Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Unions support Australian Manufacturing

Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens called last week for a review of industrial relations, saying many business people felt that the government's reforms had reduced workforce flexibility.

That prompted ACTU President Ged Kearney to say the central bank chief was "captive to the big end of town".

Greens industrial relations spokesman Adam Bandt called for the Reserve Bank board to include union and community representatives, not just business leaders, to protect full employment.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union national secretary Dave Oliver said productivity was the real issue.

"Not the Glenn Stevens Reserve Bank productivity by removing penalty rates of workers, but real productivity at a macro level to investment in infrastructure, investment in skills, investment in innovation, research and development, improved management capability and access to finance," he told reporters in Canberra.

"Clearly Glenn Stevens hasn't been looking into the industry very often because what he would have found is that since 2007 there hasn't been a single day lost in the steel industry through industrial action, unlike during the period of Work Choices."

Queensland Liberal backbencher Steve Ciobo said "As far as I am concerned the 1000 lost jobs at BlueScope last week lie right at the feet of Labor and the unions,"

Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans said it was "disgraceful" that Mr Ciobo was blaming workers for the job losses.

"To suggest that BlueScope's redundancies were caused by the wages and conditions of the BlueScope workers flies in the face of reality," Senator Evans said.

"We know that this has been caused by the high Australian dollar ... This is about Work Choices, about returning to a system that says you should lower the wages and conditions of Australian workers."

Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes said productivity in the steel industry was high and the workplace relations system was working.

"It is not the old narrative in terms of worker losing, worker winning, or boss losing or boss winning," he said.
"It's about being clever, it's being innovative, it's about appropriate levels of managerial experience in manufacturing to ensure we can innovate, can diversify and we can stay the long term."

Monday, August 29, 2011

Working Australia Tax Papers, Myths and Realities

29 August, 2011 | ACTU Media Release

Most Australians support a more progressive income tax system as a tool towards a reducing wealth inequality, according to new research released today.

The ACTU will today release the new research alongside the first of a series of discussion papers designed to give working Australians a stronger voice in the debate about social and economic policy in the lead up to the Government’s tax forum in October.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said the first of the Working Australia Tax Papers, Myths and Realities: the tax system and attitudes to taxation, presented the facts about Australia being a relatively low taxing nation, and pushed the case that the tax forum should not simply be an opportunity for the business lobby to seek lower corporate taxes.

“Reform should not imply an unending series of cuts to business tax and tax rates for high-income Australians,” Mr Lawrence said. “It should strengthen, not weaken governments’ ability to provide high-quality public services and social security that Australians want, need and deserve.

“The first of our papers has been prepared to lay out the facts about the Australian taxation system and set out the principles for tax reform, in anticipation of what is expected to be a single-minded business agenda to shift more of tax raising off themselves and onto working people.

“Unions will vigorously seek to counter this one-sided agenda at the tax forum in October.”

Mr Lawrence said the ACTU was today releasing the results a survey of 1000 Australians, which found that 60% favoured raising tax rates for high income earners.

“The research found almost 60% supported lowering taxes for people on incomes of $36,000 and $79,000, however the same proportion supported tax increases at the $200,000 level,” he said.

“The question therefore is: what sort of society do we aspire to be? What do Australians want from their tax system and from their governments?

“Real tax reform is reform that is directed towards satisfying Australians’ needs and preferences, and that positions Australia well for the future. Real reform ensures that the tax system treats people of similar means equally, without allowing some to exploit loopholes to avoid their obligations.

“It means a progressive tax system, to ensure that all Australians pay their fair share.

“Real reform will also ensure that the tax system is as simple and efficient as it can be, without sacrificing other aims in the name of simplicity or efficiency. We must not allow the tax debate to be hijacked by a business agenda, but to reflect the type of society the majority of Australians aspire to be.”

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Chile: International union support

Some 175,000 people participated in mass union-led protests in dozens of towns across Chile on Thursday.

The demonstrations marked the second and final day of a national strike demanding free education, stronger labour rights and a new constitution.

At least 50,000 turned out in Santiago, despite occasional clashes between riot police and youth and the arrest of 874 protesters the previous day.

