Monday, January 31, 2011

MUA: Action in Fremantle

The offer to postpone protected action if Patrick confirmed its commitment to place an offer on the table was put to the company over seven days ago (Thursday 20th January).

Despite the genuine offer to put in place a circuit breaker to operational disruption Patrick refused to engage, which has left the MUA with no option other than to go ahead with planned protected action.

MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said despite seven months of negotiating and the members culling their claims, Patrick have still not put an offer on the table.

"After much discussion and frustration, our members at Fremantle, Albany applied for a ballot hearing to take protected industrial action," he said.

"In all cases the ballot hearings were successful and members voted in support of taking protected action with 98% support.

"This round of negotiations has been about addressing the issues that are important to our members.

"These include fixing safety on the waterfront, fixing job security, fixing casualisation which is currently running at 60% nationally in Patrick B&G, fixing start times, and fixing the management's bullying, harassment and intimidation that is rife in our workplaces."

Mr Bray noted that the majority of claims the union was seeking to address have no costs associated with them.

"Patrick B&G currently have a Work Choices agreement and we are determined to see off the Howard era agreements that encouraged employers to treat workers with little or no dignity and respect," he said.

"Four ports that have had ballots for protected action conducted have all taken industrial action over the last four weeks and will continue to do so until the company get serious about putting an offer on the table.

"Our claims also seek to address the abysmal safety record on the waterfront and we are justified in taking this stance as three deaths in the last year show."

Davos: Unions warn of unrest

A leading trade unionist attending the World Economic Forum in Davos has warned that the current wave of social unrest roiling north Africa may spread to Europe unless governments get to grips with rising joblessness.

Philip Jennings: UNI global union
Speaking on the sidelines of the annual elite gathering at the weekend UNI global union secretary-general Philip Jennings observed that the frustration born of chronic unemployment was one of the main drivers behind the uprising that unseated former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Mr Jennings said that with unemployment rates averaging around 10 per cent in European Union member states governments should reconsider their "socially unacceptable" austerity policies and form a new social contract with workers.

"The financial and business elite have acted like a huge suction pump and taken a great deal of wealth being produced. The middle class is shrinking into a rump, while a plutocracy at the top are cut off in their own countries," he noted.

“The G20 priority must be jobs. We need inclusive growth and fairness to push up the share of wages as a share of income,” Jennings said. “Sarkozy needs to find his jobs mojo for the G20 process.”

He said that there should be a new bargain and unions should have the ability to push up the share of wages through collective bargaining.

"Every worker should have an adequate social protection floor,” he said. “This is affordable. We need active labour market policies."

Jennings was surprised to hear a private equity spokesperson singing the praises of the worker representation on supervisory boards in Germany, which he said helped companies make better decisions.

He said that it was unacceptable that in the last 20 years in the US, 56 percent of all income gains went to the top 1 percent of wealthy Americans, and more than a third went to the top one-tenth of one percent.

"The Western economic model that we’ve seen of this reliance on the market has failed. We need a new inclusive model of economic development," Jennings said. “It is unsustainable."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

ACTU: Flood levy is fair

27 January, 2011 | ACTU Media Release

A progressive one-off levy exempting flood victims and the majority of workers to help cover the $5.6 billion cost of this summer's devastating floods and maintain existing Government policy priorities is only fair says ACTU President Ged Kearney.

The levy of 0.5 per cent will be applied from July 1 on taxable income between $50,001 and $100,000, and 1 per cent on incomes above $100,000.

The majority of workers (approximately 60%), including a large proportion of part time workers and those on low incomes will not have to pay the levy at all, said Ms Kearney.

“Up to 60% of workers will pay no levy at all. Those with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 a year will pay a 0.5% levy on their marginal income, or up to $250.

“Less than 10% of workers will pay the higher rate of 1% on income above $100,000 a year.

“Considering the massive rebuilding effort that is now required it is only fair that those with the capacity to contribute are asked to pay a one-off levy. A progressive levy that exempts low income workers is one of the options the ACTU has been urging the Government consider.

