Thursday, June 30, 2011

Save the Kimberley

The WA Government is pushing for the creation of an industrial gas refinery on the Kimberley coast near Broome. If this proceeds, it will damage the environmental and cultural fabric of the Kimberley forever.

What the gas refinery would mean

  • It would be Australia’s largest, and the world’s second largest, LNG producer
  • The gas refinery would cover 25km² of land, equivalent to 1,200 Subiaco ovals
  • The port area would cover 10km² of a Humpback Whale calving area
  • There would be a 50km² ‘marine deadzone’[1] offshore from James Price Point because of the blasting and dredging for the port and pipelines
  • 30 billion litres/year of wastewater generated by the refinery and the 6-8000 construction-worker town would be pumped into the pristine waters north of Broome
  • An oil spill from the project area could arrive in Roebuck Bay and Cable Beach in 1-10 days
  • 39 million tonnes/year of CO— equivalent to 20% of WA’s current COemissions from this one project.

Government documents make clear that, if the gas goes ahead, this could lead to wide-scale industrialisation of the rest of the Kimberley.

Liberal Party attack on workers' rights

Two years on and the Liberal Party still doesn’t get workers' rights

30 June, 2011 | ACTU Media Release

Two years after the Fair Work Act swept away WorkChoices, Tony Abbott has confirmed he has succumbed to Liberal Party extremists to plan a renewed attack on rights at work.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said Mr Abbott had bowed to pressure from his party and employer groups who want a return to hardline industrial relations policy, confirming he was planning a "strong and effective" new strategy.

"The Liberal Party is so addicted to WorkChoices that as soon as Tony Abbott climbs ahead in the polls, it begins planning to bring back its anti-worker industrial relations system," Mr Lawrence said.

"The Liberal Party remains deluded about workplace rights, with Mr Reith this week describing WorkChoices as 'one of the great successes of the Howard Government', forgetting how Australians resolutely voted against it and his party at the last two elections.

"Mr Reith's call for a return to a WorkChoices-style policy was quickly answered by Mr Abbott's announcement he was planning to change the workplaces relations system that has only just restored the rights of workers taken away by WorkChoices.

The ACTU is today releasing a report that totally debunks the views of the Liberal Party and big business that Australia's workplace relations system is not working well and destroys any argument for any return to WorkChoices. The ACTU's analysis of two years under the Fair Work Act confirms the system that replaced WorkChoices has been good for Australia’s economy, has led to less industrial disputes and more people than ever before are covered by collective bargaining.

"The reality is the Fair Work Act has restored protection for all workers from unfair dismissal, the rights to collective bargaining, better access and representation from unions in the workplace, a proper safety net, and the abolition of Australian Workplace Agreements," Mr Lawrence said. "In contrast, WorkChoices placed millions of workers in vulnerable employment, undermined protections, and led to real cuts to the value of minimum wages."

Download ACTU report

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Corporate culture: Westpac and ANZ

Finance workers have condemned announcements by Westpac and ANZ that will see 250 Australian finance jobs sent offshore to be filled by cheap overseas labour.

After public comments by Westpac CEO Gail Kelly last week that the bank was considering lifting the off-shoring ban the bank imposed in 2009, the bank has advised 100 employees that their roles will be sent off-shore to India.

At the same time ANZ employees have been advised that 150 jobs are in scope for off-shoring over coming months, with those roles likely to be shipped to The Philippines.

Delegates from across the finance sector are currently meeting at the FSU National Conference and have adopted an urgency motion condemning the actions of Westpac and ANZ, and have committed to campaigning to reject off-shoring and call on Australian banks to commit to invest in the future jobs and skills needs of the industry.

“Finance workers are sick of living on the knife-edge when it comes to job security and the future of the industry,” said FSU National Secretary Leon Carter.

“The facts are clear; the more money employees make for our big banks the more harshly they're treated by their employer. Whether it's ramped up sales targets or the threat of losing their jobs to cheaper labour overseas, bank executives are consumed with bottom line results with little regard for workers or bank customers.”

“Last year the big four banks raked in over $20 billion combined profit and are already reporting record half-yearly results. At what point is enough enough? At what point do they give back to the community they profit from? We say that time is now,” said Leon Carter.

“It's not good enough, and delegates at our National Conference, people who work in finance, are right to condemn employers for this move. We want our industry to be better, for finance workers and the customers they serve.”

“What is required is a long term plan for the future of jobs and skills for our industry; a plan that involves government, employers, and employees and their union,” said Leon Carter.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Greek unions plan of action

It has been one month since we have flooded the squares along our country, claiming to get grip of our lives. In the end of June, our struggle comes to a turning point. This government of zero social acceptance is attempting to vote the Medium Term Program. This plan must not pass. We cannot allow for the looting of our social wealth, we are not willing to tolerate the degradation of the majority of the people in favour of the profits of the few.

The communicative manoeuvres, the fake reshuffles and the blackmailing of the government, IMF, EU do not fool us. We now know that the dilemma isn’t whether to choose "Memorandum" or "Default", as memoranda lead with a mathematical accuracy to social devastation.

For the two day period of the discussion and voting process of the Medium Term Program within the Parliament, unions have released a call for a general 48hour strike. During these two days, no one should work, consume, nor support even the minor breakage of the strike. From the very first morning of the strike we will gather in Syntagma Square along with the People’s Assemblies from all over the country and throughout all the neighbourhoods of Athens.

On the actual day of the voting, we will surround the Parliament – sending out the message that this Middle Term Program is rejected by the people.

It has been one month now that we prove, each and every day, that there are no "one-way streets", and that we possess the power to draw a new course for our society. Now is the time for us to take the next big step. Now the time is ours, now it is the time for us to speak!

It is either us or them! Real democracy now!

Amartya Sen on Europe

Europe has led the world in the practice of democracy. It is therefore worrying that the dangers to democratic governance today, coming through the back door of financial priority, are not receiving the attention they should.

There are profound issues to be faced about how Europe's democratic governance could be undermined by the hugely heightened role of financial institutions and rating agencies, which now lord it freely over parts of Europe's political terrain.

It is quite hard to see that the sacrifices that the financial commanders have been demanding from precarious countries would deliver the ultimate viability of these countries and guarantee the continuation of the euro. The diagnosis of economic problems by rating agencies is not the voice of verity that they pretend. It is worth remembering that the record of rating agencies in certifying financial and business institutions preceding the 2008 global economic crisis was so abysmal that the US Congress later seriously debated whether they should be prosecuted.

 Since much of Europe is now engaged in achieving quick reduction of public deficits through drastic reduction of public expenditure, it is crucial to scrutinise realistically what the likely impact of the chosen policies may be, both on people and on generating public revenue through economic growth. If the demands of financial appropriateness are linked too mechanically to immediate cuts, the result could be the killing of the goose that lays the golden egg of economic growth. This concern applies to a number of countries, such as Britain and Greece.