The International Trade Union Confederation strongly condemned the violence and repression that accompanied the strike, saying that authorities had attacked peaceful demonstrators with rubber bullets and water cannons.

Speaking in Santiago, ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said: "I am honoured to accompany the brothers and sisters in this struggle for free education, for health, social security, a new Labour Code and a new constitution.

"I bring the greetings of 175 million workers worldwide who watch this proud mobilisation."

Ms Burrows reminded Chile's billionaire President Sebastián Piñera that: "In a real democracy, people have a legitimate right to demonstrate and demand change.

"There is no place for violence and the authorities' repression aimed at stopping the strike and demonstrations is totally unacceptable."

The ITUC and the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas, its regional organisation, have vowed to continue to support the Chilean trade union movement.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Elliott Johnston QC: 1918 - 2011

Former South Australian Supreme Court judge Elliott Johnston QC has died.

Among his many achievements was heading the royal commission on black deaths in custody. He became its lead commissioner after Jim Muirhead resigned and delivered the inquiry's report in 1991, detailing more than 300 recommendations to improve the lives of Aboriginal Australians.

Colleagues said during his long legal career Elliott Johnston was a champion of equality for all under the law. Chief Justice John Doyle said at a previous Adelaide Festival of Ideas that Elliott Johnston's example had encouraged the best from many lawyers.

"People like Elliott Johnston are few and far between. They leave their mark in what they do. But, more importantly, and certainly in Elliott Johnston's case, they leave their mark by the impact that they have on those whom they may encounter along the way."

"It may be that this is his real gift to us, the influence that his example has had on others, encouraging them to follow in his path," he said.

In her biography of his life, Red Silk, author Penelope Debelle tells of Elliott Johnston's life as a communist, activist and working class hero.

Katoomba Meeting to support NSW Public Services.

An invitation to all Blue Mountains residents

Our next BMUC General Meeting is at 10.30an on Sunday 4/9/11. Mark Lennon, Secretary of Unions NSW will be speaking from 11am about O'Farrell's attacks on the services delivered to NSW residents.

We invite anyone who would like to meet other Blue Mountains residents who have an interest in making sure we have Better Services for a Better State to attend our meeting.

This meeting is open to all interested parties, not only BMUC members.

We think this issue is important enough to put our own usual business on hold, if necessary.

The meeting will be held in the Dining Room of Blackburns Family Hotel, 15 Parke St Katoomba.

If you would like to join the Blue Mountains Unions Council, membership applications can be downloaded from our website.

Better Services for a Better State and better, protected working conditions for NSW workers.

I can't think of a better Fathers Day present than that.

Debra Smith
Blue Mountains Unions Council Inc

Friday, August 26, 2011

NSW Govt: Carbon price deceit exposed

The people of NSW have been treated to alternative descriptions of the impact of the Gillard government's proposed carbon price package.

The first, prepared by the Commonwealth Treasury, showed very modest impacts on prices, wages and employment, most of which would be fully offset by the various compensation and adjustment mechanisms included in the package.

The second, attributed to the NSW Treasury, showed a very different picture. According to Premier Barry O'Farrell and Treasurer Mike Baird the carbon price would be a ''disaster'', which would ''tear the heart out of many industries'' and ''savagely hit'' regions such as the Hunter and Illawarra. Households would face electricity prices being ''forced up'' by ''up to'' $498 a year.

On the face of it, the Commonwealth and NSW Treasuries seem to have very different economic models, producing sharply different results. But a closer look reveals a different, and more surprising, story. The NSW Treasury report was based on work by a consulting firm, Frontier Economics, who say they used the same model as the Commonwealth, with almost identical inputs. As a result Frontier concludes, ''At an aggregate level, the modelling results in this report are broadly consistent with the Commonwealth Treasury modelling.''

How can this be? The answer is that the NSW government engaged in an exercise in misleading advertising that would make even the most shonky of infomercial vendors blush.

