Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blue Mountains: No power privatisation!

A leading anti-electricity privatisation group has written to Member for Bathurst Gerard Martin calling on him to oppose the latest push by the Rees Government to sell off the State’s power system.

The call comes after power workers at Delta facilities on the Central Coast walked off the job last Friday in a protest against power privatisation plans.

The letter from PeoplePower Blue Mountains highlights statements made under oath late last year by the head of NSW Treasury John Pierce that many of the day-to-day decisions on the running of plants at Mt Piper and Wallerawang would be taken from Delta Electricity and given to the successful bidder for the generator trading rights.

Many industry commentators have already said that the successful bidder for the trading rights at Delta would likely be an overseas-based company.

"Whoever wins the bid for the generator trading rights will be driven by profit,” PeoplePower Blue Mountains convenor Liam Mitchell said.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see what is going to happen to job security, pay and conditions if an overseas multinational is calling the shots at Delta."

PeoplePower Blue Mountains say press reports indicate that NSW Infrastructure Minister Joe Tripodi is behind the revived plan.

"The people behind this, Joe Tripodi and the NSW Treasury, must be very slow," Mitchell said.

"The people of NSW, especially workers in the industry, have spelled it out for them time and time again — privatisation in any form of public utilities is simply not an option.

"We are calling on Gerard Martin to publicly come out and back the many families in his electorate that rely on the electricity generation industry for decent jobs.

"If Mr Martin prefers to choose Joe Tripodi over his electorate we will be encouraging him to come out publicly and explain why.

"This is not an issue that anyone can sit on the fence on.

"The events at Vales Point last Friday show that anger among power workers is very real and it is a matter if when, not if, this issue will emerge locally.

"When that happens workers in the power industry, and the broader community, want Mr Martin to stand by his community and publicly state that he is opposed to privatisation of the power industry and especially the Tripodi plan."

Unemployment and welfare research

There could be one person of working age on welfare for every three people with a job by the time the recession ends, according to one of Australia's leading economists, Bob Gregory.

Professor Gregory has modelled the changes in the welfare population following the 1990-92 recession, and says the rise in unemployment is likely to be followed by increases in the number of people on disability, carer and sole-parent pensions.

A paper to be presented by Professor Gregory to a Victoria University conference next month shows the full-time male workforce never recovered from the 1990-92 downturn, when it dropped from a historic average of about 62 per cent to 54 per cent of the male working-age population.

"What happens is that male unemployment goes up, and then, as time goes by, the unemployment rate comes down, not because there are more jobs but because the unemployed gradually seep into disability payments," he says.

Professor Gregory says that a year or two after a recession, half the men on disability benefits have come from the unemployment pool, where they have been in and out of jobs for some time. It is usually men aged over 55 years.

The rise in the number of women on welfare during a recession is more likely to be an indirect result of male unemployment.

"For women, because the men didn't have jobs, they took up welfare as partners, carers or as lone parents," he says in the paper.

He says the Government and Treasury have not yet started to calculate the effect of what could prove to be an additional million people on welfare, sustained for six or seven years.

"The only budgetary implication that the Government has consciously faced has been around what to do about old-age pensioners, where they seem to have taken a gulp and decided to go ahead anyway."

Any decision to raise the age pension is likely to spill over to the disability, carers and sole parent pensions, which are all based on the same formula.

Monday, March 30, 2009

First strike in privatisation battle

Workers at Vales Point power station near Newcastle have voted to go on strike until first shift on Saturday, to protest the State Government's plans to privatise the power industry.

A meeting of rank and file members was held just after midday, voting overwhelmingly to strike over the plans, which affect electricity retailers with output from the generators to also be sold off privately.

This is the first round of industrial action in the campaign to block the new privatisation plans of the Rees Government.

An earlier plan to sell of both electricity retailers and generators brought down former Premier Morris Iemma, who had backed those plans strongly, along with his Treasurer Michael Costa.

Iemma was replaced as Premier by Nathan Rees, who has introduced a more modest privatisation proposal. While selling the electricity utilities, the Government does not propose to sell the generators into private hands, just the 'rights' attached to the output produced by the generators.

Today's mass meeting was addressed by State MPs John Kaye of the Greens and also Independent MP Greg Piper.

"This is the first shot in what will be a long campaign," Mr Kaye said.