As well as a bigger political vision, there is a need for clearer economic thinking. The tendency to ignore the importance of economic growth in generating public revenue should be a major item for scrutiny. The strong connection between growth and public revenue has been observed in many countries, including China, India, the US and Brazil.

There are lessons from history here, too. The big public debts of many countries when World War II ended caused huge anxieties, but the burden diminished rapidly thanks to fast economic growth. The fear of a threat to democracy does not, of course, apply to Britain, since the public expenditure-reduction policies have been chosen by a democratically elected government. But that does not eliminate the need for more discussion. There is also a need to recognise how the self-chosen restrictive policies in Britain seem to give plausibility to the drastic policies being imposed on Greece.


Tasmanian forests

From GetUp

In the early hours of this morning, the Tasmanian logging industry and environmental groups signed off on a final agreement to protect 570,000 hectares of ancient high conservation value forests, with the majority of it being protected immediately. The conflict between these two groups has been a part of the political landscape for a generation of Australians - but last night's agreement can end it.

This turning point will mean nothing if the agreement does not have the full commitment and financial support of State and Federal Governments. Environmentalists, unionists and loggers have over a year negotiating this agreement - now is when you come in. Our voices can help pressure the Federal and Tasmanian Government to implement this historic agreement.

Can you send an email to your local MP or Senator and ask them to commit to implementing this agreement by creating Australia's newest national parks for Australia's oldest trees:

Ending the 30 year deadlock hasn't been easy. Both sides have agreed to significant compromises. Long-held positions were challenged and set aside in order to come to an agreement that can deliver real environmental protection and a sustainable timber industry that is competitive in the 21st century marketplace.

The agreement opens the way for the government to immediately save almost half a million hectares of Tasmania's ancient native forests. Like the Daintree rainforests and Kakadu, Tasmania's forests are a key part of our national identity.

We need to show the government that is it not just the representatives of the timber industry and environment groups who support an end to the conflict over Tasmania's forests.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bathurst: Rights at Work meeting

In local communities all over NSW, people are standing up against the O'Farrell Government's "NSW WorkChoices" legislation.

In order to fight the O'Farrell Government's unfair laws that leave NSW public sector workers, including nurses, teachers, and firefighters, with the least rights of any workers in the country, public sector workers and other community members in Bathurst & Lithgow are establishing a local committee to promote this campaign and provide awareness to the community.

Where: Bathurst City Bowling Club, William St, Bathurst
When: 5:30pm, Tuesday 28th June, 2011

If you would like to be part of this campaign, please come along to the meeting and register.

The O'Farrell Government's laws take away workplace rights from 400,000 NSW public sector workers. If they get away with it, all of our rights at work will be under attack.

Every single condition of employment for every public sector worker in NSW is up for grabs.

Between 2005 and 2007 we defeated John Howard's 'WorkChoices' legislation but we only did this by campaigning together.

To defeat this new attack on workplace rights we once again need to work together. I hope you'll attend the meeting this Monday.

If you can't make the meeting, but would still like to be involved, please give me a call on 0418 290 945.

Paul Doughty, Unions NSW

NSW: Bikies laws found illegal

A High Court full bench ruling has declared NSW's Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act invalid and ordered the state to pay the full legal costs of the case.

It follows a successful challenge by prominent Sydney Hells Angels Motorcycle Club member Derek Wainohu, who faced the possibility of being banned from associating with his fellow club members because of the laws.

The court today found a tough NSW law designed to break up outlaw motorcycle clubs was invalid after a Hells Angel's challenge.

It allowed the NSW police commissioner to ask a NSW Supreme Court judge to declare bikie gangs criminal organisations and then seek control orders banning individual members associating with one another - virtually identical laws to those introduced by the South Australian Rann Government which were also quashed by the High Court.

The Hugh Court decision comes after the High Court in November ruled 6-1 against the SA Government's anti-bikie legislation.

South Australia has been watching the case, after the High Court last year struck out aspects of SA's own tough anti-gang laws, delivering a significant knock to Mr Rann's vow to rid the state of the outlaw groups.

The law obliged the state's courts to impose control orders on bikies at the request of the Attorney-General and police, without any evidence being tendered.

The High Court ruled this unconstitutional, finding that it undermined the independence of judges and forced them to find guilt "based on assumptions".

Law Society of NSW president Stuart Westgarth called the former law a "reaction to a particularly nasty situation".
"We put forward a number of objections to the legislation," Mr Westgarth said.

University of NSW Faculty of Law senior research fellow Christopher Michaelson compared the Act with that of a dictatorial regime.
"I have great concerns about laws which criminalise membership in organisations as opposed to individual criminal behaviour," said Dr Michaelson.
"This is much the practice of dictatorial regimes with little regard to the right to assembly and freedom of organisation."

Ludlam: Protect the Kimberly

Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (13:14)

I rise to speak on what is happening at the moment up in the West Kimberley in my home state of WA. There are scenes being played out that are reminiscent of Noonkanbah in the West Kimberley-for people with long-enough memories-where Aboriginal people and their supporters blocked access to country by bulldozers that were protected by the Police and even Army units sent up by the then Premier Charles Court to allow an American drilling company access to a sacred site, which they duly violated. With a touch of irony, there was no oil there and the entire exercise was a complete waste of time. Those scenes were absolutely formative in the West Kimberley. They are the reason that we have an Aboriginal Heritage Act, such as it is, in WA.

These scenes are being played out all over again as Woodside moves heavy equipment on site to begin land clearing for the Browse Basin gas project-a gigantic industrial complex which is being proposed for 40 or 50 kilometres north of Broome at the moment. It is amazing to hear the reports and see what is happening up there. We now have a blockade camp at Minari Road. They have had up to 120 people blocking the road and trying to stop-successfully-Woodside and its contractors getting equipment onto country. My dear colleague Robin Chapple MLC spent quite a bit of time up there, performers John Butler and Dan Sultan have been there, and I was very fortunate to visit with my team a month or so ago.

It is extraordinary to see this because this project has not yet been approved by either the state government or the federal government. In my experience non-violent direct action, with people putting themselves in the way to stop these sorts of projects, generally comes last, after all options have been exhausted. But in this case it is happening before either the state or federal government has given formal approval-because the company has decided to move in and start land-clearing anyhow. They are proposing to put in roads and flatten areas-allegedly to do work to complete their environmental impact processes-before approvals have been given.

As was the case at Noonkanbah, local opposition is the backbone. These actions are being led by local Aboriginal people and supported by West Kimberley residents. Blow-ins like me, who manage to turn up when we can, are very much in the minority. This action is being run by residents of the West Kimberley who oppose the influx of industrialisation of precisely the wrong kind. The blockade is taking place along nonviolence principles. Ironically enough, one of the reports I have read shows that the only people who are being let onto the site at the moment are security guards to protect the contractor's earth moving equipment. Apart from that, nothing is moving at all. People are conducting themselves with great respect for the Aboriginal people who are leading this movement up there, and very little work, if any, is occurring from time to time. The question is: why on earth are they having to take these kinds of matters into their own hands as happens from time to time? In this case it is absolutely crucial that we pay attention to why people feel so strongly about the way Woodside and the joint venture partners are conducting themselves and what the state government has unleashed while the federal government stands passively by and allows it to happen.