Let's start with that old favourite of dodgy advertisers: ''up to'', as in ''households will pay up to $498 a year''. The Commonwealth Treasury modelling, endorsed by Frontier, suggests that the average household will probably pay much less, about $170 a year, and that this will be more than offset, for most households, by a higher income tax threshold.

Unions respond to manufacuring crisis

Union leaders visited Canberra yesterday to brief Labor MPs on what they described as a crisis in manufacturing, highlighted earlier this week when BlueScope announced it would sack 1000 workers and 400 contractors in NSW and Victoria.

They said resources companies should be required to call tenders for any project worth more than $100 million and for greater transparency to ensure that local manufacturers were given an opportunity to win contracts.

The unions, backed by the Australian Steel Institute, welcomed the government's appointment of former Queensland premier Peter Beattie to champion Australian manufacturing, but said more must be done.

"If people want to accuse me of protectionism when I'm standing up saying that Australian manufacturing jobs need to be protected, so be it," Australian Manufacturing Workers Union national secretary Dave Oliver said.

Saying the union movement would pursue its cause at Labor's national conference in Sydney in December, Mr Oliver said the governments of Canada and Norway would not issue mining leases until proponents demonstrated how they would support local industry.

Unions and steel makers want extra tax concessions to encourage miners to use steel made in Australia. Stephen Jones, the Labor MP for Throsby in the Illawarra agrees, saying the Government could be doing more to help manufacturers.

"One of the concrete proposals that has been put forward by the steel institute is that any development worth over $100 million must have an Australian participation plan in it," he said.

"And that Australian participation plan should go to the amount of local content that would be or could be included in that project. Now I think that is a proposal that has merit."

Senator Doug Cameron has suggested the Government go further.

"If you look at some of our competitors in the mineral industry, Canada and Brazil, they don't sit back and allow the mining industry there to simply send jobs offshore and destroy the manufacturing sector," he said.

"And the Government in my view's got a responsibility to look at what we can do to actually dampen the rise in the dollar as Brazil has done."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Undermining Australian manufacturing

Peter Martin SMH

Over the past decade, mining exports have climbed by around 5 per cent of gross domestic product; non-mining exports have slid by around 5 per cent of GDP. The relationship has been almost exactly one-to-one.

That's not to say the ratio won't improve. Mining exports might one day do more than simply replace non-mining exports. There might one day be few other exporters left to crush - the massive investment in new mines and mining machinery under way might pay off in much higher earnings, as it is meant to.

But what's important are the directions of change. As the mining industry does better, other trade exposed industries do worse.

The main mechanism is straightforward. Higher minerals push up the Aussie dollar, which makes exports harder to sell and imports much cheaper.

There's also a secondary mechanism. The mining boom (particularly the mining construction boom) gets the Reserve Bank worried about inflation. It talks up the possibility of higher interest rates - until this month, that's exactly what it has been doing - and consumer and business confidence stalls.
Step three is when our relatively high interest rates and talk of higher ones draws more money from overseas, pushing up the dollar further.

It's bad for steelmakers, bad for any trade-exposed industry, and to a lesser extent, also bad for industries with no competition from trade. If consumers and businesses are wary of spending - as the Reserve Bank has tried to ensure they are - they will be wary across the board...

... Other nations subsidise those industries precisely because they think they are worth having - for defence reasons, for security of supply and also for emotional reasons. While much of my generation deals with intangibles in white-collar jobs, we know our fathers made real tangible products in factories. We think it matters.

What can be done to make sure we continue to make things? Getting behind the originally-designed mining super profits tax would have helped. It would have taken money from the miners and given it to manufacturers and other non-mining companies in the form of a 2 percentage point tax cut - enough to offset the effects of the higher dollar for a while.

Read more

BlueScope: Executive pay disgrace

The management of steel maker BlueScope paid more than $3 million in executive bonuses while sacking 1000 workers.

Senator Doug Cameron said the management's attitude was ''immoral, reprehensible and unacceptable''.

Senator Cameron said it was ''absolutely unbelievable'' that huge bonuses were paid while workers were being laid off.

BlueScope - Australia's biggest steel maker - this week announced 1000 workers and up to 400 contractors would go in Victoria and New South Wales; the company had a loss of more than $1 billion.

