Friday, February 27, 2009

Beaconsfield mine: Coroner critical of bosses

The death of miner Larry Knight would have been significantly less likely had the Beaconsfield mine acted on "glaringly obvious" flaws in ground support and conducted an adequate risk assessment.

Coroner Rod Chandler was sharply critical of the mine for failing to conduct an adequate review of ground support following earlier rockfalls.

He concluded he could not "positively" find Knight's death in a rockfall on Anzac Day 2006 would have been avoided had the mine undertaken an adequate risk assessment following major rockfalls in October 2005.

Mr Chandler was also scathing of Tasmania's mine-safety watchdog, Workplace Standards Tasmania, which did not investigate the rockfalls in 2005.

Mr Knight's widow, Jacquie, was too upset to comment after the decision.

But his brother, Shane, expressed his disappointment, before vowing Larry's death would "not be in vain".

"I'll continue doing whatever I can," he said.

"I believe the actions of the mine were responsible for Larry's death.

"I believe Larry, Brant and Todd should never have been sent in to the 925m level, knowing the ground conditions to be as they were."

Wharfies ban socks and jocks gear shipment

By MUA news

Waterside workers will join truck drivers and rail workers in banning Bond's from shipping out millions of dollars in government subsidised machinery to China.

This week the iconic Australian label owned by Pacific Brands which manufactures underwear, army and work uniforms announced it was making 1800 Australian workers redundant and moving all manufacturing offshore. This is despite the company pocketing more than $17 million in government subsidies to stay in business in the past two years.

Unions tipped off that the factory gear was being shipped out and decided to take a stand. Together members of the Maritime Union of Australia (covering the wharves), the Transport Workers' Union (covering truck drivers) and the Rail Tram and Bus Union (covering Rail) are refusing to move the machinery from any Pacific Brands factory.

"Shameless Bonds executives give themselves a 170 per cent pay rise then cry poor and sack 2000 workers," said Paddy Crumlin. "The company has pocketed $17million in government subsidies over the past two years, now they want to run off with all the gear the Australia taxpayer helped them out with. We are just not going to stand by and let this happen. The Government subsidies should stay in Australia."

Contacts: Paddy Crumlin, Nat. Secretary 0418 379 660

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Unions welcome new apprenticeship scheme

A new $145 million scheme to secure the jobs of apprentices and trainees will ensure young people have a pathway to a career and maintain Australia’s skills base during the economic downturn.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the scheme announced tonight by the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations is an important plank of a job compact with young Australians.

"At all times – but especially now with the economy slowing – it is important to ensure young people are involved in training and job placement programs," Ms Burrow said.

"Unfortunately, apprentices are often the first to be shown the door when a business falls on tough times.

"Having a program in place to assist apprentices complete their training is absolutely important because evidence shows that young people who stop their training partway through an apprenticeship rarely restart it."

Ms Burrow said to be fully effective, the Securing Apprenticeships scheme needed to be backed by a comprehensive national database to match out-of-trade apprentices with potential employers or training organisations.

She said the new preference in government-funded infrastructure projects to be given to businesses that had a commitment to training and apprenticeships was a positive example of how procurement policies could deliver good outcomes for Australian jobs.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

ACTU: Case for urgent changes to workplace laws

Australian workers need the urgent introduction of new industrial relations laws to protect them from the downside of a slowing economy, unions say.

The ACTU has warned the Senate inquiry into the Fair Work Bill that working Australians are already experiencing cuts to their hours of employment and downgrading of their conditions as businesses respond to the downturn.

“Workers need protection in good times and in bad,” ACTU President Sharan Burrow said. “The state of the economy only makes it more urgent that the Fair Work Bill is passed by the Senate.”

“Over the past decade under the Howard Government, we saw extreme deregulation of our industrial relations system that left workers more vulnerable than ever before.

“Working Australians remain highly exposed to rip-offs in this downturn because of WorkChoices.

“Under WorkChoices, businesses have had the freedom to sack people unfairly, to use individual contracts to slash wages and conditions such as redundancy pay, and to deny workers the right to collective bargaining and union representation.”

