Monday, December 27, 2010

ABCC announce "sham" enquiry

Australian Building and Construction Commissioner Leigh Johns recently launched a sham contracting inquiry and said there was evidence of widespread abuse of contracting in the industry.

The ACTU will boycott the inquiry and "maintain its opposition to the ABCC", which it wants abolished.

The CFMEU construction national secretary Dave Noonan said the watchdog was trying to "put lipstick on the pig" with its inquiry.

"I think most of the unions feel the ABCC is striving for some credibility in the wake of the debacle of the Ark Tribe trial," Mr Noonan said.

The case against Mr Tribe, who faced up to six months in jail for not co-operating with a watchdog investigation, collapsed last month after a legal bungle. "Clearly Mr Johns is trying to put a new face on them and give them a makeover," Mr Noonan said. "Unions aren't interested in being part of a dog-and-pony show."

Mr Noonan said sham contracting was a serious problem but it needed a response from all arms of government. He said Mr Johns was trying "to give a bit more oxygen to the rapidly expiring ABCC", which had a large number of staff that were "union haters and remain so".

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Unions support for WikiLeaks

23 December, 2010 | ACTU Media Release

WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief Julian Assange will today (Thursday) be given his Media Alliance union card, confirming that he is a member in good standing with the Australian journalists’ union, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance.

Assange’s Melbourne lawyer Rob Stary QC will accept Assange’s new media card from ACTU President Ged Kearney at a ceremony in Melbourne outside the office of Fairfax Media newspaper The Age.

Media Alliance Victorian branch secretary Louise Connor said that Assange had contacted the Alliance in November, just as the 'cablegate' story began to break, wryly noting that his credit card had been cancelled and that he may not be able to pay his union dues.

“Julian Assange has been a member of the Media Alliance for several years. Clearly, with banking corporations freezing his accounts, his situation is quite extraordinary,” Connor says.

Earlier, on the occasion of the Media Section of the Alliance celebrating its 100th birthday, the federal Media Section committee meeting in Melbourne, voted to show its support for Assange, she says. The Media Section had been created as the Australian Journalists Association on December 10, 1910.

Connor says it was decided that his union fees should be waived. “We’ve drawn up a new union card for him and offer him the full support of his union and professional association.”

Connor adds that attacks on WikiLeaks over the revelations in the cablegate saga are a clear attempt to intimidate journalists like Assange and undermine the public’s right to know. "WikiLeaks is not the leaker of these cables, nor is it the whistleblower. It is an online publisher representing the new media which is working with at least six other media groups to bring these cables to light so that the public can be kept informed.

"Attempts to muzzle the media, whether it is new media like WikiLeaks or old media like the New York Times or the Guardian or Australia’s Fairfax newspapers, cannot be tolerated if we are to lay claim to having a strong, functioning and enduring democracy," said Ms Connor.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said Julian Assange and WikiLeaks deserve our support.

"WikiLeaks is simply performing the same function as media organisations have for centuries in facilitating the release of information in the public interest. Mr Assange’s rights should be respected just the same as other journalists.

"WikiLeaks has broken no Australian law, and as an Australian citizen, Julian Assange should be supported by the Australian government, not prematurely convicted," said Ms Kearney.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

CFMEU: year in review



2011 will be an important year for workers’ rights and safety.

Labor has said it will reintroduce its previous legislation, which abolished the ABCC, but retains coercive powers. This will not achieve one law for all.

The Greens will hold the balance of power in the Senate from 1st July- their position on the ABCC and coercive powers is well known- they oppose both.
Rights on Site will be providing information and community feedback to all federal parliamentarians in 2011 to convince them that discriminatory and unfair laws have no place in Australia and that their priority should be improving safety in the industry.

It promises to be an eventful year. And we need you to be there with us every step of the way.

Let’s start by getting our petition to abolish the ABCC up to 10,000 names.

NUW: Ethical chicken, caged workers

The National Union of Workers (NUW) is stepping up its campaign in support of workers at Baiada, the country’s largest poultry producer, by calling on the company’s main bank and largest retailer to insist that Baida guarantee ethical employment standards


Already under government investigation for a brutal workplace regime including underpayment of wages and benefits and discriminatory practices at its free range, "ethically produced" Lilydale poultry plant in Adelaide, the company has now been cited by the state OHS agency WorkSafe for unsafe practices resulting in the death of immigrant contract worker Sarel Singh. Singh, who had already completed his shift, was decapitated when told to clean a line moving at full speed – 183 birds per minute.

More

Monday, December 20, 2010

AMWU: Visy victory

Striking workers at Visy plants across the country have returned to work after the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) secured a key agreement on Friday afternoon.

Up to 400 Visy workers in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia had been taking part in an indefinite strike action since 3 December, following the breakdown of negotiations between the AMWU and Visy over an enterprise bargaining agreement

Negotiations resumed early last week and the striking workers have now returned to work after the AMWU secured an agreement from the company not to freeze the pay of casual workers.

AMWU national print division secretary Lorraine Cassin said workers were pleased the dispute was over.

"Our members stood strong and have achieved an outcome that they are happy with. During negotiations since Tuesday, the company also moved on the issue of money and we have been able to secure several improvements including delegates' rights," he said.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

ACTU: Super changes

16 December, 2010 | Media Release

Reform of Australia’s superannuation system will provide working Australians with more financial security in retirement through lower fees and simpler super funds.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said working Australians should heartily welcome the Federal Government's Stronger Super package, which will protect and enhance the retirement savings of millions of Australians.

Combined with the Government's commitment to lift the Superannuation Guarantee to 12%, it will result in working Australians having tens of thousands more dollars in their savings accounts when they retire.

Unions helped set up Australia’s superannuation system almost 20 years ago and have long championed the low-cost, not-for-profit industry fund model that is similar to the proposed default MySuper product.

"With Australia's population ageing rapidly, unions have been concerned about the adequacy of superannuation savings," Ms Kearney said.

"For too long, the retirement savings of working Australians have been eroded by fees, commission and charges imposed by the for-profit retail funds.

"The reforms announced by the Government is a step towards ensuring the money workers contribute to superannuation is there for them in retirement, and not swallowed up by unnecessary fees and profits.

"The Government’s reforms will mean savings of $2.7 billion a year in fees, with the average 30-year-old worker having up to $40,000 more in retirement."

Ms Kearney said industry super funds should remain the default option in awards.

"Australians want to be members of a fund that provides good returns, low fees, and effective service. Industry super funds have a long track record of high returns delivered to their members at low cost.

"Funds that are not-for-profit, do not pay commission to financial planners, have lower average fees and a balanced portfolio are the most appropriate default vehicle for providing an adequate retirement income.

"Unions will strongly argue that industry funds should retain that default status."

Ms Kearney said unions would continue bargaining in workplaces for a financially secure retirement for working Australians and their families.

ACTU: James Hardie case insult

17 December, 2010 | Media Release

Today’s decision by the New South Wales Supreme Court to overturn bans against former directors of James Hardie is a slap in the face of the families of asbestos victims.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said it was an insult to the memories of the thousands of Australians killed by asbestos-related diseases that the seven former directors are now free to go back into business.

The decision by a three-person panel decision means that bans and fines imposed on former chairwoman Meredith Hellicar and directors Michael Brown, Michael Gillfillan, Martin Koffel, Dan O'Brien, Greg Terry and Peter Willcox have been overturned.

Justice Gzell of the NSW Supreme Court last year fined each of the directors $30,000 and disqualified them from acting as company directors for five years after finding that they approved misleading and deceptive statements about the company's ability to meet its asbestos compensation liabilities.

"It's a black day for justice when the people at the helm of a company which was responsible for one of Australia's worst corporate crimes get off scot free," Mr Lawrence said.

"Australia has the highest death rate from mesothelioma in the world, and the death toll continues to rise.

"The original financial penalties were not enough for the outrageous breaches of trust that the court at first instance found were committed by these directors.

"But the appeal body’s decision to overturn the fines and the bans sends the wrong message to corporate Australia and is a slap in the face of the families of the victims of James Hardie’s deadly asbestos products.

"It shows that Australia’s system of corporate regulation is clearly not tough enough.

"We urge the NSW Attorney-General to explore all options to secure justice for James Hardie’s victims.

