Saturday, December 24, 2011

UnionsNSW: Public ownership of energy assets

Unions NSW has reiterated its support for public ownership of energy assets, in light of the Federal Government's recent white paper.

The White Paper outlined a preference for private ownership of energy assets.

Unions NSW Secretary, Mark Lennon said the domestic and international experience of privatisation showed it was not in the community interest.

"Since energy assets were privatised in Victoria, there hasn't been a single dollar invested in base load generation," Mr Lennon said.

"Privatising a natural monopoly like energy makes no sense, it's simply a license to gouge the community.

"South Australia privatised it's energy industry in 1994 and by 2002, energy prices had increased a whopping forty per cent.

"On the key issues of prices, safety and reliability public ownership is the only option."

"Public sentiment and community expectation is settled on this issue and both State and Federal governments needs to keep that in mind."

"Minister Ferguson has taken the wrong road on this issue."

AFL-CIO: Victory for unemployed

John Boehner and his caucus of Tea Party obstructionists in the House of Representatives finally accepted political reality. Yesterday, they announced they'd join with 89 out of 100 senators from both political parties who’d already voted to renew unemployment aid for two months—with no cuts and no strings attached.

This is an enormous victory. Thanks to you, 2.8 million jobless Americans will have a brighter holiday season—and a helping hand over the next two months. Not an easy time. Not a handout or a free ride. But a lifeline and a chance that you made possible.

In the fight to extend aid for the jobless, the 99% went on the offense against the 1% politicians. And we won. And if working people keep it up, we’ll score more victories and build a better future. Not every time—two steps forward, one step back. But look around. People all across the country are saying our economy and our democracy are out of balance. And they’re winning the public debate.

I hope you’ll take some well-deserved time this holiday season to rest, reflect and recharge. Because in 2012, huge challenges will keep on coming. And we’ll need you ready to start early, act often and work harder than ever.

I wish all the best for you and your family, for our unions and for our nation this holiday season and in the year ahead.

In Solidarity,

Richard L. Trumka
President, AFL-CIO

Thursday, December 15, 2011

NSW: Teachers vote for further industrial action

December 15, 2011 14:05:45

State school teachers in New South Wales have voted to take further industrial action during stop-work meetings that disrupted the second-last day of the 2011 school year.
Teachers met for two hours from 9:00am (AEDT) to discuss last week's wages decision by the state's Industrial Relations Commission (IRC).

The NSW Teachers Federation says the IRC's determination of a 2.5 per cent a year is unacceptable and would amount to a salary cut in real terms.
Federation president Bob Lipscombe says members voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking further action in 2012 if the Government does not return to the negotiating table.

"We're hoping and we'll persist with that, but what we're saying is and what teachers across NSW said overwhelmingly today is if that doesn't work, if the Government isn't prepared to do that then they're prepared to take further action in this campaign," Mr Lipscombe said.
"I guess the message that the Government needs to take or understand from today's action is that teachers are absolutely determined."

Education Minister Adrian Piccoli condemned the action even before it began, saying it was illegal and unjustified.
"Next week there are two pupil free days where the union could have taken this action, but instead they deliberately chose to inconvenience parents and disadvantage students and I think it is going to make parents very angry," Mr Piccoli said.
The Minister says the union is openly defying an order from the IRC last week not to take more industrial action.

But Mr Lipscombe said before the strike that the Government has stripped the IRC of its powers, leaving teachers with little choice. The Government passed legislation earlier this year capping public sector wage increases at 2.5 per cent a year, unless cost savings were delivered first.
"The IRC's hands are very much tied by the State Government's legislation passed earlier this year," Mr Lipscombe said.
"If we're to gain any increases above and beyond that 2.5 per cent without adversely affecting our students learning conditions then this Government has to sit down and negotiate with us. To date they're shown no real interest in doing that."

Opposition spokeswoman Carmel Tebbutt says today's action is the third round of industrial action in state schools since Barry O'Farrell became Premier.

"I think the time has well and truly come for the minister to take control of this dispute," Ms Tebbutt said.
"Offer the teachers a decent salary and make sure that our schools can get back to what they should be about and that is teaching and learning."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hindsight: William Cuffay

ABC Hindsight Tuesday 20 December 2011 2:00PM

William Cuffay in Newgate Gaol 1848
In 1848 William Cuffay, the son of a freed slave, was arrested and transported to Van Diemen's Land by a government fearful of revolution that was sweeping through Europe. Aged 60 Cuffay, a tailor and leader of the London Chartists, was campaigning for the right to vote as part of the first mass working class movement in the world. His transportation to Australia didn't end his political activity. He continued to organise and agitate for democratic rights in Tasmania for another 20 years until his death in 1870, at the age of 82.

Cuffay's Chartist legacy is today enshrined in parliaments in Britain and Australia. His lifelong political activism remains an inspiration to those who believe in workers rights, human rights and democracy. Although Cuffay died a pauper, newspapers in three states -- Tasmania, NSW and Victoria -- published obituaries. One observed that his grave had been 'marked', should a memorial to him be built at some future time. The memorial never transpired, and Cuffay was forgotten in Australia and Britain. But now there's a move to build one -- or perhaps even a statue!

see also
'Cuffay, William (1778–1870)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, 2011

MUA Picket Line At Port Kembla


Management at POAGS Stevedores are taking reckless safety risks on the waterfront through the use of union-busting scab labour at Port Kembla.

Overnight, the company took the dramatic step of helicoptering in scab workers - including companyaccounts and industrial relations managers - into Port Kembla in a cynical attempt to undercut industrial action by locking out 130 MUA stevedores.

MUA picket Port Kembla
The non-union employees were given a scant 20 minute induction before beginning a 12 hourshift on the wharves, endangering both themselves and those around them.

MUA Assistant Secretary, Warren Smith said POAGS' latest gamble with safety reinforced the company's poor record.

"Last year two POAGS employees died at work but rather than address the MUA's concernsabout safety, the company is resorting to 20 minute inductions for scab stevedores," Mr Smith said.

"The MUAwill not back down from its campaign to ensure our members work in safe conditions where their lives and livelihoods are not threatened.

MUA Southern NSW Branch Secretary Garry Keane said safety would not be compromised.

"Rather than bargaining in good faith, POAGS is declaring war on its workforce and in the process, recklessly endangering safety on the waterfront," Mr Keane said.

Mr Keane said the Port Kembla POAGS stevedores are the lowest paid in the country, despite one third of the company's profits coming out of the Illawarra port.


POAGS has prevented wharfies from entering its sites at Fremantle and Bunbury, claiming it is unsafe to continue operating while the work bans are in place.

POAGS and the Maritime Union of Australia are negotiating a new enterprise agreement. Employees are seeking an 18 per cent pay rise over three years, but the company has offered a 12 per cent increase.

POAGS was formerly known as P&O Ports.

The company is chaired by Chris Corrigan, who was in charge of Patrick Corporation during the 1998 waterfront dispute.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Wikileaks: Walkley Award 2011

Wikileaks was awarded the Walkley Award for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism for showing a courageous and controversial commitment to the finest traditions of journalism: justice through transparency.

The Walkley trustees said: “WikiLeaks applied new technology to penetrate the inner workings of government to reveal an avalanche of inconvenient truths in a global publishing coup. Its revelations, from the way the war on terror was being waged, to diplomatic bastardry, high-level horse-trading and the interference in the domestic affairs of nations, have had an undeniable impact.”

Iran: Ebrahim Madadi re-arrested

7 December 2011

The ITUC was dismayed and incensed to hear today that Ebrahim Madadi, a courageous trade unionist and Comrade from Vahed Syndicate in Tehran, was re-arrested today after being freed only last Thursday. A move welcomed by the international trade union movement

ITUC General Secretary, Sharan Burrow, said :”this can only be interpreted as yet another crass and cynical move by the authorities to distract attention from the serious violations of trade union rights in Iran immediately prior to the ILO Regional Asia Pacific Conference which just concluded in Kyoto”.

It is absolutely shameful on the part of the regime to ‘play’ in this fashion with the lives of people and their families, for no other reason than the exercise of their fundamental human and trade union right to represent the legitimate aspirations of other workers.

