Sunday, November 29, 2009

Greg Combet: Liberal ETS wreckers

ABC interview 28 November 2009

GREG COMBET: There is a lot at stake for Australia in this because when you go back to the fundamentals, this legislation is designed, of course, to allow us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and play a part internationally in tackling the challenge that climate change represents and of course, this country has got a lot to lose.

So these wreckers led by Senator Minchin are doing this country a tremendous disservice and really they are significantly undermining the integrity of the Liberal Party and the Opposition by attacking what was and is an agreement.

SABRA LANE: If Joe Hockey is the leader of the party come Tuesday, do you consider him one of those wreckers too?

GREG COMBET: Well, he is certainly in an extraordinary position here. He is one of those who we understand who strongly support emissions trading. He has not been a climate change sceptic as far as we have been able to ascertain but he definitely has been a supporter of Malcolm Turnbull's in securing this agreement with the Government over the climate change legislation and yet here he is prepared to sell out his beliefs and undermine his own integrity in an effort to get the leadership.

SABRA LANE: So he wasn't …

GREG COMBET: I don't think, that is not a very principled stance for Mr Hockey to be taking.

SABRA LANE: He wasn't part of the deal that was done with you?

GREG COMBET: He was part of the deal that was done. Mr Hockey is the shadow treasurer. He supported Mr Turnbull in negotiating with the Government. We understand he very closely was kept appraised of the developments in the negotiations and supported the agreement with the Government over emissions trading.

So Mr Hockey, in order to accept the leadership of course has got to accept Senator Minchin's conditions that the emissions trading arrangements, the climate change legislation gets sent off into the never never in order to secure Senator Minchin's numbers to get the leadership.

Now that is just opportunism and disreputable conduct if that is what Mr Hockey does because a deal is a deal and it should be delivered.

SABRA LANE: Have you sought legal advice on whether referring this bill off to an inquiry would constitute failure to pass meaning that the Government could use this as a double dissolution trigger?

GREG COMBET: This is an issue that I would like to be very clear about on behalf of the Government. We have endeavoured from the outset to get the emissions trading arrangements, our climate change legislation, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme through because it is just a critical public policy issue.

Our objective is to get it through. Not to be playing manoeuvres for double dissolutions.

SABRA LANE: So that is no to double dissolution?

GREG COMBET: Well, I am not in a position to speculate about that. All that I can say is what we have reiterated all the way along and the Prime Minister has been very clear about and that is that we are not interested in mucking about looking for double dissolution triggers.

What we are interested in is getting the legislation through.

SABRA LANE: The Senate is scheduled to start sitting 10:00 O'Clock Monday morning and will continue debate on this. Can you confirm that the Senate will sit day and night without a break until the bills are voted on or referred off to a committee?

GREG COMBET: Well, the Senate's ways are a little complex for Members of the House of Representatives at times so I wouldn't speculate too much about that but as I understand it, the Senate will keep sitting until it has disposed of the issue some way or other and we, of course, want it passed and we would like it passed on Monday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Economists oppose QLD privatisation

The fight against Queensland Premier Anna Bligh's plan to privatise $16 billion worth of state assets is strengthening, with 19 influential economists branding it ''economically unsound''.

The group of economists, which include Reserve Bank director Warwick McKibbin, Henry Ergas and a host of academics, said in a joint statement yesterday the Queensland Government's case for selling road, rail, port and forestry assets was based on ''spurious claims''.

''The people of Queensland deserve a robust and well-informed public debate over the costs and benefits of privatisation.

So far they have not received it,'' the economists said.

Their criticisms echo a union-commissioned report on the privatisation. University of Sydney professor Bob Walker found that the Government had overstated how bad the state's finances were and made misleading claims to justify the asset sell-off.

University of Queensland fellow in economics John Quiggin hopes the economists' joint statement will add credibility to the widespread public criticism of the Bligh Government's privatisation rationale.

''I would be very surprised if you could find a senior independent economist who would endorse [the Government's privatisation justifications],'' Professor Quiggin said.

Ms Bligh's plan - not revealed to voters until after she was re-elected in March - has sparked public anger at the Government. Polls suggest 80 per cent of Queenslanders oppose the asset sell-off and the ALP's support has tumbled.

White Ribbon Day: flags fly on ship & wharf

25 NOV 2009
It's White Ribbon Day, day for the elimination of all violence against women, and the MUA is flying the flag nationwide

MUA Deputy National Secretary Mick Doleman has been endorsed as the ACTU representative on the National Leaders Grouup of the White Ribbon Day Foundation, NT national organiser Glen Williams has attended the White Ribbon Day breakfast and is standing by at a shopping mall this afternoon with members Rowan Hayward and Stephen Richardson to raise awareness. Sydney Ferries are all flying the flag as too are other MUA workplaces.