“The danger is that without new IR laws employers could use the economic crisis as an excuse to attack the wages and conditions of workers so they can preserve profits for shareholders and keep obscene executive salaries.

The centrepiece of the proposed laws will be collective bargaining.

Ms Burrow said collective bargaining would deliver improved flexibility and productivity by employers and employees working together to respond to changes in business and economic conditions.

“These laws will be good for the economy and good for workers,” Ms Burrow said.

The ACTU’s submission to the inquiry calls for the laws to be passed with several important amendments to restore workers’ rights and ensure the Rudd Government fully delivers its election promise to abolish WorkChoices.

The changes needed include removing limits on what workers and employers can bargain about and include in a workplace agreement. As is stands, the Bill would prevent workers from bargaining for better unfair dismissal protections and for improved access to advice and assistance from unions in their workplace.

Ms Burrow said the day of reckoning was fast approaching for the Coalition on whether it would support the new, fairer IR laws in the Senate, or retain WorkChoices.

“The Liberals and Nationals have already recklessly jeopardised the livelihoods of thousands of workers with their obstruction of the economic stimulus package,” Ms Burrow said.

“Failure to support the Fair Work Bill will confirm that the Coalition really does not care about working Australians and has not moved on from the Howard-Costello era.”


Monday, February 16, 2009

Telstra workers call for end to WorkChoices

Workers will protest against the behaviour of major employers such as Telstra at the Senate Inquiry into the Rudd Labor Government's Fair Work Bill today (Monday, 16 February).

The unethical behaviour of Telstra management in denying the rights of its employees to union representation demonstrates why WorkChoices must be abolished urgently, workers and their unions will tell Senate Inquiry hearings this week.

The Community and Public Sector Union - one of the three unions representing workers employed by Telstra - will appear before a Senate Inquiry into the Fair Work Bill in Melbourne today (Monday).

The ACTU will appear at the Inquiry in Melbourne on Tuesday. Telstra management has refused to meet with unions to negotiate a collective agreement for employees since last July.

Workers at the telco have not had a pay rise since September 2007.

Members of the CPSU and the Communication, Electrical and Plumbing Union are now taking protected industrial action to pressure the company to respect the rights of its employees and come back to negotiations.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said Telstra has been one of the most high-profile supporters of WorkChoices and continues to take every advantage of the remnants of the Howard Government's laws to undermine workers' rights.

"The company's submission to the Senate Inquiry is also pushing for changes to the Federal Government's IR proposals that would strengthen the power of employers and weaken the rights of employees to good faith collectively bargaining and union representation.

"Other employers, including in the large retail sector, are trying to use the last gasps of WorkChoices to lock retail workers into job contracts that would leave them out-of-pocket by more than $5500 a year.

"It is vital that Labor's new IR laws are amended to give Australian workers strong collective bargaining rights and are passed by Parliament as soon as possible," said Mr Lawrence.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Super Clinic for Blue Mountains

Minister for Healthcare and Aging
Nicola Roxon Media Release

The Rudd Government has signed a contract with Balance! Healthcare to run the $5 million Blue Mountains GP Super Clinic.

Balance! Healthcare will also make a significant private investment in the development of the GP Super Clinic across ten individual sites.

The main hub will be located in Springwood, with additional general practice and allied health services in Katoomba and Blackheath. Six further sites offering allied health services will be located across the mountain between Blackheath and Blaxland. In addition, medical specialist services will be provided at Katoomba.

The facilities will bring together GPs, specialists, allied health professionals, pharmacy, radiology, pathology, rehabilitation, dental, physiotherapy and psychology all connected through a single IT system.

The Blue Mountains GP Super Clinic will have a focus on chronic disease management amongst the local community.

It is also anticipated that the GP Super Clinic will help to take pressure off the Emergency Departments in the Nepean and Blue Mountains District ANZAC Memorial Hospitals.

The GP Super Clinic will increase access to general practitioners, specialists and allied health professionals to meet the needs of the local community. The GP Super Clinic will have a strong focus on education and training for general practitioners, allied health professionals and practice nurses, as well as a commitment to continuing professional development and research.