ITF general secretary David Cockroft added: “We don’t yet know if this arrest is a bureacratic error or an attempt to punish Ebrahim – but either way it’s an unacceptable infringement on his rights and liberty. Like the continuing imprisonment of the increasingly ill Reza Shahabi it is an injustice that is crying out to be righted."

The ITUC will continue to denounce the callous shenanigans of such dishonourable and discredited thugs.


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Japan: Whaling funding attacked

Conservation groups have criticised the Japanese government for funding this year's whaling mission in the Southern Ocean with money from the country's earthquake and tsunami recovery fund.

In all, $US28 million has been set aside to help protect the fleet.

The Japanese Fisheries Agency says it is a legitimate use of the money as whaling towns affected by the earthquake and tsunami will benefit.

But Junichi Sato, from Greenpeace Japan, says it is a tenuous link.

"It's not related to the recovery at all. It is simply used to cover the debts of the whaling program, because the whaling program itself has been suffering from a big financial problems."

The Australian Environment Minister, Tony Burke, said it was not appropriate to spend any money on Japanese whaling.

He said: "I don't think it's appopriate for any money to be spent on Japanese whaling.

"Regardless of where money's coming from our position is really simple. There's no shades of grey here.

"We believe the Southern Ocean is a whaling sanctuary and all whaling that occurs there is wrong."

Australia Network remains public

The government yesterday announced the ABC would permanently hold the $223 million contract for the Australia Network, ensuring that it remains in public hands.

Julia Gillard today said the government believed initially it was appropriate to take the 10-year contract to tender.

With the tender process terminated, it was appropriate the public broadcaster be given the contract, Ms Gillard said.

"This is an important arm of soft diplomacy for Australia," she told reporters in Canberra.
"Many other nations around the world that have comparable services have them associated with the public broadcaster."

Australia Network Chief Executive - Bruce Dover said:

"An assured future for Australia Network with the ABC means we will now be able to develop an integrated, cross-platform content offer for overseas markets. In a fiercely competitive and crowded global market for broadcasting, this will make it easier for audiences to find and use our services in a format that best suits their particular needs at any given time.

We will continue to provide the very best of high quality Australian content - children's programming, education, lifestyle, culture and world class documentaries as well as calling on our extensive international news resources to report from the region, to the region - across all platforms."

NSW: Public staff cuts deemed unfair

PSA 07 December 2011

A group of public servants have won back their right to redeployment after the Industrial Relations Commission declared their forced retrenchments ''unfair''.

The decision means 29 public servants who were retrenched under the O'Farrell government's new policies have 12 months to find other positions within the public service. Otherwise, they will be given three months' written notice and improved severance pay - a payment of three weeks per year of service to a maximum of 39 weeks.

In a judgment delivered this week, the commission said the state government's policy for managing ''excess employees'' was unfair under the Industrial Relations Act 1996.

The NSW Government has been dealt a significant blow after the NSW Industrial Relations Commission this week declared unfair its policy that allows public servants to be forcibly retrenched, the Public Service Association said today.

The decision means that the 29 public servants who were about to lose their job without any real opportunity to be redeployed within the public sector now have 12 months to find a suitable position, as per the 2008 policy.

It also puts under a cloud the treatment of public sector workers declared excess in the future.

"Since the O'Farrell Government was elected eight months ago, we have seen a vicious attack on the rights of workers in this state, and this week's decision highlights that the Government's actions are unfair and unacceptable to its workforce," John Cahill, General Secretary of the PSA said today.

"Fair workplace arrangements are necessary in this state, and the O'Farrell Government has with its changes taken away workers' rights.

"The court has said that the unfair 2011 policy that deals with excess employees is actually in breach of NSW public sector employment laws as it makes little, if any, attempt to redeploy excess staff into other jobs.

"As such, the policy has been declared unfair and will not apply to the workers who were being represented in the action.

"Instead, the 2008 Excess Employee Policy will apply to these people until the end of July 2014.

"With these orders, the court is sending a clear message that you cannot forcibly retrench people when there is other suitable work available within the public sector."

VIC: Nurses workplace community rallies

Nurses, midwives, their families, patients and supporters are invited to attend the following Community rallies to save and improve nurse/midwife ratios

Royal Women’s Hospital/Royal Melbourne Hospital - Sunday 4 December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Eastern – Maroondah Hospital - Monday 5 December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Southern – Clayton Monash Medical Centre - Monday 5 December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Sale Hospital -  Tuesday 6 December, 3 pm – 4 pm
Barwon – Geelong Hospital -  Tuesday 6 December, 11 am – 1.30 pm
Colac Hospital  -  Tuesday  6 December, 3 pm – 4 pm
Latrobe Regional Health -  Tuesday 6 December, 11 am – 1.30 pm
The Alfred Hospital - Wednesday 7  December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Peninsula – Frankston Hospital – Wednesday 7  December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Western General Hospital – Footscray - Thursday 8  December,  12 pm – 2 pm
Sunshine Hospital - Thursday 8  December,  12 pm – 2 pm
Ballarat Base Hospital  - Friday 9  December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Wodonga Base Hospital – Friday 9  December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Mildura Base Hospital - Friday 9  December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Royal Children’s Hospital - Saturday 10  December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Wangaratta Hospital - Saturday 10  December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Northern Hospital – Epping / Broadmeadows - Monday 12 December, 11 am – 1.30 pm
Seymour Base Hospital – Monday 12 December, 3 pm – 4 pm
Warnambool Base Hospital / Lyndoch – Monday 12 December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Austin Health /Mercy Heidelberg – Tueday 13 December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Orbost Regional Hospital - Wednesday 14 December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre - Wednesday 14 December, 12 pm – 2 pm
St Vincents Hospital - Wednesday 14 December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Eastern – Box Hill Hospital - Friday 16 December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Southern Health – Dandenong / Casey Hospitals - Friday 16 December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Werribee Mercy - Saturday 17 December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Goulburn Valley Health - Saturday 17 December, 12 pm – 2 pm
Tweddle Child and Family Health Service - Monday 19 December, 12 pm – 2 pm

ACTU: Apprentice pay increase

06 December, 2011 | Media Release

Federal Government support for a pay increase for apprentices is a good first step towards improving the appalling apprentice completion rate.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said unions were pleased the Government had recognised that low pay was a major contributor the apprentice drop-out rate of 50%.

Unions also welcome the commitment to lift training standards, through more funding for mentoring and support services and action to harmonise standards across the country.

“This is a good first step to address the currently poor completion rate for apprentices,” Ms Kearney said.

“Unions look forward to a review of apprentice wages by Fair Work Australia next year to address the appallingly low wages trainees currently receive,” Ms Kearney said.

“We also welcome the review announced today to investigate targeting employer incentive payments to ensure bosses are using them for genuine training, and not simply to subsidise wages.

“The current completion rates for Australian apprenticeships are unacceptably low at an average of 48% and the only way to boost the number of skilled workers in our community is through better wages and training.

“Apprentices have told us that the poor remuneration is a key reason they don’t complete their apprenticeships.”

Ms Kearney said training and skill development should be a shared responsibility between Government, industry and unions, individual employers and apprentices and trainees themselves,” she said.

“Unions have previously called on the Government to consider the panel recommendation for an employer contribution scheme to support the funding of a steamlined training system and are disappointed this has not been taken further. Employers must take their share of responsibility in ensuring as a nation we can meet our future skill needs through apprenticeships and traineeships.

“The resources sector in particular needs to improve its support for apprentices, with a major Government report last year calling for the sector to significantly increase the number of apprentices it employs in order to match its share of trade employment and reduce its reliance on temporary migration.”

Ms Kearney said unions also welcomed the announcement of the new Australian Apprenticeships Ambassadors, which aim to boost the status and profile of apprenticeships.

Monday, December 05, 2011

CELAC established

Leaders from 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean on Saturday approved 22 documents, officially signing into effect the formation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) as the new leading regional bloc.

The leaders also elected Chile's President Sebastian Pinera as temporary president of CELAC until the group's next summit, which is scheduled to be held in Chile next year.

Concluding two days of summit talks, the upbeat group of Latin American leaders praised the formal constitution of CELAC as a historic milestone in regional development and pledged to remain united in order to gain maximum power and influence as a block in world affairs.