Mr Lawrence said the court decision was the latest setback for James Hardie's victims and their families following the company’s recent announcement that its Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund would run out of money within 12 months.

This has forced the Federal and NSW governments to come up with a $160 million bail-out package to cover the compensation shortfall.

"James Hardie has a moral and legal obligation to compensate asbestos victims," Mr Lawrence said. "Unions are determined to hold James Hardie to account and ensure that James Hardie fulfils its responsibilities towards people who have contracted diseases from its asbestos products."

CFMEU: Mine delegates harden stance

Date: 14 December 2010

Mining union delegates from across NSW passed two important resolutions relating to the politically hot issues of mining tax and climate change in Cessnock today.

National President Tony Maher, who introduced the resolutions, said the CFMEU would be keeping a watchful eye on the new Mineral Resources Rent Tax (MRRT) to track where the revenue ends up.

"$6.5 billion of MRRT revenue has been earmarked for Regional Infrastructure Funds," he said.

"The mining companies will argue that money should be spent on economic infrastructure like ports and rail lines to improve the efficiency of mines - but they can afford to pay for that themselves.

"The sort of infrastructure we need built is social infrastructure: roads, schools, community housing and other big ticket items desperately required in mining towns.

"Our mining towns have been neglected by big mining companies and the Regional Infrastructure Fund should be a way of making them put something back."

The delegates meeting also passed a unanimous resolution recommitting the union to its long-held stance on climate change.

Northern District President Peter Jordan noted that the CFMEU had been vindicated in adopting a long-sighted view on climate change.

"Under Tony Maher's leadership our Union showed real foresight in leading the debate on climate change and arguing strongly for early action to protect the interests of our members and the nation," he said.

"Years on we are now seeing CEOs like BHP's Marius Klopppers picking up the CFMEU line and running with it. It's gratifying that we have beat the path for others to follow."

For further information

Contact: Tony Maher
Union: CFMEU National President
Contact Mobile: 0418 286 735
WWW: http://www.cfmeu.com.au/

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Miners and mining tax

Mining union delegates from across NSW passed two important resolutions relating to the politically hot issues of mining tax and climate change in Cessnock.

National President Tony Maher, who introduced the resolutions, said the CFMEU would be keeping a watchful eye on the new Mineral Resources Rent Tax (MRRT) to track where the revenue ends up.

"$6.5 billion of MRRT revenue has been earmarked for Regional Infrastructure Funds," he said.

"The mining companies will argue that money should be spent on economic infrastructure like ports and rail lines to improve the efficiency of mines - but they can afford to pay for that themselves.

"The sort of infrastructure we need built is social infrastructure: roads, schools, community housing and other big ticket items desperately required in mining towns.

"Our mining towns have been neglected by big mining companies and the Regional Infrastructure Fund should be a way of making them put something back."

The delegates meeting also passed a unanimous resolution recommitting the union to its long-held stance on climate change.

Northern District President Peter Jordan noted that the CFMEU had been vindicated in adopting a long-sighted view on climate change.

"Under Tony Maher's leadership our Union showed real foresight in leading the debate on climate change and arguing strongly for early action to protect the interests of our members and the nation," he said.

"Years on we are now seeing CEOs like BHP's Marius Klopppers picking up the CFMEU line and running with it. It's gratifying that we have beat the path for others to follow."

Equal Pay!

"Your Rights at Work" Team

The historic campaign to win equal pay for social and community services workers is continuing and we need your help.

The Case at Fair Work Australia is up and running with submissions from the unions, governments and soon, the employers. We know there is opposition to equal pay for social and community services workers and it is time that we send a message to governments and employers that we will not wait any longer.

We are urging SACS workers, union members and other supporters from the wider community to come and support our equal pay rallies, to send a clear message that community sector workers can no longer be undervalued and it is time for equal pay.

On 15 December, help us make it clear that we can no longer afford NOT to give social and community services workers equal pay!

Visit the ASU's campaign website here where you can find further information and flyers for all the events: http://www.asu.asn.au/sacs/payup.html

AMWU: Sandvik conditions dispute

6 December 2010

The AMWU has called on Swedish tooling company Sandvik to deliver an equal Christmas to its workers in NSW by signing a new union collective agreement before the end of 2010.

Since March AMWU members at mining and construction sites in the Hunter Valley have been negotiating a new agreement ahead of a $33 million facility proposed for construction.

The company's decision to wind back redundancy provisions within those agreements has baffled the workforce, according to AMWU organiser Cory Wright.


"This has the potential to drive a wedge between workers. 
 


"You will have one set of workers receiving above-standard set of redundancy provisions, then another set of workers entitled to significantly less." 


In recent weeks 200 workers walked off Sandvik's sites in protest at the company's unwillingness to implement standard entitlements and conditions. 
 


Members have since returned to work in the hope of achieving an outcome, however further industrial action, including a 24-hour stoppage and overtime bans could be possible.

"The AMWU is calling for intervention from the company's international management to resolve the dispute," said Mr Wright.

"Sandvik Global in Sweden need to be fair and reasonable and ensure that every worker, regardless of what site they work on, receives the same degree of security and protection as the next worker.

"The AMWU has always maintained, one site, one set of conditions. Sandvik's bosses must implement that urgently to give the workers security going into 2011."

If you would like to show your support for Sandvik workers seeking equal entitlements and conditions please send an email to the company's Swedish head office: info.smc@sandvik.com

Monday, December 13, 2010

ACTU: Cancún lays foundations

12 December, 2010 | ACTU Media Release

Unions have secured protection of the rights of workers in the transition to a low-pollution economy in final negotiations at the United Nations climate change conference in Cancún.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said inclusion of the interests of workers in the UN documents was a breakthrough that gave hope that action on climate change on a global level was progressing.

The ACTU was part of a delegation of unions from more than 40 countries around the world and the International Trade Union Confederation that worked hard to ensure the concept of a ‘just transition’ was included in the final documents from the Cancún conference.

Ms Kearney said that while the final statements may not be perfect, the outcome was a good building block for the future and lays a firm foundation for the next phase of international negotiations and action leading into the COP17 at Durban in 2011.

The ACTU congratulates the parties for anchoring Copenhagen commitments, an important step for multilateral cooperation. The commitments cover over 80 percent of the world’s emissions and will ensure together we are on the way to decreasing pollution globally.

The commitments also reflect the fact that action is already being taken at national level around the world to respond to the challenge of climate change by reducing pollution and promoting clean energy sources.

However, more needs to be done to ensure that action on climate change meets the objective of ensuring global temperature rises remain below 2 degrees Celcius.

Liu Xiaobo: Nobel Peace Prize 2010

The Nobel Peace Prize 2010 was awarded to Liu Xiaobo "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China".

For over two decades, Liu Xiaobo has been a strong spokesman for the application of fundamental human rights also in China. He took part in the Tiananmen protests in 1989; he was a leading author behind Charter 08, the manifesto of such rights in China which was published on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 10th of December 2008. The following year, Liu was sentenced to eleven years in prison and two years' deprivation of political rights for “inciting subversion of state power". Liu has consistently maintained that the sentence violates both China's own constitution and fundamental human rights.

The campaign to establish universal human rights also in China is being waged by many Chinese, both in China itself and abroad. Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

WikiLeaks: Opinion v. hysterics

Federal Labor MP Laurie Ferguson thinks the government had overreacted to the WikiLeaks release of secret US documents. He said the information that had been released was crucial to democracy and exposing the truth.

"It hasn't been borne out that people have been endangered by this information," Mr Ferguson said.

"On the other side of the ledger, I think it is important that the world is informed on how intense the Saudis are about Iran's nuclear program and, for instance, that some members of the federal Labor Party caucus are so heavily engaged in briefing another nation."

Julian Burnside, QC, said of the government: "I think they are trying to defend the indefensible."

He said the state had an obligation to protect citizens who got into trouble in a foreign country. "They ignored that obligation and instead sided with the Americans. They even went so far as to threaten to cancel his passport. That's exactly the opposite of what any self-respecting country ought to do."

I think, standing back from it, what we have seen is what happens to a citizen who breaks the unwritten law about embarrassing the governments of powerful countries … If they want to avoid embarrassment, they shouldn't shut down freedom of information. They should stop acting embarrassingly."

