Thursday, July 30, 2009

NSW: Justice for low paid workers

Date: 30 July 2009

The State's lowest paid workers won't be left behind, thanks to a $15.50 a week increase in the minimum wage announced in today's State wage case decision.

The NSW Industrial Relations Commission has awarded a 2.8 per cent increase, meaning wages for the lowest paid workers will rise to $568 per week.

"Today's result is economically smart and socially responsible," Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon said.

"Too often working Australians bear the brunt of a downturn, but miss out on the fruits of the recovery."

"This decision allows working Australians to live with dignity as we ride out the downturn."

The Commission's modest and responsible increase stands in stark contrast with the pay freeze announced several weeks ago by the now disbanded Howard era Fair Pay Commission.

Expert evidence from BIS Shrapnel, presented on behalf of Unions NSW showed no link between a modest rise in the minimum wage and job losses.

Rather, it found demand in the economy was the most important factor in determining whether companies would take on more staff.

"The Commission's decision accounts for the difficult economic circumstances but also recognizes the crucial role of consumer demand in fuelling the recovery," Mr Lennon said.

31 July: "Workers Conference"

The "Workers Conference" - planned by the ACTU/Unions NSW for the same day as the Labor Party Conference.

VENUE: Parkside Auditorium
Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre
Darling Harbour
DATE: Friday 31st July 2009
COMMENCING: 12.45 pm.

Friday 31 July: Rights on Site rally

This week, the Australian Labor Party has its Conference in Sydney to decide on policies that affect the working lives of 900,000 Australian construction workers.

Thousands of construction industry jobs are at risk because of our weak economic environment. That's why we need policies that support construction workers and their jobs.

As a Rights on Site supporter, you're invited to meet up with other Rights on Site activists at our rally and lunch time forum on Friday 31 July.

Friday 31 July, 12:15 pm Meet outside Trades Hall, Dixon Lane and march to the Sydney Conference and Exhibition Centre.

Friday 31 July, 12:45 - 2:00 pm ACTU lunchtime forum, 'Jobs and Rights for Working Australians', Parkside Auditorium, Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre.

We'll be asking the conference to pass a resolution in support of the Rights on Site campaign.

Construction workers deserve the same rights as all other workers. There is no place for special coercive powers in the construction industry.

Hope to see you outside Trades Hall, Dixon Lane, from 12:15pm on Friday 31 July for the Rights on Site rally and at the Parkside Auditorium, Sydney Convention Centre for the ACTU lunchtime forum from 12:45 - 2:00 pm.

Best wishes

Dave Noonan and the Rights on Site Campaign team

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Unions accept procurement announcement

The Manufacturing Alliance pleased with procurement announcement

Dave Oliver, the AMWU National Secretary said: " The Manufacturing Alliance is pleased with the industry procurement announcement made today by Rudd Government Ministers.

A good news story for manufacturing union members

"These announcements will provide good opportunities for our unions to work with our industries to maximize jobs in both the domestic and export manufacturing sectors," Dave Oliver, AMWU National Secretary said.

"This is a good news story in respect of manufacturing jobs.

"The Federal Government has listened to what the Manufacturing Alliance has been asking for in respect of opportunities to maximize local content. This is good news for manufacturing workers around the country."

Medibank to remain public

ALP officials have accepted the policy of keeping Medibank Private in government hands.

The party's draft platform, to be debated at the ALP national conference in Sydney this week, includes a provision for Labor to "retain Medibank Private in public ownership".

In the version passed at the last conference, in 2007, the platform said: "Labor is opposed to the sale of Medibank Private".

The future of Medibank became an election issue in 2007 after the Howard government said it would sell it after the election, a move Labor opposed.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

‘No Journos. No News’ campaign launched

No Journos. No News. is a public campaign launched by the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance in response to wide-ranging redundancies taking place at News Limited. So far in 2009, News Limited has removed at least 106 journalists from its newspaper businesses across the country.

Redundancies at News Limited’s local and metropolitan mastheads are putting a huge amount of pressure on remaining staff to keep their communities properly informed. Readers will have to become used to a more homogenised news service and less in-depth investigation and analysis of local issues.