Nationally the union is challenging members to take the oath on the MUA website, featuring different faces from the wharves and ships each day this week.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

ACTU push for pay equity

With average female pay still at least 17% lower than for men, it is clear that business self-regulation has failed and new mandatory requirements are needed, says the ACTU.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow welcomed recommendations from a Federal Parliamentary committee to introduce annual pay equity audits requiring companies to reveal how many women are employed and their pay rates compared with those of men.

But tougher regulations on business are needed to prevent unequal remuneration, including performance improvement notices and mandatory action plans, Ms Burrow said.

The committee’s recommendation for gender and equal remuneration principles to be considered when industrial awards are upgraded by Fair Work Australia, including the federal minimum wage case, is a positive step.

Positive also is the proposal for a pay equity unit within Fair Work Australia to gather data, monitor and investigate equity in pay, conditions and benefits.

The World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Index recently revealed a disturbing trend for Australia women, who are slipping further down world rankings on key indicators of labour force participation and wage equality.

“It’s 40 years since the first equal pay test case, yet women still lag well behind men in the Australian workforce,” Ms Burrow said.

“Women went backwards or stood still on pay, workforce participation and access to senior executive positions under the former Coalition Government.

“Over the course of her career, an Australian woman will earn $1 million less than a man, and will retire with less than half the savings in her superannuation account.

“Employers have had four decades to correct this inequity. They’ve shown they can’t do it voluntarily so it is time for tougher regulations.

“But already employers are gearing up to oppose equal pay for women for the simple reason that they don’t want to pay women any more. We cannot allow claims about red tape to stand in the way of fairness and equality.”

Unions are calling for action on women’s pay and career opportunities by businesses and governments.

Unions are also undertaking a major industrial campaign with a major new test case in Fair Work Australia that could lift the pay of workers in the female-dominated social and community services sector by more than $100 a week.

It is wrong that workers in the sector have historically been underpaid simply because their jobs were undervalued and seen as “women’s work”, Ms Burrow said.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pat Mackie: 1914-2009

Pat Mackie led the Mount Isa strike of 1964/5 that polarised the town and almost bankrupted Mount Isa Mining.

Mackie's life of activism began when as a young stowaway on a boat from New Zealand, he challenged the captain as to the lawfulness of his uncomfortable accommodation. Working in blue collar jobs around the globe, he became a member of the Industrial Workers of the World and the United States Seafarers Unions before ending up central Queensland.

The dispute of 1964/5, one of Australia's major rank and file uprisings, arose over management's failure to provide showers for miners. As it escalated, Queensland Premier Frank Nicklin described Mackie as a 'vicious gangster' and the strike as a 'communist strategy to retard and even prevent major developmental projects in this state'; the government vainly explored all possible avenues to have him deported.

The strike and the rest of the unionist's tumultuous life are described in Mount Isa: The Story of a Dispute (1989) and Many Ships to Mount Isa (c. 2002).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

MUA: Oil and gas workers role

13 November 2009 MUA press release

The Maritime Union of Australia said protected industrial action planned by maritime workers employed by Farstad Shipping had been taken responsibly within the Fair Work Act and rejected claims of the action being "reckless or destructive".

"Any industrial action is always a last resort and taken only after serious consideration and the Union has carried out negotiations in good faith. The Union is ready to avoid any action through further negotiation with the employer", said Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary of the MUA.

"The Australian Mines and Metals Association and other detractors should remember that Fair Work Australia gave the go ahead for this proposed action and these claims are not frivolous. we remain committed to a negotiated outcome.

"The employers' hysterical protestations and dissembling of the facts in the media reflect their poor application to the bargaining process. Nevertheless we will persist with the negotiations in both our members and the industry's best interests", Crumlin added.

"The Maritime union is seeking to have seafarers engaged in offshore construction to earn the same as riggers on vessels which, subject to negotiations, would be equivalent to an allowance of $200 to $300 and the union is prepared to have the payment phased in.

"The figure of $500 a day which has been mentioned by detractors is misleading. Workers are entirely justified in seeking an allowance for a construction role that makes additional specific demands on them, consistent with what other workers of the same skill level are paid working along side of them.

"There are essential skills to learn if workers are to perform to the standards expected in the burgeoning oil and gas sector and in this particular situation and training should be mandatory. The Union is requesting companies pay $45 a day for training per employee, in a sector of the industry that has been extremely reluctant to commit to meeting their training needs over many years", said Crumlin.

Rising unemployment: keep the stimulus

12 November, 2009 | ACTU Media Release
The latest employment data released today shows that every month thousands of Australians are still losing their jobs as a result of the Global Financial Crisis, and the Australian economy is still struggling, say unions.

Unemployment rose to 5.8% and the 670,100 people out of work – an increase of 11,100 in October - is the highest since 2002.