"Unity is the road ahead. A lot of people think that you can be faster when you move alone, but the truth is that together we will come much further," said Pinera in closing remarks."This 21st Century will be the century of Latin America and the Caribbean," said Pienera, adding he would take on leadership of the forum with "a lot of responsibility and a lot of hope" and called on the region's leaders to look toward the future with vision.

Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president and summit host, hailed the formal establishment of CELAC as a forum where Latin American and Caribbean nations would be able to hold meetings independently from other world forums and maintain their regional sovereignty in front of pressure by world powers such as the United States.

"No more interference, enough is enough. We have to take shape as a center of the world power and demand respect for all of us as community and for each one of our countries," said Chavez.

With the creation of CELAC, which includes all countries in the Americas except the United States and Canada, Latin American leaders want to establish a forum similar to that of the Organization of American States, but without the political influence of U.S. foreign policy.

Pinera called on member countries to join forces and make quality education possible for CELAC countries' 600 million people, fight against poverty and multiply investments in science and technology.

Among the 22 documents signed is the key document named "The Declaration of Caracas," which calls for a joint action plan to be established for CELAC along with the relevant working programs and the procedures for the operative work of the group.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

ALP: full marriage equality vote

A 10,000-strong crowd converged on the Labor Party National Conference to demand marriage equality.

It was an incredible moment.

As the crowd rolled in, ALP delegates to the Conference voted in favour of a platform change proposed by Rainbow Labor. Now, for the first time, Labor party policy supports full marriage equality. The crowd went wild – thanking both grassroots campaigners like you and those brave individuals who have fought for this change from within.

Today’s change sends a message to all gay and lesbian Australians that finally our nation’s governing party considers their love and relationships equal.

But while today shows Australians have removed discrimination from their hearts, we cannot rest until we also remove it from our laws.

That’s why our focus now turns to the each and every MP in Parliament. Within months they will be debating whether or not to end marriage discrimination and when the legislation is introduced, the ALP will be allowed to vote with their conscience. We look to Tony Abbott’s Coalition to do the same. Many Liberal MPs believe that it’s not for the Government to limit the freedom of Australian adults to marry the one they love and our challenge is to make this a majority view.

Respected gay rights campaigner Rodney Croome told today’s crowd how, in his home state of Tasmania, his love was illegal until a few short years ago when homosexuality was decriminalised. He told the crowd that the impossible happened when these discriminatory laws were overturned, and Tasmania became the first state of Australia to support marriage equality.

Qantas Families’ Day

An Australia-wide action day will bring together Qantas airline workers and their supporters in a show of strength against plans to outsource jobs overseas.

The Qantas Families’ Day, which is taking place on 3 December, will see more than 600 volunteers and six national trade unions – including ITF affiliates the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), the Rail Tram and Bus Union and the Transport Workers’ Union of Australia (TWU) – distribute over 200,000 leaflets. Activists will also be spending the weekend lobbying the Australian government to protect skills and jobs in the country’s aviation industry.

In Australia, ITF president and MUA general secretary Paddy Crumlin, stated: “Today is about putting people first: workers and their families. Not profits, or cost cuts, or offshored profit centres. Instead the Qantas workers and the Australian unions, backed by our friends around the world, are laying out an alternative model, of the kind that keeps Qantas as an example of all that’s good about safe flying.”

Tony Sheldon, TWU general secretary, said: “The Qantas Families’ Day brings together Qantas workers and their Australian neighbours and friends to defend jobs and reject the ruthless cost cutting and offshoring that could leave them without work and the rest of us without a national airline.”

For more about Qantas Families Day see

Click here to visit the ITF’s campaign page.

ACTU: Improve worker rights

02 December, 2011 | Media Release
Workers will have enhanced rights to bargain for better pay and conditions and secure jobs under changes to the Labor Party's national platform adopted at the National Conference.

The Labor Party has committed to a more effective bargaining system and a more activist role for Fair Work Australia in the promotion of good faith collective bargaining, says the ACTU.

“The recent actions of Qantas management demonstrated the need for more balance in the workplace system to protect workers’ rights,” said ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence.

“The reckless and provocative action by Qantas to ground its fleet and threaten to lock-out its entire workforce has highlighted the need for a more activist and even-handed industrial umpire and better access for workers to arbitration when employers refuse to bargain in genuine good faith.

“Qantas put the spotlight on a pattern of behaviour in which employers only pay lip service to the notion of collective bargaining and never have any real intention of reaching agreement.

“This can go on for years, with no circuit-breaker apart from the type of provocative action we saw by Alan Joyce, which has been endorsed by big business.

“Workers should be able to seek secure jobs and better pay and conditions without threats of lock-outs, big fines or punitive legal action, the use of strike-breakers or thugs to physically disrupt peaceful picket lines, or other extreme actions.”

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the platform endorsed by the National Conference today would build on the improvements to workplace rights delivered by the Fair Work Act.

“The Fair Work Act was established on the principles of good faith bargaining and unions have urged the Labor Party, whose core values centre on the rights of working Australians, to focus on this through its future platform.

“Labor must not only hold strong against a new wave of employer militancy that is threatening the livelihoods of working Australians, but dedicate itself to building on the gains from the Fair Work Act.

“We are calling on Labor to commit to improve rights and entitlements for all Australian workers, including the 40% who are employed as casuals, on fixed or short-term contracts, in labour hire and other non-standard forms of employment and do not have secure jobs.

“Harmonious and productive industrial relations are achieved through genuine negotiation and engagement with workers and their unions, not by making them the enemy.”

Friday, December 02, 2011

UK: Strike of a generation

Seumas Milne, Wednesday 30 November 2011

It was the wrong time to call a strike. Industrial action would inflict "huge damage" on the economy. It would make no difference. Public sector workers wouldn't turn out and public opinion would be against them. Downing Street was said to be "privately delighted" the unions had "fallen into their trap".

The campaign against today's day of action has been ramped up for weeks, and in recent days has verged on the hysterical. The Mail claimed the street cleaners and care workers striking to defend their pensions were holding the country to "ransom", led by "monsters", while Rupert Murdoch's Sun called them "reckless" and "selfish".

Michael Gove and David Cameron reached for the spirit of the 1980s, the education secretary damning strike leaders as "hardliners itching for a fight", and the prime minister condemning the walkouts as the "height of irresponsibility", while also insisting on the day they had been a "damp squib".

But up to two million public employees, from teachers and nurses to dinner ladies, ignored them and staged Britain's biggest strike for more than 30 years. The absurd government rhetoric about gold-plated public pensions – 50% get £5,600 or less – clearly backfired.

It's not just the scale of the strike, though, but its breadth, from headteachers to school cleaners in every part of the country, that has set it apart. Most of those taking action were women, and the majority had never been on strike before. This has been the "big society" in action, but not as Cameron meant it.

And despite the best efforts of ministers and media, it has attracted strong public sympathy. The balance of opinion has varied depending on the question, but a BBC ComRes poll last week found 61% agreeing that public service workers were "justified in going on strike over changes to their pensions".

Of course that might well change if the dispute and service disruption drags on. But the day's mass walkouts should help bury the toxic political legacy of the winter of discontent – that large-scale public sector strikes can never win public support and are terminal for any politician that doesn't denounce and face them down.

The Tory leadership is unmistakably locked into that Thatcher-era mindset. Not only did George Osborne's autumn statement this week respond to the failure of his austerity programme by piling on more of the same for years to come, it was also the most nakedly class budget since Nigel Lawson hacked a third off the tax rate for the rich in 1988.

Any claim that "we're all in this together" can now only be an object of ridicule after Osborne coolly slashed child tax credit for the low paid, propelling 100,000 more children into poverty, to fund new bypasses and lower fuel duty.

And by announcing a 16% cut in public sector pay and benefits by 2015 along with a loss of 710,000 jobs, the chancellor declared war on his own workforce. Add to that the threat of less employment protection to sweeten privatisation deals and an end to national pay scales, and Osborne couldn't have made a stronger case for industrial action.

Public service workers are right to strike because that's the only way they can defend their pensions from Osborne's 3.2% raid and the only reason the government has made any concessions at all. They are also protecting public services from a race to the bottom in pay and conditions which can only erode their quality.

And far from damaging the economy, which is being dragged down by lack of demand and investment, the more successful they are in resisting cuts and protecting their living standards the more they will contribute to keeping it afloat.