Greg Barns, a barrister with experience of Australian terror trials, said: "Even under the outrageous curtailing of freedom of speech that the anti-terror laws represent in this country, you couldn't even at a stretch maintain that there was an intention or even recklessness on the part of Mr Assange."

Mr Barns and others pointed out that any charge laid against Mr Assange would also have to be laid against all the large media outlets that had republished his documents.

Federal Independent MP Andrew Wilkie commented "I believe the Prime Minister is showing a contempt for the rule of law - the way she has ruled out the presumption of innocence and instead there seems to be a presumption of guilt when it comes to Mr Assange, that's not how we do things in Australia and she should know better.

"And as a lawyer, she should know she's potentially compromised any legal proceedings that might be brought against Mr Assange if in fact he makes it to the US.

"I believe also she's shown a complete contempt for Australia's sovereignty - the way she has defaulted to the interests of the US, instinctively it seems, rather than the interests of an Australian citizen."

Rod Brooks Memorial Forum 2010

Saturday, 11 December 2010, 3.00 pm
Family Hotel, 15 Parke Street, Katoomba

Public Schools – Our Future
Future Funding and the National Curriculum

[ Download: A4 PosterA5 Flyer ]

A survey of over 11,000 public school principals and teachers shows:
  • Teachers overwhelmingly believe the best way to lift student outcomes is to cut class sizes and increase the individual attention every child receives.
  • The under-funding of public schools has led to higher teacher and principal workloads and a reliance on fundraising by parents to ensure students receive a high quality education.
  • Principals say fundraising is being used to provide much-needed classroom equipment (71 per cent), library resources/textbooks (58 per cent) and computers (57 per cent).
Speakers

Gary Zadkovich: Deputy President NSW Teachers' Federation
Dennis Fitzgerald: Vice President NSW Teachers' Federation

Friday, December 10, 2010

London: Parliament in uproar

Millionaire Con-Dem ministers cowered behind a massive police security cordon today as they forced through Parliament a huge increase in English student tuition fees.

However the government's majority was slashed to 21 following a revolt by around 30 Lib Dem and Tory MPs.

A rise in fees to as much as £9,000 per year was approved by 323 votes to 302, a result which jolted the government by drastically eroding the government's notional majority of around 80.

Parliament was under siege, with chanting students clashing with police as they were forcefully kettled in by police horses and a phalanx of officers in riot gear armed with shields and batons.

Among those voting against were former Lib Dem leaders Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell.

Lib Dem Mike Crockart announced his resignation as aide to Scottish Secretary Michael Moore.

Chief architects of the hated policy, Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg, scurried away from the crucial Commons debate following a shambolic opening speech from Business Secretary Vince Cable.

Mr Cable struggled as he faced angry interruptions from the Labour benches. The colour drained from his cheeks, his hands shook and he did not dare take more than a few interventions from MPs.

Raucous laughter greeted his claim that increasing tuition fees would create "a more progressive system."

The noise reached a crescendo as he proclaimed: "I am proud to put forward this measure to the House."

Under the Con-Dem policy, most graduates would be paying off their debts for 30 years, he said. "The children of these graduates will be starting university before they have paid off their own debts."

AJA - Centenary

December 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first proper trade union for journalists, the Australian Journalists' Association (AJA).

It was the moment at which what was merely an occupation (and not a terribly well-rewarded one) became a profession – and the achievements of journalists since then can be looked back on with a great deal of pride.

At the heart of that pride is the Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism. Founded in 1953 by the chief executive of Ampol, Sir William Gaston Walkley, they were bequeathed to the Media Alliance, Australia's trade union for journalists, who have been the proud trustees of the Awards ever since.

Over nearly six decades, the awards have grown from a modest affair, with just five categories, to become an industry institution, recognising great work in 34 categories across all media platforms.

The AJA was the first union to achieve equal pay for women which it did from its beginning.
John Curtin's AJA Badge
Laurie Oakes this years' winner of the Gold Walkley criticised Julia Gillard and Attorney-General Robert McClelland for their comments about WikiLeaks' release of US diplomatic cables.

"What they said was ridiculous," he said.
"To brand what the WikiLeaks site has done as illegal when there's no evidence of any breach of the law, I think is demeaning ... I think as journalists we should make that our view."

____________________________________

The Media Alliance and the International Federation of Journalism (IFJ) have stood firmly behind Wikileaks and its editor Julian Assange, repudiating “desperate and “dangerous” political attacks on the whistle-blowing organisation.

Alliance federal secretary Christopher Warren and IFJ general secretary Aiden White have condemned the political backlash and accused the United States of attacking free speech after it put pressure on the website’s host server to shut down the site yesterday.

"Amazon's decision is extremely disappointing," said Alliance federal secretary, Christopher Warren.
"We need to take a step back from the hysteria. It is not known whether WikiLeaks has broken any law. It has – via a free media – upheld the public’s right to know.

Amazon.com ceased to host WikiLeaks after United States officials condemned the torrent of revelations about political, business and diplomatic affairs that has given the public unprecedented access to detailed information from United States sources, much of it embarrassing to leading public figures.

"It is unacceptable to try to deny people the right to know,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "These revelations may be embarrassing in their detail, but they also expose corruption and double-dealing in public life that is worthy of public scrutiny. The response of the United States is desperate and dangerous because it goes against fundamental principles of free speech and democracy."

Thursday, December 09, 2010

WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks isn't acting alone -- it's partnered with the top newspapers in the world (Sydney Morning Herald, New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, etc) to carefully review 250,000 US diplomatic cables and remove any information that it is irresponsible to publish. Only 800 cables have been published so far. Past WikiLeaks publications have exposed government-backed torture, the murder of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and corporate corruption.

The US government is currently pursuing all legal avenues to stop WikiLeaks from publishing more cables, but the laws of democracies protect freedom of the press. The US and other governments may not like the laws that protect our freedom of expression, but that's exactly why it's so important that we have them, and why only a democratic process can change them.

Reasonable people can disagree on whether WikiLeaks and the leading newspapers it's partnered with are releasing more information than the public should see. Whether the releases undermine diplomatic confidentiality and whether that's a good thing. Whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has the personal character of a hero or a villain. But none of this justifies a vicious campaign of intimidation to silence a legal media outlet by governments and corporations.

Law experts say WikiLeaks in the clear (ABC)
http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2010/s3086781.htm

Monday, December 06, 2010

ACTU: Low-pollution economy

03 December, 2010 | ACTU Media Release

The Cancun Climate Change Summit now underway will be an opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue and further global action on climate change.

ACTU President Ged Kearney is attending the summit in Mexico for various meetings and discussions with world leaders in hopes to advance a resolution on the issue.

Unions have been campaigning around this issue for years and call on the Government to act quickly to ensure Australia does not lag far behind the global community.

Ms Kearney said that a global gathering will highlight that urgent action is needed for a domestic carbon pricing mechanism that will encourage investment in new industries.

"Our major international competitors are already establishing themselves in clean energy industries, technology and manufacturing,” Ms Kearney said.

"We are missing out on billions of dollars of investment that is now flowing to projects and communities in other countries.

"The longer we take to move to a low pollution economy here the more it will cost Australia to make the economic transformation.

"To remain globally competitive we need to establish a price on carbon, invest in and develop new industries and jobs as well as assist in helping current industries to become cleaner and more efficient. This will ensure that vulnerable communities will be cared for."

BMCC support for cleaners

Blue Mountains City Council (BMCC) staff have recommended the adoption of the LHMU Clean Start principles for all BMCC cleaning contracts and tenders at the meeting next week. This came from a notice of motion Councillor Gibbs put up some months ago, and staff have supported this move.

Gibbs' motion was unanimously passed making BMCC one of the first local government areas to adopt these principles to ensure that cleaners get a fair deal.

Recommendation:
That the Council endorses the inclusion of principles contained in the LMHU Clean Start Collective Agreement into all future Council cleaning contracts, noting that when fresh tenders are called for external cleaning services there may be an impact on the contract price for the service.