It is worth paying attention to a little bit of history to realise how things got so bad and why we now have this collision of interests and this clash on the cape in the West Kimberley. The former Carpenter government in Western Australia had a process in place that was not perfect at all but did have at its heart the principle of free, prior and informed consent. There were more than a dozen sites on the table and the Kimberley Land Council had been tasked with liaising with Aboriginal communities up and down the cape and across the length and breadth of the top end of the West and East Kimberley. They were saying, 'If you don't want your site to be in question, if you don't want to be at the table for these negotiations, then take it out.'

At that point, there was a change of government and the Barnett government was elected. There were four sites remaining and everybody in those negotiations knew they could take their country off the table if they sought to. The Barnett government, of course, rejected that approach in its entirety and went for compulsory acquisition. Within a couple of weeks of the election, they were talking about returning us to the colonial past of Western Australia-'give it to us or else we'll take it'. They were doing this under cover of native title laws that say you have the right to negotiate but you do not have the right to say no. It is no more than a colonial land grab. It is absolutely disgusting what the Barnett government is doing in that instance. They would have had a site by now if they had pursued a path of free, prior and informed consent. Instead of having a site they have a conflict, and Woodside has played entirely into this dispute in the same way.


AMWU: Hunter agreements

The AMWU has secured a series of union collective agreements that boost pay and conditions at Thomas & Coffey sites across the Hunter.

Thomas & Coffey has five sites and 300 employees and is a major player in industrial maintenance and mine services in the region.

Previous low rates of pay were allowing the company to undercut their competitors on price and putting downward pressure on pay across the industry, said AMWU Organiser Daniel Wallace.

The AMWU has now secured union agreements at four Thomas & Coffey worksites and are currently negotiating at the fifth site.

The two most recently negotiated agreements boost pay significantly with:
•    pay rises of at least 8% in the first 12 months
•    site allowance of $1.50 an hour
•    a new travel allowance for those required to travel for work of between $28 and $84 a day.

The agreements also improve job security by removing the ability of the company to stand full-time workers down without pay in quiet periods.

“The workers now have the security of knowing they can rely on their 38-hour week,” said Mr Wallace.


MUA: Japanese Cars radiation tests

The Maritime Union of Australia has won a victory for workers and consumers, with cars arriving in Australia on June 23 to be screened for radiation.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) will this week screen cars arriving in Port Kembla from Japan.

This batch test for radiation follows months of campaigning by the MUA to ensure Japanese cargo and cars were screened for radiation upon arrival in Australia.

"This is a win for workers, and also a win for the Australian public," said Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith.

"Any risk of radiation is too big a risk to take. Workers and consumers come into direct contact with these cars - the Government watchdog must ensure there is no health and safety risk.

"The Australian public has a right to know if there is a radiation threat."

NUW: Vitasoy workers solidarity

The NUW and IUF back Hong Kong Vitasoy unionists

Vitasoy members in regional Victoria continue to support their fellow workers internationally by including their brothers and sisters in Hong Kong in their current Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, and Hong Kong delegates issue their letter of demands.

The NUW is an affiliate of the International Union of Food Workers' Associations (IUF). The IUF is an international federation of trade unions representing workers employed in agriculture and plantations; the preparation and manufacture of food and beverages; hotels, restaurants and catering services; and all stages of tobacco processing.  The IUF is composed of 377 affiliated organizations in 119 countries representing a combined membership of around 2,6 million. They are supporting the Vitasoy workers in Hong Kong to gain union rights and improved living standards. They are also supporting the NUW and Victorian Vitasoy members in backing their brothers and sisters in Hong Kong.

ILO: Domestic Workers agreement

The second and final discussions on an ILO Convention & Recommendation for Domestic Workers were successfully concluded on June 16, making this a historic day for millions of domestic workers around the world who have finally been recognized as workers and guaranteed the same basic rights as other categories of workers.

The Convention was adopted with 396 votes in favor, 16 against (15 employers plus the government of Swaziland) and 63 abstentions. The Recommendation received 434 votes in favor, 8 against (all employers) and 42 abstentions.

With a new spokesperson for the employers' group, this year's negotiations took place in a much more constructive and positive spirit than last year's, when the employers constantly tried to block discussions through procedural tactics.

The workers' group continued to get strong support from various governments, particularly Australia, Brazil (for the GRULAC countries), France, Namibia and South Africa (for the African countries) and the US. As was the case last year, the EU governments, and the UK in particular, were less supportive.

In addition to the fundamental rights set out in the ILO's core conventions, (freedom of Association, collective bargaining, elimination of child labour and forced labour), some of the most important gains include:

  • the right to a written contract
  • working time regulation
  • health and safety provisions
  • social security coverage, including maternity
  • protection of migrant domestic workers including monitoring mechanisms for labour agencies

In the course of the discussion it was far from clear that a consensus would be reached on domestic workers' right to normal hours of work and a minimum of 24 hours' weekly rest. The most contentious issue was the "stand by" time when the worker remains at the disposal of the employer. In the view of the workers' group and a majority of governments, stand by time shall be considered as working time. This was reportedly the issue that brought some employers to vote against the Convention.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Green Bans: 40 years on

Kelly's Bush: First Green Ban 16 June 1981

In 1971 a group of women in the leafy northern Sydney suburb of Hunters Hill were battling to protect a piece of urban bushland, Kelly's Bush.

They had exhausted all available avenues and as a last resort turned to the unions for help.

Last Thursday marked the 40th anniversary to the day of the placing of the first 'Green Ban' on June 16, 1971.

Speaking at an anniversary celebration at NSW Parliament House hosted by Greens MLC David Shoebridge, Jack Mundey, now 81, said the Green Bans movement was still respected.

"To think that casual union building labourers can be remembered 40 years on is very important," he told reporters.

"It brought together workers, it brought together women."

Reflecting on the early 1970s and the women's liberation movement, as well as the opponents of the war in Vietnam and apartheid in South Africa, Mr Mundey said it was a time of great change and the unity of the left was a decisive factor.

Mr Mundey, who was accompanied by fellow Green Bans veterans Darcy Duggan and Mick Tubbs, said there was no reason why similar bans couldn't occur today.

"There's no reason why they couldn't happen provided the will is there," he said.
"I do believe that it is possible to arouse the support of a broad section of the people for Green Bans."

The term 'Green Ban' was first used in 1971, following a public meeting of 600 people at Paddington Town Hall, where a resolution was passed by the BLF to stop the proposed development at Kelly's Bush.

Following strikes by the BLF, the developer abandoned its plans to build luxury houses at the site, which is now listed on the NSW State Heritage Register.

In the years since, Green Bans have helped to preserve the Rocks and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Centennial Park, the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Finger Wharf at Woolloomooloo.