AWU Secretary Paul  Howes said: ''I'm literally speechless.'' He said his union's members were furious and the shareholders had every right to be outraged.

''During the global financial crisis the company imposed a pay freeze.
''It's now saying this is worse than the GFC. There should be a pay freeze on executive salaries,'' he said.

Senator Xenophon said the company's operating cash flow was only $21 million last year, so 15 per cent had gone in executive salaries.

Describing the bonuses as ''obscene'', Senator Xenophon said the government should reduce its $100 million support for BlueScope by at least the $3,052,000 paid in bonuses.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Unions support steel workers

ACTU President Ged Kearney said unions were concerned by the news 1000 jobs would be lost when BlueScope Steel closed two of its production facilities, at Port Kembla in NSW and Western Port in Victoria, but there was some solace in that the workers would not be left out in the cold by the actions.

“It is essential that Government provides industry assistance at times like this, when we have a high Australian dollar, which is obviously placing pressure on Australia’s vulnerable manufacturing sector,” Ms Kearney said.

“We cannot sit back and watch our manufacturing industry crumble under pressure from lost export dollars associated with the high dollar, coupled with a low steel value compared with high raw material costs.

“So unions are relieved to hear the Government will take immediate action to support BlueScope Steel workers and their families affected by the effects of these difficult circumstances.

“Manufacturing is a major contributor to Australia’s economy and we must support the industry in order for it to maintain international competitiveness and to ensure local jobs.”


Coalition MPs lobby for National Broadband

Liberal MPs are anxiously lobbying the government to have the National Broadband Network (NBN) rolled out in their electorates, despite Abbott's pledge to demolish the network if elected.

South Australian federal Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey and his West Australian colleague, Steve Irons, have both tabled questions with the government asking why their constituents are missing out on access to the NBN.

Mr Ramsey is the member for Grey, a rural South Australian electorate that includes the towns of Coober Pedy, Port Augusta and Whyalla.

He wrote to the government in July asking why the town of Streaky Bay, in his electorate, was slated to miss out on a fibre or wireless connection despite having a population in excess of 1000 people.

The NBN Co. has set a population of about 1000 people as the minimum number required for a town to receive the NBN's fibre broadband link, rather than a slower satellite connection.

Mr Ramsey also protested about the exclusion of the towns of Wudinna and Cummins, writing: “Why are the towns of Wudinna and Cummins, being significant centres and both adjacent to optic fibre cables, not designated to receive a fibre broadband service”?

Mr Irons wrote to ask why the rollout of the NBN in the Perth suburb of Victoria Park, in his electorate of Swan, had been delayed.

Victoria Park was named as one of the locations that would receive the NBN in the so-called second round of rollouts across the country.

Liberal MP Teresa Gambaro took the government to task last week over her electorate of Brisbane missing out on being an early rollout site for the NBN.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said more and more MPs were breaking ranks with Abbott's plan to demolish the NBN.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jones radio controlled demo fails again

Time's up Alan!
With tens of thousands of dollars of free advertising the shock jocks predicted thousands of trucks would block Canberra. 300 turned up, so Jones invented the story that the police had stopped the convoys, a comment that shows how disappointed he was with his radio controlled demo. His timekeepers are wondering if this if the right time to leave.  Jones used his control of the stage to whip up the small crowd into a mob attack on a journalist who asked him a question he didn't like ...  

Alan Jones fired up a crowd of protesters to turn on a Herald reporter today after she asked if he had been paid to appear at the rally in Canberra.  Journalist Jacqueline Maley said Jones looked outraged when she asked him if he had accepted a fee to be at the rally, made up of protesters who converged on Canberra in trucks, caravans and cars.  

He angrily asked her what kind of a question was that and who did she think she was. "He said I should be ashamed of myself, that I was a 'grub' and asked me how I could look at myself in the mirror. He carried on in that vein for a while.  "I said I thought it was a legitimate question. He said 'No, of course I haven't [accepted a fee].' He continued to abuse me."I thanked him for answering the question and walked away."  

