be conditional on the coal industry investing in clean-energy technology, including capturing carbon dioxide as it was emitted and burying it.

"The CFMEU is not interested in palliative care options for the industries our members work in," the union said in a submission to the Government.

"The research we have seen to date generally does not suggest that such harsh options are either necessary or effective in mitigating global warming."

Describing emissions trading as "the greatest social and economic restructuring program ever attempted", the CFMEU backs Government adviser Ross Garnaut, saying industries are not usually compensated for losses due to increased environmental or health regulation.

The submission comes as the Government faces intense pressure from big business to revise its emissions trading plan to include more compensation.

Rally for Noel washington


About 500 people rallied outside Geelong Magistrates Court this morning in support of union official Noel Washington.

Mr Washington, a senior official in the Construction Forestry Mining And Energy Union, earlier faced court for the first time after being charged for refusing to give evidence to the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

He is contesting the charges and was represented by Robert Richter, QC. If found guilty Mr Washington could be jailed.

Richter told the court the ABCC had improper purpose for bringing the case and it was part of a concerted political campaign by the commission for its own survival.

A further hearing will be held in late September.

Mr Washington briefly addressed the crowd after the hearing and thanked them for their support.

A trade union choir sang in support of Mr Washington and attacked the ABCC.

Friday, September 05, 2008

NSW Power-selloff: heads roll!

Following NSW minister John Watkins' resignation earlier this week comes the reshuffle resulting sacking of the Treasurer Michael Costa and then the loss of support for the Premier Morris Iemma ... the two architects of the attempt to privatise NSW Power.

http://www.nicholsoncartoons.com.au/cartoons/new/2008-09-06%20Iemma,%20Costa%20out%20by%20rees%20NSW%20226.jpgFinally State Labor has taken notice of the overwhelming oppostion to this scheme after an eight month ostrich like battle to ignore the public, the Labor Party Branches, the Labor Party Conference and finally, last week, State Parliament!

For eight months arrogance tried to face down common sense, aided by much of the media and of course the so called representatives of the business community (in a situation where much of small business was opposed to the sell-off).

The bravery award goes to the unions, and all the political and community organisations who fought to retain NSW Electricity in public hands, using the same strategy that removed John Howard ... reliance on local organisation to put relentless pressure on the polititical representatives to REPRESENT!

As the last Federal Election showed there has been a quite shift in the electorate ... a shift Costa and Iemma thought they could safely ignore. Now they too have been pushed aside just as dramatically as Howard was last November.