Meanwhile, News Corporation continues to make massive profits. And despite the global financial crisis, News has just decided to pay its newly-appointed president Chase Carey as $54.87 million in salary and benefits. Clearly, the pain from the cutbacks is not being shared by everyone in the company.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Work-life balance worsens for women

A new report, Work, Life and Workplace Flexibility: The Australian Work and Life Index 2009, finds women are now as annoyed as men at the extent work encroaches on other facets of life.

While work hours dropped slightly in the past year because of the financial crisis, the pressure on women to juggle work with other responsibilities increased.

"Women's work-life situation is worse than men's and appears to be deteriorating, especially amongst full-timers," the report said. "Women are much more likely than men to feel rushed and pressed for time, and these feelings of time pressure appear to be becoming more common."

One of the report's authors, the director of the University of South Australia Centre for Work and Life, Barbara Pocock, said women felt obliged to stay in paid work as the global recession cast a shadow over their partners' jobs.

Women in full-time work "are feeling like they have to hang in there as their partners' jobs became less secure", she said.

While men reported more life interference from work as a consequence of longer hours, where the genders worked similar hours, women fared worse.

This was particularly acute for mothers in rural and regional Australia. There, women accepted more work off the farm to compensate for the drought and were not relieved of duties at home.

"They, like their urban sisters, haven't given up their day jobs as domestic workers and carers, reflecting the double day of women in the city," Professor Pocock said.

A third of women working full-time complained work "often or almost always" restricted time with family and friends. This was up from a quarter of women two years ago.

And two-thirds of full-time working women said they were rushed for time, compared with half of men.

Similarly, part-time work had worse consequences for women than men. "Part-time work protects men from time pressures more than it does women," the report said.

Professor Pocock said employers interested in planning for better economic times should take heed of the results.

"We tend to adopt a 'batten down the hatches' mentality in times of recession when we should be looking at survey results like these and considering how we can build a sustainable workforce for the future," she said. As well as employers, partners and families had to be more flexible.

The study surveyed 2691 Australians, covering part-time and full-time workers and the self-employed.

The results ranked Australia ninth for work-life balance in a group of 32 European countries. This was below Germany and Britain but above France and Italy.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Manufacturing Alliance formed

Manufacturing Alliance

The AMWU (The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union) and The AWU (The Australian Workers’ Union) have formed an alliance aimed at expanding Australian manufacturing and best practice. The Alliance is a formal expression of our combined Unions’ commitment to manufacturing in this country and our determination to see it prosper and thrive.

Our two unions, together, represent more than 250,000 Australian workers in manufacturing sub sectors and industries across the economy. The AMWU and The AWU are proud of our members that work in manufacturing in Australia and see their contribution through this industry as an integral part of the Australian economy and our country’s security.

In this time of unprecedented global financial crisis the viability of the Australian manufacturing industy is seriously under threat. These extradordinary circumstances have encouraged us to put our two unions’ differences aside and come together to form a strategic alliance.

Over coming months this manufacturing alliance will release discussion papers and undertake a leadership dialogue with manufacturing workers, company leaders and government to formulate strategies for building a stronger and more prosperous manufacturing industry in Australia.

To continue to be a strong, secure and prosperous country we must be a country that makes things.

RTBU $1000 Song Competition

RTBU continues its long tradition of awards for poets and songwriters

A song and poem competition is being run by the Rail Tram and Bus Union.

"It may seem unrelated, but it is well and truly related to the need for artistic groups to focus on as a major concern to many Australian communities,” said Brian Dunnett of the the Trains of Treasure Project.

The Rail Tram and Bus Union have been among the more conscious unions who have supported the Community Arts movement in Australia over a number of years. As a Union it has always seen the significant part that art can play in clarifying matters of community concern, in the day to day life of workers and the public in general.

Details of the competition are on the Rail, Tram and Bus Union website: and on the Australian Railway Songs blog.

"The Union is not standing still on Public Transport problems and is involved with a number of campaigns on the issue across Australia at the moment. Our current National Journal for example carries a feature article "Rail :a new golden age?” – commenting on the Federal Government’s plan to pump some money into rail infrastructure as part of it economic stimulus plan,” said Mr Dunnett.