BMCC also passed the following

That BMCC write to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Treasurer Wayne Swan, Federal Minister for Jobs and Workplace Relations Simon Crean, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin, Minister for the Status of Women Kate Ellis and Member for Macquarie Louise Markus asking that the Federal Government to support the ASU's Equal Pay Case currently being heard by Fair Work Australia on behalf of the social and community workers in the Blue Mountains to reflect the immensely valuable work they do and the important contribution they make to the well being of the Blue Mountains and acknowledge the existing pay gender gap for community, social and disability sector workers and work to address this gap.

That BMCC write to the NSW Premier Kristina Kenneally, NSW Minister for Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services Peter Primrose, and Minister for Community Services Linda Burney asking that the NSW Government support the ASU's Equal Pay case and agree to fund any wage increases that come from this case for Blue Mountains and NSW community, social and disability workers.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

MUA opposes toxic ship

The Maritime Union of Australia National Secretary and President of the International Transport Workers' Federation, Paddy Crumlin, has congratulated the Danish Government for refusing to accept toxic waste shipments from Australia after unions repeatedly voiced concern over the plan.

Mr Crumlin said the Danish decision was a victory for common sense over the scheme to load the hazardous chemical waste from the Orica site at Port Botany and ship it for disposal in Denmark.

"The first shipment of this toxic waste was due to leave tomorrow, so we would like to thank all of the unions involved who lobbied hard for this outcome," he said.

On behalf of the drivers at the Australian end of the operation, State Secretary of the Transport Workers Union, Wayne Forno, said: "Ensuring that risk assessment is carried out on the driving route and risks associated with it for our drivers, we support the MUA in totality."

Mr Crumlin added: "There needs to be a long term solution thought out for this issue. It is not good enough to ship hazardous chemical waste around the globe - there are enormous risks involved."

Mr Crumlin also said Orica had confirmed that it would be required to accept the return of the waste if it was not destroyed for any reason.

He said the Beluga Fascination, currently berthed at Port Botany, had been chartered to transport the waste to Denmark.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Stiglitz warns UK

Joseph Stiglitz is a US economist and Nobel Prize winner.

“I argue that Britain, and the world, cannot afford not to have another stimulus. We cannot afford austerity. In a better world, we might rightfully debate the size of the public sector. Even now there should be a debate about how government spends its money. But today cutbacks in spending will weaken Britain, and even worsen its long-term fiscal position relative to well-designed government spending.

“There is a shortage of aggregate demand – the demand for goods and services that generates jobs. Cutbacks in government spending will mean lower output and higher unemployment, unless something else fills the gap. Monetary policy won't. Short-term interest rates can't go any lower, and quantitative easing is not likely to substantially reduce the long-term interest rates government pays – and is even less likely to lead to substantial increases either in consumption or investment.

“Britain is embarking on a highly risky experiment. More likely than not, it will add one more data point to the well- established result that austerity in the midst of a downturn lowers GDP and increases unemployment, and excessive austerity can have long-lasting effects.”

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Rome: "Block Everything Day"

Thousands of students blocked the centre of Rome as part of nationwide protests against university budget cuts.

Up to 50,000 students marched through the capital in a concerted attempt to "paralyse" the city, dubbed "Block Everything Day," organisers said.

According to the Italian Students' Union (UDS), "more than 400,000 students are rallying throughout Italy".

Police in riot gear blocked all entrances to the Chamber of Deputies as lawmakers voted on the reforms and officers were forced to redirect traffic as the city centre was brought to a standstill in several areas.

Bewildered tourists looked on as traffic was rerouted in the area around the iconic Trevi Fountain, which is usually pedestrianised.

MPs adopted the law by 307 votes to 252, and it now goes to the Senate, possibly as early as next week.

Students said the protests aimed to save public universities from destruction.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

William Cooper Kristallnacht protest 1938

It's 72 years since the terrible night in Germany and Australia called Kristallnacht - the Night of Broken Glass. The organised mass violence against Jews saw rampaging Nazis smash Jewish stores and properties, kill nearly 100 people and intern 36,000 others in camps.
William Cooper
A month later, across the other side of the world in Melbourne, a remarkable elderly man organised a protest march to the German consulate, the only private demonstration against the pogrom of that night. The man was William Cooper, now recognised as one of the founders of modern Aboriginal activism, who fought for the plight of many oppressed groups as well as his own people.

Shmuel Rosenkranz was only 10 when the Nazis stormed his hometown of Vienna in the terrifying attacks of Kristallnacht. He and some of his family were among the relative few to escape the destruction of that night.

Decades later, he was to discover in his new home on the other side of the globe that back in 1938, an Australian man had stood up for the Jews in the only known private protest against Kristallnacht.

Shmuel Rosenkranz: "In my opinion, the man was a great humanist, above all."

William Cooper wasn't just half a world away from the Nazi horror, he was a man disenfranchised in his own country, the founder of the Australian Aborigines' League.

Aged 77, William Cooper led a delegation from his house in Melbourne's inner-west to the German consulate in the city to deliver a resolution, "... against the cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi Government of Germany and asking that the persecution be brought to an end."

NSW Nurses Action

Nurses in NSW public hospitals are caring for up to eight patients each, double the ratio the nurses' union says is needed for safe patient care.

A study of staffing in 332 hospital wards, commissioned by the NSW Nurses Association, found the ratio in general wards at most major hospitals averaged one nurse to 5.3 patients.

However the number of patients assigned to each nurse varied widely, with those on evening shifts often caring for seven patients each, and those on nights looking after more than eight.

The study, by nursing workforce experts at two Sydney universities, comes as the state government agreed to consider mandated staffing ratios in return for a halt to industrial action planned for today.

The minimum ratio sought for general wards at most major hospitals is one nurse for four patients plus a registered nurse (RN) in charge of morning and evening shifts. At night, the ratio could rise to one to seven.

The general secretary of the association, Brett Holmes, said: "Just one extra person on a shift can make the difference between a ward coping really well and a situation where there's lots of near-misses."

NBN: National Broadband

TELSTRA and NBN Co will submit a definitive agreement to the competition watchdog within weeks, as the first piece of legislation reshaping the telecommunications sector passed Parliament yesterday.

Smaller players say the new laws radically change the sector by providing a level playing field for the first time since the sector was opened to competition.

Changes to the 1997 Telecommunications Act passed the Senate with amendments on Friday and the lower house approved the amendments yesterday, bringing the new laws to life.

It is the first piece of legislation necessary for the government to build its national broadband network, while two more pieces - to establish NBN Co as a company and outlining access arrangements - were introduced last week.

The government has promised to publish NBN Co's full business plan next month.

ACTU: Election review

An ACTU-commissioned review of the election had found union concern at a string of federal policy issues combined with anger at the unpopular Queensland and NSW governments undermined ACTU attempts to revive its anti-Work Choices campaign against Tony Abbott.

Unions found it difficult to mobilise members and the broader community to support the ALP at this year's election.

Issues included union concerns about the final form of the Fair Work Act; the failure to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the threats to the pay and conditions of workers as a result of Labor's award modernisation process.

The review says "teachers felt under attack by the Rudd government".

"Affiliates openly discussed the hostility of members towards the ALP, with a perception that they had not delivered on key issues and that this sense of disengagement led union members to vote for the Greens," it says.

"The perception that the ACTU was too close to Labor was a recurrent theme, as was the need to develop an independent voice on behalf of union members and their families.

"A complete list of the federal issues raised as a concern by affiliates includes: NAPLAN testing, the ABCC, the Fair Work legislation, My School website, the perceived attitude of the federal parliamentary Labor Party to union issues, Julia Gillard's perceived hostility to the teaching profession, award modernisation and OHS harmonisation."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ark Tribe - Victory

Pike River Mine disaster

25 November, 2010 | ACTU Media Release

Australian unions extend their sympathy to the families of the victims of the Pike River Mine tragedy in New Zealand, particularly the relatives of the two Australian victims, William Joynson and Joshua Ufer.

In a joint statement, ACTU President Ged Kearney and Secretary Jeff Lawrence said: “We all shared the hopes that these 29 brave men would come out alive, but tragically that has not eventuated.

"It should never be forgotten that underground mining remains one of the most dangerous occupations there is, and that the men and women who work in the industry put their lives at risk on a daily basis.

"In the wake of the Pike River tragedy, unions, employers and governments must redouble our efforts to improve occupational health and safety in the mining industry."

