Thursday, March 31, 2011

Egypt: Strike ban plan is a 'betrayal'

30 March 2011

The International Trade Union Confederation has branded a plan to outlaw strikes by Egypt's military government "a betrayal of the revolution."

It demanded on Tuesday that Prime Minister Essam Sharaf scrap the proposed decree which would threaten workers who withdraw their labour with prison terms of up to a year and fines of up to £56,000.

The Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) has described the plan, which has already been approved by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, as "a grave and worrisome development."

And ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said: "Millions of Egyptian workers continue to work for poverty wage and depriving them of the right to strike, a fundamental right under international law, would remove an essential means for working people to achieve economic and social justice."

Ms Burrows said that by seeking to repress legitimate union activity the junta would also "suffocate the development of a vibrant civil society, which Egypt desperately needs for building democracy."

The EFITU has called on authorities to start dealing with Egyptian workers as "citizens, not subjects."

But the ETUF - the officially sanctioned trade union centre under former president Hosni Mubarak - has welcomed the proposal to make strikes illegal, apparently because it would serve to undermine the burgeoning EFITU.

Ms Burrows condemned the "discredited and unrepresentative remnant of the old regime" for continuing to seek to talk on behalf of Egypt's working people.

She said that like workers everywhere "they are perfectly capable of organising their own trade unions, but they can only do this effectively if the authorities refrain from the anti-democratic habits of the past."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Yasi: workers left out to dry

Heather Beck Cairns Post
Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Queensland Electrical Trades Union has named and shamed a New South Wales power company for failing to fully pay 20 of its cyclone Yasi response workers.

Local ETU representatives have described the behaviour of NSW power company Integral Energy during the cyclone recovery period as “disgraceful and mean-spirited”. In a statement, the ETU said Integral sent 20 workers to Tully to help with the clean-up, but then refused to pay them a Working in the Rain entitlement.

This was “despite the region being one of the wettest in Australia, the fact they were doing outstanding community recovery work in hot, wet conditions and the fact all other power workers around them were receiving the WIR rates”, the statement said. WIR rates are not paid in New South Wales but ETU secretary Peter Simpson said the refusal to pay the rates was “ridiculous” as Ergon had agreed to reimburse interstate companies for the extra payments.

When Integral management at Tully were advised of this, they reportedly threatened to restrict the number of hours each man could work to eight hours a day, instead of the minimum 11.5 hours that other workers were doing to restore power sooner. Integral is now threatening to take action against the ETU with Fair Work Australia and the Australian Building and Construction Commission because they pursued the issue, the ETU statement said.

“It’s really got our hackles up,” ETU Far North Queensland organiser Stuart Traill said.
“We had blokes working with us who were emotionally strained because their houses had been flattened – there’s no way that we would threaten industrial action in that sort of atmosphere.”

Get-Up: problem pokies
From Andrew Wilkie

Problem gamblers can easily lose more than $1,000 an hour on poker machines. It tears families apart, houses are lost and kids go hungry. That's why the machines are referred to as the 'crack cocaine of the gambling industry.'

In this Parliament we have our best chance ever to tackle the problem on account of the agreement for reform I have with the Government.

But the powerful Clubs Australia has just announced that it will spend $20 million to stop that happening. And we all know what the mining industry achieved with its $20-million advertising campaign against the super profits tax last year.

It will take a committed effort to win this fight. Let's give it an enormous boost with a huge national petition to show my colleagues and the media that while Clubs Australia has the money, we have the people.

I'll launch the petition with GetUp at the National Press Club today and present it to the Prime Minister when we reach 100,000 names. Please add your voice and forward this to everyone you know.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Melbourne: Desal nightmare

Billions down the drain in Kafkaesque desal nightmare
The Age March 28, 2011

There is no commercial contract that can't be broken, including the desalination contract with AquaSure. The issue is what is fair compensation. The courts would determine this on the present-day value of the contract, based on an independently determined discount rate applied to future streams of payments if the contract was fulfilled.

The desal plant is not needed. Melbourne's catchment area gets more than sufficient rainfall to meet the city's existing and future needs.

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If the contract is fulfilled, in the first year the government will have to pay AquaSure $763 million, rising by 7.3 per cent a year over the 28-year life of the contract. This means that half way through the contract, in 2026, AquaSure will be paid $2 billion, rising to $5.1 billion in the final year.

Dam water costs about 55¢ a kilolitre, which is marked up to $1.80 for sale to households. The 150 gigalitres supplied by AquaSure - which must be paid for irrespective of whether it is used - will cost Melbourne Water $5.09 a a kilolitre in 2012. In 14 years' time, the desal water will cost $13.33 a kilolitre and in 28 years it will be $34 a kilolitre. In contrast, the dams and pipes with a life of more than 100 years would be paid off in 28 years' time, when the cost of water in real terms would be less than 55¢ a kilolitre.

But it gets worse. The payment to AquaSure is the manufactured price. The water has to be marked up to cover the cost of wholesale and retail distribution. The mark-up on dam water is more than 300 per cent, which provides a dividend to the government of about $300 million a year and helps pay the salaries of teachers, nurses and police.