The Australian Railway Story is online at

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ian Thorpe: Close the Gap speech

Ian Thorpe has launched an attack on indigenous disadvantage, delivering an emotive speech in London in which he described Aboriginal living conditions as Australia's "dirty little secret".

He told an international audience that included South Africa's Desmond Tutu and former British prime minister Tony Blair that Aboriginal people had been neglected and patronised.

Taking aim at the Northern Territory intervention, he said it was unlikely to provide any lasting benefit "because it tries to push and punish them, to take over their lives, rather than work with them".

"Australia's grim record on health care for indigenous people is by far the worst of any developed nation," the Olympic swimmer said in the speech on July 9, at a summit on sport-led social change.

"Developed? How can a country be developed when it leaves so many of its children behind? Australia has not provided its citizens with an equal opportunity for primary health care, education, housing, employment, let alone recognition and a life of dignity."

Thorpe, who with Olympic athlete Cathy Freeman is the face of a campaign to "close the gap" in Aboriginal health, said he was disgusted to think he once believed sufficient money was directed at Aborigines who were suffering from "gross neglect".

"Like many people in Australia, I was completely unaware of the huge gap in health and education outcomes, let alone the differences of life expectancy," he said. "I, as many had, made an assumption; Australia is a rich country, don't we throw a lot of money at that problem? It disgusts me to speak those words now, but that was what I thought."

He said despite witnessing poverty overseas, he found disadvantage most confronting in Aboriginal communities where 93 per cent of people were illiterate and 80 per cent of children had hearing impairments from infections neglected from infancy, where malnourished mothers gave birth to underweight babies and diabetes affected one in two adults.

He said a commitment to the first Australians was "well within the means of my country, and this is what I find inexcusable. I am talking about an issue with a solution. For Australia to heal its wounds that have been weeping for 200 years we must not ignore the issue, we must start the healing."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Saving Australian Books

Australian authored and published books

Australians who care about our book culture face the loss of what we’ve grown to love – a vibrant, modern, successful, unique relatively small-scale publishing industry that provides the best in books for all tastes, ages and interests.

If we do nothing Australian book publishing companies run the risk of becoming warehouses for overseas imported books.

Australians have the right to read books written by Australians and published in Australia NOT editions of Australian-authored books that have been republished in the US or the UK, changed to suit the overseas market and then imported here to swamp the market.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Executive pay: 63 to 1

John Sutton, CFMEU National Secretary
In the midst of a global recession, few issues have galvanized public anger in developed countries as much as the extraordinary sight of senior company executives helping themselves to huge pay rises, whilst ordinary people are thrown onto the unemployment scrap heap or forced to accept wage freezes or shorter working hours.

The issue has been on a slow burn around the world for many years, but recent economic events have thrown into stark relief the sheer obscenity of excessive executive pay, contrasted with how the great majority of the world's workers are expected to get by.

Over the period 1990 to 2005 on average Australian workers' wages went up by 85% while at the big end of town the increase was 564%.

Frequently executives attempt to justify their exorbitant increases through the use of so called "independent" remuneration consultants.

Inevitably these guns for hire recommend increases that are above the median for other high fliers in similar jobs.

It's a case of keeping your paymaster happy and pushing the bar higher.

The irony is that when it came to trade unions bargaining for their members, this approach, known in industrial relations parlance as "comparative wage justice," has been frowned upon by employers and governments for the last 20 years.

Clearly it's a case of "do as I say not as I do," with Business Council of Australia CEOs' pay increasing from 18 times average weekly earnings in 1990 to 63 times in 2005.

Most recently the Sol Trujillo's and others have helped fuel the contempt many ordinary people feel for these "corporate cowboys" who seem to be able to pay themselves whatever they please, almost in defiance of economic realities and public sentiment.

Like on an increasing number of fronts, the US is undeniably ahead of Australia in addressing this issue.

Here, the free market fetishists and zealous deregulators continue to hold sway.

Prescriptive solutions to address excessive executive remuneration are still being resisted in the corridors of power.

Yet at the Government's fingertips there is a potentially powerful remedy to this problem that need not involve that most heinous of public policy crimes, regulation.

The current Productivity Commission inquiry into executive remuneration could and should be asked to develop "indicative" or "best practice" guidelines for Australian business, that define fair and appropriate levels of executive remuneration across a range of corporate settings.