Climate Change: Nepali unions aim high

31 May, 2011

On 26 May member of Nepal's Sherpa trade union, Dorje Khatri, planted the ITUC flag on the summit of Mount Everest, symbolising the trade union commitment to protecting the planet from climate change.

Dorje’s organisation, the Union of Trekking, Travel, Rafting and Airline Workers, belongs to ITUC Nepalese affiliate GEFONT, which said today that the ascent was to "draw attention of the international community that our planet is melting down".

"Dorje Khatri's union protects Sherpas from exploitation. It is also helping to protect the planet from catastrophic climate change. We salute the amazing courage and commitment of Sherpa Dorje and his colleagues," said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow

On previous ascents to the summit, Sherpa Dorje has planted the flags of GEFONT and its member organisations, as well as Global Union Federations BWI and IMF. Dorje, 46 years old, has now climbed Everest, which is known to Nepalis by its original name Sagarmatha, seven times.

Greece: the Argentine solution

Ansgar Belke, a professor for macroeconomics and director of the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin, said he is convinced that a resurrection like Argentina's is feasible for Greece.

"What happened in Argentina proves that it is possible for a country to come back after bankruptcy and once again play an important role on international financial markets," Belke said.

After a number of failed international monetary interventions, Argentina, which had been mired in unprecedented foreign debts, restructured its debt obligations.

"The growth rate in Argentina is remarkable when one considers what happened and the fact that there was no consensus between the creditors and the government in Buenos Aires," Belke said.

A significant debt restructure would symbolically and concretely strengthen the European Union in the long-term by giving it a sense of cohesion, Belke added.

"I always supported a restructure of debt in Greece," he said. "The damage would not be as grave as is commonly feared. Greece is a relatively small country. A restructure may stagger a few German and French banks, but this could be controlled with government loans. This scenario is more sensible than the massive credit that we're currently giving."

Under a restructuring plan, Belke said he could imagine Greece repaying about half its debts and re-establishing its creditworthiness.

"For Greece to just continue receiving government loans will result in too many disadvantages," Belke added.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

TWU: Rights at Qantas

TWU Qantas campaign

We asked members and supporters to come up with a Qantas campaign slogan a few weeks ago and we've received hundreds of brilliant suggestions, here are just a few...

"Cut the Qrap" - Peter

"Do Qantas Wantas?" - Dennis

"For Qantas Workers - No good deed will go unpunished" - Greg

We'll be using them all - and others - throughout the campaign.

After going through every suggestion, one stood out, one that cut to the core of what this campaign is about, Ann suggested:

"Your rights at work at Qantas"
Employees transferring from Bank of Queensland Owner Managed branches (OMB) to BOQ Corporate workplaces, where BOQ purchases back the OMB, can leave existing workplace agreements behind and move to a collective union negotiated agreement, thanks to a Fair Work Australia ruling last week.

"We've taken another step on the road to a Workchoices-free finance sector, and that's good news for finance workers, particularly those who have been disadvantaged by inferior employment conditions," said FSU National Secretary Leon Carter.

Fair Work Australia granted an application by the Finance Sector Union (FSU), with support from the Bank of Queensland, for orders under the Fair Work Act Transfer of Business provisions that the Greenfields Agreement would not transfer with the transferring employees, and instead the BOQ Enterprise Agreement 2010 would apply to those employees.

The Greenfields Agreements were made by employers under the WorkChoices legislation, which allowed an employer to make an agreement with itself, involve no-one else in the negotiations, and have that agreement apply to employees. The net result of this was that the conditions under the Greenfields Agreements were inferior to those applying in BOQ Branches owned by BOQ.

"With a number of OMB's reverting to BOQ Corporate ownership in the last year, this ruling puts another nail in the Workchoices coffin. We say good riddance," said Leon Carter.


Monday, June 20, 2011

NSW Public Services Rally

Firstly, I would like to warmly thank everyone who attended the rally outside Parliament House on 15 June.

I would particularly like to thank those who travelled great distances to show their support for the PSA and our campaign against the O’Farrell Government’s new WorkChoices styled wage laws.

I’m proud to say that the PSA was very strongly represented at the 12,000 strong rally - footage from which can be viewed here - despite the quite deliberate intimidation by the Government in relation to the taking of leave to attend the protest.

The PSA is currently seeking legal advice on their outrageous actions.

With O’Farrell’s laws passed by Parliament on 16 June and your pay increases officially capped at a below inflation level of 2.5%, the Government is now set to target every condition that you have long enjoyed from sick and flex leave to maternity leave and penalty rates.

And with the sidelining of the Industrial Relations Commission and its traditional role as umpire, we have no avenue of appeal.

But what we do have is our strength as a union as well as strong support from the community.

The PSA collected almost 16,000 signatures in just four working days - an amazing effort - in protest against the laws and presented them to the Leader of the Opposition, John Robertson.

That level of support is something that we can really build on.

The rally on 15 June was just the start of what will be a long campaign aimed at restoring collective bargaining rights for public sector workers in NSW.

There will be further industrial action in both metropolitan and regional areas as the campaign gathers momentum in the coming months.

We are also currently seeking legal advice on the laws.

The Government is not invincible.

It still has to present regulations to Parliament to give specific effect to the new laws.

For each and every one of those regulations we will be pressuring the cross bench MPs from the Shooters and Fishers Party and the Christian Democratic Party who hold the balance of power in Parliament.

I encourage all members, and family and friends to do the same as well as raising concerns with your local MP.

Spell out to them exactly how heavily the new laws will impact on you, your family and your community.

The fight has only just begun.

John Cahill

Sunday, June 19, 2011

US: Cleanup of Agent Orange in Vietnam

The United States began a project to clean up a tiny patch of Vietnam tainted by some of the millions of litres of toxic Agent Orange sprayed during its 1962-75 war.

Washington has put $32 million into the scheme centred on a former US military base in Danang, central Vietnam, where the deadly dioxin was stored.

It will see Agent Orange pollution removed from 29 hectares of land.

The US is estimated to have been sprayed the chemical across 3.1 million hectares of the country during the war.

US embassy representative Virginia Palmer described the Danand project as "a sign of the hopeful future we are building together."

It will see the Vietnamese government and Washington co-operate to clean up the US mess in an area where Agent Orange deposits are 300-400 times higher than international limits.

Nearly five million Vietnamese were exposed during the conflict.

It is estimated that around half a million children have been born with deformities including missing limbs and organs.

US courts have rejected out of hand any attempt by its Vietnamese victims to claim compensation for their suffering.

An estimated 12 per cent of the country was drenched with the poison during the conflict, but judges have ruled consistently that its use was aimed at plants rather than humans and so no compensation is due from main manufacturers Dow Chemical and Monsanto.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

BHP: Corporate culture exposed

Workers have accused BHP Billiton of breaches of the privacy act after the mining giant sent texts to wives and partners of workers ahead of strike ballots at Queensland coalmines this week.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union says the only way the mining giant could have got the mobile numbers for the texts, sent two weeks ago, was from the workers' emergency contact details.