Europe: Unions oppose "Slash and Burn"

All across Europe, workers are rallying against government by the bankers, for the bankers.

Portugal 24 November 2010

Portugal was brought to a standstill to press the Socialist government to scrap its regressive cuts programme.

The general strike against EU-mandated austerity, the first to be organised jointly by Portugal's two main unions since 1988, is the country's largest ever stoppage.

Trains and buses weren't running, planes were grounded and banking services halted.

General Union of Workers (UGT) head Joao Proenca said: "It is a bigger strike than the one in 1988 - it is the biggest strike ever."

CGTP general secretary Manuel Carvalho da Silva said: "I have never seen so many people support and identify so closely with the causes of a strike before."

Striking worker Leonore Pedro said: "We are protesting against the cuts because they mean we wont be able to meet our basic needs, pensioners won't have enough money for medicine."

Pensioner Leandro Martins added: "It's the workers who are paying for the crisis, not the bankers or the shareholders of big companies."

Britain 25 November 2010

Police tactics used against student protesters on Wednesday were condemned as "outrageous and unacceptable yesterday by anti-cuts groups the Coalition of Resistance and National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC).

An estimated 130,000 school, college and university students across Britain participated in the day of action, which saw protesters in London -some as young as 13 - pressed into an area at Whitehall for almost nine hours without access to food, water or toilet facilities.

Greece 25 November 2010

Hundreds of trade unionists and ex-army officers marched through central Athens today in yet another protest against the government's deep austerity cuts.

The small-scale demonstration was organised by umbrella groups representing public and private-sector workers, who also organised a three-hour work stoppage in the capital that disrupted public transport and services.

The Socialist government has slashed pensions and salaries, boosted taxes and facilitated private-sector sackings and wage cuts.

Greek trade unions are planning a full-scale nationwide general strike for December 15.

The Greek islands remained without ferry services for a third day today due to a strike by seamen who are pressing for collective wage agreements with shipping companies.

Ireland 25 November 2010

Irish civil servants were urged to take action by their unions today after the government announced plans to cull almost 25,000 staff.

The proposals to cut public-sector pay by £1 billion will see veteran workers working alongside newly recruited civil servants earning 10 per cent less.

Siptu general secretary Jack O'Connor said that the four-year "roadmap to recovery" had all the hallmarks of a roadmap back to the stone age.

"It's a declaration of war on lower income people in the country who contributed least to the cause of the problems," he said.

Impact, which represents 65,000 people across the health, local government, education and Civil Service sectors, said that pay for new staff will be almost 25 per cent lower than two years ago.

General secretary Shay Cody said: "The measures outlined are driven by the obsession with bailing out zombie banks rather than the need to stimulate economic activity to create jobs and get us out of recession.

He said that Saturday's national demonstration called by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions was the last chance to express broad public support for a more sane approach in advance of next month's budget.

Be heard: Stop the power sell-off

The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA) and the Greens invite you to join them for a public meeting to oppose the NSW government's plans to privatise the energy retailers.

Don't allow the NSW government to give you higher power bills to feed corporate mega profits.

Where: Theatrette, NSW Parliament House, 
Macquarie St, Sydney
When: Tuesday 30 November 2010
Time: 10.30 am - 11.30 am

Speakers include:
  • Greens NSW MP John Kaye
  • Charmaine Crowe, CPSA
  • Cate Turner, the Older Women's Network
  • Mark Henley, Uniting Care Australia, energy project, South Australia
Learn about the negative impacts of electricity privatisation on low income earners, particularly on pensioners.

Listen to a speaker from South Australia provide their perspective on the effects of deregulation and privatisation of energy retailers in that state.

Let the NSW government know you oppose the sell-off of public assets.

To RSVP contact Kelly Marks
Ph: 9230 2668 or email kelly.marks@parliament.nsw.gov.au

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

ABCC loses Ark Tribe case

Ark Tribe stood trial in Adelaide Magistrates Court charged with failing to attend the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) to answer questions about a union meeting at an Adelaide building site in 2008.

Magistrate David Whittle delivered a verdict of not guilty to the offence, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail for a conviction.

Leaving the court, Mr Tribe pumped the air with his fist and vowed to fight for other workers if they faced charges under the laws.


"Australians, regular working Australians can feel proud, we got them," he said.

In a statement released immediately after the verdict, National Secretary of the CFMEU Construction and General Division, Dave Noonan, says the union is elated.

"We have been fighting this for 18 months, and this is terrific news for Ark and his family.

It proves what a shambles the ABCC is. A worker has been dragged through hell for what?

The Government must now recognise the Australian Building and Construction Commission to be a shambles and move to abolish it once and for all," he said.

Federal Greens MP Adam Bandt said the Government should immediately scrap the ABCC.

"Ark Tribe's acquittal today is a rebuff to the powers of the building commission and further evidence of the need to scrap these laws," he said.

"There is no place for laws that give one group of workers less rights than accused criminals, let alone other workers.

"The Australian public does not support the ABCC having the coercive powers used against Ark Tribe. These are unjust laws that are not supported by the broader population."

ACTU: Asbestos campaign

23 November, 2010 | ACTU Media Release

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said this week’s national Asbestos Awareness Week is a timely reminder that up to 20,000 Australians will be affected by asbestos-related diseases over the next two decades, but more needs to be done to highlight the dangers of the deadly substance.

The continuing threat to public health posed by asbestos means there also must be a redoubled effort to safely manage and remove it from workplaces, homes and community buildings, says the ACTU.

The ACTU welcomes the recent announcement by the Federal Government of a national Asbestos Management Review to examine asbestos handling, removal, education, reporting and public health issues.

Last week's report by the NSW Ombudsman not only gave a snapshot of the extent of the problem, but backed calls by unions for a co-ordinated plan and agency to deal with the eradication of asbestos as a national level.

Mr Lawrence said a survey conducted by Victorian asbestos disease support and advocacy groups that found almost three-quarters of respondents feared they had been exposed to asbestos at some stage highlighted the need for co-ordinated action.

"Australia has an unenviable record of one of the world’s highest rate of asbestos related diseases and a legacy of asbestos containing materials in many workplaces and buildings, including houses,” Mr Lawrence said.

"Unions have a strong record of campaigning for the banning and removal of asbestos, better treatment and compensation of victims, and effective punishment for corporate neglect on this issue.

"The use of all forms of asbestos in Australia has been banned since 2003, including its import and export. But, because of the legacy of its use, we have not solved the problem of asbestos exposures – for either people at work or in the general community.

"To eliminate deadly asbestos related disease in Australia we must decrease and eventually eliminate all exposures to asbestos."

Mr Lawrence said the new Asbestos Management Review, headed by former ACTU Assistant Secretary Geoff Fary, was an important and welcome development, and consistent with calls by unions and advocacy groups for a national approach.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Countdown to Ark’s Verdict

Dear Supporter,

I’m on my way to Adelaide to hear Ark’s verdict.

I’m carrying with me a copy of over 2500 messages of support to give to Ark, so he can have them as he walks in to court to hear his verdict.

Thank you for all your messages.

In Adelaide we’ll be showing our support at a rally in Victoria Square at 8:30am, and lining up a guard of honour as Ark walks into court for his verdict at 9:30am on Wednesday 24 November.

New polling has been released today which shows that construction unions are trusted over the federal government and developers when it comes to looking after the health and safety of workers in the building and construction industry.

It goes to show how out of touch the ABCC is with community sentiment.

The ABCC was set up by the Howard Government as a means of strangling the role of unions on Australian workplaces. Yet most Australians are the best way of protecting the safety of ordinary construction workers.

Ark is just an ordinary bloke who pointed out safety problems on site. For this he has endured 18 months of legal wrangling with a jail term hanging over his head.

Just after 9:30am on Wednesday 24 November Ark will finally learn of his verdict. We’ll be sure to update our 20,000 supporters as soon as we hear.

Thanks for your support,
Dave Noonan and the Rights on Site team
www.rightsonsite.org.au

US Economics explained



Federal Reserve: Quantitative Easing

GASLAND Trailer



"The largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history has swept across the United States. The Halliburton-developed drilling technology of "fracking" or hydraulic fracturing has unlocked a "Saudia Arabia of natural gas" just beneath us. But is fracking safe? When filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination. A recently drilled nearby Pennsylvania town reports that residents are able to light their drinking water on fire. This is just one of the many absurd and astonishing revelations of a new country called GASLAND. Part verite travelogue, part expose, part mystery, part bluegrass banjo meltdown, part showdown."

