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.


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

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:

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:

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).

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. 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 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)

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.

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."