Based on average household consumption of 400 kilolitres, households pay about $1400 a year now for water, including parks and sewerage. In 2012, when households will have to take 40 per cent of their water from the desal plant, they will have to pay about $3000 for their water - providing the wholesale and retail mark-up is reduced to just over 200 per cent. The impact is three-fold: retailers will have to cut back on staff and maintenance, will not pay dividends, and will have to seek a government subsidy in order to make water affordable for two-thirds of the population.

Households will not be able to avoid the pain by putting in rainwater tanks or abandoning their gardens and limiting their consumption because AquaSure has a take-or-pay contract.

Unless the contract is cancelled, the government will be forced to pay larger subsidies each year - until AquaSure offers to put the government out of its misery by offering to take over metropolitan water assets in exchange for a renegotiation of water prices.

NSW: what went wrong?

Bob Ellis 27 March 2011

So what went wrong? Well, it’s a fair question. I never believed the words ‘the biggest swing in Australian history’ and ‘Barry O’Farrell’ belonged in the same sentence and I held out hope. I believed a world in seismic uproar – quake, tsunami, meltdown, cyclone, deluge, casual Afghan slaughters, an Armageddon Spring in the Middle East – would help incumbent governments as Kennedy’s assassination helped Menzies but I was wrong and I owe five hundred bucks, I think, in wagers on Kristina’s campaigning skills, a Hung Parliament, a salvaging weather event like Bligh’s, and the rest of it.

So what went wrong?

The sacking of Rees, the privatisations, the obsession with AAA ratings from the knaves and fools who rated Lehman’s AAA one day before it smashed up the world, the barping traffic driving in from the West every day, were only a part of it.

Could Keneally have won? Oh yes. By cancelling the privatisation, announcing a Catastrophe Fund and a levy on the big banks to pay for it...

Could Rees have won? Easily. He was on 45 percent when they topped him. One percent away from Hung Parliament victory, and obviously gaining votes each hour with his push against the Tripodi bunch and on his way to glory.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sydney Climate Change Rally - 2 April

Did you see the rally against climate action in Canberra this week?

Next Saturday those same shock-jocks and politicians are rallying in Sydney to claim that our town doesn't want real action on Climate Change. But if they think we can be defeated by fear, they're about to see what real grassroots community action looks like.

Let's join together for a few hours next Saturday the 2nd of April -- not to have a louder, angrier rally, but to show the difference in both our numbers and message: the difference between fear and hope. While they're shouting their angry slogans and misinformation, on the other side of Sydney we'll hold a positive, family-friendly gathering to stand up for our vision for clean energy and preserving a safe climate for our kids.

If we all come together, the media won't be able report on the anti-climate rallies without also reporting that more people turned out to express support for a price on pollution. Will you be there?

What: Family-friendly rally for climate action (there will be great music and face-painting for kids)
Where: Belmore Park (next to Central Station, behind the Eddy Avenue bus stops)
When: Next Saturday, April 2, 11am-12noon

How will showing up make a difference? A fortnight ago, when an anti-climate-action rally came to Melbourne, over 8,000 locals joined our rally for climate action. They turned a bad media story on it's head - into a positive national story about how many Australians showed up in support for climate action.

This is our chance, together, to turn this shock-jock story around. To let history record that when they tried to engineer a dangerous and angry Tea Party-like movement in Australia, ordinary families neutralised it with a larger positive and peaceful movement.

NSW: Electicity privatisation blamed for defeat

9.30pm 26 March 2011

An outgoing Labor MP says the ALP's decision to privatise the electricity sector was a decisive factor in the party's drubbing in the New South Wales election.

Paul Pearce, who conceded defeat in the eastern Sydney seat of Coogee earlier this evening, also delivered a withering assessment of the former state treasurer Michael Costa.

"Our problems started when Michael Costa initiated electricity privatisation," Mr Pearce said.

"It was against the interests of the party, against the interests of the trade union movement and it was against the interests of the public.

"And that fool (Michael Costa) persisted with it."

What about the Garbage Tax?

Letter to SMH

“And what about this great big garbage tax? Why do I have to pay to have my garbage collected when I can dump it in the bush for nothing? My little bit doesn't make any difference to world garbage levels, and when it rolls to the bottom of the gully I can't even see it. Call me a garbage sceptic, but show me the science. If garbage is bad why do we produce so much?

When I went overseas there was garbage lying everywhere. Other countries don't have great big garbage taxes. They make cheap stuff and we can't compete. Until every country in the world adopts a garbage price, our great big garbage tax is economic suicide. Garbage is crap.
David Hale Gordon”

UK: March against the cuts

This is a film exposing the alternatives to the government's austerity measures; it's about the positive; it's about revealing the many options we actually have at a time when we're being told there are no alternatives. There is a budding movement gathering fantastic momentum, with an incredibly diverse cross section of people involved.

see also for TUC anti-cuts 60 second videos

TOOT for the Future!

‘TOOT for the Future’ Music/Video

In the run up to the State Government elections, with the intention of showing the community support for the return of train services to the Casino-Murwillumbah rail line, a music video project, ‘TOOT for the Future’ was created.