The Government should then determine that these guidelines need to be adopted and complied with by any Australian business tendering for Government contracts in the future.

CFMEU happy for apprentices

Construction workers have welcomed the changes by the Federal Government to the Howard era construction guidelines, which will favour companies who hire apprentices, women and Indigenous workers for Commonwealth funded infrastructure projects.

The changes to the Government's procurement policies come as the Rudd Government embarks on a massive infrastructure spending plan to boost the economy.

CFMEU Construction National Secretary, Dave Noonan said the new Guidelines contained some encouragement for employers to hire and train apprentices but fell short of the action needed to improve safety on Australian building sites.

"These are modest measures. We would have liked the Code to have more teeth, but it is a step in the right direction."

The union will be monitoring the Commonwealth funded construction sites where the Code will be implemented, to ensure that it results in jobs for young Australians.

"We want to see the changes to the Code enhancing the skills and capacity of the construction industry," Mr Noonan said.

"We will be working with employers to make sure women, Indigenous people and apprentices can grab the opportunity to work in construction.

"Safety continues to be the main concern for the construction industry, where on average one worker dies each week.

"The new measures in the Government's guidelines don't address the unacceptable safety record in the construction industry or deal with employers with poor safety records.

"There must be a ban on any construction company with a poor safety record, in particular those who are responsible for workplace fatalities, bidding for Federal Government work."

Minimum wage and equal pay

Women are over-represented among the low-paid, and the adverse decision by the Australian Fair Pay Commission will worsen inequality, said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

Ms Burrow said a worrying new report by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency confirmed that females lagged behind males at all levels of employment, including executives.

Ms Burrow said there was an entrenched pay gap between men and women in the Australian workforce.

This is set to get worse with the appalling the decision to freeze the wages of low paid workers, she said.

"Women will be the biggest losers from last week's unjust decision to freeze the Federal Minimum Wage at $543.78," Ms Burrow said.

"This is because women are over-represented among those dependent on national wage case decisions.

"Almost one-third of women earn less than the Federal Minimum Wage, and more than a quarter of women working in the private sector have their pay determined by awards, which are dependent on AFPC decisions. That compares to 16% of men.

"Women are also over-represented among part-time workers in jobs such as child care, cleaning, and hospitality.

"It is unlawful to pay women less than their male counterparts for work of equal value, yet the average weekly full-time earnings of women are 20% less than men.

"This has been exacerbated by the WorkChoices-era Fair Pay Commission, which has been responsible for real wage cuts since 2006 for about 10% of the workforce."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cooperating Out of Poverty

With almost half of the world's population living on less than 2 dollars a day and 535 million working women and men surviving on 1 dollar a day or less, the need to reach out to the poorest of the poor is still imperative.

The International Labour Organisation and the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) have joined forces to enable poor people to co-operate out of poverty through a Global Co-operative Campaign Against Poverty. Co-operating Out of Poverty is a call to action to the world co-operative movement to join hands in fighting poverty. It aims to strengthen the capacity of co-operatives to make a significant contribution to poverty reduction by increasing their role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals particularly with regard to reducing poverty by half by the year 2015.

Summary of the Global Co-operative Campaign Against Poverty (pdf)

"The present crisis and the widespread awareness that the economy cannot be divorced from ethics, offers co-operation new opportunities for growth and a role, together with a growing responsibility, in confirming a new development model"

Ivano Barberini
December, 2008

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Just another cog?

No to nuclear weapons!

International Trade Union Confederation

We wish to add our voices to the global campaign for an end to nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. We believe that the world needs to take urgent action to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and to make the world free of nuclear weapons, as part of the overall drive for worldwide peace and the transfer of military spending to socially-useful ends.

In May 2010 the United Nations will meet to review the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Trade unionists from around the world are urging that meeting to make a clear path towards abolition of nuclear weapons in the shortest possible time.

We need YOU and your organisation to take action and give your support to the ITUC campaign for peace and support of the NPT! Most important of all is to collect as many signatures as possible, either on the on-line-petition or on paper. All paper versions must be sent to the ITUC at the latest February 1st 2010. You can download the “Signature book” for collecting the petitions on paper here.