But today's strike and whatever action follows it isn't just about pensions. It's also about resisting a drive to make public service workers pay for a crisis they have no responsibility for – while the bloated incomes of those in the financial and corporate sector who actually caused the havoc scandalously continue to swell.

When real incomes are being forced down for the majority, as directors' pay has risen 49% and bank bonuses have topped £14bn, that's an aim most people have no problem identifying with. Across the entire workforce there's little disagreement about who's been "reckless" and "greedy" – and it isn't public service workers.

As one Leeds gardener on £15,000 a year told the Guardian, striking was the only way to get the desperation of the low-paid on to the agenda of the wealthy: "they just don't have any idea of what it's like to live on pay like ours".

Cameron and Osborne's strategy from the start has been to divide the public sector workforce from the rest, hammer them to win extra market credibility – and convince private sector workers they'd be better off if education and health service pensions could be driven down to the often miserable or nonexistent level of most of the private sector.

The Conservative policy minister, Oliver Letwin, gave a taste of what else they have in mind when he told a consultancy firm that public services could only be reformed with "some real discipline and some fear".

But it looks as though ministers may have miscalculated. The message of striking public service workers chimes with the public mood. Private sector Unilever workers have just voted to take industrial action to defend their own pensions.

A crucial factor in the dire state of private sector pensions – and the wider wealth grab and mushrooming of inequality over the past generation – has been the decline in trade union strength. The fall in union membership since the 1970s is an almost exact mirror image of the runaway increase in the share of national income taken by the top 1% over the same period.

That is the common experience across the world wherever neoliberal capitalism has held sway, as are the attacks on living standards and public services, strikes, occupations and riots that Britain has had a taste of in the last 18 months. Which is why today's walkouts have attracted support from Nicaragua to Bangladesh.

One strike isn't, of course, going to force the government to turn tail. After Osborne's pay and jobs battering, the likelihood must be of more industrial action, with no guarantee of success. But today was a powerful demonstration of democratic workplace strength – which offers a chance to begin to turn the tide of a generation.

Vic: Health Executive pay scandal

Victoria's top health executives were given a 46 per cent pay rise last financial year, worth more than $57,000 each.

The increase has infuriated nurses, who are locked in a wage row with the state government, which is offering a basic 2.5 per cent pay rise, plus any negotiated productivity savings.

The Victorian Department of Health's annual report shows its 47 executives were paid an average of almost $180,975 each last financial year, compared with $123,614 the year before.

It was by far the biggest increase in the state bureaucracy, with executives typically given 15 per cent more pay across 11 government departments, excluding bonuses.

Australian Nursing Federation state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said it was disgusting, with the average pay rise for each executive enough to employ a nurse with eight years experience.

''The thought that comes to mind is pigs around a trough,'' she said.

The shadow minister for industrial relations, Tim Pallas, said it was incumbent on Premier Ted Baillieu to explain why government executives deserved pay rises far in excess of that being offered nurses, teachers and other public servants.

''While the Department of Health is looking to lock out nurses, its department executives have each happily pocketed a 46 per cent increase in total remuneration,'' he said.

''Mr Baillieu wants to keep down wages of hard-working nurses and cut nurse numbers, yet he is happy for departmental executives to receive significant salary increases well above the government's 2.5 per cent pay offer for public sector workers.''

ACTU Fringe event 2 December

Thursday, December 01, 2011

UK: 2 million strike for pensions

Services across England, Scotland and Wales ground to a halt in the strongest show of union strength in a generation.

Schools, courts, museums and job centres were paralysed in the 24-hour strike which also brought extensive disruption to transport, hospitals and government departments.

In Scotland over 300,000 workers took to the streets while in Wales an estimated 170,000 walked out in opposition to the brutal cuts.

Rallies up and down England drew tens of thousands - and received the overwhelming support of the public.

Speaking at a rally in Birmingham TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "On this unprecedented day when 30 unions have members taking action together we are sending a crystal-clear message to the government.

"That we are strong, that we are united, and that our campaign will go on until we secure justice and fairness for every public servant."

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "The government is carrying out a massive raid on pensions which is a reflection of its unrelenting mismanagement of the economy.

"Suffering and misery are a price the government wants us to pay - this is an all-out attack on public services."

Monday, November 28, 2011

ACTU: Foxtel shirking responsibilities

24 November, 2011 | Media Release

The workers who install home services for pay TV operator Foxtel should have secure jobs and fair pay and conditions in line with Australian workplace standards.

The ACTU is backing a new campaign for secure jobs for pay TV installers, which is launched by the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union today.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said Foxtel was exploiting its pay TV installers, employing them as individual contractors through a labour hire company, which had recently begun cutting their pay and enforcing fines for taking sick days.

“These workers are victims of the epidemic of insecure employment practices across Australia, which is now affecting 40% of the workforce” Ms Kearney said.

“They are employed as individual sub-contractors, which should allow them the benefits of operating their own small business. But Foxtel does not allow them to work for anyone else and the workers have to be available seven days a week, whether it is busy or not.

“Even worse, the installers invest tens of thousands in equipment to be able to work for Foxtel, but they receive no job security. Many tell us they have not taken a holiday in years, as they can’t afford the time off or fear they won’t be given more work.

“They don’t know if they’ll be working the next day until late afternoon, or how many jobs they will get. This approach is an unfair shift of risk from business to workers and leads to enormous financial insecurity for families.

“Insecure work suits employers because it allows them to shift costs onto workers, and it is spreading into sectors that were once seen as havens for permanent and secure jobs.

“Ten per cent of the Australian workforce – more than a million people – are now contractors, and many of them are vulnerable to exactly the same exploitation. They are treated like employees, but have none of the protections or entitlements that genuine employees receive.

“Foxtel is a respected Australian brand, which should take responsibility for installers’ work conditions rather than hiding behind the cover of downstream contractors, hired through contracting firms Downer and BSA.”

Britain: Unions prepare to protect community

Len McCluskey General Secretary Unite

Unite meets in Brighton this week in most troubling times for our country.

Faith in the institutions forming the pillars of national life - from the political class to the press - has collapsed.

Fear stalks the global markets, and yet our political leaders seem incapable of steering a course out of the despair.

At home, our government offers no hope to the millions on the dole. Calls from the sensible majority to rein in economic sadism and instead grow the economy go unheeded, while inhuman ideas like slashing benefits and access to employment tribunals take hold.

Our members understandably look to their union to provide a harbour in this storm.

Growing this union is at the core of how we will provide the vibrant opposition to this government working people need. Organising and the 100 per cent drive - priorities for each and every officer - will build Unite into the most formidable force for working people.

Extending the reach of this union informs another Unite initiative - the launch of our community membership.

By getting back into our communities we can remind them our values are theirs too. And if we don't reach out, then who will?

Unite will remain first and above all an organisation representing people at work. But if working people know what Unite is and what we can offer even before they enter or re-enter the workplace, then we become a natural and integral part of the fabric of their lives, from cradle to grave.

We are in the midst of an economic crisis of epic proportions. In the 1970s such crises were blamed wrongly on over-powerful trade unions. Today no-one can deny that it is unregulated, untamed capitalism to blame.

Giving free rein to the greed and drive for profit has brought us to the brink of a second recession.

Unemployment is at its highest for a generation - one million young people out of work and facing a future of despair while child poverty soars once again.

Save Tarkine

MUA: Aussie Resources, Local Jobs

Make sure the resource boom benefits Australian workers - not corporate giants!

Say no to Chevron using foreign labour instead of Australians!

Rally with the MUA:
Tues 29th November, 12noon, The Esplanade - Perth Foreshore

Vic: Unions on the march

As the Victorian Government celebrates a year in office, the state's 23,000-plus public sector workers have issued a bitter birthday demand - cough up with big pay rises or face industrial strife.

Buoyed by the site of thousands of Victorian nurses last week clogging city streets to rally for better pay, a string of other unions today accused the Government of broken promises and massive cuts across the sector.

Unions represented included teachers, ambulance paramedics, child protection workers, disability workers, tertiary education workers and psychiatric workers.

And the state's nurses, seeking an 18.5 per cent pay rise over three years and eight months, were busy preparing for court action in their dispute, according to Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Brian Boyd.