Construction of the buildings and IT infrastructure is scheduled to start by mid-2009, with the main hub at Springwood to operational early in the second half of 2010.

GP Super Clinics will play an important role in improving frontline health services in communities across the Blue Mountains. GP Super Clinics are a top priority for the Rudd Government and I thank the community and local health professionals for getting behind the Blue Mountains GP Super Clinic.

GP Super Clinics are a $275 million commitment of the Rudd Government, providing primary health care services when and where they are needed.

They are a key part of the Government's plans to improve Australia's health care system.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pete Seeger gets apology

Nearly a half century ago, amid suspicion and fears of McCarthyism, folk singer Pete Seeger faced an ultimatum from the San Diego school district: Sign an oath against communism or cancel a concert he planned at a high school auditorium.

Seeger, who at the time of the board's demand was under scrutiny for his leftist politics, refused to sign the oath. A judge allowed the concert to proceed anyway.

Decades later, the school board wants to make amends. In a resolution approved Tuesday night, the school district declared that the board "deeply regrets its predecessors' actions" and offered an apology to a man who has become "one of our dearest national treasures."

The 89-year-old songwriter appears willing to accept the board's apology, saying the board's resolution is a "measure of justice that our right to freedom of expression has been vindicated."

He also quipped that the board's demand for the oath in 1960 may have helped his career.

"This was the contradiction the poor blacklisters faced: The more they tried to target me the more they drummed up publicity for my concerts," Seeger told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his home in Beacon, N.Y. "I like to misquote Thomas Jefferson in saying, 'The price of liberty is eternal publicity.'"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bushfires: International unions offer help

The London based International Transport Workers' Federation is
offering to assist victims of the bushfire tragedy, as Australian
unions pledge $250,000 in aid.

ITF General Secretary David Cockroft wrote to the MUA this week
expressing his horror at the scale of the tragedy.

"The ITF family have watched the news of the bushfires in your country
with growing horror," he said. "It is difficult to believe the speed
and scale of death and destruction. We can only begin to guess at how
it must feel for those closer to the tragedy, as well as those
personally affected."

David Cockroft said the ITF was heartened by the aid being offered to
the victims and the groundswell of support among the Australian people.

"But we realise that this is little consolation for those who have lost
so much, so quickly," he said. "To them we can only humbly offer any
help we can and promise that we are thinking of them now, in these
terrible times. "

The MUA has set up a fund to help the communities devastated by the
Victorian bushfires, with pledges already coming in from ships and
ports. Union fund raising is now being co-coordinated with the ACTU and
the Transport Union Federation (TWU and RTBU).

The death toll last night reached 181, but police fear as many as 300
bodies will be recovered from the ashes.

Blue Mountains East Timor Garage Sale

The next Blue Mountains East Timor Garage sale will be held on 

Saturday February 21st
at 66 Wentworth St, 
Blackheath 9.00 to 3.00pm

We are needing donations please - all those things you cleared out over the holidays and don't want we can turn to cash for scholarships for young women to go to Uni!

And we also need helpers on Friday 20th from 10am.

Blue Mountains East Timor Sisters Project
Email: email 
Auspiced by Mountains Community Resource Network Inc. 
PO Box 152, Lawson 2873
47574478 / 47841718

Monday, February 09, 2009

ACTU: Union bushfire emergency response

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has today expressed its sadness and condolences at the tragic loss of more than 100 lives in the bushfires that swept Victoria over the weekend.

Unions have pledged $250,000 and are asking other union members and supporters to donate to the Red Cross Appeal, and to let us know of their pledge.

Union members are encouraged to take up a collection in their workplace and to ensure that employers at least match whatever is raised.

Call 1800 811 700 to make a credit card donation or log onto

The website is experiencing heavy traffic so please be patient if it takes a while to get through.

Australian Unions stand ready to support members including emergency service personnel involved in fighting the fires in Victoria and elsewhere, the healthcare and government workers caring for the many thousands of people affected, the media workers who are covering the events as they are unfolding and countless others caught up in this horror

We will keep a tally of donations from unions and any other offers of practical and finanical help. Please notify us on the email address below with your pledges.