Almost all of the employment growth in the past month was in part-time work, with just 3000 full-time jobs created.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said the Federal Government’s stimulus and infrastructure investment package was working, and had to be maintained during a delicate period for the economy.

“Australia’s economy has been one of the more resilient in the Global Financial Crisis because of the Government’s early stimulus spending,” Mr Lawrence said.

“But there are still 171,000 more people out of work than a year ago – that is almost 3300 a week.

“The revised official government economic forecast earlier this month reveals about 95,000 more Australians will be jobless by the middle of next year.

“It is also disturbing that the unemployment rate in the nation’s biggest economy, New South Wales, has leapt back above 6%.

“Aggregate monthly hours worked has fallen, indicating there are probably also more Australians suffering from underemployment than a month ago.

“Today’s data clearly shows that the champagne corks should be firmly placed back in the bottle.”

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tanaka film goes to Canada

29 November 2009
Tanaka-san Will Not Do Callisthenics selected for the inaugural Canadian Labour International Film Festival, CLiFF:

"The second film is Tanaka-san Will Not do Calisenthics. It was filmed in Japan and tells the story of Tanaka-san who was let go from his job 25 years ago when he refused to conform – and what happens when he protests at his old office every day.

Two fabulous films that you can’t see at your local movie theatre so please join us at CLiFF Burnaby on November 29. You’ll also be participating in this first labour film festival for Canada so you’ll be a part of history."

Director: Maree Delofski
Editor: Morgan Gregory
Sound Editor and Mixer: Greg Fitgerald

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mountains stations: Staffing slashed

11 Nov Blue Mountains Gazette by Michael Cleggett

Mountains train stations have lost one-fifth of staffing hours each week following the implementation of RailCorp’s review, according to figures supplied by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU).

The reduced staff presence will be particularly noticeable on Saturdays and Sundays with 23 of those shifts disappearing, adding Glenbrook and
Lawson to the list of stations unmanned on weekends.

In total, 624.5 hours have been slashed with Mount Victoria (142 hours), Katoomba (112 hours) and Springwood (104 hours) the hardest hit.

RTBU NSW branch secretary Nick Lewocki said the review had been a "slap in the face for front-line workers".

"This is a cost-cutting exercise . . . Worse than that it’s taking away services for commuters out there at a time we’re trying to encourage more people on the train.

"We will reverse these decisions, I’ve got no doubt about it."

Mr Lewocki was less than optimistic about assurances Member for Blue Mountains Phil Koperberg has sought from Transport Minister David Campbell, including that appropriate levels of staffing are provided at any given time and that amenities, cleaning and security levels are maintained.

"The rail workers themselves are saying that they will struggle to provide the same level of service they did previously," said Mr Lewocki.

He said that with stations left with a reduced staff presence, "undesirables" would inevitably descend, resulting in decreased safety and more vandalism.

"How does that not take away the facilities for the travelling public?"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

TAFE: stop-work meetings

Thousands of striking TAFE teachers attending stopwork meetings across the state yesterday voted overwhelmingly (99.9%) to reject the Work Choices style changes to their working conditions announced in the recent judgement of the NSW Industrial Commission.

Teachers at some centres were so incensed that they voted not to return to work that day.

While calling on the Premier and the Minister for Education and Training to negotiate a settlement with the NSW Teachers Federation, TAFE teachers declared that they will join with teachers in schools to take combined statewide action in the next few weeks, if the dispute cannot be resolved.

Bob Lipscombe, President of the NSW Teachers Federation, said:

'TAFE teachers today have overwhelmingly rejected the appalling decision of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to introduce Work Choices style changes to their working conditions.

'If this dispute is not settled, school teachers in public primary and high schools across the state will join with their TAFE colleagues to take combined industrial action within weeks.

'To teachers it is incomprehensible how any court can increase a teacher's working week by 5 hours and then value each hour at less than $3.00, or how it can require teachers to fund their annual leave out of their accumulated long service leave. Even under the discredited Howard Government's Work Choices, this would not have been possible.

'The Director-General has already told school teachers in writing that he cannot guarantee that there will not be an attempt by the Department of Education and Training to impose similar conditions on school teachers once their award expires.'

Sunday, November 08, 2009

US: Landmark Health Care Reform

Photo credit: Ramon Becerra
from AFL-CIO

This is what progress looks like. Tonight, by a 220-215 vote, the U.S. House has passed a historic health care reform bill that will improve the nation’s health care system, covering millions of uninsured and making insurance work better for those who have it.

H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, fulfills the decades-long promise to create a system that provides affordable, high-quality health care coverage to nearly everyone. It will break the stranglehold of insurance company greed and cut costs for both families and the country. It will make a real difference for families across the country.

The bill is fairly funded, relying on employer responsibility and a surtax on the highest earners—not a tax on middle-class workers’ health benefits. And it offers the choice of a public health insurance option that can compete with private insurers.