The Government's public sector wages policy is for 2.5 per cent a year plus productivity improvements.

Australian Education Union Victorian president Mary Bluett said the state police and nurses had led the way in the battle for more pay, and the police win of a 19 per cent overall increase had set the "benchmark" for other unions.

"Right across the public sector and teachers in particular have looked at the outcome for police and certainly we see that as the new benchmark and the very tough stance the nurses have taken and their support they've attracted from the Victorian community, we hope and expect that support will be forthcoming in the event teachers are forced to take industrial action," she said.

Before he was elected to office, now Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu promised the state's teachers would be the highest paid in Australia.

But his first 12 months in government have been marked by big cuts to education and pay rise offers well below the eight per cent Ms Bluett said was being offered to West Australian teachers.

Mr Boyd said the Baillieu government had cut deep right across the public sector, not just teachers.

"In one year, he has already made $2.2 billion worth of cuts to education, health care, emergency services and employment assistance for young people..." he said.

"Victorian unions will not stand by and allow the Baillieu government to tear apart our state services."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Abbott throws away Slipper

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has no one to blame but himself for the circumstances that led to the defection of Liberal MP Peter Slipper to the crossbenches, the federal government says.

Government Leader of the House Anthony Albanese said even losing a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives was pretty careless but Mr Abbott had just lost an MP.

Mr Albanese zeroed in on the opposition's hardball approach to the pairing of MPs in the current parliament, under which Mr Abbott has declined to countenance absence of any Labor MP from any vote in the finely balanced parliament, other than in exceptional circumstances.

Under the Australian constitution, the Speaker doesn't get a vote, although the convention has been for the Speaker to be paired with an opposition MP to ensure fairness.

The opposition stance left the government a vote down when Labor's Harry Jenkins was the Speaker.

But with Mr Jenkins's return to the back bench and Mr Slipper's ascension to the speakership, the government has effectively picked up two votes.

Mr Albanese said the government this year had sought an arrangement with the opposition whereby whoever was in the chair wouldn't change the vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

'Tony Abbott walked away from it,' Mr Albanese told reporters.

'It is Tony Abbott's responsibility completely that he finds himself in this position.'

Pairing is a longstanding practice whereby one side of politics agrees to absent one of its MPs from a vote in parliament when an MP from the other side is also absent.

Mr Abbott has already been blamed for failing to rein in the Queensland Liberal National Party (LNP), which was considering preselecting former Howard government minister Mal Brough in place of Mr Slipper, leaving the longtime Liberal MP with nothing to lose.

Mr Albanese also rejected suggestions that Mr Jenkins had been offered an inducement such as a diplomatic posting to stand aside.

'Harry Jenkins is a person of integrity. He has chosen the path that he's now on to participate as the Labor member for Scullin (in Melbourne),' he said.

'There is no deal with Harry Jenkins. It is what it is.'

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

WA: Heritage under attack

On 28 October, at Fortesque Metals Group’s (FMG) Solomon Project in the Pilbara, the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) discovered that FMG had desecrated an ochre quarry and destroyed part of a creek where sacred Gandi are found (stones used in initiation rituals). The WA Department of Indigenous Affairs (DIA) and the Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee (ACMC) were informed of these sites, but no action to halt or mitigate this damage has been taken.

That such damage can occur when YAC has previously provided the DIA with information regarding these sites, is proof positive of the DIA's inability to effectively monitor or enforce the State's heritage protection regime, or stop FMG from desecrating and destroying highly significant heritage and religious sites.

The Yindjibarndi People have appealed to the Hon. Tony Burke (Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) to use his power under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act to make an emergency declaration to stop FMG doing more irretrievable damage. “The tragedy is that every moment spent waiting for Mr Burke to act, means more destruction, more knowledge lost,” said Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation CEO, Michael Woodley.

Fresh FMG legal threats against the WA Registrar of Aboriginal Sites, Kathryn Przywolnik, and a deepening crisis surrounding protection of Yindjibarndi heritage from FMG operations, makes Federal intervention more urgent than ever.

Registrar Przywolnik recently informed FMG that its latest section 18 Notice seeking ministerial consent to impact on Yindjibarndi heritage sites is “inadequate”, legally unsafe and should be withdrawn. The Registrar’s decision expresses no confidence in the heritage reporting of FMG in the strongest of terms, and confirms the grave doubts and objections consistently expressed by the YAC.

Poultry workers win equal pay concession

Chicken workers have won significant restrictions on the use of contract and cash-in-hand labour, with Baiada Poultry agreeing to pay temporary workers the same rates as permanent staff.

The National Union of Workers has said cash-in-hand workers were paid as little as $8 an hour at Baiada in Laverton North, and a mass meeting of workers yesterday welcomed the news of a two-year collective deal with cries of ''no more $10 [an hour]''.

Union organiser Godfrey Moase told workers they would get a 4 per cent annual pay rise, redundancy entitlements would be more than doubled, and all casual and contract labour would be paid at least the minimum site rates.

The agreement is a significant shift from Baiada and the NUW has said nearly half the 430 workforce at Laverton North were contractors, cash-in-hand or temporary labour. Most of the workforce are migrants and yesterday's meeting was translated into Vietnamese.

NUW organiser Tim Gunstone told the meeting that the court action, along with a $1.7 million damages claim against the union, had been dropped as part of the settlement.

Read more:

ACTU: Reckless employers

22 November, 2011 | ACTU Media Release

Unions have today resolved to vigorously defend workers’ rights against a new wave of employer militancy that is threatening the livelihoods of working Australians.

A meeting of unions in Melbourne today has condemned the antagonistic and counter-productive behaviour of Australian employers emboldened by the Qantas dispute, and pledged to strengthen protections for workers’ rights against being railroaded by aggressive tactics by business.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the peak body’s Executive had today resolved to seek improvements to the Fair Work Act, including allowing workers better rights to bargain for job security and strengthening access to arbitration in an even-handed manner.

“A new pattern of industrial militancy by employers has emerged following the reckless and disproportionate action of Qantas management to ground its entire fleet and threaten to lock out its workforce last month,” Ms Kearney said.

“This deliberate escalation needlessly disrupted the plans of tens of thousands of passengers and caused enormous damage to the national economy and to Qantas’ reputation. It is of serious concern that Alan Joyce and Qantas management claim to have had other major employers endorse this action.

“It is clear employers have been emboldened by Qantas’ action, in particular Liberal State Governments, including the Baillieu Government in Victoria, which prepared a secret strategy to provoke an escalation of the dispute with the state’s nurses. None of this is in the spirit of bargaining in good faith, as envisaged by the Fair Work Act.

“Productive and co-operative industrial relations are not achieved by declaring war on a company’s workforce and customers. Workers should be able to seek secure jobs and better pay and conditions without threats of lock-outs, big fines or punitive legal action, the use of strike-breakers or thugs to physically disrupt peaceful picket lines, or by other similar tactics.

“Harmonious and productive industrial relations are achieved through genuine negotiation and engagement with workers and their unions, not by making them the enemy. Responsible business and political leaders should disown such tactics as counterproductive in the workplace and contrary to the national interest.”

The ACTU Executive today resolved to pursue explicit reforms in the ALP platform at next month’s national conference to improve the ability of workers to negotiate for secure jobs, and to strengthen the rights of workers to have access to arbitration to settle disputes.

“Secure jobs matter to all workers. With 40% of the workforce in casual, contract or labour hire employment, unions are determined to campaign in workplaces and communities for a better future for these workers.

“We will take this campaign to next week’s ALP Conference and beyond,” Ms Kearney said.

Hacking comes home to roost

Federal police are investigating allegations that News Ltd offered a then-serving federal senator a ''special relationship'' involving favourable coverage if he crossed the floor on a vote of financial interest to the company.

The investigation was sparked by a statement given to them by the former Nationals senator, Bill O'Chee, who alleges a News Ltd executive said he would be ''taken care of'' if he crossed the floor.

The inquiry has been secret until today due to sensitivities around those involved.Mr O'Chee, a Queensland senator between 1990 and 1999, has had a long and difficult relationship with the Murdoch press, which spent years reporting on his large parliamentary superannuation payout and an acrimonious split with his first wife.