NSW power inquiry disgrace

The NSW power inquiry's decision to seek arrest warrants for the energy directors who resigned over the government's controversial privatisation plan in December is a disgrace, according to former Eraring director Tony Maher.

Mr Maher has applauded the common sense of NSW Upper House President Amanda Fazio, who declined the committee's request, but said she never should have been put in that position in the first place.

"This parliamentary committee has completely lost the plot," he said.

"The directors who stood down in December over Eric Roozendaal's power privatisation plan did so out of principle and responsibility. For the committee to treat them like suspects on the run is unconscionable.

"The directors would be more than willing to answer questions before a proper inquiry -but this isn't one.

"Because the Premier prorogued Parliament before the committee convened, there is no guarantee that witnesses appearing before it are entitled to parliamentary privilege. That means the NSW Government could potentially sue any board members for their answers. That's why we declined the initial invitation and the committee knows it.

"If we appeared at the inquiry we'd be the only witnesses in the history of the NSW Parliament to appear without legal indemnity. We are eager to cast light on what happened in December, but the proper protections need to be in place."

Mr Maher, who is also the National President of the CFMEU, said it was difficult to see what could be behind the committee's bizarre request.

"The only possible motivation I can see is political grandstanding - a chance for some headlines and drama at the cost of basic decency." he said.

Luckily, Amanda Fazio knocked this stupid request on the head quickly, but if she hadn't, the directors and their families could have spent days anticipating a knock on the door from police.

"Good and responsible people simply don't do this to other good and responsible people. The committee members who decided on this course of action need to take a good hard look at themselves and think about what they were actually trying to achieve."

Arab Freedom Anthem


Stephan Said "Aheb Eisht Al Hurriyeh," (I Love the Life of Freedom) just released to be used freely by all those who are working to build the international movement for a more just society. This is our moment! Share the video and mp3, We want to live in freedom! Words by Egyptian poet-laureate Ahmed Shawki, first put to music in the 1930's by great Egyptian composer Mohamed Abdel Wahab. This is produced by Grammy Winning producer Hal Willner. Video directed by Matt Kohn

Stephan Said is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual musician, global activist, and spokesperson. His sound fuses pop, rock, hip-hop, and world folk musics with a border-breaking message of unity. Said first rose to global renown as the 'troubadour of the Altermondialist (next world) movement when his antiwar song "The Bell," became "the first major song against the war in Iraq," pioneering the use of mp3's and music videos for social change for the internet generation. Stephan is American, his father is Iraqi and his mother Austrian.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Guilty as charged: Patrick in court

MUA: 17 January 2011

The Maritime Union of Australia today welcomed the Melbourne Magistrate Court findings that Patrick Stevedores was guilty of discrimination against a health and safety representatives under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 - SECT 76.

The court found in favour of Workcover for three of the five charges that Patrick was guilty of an indictable offence for discriminating against an OHS representative for raising safety issues on the job.

A former Patrick employee, MUA Geelong safety representative and key witness during the hearings, was suspended, reprimanded and threatened with the sack for raising safety breaches where workers' lives were at risk.

Three waterside workers were killed on the Australian wharves last year alone.

The court ruling comes as EBA negotiations resume with Patrick in Melbourne today over key safety issues, including the lack of training and high casualisation at bulk and general operations.

"The court decision is a vindication of the protected action our members have taken at Patrick bulk & general cargo facilities in recent weeks," said MUA National Secretary and President of the International Transport Workers' Federation Paddy Crumlin.

"Some commentators have been quick to label the MUA's strikes as somehow being ideologically driven - nothing could be further from the truth," said Ian Bray, assistant national secretary. "Our members are suffering at these facilities. Suffering intimidation and suffering indignity at the hands of indifferent management."

"Our concerns over safety are absolutely legitimate - as are our concerns over a management culture that would enable this sort of discrimination of an OHS representative," said Victoria state secretary Kevin Bracken. "Management have little respect for their workers, so little they're willing to compromise on safety and put lives at risk. This is not sustainable and Patrick must take action to redress this culture of intimidation."