Across the country, a broad coalition of community groups, including the union movement, fought hard and reached out to House members to ask them to pass this critical bill. Thousands of your letters and phone calls helped make the difference.

Education Forum: Katoomba 8





download flyer:

: 4784

Friday, November 06, 2009

ASU: Equal Work Equal Pay

The Australian Services Union (ASU) and the Australian Government have reached an historic agreement which will see the social and community services sector as the test case for pay equity in the new Federal Industrial Relations system.

This agreement means that the very first National equal remuneration case under the new Fair Work Act will be run by ASU with the support and co-operation of the Australian Government.

ASU Assistant National Secretary, Linda White declared the landmark agreement would provide unprecedented opportunity to argue for significant pay increases based on pay equity principles to flow to social and community sector workers throughout the country.

"ASU and the Australian Government have reached agreement which potentially lays a foundation to provide equity and fairness for tens of thousands of Australian workers. It is nation-building in the workplace," Linda White said.

"As the largest union in non government social and community services, the ASU looks forward to achieving pay equity in this important section of the Australian economy which is at the forefront of delivering social inclusion to our country," Linda White said.

This landmark agreement helps to pave the way for the ASU's successful Queensland pay equity case to flow on to SACS workers across Australia. The case will seek pay rises based on pay equity and work value to support retention of staff and address a chronic skills shortage in the sector by delivering substantial wage rise for the predominately female workforce - 87% of SACS workers are women.

"If the remuneration case is successful, a phase-in of enhanced wages and conditions will provide welcome relief to both employees and employers in the sector. Many organisations are struggling with wage rates failing to attract and retain staff," Linda White said.

Unions donate to Sri Lankan refugees

MUA Press Release

As the 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers move into their 20th day at sea, Australian seafarers, miners and wharfies plan to hand $10,000 to the refugees to help them in their crisis.

"It's Australian seafarers who have been with these people through their ordeal and they have been moved to make a meaningful humanitarian gesture. The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) with the CFMEU (Mining and Energy Division) have agreed to donate the money", said Paddy Crumlin, national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia.

"Shortly there will be a "swing" in the crew of the Oceanic Viking - 13 MUA crew will be relieved and replaced with fresh crew. The MUA delegate will distribute the donations among the refugees.

"At least it will mean that the refugees have a bit of light at the end of a very long tunnel", said Mr Crumlin.

"This is about two Aussie unions stumping up to help people fleeing dreadful persecution," said CFMEU President Tony Maher.

"We've all seen the pictures of these desperate families. They are the victims in all this and they need our support", Mr Maher said.

"As the future of these people has hung in the balance, our blokes and others on the Oceanic Viking have just got on with the job of providing as clean and safe an environment for these unfortunate human beings. In doing that job they set aside political arguments," said Mr Crumlin

"Our members pick up these flotsam and jetsam from a badly stuffed up world from their ships rigs and floating platforms, sometimes at great risk to their own safety.

"Certainly our immigration processes are the preferred mechanism, but many that really have no option but to take a last desperate throw of the dice where they pitch the gamble to survive with their lives, usually because they know with gut wrenching certainty they are likely to lose them anyway if they hang around the home town.

"What this episode has reinforced is the need for the Government to ensure that the revitalisation of Australian shipping currently before the Government goes ahead. The role our merchant navy and respected seafarers play in border protection and security cannot be overestimated", says Mr Crumlin

Monday, November 02, 2009

ACTU: Australia should show humanity

Unions are calling for the Federal Government to allow a group of 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers aboard a Customs ship to be taken to Australian territory.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said it is time for Australians to show our humanity and end the stand-off aboard the Oceanic Viking.

"The Government should demonstrate Australians' strong humanitarian values by stepping in and bringing these people to Australia," Ms Burrow said.

"Everyone deserves a fair go. These unfortunate people have been through enough. Their ordeal should be brought to an end and they should be given immediate shelter and proper care by Australian authorities.

"We should deal with their claims for refugee status under Australian laws in accordance with our international obligations and not allow them to become pawns in a political game.

"Working Australians will respect strong political leadership that shows a humane response rather than a blind adherence to hardline border security policy."


Jack Mundey at 80: Tribute

A packed Leichhardt Town Hall celebrated the Jack Mundey's eightieth birthday with a tribute to the historic role of the NSW Branch of the BLF. The Sydney Trade Union Choir/Solidarity Choir opened the tribute leading the audience with Solidarity Forever.

Bob Brown joined in the speeches via a video link! very 21st century.

Among the speakers were Judy Mundey, Joe Owens, Meredith Burgmann, Mick Tubbs and of course Jack Mundey

Bob and Margaret Fagan sang green ban songs and Bob Campbell sang one of his own.

The town hall was decked out with old union banners including this one proposing the 6 hour day!

Mick Fowler sings "Across the Wester Suburbs"