A spokesman for Delta Electricity, which operates the Vales Point power station, said operational staff remain on site, and output from the power station will not be interrupted.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Unions oppose Sydney Ferry privatisation

Privatisation about self interest not the public interest

28 March 2009 MUA Sydney Branch

The Maritime Union has warned that the latest calls for privatisation, both by the NSW Opposition and a former Ferry executive are not in the public interest.

"At a time when we are all reeling from the unfettered deregulation of financial markets, and governments are having to bail out banks and private operators with the public purse, people should be more aware than ever that selling off our most valuable public assets to private operators is not in the public interest," said MUA Sydney Branch Secretary Warren Smith. "We just can't afford to hold onto these defunct beliefs. Sydney Ferries and ports are too important assets tohand over. We have to keep key public assets in public hands."

Mr Smith was responding to reports in today's Sydney Morning Herald by a former Ferries executive and the leader of the Opposition that the Ferries and the states ports should go under the hammer.

Olav Groot, the general manager of assets at Sydney Ferries Corporation, has jumped ship to one of the main bidders for the Ferry service, at the same time advocating the ferry services should be delivered by the private sector," said Mr Smith. "That speaks for itself. Presumably Mr Groot means they should go to the undisclosed company he is now working for. Well that would be in Mr Groot's best interest but not necessarily in the public interest."

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

"There's a lesson in history," said Mr Smith. "Let's learn from it. Private operators have failed to operate Sydney Ferries in the past and they will fail in the future. Sydney Ferries are an essential part of this city's public transport mix.

Mr Smith said the government would be serving the public better if it worked with Sydney Ferries to better coordinate the service with other transport services and recognise the environmental benefits of ferry patronage.

"World shipping is deregulated and privatised and that's why we end up with the sort of disasters we had off the Queensland coast recently.

We need more regulation not less," said Mr Smith. "And as for Mr O'Farrell's announcement today that he will put the state's public assets to a fire sale, well that's just the sort of sell everything to our business mates that will never serve the public."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Refugee Benefit Concert 5 April

Singing the Spirit Home

celebrating the songs of Eric Bogle

‘..And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda..’

Refugee Benefit Concert

2pm - Sunday 5th April, 2009
York Theatre - Seymour Centre
City Rd & Cleveland Sts Chippendale

Eric Bogle & Colcannon

  • Chris While & Julie Matthews (UK)
  • Martyn Wyndham-Read (UK)
  • John Williamson
  • Graeme Connors
  • Judy Small

All performers are donating their time.

Please help us and honour them. We need your help.
If you can buy a donor’s ticket -Thank you.

Tickets : Standard $40
Supporter $140 ($100 tax deductible)

Keen Supporter $240
($200 tax deductible)
Big Heart Seats $540 ($500 tax deductible)
Bookings: www.seymourcentre.com.au or (02) 9351 7940

Enquiries: Kate Maclurcan 02 9810 5826

For more information, go to: www.asylumseekersfoundation.com
supported by UnitingCare NSW.ACT & Leichhardt Council

Global unions recovery plan

The “Global Unions G20 London Declaration” , developed by the ITUC and the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) at the OECD, sets out the steps which need to be taken by the G20 in cooperation with other governments. It is being presented by national trade union movements to their governments today, and will be formally submitted to the G20 Leaders’ Summit in London on 2 April. Trade unions from around the world will be joining their colleagues from the British TUC in a huge civil society mobilisation planned for London on 28 March, to press home the need for coordinated global action by governments.

“If the G20 governments in London are only able to agree on half-measures, they will have failed to meet their responsibilities. As the world’s largest economies, they have the responsibility and the possibility to replace the failed neo-liberalism of the past with a whole new direction for globalisation,” said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder.

Recovery and sustainable growth can be achieved, according to the Declaration, but only if the focus is on job creation and public investment, active labour market policies, extending social safety nets and special measures for developing and emerging economies. The trade unions also put forward an eight-point specific action plan for global financial regulation, with immediate action to nationalise insolvent banks.

“Weak or non-existent regulation of banking and financial activity turned the world economy into an anything-goes casino, plunging the world into deep recession and causing the loss of tens of millions of jobs. This needs to be fixed urgently. Another main pillar of recovery and reform, creating decent, sustainable jobs and boosting purchasing power, must also be given priority attention at the G20,” said John Evans, General Secretary of the TUAC.