In February the song was recorded by Garth Kindred and the ‘TOOTERS’ at Old Dog Studios Corndale and on March 10th & 12th a video was shot at Lismore and Byron Bay Railway Stations by Paul Tait, David Bradbury and Brendan Shoebridge. This was edited by Andrew Bambach and Lydia Kindred, over three days, and it is now ready to be enjoyed.

TOOT website –

Monday, March 21, 2011

Newcastle: Steelworkers push for memorial

Push for a workers memorial to be built

A former BHP worker is stepping up his campaign to have a memorial built to workers who were killed at the Newcastle Steelworks.

When the steelworks closed in 1999, Aubrey Brooks was assured a memorial would be built, but almost 12 years on, it is yet to be erected. More than $5,000 was donated for the construction, but so far only a few plaques have been made.

Mr Brooks says he has written to a number of authorities urging them to get the memorial built.
"I've been in touch with Workcover and I've been in touch with some past BHP managers," he said.
"I've also been in contact with the Australian Workers Union and various other people to try and get this underway and the ideal place in my opinion to put it is the Muster Point.

"This not a witchhunt, this not to find fault with anybody about why it hasn't been done. But the object of the story is now is to get done.

"Let's build this monument to these people that lost their lives in the development of Newcastle and Australia."

Breaking Australia's Silence

'Breaking Australia's silence: WikiLeaks and freedom' was a public forum held on 16 March 2011 at the Sydney Town Hall staged by the Sydney Peace Foundation, Amnesty, Stop the War Coalition, and supported by the City of Sydney.

Chaired by Mary Kostakidis, it featured speeches by John Pilger, Andrew Wilkie MP (the only serving Western intelligence officer to expose the truth about the Iraq invasion) and Julian Burnside QC, defender of universal human rights under the law.

Attendance: 2500

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Robert Fisk: Libya

Gaddafi is completely bonkers, a crackpot on the level of Ahmadinejad and Lieberman

Robert Fisk: Saturday, 19 March 2011

So we are going to take "all necessary measures" to protect the civilians of Libya, are we? Pity we didn't think of that 42 years ago. Or 41 years ago. Or... well, you know the rest. And let's not be fooled by what the UN resolution really means. Yet again, it's going to be regime-change. And just as in Iraq – to use one of Tom Friedman's only memorable phrases of the time – when the latest dictator goes, who knows what kind of bats will come flying out of the box?

And after Tunisia, after Egypt, it's got to be Libya, hasn't it? The Arabs of North Africa are demanding freedom, democracy, liberation from oppression. Yes, that's what they have in common. But what these nations also have in common is that it was us, the West, that nurtured their dictatorships decade after decade after decade. The French cuddled up to Ben Ali, the Americans stroked Mubarak, while the Italians groomed Gaddafi until our own glorious leader went to resurrect him from the political dead.

Could this be, I wonder, why we have not heard from Lord Blair of Isfahan recently? Surely he should be up there, clapping his hands with glee at another humanitarian intervention. Perhaps he is just resting between parts. Or maybe, like the dragons in Spenser's Faerie Queen, he is quietly vomiting forth Catholic tracts with all the enthusiasm of a Gaddafi in full flow

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Safety: Anglo coal mine shut down

The Construction, Forestry and Mining Union (CFMEU) has blasted Anglo Coal for "extremely" poor safety after operations at two Central Queensland mines were shut down due to two accidents within 24 hours.
A dump truck and a ute collided at Dawson coal mine, Moura, yesterday morning.
At the Callide coal mine, near Biloela, a bulldozer was buried during excavation on Thursday night.
No one was injured in either accident.
The Queensland Government's chief inspector of coal mines Gavin Taylor said the department had suspended operations because of the mines "ineffective safety and health management systems".
He said both mines would remain suspended until management could satisfy inspectors that work could go ahead without unacceptable risk.
Chris Gilbert, a CFMEU organiser, said the systems Anglo Coal had in place for addressing hazards had not been working.
Mr Gilbert said half of their investigations into accidents blamed "operator error".
Workers were also being asked to do jobs that would have been deemed too unsafe 20 years ago.
Mr Gilbert said in both accidents it was "extremely lucky" that no one was hurt.
"They need to stop and look at what's going on," he said.

Japan: What unions are doing

Japan: What unions are doing; how you can help

Here are some of the pages you might want to check out:

Friday, March 18, 2011

ACTU: Industry plan needed

ACTU President Ged Kearney said that Professor Ross Garnaut’s address at the National Press Club today confirmed that hundreds of thousands of jobs would result from a price on carbon if the right industry settings were in place.

“As in any major economic or industrial change, job security is the number one priority for Australian unions in the development of a pricing mechanism for pollution,” Ms Kearney said.

“In the development of a carbon pricing mechanism, unions will fight to ensure Australian industry remains globally competitive and no jobs are lost as a result of a price on pollution.

“Heavy industry will require transitional assistance to adapt, and some form of assistance will be necessary for exporters and import-competing sectors.