The incident came to light during a recent conversation at an Australian airport between Mr O'Chee and a sitting MP, involving the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

The MP said they doubted anything similar would be unearthed in Australia's independent media inquiry. Mr O'Chee then relayed the incident.

The conversation was brought to the attention of the federal police last month. The matter is being investigated by the special references unit which deals with sensitive political inquiries.

The allegations centre on proposed legislation regarding the creation of digital television in Australia, a bill called the Television Broadcasting Services (Digital Conversion) Act.

Read more:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stop Canadian Exports of Asbestos

Friday 25 November 2011
3 pm
Canadian Consulate
111 Harrington St, Sydney
(Behind the Four Seasons Hotel) near Circular Quay Railway Station

Canadian Exports of Asbestos

The ILO has stated that asbestos is the world’s biggest ever industrial killer, with one person dying every five minutes from this fatal fibre. Yet the Canadian asbestos industry continues to be one of the world’s top asbestos exporters, with more than 95% of Canadian produced asbestos being exported; largely to the developing world.

Bans on asbestos imports were planned for introduction in South East Asian at the beginning of 2004. Shamefully these were postponed, following intense lobbying by the asbestos industry, led by Canadian exporters. While asbestos sheeting has been banned in western countries, it is being sold to the impoverished peoples of India and South East Asia as a cheap way to provide housing for their families

Canada can proudly claim to be at the forefront in many areas of social and economic responsibility. It is certainly a very dark stain on that country’s reputation that the Canadian asbestos industry, supported by the Government, has been aggressively targeting the world’s most vulnerable people for its poisonous products.

Friday 25 November is the day of International Mourning for people who have lost their lives as a result of exposure to asbestos.

We ask that all affiliates join with victims of asbestos diseases and their families in a small protest delegation to meet with the Canadian Consul General in opposition to Canadian asbestos exports.
Organised by Australian Manufacturing Workers Union

Gingrich: "Put poor kids to work"

The comment came in response to an undergrad’s question about income equality during his talk at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

“This is something that no liberal wants to deal with,” Gingrich said. “Core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization against children in the poorest neighborhoods, crippling them by putting them in schools that fail has done more to create income inequality in the United States than any other single policy. It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid.

“You say to somebody, you shouldn’t go to work before you’re what, 14, 16 years of age, fine. You’re totally poor. You’re in a school that is failing with a teacher that is failing. I’ve tried for years to have a very simple model,” he said. “Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising.”

By combining union bashing with child labor law bashing, Gingrich hits the rightwing daily double.

Remember when children were not “entrapped” by those “stupid” laws?

Himalayan states agree climate pact

Monday 21 November 2011

Four Himalayan states have agreed to collaborate on ways to combat climate change following a two-day summit in Bhutan.

India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan were part of the Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas held in Thimphu.

They agreed to work together to increase access to "affordable and reliable" clean energy resources and technology.

The deal also covers ways to adapt and improve food production and help vulnerable communities get better access to nutritious food.

The UN World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) warned today that heat-trapping carbon dioxide concentrations in the air have reached 389 parts per million - the highest concentration since the start of the industrial era in 1750.

Between 1990 and 2010, according to the report, there was a 29% increase in radiative forcing - the warming effect on our climate system - from greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide accounted for 80% of this increase.

“The atmospheric burden of greenhouse gases due to human activities has yet again reached record levels since pre-industrial time,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “Even if we managed to halt our greenhouse gas emissions today – and this is far from the case – they would continue to linger in the atmosphere for decades to come and so continue to affect the delicate balance of our living planet and our climate.”

“Now more than ever before, we need to understand the complex, and sometimes unexpected, interactions between greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, Earth’s biosphere and oceans. WMO will continue to collect data to further our scientific knowledge through its Global Atmosphere Watch network spanning more than 50 countries, including stations high in the Andes and Himalayas, in the remote expanses of Alaska and in the far South Pacific,” he said.

Greenhouse gases trap radiation within the Earth’s atmosphere causing it to warm. Human activities, such as fossil fuel burning and agriculture, are major emitters of greenhouse gases which are drivers of climate change. After water vapour, the three most prevalent long-lived greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.


Monday, November 21, 2011

VIC: Nurses and midwives vote to continue fight

ANF: 21 November 2011

Victorian nurses and midwives fighting to save and improve nurse/midwife patient ratios voted this afternoon to continue to fight and take unprotected industrial action across Victoria's public hospitals.

Victorian nurses and midwives fighting to save and improve nurse/midwife patient ratios voted this afternoon to continue to fight and take unprotected industrial action across Victoria's public hospitals.

This afternoon's meeting at Festival Hall in West Melbourne also voted to march to Parliament House on Thursday to call on Premier Baillieu to step in and fix this dispute.

Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian Branch) Lisa Fitzpatrick said: "Minister Davis has forced nurses into this position because he rejected our 4 November olive branch of gentler bans, when nurses and midwives voted to implement paperwork bans and wear T-shirts. This was designed to enable constructive talks and could have avoided bed closures and surgery cancellations from 12 November.

"Minister Davis also rejected His Honour Justice Boulton's proposal for consent arbitration which would have enabled the matters in dispute such as nurse patient ratios, the requirement to have registered and enrolled nurses and shift lengths to be included in that arbitration," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

"The ANF was agreeable to lift the bans and agree to consent arbitration, but Minister Davis rejected the Boulton solution and declared he would only be satisfied with restricted mandatory full arbitration as outlined in the secret plot he signed on 5 May," she said.

"The dispute isn't about wages, if it was we'd achieve a substantial increase, certainly above 2.5 per cent, in forced arbitration. Minister Davis's secret plot acknowledges forced arbitration could deliver significant wage increases to Victorian nurses and midwives. Despite this, Minister Davis is still pushing for forced arbitration demonstrating that more dollars are to be made by abolishing ratios than paying higher wages," she said.

"Nurses and midwives will not trade patient safety for a wage rise. Mandated minimum nurse patient ratios protect patient care," she said.

"Minister Davis has left nurses with no choice. Either they do nothing, retreat and get a 3.5 per cent wage increase and lose nurse patient ratios or they choose to protect their patients by fighting to maintain and improve their nurse patient ratios," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

Conciliation talks between the parties, with the assistance of Commissioner Gooley, resume in Fair Work Australia tomorrow morning.

Important exemptions to the bans are: emergency, neo-natal and paediatric patients, haemodialysis patients, haematology patients, maternity patients, oncology patients, palliative care patients, terminations of pregnancy, intensive care unit, coronary care units, high dependency patients (including medically indicated telemetry) and the Royal Children's Hospital and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Occupy Wall Street (We're Gonna Stay Right Here) - David Rovics

A Song by David Rovics©2011 David Rovics

Because this is where they buy the politicians
Because this is where power has its seat
Because ninety-nine percent of us are suffering
At the mercy of the madmen on this street
Because all of us are victims of class warfare
Being waged on us by the one percent
Because these greedy banksters rob the country
Leaving us without the means to pay the rent
Because the last time that we had a decent government
Was about 1932
Because we the people are supposed to run the country
But instead it's all run by and for the few
Because now we know the rich do not pay taxes
But when they need a hand it's us who bail them out
Because we suspected we lived in a plutocracy
But suddenly of late there is no doubt

And so we're gonna stay right here (2x)

Because both my parents lost their savings
Because I have never opened an account
Because the interest on my credit card just doubled
And now I can't pay the minimum amount
Because these budget cuts are just immoral
With our schools as overcrowded as they are
Because there are no buses where I live
But I can't afford to drive a car
Because so many of us don't have health insurance
The rest of us have it but it sucks
Because the rich are riding in their private jets
While the rest of us are slogging through the muck
Because capitalism isn't working
This system has just failed to produce
Because the one percent is prospering
While the rest of us just suffer their abuse

Because it has been demonstrated amply
That the winners are the ones who stick around 
Because this world should belong to everyone
Not just the banksters who would smash it to the ground
Because we've noticed voting doesn't change things
When the politicians are mostly millionaires 
Because we're learning how to stand up like Tunisians 
Like they did in Tahrir Square 
Where a young man named Mohamed Bouazizi
Struck a match that lit up all the Earth
And all around the world the spell was broken
And a movement for the future was in birth
Because there's only so much sh** the rich can feed us
Before we figure out which side we're on
Because we've learned if we want our liberation
It will come only if we stay here til the rising of the dawn

Because corporations are not people
And we can't just let them choose
Because if we leave our fate to them
Then all of us will surely lose
Because the climate clock is ticking
And we can't just leave our world behind
Because corporate rule isn't working
And it's time for humans' hearts and minds
Because you can't take it with you
Because the rich just do not care
Because it doesn't matter how much you make
But how much you can share
Because these moments don't come often
Because we want truly to be free
Because we know what really matters
Something called society

VIC: NUW Baiada picket

More than 200 images and video clips taken inside the Baiada Poultry plant in Laverton North show uncovered raw chickens sitting atop plastic bags full of chickens as well as cockroaches inside empty storage containers.