The London Declaration points to the real risk of wage deflation, and highlights the fact that growing income inequality across the world has been a major contributor to the current recession, as workers’ purchasing power has been insufficient to help maintain demand for goods and services. Ensuring that all workers have the right to collective bargaining, and strengthening wage-setting institutions, will establish a decent floor in labour markets and feed economic stimulus through more household buying power. This is closely linked to the broader requirement for reform of the IMF, World Bank, WTO and OECD, with the inclusion of the International Labour Organisation at the centre of an effective and accountable system of global governance.

“Financial regulation is essential, but it is not enough. The new global governance must be based on a strong pillar of social rights, including crucially the ILO’s core labour standards. The real economy, decent work and poverty reduction can no longer be left at the fringe of global policy. The G20 should not limit its horizons by simply making marginal changes to a discredited system. It needs to lead a complete overhaul in the way the world economy is run. Those who think that we can return to business as usual are seriously mistaken,” said Ryder.

The union proposals also focus on the urgent need for impetus to tackle climate change, given the enormous environmental, social and economic costs of inaction. Already, governments should be using coordinated global fiscal response to the economic crisis to set the world on a “green economy” path. Creation of green jobs, and action to ensure “just transition” in communities and sectors affected by the move to environmentally-friendly production, are central to achieving the levels of greenhouse gas reduction needed, and will contribute to pulling the world out of recession.

“Governments have the levers available now to turn the world towards a green growth path. Failure to take this opportunity would be a tragedy for humankind, and for the future of the planet,” said Evans.

The ITUC represents 170 million workers in 312 affiliated national organisations from 157 countries.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wage freeze calls are ultimate hypocrisy

Calls from business lobby groups for the wages of low paid workers to be frozen are the ultimate hypocrisy considering the outrageous bonuses paid to executives, the ACTU says.

Unions are seeking a $21 a week pay rise for low paid workers to stimulate the economy and safeguard jobs in the economic downturn.

The ACTU’s claim would lift the Federal Minimum Wage from the current $543.78 to just $564.78 per week, or only $14.86 per hour.

Mr Lawrence said it was the height of hypocrisy for business groups to be advocating a pay freeze for the most vulnerable workers, when remuneration for top CEOs averaged $3 million last year.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said:

"The hypocrisy of the business lobby groups is breathtaking.

"The incomes of more than a million minimum wage earners have gone backwards in real terms in the past three years under WorkChoices with some minimum wage workers losing as much as $77 a week.

"At the same time, CEO pay packages have increased by more than a $1 million since 2000, and the total remuneration of senior managers has risen by more than 15% over the past three years alone.

"Just last week, these same employer lobby groups jumped to the defence of the excessive salaries, bonuses and ‘golden handshakes’ paid to corporate executives and said there was no case for any regulation or restraint on what CEOs take home."

Mr Lawrence said the ACTU’s $21 a week claim amounted to only a 55 cent an hour increase and would still leave many workers earning less than $15 an hour.

"In tough economic times it’s even more important that the wages and the living standards of the low paid are protected," Mr Lawrence said.

"A pay rise for low paid workers is absolutely consistent with the stimulus approach adopted to deal with the Global Financial Crisis by a range of economists, the IMF and the Federal Government.

"A pay freeze would be unfair for workers and damaging to the economy as well," said Mr Lawrence.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

ILO report: "Suspend ABCC"

Thousands of campaigners for Rights On Site are writing to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd asking him to read the International Labor Organisation’s report into the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the laws which keep it in place.

The latest recommendation from the ILO called on the Rudd Government to suspend the operations of the ABCC.

CFMEU Construction National Secretary Dave Noonan said the report landed on the Prime Ministers desk weeks ago but the Government has not made any response.

"A damaging report has landed on the Prime Minister's desk, which has slammed the Rudd Government for allowing the ABCC to continue to operate.

"Kevin Rudd has publicly stated his intentions to align Australia with ILO conventions, he now needs to show that he is a man who stands behind his words.

"This is the sixth time the international community has come out against the ABCC, and we’re yet to see the Prime Minister take any real action," said Dave Noonan.

Rights on Site supporters are emailing Kevin Rudd to get him to take action and show that he supports the ILO and the rights of workers around Australia.