Patrick now faces fines which total up to $750,000, which the court will decide when it sentences Patrick on Friday.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Petition: Parramatta Female Factory

The Parramatta Convict Female Factory we see today is the earliest convict women's site in existence in Australia. It was a Governor Macquarie initiative. Of the 24,960 transported women an estimated 9,000 went through the factory system of which approximately 5,000 went through the Parramatta Female Factory. If this is multiplied by the generations and number of children, this means that an estimated 1 in 5 to 1 in 7 Australians are related to the female factory women.
This factory predates all but 3 of the UNESCO world heritage listed items. It needs heritage preservation. Given that there are only 2 identified images in national collections of these women and few objects provenance to these women directly the site is even more critical to understanding the experience of these women. The third class sleeping quarters and turnkey's apartment with the 2 Greenway buildings are the last intact buildings on the mainland relating to convict women's incarceration.

There is an application by state government - Health for a 1.5 Million dollars is to be spent for a 'temporary' IT storage solution on an 1825 Convict Female Factory third class sleeping quarters and Turnkeys apartment building - now known as building 105.  Although the S60 application has not yet been approved the building has been cleared out in preparation for installation of an IT data room for the Cumberland Hospital.  This current development is an adjunct to IT data storage already installed in an adjacent building now adorned with ugly air conditioning ducts and cooling fans.

If you are interested in our folk traditions and in preserving our heritage please add your name to the petition below.  Our current target is 5000 names which would be a voice for each of the estimated number of women who went through the factory.

Urgent action is needed to stop this desecration of our national heritage.This is just the first step in returning the Parramatta Female Factory to the people and creating a living memorial to the thousands of convict women and children incarcerated in such institutions.

If you want more background on female factories and Parramatta in particular there is also a link below.

Female Factory Parramatta Action Group links:

ACTU: Unions and Qld Flood Appeal

On behalf of all Australian unions, ACTU President Ged Kearney expressed sadness and condolences over the loss of life and the destruction of homes and workplaces by this unprecedented natural disaster.

The ACTU has initiated a union-wide fundraising drive by donating $10,000 to the Queensland Premier’s Flood Relief Appeal, and has called on Australia’s 2 million union members and their families to dig deep.

"Apart from the tragic loss of life and widespread havoc, the floods pose a serious direct threat to the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Queensland workers living in the affected areas and indirectly to the state and national economies," Ms Kearney said.

"The thoughts of the entire union movement goes out to the victims at this time. There are thousands of our members who have lost their homes and possessions, whose livelihoods have been devastated, and some who may have lost friends or relatives.

"Australian unionists have a long and proud history of helping their fellow workmates in times of natural disaster. It is at times like this, in the face of incredible adversity, that our national character of caring and sharing shines.

"We can again take pride in the dedication and hard work of union members in emergency services, healthcare, the community sector, media covering the events, and others involved in the disaster."

The ACTU will initiate a union-wide approach by making a $10,000 donation to the Premier’s Relief Appeal.

"We also encourage union members to take up a collection in their workplace and for employers to match whatever is raised."

Donations should be made to the Queensland Premier’s Flood Relief Appeal by phoning 1800 219 028 or visiting the website at

Catch the Green Music Train!

All Aboard! 2011 Green Music Train Sat 15 Jan Sun 16 Jan

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Labour Photo of the Year 2010

Labour Photo of the Year 2010: Gerardo Correa
Farmer workers early in the morning, waiting to start the Pilgrimage for Freedom, around 50 km to walk from Leamington to Windsor in Ontario, to claim for rights, on Thanksgiving 2010.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Corporate schools plans?

So the Gillard government plans to make schools autonomous (The Australian, 30 Dec).

This brings back memories of a plan by the Queensland Government in 1997 to do just the same, using the Orwellian term “Leading Schools”. A very broad coalition of teachers, parents, educators and community members defeated the plan. We showed, using the state government’s own well-documented website, that there was not a shred of evidence that school-based management improves education for children.

The main impetus for the plan then was pressure from big business to destroy the organisational strength of teachers. A scan of the Business Council of Australia proposals for Australian education from the 1990s shows detailed plans for school-based management as well as the destruction of teachers' unions.

It appears they are at it again! This time it is the Federal ALP Government dancing to their tune.