But Jones continued to yell after her, attracting the attention of others in the crowd, who began to look at her. "He yelled that I should go away, that I had no right to be there. A woman standing next to me started yelling at me, saying 'Get out of here! You've got no right to be here!'"  Maley said that when a journalist colleague asked the woman why, she replied: "Because she's a leftie!" 

Jones then yelled across the crowd for Maley to repeat her name, which she did. "Some members of the crowd yelled at me to get up on stage and explain myself, which I declined to do."  

Jones then took the microphone and addressed the crowd again (listen to the audio above). He told them that Jacqueline Maley from the Sydney Morning Herald had just asked him whether he had accepted a fee to attend.

There was booing and some in the crowd yelled at Maley, who said: "I found the whole experience extremely intimidating - having your name yelled out by Alan Jones in such a hostile way, to such a hostile crowd, who had already been whipped into a frenzy, and which contained some very extremist elements was frightening."

Song for Bradley Manning

A song by David Rovics

Bluescope job cuts

The closure of the Port Kembla furnace will be a blow to the steel city of Wollongong, which for years has suffered as the manufacturing industry declined. Jordon Stojkovski and Cole Obenikovski both know how it feels to be let go by the big steel-maker.

Both had worked for BHP for 30 years, before Bluescope was spun off, and were made redundant in the past few years. They were both worried about the future of the region.

"I've got three kids and only my missus works now. I'm 54, but I'm worried for the future of my kids and my grandkids, " said Mr Stojokvski, who was made redundant with 300 other people and no longer works.

Mr Obenikovski, who had worked for the company for 30 years since he came from Macedonia, was made redundant in 2002. He then found work as a contractor but was laid off by them three years ago. "It's really sad. I've given my life to the Illawarra. I really don't see much future for the kids here," he said.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union national secretary Dave Oliver, who has been calling for years for a manufacturing industry plan, contrasted Labor's current stance with the economic reform agenda of the 1980s.

"When we floated the dollar, when we took on reform, when we reduced our tariffs, we actually put together industry plans," he said.

"The government worked with the unions and the employers and came up with plans like the Button plans for the auto industry, the steel industry and shipbuilding.

"We need government intervention to guarantee that we've got a viable manufacturing industry in this country."

Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes warned that Australian manufacturing faced one of its worst periods since the Great Depression.

"We are now facing a major crisis in Australian manufacturing," he said. "Base metal manufacturing, downstream manufacturing - everything is under pressure at the moment."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Stop Slaving for Zara!

Brazil's Labour Ministry reported that a supplier for Spanish clothing transnational Zara had subjected workers to slave-like working conditions.

A ministry spokeswoman said that in July its inspectors found 16 undocumented Bolivian workers working long hours in unhealthy conditions in two facilities in Sao Paulo for less than $1.40 per completed commodity.

The workhouses had been outsourced by the supplier to produce clothing for Zara's 30 outlets in Brazil.

Zara is owned by the world's largest clothing retailer Inditex SA, which was run until last month by Amancio Ortega - Spain's richest man and the seventh richest in the world.

The spokeswoman asked not to be identified because she was not authorised to comment on the case. She did not provide further details.

Inditex said in a statement that the case involved the "unauthorised outsourcing by a Brazilian supplier" and that the company would work with the Labour Ministry to make sure "cases like his are not repeated."

Friday, August 19, 2011

Stiglitz on austerity

"Austerity is not only a recipe for pain now, but for more pain in years to come." 

Joseph Stiglitz doesn't see a bounce in the economy, and thinks the U.S. has only two real options - more stimulus or a debt restructuring.

Here are some of his suggestions:
  • Repeal tax-cuts for rich Americans.
  • End wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that cost trillions of dollars.
  • Increase stimulus and programs that would get Americans back to work because it will generate massive tax revenues.
  • A Medicare D, with a provision that allows the government to negotiate prices instead of going with those set by pharmaceuticals. He believes this move alone could save the U.S. trillions.
  • A "Homeowners Chapter 11" that would allow homeowners to continue to possess their homes, while they restructure their debt and continue to pay down their mortgages. 
"It doesn't do any body any good to force these people out of their homes… An economy in which you have homeless people and empty homes doesn't make any sense, and that's where we're going."