If you have any details about members or activists who may be directly or indirectly affected and who require help, please contact us at

The ACTU call centre (1300 4 UNION) has also been briefed to handle inquiries and requests for help for individual union members.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

CFMEU: Turnbull turning back on jobs

Construction workers accused Malcolm Turnbull of turning his back on thousands of construction workers who face job losses and uncertainty over the coming months.

CFMEU Construction Division National Secretary Dave Noonan said the Opposition leader's attack on the commercial property fund was reprehensible.

"The Federal Opposition would be prepared to stand by with their hands off the economy and let the market decide while construction workers lost their jobs. Continuing to allow the market to decide the fate of thousands of jobs is irresponsible.

"The market based approach, like the markets themselves, has failed. It is time for Government to step in and ensure viable, essential projects are maintained and jobs are protected," said Dave Noonan.

Nearly a million workers are employed in the construction sector in Australia and thousands of jobs are at risk over the coming year.

Supporting the Government's proposal, the CFMEU cautioned that without the appropriate safeguards, the effort to guarantee the loans of foreign banks could be used as a slush fund for developers.

"The current financial crisis is not the fault of construction workers, or any working people. It is the fault of 'extreme capitalism' - banks who have engaged in loans to people who cannot afford to pay them back.

"Our response to the crisis should include rejecting the advice of those who led us down this perilous path. The Government has every right to step in pre-emptively, and a responsible Opposition would be working with them, not slinging mud from the edges of the political debate.

"The Opposition claimed the sky would fall in if the Government secured all bank deposits, and they haven't, and now they claim that securing construction jobs is designed to avert the course of the markets. Without this protection, thousands of construction jobs may be lost, with Australian families the real victims," said Mr Noonan.


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Return of Depression Economics

Quotes from Paul Krugman
Winner of 2008 Nobel prize for Economics

From The Return of Depression Economics, and the Crisis of 2008, Penguin, 2008

The truth is that good old-fashioned demand-side macroeconomics has a lot to offer in our current predicament.

...We need to deal with the clear and present danger. To do this, policy makers around the world need to do two things: get credit flowing again and prop up spending.

[We] face a global slump that's gathering momentum. What should be done about that? The answer… is good old Keynesian fiscal stimulus.

The point of all of this is to approach the current crisis in the spirit that we'll do whatever it takes to turn things around; if what has been done so far is not enough, do more and do something different, until credit starts to flow and the real economy starts to recover.

And once the recovery effort is well underway, it will be time to turn to … reforming the system so that the crisis doesn't happen again.

…there is a free lunch, if we can only figure out how to get our hands on it, because there are unemployed resources that can be put to work. The true scarcity of Keynes's world – and ours- was therefore not of resources, or even of virtue, but of understanding.

and Speaking of the US response

The next [stimulus], should be much bigger, say, as much as 4 percent of GDP.

The… plan should focus on sustaining and expanding government spending – sustaining it by providing aid to state and local governments, expanding it with spending on roads, bridges, and other forms of infrastructure.

… the usual objection to public spending as a form of economic stimulus is that it takes too long to get going – that by the time the boost to demand arrives, the slump is over. That doesn't seem to be a major worry now, however: it's very hard to see any quick economic recovery…

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

When The World Said No To War

When The World Said No To War is a photographic exhibition and peace education forum inspired by the 35 million people who took to the streets in Febuary 2003 to protest the impending war in Iraq.

The aim of the project is to highlight the significance of the largest peace demonstrations in history and to contribute to the ongoing call for peace.

The photographs were first exhibited in Sydney in 2005 and are being shown again now, 5 years after the start of the Iraq war, as part of a suite of programming related to the exhibition The 1970s: a decade of protest - photography by Roger Scott at the Museum of Sydney.