The row comes as 4000 workers at the BHP-Mitsubishi Alliance coking coal plants in Queensland, about two-thirds of the workforce, prepare to vote for the right to take industrial action.

The accusation by the union follows claims by the Australian Workers Union in February that Rio Tinto was intimidating workers at the Bell Bay aluminium smelter in Launceston.

CFMEU Queensland district vice-president Steve Pierce said the BHP text had told the workers' partners that it was not compulsory for employees to vote in the ballot.

BMA, which is operated by BHP, is the world's biggest exporter of coking coal, which is used in steelmaking.

A union bargaining group made up of the CFMEU, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Electrical Trades Union said it appeared the company had breached the privacy act by using the workers' emergency contact details for a purpose other than for which they were obtained.

The unions said last week they wanted an apology within 30 days or they would complain to the Privacy Commissioner.

The texts are understood to have been sent to all workers and some partners.

The big mining company has since sent out an apology to all employees, saying that sending the texts was an error.

NSW: Public sector demo photos

see more at UnionsNSW flickr

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

NSW: Public sector workers demonstrate

Thousands of furious public sector workers have descended on Sydney's CBD, blocking off the street as they gather outside NSW Parliament House.

Nurses, police, firefighters and other frontline workers stopped worked today to attend the rally, turning Macquarie Street into a sea of flags and banners.

A group of up to 12,000 people chanted "Back off Barry" and "Two, four, six eight, Barry O'Farrell you have no mandate".

They were also holding banners that read: "Barry O'Farrell workers' rights are human rights".

NSW president of the Fire Bridge Employees union, Darin Sullivan, addressed hundreds of firefighters from the top of a fire truck outside St Mary's Cathedral.
"We don't take this sort of action often," he told the gathering.
"We've left ourselves a lot of room to escalate should we need to, this is just the first step."

Ranks were swollen by stonemasons, port workers and other public sector employees who marched from the Opera House. O'Farrell's controversial industrial relations changes are expected to be debated by the lower house this week, possibly as early as tonight, after they were passed by the NSW upper house yesterday.

Politicians, mayors and possibly magistrates could also have their pay rises capped at 2.5 per cent, as the government attempts to dilute criticism of its crackdown on the wages of nurses, teachers and firefighters.

The government bill strips the NSW Industrial Relations Commission of its powers to set wages and conditions for all frontline public servants.

The group marching from the Opera House were carrying red and while CFMEU banners and chanting: "What do we want, fair wages, when do we want it, now!"

Italy votes against nuclear power

Italian voters have dealt Premier Silvio Berlusconi a political drubbing in a referendum on legislation proposed by his right-wing administration, final results released on Monday showed.

Overwhelming majorities of those casting ballots chose to throw out two laws to privatise the water supply, kill a law reviving nuclear energy, and undo a law offering Mr Berlusconi a partial legal shield in criminal prosecutions.

The billionaire media mogul is currently facing four trials over his business dealings, abuse of office and paying a minor for sex.

Each referendum passed with about 95 per cent of the votes.

Voter turnout topped 57 per cent, safely reaching the 50 per cent plus one voter quorum to validate the referendums for the first time since 1995.

As the extent of his defeat became clear just two weeks after his candidates lost key local elections, Mr Berlusconi's office released a statement acknowledging that, "Italians have made their position clear.

"The government and parliament will now have to take into account this result."

At a later joint news conference with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Mr Berlusconi conceded that Italy "will now have to bid farewell to the question of nuclear power plants."

The referendum - which has turned out to be a simple no confidence vote in Silvio Berlusconi - was only set in train because Italian activists managed to collect the half a million signatures needed to trigger a vote.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Japan: Nuclear protest

Anger over the government’s handling of the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant has erupted in recent weeks after revelations that the damage at the plant, and the release of radioactive material, was far worse than previously thought. Mothers worried for their children’s health, as well as farmers and fishermen angry about their damaged livelihoods, have been especially critical of the government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

The disaster has also prompted a national debate about Japan’s heavy reliance on nuclear power despite the country’s history of devastating earthquakes and a deep public distrust of the nuclear industry. In perhaps his sole move that has won popular support, Mr. Kan ordered the shutdown of a separate nuclear power plant in central Japan until it can bolster its tsunami defenses. But recent politicking in a gridlocked Parliament has added to the public’s disenchantment.

“We now know the dangers of relying on nuclear power, and it’s time to make a change,” Hajime Matsumoto, one of the rally’s organizers, told a crowd in a central Tokyo square that eventually grew to about 20,000 people, according to organizers’ estimates.

“And, yes, I believe Japan can change,” he shouted, as the crowd roared back and people pumped their fists in the air.

Peru: mining tax example

Peru is not a poor country. Its mineral wealth includes gold, silver, zinc, copper, tin and lead, which enjoy bumper world prices and comprise 60 per cent of the country's exports.

President-elect Ollanta Humala has outraged mining companies by promising a windfall tax on their profits to pay for state pensions, health care in rural areas and higher salaries for public-service workers.

After meeting Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff he commented: "A country cannot consider itself rich if its population is living in poverty. This means we need social programmes to help those living in extreme poverty."

Brazil was the first country he visited post-election, although he plans to travel widely before his July 28 inauguration, taking in Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile.

Humala insisted on the need for good relations with Washington, indicating a wish to meet Barack Obama prior to taking office.

"We must strengthen our ties with the United States because of our fight against drug traffickers, a fight that involves the co-operation of all nations," he explained.

The Peruvian president-elect's desire for normal links with the powerful northern neighbour is shared by other popular leaders, but they speak as equals and wish to be seen as such.

ACTU: National campaign against O'Farrell madness

The New South Wales Liberal Government must immediately withdraw changes to workplace laws for which it has no mandate, and which will place Australia in breach of international obligations.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence has warned Premier Barry O’Farrell that the entire weight of the union movement will support public sector workers in NSW in opposing the proposed new laws.

"Every day tens of thousands of hardworking public sector workers provide vital services that the people of NSW rely on," Mr Lawrence said.

"The thanks they get from the O’Farrell government is the removal of their rights at work.

"These laws would hand the State Government a blank cheque, giving them the power to unilaterally set pay and conditions, with virtually no rights of appeal.

"Public sector workers in NSW keep public services running.

"They are not just frontline workers like police, firefighters, nurses, public transport staff, utility employees, but the tens of thousands of government workers who back them up.

"We haven't seen this type of attack since the Howard Government took away rights at work with their WorkChoices laws."

Mr Lawrence has written to Mr O’Farrell to condemn the introduction of the Industrial Relations Amendment Bill (Public Sector Conditions of Employment) 2011 into the New South Wales Parliament.

"If passed, the Bill would allow the government to impose its wages policy on its employees, and remove their right to bargain or take industrial action to secure better wages," Mr Lawrence wrote.

"This would not only be unjust, but it would be a clear breach of international law and Australia’s obligation to respect human rights, which include labour rights.

"It will mean that public service workers, who work everyday to provide the people of NSW with vital services, could have their pay and important conditions cut without consultation, and without remedy."