The petition os also present on Facebook. Search for “No to Nuclear Weapons” and you will find it.

SIGN NOW and don’t forget to get as many other people as possible also to sign!

Illustration de l´article

There is also the possibility to apply for A-bomb campaign materials from the Hiroshima Peace and Culture Foundation – these materials (posters and videos) can be used for example in workshops or seminars.

ITUC also supports Mayors for Peace (MFP) in their vision for a world free of nuclear weapons in 2020. You can also contact MFP to seek collaboration in the campaign in your country. Here is the list of mayors already in the network.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Howard's construction code ditched

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said the new Implementation Guidelines released by Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard would restore the national construction code to its original purpose of encouraging ethical tendering practices.

"Procurement policies such as the National Code of Practice for the Construction Industry should be consistent with the Government’s other policy objectives.

"With the demise of WorkChoices and beginning of the new ‘Fair Work’ industrial relations laws on 1 July, the guidelines were totally out of kilter with Government policy and effectively obsolete.

"Under the Howard Government, procurement in construction became another arm of WorkChoices. The revised code brings it into alignment with the new IR laws."

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said the new guidelines are timely considering Federal and State Governments plan to spend billions of dollars over the next few years on major infrastructure projects around the nation.

"The building and construction industry employs about 900,000 hard-working Australians and will play a key role in Australia’s economic recovery," Mr Lawrence said.

"Unions particularly welcome the new emphasis on the employment and training of apprentices in the revised guidelines.

"The revised guidelines seek to encourage more employment of young people in one of the nation’s most important industries.

"The support for more apprentices in the industry is a positive example of how Government purchasing can be used to secure objectives for maximum community benefit."


Thursday, July 09, 2009

Howard role in pay freeze

The Age 9 July

A senior Labor minister has blamed the Howard government's policies for the Fair Pay Commission's decision to freeze the wages of up to 1.3 million low-paid workers and said there would be "greater justice" next time round.

Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science Greg Combet, a former ACTU secretary, yesterday mounted the most vigorous Government attack on the commission.

"It is the last decision from the Fair Pay Commission," he said. "It was a construct of the Howard government's WorkChoices, and this is I guess an epitaph of WorkChoices - a freeze on minimum wages for the most vulnerable people in the workforce."

Mr Combet said under Labor's Fair Work Australia - which replaces the Fair Pay Commission next year - he anticipated the wage-fixing process would be a proper and transparent review of minimum wages resulting in "greater justice for low-paid people".

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Capitalism Hits the Fan

University of Massachusetts Economics Professor Richard Wolff breaks down the root causes of today's economic crisis, showing how it was decades in the making and in fact reflects seismic failures within the structures of American-style capitalism itself. Wolff traces the source of the economic crisis to the 1970s, when wages began to stagnate and American workers were forced into a dysfunctional spiral of borrowing and debt that ultimately exploded in the mortgage meltdown.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Howard Legacy: 'Fair Pay' freeze

Appointed by the Howard government, Professor Ian Harper earned $124,990 in his part-time position as the Fair Pay Commissioner.

He would have been in line for a pay rise last week had the remuneration tribunal not decided in May to delay any judicial salary increase until at least September.
Today’s decision by the soon-to-be-scrapped ‘Fair Pay Commission’ is another kick in the guts for working Australians from the Liberals’ WorkChoices, say unions.

More than 1.3 million Australians that rely on minimum award wages, including many low paid young workers, women and migrant workers will suffer.

ACTU president Sharan Burrow called it "appalling" and said inequality would widen further due to the decision by commission chairman Professor Ian Harper.

"What he's done is actually entrenched inequality and the gap for low-paid working Australians," Ms Burrow said. "He's also said this is a group of workers who should bear the brunt of an economic crisis which is not of their making."

Ms Burrow said the decision was the final hangover from WorkChoices, with the commission to be replaced by a new wage-fixing body.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said the Fair Pay Commission had shown no respect for the contribution low paid workers are making to the economy during the downturn and had relied on discredited and flawed research.

"The Fair Pay Commission has saved its worst for last," Mr Lawrence said.

"The decision means ordinary working Australians and their families are bearing the brunt of an economic downturn they did not cause.