"As long as the ABCC continues to exist, the era of WorkChoices will still be alive. The Prime Minister must fufill his commitment to the Australian people to get rid of WorkChoices and scrap the ABCC," said Dave Noonan.

Rights on Site

Monday, March 23, 2009

Unions push for $21 increase in minimum wage

Unions are seeking a $21 a week pay rise for workers on minimum wages to protect jobs by maintaining the purchasing power of working families and stimulate the economy.

The ACTU has welcomed the passage of new Fair Work Laws through Parliament last Friday but says more needs to be done to protect the jobs and incomes of working Australians in tough economic times.

Launching the unions' pay claim, ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said more than 1.3 million award-reliant workers must get a pay rise that maintains the real value of their wages in this year’s National Minimum Wage Case.

"Decent wages are a vital defence against a downturn in jobs and the prospect of a serious recession because they stimulate demand," Mr Lawrence said.

"The $21 per week pay rise would lift the Federal Minimum Wage from the current $543.78 a week to just $564.78 per week, only $14.86 per hour.

"The ACTU urges the Fair Pay Commission to reject recent calls by employer lobby groups for a wage freeze, which would mean further real pay cuts.

"More than a million low paid Australians - nine out of every 10 workers who rely on minimum award wages - have already suffered real pay cuts of as much as $77 a week under the Howard Government’s pay commission."


Queensland: Historic Bligh victory

Anna Bligh created history on the weekend, defying every opinion poll, to win the Queensland election and earn the Labor Party a fifth consecutive term.

Labor suffered a four per cent swing across the state in Saturday's poll but it was half what the Liberal National Party required to win government.

Anna Bligh became the first female politician to be elected a premier in any Australian state.

Ms Bligh said voters had entrusted the state to her amid tough economic times and vowed "to stare the global financial crisis in the face and to bring Queensland out of it stronger, not weaker".

"You have given me a mandate to protect your jobs and build a stronger Queensland and I am ready for the task," she said.

"Queenslanders want me and my government to do better, and they want us to do better on some of the biggest areas of responsibility, and without a doubt one of those is health."

"Queenslanders, you can count on me."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

IR laws: major step forward for Australian workers

New industrial relations laws passed by the Federal Parliament on Friday are a major step forward for working Australians and the nation.

The laws will provide working families with stronger rights and protection in the economic downturn, says the ACTU.

They give employees strong collective bargaining rights and represent the beginning of a new era of industrial relations that promises to be good for both working families and the economy.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the passage of the Fair Work Law marks an historic moment in restoring workers' rights.

"After a decade of attacks on working people by the Liberal and National Parties the tide has turned," said Ms Burrow.

"While the Liberal Party remains hopelessly devoted to WorkChoices, the Australian people want workers’ rights restored.

"Everyone involved in the Your Rights at Work Campaign and all those who voted against WorkChoices will be relieved to see the laws pass through Parliament.

"We can take pride in what we have achieved." Ms Burrow said the new laws would deliver:

  • Genuine rights for workers to collectively bargain and be represented by their union.
  • Unfair dismissal protection for all workers — with workers in smaller businesses having a longer qualifying period.
  • A robust new safety net of awards and national standards, along with a fair and transparent process for setting minimum wages.
  • An industrial umpire with the teeth to safeguard workers' rights.

Timor-Leste: Community to Community

Politics in the Pub

(download A4 poster) (download small flyer)

Blackburns Family Hotel
Saturday, 21 March, 2.00pm


Peter Jennings
Executive Officer, Union Aid Abroad APHEDA
The overseas humanitarian aid agency of the Australian Council of Trade Unions

Suzie Van Opdorp
Blue Mountains East Timor Sisters and
Blue Mountains-Hatu Buillico Friendship Committee

Hatu Builico, in the mountains near Mt Ramelau in Timor Leste, is the adopted place of the City of Blue Mountains. Any proceeds raised on the day through raffles etc will go directly to the people of Hatu Buillico

For more information, call Deb Smith on (02) 4787 1401

Sponsored by Blue Mountains Unions Council
under the auspices of
Mountains Community Resource Network

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Send your message to Senator Fielding

Dear Your Rights at Work supporters,

It really is crunch time now!

We need your help to send a message to Senator Fielding that Australians want the Parliament to pass the new, fairer IR laws without delay.

Family First Senator Steve Fielding is holding up the new, fairer IR laws that are set to replace WorkChoices.