Mr Lawrence said unions from across the country would campaign strongly to force the Government to back down on its unjust approach, beginning with a rally outside NSW Parliament this Wednesday.

"Australian unions will campaign to make sure that all NSW working people and their families know that their rights at work are worth fighting for, and worth voting for," he said.

"We firmly believe that the O’Farrell Government in New South Wales has overstepped, not just its moral obligations, but its constitutional powers as well."

IMF: awful track record

In 2001 when the IMF found out the Malawian government had built up large stockpiles of grain in case there was a crop failure, they ordered them to sell it off to private companies at once. They told Malawi to get their priorities straight by using the proceeds to pay off a loan from a large bank the IMF had told them to take out in the first place, at a 56 per cent annual rate of interest. The Malawian president protested and said this was dangerous. But he had little choice.

The grain was sold. The banks were paid.

The next year, the crops failed. The Malawian government had almost nothing to hand out. The starving population was reduced to eating the bark off the trees, and any rats they could capture. The BBC described it as Malawi's "worst ever famine." There had been a much worse crop failure in 1991-2, but there was no famine because then the government had grain stocks to distribute. So at least a thousand innocent people starved to death.

At the height of the starvation, the IMF suspended $47m in aid, because the government had 'slowed' in implementing the marketeering 'reforms' that had led to the disaster. ActionAid, the leading provider of help on the ground, conducted an autopsy into the famine. They concluded that the IMF "bears responsibility for the disaster."

Then, in the starved wreckage, Malawi did something poor countries are not supposed to do. They told the IMF to get out. Suddenly free to answer to their own people rather than foreign bankers, Malawi disregarded all the IMF's 'advice', and brought back subsidies for the fertiliser, along with a range of other services to ordinary people. Within two years, the country was transformed from being a beggar to being so abundant they were supplying food aid to Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Meatworkers' Union: Live export exports jobs!

CFMEU: Construction workers' agreement

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union delegates yesterday backed the deal that provides for a basic wage rise of 5 per cent a year, or 20 per cent over four years, but also includes a healthy boost to paid overtime and other allowances.

The agreement will cover more than 30,000 workers. It allows for all overtime to be paid at double time from next March - up from the current rate at which the first two hours are paid at time and a half - lifting the overall annual wage rise to about 7 per cent. Superannuation will rise to 12 per cent.

CFMEU secretary Bill Oliver said the increased wages reflected the higher cost of living and the union would recommend that members endorse the deal at a meeting next month. "We believe it is a good outcome for our members," he said.

Mr Oliver said the deal was justified as the Victorian industry had led the way in productivity while industrial disputes were down.

"Buildings are finishing a lot quicker than they were five to 10 years ago," he said.

Mr Oliver said the four-year agreement gave employers certainty.

"Every time we negotiate an agreement, they say the sky is going to fall in." But Melbourne "has been booming along".

Friday, June 10, 2011

ACTU: Treatment of asylum seekers

09 June, 2011 | ACTU Media Release

Unions have restated their call for Australia to not deviate from a refugee policy that is humanitarian, compassionate, and that pays respect to international law.

Negotiations for regional processing agreements must proceed with care to ensure Australia’s international obligations are not breached, said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

“Any agreement must include protections of human rights, particularly the rights of children,” Ms Kearney said.

“Australia is a safe and wealthy nation, underpinned by the values of generosity and compassion and this has long extended to vulnerable people seeking protection from persecution in their home country.

“Australia has long been willing to provide shelter to vulnerable people seeking protection from trouble spots, war zones and persecution. This is something of which we should be proud.

“It is troubling to consider that in the past 12 months Australian values have been blurred by political division and conflict.

“But it would be unacceptable to allow that division and conflict to result in neglect of the rights of asylum seekers.

“We cannot allow our nation to be driven down a path in which children become the victims of political football games.

“We call for strong leadership from all politicians and for the courage to not fall victim to the views that seek to demonise asylum seekers or encourage Australia to abrogate its international obligations.

“We must treat any person seeking asylum on our shores with the same respect and compassion as our own people,” Ms Kearney said.

CFMEU: Rio Tinto Pilbara Agreement

CFMEU members are celebrating a new era in the union’s relationship with mining giant Rio Tinto, and gave in-principle support to a collective agreement covering around 400 workers in the Pilbara region for the first time in 18 years.

After 18 months of negotiation with one of the world’s richest companies, who unleashed its unlimited human resources and public relations capacity, the CFMEU negotiated terms for a new collective agreement on behalf of Pilbara iron ore rail workers.

CFMEU mining division WA Secretary Gary Wood, who led the negotiations, said a major step forward in workplace relations has taken place with the world’s third biggest mining company.

Rio moved to a system of individual contracts in the 1980s.

"First we overcame Workchoices. Then we had to take Rio to Fair Work Australia to confirm our right to bargain on behalf of workers. And finally after 18 months of negotiation we have an in-principle agreement on the table," said Gary Wood.

"Rio Tinto workers will now be treated with respect in their workplaces and have won the right to bargain collectively with their employer in regards to their workplace conditions," Mr Wood said.

"Rio Tinto is a complex multi-national company, our iron ore train drivers are employed by three different Rio Tinto companies, with separate policies and procedures. Under this negotiated proposal all workers will have their conditions protected in a union agreement.

"For the past 18 years, train and car drivers in the Pilbara have been refused this right and have faced corporate hostility when attempting to engage their employer collectively.

"This is a long overdue outcome that would never have been achieved under Workchoices, and has only been achieved because of the Fair Work Act and the determination of the rank and file to stand united in support of their collective rights," said Mr Wood.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

South Australia: equal pay promise

Community sector workers have been promised more funding in today's State Budget.
South Australia's Treasurer Jack Snelling told a union rally at Parliament House yesterday he would ensure funding to meet Fair Work Australia's pay equity decision was included.

"Too often it is undervalued, it's selfless, it's demanding and it is critical to have a state that cares for its most vulnerable people," he said.

"You need the pay that you deserve ... (and) the State Government will shoulder our share of the burden to deliver the results of this campaign. Community sector workers must be recognised for the work they do."

Australian Services Union SA and NT secretary Katrine Hildyard said she was "thrilled" the union's campaign had paid off, but said she wanted more than "lip service" from the Treasurer.

"Its a testament to all the work of all the community service workers who have worked so hard for four years to get this result," she said.

"This decision is about respecting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our community and enabling those who support them to continue their excellent work into the future.

"We're hoping for support from the Treasurer and that he won't just be paying lip service for equal pay for the community sector, that he will be acting and actually committing to fund the outcomes of the case."

Also yesterday, the Public Service Association won the right to have its case on cut entitlements to be heard by the Full Court.

The Full Court will now hear and determine both the question of granting leave for the case to be heard, and the substantial case itself simultaneously.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Unions: Afghanistan war and drones

Victorian Trades Hall Secretary Brian Boyd has called for Australia to quit the war in Afghanistan, and has accused coalition troops of war crimes.