"Many workers have already lost their jobs, had their hours cut and now more than a million families are facing a pay freeze despite rising living costs.

"Only a week after new IR laws came into operation, WorkChoices is back from the dead.

"Working families are again the victims of the unfair wage-setting system established by the previous Liberal Government.

"The real wages of low paid workers have gone backwards since the Commission was established, and today’s decision is another attack on their living standards.

"The costs of rent, food, medicines, education and utilities have all risen in the past year and families need a pay rise to keep up."

Mr Lawrence said the decision was unwise in the current economic circumstances and rejected the argument that a pay freeze for the low paid is good for the economy.

"A pay freeze will sap consumer demand and undermine confidence. Any green shoots of economic recovery will be nipped in the bud by this unfair and unwise decision.

"It will be felt not only in the homes of Australia’s 1.3 million minimum wage workers, but in the shops and businesses in every main street of every Australian town and suburb.”

Mr Lawrence said the decision runs counter to the economic stimulus strategy, ignores the Federal Government’s submission in favour of maintaining real wages, and even ignores the views of some business groups who supported a modest wage rise.

"There is no credible evidence that modest rises in minimum wages have a negative effect on jobs. This is a furphy put about by the same free market fundamentalists that brought us deregulation and who contributed to the GFC.

"We look to Fair Work Australia’s new wage-setting body to provide a fairer and more rigorous approach."

Newcastle view: Rudd's new work laws

Cheryl McGregor
Newcastle Herald Monday 06 July 2009

On one of the back roads to Charlestown there's a very high power pole. It's on the hill side of a steep road, which makes it even higher.

And right at the top of the pole, in a spot where only a cherry-picker or a supremely confident lineman could reach, is a "Your Rights At Work" sticker.

At a bet, it'll stay there till it wears off, like the old 1940s "Menzies Out!" slogan under a railway bridge up the Valley.

It'll take a while to wear off, too, because those stickers were apparently made to last. They still line up on the bumper bars of cars parked down our battler-neighbourhood street at night: "I Fish and I Vote" plus YRAW; nurses' and teachers' pay campaign stickers plus YRAW; and every known version of how various tradesmen Do It, plus YRAW.

YRAW, brainchild of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, was probably one of the best organised, most comprehensive, most expensive and most desperate political campaigns the country has ever seen.

The desperation came from the evidence that Australia's system of industrial arbitration, praised even by a passing Pope (John Paul, 1986) as a "unique system" that had "helped defend the rights of workers", was being systematically and deliberately destroyed.

Fear of that drove 586,000 Australians onto the streets on a sweltering November day in 2005. I spent my birthday that year marching flat-footedly from the Workers Club to the rally on The Foreshore (constantly outpaced by a seven-month-pregnant colleague).

The ACTU kept that momentum going for two years and nine days, ending with a walloping win for Labor on November 24, 2007, on a promise to wipe out the WorkChoices laws that had spearheaded the destruction of the arbitration system.

Last week the Rudd Government kept that promise, delivering in spades: 13 major pieces of legislation that supported the right of workers to bargain collectively and set up a new authority, Fair Work Australia, that will take over and expand the work of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

Small wonder that the president of the ACTU, Sharan Burrow, urged workers across the country to make it a day of celebration.

Did I? No. Did you? Can't say I saw it, and it's a bit hard to miss half a million people celebrating.

Partly, I guess, we felt flat because somewhere between 2005 and now, somebody pulled the plug on the world's economy.

But also partly, I suspect, because it's not yet clear whether we've got what we asked for.

For one thing, despite an election that suggested that the public wants unions in the country's industrial mix, some sections of the Opposition apparently still don't see them as rightful players.

"The unions have a seat at the table regardless of whether employers want them or not," huffed their spokesman on employment, Mr Michael Keenan, to news media.

It would be pleasant to believe that human nature is so benign that individual workers could sit down with their bosses and work out fair conditions without anyone else involved.

Unfortunately, that's not what happened when individual contracts were in force. In the first month of their operation, every single one filed cost an employee at least one of the working conditions that were supposedly protected, and 16 per cent overrode them all.