Baiada is one of Australia's biggest chicken producers and a main supplier to Coles in Victoria. It owns brands Steggles and Lilydale and also supplies KFC, Aldi and Woolworths.

A worker, Sarel Singh, was decapitated at the Laverton North plant last year and other safety issues are captured in the images including boxes and crates packed precariously and safety exits blocked by bins.

A picket and blockade at the site today enters its 12th day with the company pushing for stronger police intervention to end it after it won Supreme Court orders against the National Union of Workers and the union's staff. The NUW says nearly half the workforce at Laverton North are engaged as contractors, cash-in-hand workers or from labour hire firms with some paid below minimum wage.

Baiada have rejected the claims, but signed statements by former and current workers allege cash in hand workers are paid as little as $8 an hour. One said he was paid every Friday in cash, received no superannuation and worked with about 50 people engaged in the same way.

Worker Phuoc Dang, who has worked at Baiada for 11 years, yesterday said there had been a large increase in temporary workers, particularly after about 50 staff were made redundant in the middle of the year.

A WorkSafe Victoria spokesman said it was still investigating the 2010 death of Sarel Singh.

Read more

Sunday, November 20, 2011

California: Police attack peaceful protest

As some faculty members called for her ouster, the chancellor of University of California Davis launched an inquiry Saturday into the pepper-spraying of apparently peaceful Occupy Davis protesters by campus police.

A video of the Friday incident that went viral on the Web showed a police officer dousing the protesters with a canister of pepper spray as they sat huddled on the ground. The police had been attempting to clear the university's Quad of tents and campers.

Faculty and students reacted with outrage. Nathan Brown, an assistant professor of English, said in an interview that the episode was the latest example of "the systematic use by UC chancellors of police brutality" to suppress protests.

In an open letter, he wrote: "Without any provocation whatsoever, other than the bodies of these students sitting where they were on the ground, with their arms linked, police pepper-sprayed students. Students remained on the ground, now writhing in pain, with their arms linked."

Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi initially did not criticize the police, but she said Saturday that she had since watched the video and reviewed more accounts from the scene.

"It left me with a very bad feeling of what went on," Katehi said in a telephone interview. "There was enough information to show that we need to take a serious look at what happened."

She said she authorized police to remove the tents, but not to use the pepper spray in the manner shown on the video. "Absolutely not," she said.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wage gap increasing

Peter Martin The Age 18 Nov 2011

Australian men earn on average $13,213 more than women, according to a report, marking the largest gender wage gap in 28 years.

The CommSec report released yesterday also shows that the female wage is just 82.1 per cent of the male wage - the smallest proportion in 25 years. Report author Savanth Sebastian, an economist at CommSec, called the gap ''surprising and alarming''.

''We've known for some time that males have been earning a higher wage than females but the gap seems to be widening at a faster pace,'' he said.

Mr Sebastian said the disparity was partially a factor of the rising demand for labour in male-dominated sectors such as mining and construction. According to the report, Western Australia has the highest average annual wage at just under $80,000.

Dr Jo Lindsay, of the Centre for Women's Studies and Gender Research at Monash University, said she was disappointed to hear the wage gap had reached such a historic point. With increased childcare costs and ''patchy'' support for working mothers, Dr Lindsay said some mothers could not go for the same positions as men.

''Women with children are unable to compete with jobs that are requiring people to spend very long hours in work,'' she said.

''They are also much more likely to go part-time and reduce hours to look after their children while they're young.''

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Occupy Wall St - Angela Davis speaks

In the past, most movements have appealed to specific communities – workers, students, black people, Latinas/Latinos, women, LGBT communities, indigenous people – or they have crystallised around specific issues like war, the environment, food, water, Palestine, the prison industrial complex. In order to bring together people associated with those communities and movements, we have had to engage in difficult coalition-building processes, negotiating the recognition for which communities and issues inevitably strive.

In a strikingly different configuration, this new Occupy Movement imagines itself from the beginning as the broadest possible community of resistance – the 99%, as against the 1%. It is a movement arrayed from the outset against the most affluent sectors of society – big banks and financial institutions, corporate executives, whose pay is obscenely disproportionate to the earnings of the 99%. It seems to me that an issue such as the prison industrial complex is already implicitly embraced by this congregation of the 99%.

Indeed, it can be persuasively argued that the 99% should move to ameliorate the conditions of those who constitute the bottom tiers of this potential community of resistance – which would mean working on behalf of those who have suffered most from the tyranny of the 1%. There is a direct connection between the pauperising effect of global capitalism and the soaring rates of incarceration in the US. Decarceration and the eventual abolition of imprisonment as the primary mode of punishment can help us begin to revitalise our communities and to support education, healthcare, housing, hope, justice, creativity and freedom.


NZ Union Busting: Meat workers locked out

IUF 15 November 2011

Members of the New Zealand Meat Workers Union at CMP ANZCO have been targeted by a particularly vicious form of union busting which is being practiced more and more in IUF sectors across the globe. It works like this: an employer proposes radical changes to terms and conditions in CBA negotiations, then goes through the motions of bargaining with the union while actually just biding time, then locks out the workers in an attempt to force a signature on an essentially non-negotiated agreement.

The NZMWU have been in CBA renegotiations with CMP at its lamb processing plant in the town of Marton in the southwestern part of New Zealand's North Island since April 2011. The company, claiming financial difficulties,  has proposed such outrageous cuts in pay, bonuses and allowances and an increase in working time without overtime pay that no agreement could be reached. The proposals amount to cuts of more than 20% in overall pay for workers!

On 3 October, the company issued a lockout notice due to take effect on 19 October unless the union agreed to all their demands for cuts in wages and working conditions and shift pattern changes.

The week before the lockout notice, the company put the workforce on annual leave and used this time to contact workers at home and induce them to sign individual agreements containing the new terms and conditions. In the absence of their union representatives, some 100 workers gave in to this intimidation and signed. These workers were also forced to leave the union before signing the individual agreements.

On 19 October, the remaining 111 workers were locked out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sth Korea: Save Jeju Island

Jeju was recently selected among the New Seven Wonders of Nature, which with its UNESCO triple-crowned status makes the island among the world’s most precious cultural and national treasures. In addition, the marine ecosystem that lines Gureombi is an absolute preservation area designated by the South Korean government because of the many endangered species that inhabit Gureombi, including the red-clawed crab and soft coral. The spring water that bubbles up from Gureombi provides up to 80% of the drinking water for residents of Seogwipo City, the southern half of Jeju Island. The destruction of Gureombi threatens the surrounding marine life and the clean water that farmers and villagers depend upon for their survival.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

TCFUA Protest outside The Smith Family

The Smith Family has been treating a group of its employees particularly poorly. The Textile Clothing and Footwear Union gathered outside The Smith Family's office in Sydney.

ACTU: Sham contracting

11 November, 2011 | ACTU Media Release

Workplace protections must be strengthened to ensure secure jobs in the wake of a Fair Work Ombudsman’s report that sham contracting is rife across a range of industries.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the Fair Work Ombudsman’s report confirmed longstanding concerns that employers are avoiding their obligations, including pay and entitlements, by disguising a straightforward employment relationship as a contracting arrangement.

The office of the Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson has today released a report based on an investigations of employers in the cleaning, hair and beauty and call centre industries, which found one-in-five engage in sham contracting, a third of them knowingly.

The Ombudsman has already prosecuted a number of employers and is considering further legal action in other cases.

The report found the issue is not limited to these industries, confirming union reports that it is also rife in construction, transport and other sectors.