In making the call, Brian Boyd criticised Prime Minister Julia Gillard for her comments at the recent ALP state conference that Australia was a nation at war and determined to "prevail in Afghanistan".

Mr Boyd said there was no point to the war and Australia should pull out its troops immediately. "I think it's gone on far too long wasting a lot of good Australian lives for virtually nothing," he said. "I don't think we should waste the lives of any more Aussie soldiers."

In a report published on the Trades Hall website titled "Good Riddance Bin Laden - But West Hypocrisy Continues", Mr Boyd also said it was time to "get serious about war crimes", pointing to civilian deaths caused by US drone strikes.

"What about US activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Forget about a loser like Bin Laden," he wrote, "let's talk about the hundreds, if not thousands of civilians killed by remote control."

MIning magnates war on workers

The Australian Mines and Metals Association, which was a key player in the industry's $20 million campaign to stop the Rudd government introducing the resource super-profits tax, has turned its focus to industrial relations, revealing it will seek $500,000 from its members to finance challenges to a growing number of tribunal decisions that are "adverse" to the interests of employers.

The association's chief executive, Steve Knott, told supporting newspapers and radio shock jocks yesterday it was more than likely that last week's "strike first, talk later" ruling by the tribunal would now be challenged in the Federal Court and, if necessary, the High Court.

Mr Knott said the IR Foundation Fund would build on the financial reserves held by the association to mount legal challenges over workplace relations. "What we are seeing at the moment, and what we expect we'll continue to see for some months to come, is a number of judgments that are pushing the limits in terms of the new IR laws," Mr Knott said.

"If you go into the hard-rock mining sector, for example, about 80 per cent of companies are in the direct-employment space. They could have several thousand employees and they will not want a situation where a dozen employees can take strike action and bring the job to a standstill.

"So the call to arms is to say, 'this is what's been handed down, you can leave it as it is', and that will be the way the IR laws are interpreted in Australia or you can challenge it through to a higher jurisdiction."

In the earlier battle news organisations were the biggest winners as the super rich mining companies poured in money to fund multipage advertisements and propped up the radio shock jocks on a daily basis.

Kei Sugaoko: Fukashima whistleblower

Monday, June 06, 2011

NSW Teachers march on Parliament

NSW: Union Rights Protest Builds

Unions, including those representing 70,000 teachers, 36,000 nurses and 45,000 public sector workers, will meet today to plan a strategy against the wages policy, which Parliament is expected to pass next week.

The president of the Public Service Association, Sue Walsh, said she would propose staging a rally in opposition to the policy, which will require public sector workers to make savings before any salary increases above 2.5 per cent are awarded.

"There is no doubt in my mind we will step things up and there will be a huge protest against the O'Farrell government,'' Ms Walsh said.

The associaton, which has 45,000 members, has a wage case before the Industrial Relations Commission. Ms Walsh said she expected this would have resulted in an increase of 3.5 to 4 per cent.

The NSW Nurses Association, which has 35,000 members in public hospitals and 1200 in disability services, is also negotiating an increase in penalty rates for night staff. Nurses who work in disability services and aged care will also negotiate a new award this month.

They had expected to achieve the 3.9 per cent already awarded to public hospital nurses this financial year as part of a three-year agreement. The agreement will deliver 3 per cent from July and 2.5 per cent the following financial year.

The general secretary of the Nurses Association, Brett Holmes, said disability nurses faced getting a 2.5 per cent increase ''while their colleagues across the road in hospitals get 3 per cent at the end of this month''.

"We have this bizarre situation where police were able to lobby the Shooters and Christian Democrats, but we didn't get in to see them, so we are not going to have the same rights, it appears,'' Mr Homes said.

Police are the only public sector workers who have been exempted from the 2.5 per cent cap.

Australians demand action on Climate Change

In Sydney, demonstrators carried banners reading "Say yes to cutting carbon pollution" and "Price carbon -- our kids are worth it" while similar rallies attracted crowds in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Hobart and Canberra.

"This should send a clear message to the government to set an ambitious price on carbon that will kick-start investment in clean energy," said rally organiser Simon Sheikh, national director of the activist group GetUp.

"We think momentum is building, people-power is building, because Australians want action on climate change," Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Don Henry said in Melbourne, where an estimated 10,000 rallied.

"So it's the right time for all Australians, from all walks of life, to say, 'Hey, come on parliamentarians, no matter what your political colour, we pay your salary, we vote you in, we want action on climate change now and that means a price on pollution'."
The rallies are the second stage of a campaign run by GetUp, Greenpeace Australia Pacific and World Wildlife Fund Australia among other organisations, which last week saw Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett fronting a television campaign advocating action on climate change.

One of the organising groups, independent think-tank the Climate Institute, said the rallies were more a call for action on climate change than a direct endorsement of the government's policy.

"We're trying to send a loud signal," said chief executive John Connor.
"This is not about the exact details but this is very strongly the community saying, 'We want action on pollution on climate change. That we want to make polluters take responsibility. We want investment in clean energy."

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Noam Chomsky: Sydney Peace Prize 2011

The Sydney Peace Foundation is heartened by the your overwhelming and positive response to the announcement of Professor Noam Chomsky as the 2011 Recipient of the Sydney Peace Prize.

We thank you for your words of praise and encouragement.

Professor Noam Chomsky will deliver the annual City of Sydney Peace Prize Lecture on Wednesday November 2, 2011 at The Sydney Town Hall.

Tickets for Professor Chomsky's lecture will go on sale September 1 2011. More details on how to purchase tickets will be available from July 1, here on the Sydney Peace Foundation website and at What's On Sydney

The Sydney Peace Foundation is only able to continue awarding the annual Sydney Peace Prize through the generosity of our supporters. We kindly encourage you to donate The Sydney Peace Foundation. For more information, please visit Make a Donation

Once again, we thank you for your support for the work of the Sydney Peace Foundation and the promotion of peace with justice.

NSW Unions Protest

More than 300 trade unionists are heading to the NSW parliament after the government suddenly shut down debate on planned changes to public sector employment conditions.

Unions members started gathering in Macquarie Street from midday to continue their public campaign against the industrial relations bill.

The gathering includes 300 teachers from across NSW who make up the NSW Teachers Federation's state council.

"They will vote there on the future direction which the federation will take in the campaign to defend wages and conditions of the states public sector workers, including teachers," the teachers union said in a statement.

Earlier today, the government used a provision that had not been used in more than a century to guillotine the debate in the upper house, accusing filibustering Greens and Labor MPs of wasting taxpayers money.

"The state government has today set a new low in democratic standards, gagging debate on a bill that will strip away workplace rights for 400,000 workers in NSW," Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon said in a statement.

The debate on the industrial relations bill, which will give the government the power to stipulate wages and conditions for public servants, has been running in various stages since Wednesday.

"These laws mean public sector workers will have their wages and conditions dictated by the government with no negotiation or recourse," Public Service Association general secretary John Cahill said a statement.