Employers, too, are skittish, They are worried about the extension of unfair dismissal laws to small businesses. Some fear that a declared union intention to seek a pay rise of up to 6 per cent will lead to the return of "pattern bargaining" the system in which a union, having secured a favourable condition from one employer, uses that to pressure others into giving the same.

The Australian Industry Group, representing about 10,000 employers, has already tried to corner the debate by insisting that the new rules don't allow it.

The ACTU batted that one back to the bowler: "No union is going to bargain a company out of business," Ms Burrow said.

At Fair Work Australia, the new body is cutting its teeth on what may seem a less controversial issue, with a case before it from the previously unrepresented staff of luxury hotels.

But, since a claimed 70 per cent of these workers are casuals, the decision, whatever it is, will have wide repercussions in the food and hospitality industries.

Even the ACTU, while playing a straight bat Ms Burrow dismissed as "vicious rumour" any suggestion that the union peak council wasn't entirely happy with the way promises have been kept is gently suggesting that there is "more work to do" to see that unfair laws covering construction industry workers are withdrawn.

Nobody's out in the streets protesting. But we're not all celebrating yet, either.

Monday, July 06, 2009

NAIDOC Week 2009: 5-12 July

NAIDOC is a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and an opportunity to recognise the contributions of Indigenous Australians in various fields.

Activities take place across the nation during NAIDOC Week in the first full week of July. All Australians are encouraged to participate.

Theme for 2009 theme for NAIDOC Week in 2009 is Honouring Our Elders, Nurturing Our Youth. The theme encourages our communities to acknowledge the status of our Elders as leaders and role models for our youth.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Qld: Unions oppose Privatisation

Fifteen hundred trade unionists and their supporters marched through the streets of Brisbane on July 3 to oppose the sell off of Queensland public assets. The protest had been called by the Electrical Trades Union and later was supported by the Queensland Council of Unions.Addressing the rally were speakers from the QCU, AFULE, ASU and the Rail Tram and Bus Union.

Mick Carr from the Maritime Union of Australia told the rally that there was no upside for a one off fixing of the debt by selling off public assets. Peter Simpson , state secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, said that his union wont be putting one cent into the ALP coffers at the next election if this legislation is still on the books.

He said it was time to put a line in the sand.

David Matters from the Rail Tram and Bus Union told everyone that his union, with community support, had won their fight against the prisatisation of the Brisbane City Council bus service in the 1990s.To applause he said, that it was time to put Anna Bligh under the control of working people.

But the surprize from among the speakers came from ALP state president and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Secretary, Andrew Dettmar, who said that his union will not be supporting any politician at the next state election unless they make a no privatisation pledge.

Gleebooks event: Hijacking Sustainability

Gleebooks at Blackheath: first official Blue Mountains event

Saturday July 4, 2.30 for 3pm

Hijacking Sustainability 
in conversation with sustainability expert, Stuart Hill

Venue: Gearin Hotel
273 Great Western Highway, Katoomba
$10/$7 gleeclub welcome
bookings gleebooks at Blackheath …. 4787 6340

The idea of "sustainability" has gone mainstream. Thanks to Prius-driving movie stars, it's even hip. What began as a grassroots movement to promote responsible development has become a bullet point in corporate ecobranding strategies. In Hijacking Sustainability, Adrian Parr describes how this has happened: how the goals of an environmental movement came to be mediated by corporate interests, government, and the military. Parr argues that the more popular sustainable development becomes, the more commodified it becomes; the more mainstream culture embraces the sustainability movement's concern over global warming and poverty, the more "sustainability culture" advances the profit-maximizing values of corporate capitalism.

Australian academic, Adrian Parr is Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Marriott Hotels clinging to WorkChoices


Marriott workers need your help

In 2007 we all fought for our rights at work, and we won. Or so we thought.

From 1 July most of us will have access to the new Fair Work Australia laws. Sadly workers at Marriott hotels will be stuck with WorkChoices for three more long years.

At the very last minute Marriott Hotels have rushed through 3 year WorkChoices contracts.

Hundreds of workers at these hotels have signed union cards to say they want a Fair Work Agreement not a WorkChoices contract. They want to have a say.

But they need your help.