Instead of supporting the changes, Senator Fielding is proposing amendments that would mean fewer rights for more than three million workers.

They would mean more than a third of the workforce (36%) would have:
  • Less protection from being unfairly sacked.
  • No right to union support in the workplace.
  • No help from the independent umpire to get better wages.
Senator Fielding’s amendments would also mean that low paid workers would be unable to make use of collective bargaining to be lifted above the minimum wage.

Workers in small business are more vulnerable to exploitation and rip-offs than employees in big businesses and need the protection that unions can provide in the workplace.

Senator Fielding has been a vocal critic of WorkChoices and was one of the first to warn about the damage it would wreak on working families.

But the changes he is proposing would in many ways be worse than WorkChoices.

What can you do?

Senator Fielding needs to be reminded that Australians voted to restore their rights at work at the last election, and don’t want to see greater fairness in workplaces hijacked at the eleventh hour.

Send the Senator the message
– Pass the new, fairer IR laws without delay! http://www.rightsatwork.com.au/campaigns/fieldingIRaction

Need more information?

Visit the Rights at Work campaign site - http://www.rightsatwork.com.au/newIRlaws

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Red hot anger over ANZ job cuts

There will be red hot anger in the community over the latest banking job cuts by the ANZ, says the ACTU. The decision to axe 500 Australian jobs and shift work to India is absolutely appalling and totally unacceptable, said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

Australians are doubly angry that banks are slashing jobs while receiving taxpayer support for the global financial crisis.

Ms Burrow said the banking and finance sector had benefited from massive taxpayer support in the past few months to help steer it through the GFC.

She said conditions must be attached to this support to maintain jobs, including no sending of work offshore.

The Federal Government has made available taxpayer funds in the form of the deposit guarantee, a wholesale funding guarantee, the purchase of $8 billion of mortgage backed securities to ease the liquidity squeeze, and the commercial property fund, that may be extended to other areas of commercial activity.

"The banks begged for Government support, but are not giving the Australian community anything in return," Ms Burrow said.

The ANZ made $3.3 billion in profit last year, and recently reported that cash earnings were up 18% for the first four months of this financial year.

Chief executive Mike Smith received total remuneration of almost $13 million last year, including a $2.4 million bonus.

"Australians are angry about the lack of social responsibility shown by big businesses such as ANZ, Pacific Brands and Telstra, who have all announced major job cuts recently.

"At a time like this, the banks and many other businesses can still afford to trim their profit margins and reduce executive salaries before cutting jobs.

"If they won’t do it voluntarily, then it is time for the Government to attach strict conditions to any support it provides."


Stop banks sending jobs offshore

Finance workers are demanding that banks being protected by the government's deposit guarantee scheme be stopped from sending jobs offshore.

The Finance Sector Union told a Senate inquiry hearing government assistance to banks should be conditional on jobs staying in Australia.

"If the Australian taxpayer is going to help Australian banks, one condition should be the immediate cessation of offshoring," the union's national secretary Leon Carter said.

The union's director of policy Rod Masson said bank staff were being directed not to tell consumers work was being done offshore.

Consumers were being let down as call centre staff were being moved abroad.

"The banks in this country spend an inordinate amount of time hiding who you are speaking to,'' he said.

"It's not being honest with consumers."

Labour force data released on Thursday showed the jobless rate in February soared to 5.2%, the highest in four years.

The finance union says Australian banks had slashed thousands of jobs in the past year, and sent more than 800 jobs offshore since October, despite their multi-million dollar profits.

In October, the federal government unveiled a guarantee program for deposits in Australian-owned banks, building societies and credit unions for the next three years.

The deposits scheme is worth up to $700 billion.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Deparate to retain Workchoices excesses


LHMU, the hospitality workers' union, says warnings of dire consequences to the hospitality industry from Australia’s award modernisation process are a desperate attempt by Workchoices "diehards" to prevent fair working conditions.

Responding to media reports that John Hart of Restaurant & Catering Australia describes the new Hospitality Industries General Award as "disastrous", Louise Tarrant, LHMU National Secretary says:

"The LHMU believes that Restaurant & Catering Australia is out of step with the majority of Australia's employer organisations.

"The new Hospitality Industry (General) Award will introduce fairer minimum standards for all hospitality workers across the country in a managed way over the next five years.