Qantas must sit and talk

Qantas management must urgently explain to its 30,000 Australian workers the reasons why it is necessary to sack 1000 workers, and give a rock solid guarantee the establishment of a new Asian based airline is not the beginning of a long-term plan to offshore.

Speaking after an urgent phone hook-up of all Qantas unions this morning, ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce must sit down with unions to talk through the issues.

“Qantas workers were informed yesterday, through the media, that 1000 of their colleagues would be laid off and Qantas’ future focus would be on Asia,” Mr Lawrence said.

“It is only a small step from setting up a new airline in Asia to begin basing more and more of the operations – whether that be maintenance, pilots, flight crews, call centres or others – overseas.

“Australians do not want to see Qantas jobs go down the path of a race to the bottom that would see a large section of its workforce employed on the pay and conditions of developing countries.

“Qantas must provide a guarantee that yesterday’s announcement is not the start of a long-term plan to send its operations offshore.”

Judging by media comments from customers, including talkback radio this morning, Qantas management has done enormous damage to the airline’s brand and reputation with yesterday’s announcement.

“Qantas customers want to see the airline employ Australian workers,” Mr Lawrence said.

“They are prepared to pay a premium for the world-class service that Qantas has – until now – provided, because they know it is dedicated, professional, and highly-skilled Australian workers who deliver on that reputation for safety, reliability and service. Qantas management has shown callous disregard for the loyalty of its workforce – and its customers.”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

UK: Draconian collective punishment

New York Times Editorial 17 August 2011

Mr. Cameron, a product of Britain’s upper classes and schools, has blamed the looting and burning on a compound of national moral decline, bad parenting and perverse inner-city subcultures.

Would he find similar blame — this time in the culture of the well housed and well off — for Britain’s recent tabloid phone hacking scandals or the egregious abuse of expense accounts by members of Parliament?

Crimes are crimes whoever commits them. And the duty of government is to protect the law-abiding, not to engage in simplistic and divisive moralizing that fails to distinguish between criminals, victims and helpless relatives and bystanders.

The thousands who were arrested last week for looting and for more violent crimes should face the penalties that are prescribed by law. But Mr. Cameron is not content to stop there. He talks about cutting off government benefits even to minor offenders and evicting them — and, in a repellent form of collective punishment, perhaps their families, too — from the publicly supported housing in which one of every six Britons lives.

He has also called for blocking access to social networks like Twitter during future outbreaks. And he has cheered on the excessive sentences some judges have been handing out for even minor offenses.

Such draconian proposals often win public applause in the traumatized aftermath of riots. But Mr. Cameron, and his Liberal Democrat coalition partners, should know better. They risk long-term damage to Britain’s already fraying social compact.

Making poor people poorer will not make them less likely to steal. Making them, or their families, homeless will not promote respect for the law. Trying to shut down the Internet in neighborhoods would be an appalling violation of civil liberties and a threat to public safety, denying vital real-time information to frightened residents.

Britain’s urban wastelands need constructive attention from the Cameron government, not just punishment. His government’s wrongheaded austerity policies have meant fewer public sector jobs and social services. Even police strength is scheduled to be cut. The poor are generally more dependent on government than the affluent, so they have been hit the hardest.

What Britain’s sputtering economy really needs is short-term stimulus, not more budget cutting. Unfortunately, there is no sign that Mr. Cameron has figured that out. But, at a minimum, burdens need to be more fairly shared between rich and poor — not as a reward to anyone, but because it is right.

UK: Sentencing hysteria

Political and public pressure is driving a slew of "hysterical" sentencing from fast-track courts for offences related to England's recent riots, a senior barrister warned.

The warning follows the sentencing of two men to four years imprisonment this week after they were found guilty of attempting to incite violence on Facebook. Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, pleaded guilty at Chester Crown Court on Tuesday after police discovered Facebook pages created by the men which urged rioting in their home towns.

Neither Blackshaw nor Sutcliffe-Keenan was accused of rioting or looting themselves, yet the pair were given the lengthiest sentences so far in relation to the nationwide disorder.