“As the Prime Minister said last night, we have a choice between setting Australia on the path to a high skill, low-carbon future, or leaving our economy to decline and be left behind by the rest of the world.

“A price on pollution will help to unlock billions of dollars of investment in clean energy and renewables but an industry package must also be developed to fund research and development, training to assist workers to learn new skills.

“Professor Garnaut also identifies that under the scheme low and middle income earners will not be worse off or out of pocket because they will be compensated to mitigate any price rises associated with the transition.

“His address also identified that we need to act now to minimise higher costs in the future.

“The transition to a low carbon economy will mean a massive mobilisation in skills and training – both to equip new workers as well as to ensure that the three million workers who currently work in these affected industries are supported through the process.

“Unlike Tony Abbott’s determination to be a spoiler against the national interest, unions will engage closely with the government on these issues to ensure that the scheme is implemented in a way that both protects existing jobs and creates new ones.”

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nuclear power safety report

With fears of a possible nuclear meltdown in Japan continuing to escalate, evidence that the nation received warnings over the stability of its power plants from an international watchdog more than two years ago has emerged via a new round of diplomatic cables accessed by WikiLeaks.

An official from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in December 2008 that safety rules were outdated, and strong earthquakes would pose a "serious problem" for the power stations.

A U.S. embassy cable quoted an unnamed expert who expressed concern that guidance on how to protect nuclear power stations from earthquakes had only been updated three times in the past 35 years. The document states: "He explained that safety guides for seismic safety have only been revised three times in the last 35 years and that the IAEA is now re-examining them. Also, the presenter noted recent earthquakes in some cases have exceeded the design basis for some nuclear plants, and that this is a serious problem that is now driving seismic safety work."

Meanwhile in Australia:

"RMIT Chancellor Dr Ziggy Switkowski has been gently spinning the issue, repeatedly reassuring us that lessons will be learned, improvements will be made. However, history shows that nuclear lessons are not properly learned. The OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency notes that lessons may be learned but too often they are subsequently forgotten, or they are learned but by the wrong people, or they are learned but not acted upon. The Nuclear Energy Agency says the pattern of the same type of accident recurring time and time again at different nuclear plants needs to be "much improved".

The situation in Japan illustrates the point − it has become increasingly obvious over the past decade that greater protection against seismic risks is necessary, but the nuclear utilities haven't wanted to spend the money and the Japanese nuclear regulator and the government haven't forced the utilities to act."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gd Kearney: Because We Care

Union leader to speak in Blue Mountains about Aged Care

“Because We Care”, the Blue Mountains Unions Council Inc is pleased to announce that the President of the ACTU, Ged Kearney will be speaking at “Politics in the Pub” at Blackburns Family Hotel in Katoomba on Saturday, 16th April in support of the Australian Nursing Federation's “Because We Care” campaign and the NSW Nurses' Association's Quality Aged Care Action Group Inc (QACAG Inc).

“Quality Aged Care benefits all those who receive care, will need care in the future, entrust the care of family to the aged care industry, work as aged care professionals and need support to provide unpaid care at home.” said Ged Kearney, President of the ACTU.

“The recent release of the Productivity Commission's draft report ”Caring for Older Australians” recognises that inferior Aged Care services are a burden on the Australian people and economy but underestimates the importance of those factors which put the “Quality” into Aged Care, the people, the resources and accountability.”

Ms Kearney became a Registered Nurse in 1985. She was elected Federal Secretary of the Australian Nursing Federation in 2008, being an elected official of the ANF since 2003. Before her election as President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) in 2010 she was actively involved in the development of the “Because We Care” campaign which she will be speaking about at Politics in the Pub.

Also speaking is Stella Topaz of the NSW Nurses Association, Shirley Ross-Shuley and Annette Peters.

Stella Topaz will talk about the work of the Quality Aged Care Action Group (QACAG) Inc which is made up of people from many interests and backgrounds brought together by common concerns about the quality of care for people in aged care. The membership includes nurses and retired nurses, people receiving aged care services, family and friends of people in nursing homes, people who work in aged care or health and other concerned community members.

Shirley Ross-Shuley is a Nurse Educator and Annette Peters is a Registered Nurse. They are Blue Mountains locals who will share their perspective from working “at the coal face” in Aged Care.

“Because We Care” Politics in the Pub will start at 2.30pm on Saturday, 16th April 2011 at Blackburns Family Hotel, 15 Parke St, Katoomba.

The audience will have an opportunity to ask the speakers questions until 4.30pm. Further information is available on the Blue Mountains Unions Council website, the BMUC Facebook page or by contacting Debra Smith on (02) 47871401 or Shirley Ross-Shuley on (02) 47825062.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mountains Candidates sign declaration

Kerrin O'Grady Greens, Trish Doyle ALP, Janice Mays Independent
and Mark Lennon, Secretary Unions NSW

At Saturday's Politics in the Pub - before a packed house - three of the main candidates for the Blue Mountains in the state election signed a declaration pledging their support for the Unions NSW campaign - 'Better Services for a Better State'.

Liberal candidate Roza Sage was also invited to attend the event staged by Blue Mountains Union Council at the Family Hotel in Katoomba, but her campaign manager advised the day before that because of prior commitments she had to decline the invitation.