“Sham contracting is one of the dirty secrets of the modern Australian workplace," Ms Kearney said. “By hiring someone as a contractor, employers manage to avoid their legal responsibilities including pay rates and other entitlements.

“Hiring an employee as a contractor shifts the risk onto the worker and makes it impossible for them to plan for their future because they have little or no job security, slim chance of securing a mortgage and no holiday or sick pay.

"We have cleaners, call centre workers, hairdressers and other workers forced to register an Australian Business Number and be treated as a contractor so their regular employer can avoid giving them decent pay and conditions, and entitlements like superannuation.

“We know that 40% of workers in Australia are engaged as casual, on short-term contracts, in labour hire, or as contractors in work that is unpredictable, uncertain, and that undermines what ordinary Australians need to feel secure in their lives and their communities.

“Insecure work makes it tough on working families, who have less certain incomes, rising fixed household costs, and the shouldering of more and more household debt, and are trying to plan for their future.

Secure jobs are getting harder and harder to find and this is not about improving efficiency or productivity - it is about shifting risks and costs onto workers, to increase profits.

Ms Kearney said unions were aware the problem had become so widespread that there were cases where people had to register for an ABN to get work dropping leaflets in a letterbox.

“Stronger enforcement of existing laws and tougher legislation and penalties are necessary to prevent employers setting up sham contract arrangements, either knowingly or unknowingly.

“The definition of sham contracting needs to be tightened too, to make sure it captures cases where the employer claims it did not deliberately break the law," Ms Kearney said.

Suncorp xmas blow: offshoring jobs

Suncorp employees in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria face a bleak Christmas, learning yesterday that their jobs will head offshore in December, said the Finance Sector Union today.

“This is just the beginning of large scale offshoring by Suncorp. I fear we will see an exodus of insurance jobs from Australia unless Suncorp’s plans are halted,” said Acting FSU National Secretary Chris Gambian.

The FSU has received confirmation that jobs and processes within Recovery and Settlements and 50 staff in the Claims Centre Payments team will be the first targeted by Suncorp’s offshoring program.

“We are in the midst of an offshoring epidemic.  There is something seriously wrong when some of Australia's biggest, most profitable companies insist they can't afford to keep employing Australians, said Chris Gambian.

“This week one of our biggest banks, Westpac, put offshoring jobs back on the agenda on the same day they announced their biggest ever profit. Suncorp also posted a healthy profit this year but are still determined to cut costs, starting with local jobs. It just doesn’t add up.”

“It comes down to the sort of country we want to live in: do we want to be able to leave the next generation an Australia with good, well-paying jobs, and opportunities to make the best of themselves, or do we want an Australia where the boss' bottom line is the only thing that matters?” said Chris Gambian.
“What is really at stake is the kind of Australia we want for ourselves and our families.”

The FSU will work with Suncorp and any members affected to maximise redeployment opportunities, and the union will continue its public campaign to keep Suncorp jobs in Australia.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Equal Pay: Historic win

10 November, 2011 | ACTU Media Release

Decades of undervaluation of the work of women will be overcome following the Labor Government’s historic commitment to fund pay rises for 150,000 social and community sector workers.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said today’s announcement by Prime Minister Julia Gillard was a landmark day for the thousands of social and community sector (SACS) workers, who do important but traditionally undervalued work for the community’s benefit.

“Today’s commitment from the government to fund its share of pay rises averaging 20% and up to 33% in some cases for social and community sector workers is an historic milestone on the road towards true equal pay,” Ms Kearney said.

“It is a win for those workers and their unions who have been determined to gain wage justice in the SACS industry.

“We are talking about workers who are mostly women and who look after the homeless, the disabled, refugees, domestic violence victims, children at risk and other vulnerable people in our society.

“This is difficult and demanding work, yet this female-dominated industry is one of the lowest paid in Australia because it has been historically viewed as ‘women’s work’.

“This has been a major reason why the gender pay gap remains at 18%, despite the right to equal pay for equal work being enshrined in law several decades ago.

“The skills and professional judgement of these 200,000 workers deserve to be recognised and properly valued.

“This shows the equal remuneration provisions work in really delivering on the promise of equal pay. Equal pay is a workplace right and a human right, so unions welcome the Government’s commitment to redress the inequity that has occurred for too long for these women.

“And now that the Federal Government has committed to funding equal pay it is time for those state and territory governments who have not already done so to follow.

“The $2 billion commitment from the Government is carefully structured over a six year period, after negotiations with the Australian Services Union and other unions.

“It is not okay to pay one group of workers less than another doing work of comparable value simply because one group of workers is women.

“It is time all governments acknowledged that and commit to funding their share.”

UnionsNSW: Govt slashes and trashes Police conditions

The State Government's changes to the Police Death and Disability Scheme both slashes conditions for injured officers and trashes their right to appeal to an independent umpire.

The Government yesterday moved an urgency motion to rush the laws through parliament in the current session, despite the Police Association's request for negotiation and consultation.
Unions NSW Secretary, Mark Lennon said the move was an attempt to silence debate and rush through laws that undermine the rights and conditions of injured front line officers.

"The workplace umpire, the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, will be completely sidelined, giving injured police officers no avenue to have their compensation determined by an independent umpire," Mr Lennon said.

"These laws rip away at the basic rights of front line officers who are injured in the line of duty.

"Once again, the State Government has confused its role of employer and regulator. As an employer it has to understand basic principles of justice, and acknowledge the right of employees to have their workplace conditions decided by an independent umpire."

"The NSW Industrial Relations Commission is not the personal plaything of the NSW Government."
Mr Lennon called on MPs to support the withdrawal of the legislation.

"Police officers do demanding work every day. As a community, the least we can do is allow their perspectives to be heard before the parliament undermines their death and disability scheme."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

AFL-CIO: Workers make history in Ohio

I’m in Ohio right now, where working families just won an incredible victory.

Ohioans overwhelmingly voted to repeal Senate Bill 5—Gov. John Kasich’s attack on middle-class jobs that was designed to destroy collective bargaining rights in Ohio.

We pieced together a short, powerful video summing up the amazing energy that went into this. I hope you’ll take a moment to watch:

Tonight’s victory represents a turning point in our collective work to protect good jobs, working families and workplace rights. But it’s more than that. It’s a long-overdue return to common sense.

From the very beginning of our jobs crisis, anti-worker politicians like Ohio’s Gov. Kasich have used our poor economy to push a cynical political agenda that favors the richest 1 percent at the expense of the 99 percent. Today, Ohio voters rejected that agenda.

During this campaign, firefighters, nurses, teachers and other public employees were joined by construction workers, bakery workers and all kinds of private-sector workers. They came together to ensure the survival of the middle class. And together, we’ll keep doing it. Politicians who side with the richest 1 percent will find their radical efforts stopped by working people who want America to work for everyone.

This is our moment, and we won with solidarity. We won because the working people of Ohio—public and private sector, union and nonunion—stood together.

But the solidarity went even further than that: Volunteers traveled not just from neighboring Wisconsin—but from states as far away as California and New York—to help get out the vote. And activists from dozens of states as far away as Alaska gave up their nights and weekends to call Ohio voters from home.

Solidarity means that when workers anywhere are under attack, we will all do whatever we can to help. It means we’re in it together.

I hope you’ll celebrate this moment in your own way. But the most important thing is to find a way to keep your own energy going and growing—so you can be a part of sustaining and growing our movement for all working people—the 99 percent.

This fight we’ve taken on and won—and the threats we face going forward—are about more than Democrats or Republicans, or 2012 battleground states. They are about good jobs and our right to a voice on the job.

Together, we're building a new kind of politics. A politics that works for the 99 percent, not just the 1 percent.

We’ve got to start getting ready now to win tomorrow’s victories. Over time—together—we’ll build a future that works for working America.

Thank you for being a part of this movement, and for all you do for America’s workers.

In Solidarity,

Richard L. Trumka
President, AFL-CIO

P.S. America is waking up. Here’s one big reason we won in Ohio—people can see that the firefighters, teachers, nurses and snowplow drivers hurt by SB 5 didn’t cause our economic problems. Wall Street did. Ohio voters saw through Senate Bill 5—they understood it was a plan to make the 99 percent bear the burden of Wall Street’s recklessness—and that it would do nothing to create jobs.