Farmers' mining moratorium

Media Release | Spokesperson Christine Milne
Wednesday 27th October 2010

The Greens have long called for a moratorium on coal seam gas projects ... because of the risks to the water table and agricultural land. The Greens have also campaigned with farmers to protect farming land from encroachment by coal mining.

"As the farmers say, you can't eat coal for breakfast," Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said.

"The Gillard government promised a food security plan during the election campaign and they must heed the farmers' call to develop an effective, comprehensive plan before approving any more mining projects that could jeopardise that food security.

"Agriculture in Australia is already under serious pressure and faces an impossibly dry future thanks to climate change if we let the coal and gas sector keep expanding.

"But we don't even have to wait for climate change to bite - these mining projects are huge water guzzlers in their own right. Why should their claim on water trump that of farmers?

"The NSW Farmers Association is to be congratulated for the bold step in calling for a moratorium on mining projects until a food security strategy can be developed. The NFF should look seriously at following NSW's lead and call for a national moratorium."

Queensland farmers: Lock the Gate Campaign

ABCC: support for workplace spies

Construction workers face prosecution by the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) for walking off the job in support of desalination plant workers.

Resumption of work at the Brumby government's $5 billion project hinges on a meeting this morning of members of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), who yesterday voted to stay on strike.

The ABCC yesterday raised the prospect of the workers being prosecuted for "unlawful" industrial action. He also suggested workers at Thiess sites in NSW had gone on strike.

In a statement the commissioner, Mr Johns said: "The ABCC is aware of the failure of workers to return to work at the desal plant in Victoria and of what appears to be sympathy unlawful industrial action at other Thiess sites in Victoria, Queensland and NSW.

"The ABCC is closely monitoring the situation and investigations are continuing."

Bill Oliver, the CFMEU's Victorian secretary, last night attacked the ABCC, comparing its conduct to the company at the centre of the controversy.

"The ABCC have surveilled, spied upon and secretly investigated workers and their representatives since its inception," Mr Oliver said. "Their behaviour is strikingly similar to that of Australian Securities Investigations at the desalination plant, except for the obvious protection they're provided by dubious and contentious laws."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Royal wedding circus?

Prince William, announced his long-awaited engagement to Kate Middleton.

The event is to be held in spring or summer next year - exactly 30 years since his father Prince Charles married Diana in a ceremony watched by 750 million people worldwide.

1981 was a difficult year for Great Britain.

In the grip of inflation, the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher took an axe to public spending. A recession followed and the poor and out-of-work took to the streets in deprived areas such as Liverpool's Toxteth estate and Brixton in London.

The Royal Wedding was a focal point, a distraction, an excuse to use the word 'fairytale' in news copy. The British nation stopped and watched, and for a little while a tiny bit of the magic rubbed off on everyone.

What a fortunate coincidence that, after an eight-year relationship, William and Kate have decided to wed now.

The British government last month announced 81 billion pounds worth of cuts to public spending in a bid to kick-start an economy bruised and battered by the global financial crisis. Unemployment is currently at 7.7 per cent with some warning public service cuts will send it higher. Last week thousands of students took to the streets in a protest that ended in violence.

Could this be the event which lifts the British psyche out of its deep depression?

more

NZ Miners

Trevor Bolderson, a member and delegate of the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), said on Saturday that the chances of a second blast at the Pike River Coal mine were high after initial readings were taken of the gas levels in the mine.

"Gas samples taken at the mine are turning the wrong way and we are expecting that the second explosion may be forthcoming," he said.

"At the moment the rescue guys can't get into the mine because of this."

He said a number of families had congregated at a Red Cross centre in nearby Greymouth as the drama unfolded.

The miners were entombed after a powerful gas blast struck at the Pike River Coal Mine in Atarau, on South Island, on Friday.

A mission to locate the workers was hampered on Saturday by fears that dangerous gas could trigger a second explosion. It is not known if the men - who have now been missing for more than 24 hours - are alive or dead.

Two injured miners stumbled to the surface hours after the blast shot up the 108m ventilation shaft at the mine on Friday.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union Queensland president Stephen Smyth said the two chemists would use the gas monitoring equipment to determine when the mine would be safe to enter.

"It's a terrible, terrible accident, very tragic," Smyth said. "When a coal mine goes bang, really the minutes and hours after it are the most important for people to get out because you've got the risk of secondary explosions."

Union general president Tony Maher said the Australian mine rescue experts that have been sent would be the best chance the miners had of survival, but it did not look good for them. "You've got to remember the Chile thing was a copper and gold mine. There's no explosive gases in those mines. Coal's got additional hazards. "If what's happened has been a methane and coal dust explosion, then... they've been disastrous in the past."

Maher said there was only a small number of Australians working in New Zealand mines. Two Australians are confirmed among the missing.

Asked if there had been any safety concerns about miners working in New Zealand, Maher said: "Mate, all mines are dangerous. I don't know if New Zealand is better or worse. We've had plenty of disasters in Australia."

Equal Pay - Pay Up!

After entering into an agreement with the Australian Services Union (ASU) last year to support the Equal Pay Case for social and community services sector workers, the Gillard Government has gone weak on that support for equal pay. In the submission put to Fair Work Australia yesterday, the Government has claimed that protecting the future budget surplus is more important than finally delivering pay equity to employees who work with the most marginalised in society.
The Government has certainly not said that there isn't a pay equity problem, on the contrary, they agree that the problem is real and needs to be fixed. They just don't want to pay what is necessary to fix it. For more information, check out the links below, which will be updated regularly. The ASU is asking all our supporters to contact their federal politicians and make their concerns known.

You can send an online postcard to Julia Gillard showing your support for the Equal Pay Case at http://www.payup.org.au/ - a renewed flurry of postcards will show them in Canberra that we don't agree with their submission!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vic Desal spy scandal

18 November, 2010 | ACTU Media Release

A secret operation to spy on workers at Victoria's desalination plant construction project is unethical business behaviour and an unacceptable breach of workers’ rights.

The ACTU said the covert operation spying on workers was an invasion of privacy and a breach of trust of the highest order.

The spying operation was even more outrageous given the impeccable industrial relations record at the project, said ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence.

"Revelations today that contractor Thiess Degremont hired a company run by someone with a long history of anti-union activities to spy on workers at the Wonthaggi desalination project are highly disturbing," Mr Lawrence said.

"This is a massive breach of trust of the employment relationship and under no circumstances can it be tolerated or justified.

"No worker should expect to be spied upon by people paid to pose as work colleagues and secretly gather information.

"The employment of Bruce Townsend – who has a criminal record for receiving stolen goods and is a known agent provocateur – was an appalling error of judgment by Thiess.

"This project has until now been a model for harmonious industrial relations. It has an excellent record of no days lost to industrial action and is approaching completion on time and on budget.

"It has been a great example of what can be achieved through a co-operative approach between management and unions, but that has now all been undone by these actions by the company.

"No-one could blame the workers on the project for feeling betrayed today.

"Public statements by the company's chief executive would suggest that senior managers were not aware of his hiring, but this is hardly an excuse as it reveals a terrible culture within the company.

"Shareholders of Thiess’ parent company, Leighton Holdings, would be fully entitled to ask why hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent in this way."

Mr Lawrence said Thiess must conduct a full, open and independent investigation into this matter

Exec Pay: Boom in greed

A new analysis of remuneration at Australia’s 50 largest companies reveals the typical CEO is taking home almost 100 times that of the average worker.

The analysis of CEO remuneration at companies listed on the ASX/S&P 50 Index, shows that the gap is widening between what CEOs personally earn and what they pay their employees.