"The LHMU and industry bodies have been working effectively together on the implementation of the new award. Agreement has already been reached on transitioning of the new award with a range of employers and employer organisations, including the Australian Hotels Association in Queensland and South Australia.

"As part of this process, the LHMU has a meeting with John Hart scheduled for tomorrow. I must say that his outburst is not helpful to workers in his industry or to members of his organisation.

"It's worth remembering that in the period under Workchoices without a "no disadvantage test" this industry ran a template AWA and had more AWAs than any other industry.

"So perhaps these protests are not surprising. This industry association was notorious as the most aggressive user of individual and group AWAs under Workchoices, many of which stripped away all weekend and late night penalty rates and other conditions. Workers in restaurants were among the worst affected by the excesses of Workchoices. They and their families made their disgust known at the ballot box in 2007.

"The new award redresses the excesses of Workchoices. It will introduce a national safety net for workers as well as fair compensation for casual and holiday work.

"Despite the protests of Workchoices diehards, the sky will not fall in when the new award is implemented across the country."

see also
Fair Work bill will weaken nation's defences

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Explosives overboard threat to coastline

MUA media release

Ship of shame loses containers of ammonium nitrate in heavy seas

Thirty-one containers holding the volatile explosive ammonium nitrate
have gone overboard off our coast last night from the Hong Kong
registered flag of convenience ship the Pacific Adventurer.

The 17-year-old, general cargo ship was carrying Australian cargo from
Newcastle to Brisbane on the coastal domestic run, once reserved for
Australian shipping when it hit heavy seas and lost the containers.

The Pacific Adventurer, owned by Swire &Sons Ltd London, managed by
Swire Navigation HK and Registered Blue Wind Shipping HK reportedly has
another three tonnes of ammonium nitrate spilt on deck.

"The MUA and the International Transport Workers' Federation have been
calling for the federal government to rebuild the decimated Australian
coastal shipping industry after 11 long years of Howard Government
deregulation," said Mick Doleman MUA Assistant National Secretary.

"This domestic coastal trade was once reserved for highly regulated
Australian ships to ensure it meet the most stringent international
safety and security regulations."

The union has been saying that volatile cargos, particularly ammonium
nitrate, should be regulated on our coast and pristine waterways.

"It shouldn't be left to the lowest possible international shipper
using the cheapest international crews," said Mick Doleman. "These
containers pose a serious and immediate danger to navigation as well as
presenting a major environmental catastrophe. At this stage nobody can
estimate how damaging the effects of 600 tonne of ammonium nitrate
slowly leaching out of these boxes will have on our coast."

"The Rudd Government has committed rebuilding the Australian merchant
fleet which means safer, more secure and reliable coastal trade," he
said. "This heightens the urgency of acting sooner rather than later."

This grade of ammonium nitrate is widely used in agriculture and in
mining. It is the weapon of choice for terrorists who have used it in
both the Bali and the Oklahoma bombings. Unleashed into the marine
environment the damage will be enormous.

This is the second incident involving ammonium nitrate in recent weeks.
The Panamanian registered Migah Tiga, FOC owned operated and crewed out
of Indonesia is still alongside Newcastle after being condemned by
class and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority 10 days ago. The
vessel had started to load but after inspection showed it was not
seaworthy and had to discharge.

The MUA have described this as yet another rust bucket undermining the
Australian industry and our marine enviroment.

Contacts: Mick Doleman, MUA Assistant national Secretary: 0418 391528;
Dean Summers, ITF: 0419 934 648

Hundreds rally behind Pacific Brands workers

More than 400 people rallied in Unanderra yesterday to express their anger at Pacific Brands' decision to offload Australian jobs.

The crowd was drawn from a range of employment backgrounds and included unions members, schoolchildren, businessmen, nurses and firefighters.

Also participating were Bonds workers, who were given three cheers when they joined the protest outside their workplace at the conclusion of their shift.

"It's our future, it's for the future generations," one long-time worker yelled.

She then confided to the (Illawarra) Mercury: "It's been terrible at work; it's like walking into a morgue.

"We need all the spirit we can get ... this support is amazing and let me tell you, we really need it."

A 23-year-old worker said: "I've made friends at work who are like my family. It's a really upsetting, confronting thing."

Among the crowd were people who had came along to lend their support.