The 5 point Plan calls for politicians to:

1. Invest in Services
2.Look after Public Assets
3 Plan Long Term
4. Back our workers
5 Govern for the common good.

Further information is available at

Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan: Save the Children

Japan Earthquake Appeal

Save the Children has launched an appeal for $5 million to help children affected by Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

We have mobilised our global resources and an international emergency team - including staff from Australia - are on the ground now to assist our staff in Japan. Save the Children has been in Japan for 25 years.

Australian Steve McDonald, who is leading Save the Children's emergency response in Japan, said, "Children in Japan have survived through a major quake, a lethal tsunami and some even from fires and fears of explosions.

"We know from experience that, especially with the ongoing aftershocks still being felt here and fears of another tsunami, children will be terrified and desperately in need of structured help and care.

"From today, Save the Children will be scaling up so that we can help provide that care and reduce the long-term negative effects that such a chronic disaster can leave on children in their formative years.

"Without financial help, we simply won't be able to reach these children fast enough."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pact on Tasmanian Logging

The Age 12 March 2011

Old-growth forest, Upper Florentine Valley, Tasmania. Photo by: Rob Blakers
Peace talks between Tasmania's timber industry and green groups have yielded a fresh breakthrough with agreement on a moratorium on logging around 560,000 hectares of native forests.

The former foes agreed to halt logging in all areas identified by the environment groups as holding high conservation values such as old growth or wilderness - unless it is necessary to meet existing wood supply contracts.

The agreement will allay growing alarm among some conservationists, who returned to forest protest this summer after slow implementation of the moratorium, originally proposed when a forests truce was reached last October.

The six-month agreement announced yesterday by peace talks facilitator and former ACTU secretary Bill Kelty covers virtually all forest areas around the state fought over for a generation. Premier Lara Giddings warned the deal would still require more compromises between groups that had been at war for decades.

The industry, and particularly major timber company Gunns Limited, has been driven to leave native forest logging by the rejection of its low value woodchips by foreign customers in favour of plantation chips.

see also Pulp Mill still fails the grade

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Oakland USA: Schools not Banks

This brief video shows the beginning of a campaign to bail out schools and services, instead of banks, and to stop home foreclosures. The Oakland Education Association and community allies rallied at three bank branches on January 13, 2011, on the eve of the Martin Luther King, Jr., weekend. We chose this time, because King pointed out that in order to address racism and poverty, there must be "a radical redistribution of political and economic power." Similarly, we will not achieve quality education for all without, as King said, taking on the "captains of industry."

Politics in the Pub: Candidate's Forum

Friday, March 11, 2011

We Can't Afford to Save the Planet

A song by Kevin McCarthy©Kevin McCarthy 2010

Kevin writes:
'With the climate change debate reaching boiling point (again), I've enclosed a demo of my song We Can't Afford to Save the Planet, sung by myself and Darwin schoolgirl Luci Susanto Although written a year ago, it could be described as the School Kit edition of Tony Abbott's Climate Change Policy'

More songs at

ACTU: Ark Tribe courageous stand

Earlier this week Ark Tribe was honoured for his brave stand for his rights at work with a special award from the ACTU.

Ark was given a Special Mention Award at the ACTU National Union Awards in recognition of his two-year fight for justice after he was charged for refusing to co-operate with the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

This award is also for the thousands of Rights on Site supporters who joined rallies, signed petitions, and stood by Ark.

For over two years, Ark was faced with a six month jail term, he was found not guilty in November 2010.

Mr Tribe was charged for refusing to attend a compulsory interview about a stopwork meeting he attended in 2008. The site had stopped because of serious concerns about worker safety.

As a result of his determination to stand up for his rights, the ABCC has been forced to change the way it exercises its coercive powers.

We don't know who the ABCC is going to haul in next. That's why we're keeping up the campaign to get rid of the coercive powers and the ABCC.

Dave Noonan
and the Rights on Site team

PS Nearly 6,000 people have signed our petition to abolish the ABCC. Help us get 10,000 names and sign the petition or ask a mate to sign it.

Wisconsin: Assault on workers

AFL-CIO press release

Brothers and sisters,

Last night in Madison, Wis., in the dead of night, Senate Republicans rammed through a bill that strips Wisconsinites of the collective bargaining rights their parents and grandparents bargained for, marched for, went on strike for and sometimes even died for.

This assault on workers' freedom will not stand.

As the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO said last night:

Scott Walker and the Republicans’ ideological war on the middle class and working families is now indisputable, and their willingness to shred 50 years of labor peace, bipartisanship and Wisconsin’s democratic process to pass a bill that 74 percent of Wisconsinites oppose is beyond reprehensible.

What we saw in the dead of night in Wisconsin wasn’t democracy. It was back-door deal-making, partisan politics taken to the limit. That isn’t worthy of America. And working Americans simply won’t stand for it. Not in Wisconsin, and not anywhere.

Brothers and sisters, it’s time to turn outrage into action.

Last night, Gov. Walker and his rubber-stamp Republican senators showed us they will do just about anything to pay back corporate donors by stripping workers of their right to bargain for good, middle-class jobs.