The study has found that after a short period of restraint in 2008-9 when the Global Financial Crisis hit Australia, executive pay has hit stratospheric new heights and the average CEO will this year take home $6.4 million in total remuneration

Other key findings include:

  • Executive pay rose by an average of more than $940,000 or 17.2% over the past year, while the annual wage of a full-time worker rose by just $3200, or 5.2%.
  • Since 2001, the base pay for CEOs has grown by 130%.
  • Profits soared by 27.5% in the last 12 months to a record share of the national economy, while wages’ share is the lowest since 1964.
  • The highest paid executive, News Corporation CEO and chairman Rupert Murdoch, earned $26.8 million in 2010.
  • The CEOs of the four big banks earned $44.3 million combined.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the Executive PayWatch 2010 report highlighted the blatant hypocrisy of big business executives in pushing for industrial relations deregulation that would cut the pay, conditions and rights of Australian workers.

"The numbers in this report tell a story of greed and inequality," Ms Kearney said.

"They show that after a brief hiatus in 2008 and 2009, the pay packets of company executives are again rising sharply.

"Australians are rightly outraged at the excesses of the business community before the Global Financial Crisis. Ridiculously high salaries and unwarranted bonuses contributed to the financial meltdown by encouraging executives to take risks in pursuit of short-term profits.

"Millions of working people around the world are now paying the price for this unethical business behaviour through joblessness, higher taxes and reduced public services.

"We need stronger curbs on executive salaries and measures to force businesses to look to the long term sustainability of the company and to serve the interests of the whole Australian community, not just their shareholders. We need fairer taxation and an end to the rorts and loopholes benefitting high income earners.

"And we need to strengthen the rights of Australian workers and ensure employees are able to bargain collectively for a decent share of the nation's wealth."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

UK: Long term jobless increase

A quarter of a million people have been claiming jobseeker's allowance for more than one year, official figures showed today.

There are currently 245,370 adults in England, Scotland and Wales who have been unemployed and claiming the dole for 12 months or more - over double the number that were in this position at the start of the recession in January 2008.

The fresh figures paint a grim picture of the coalition government's much-vaunted economic recovery plan, which is based on the view that cutting public-sector budgets will pave the way for new private-sector job creation.

However the situation looks worse by the wider ILO measure of unemployment, which shows that 811,000 people in Britain are facing long-term unemployment, an increase of 110 per cent since the start of the recession.

A TUC analysis of official statistics shows that this rise is a result of hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost during the recession and insufficient new ones being created.

Warning that the situation is likely to get worse as the government's spending cuts put at least an extra million people on the dole, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "The UK has 2.5 million people out of work not because we're a nation of work-shy scroungers without a work ethic, but because with an average five unemployed people chasing every vacancy, there is a distinct lack of jobs.

"The number of people who have been out of work for a year or longer has more than doubled since January 2008. Unemployed people are the victims here, not the villains.

"The government should stop blaming unemployed people for their predicament and start creating rather than cutting jobs."

Big Banks - Big Lies

The big four banks have fattened their margins while complaining about being squeezed, new figures reveal.

As Parliament prepares to debate legislation forcing banks to lift rates by no more than the Reserve Bank, figures from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority indicate the average rate paid by the big banks on money they borrowed rose by less than the official cash rate.

"It means we have been complaining about the wrong thing," said Richard Denniss, the director of the Australia Institute, which analysed the figures.

"Whereas we have been angry about banks not moving in lock step with the Reserve, we should have been concerned their actual costs weren't even keeping pace with Reserve Bank increases," he said.

The figures show that while the Reserve cash rate rose 1.36 percentage points between the June quarters of last year and this year, the average rate paid by the big banks rose 0.88 points.

The lower rate would have been because rates on some of the funds banks borrowed went up more slowly than the Reserve cash rate.

"It's like making hamburgers. If meat accounts for a third of your costs and the price of meat goes up 10 per cent, you shouldn't be expected to put the price of hamburgers up 10 per cent," Dr Denniss said.

The Australian Bankers Association confirmed the calculations were correct but said they did not reflect the banks' actual cost of funds.

"To be honest we can't work this out," said its chief executive, Steven Munchenberg. "Performing the same calculation we get the same result but I know it is not right because if it was we would have been being beaten to a pulp with this by the government and the opposition."

The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, said separate Reserve figures showed that over four years the net interest margin of the big banks had "fluctuated in a relatively narrow range".

"This makes it clear there is absolutely no justification for any bank to move above the Reserve Bank," his spokesman said. "We are working on reforms and we won't let the big banks off the hook."

more

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"No!" to Groote Eylandt strip mine

The plan to strip mine the seabed for manganese between Groote Eylandt and Arnhem Land appears to be hitting heavy weather, with federal member Warren Snowdon joining traditional owners in condemning the proposal.

Mr Snowdon has told Perth-based Groote Resources Ltd to abandon its exploration plans, saying traditional owners already had one big mine on their island and that was enough.

Traditional owners say mining would not only destroy the seabed but have unknowable impact on eight significant song lines relating to reincarnation beliefs that criss-cross the tenements.

Groote traditional owner Nancy Lalara said the emergence of Mr Snowdon was crucial. "Snowdon's support is significant," she said. "It's important for us."

Indiginous Health Minister Warren Snowdon has called on manganese hopeful Groote Resources to reconsider its radical plan to mine the seabed near Groote Eylandt for the key steel-making raw material.

In an unusual intervention for a federal minister, Mr Snowdon said there was "vehement" resistance to the plan among the Warnindilyakwa, the indigenous people of Groote Eylandt, in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

"I have been involved with the Groote Eylandt community for more than 30 years and I have never seen the people there so angry and worried about the consequences of mining activity, and how it will impact on their community, culture and environment," said Mr Snowdon, who is the federal member for Lingiari, the vast outback electorate that includes Groote Eylandt.

He said the marine environment of the area was "far too precious" for undersea open-cut mining operations.

Traditional owners are likely to get strong support from the Northern Prawn Fishery as Groote is a key area in both the breeding and harvesting of prawns.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Public-Private fiasco

NSW taxpaers would have been better off if the state government had borrowed to fund the building of all of the tollways and tunnels built in the city, an independent study has found.

The study, by Nicholas Gruen's Lateral Economics for the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, has found the state would be $4.6 billion better off if it had built and operated the tollways itself.

The findings showed that the government could no longer claim it could not afford to build or operate new transport and community infrastructure, the group's president, Cr Alison McLaren said.

The government has argued consistently that additional borrowing to fund these projects would have jeopardised the state's AAA credit rating, resulting in higher borrowing costs.

The report showed that if the government had borrowed for the projects, they would be government owned and virtually paid off by now, Ms McLaren said.

"In addition, the tolls they command would be bringing in a healthy income to the state's coffers, or alternatively, the tolls could be abolished altogether."

Billions to lose in power sell-off

SMH Brian Robins November 15, 2010

The NSW power industry has generated nearly as much money for the state's taxpayers over the last 15 years as Victoria raised from the sale of its power industry, budget figures show.

Victoria reaped an estimated $21.7 billion from the sale of its power industry which began in 1992 and was finished later that decade.

Since 1996, taxpayers in NSW have received at least $15 billion in taxes and dividends from the state-owned power industry, while retaining full ownership of it. Bids close today on the sale of parts of the industry. The sale is expected to generate up to $10 billion, with the government retaining control of all the "hard assets".

For sale are the three power retailers – EnergyAustralia, Integral Energy and Country Energy – along with output of the three generators – Macquarie Generation, Delta Electricity and Eraring Energy – and some development sites. Not for sale are the "poles and wire" high voltage transmission network, the local distribution network or the power generators.

The government's electricity assets are highly profitable and a significant contributor to the state's finances, supplying $1.2 billion this financial year alone in dividends and taxes. As well, a further $544 million this year, rising to $798 million by 2013-14, is budgeted to be raised from a guarantee over the borrowings, mostly of the power companies.

"In the last few years, before the recent IPART-approved price rises, in dividend and tax returns from these assets, the state government has achieved a return of 24 per cent per annum," Bob Walker, a professor at the University of Sydney, said.

"That means that any sale price is likely to be dwarfed by the potential value to taxpayers from retaining these assets."

Banks: Insatiable greed

SMH 15 Nov 2010

The recent round of mortgage rate rises will add an additional $1.2 billion to the total profits of the big four banks, according to the Australia Institute.

Taken together with the Reserve Bank's official 25 basis point rise, borrowers will pay an additional $3 billion in annual repayments, analysis shows.