Jayson MacKenzie from Barrack Heights had never been to a rally. "Why wouldn't I come? We need to be keeping jobs in Australia."

Berkeley grandmother Alice Scott reckoned the job cuts might one day make it harder for her grandchildren to find work.

Clothing, Textile and Footwear Union official Hanisha McNabb called on Pacific Brands to honour the redundancy entitlements for employees who chose to leave before the official finishing date, which is expected to be this year or early 2010.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Liberals remain wedded to WorkChoices

The decision by the Coalition to oppose the Rudd Government’s proposed new industrial relations laws and seek substantial amendments shows that the Liberal and National Parties remain wedded to WorkChoices says the ACTU.

"People are worried about their own jobs and those of their family in the current downturn," said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

"They want the security of stronger IR laws that protect their rights. The worsening economic situation means it is vital that we get rid of what remains of WorkChoices.

"At a time like this, when workers are losing their jobs and paying for what greedy executives have done, Australians need to get back their rights at work with fairer, new IR laws."

"But the Liberal Party is siding with big business and is turning its back on working Australians again," said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

"Only a few months ago Mr Turnbull said that he would respect the Labor Government's mandate to change unfair dismissal laws but now the Liberals are now opposing the restoration of unfair dismissal protection for the more than three million workers who lost it under WorkChoices.

"The Coalition is also rejecting the right of Australian workers to get advice and representation from unions.

"The Liberals' proposals would be a green light for employers to rip off workers during the economic downturn."

A recent national poll conducted by the ACTU shows that Liberal and National Party are way out of step with public opinion:

  • Almost seven in ten Australians (67%) want the Rudd Government to keep its election promise to get rid of WorkChoices and the Parliament should pass new, fairer IR laws as soon as possible.

  • 77% of Australians support restoring unfair dismissal protections for all workers.

  • 74% support collective bargaining rights for all workers.

  • More than three quarters of Australians (76%) want to get rid of laws that restrict workers from accessing advice from unions in their workplace.

  • Eight out of ten Australians (80%) agree that workers should have the right to be represented by the union of their choice, not a union selected by their employer.

More information
Take action at www.rightsatwork.com.au/newIRlaws

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Billy Bragg: Miner's Strike 25 years on

How we all lost when Thatcher won

There is a bitter irony in the fact that the Bank of England chose the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the miners' strike to fire off its weapon of last resort in an attempt to damp down the conflagration currently sweeping through global capitalism. The wry smile that passes across the lips of those who opposed the naked selfishness at the heart of the Thatcherite experiment will be mirrored by the disconcerted frowns of those who, having wholeheartedly embraced the free market, never thought that it would lead to this. Like Frankenstein's monster, Thatcherism has turned on its creators.

Is there anybody out there willing to stand up – on this, of all days – and raise a toast to the wilful destruction of our manufacturing industry and its replacement by the financial services sector? Yes, there were unions who were resistant to change, but whoever came up with the idea that the solution to this problem was to import cars rather than make them ourselves sacrificed more than just the entire engineering skills base.

The forces that Margaret Thatcher unleashed in order to defeat the NUM destroyed whole communities before leeching into our society. Untamed by successive governments, these same forces now threaten to devour us all.

The housing bubble that has been source of so many of our recent difficulties, was kickstarted by Thatcher. Selling off council houses to their owners was a popular idea at the time, but by refusing to allow councils to build more stock, it ultimately forced up prices as demand rose. When the Tories slashed the state pension and people started looking around for a way of ensuring financial security in their old age, bricks and mortar seemed like a sound investment.

Without powerful unions to protect them, the wages of ordinary workers were held in check while the cost of housing began to spiral upwards. As it became increasingly difficult for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder, a newly deregulated banking sector began offering ever more "attractive" loans. And we all know where that led.

Would any of this have been different if Thatcher had lost that titanic struggle in 1984?

She would have still been in power for another three years, but she would not have tasted blood. A chastened Conservative party might have realised sooner, rather than later, that the ultimate price of Thatcherism would be the brutalisation of society.

Billy Bragg - The Guardian 5 March 2009

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Unions rally for Bonds workers

Transport Union Federation media alert

Seven Unions will meet on Friday 6 March at the Wentworth factory of Pacific Brands, where iconic brand Bonds as well as Berlei are made, to show support for the company's 1850 workers who are facing redundancy.