Greek Unions Protest

Protesters occupied Greece's Finance Ministry in Athens as ministers announced that negotiations with the EU, European Central Bank and the IMF over austerity measures and public asset sell-offs had been "positive."
Hundreds of activists from the PAME trade union confederation blockaded the entrance to the building before dawn.
Trade unionists draped a huge banner calling for a general strike over five storeys down the front of the building and tore down the EU flag from its roof, replacing it with the PAME flag.
Members were saying that the government's planned economic measures would "turn workers into slaves."
PAME had declared today "a day of nationwide activity" and rallies against the government's "anti-people policy," with actions taking place across the country in the afternoon.
Prime Minister George Papandreou was not in Athens having jetted off to Luxembourg for talks with Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the group of 17 eurozone finance ministers.
"The prime minister will present the mid-term plan to Juncker, which includes speedier privatisations and new measures to cut government spending and raise revenue," a government official said.
Mr Juncker has criticised Mr Papandreou for not cutting fast enough and failing to "reform" the public sector in return for a €110 billion (£98bn) EU-IMF bailout package.
The ruling Socialist Party is attempting to implement its "austerity programme" to placate bond investors who suspect the country could default on its sovereign debt

Teachers Federation at Parliament House

04 June 2011 NSW Teachers Federation

The State Council of the Teachers Federation met today in front of Parliament House in Macquarie Street.

The teachers carried unanimously a resolution condemning the O'Farrell Government's attack on the industrial rights of public sector employees in NSW. They vowed to support other workers affected by this legislation, and their unions.

Federation will continue to participate fully in the ongoing campaign coordinated by Unions NSW. Members will take whatever action is necessary to defeat this attack on the real incomes of teachers, their working conditions, their fundamental industrial rights and their union.

Despite claims that the new government would introduce new standards of openness and transparency, the Premier failed to disclose his plans at any time during the election campaign.
Public sector employees will have fewer industrial rights than any other employees in Australia. Simply by issuing regulations, it will allow the O'Farrell government to:

  • cut the real income of teachers and other public sector workers, by limiting funded increases to 2.5% per annum;
  • unilaterally change the working conditions, including sick leave and hours of work, of public sector workers without any right o f appeal to any independent umpire or court;
  • end the independent role of the NSW Industrial Commission.

If not overturned, this legislation will result in substantial cuts to teachers' incomes in the coming years. Because schools in the private sector are not affected by this legislation, they will be able to attract teachers from our public schools and TAFE colleges, by offering better salaries and conditions. This is at the very time when the government needs to attract and retain thousands of new teachers to replace the many thousands who will reach retirement age in the next four to five years.

Regardless of any claims made by the O'Farrell government, no teachers' working conditions and consequently no student learning conditions are safe under this legislation. Basic working conditions, such as hours of teaching, sick leave, release time and class sizes can now be changed simply by regulation without any right of appeal to the NSW Industrial Relati ons Commission. Time available to support students can be slashed and class sizes can now be increased without any reference to an independent umpire.

This legislation makes it clear that the O'Farrell government neither values public services nor the workers who deliver them to the people of NSW.

100,000 Australian workers get $19.49 more

03 June, 2011 | ACTU Media Release

Today’s decision by Fair Work Australia to grant a 3.4% increase to the one in six workers who are dependent on awards will allow Australia’s lowest paid workers to keep pace with the cost of living, but not with the rest of the workforce.

The Annual Wage Review decision will lift the National Minimum Wage by $19.40 a week to $589.30 or $15.51 an hour from 1 July, and means that in real terms, the minimum wage has finally recovered from WorkChoices.

The benchmark tradespersons (C10) rate will increase by $22.60 to $686.20 or $18.06 an hour.

“Today’s decision will help meet the needs of award wage earners and we are pleased it is above inflation, but the reality is it will not be enough to bridge the gap between the low paid and the rest of the workforce,” said ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence

The panel’s decision to award a flat 3.4% increase to the 1.4 million workers on award wages translates as $19.40 for the lowest income earners on the National Minimum Wage.

“That will benefit about 100,000 Australian workers, who take home the lowest pay in our community, while the majority of the remaining 1.3 million workers on award wages will receive about $22 a week,” Mr Lawrence said.

“We are pleased that the panel’s decision nullifies the claims being put out by big business, who would have the community believe that the state of the economy is so parlous we can’t afford to pay our lowest paid a decent wage.

“Today’s decision is twice what employers were seeking, which would have been a real wage cut to the most vulnerable workers.

“The panel, in their ruling, agreed with what the ACTU has been saying – that the overall outlook for the economy is positive and that labour productivity is growing, underlying inflation is acceptable, unemployment is on the decrease and labour force participation is high.

“These facts should silence the noisy myths being peddled by self-interest business groups.

“The panel also agreed with the unions that while the natural disasters during summer had affected some sectors in the economy, most businesses expected to recover and that there were government schemes in place to support those who needed it.

“Relative to the rest of the developed world, Australia is doing very well – and it is only fair that our lowest paid can share in our prosperity.”

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Right to bargain upheld

01 June, 2011 | ACTU Media Release

A decision today by the industrial umpire to allow workers to keep their right to protected industrial action when an employer refuses to bargain with them is a win for Australian workers.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said the ruling by the Full Bench of Fair Work Australia should also be a warning to all employers that they must respect workers’ basic rights to bargain for better wages and conditions.

“Today’s decision by the full bench of FWA to uphold the tribunal’s original ruling in favour of the Transport Workers Union sends a timely message that employers cannot ignore workers’ requests to bargain,” Mr Lawrence said.

“JJ Richards refused to bargain in good faith, which was essentially an attempt to take away workers’ fundamental right to pursue fair pay and conditions.”

Today’s decision came about after waste contractor JJ Richards & Son had flatly rejected attempts to initiate bargaining for a collective agreement by the Transport Workers Union.

The union then sought permission from Fair Work Australia to ask members if they wanted to take legal industrial action.

Mr Lawrence said the unanimous Full Bench had delivered a comprehensive rebuff to employer groups seeking to undermine workers’ rights. He said Fair Work Australia’s original ruling that unions could seek a protected action ballot when employers refuse to bargain was completely in line with the intent of the Fair Work Act to ensure employees have a voice in their workplace.

The ACTU intervened in this case in support of the TWU and to protect the principle that workers should have the right to take protected industrial action in pursuit of better pay and conditions.

“And today’s decision by FWA’s full bench to uphold the ruling confirms workers do have rights and should be able to freely exercise them,” he said.

“If an employer refuses to bargain or recognise the legitimate claims of workers, then employees must have the option of exercising their right to strike. Any further restrictions on this right would be a dangerous development that unions will vigorously oppose.

“Protected industrial action has been a feature of the Australian industrial relations system for decades. For all of that time, including in the dark days of WorkChoices, the rights of a union to call a strike and the rights of an employer to lock out its workers have been conditioned by a requirement that all parties must be trying to reach agreement with the other. Today’s decision merely confirms that.”