"There is no doubt that these banks are exploiting their market power to gouge excessive profits from their customers," said senior research fellow at the Australia Institute David Richardson.

"The latest round of interest rate rises shows just how insatiable their thirst for profits is."

The Australia Institute said Australia's banks can change the contractual interest rate on more than 95 per cent of housing loans.

The Australia Institute said it based its calculation on Australian Prudential Regulation Authority housing loan data for the big four banks, adjusted down by the total value of fixed-rate home loans sold over the past three years.

ACTU: Aung San Suu Kyi

The Australian Council of Trade Unions welcomes the release of Ms Suu Kyi from house arrest after seven years, but is deeply concerned that forced labour and repression of basic human rights continue under the military regime in Burma.

"Aung San Suu Kyi is a beacon for democracy fighters worldwide and her overdue release is wonderful news," said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

"It will give hope to activists for a democratic Burma, including the large Burmese refugee community in Australia.

"But it is only one small step towards true democracy, and as the recent sham elections showed, Burma remains an oppressive regime.

"The release of Ms Suu Kyi should be the touchstone for a renewed effort for democratic and human rights reform in Burma.

"The immediate next step should be the release of more than 2200 other political prisoners in Burma.

"Beyond that, violations of labour rights, including complete denial of the right to join a union, remain a major ongoing concern in Burma.

"Forced labour and child labour are also commonplace, and used as a tool of repression by the military regime."

Ms Kearney said Australian unions supported international calls for targeted investment and trade sanctions against Burma, and condemned any Australian companies that do business with the regime.

It has been estimated that Australian companies doing business in Burma are effectively funding the junta to the tune of about $US2.8 billion.

The ACTU’s overseas humanitarian aid agency, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, has had a long-standing commitment to Burma, and operates six projects for refugees on the Thai-Burma border.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi released

November 14, 2010 - 9:37PM

More than 1000 people were gathered outside her lakeside home in the hope of seeing the 65-year-old dissident, known to her supporters simply as "The Lady".

Excited supporters, who had waited outside her home for a glimpse of their idol, cheered and began to surge forwards as police began removing barricades around Suu Kyi’s crumbling mansion where she has been locked up by the military junta for most of the past two decades.

The authorities went inside to read the order to release her from house arrest, a government official said.

Although she has been sidelined and silenced by the junta - occasionally released briefly only to be put back in confinement - for many in the impoverished nation she still embodies hope of a better future.

"I think of her as my mother and also my sister and grandmother because she's the daughter of our independence leader General Aung San," said 45-year-old Naing Naing Win.

"She has her father’s blood."

Despite the risks of opposing the military regime in a country with more than 2200 political prisoners, many supporters wore T-shirts bearing her image and the words: "We stand with Aung San Suu Kyi".

Undercover police were photographing and filming the crowds.

Friday, November 12, 2010

High Court ruling "safeguards liberty"

David Marr SMH 12 Nov 2010
Back in 2001, Australia set up a deliberately second-class system for assessing refugee claims by boat people. About 14,000 have gone through that system which has never been fundamentally challenged until now. The architects of the scheme tried to exclude the courts by separating as far as legally possible the assessment of claims from the minister's role in granting visas. Assessments of visa claims were said to be "non statutory" investigations - hence outside the control of the courts - and only once they were complete did the minister enter the picture. Whether he granted a visa at that point was something said to be absolutely at his personal discretion. Once again, the courts were supposed to be excluded.
They might work, said the court, except that while each case was going on - and here the judges used italics to indicate the crucial importance of these few words - "the claimant was detained". And that changes everything. Loss of liberty, said the seven judges, can only be for lawful purposes. No one can be detained in ways beyond the supervision of the courts...
The court found that despite claims to the contrary, the minister was there at the start directing the assessors to do their work. They are not independent of the law but caught up in the machinery of the Migration Act. The work of the assessors - but not the minister - can therefore be directed by the courts.
The High Court in Canberra yesterday delivered two decisions that struck at the heart of Australia's most divisive and politically-pedalled fears: refugees and criminal gangs.


Richard Ackland SMH 12 Nov 2010
It was a big day for justice, freedoms and rights. As a consequence, you can be sure the political mugging will be even more unrestrained and distorted.
In the organised crime case, the court by a six-to-one majority struck down the key component of the South Australian bikies legislation. The reasoning was clear - the legislation sought to dictate what magistrates were required to do in implementing decisions of the state government...
In the refugee case, the court (unanimously) said that the offshore processing of asylum seekers had to be conducted with procedural fairness and according to law. The fact that the former immigration minister Philip Ruddock had tried to deny legal rights to possible refugees by containing them in black holes like Christmas Island did not excuse the ministerial obligation to observe binding decisions of the Australian courts or the Migration Act itself...
Yesterday was an emphatic statement by the High Court led by Robert French. Further, ministers ignore the law and the judges at their peril. That both major decisions were scheduled to come thudding down from on high on the same day rubs in the points even more forcefully.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

UK: Students v Con-Dem Education Cuts

Over 50,000 workers and students shook the Westminster halls of power today with a march against the raising of tuition fees.

Anger at the Con-Dem cuts and fee rises spilled over just hours after the march with 300 protesters occupying Tory HQ at Millbank.

Windows were smashed and small fires started inside with nine protesters and two police officers reportedly injured.

Protesters from inside Tory HQ released a statement saying: "We oppose the cuts and stand in solidarity with public-sector workers.

"We call for direct action to oppose the cuts. This is just the beginning of the resistance."

The demonstration was twice as big as expected by organisers. The vast majority of protesters rallied under the banners of "Fund Our Future" and "Unity is Strength."


They were flanked by stewards from lecturers' union UCU and the National Union of Students as they marched through central London and past the Houses of Parliament.

MPs inside the Commons could hear their anger loud and clear as students, lecturers and their families joined the chorus of chants against the government's education plans.

The increase in fees to £9,000 on top of inflation and the VAT rise will see the cost of a university education soar by an astonishing 311 per cent.

UCU leader Sally Hunt told protesters: "I am here today to send a message to the politicians at Westminster.

"It isn't fair to make our public universities the most expensive in the world. It isn't progressive to discourage young people from going to college.

"And it isn't just to ask the next generation to pay for others' mistakes. Over the next four years while college grants are cut and tuition fees triple, big business will get £8 billion in tax giveaways from the government," Ms Hunt said.

Labour MP John McDonnell, one of only a handful of politicians on the march, praised the unity shown on the demo.

"This is the biggest workers' and students' demonstration in decades. It just shows what can be done when people get angry. We must build on this," he said.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Peter Hicks in Sydney

Saturday, 20th November, 8pm
Crown on McCredie's Velvet Bar
Cnr of McCredie & Fairfield Roads
Guildford

Peter Hicks a former Sydney based acoustic and folk singer-songwriter now based in Tasmania is returning to sing in Western Sydney. Peter was a regular on the ABC radio in Sydney in the first half of the 90’s and performs frequently on ABC Hobart and has been played on Radio National. He travels around the country and internationally performing at folk festivals.
His songs have been described as chronicling our times in the best tradition of folk music. Peter sings about the environment, population issues, refugee rights with some traditional Australian themes such as Ned Kelly and convict ballads from Tasmania. He uses humour and satire and his serious songs sit alongside those which play havoc with the powers that be in a cheeky mood.

Enquiries: Colin 9043 5850 - 0412 924 251 Ingrid 0437 206 012
Admission donation: $15, $10 concession, $20 Keen Green

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Hong Kong: Café de Coral victory

IUF News 09-11-2010

A vigorous union mobilization against the abolition of paid meal breaks at Café de Coral has forced the company to retreat within days after the new pay policy was imposed.

On November 6, Café de Coral, "the largest publicly listed Chinese Fast Food restaurant group in the world" with over 500 outlets in Asia/Pacific and North America and substantial food processing and catering operations, announced that it was restoring paid meal breaks for restaurant and fast food workers. By abolishing the paid meal break while offering a token hourly increase, Café de Coral had actually imposed a pay cut on already low paid employees.

Workers have not only won back their paid meal time, but secured an overall wage increase averaging 8-10%!

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) and its member Catering & Hotels Industries Employees responded to the company’s initial announcement with a vigorous campaign of public actions; the call for a planned boycott generated widespread support.