The Textile Clothing and Footwear Union Australia, which represents many of the affected workers, has said that if the government can help the industry it will mean the jobs stay in Australia.

The NSW Fire Brigade Employees Union and the Health Services Union, representing Ambulance workers, will also call on the government to change its procurement guidelines to ensure the safety clothes they wear are manufactured in Australia and to Australian Safety Standards.

Three transport-based unions, including the Maritime Union of Australia, the Rail Tram and Bus Union and the Transport Workers Union of Australia will recommit to not moving any machinery from Bonds overseas by either rail, road or ship.

The Rally will take place tomorrow, Friday 6 March 2009 at noon, outside the Pacific Brands Factory at 190 Dunmore Street Wentworthville

CFMEU: Abolish unchecked powers of ABCC

The construction workers' union has said press freedom is under attack from the Australian Building and Construction Commission and called for the unchecked powers of the ABCC to be immediately abolished.

News Ltd and Workplace Express received media subpoenas for all notes and records in articles on the Westgate Bridge dispute. ABCC chief, John Lloyd denied any knowledge of the media subpoenas at a Senate Estimates hearing.

CFMEU Construction National Secretary Dave Noonan said the ABCC's extraordinary powers were being used to shut down debate about the Building and Construction Commission.

"Open and free dialogue is under threat in Australia. Journalists who interview union officials critical of the ABCC are now being investigated and forced to hand over all notes and records of their meetings.

"Media outlets have been force to cave in by pressure of the laws and hand over confidential notes of interviews with their sources.

"For years construction workers have faced the draconian investigative powers of the ABCC. Now the ABCC attack dogs are going after journalists," said Mr Noonan.

The ABCC powers are sweeping - workers and their representatives can be fined and jailed, union meetings can be recorded and the Commissioner has powers to obtain information from workers, innocent bystanders, families, journalists and academics that they alone judge to be relevant to an investigation.

"The coercive and investigatory powers of the ABCC are exceptional and unwarranted. They are an attack on our political freedom our personal freedom and now our press. They are being used without oversight and need to be immediately abolished," said Mr Noonan.


Monday, March 02, 2009

Casino Capitalism

Illustration by Clifford Harper

taken from the Public and Commercial Services Union (UK) magazine 'View'
The attempt to use the private sector to get people off the dole is getting into difficulties. 'Payment by results' has been the mantra. Now, with few jobs around, things are very different - private companies are asking for money upfront (public money) to pay for the deal.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Businesses using financial crisis as cover for job cuts

There are worrying signs that some large businesses are using the current financial crisis as a cover for unnecessary job cuts say unions.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said that some companies are trying to maintain short-term profits at the expense of workers' jobs and the long-term viability of local industry.

Unions are calling on the big businesses that have announced job cuts this week — including Pacific Brands, Lend Lease and Telstra — to urgently reconsider their decision and delay or call off the job cuts.

"It is unacceptable for some large businesses, including the banks, to put short-term profits ahead of the lives of workers and the future of local industry," Ms Burrow said.

"Companies that are still making profits or paying exorbitant salaries to executives should not try and take the easy way out by slashing jobs.

"Now is the time for employers to act wisely and think about the long term. They should not rush to slash jobs that will destroy capacity for when better times return.

"Where possible, any decision to cut jobs should at least be delayed until the economy recovers and the job market improves.

"Many of these companies have received a lot of taxpayer support in recent years and should be repaying that support with greater loyalty to staff.

Pacific Brands received more than $15 million in the past two years and Lend Lease has also benefitted from major publicly funded or underwritten infrastructure projects in recent years.

Ms Burrow added that banks and institutional investors should not be putting pressure on companies to slash jobs as a cost-cutting exercise in the current economic environment.
Ms Burrow said reports that Pacific Brands was forced to make job cuts as a condition of its bank loans being extended were very disturbing.

"Australia’s banks are also benefitting from substantial support from Government. The banks as well as all the other companies that are getting taxpayer support have a special obligation to protect local jobs and help the whole community get through the downturn.

"Companies should also not use announcements of major job cuts to appease institutional investors and the stock market. It is appalling to see the share price of companies rise immediately following announcements that thousands of hard working Australians are going to be sacked.

"These are difficult times, but we need to see more leaders in the business community who are prepared to pull out all stops to safeguard jobs and maintain our local industries," Ms Burrow said.