First, they claimed Walker’s bill was aimed at balancing Wisconsin’s budget. But that was exposed as an outright lie last night. Their true motives were exposed when they robbed hundreds of thousands of nurses, teachers, snowplow drivers and EMTs of their collective bargaining rights—without even a dime of savings to Wisconsin taxpayers. And they thumbed their noses at their state’s open meeting laws to do it.

This was the second time in a week that Republican state legislators showed they are willing to sacrifice democracy for their partisan political agenda. First it happened in Ohio, where the Senate Republican leader threw a senator off a committee to ensure the body would vote to end bargaining rights. Now it’s Wisconsin.

This morning, tens of thousands of workers are gathering at the Statehouse in Madison. Their fight is only beginning. They’re already getting organized, working tirelessly to recall the politicians who did this and win back the collective bargaining rights that were taken away in the dead of night.

It’s time for us all to follow their example in our own states. We need to give it our all and show that like the Wisconsonites who have inspired us all, we don’t give up.

We’ve never seen the incredible solidarity that we’re seeing right now, and I have never been more proud of this movement than I am today.

Last night’s travesty in Wisconsin will not stand. Today’s a new day—and we’re even stronger and more committed. It’s time for action and we are ready.

In Solidarity,

Richard L. Trumka
President, AFL-CIO

P.S. It’s time for politicians to pay attention to the people they represent. Workers in Wisconsin and in Ohio and across America have had enough. If these attacks continue in statehouses across America, we will be even stronger and bigger, with more of the public—ordinary Americans who are being attacked—joining us to balance out-of-control corporate greed.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Climate movement rallies

A coalition of climate change advocates today announced it will counter conservative action against a carbon price by rallying in support of a price on pollution and swift transition to a renewable economy.

“Hard-right Liberal Senators Cori Bernardi and Eric Abetz are teaming up with conservative shock-jock Chris Smith of 2GB and MTR to organise a rally against climate action on Saturday,” said GetUp Campaigns Director, Sam McLean.

“Australians have been waiting for four years for the Labor Government to deliver its promises to take action on climate change, and we donʼt want our parliamentarians thinking that a vocal minority of negative naysayers speak for Australia – so weʼre taking to the street and making our voice heard.”

“The sooner we put a price on pollution, the less our kids will have to pay in time. This is the year to put a price on the biggest polluting industries, and use that money to invest in clean energy, and helping lower- income families adjust to.”

“On Saturday we will show that the mainstream view in favour of taking action on rising pollution,” Ellen Sandell, Director of the Australian Youth Climate Change Coalition said. “Young Australians are counting on our country to get this done - we cannot afford to delay any longer.”

“Most Australians want to cut pollution and move to a clean energy economy,” Phil Freeman, Climate Change Campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation said. “Until we provide industry with an incentive to change the way we produce energy, our pollution levels will continue to rise.”

“A price on pollution will create jobs, unlock investment in clean energy and help ensure a healthy environment for our future.”

What: Where: When: Who:
Rally to support a price on carbon pollution. Treasury Place,
Melbourne. Saturday, March 12 – 11am-2pm.

Members of GetUp, Greenpeace, the Australian Youth Climate Change Coalition, Environment Victoria, the Australian Conservation Foundation, and the Climate Action Network of Australia.
GetUp: Paul Mackay 0415 182 402 |
ACF: Phil Freeman 0438 043 049 |
AYCC: Ellen Sandell  0400 544 754 |

Women on Boards

SMH 10/03/2011

The largest operator of private hospitals in the country boasts a workforce comprising more than 84 per cent females.
Ramsay Health Care also boasts an extensive portfolio of medical services targeted at women, including a new private maternity unit which opened just last month.

Its closest competitor, Primary Health Care, provides obstetric, gynaecological and mammography services to tens of thousands of women every year.

But women do not get a look-in when it comes to making the big decisions. The boards of Australia's two largest private healthcare companies are all-male domains.

Along with the usual mineral, energy, transportation and financial companies in the Australian stock exchange's Top 200 list, healthcare providers, media houses and kitchen appliance manufacturers are among the big corporates without a single women on the board.

Sunbeam, which is owned by GUD Holdings, joins other house- hold names such as Elders, Cabcharge, Flight Centre and the property arm of Bunnings Warehouse, on the list of boards bereft of female directors.

According to a Women on Boards analysis, 10 per cent of directorships in ASX200 companies are held by women, while 87 of those companies still do not have any women on their board.

As the centenary of International Women's Day was observed around the world yesterday, the pay TV company Austar beckoned women to watch ''an inspiring documentary commemorating the achievements of Australian women who have helped shape the nation''. None are shaping the station's own direction from its boardroom; nor from the boardroom of its free-to-air competitor, Southern Cross.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

International Women's Day Centenary - 8 March
The first International Women’s Day rallies were held in March 1911, inciting what would become a world-wide movement to champion the cause of equality for women.

“The centenary of International Women’s Day is an opportunity for us to celebrate the extraordinary women who have broken down so many barriers throughout the last 100 years,” Kate Ellis MP said.