"Although it may be difficult to envisage an end to war as a form of political behaviour, there was a time when people could not foresee an end to slavery, the emancipation of women, the vote for blacks or the end of apatheid, but these things came to pass. Not because some magnamious government or world body decreed them to be so, but because ordniary citizens said it should be so. We need not be Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Martin Luther King Jnr, or Gandhi, for none of those people effected change alone; behind each stood millions of likeminded individuals with their own acts of moral courage. Our strength lies in the recognition of this - our shared humanity - rather than in the seperation imposed by the constructs of the state, religion and ethnicity."
Dr. Denise Leith, Bearing Witness : The Lives of War Correspondents and Photojournalists

"One little person giving all her time to peace, can make news. Many people, giving some of their time, can make history."
Peace Pilgrim

See the Photographs

ACTU: stimulus package welcome

February 03, 2009

The Government has looked at all sections of the community in this comprehensive package, said ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence

“This will provide further short-term relief for working Australians feeling pressure to meet their living costs and help sustain demand in the economy,” Mr Lawrence said.

“And the Government rightly has its eye on the longer-term, with billions of dollars of much-needed investment planned in schools, housing, and infrastructure.

“This investment will help redress the infrastructure deficit left by the former Liberal and National Party Government.

“Crucially, the package also tackles climate change and is a clear recognition that Green Jobs will play a key part in leading Australia into the economic recovery.

“Australia has a huge opportunity to become a world leader in clean and green industries in areas such as renewable energy, waste recycling, and sustainable water industries,” Mr Lawrence said.

“Unions now call on employers to respond to this package by focussing all their efforts on retaining jobs. The slowing economy had increased the urgency for new workplace laws to protect Australian workers from employers who will use the crisis to cut pay or reduce their rights at work.

“The Government also needs to put in place policies to assist employers to keep existing staff, including apprentices and to provide incentives to employers to retrain and upskill their staff so they are ready for the inevitable upturn in the economy.

“The Government should look to providing a guarantee of jobs training and case management for workers affected by the downturn, 100% protection of employee entitlements as well as increased support for the unemployed, including long-term unemployed young people.”

Mr Lawrence said as the downturn continued, further stimulus for the economy may be needed.

More: ACTU

Sunday, February 01, 2009

World Economic Forum: Union proposal

The global financial crisis threatens to become a social time bomb if the world's governments don't act together with unions to save and create sustainable jobs, according to global trade union leaders attending the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

A statement released by a delegation of union leaders, including ITUC and ACTU President Sharan Burrow is pushing for a comprehensive recovery and reform package, with top priority placed on sustainable employment.

“We are in a perilous situation now, and internationally co-ordinated action is needed to save and create decent jobs,” said Ms Burrow who is one of the key union leaders at the Davos meeting.

“Working people and their families have a right to be angry when the financial institutions that created the mess are being bailed out with taxpayers dollars but those taxpayers are now losing their jobs and their homes with no support or compensation,” she said.

“With the International Labour Organisation forecasting that 50 million more jobs will be lost, and that 200 million more people will live in absolute poverty, it’s now time for aggressive coordinated global stimulus action targeted at jobs and safety nets for vulnerable people.”

“The voodoo economics that peddled endless profits leveraged from debt was always set to fail and it now haunts the homes and communities of working families around the world. Unions are now demanding that their needs come first.

“Sustainable employment must be at the core of recovery efforts and at the same time business needs to develop a greater sense of corporate responsibility. Unions should have a seat at the table so that solutions have maximum benefit,” said Ms Burrow.

In their statement to the Davos meeting, the unions call for a series of measures including:
  • Further coordination of monetary policy and fiscal stimulus to maintain and create jobs
  • Investment in infrastructure to stimulate demand and prepare for recovery, including spending on schools, hospitals and care for the aged and young children
  • A "Green New Deal" for climate-friendly investment and jobs
  • Actions to keep workforces employed and retrained during the crisis
  • Strengthening of unemployment benefits and other social security schemes
  • Tax and spending measures targeted at those on low-incomes
  • A boost to development aid to help meet the Millennium Development Goals and action on the global food crisis.
Discussions with the global institutions and national governments have also focused on ensuring workers' rights to union representation and collective bargaining, coupled with investment in labour market programs.

The global union movement is putting forward a detailed framework for new regulations to put an end to the rampant speculation and financial profiteering which has caused the global crisis.