Marriott's Human Resources are based in the USA. It's probably not surprising they don't know how seriously Australian workers take our rights at work. They might not even realise how insulting it is to us Australians that after we voted John Howard's nasty WorkChoices out Marriott (a big multi-national company) is desperately clinging to it.

We fought for our rights and we will keep fighting for them if companies like Marriott ignore what Australians voted for 2007.

We need you to send a message to Marriott CEO Bill Marriott in America. Please help us fight for Marriott workers' rights at work.

NSW Essential service workers get 4%

From today New South Wales public sector employees will receive a four per cent pay rise following the success of the Public Service Association's wage negotiations in September last year.

More than 70,000 essential service workers will receive the four per cent pay rise, which exceeds the government's initial offer of 2.5 per cent thanks to the PSA and members who rejected the proposed cut in take-home pay last year.

The PSA says the increase comes at a time when many workers are beginning to feel the pinch and will go a long way to helping families who have been working hard all year.

"The success of the PSA's robust negotiations and today's subsequent pay rise demonstrates the real bargaining potential of a strong union and the value of PSA membership," said PSA general secretary John Cahill.

"The wage negotiation process really highlights how important it is to be part of a union and having all your co-workers are there with you throughout such a process."

The PSA said today's four per cent wage increase is a triumph for PSA members and a great reason for more public sector workers to get involved and join the union.

"The more members in the union, the better our bargaining power - so if you want to have a voice the best thing you can do is encourage your workmates to join the PSA and have a say in their rights at work," Mr Cahill said.

Celebrate end of anti-union laws

New industrial relations laws, which begin today, represent an historic step forward for the rights of working Australians and their families.

The new laws mark a turning point and will provide workers with a raft of stronger rights and protections in the current economic downturn, and in better times ahead, says the ACTU.

Women, young people and low-paid workers are among those who will benefit the most from the new laws, said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

"From today, all Australian workers have a greater sense of security and more respect for their rights at work because of these landmark changes to industrial relations laws," Ms Burrow said.

"These laws are the result of an unprecedented campaign by Australian workers based firmly on the Australian belief of a fair go, who demanded the return of their rights at work after those rights were stripped away by the Howard Government's 'WorkChoices' laws.

"Under WorkChoices, there were countless cases of workers losing pay and conditions, being sacked unfairly and having their basic rights denied.

"At the last federal election, the Australian community said enough was enough.

"These new laws are the culmination of that campaign.

"They will deliver better protection and rights for workers and the ball is now in employers' court to treat their workers with respect and operate within the spirit of the new laws."

The new laws will deliver:
  • Genuine rights for workers to collectively bargain and be represented by their union.
  • Unfair dismissal for all workers, including about 4 million workers who had no protection under WorkChoices.
  • 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 teeth to safeguard workers' rights.
"Unions will ensure the new laws take effect in the community quickly and effectively, and will use the Fair Work Act to continue their work representing and improving the working lives of Australians and their families," Ms Burrow said.

see also Sharan Burrow's article in Sydney Morning Herald 

Employees enter a new era of rights

"... The courts will be given a new role in overseeing the application of awards and the National Employment Standards, providing a strong deterrent against the infringement of workers' rights and entitlements.

Minimum wage workers can look forward to a much fairer system of setting their pay under the new laws.

Australian Workplace Agreements, used to break down collective strength in the workplace and to drive down wages and conditions, are now outlawed.

On average, workers employed on AWAs and other individual contracts earn almost 6 per cent less than those under union-negotiated agreements. In future, common law contracts will have to be above the industry award.

Finally, no longer will the basic right to belong to a union be eroded by threats of dismissal, pressure, discrimination or victimisation.

Union delegates will be protected during bargaining and it will be unlawful to take action or discriminate against someone simply because they are a union member. There will be a guaranteed right to union representation when it is needed to settle a dispute or negotiate on a worker's behalf.

The new fairer workplace laws are a great step forward but the task of strengthening the lives of working Australians is an ongoing process. We have more work to do to ensure that the laws covering construction workers are recognised as unfair and have no place in Australia's industrial relations system and that we have the strongest possible occupational health and safety laws to guarantee safety at work.

But this week, we celebrate the fact that with the Fair Work Act, Australians again have proper rights at work. "