“That women of my generation can take their place in Parliament is a testament to their spirit, their courage and their sheer fortitude."

“I hope that throughout the coming year of celebrations, all Australian women are inspired to continue in their footsteps and take up the challenge to bring about positive and lasting change for women around the world.”

“I encourage all Australians, women and men, to get involved with the centenary celebrations for International Women’s Day and act to promote positive change for women in their everyday lives.”

For more information on the centenary events, visit UNIFEM Australia’s International Women’s Day website

Sydney: Rally at Town Hall at 11.45 where we will march to circular quay.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Thanks to Wisconsin Senators!

ACT takes on Sham Contracting

Canberra Times 05 Mar, 2011

A deal designed to bring industrial peace to Canberra's troubled building sites is due to be signed within a month.

The ACT Government, industry groups and the building union are set to sign an accord aimed at eradicating the use of sham contractors on government projects.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, the ACT Government and the Master Builders Association have drafted an agreement that will force all contractors working on territory government construction jobs to be "IR compliant".

Once signed, it is intended that the agreement will be extended to the private development sector and then the union says it has the potential to be extended nationwide.

The ACT building industry is plagued with sham employment contracts, which are helping employers to avoid paying payroll tax, superannuation, leave entitlements and workers' compensation, according to the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

MBA Industrial Relations Manager Michael Baldwin conceded yesterday that bogus contractors or "ABN labour" as they are sometimes called, were a major problem in the industry.

"You might have 15 guys signed up for workers' comp when you start the job, but by the time it's finished there might be 35 workers and those extra 20 might not be on the books," Mr Baldwin said.

"We understand it's an industry-wide problem and we're happy to be helping the CFMEU and the Government in an attempt to fix it."

Saturday, March 05, 2011

UK: Right to Strike restored

Trade unionists won a historic victory today when High Court judges ruled that previous injunctions against strike action had been based on "traps or hurdles" for unions.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and the Association of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (Aslef) won their appeal on Thursday against two injunctions which barred their members on the Docklands Light Railway from going on strike.

Lord Justices Mummery, Etherton and Elias overturned a previous ruling which said the unions' ballot notices to employers London Midland and Serco were not "as accurate as reasonably practicable."

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said that his members were "absolutely over the moon.

"There is now a precedent in UK law that workers are entitled to strike," he said.

There is no right to strike action in British common law but it is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects industrial action as an extension of freedom of association.

The ruling's recognition of the right is a first in legal history.

"We've spent the last year in court with Network Rail - finally it's round one to us," said Mr Crow, who was also pleased that Serco had been ordered to pay the union's legal costs as it meant that the union was free to devote the money to its members.

Union delegates would meet next week to set dates for the strike, he added.

Aslef general secretary Keith Norman was equally delighted.

"Before today's ruling it was effectively impossible to take legal strike action in this country.

"If the employer could find the tiniest discrepancy, the courts would find in the employer's favour.

"Thanks to today's decision, a sense of justice and balance has been returned to industrial relations in this country," he said.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Barangaroo - They call it the Hungry Mile

Wallarah coal mine blocked

The New South Wales Government has refused permission for a $600 million coal mine in a key central coast electorate.

Mining firm Kores, which is owned by the South Korean Government, had planned to extract 5 million tonnes of coal a year from the Wallarah 2 mine, near Wyong.

The long wall mine was also expected to employ 300 people.

Planning Minister Tony Kelly says water and subsidence issues led to his refusal.

"The Planning Assessment Commission had suggested it could go ahead with a significant number of conditions that could be worked out later on, and I believe there were too many uncertainties," Mr Kelly said.

Alan Hayes from the Australian Coal Alliance says locals were united in their resistance, from the Wyong Council to businesses and residents.

"I think there will be champagne corks popping today," Mr Hayes said.

Wyong's sitting Labor MP David Harris had objected to the mine, while the State Opposition had promised to block it.

Labor holds the seat by a margin of 6.9 per cent over the Liberal Party.

Mr Kelly's decision to refuse permission comes just two days after he moved in favour of the Barangaroo development in central Sydney.

The minister issued an order of Wednesday that weakens a legal challenge to the project in the state's Land and Environment Court.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Limitations of NAPLAN data

NSW Teachers Federation

Margaret Wu , an academic from Melbourne University and an expert in educational measurement and the analysis of student testing data talks about the limitations of the NAPLAN test when used in the MySchool website data to compare schools' performance.

In the following video Margaret Wu explains why teachers and Principals concerns about the misuse of data to compare schools are statistically valid.

Yet some media outlets want to use this data to create League Tables.

The overseas experience is clear. League tables change fundamentally what is taught and how it is taught. Based on a single test instrument, league tables damage schools and communities by unfairly naming and shaming them, and devastate both students and teachers in schools identified as failing, whether on a local, state or national basis. League tables narrow the curriculum as more and more pressure is applied to 'teach to the test' to improve school scores.

Associate Professor Margaret Wu on the limitations of the NAPLAN data

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

BMUC: Three confirm for Election Forum

Three of the four officially declared Blue Mountains hopefuls have confirmed their attendance at the Blue Mountains Union Council (BMUC's) meet the candidates forum next week.

Labor candidate Trish Doyle, Independent Janet Mays and Kerrin O'Grady of the Greens we confirmed their attendance at the March 12 event.

Liberal candidate Roza Sage as yet to confirm, however BMUC president Kerry Cooke said he was hopeful she would still turn up.

"We were disappointed that only two of the three key candidates in the lead up to the federal election [in August last year] agreed to attend the forum, and we hope the Liberal state candidate, Roza Sage, makes herself available to questioning from the engaged Upper Mountains community," he said in a statement.

"The forum is still a couple of weeks away, so there is plenty of time for the Liberal candidate to agree to attend."

A chair would be set aside for Mrs Sage at the event, Mr Cooke said. -

A comment on the issue had not been received from Mrs Sage's campaign team at the time of going to press.

The public is welcome to attend the event, which takes place from 2.3Opm at Katoomba's Family Hotel. For more information, log onto or contact Debra Smith on 4787-1401.

Blue Mountains environmental history

No joy from O'Farrell

letter to Blue Mountains Gazette 2 March 2011

Some of us can remember what the Blue Mountains was like a generation ago and what has been achieved during this time and now, and properly so, taken for granted.

The election of the Carr Labor government in 1995 saw the national parks boundaries rationalised and dramatically changed as part of the beginning of the long campaign to get World Heritage listing which came five years later.

This was a time when subdivided blocks of land were on the ridges from Mount Victoria, Blackheath, Katoomba and Leura in full view of our world famous lookouts. Subdivided and inappropriately zoned blocks were across all of our now pristine wilderness areas all the way to Glenbrook and Lapstone and in most cases in the now national parks.

One of the boundaries of the national park actually went down the middle of the second sister of the world famous Three Sisters at Echo Point.

Going way back during the early 1980s, our national parks were managed by a committee of dedicated volunteers with almost no staff to back up the huge job of managing the environment.

Administrations were set up and the processes put into place, mainly through the National Parks and Wildlife Service, to begin the long and difficult task of managing our environment.

During this time our environment was polluted to the point where almost no creek or water stream was safe and we had weed infestation and the like across our entire community.

Large amounts of funding were invested to ensure the proper management structures and support staff were in place to do the necessary repairs.

Today and into the future there is still a lot of work to do.

My clear recollection of the Liberal government from 1988 to 1995 was that they were famous for huge cutbacks made to the administration of our national parks to the,point where it almost went back to the volunteer days.

I have read the policy speech delivered by Barry O'Farrell recently at Penrith and found nothing that the Blue Mountains community can find any joy in. As a matter of fact it asked more questions than it gave details of anything.

Jim Angel, Katoomba.

Book Shops collapse: Private Equity fiasco

The administrator of collapsed bookstore group RedGroup Retail will begin closing unprofitable Angus & Robertson and Borders bookshops next week, potentially putting hundreds of staff out of work.

At a meeting of creditors in Melbourne yesterday, administrator Steve Sherman of corporate restructuring firm Ferrier Hodgson said management already had considered closing several stores before the group was placed in administration on February 17.

"We recognise that this has some hurt factor to it; we're not blind to that," Mr Sherman said.

"When we do make that decision (to close shops), it's not because we want to make it; it's because we have to make it."

Wages would continue to be paid, although any staff who were dismissed would have to wait to receive any accrued leave entitlements, he said.

Mr Sherman said the company owed $7.8 million in entitlements to its 2500 staff and $118m to a subsidiary of private equity group Pacific Equity Partners, which bought the business in 2004.

see also IUF Private Equity Buyout Watch

ACTU: Unions welcome Disability Insurance

A National Disability Insurance Scheme is long overdue and could stand alongside Medicare and compulsory superannuation as a landmark social reform.

Commenting on the release of the draft report from the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into disability care and support, ACTU President Ged Kearney said the NDIS was an idea whose time has come, and which would make immeasurable difference to the lives of people with disability and their carers.

“Just as Medicare and superannuation help to spread risk across lifecycles and across the population, to promote social inclusion and to reduce social inequity and hardship, a National Disability Insurance Scheme could do the same for people who require care and support,” Ms Kearney said.

“Existing arrangements to support people with disability and their carers are clearly inadequate. They provide a safety net, at best - but not the comprehensive and universal level of support that meets people’s needs.

“This chronic underfunding leaves many people with disability and their carers living in poverty.

“A National Disability Insurance Scheme would be the cornerstone of the Australian disability support system.

“A national scheme is also needed to create the environment to attract more carers into the disability support workforce, which would be necessary to expand services.

“Proper funding would transform the system with greater pay, more jobs, better working conditions and career structures, and the resources to do the job properly.”

Robeson at the Opera House!

Just over 50 years ago during his world tour Paul Robeson gave an impromptu concert in Sydney. Invited by the Building Workers Industrial Union (BWIU) Robeson is visiting the construction site of the Opera House. There he is under that magnificent roof long before its beautiful bare arched concrete ribs were lost to view. Sydney November 1960.