Leading criminal barrister John Cooper QC said: "It's the duty, in my view, of all those who direct sentencing to be independent and not to be influenced by angry Britain." "There's no doubt that some individuals will need to be sentenced very firmly, but my concern is that the sentences given in the last week have been disproportionate and somewhat hysterical.

"What's happening here is they're being unduly increased to appease public anger and, as far as the magistrates are concerned, potentially influenced by the views of politicians."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

TWU: Qantas vote

Westpac: profit leads to sackings spree

Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly has ordered job cuts across the bank's middle management despite a $1.55 billion profit for the third quarter.

Mrs Kelly told an analysts briefing in Sydney that the bank would step up its "productivity measures" to contain costs. Job cuts, tipped to total more than 1000, are likely to come from middle management and IT.

Westpac cut 600 jobs, mostly in IT, in the half year to March. The latest round of job cuts are expected to centre primarily at the bank's head office in Sydney.

Finance Sector Union national secretary Leon Carter said the government should move to protect bank workers in light of the guarantee put in place during the global financial crisis.

"We aren't talking about a small business that has to lay off a few staff to survive," he said. "The banks are expecting record profits and are among the largest in the world.

"The banks should have a moral and social oversight to maintain employment given that the federal government and the community stood behind them in the downturn. "We believe there's a public policy response that the government should put in place that requires the banks not to get rid of a single job."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Public service same size as 20 years ago

SMH Peter Martin August 15 2011

The Federal Coalition may find it harder than it imagines to slash $70 billion from government spending.
A report from the Centre for Policy Development - an independently-funded think tank - finds the Commonwealth public service no bigger than it was 20 years ago.

"Our analysis contradicts the prevailing rhetoric about a burgeoning public service," writes the research director James Whelan in the report released this morning. It says about one-third of the public service workforce was retrenched between 1991 and 1999, under the Howard and Keating governments. "Most of these retrenchments happened in the early years of the Howard government when it sacked almost 30,000 staff over three years.

"Although staffing levels have almost returned … to 1991 levels, the … population has increased more rapidly."

The Coalition's official policy is to remove 12,000 public service positions in its first year in office, but revelations it is looking to find up to $70 billion of savings over four years suggest much bigger cuts are likely.

"The cuts will inevitably have a significant impact on the capacity of the public service … ,'' Mr Whelan said.

Coalition shadow ministers have been asked to appear before a meeting of its expenditure review committee today with lists of programs or departments that could be abolished.

Joe Hockey, the shadow treasurer, has told the ABC's Lateline one option would be abolishing the Climate Change Department, which has about 1000 staff.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

UK: Bullington rules ok

SMH 13 August 2011 - Mike Carlton

The Bullingdon is an ancient dining club for undergraduate toffs at Oxford, all male, by invitation only. You need pots of money to join, partly to fork out for the uniform of white tie'n'tails with trimmings, but mostly to pay for the property damage wrought at the club's notorious orgies of drinking and destruction.

The British Prime Minister, David William Donald Cameron (Eton, Brasenose), his Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Gideon Oliver Osborne (St Paul's, Magdalen, and heir to a baronetcy), and the Tory mayor of London, the blond, bicycling and batty Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (Eton, Balliol), were all Bullingdon chaps in the '80s.

A few years ago, in a glow of nostalgia, Johnson recalled an evening where a pot plant was heaved through a restaurant window and ''the party ended up with a number of us crawling on all fours through the hedges of the botanical gardens and trying to escape police dogs". The mayor remains a gilded creature, once famously dismissing his £250,000 stipend for writing a newspaper column as "chicken feed". Ho ho.

There, in a nutshell, you have Britain today. As ever, the Establishment rules by its own rules. Trashing a restaurant is a jolly wheeze for the upper classes. Plundering the life savings of the middle classes is all in a day's work for the bonus'n'Bollinger banking brigade in the City of London.

So, too, is tax dodging: to pluck just one small example out of the ether, Rupert Murdoch's London Sun newspaper and his loathsome but now defunct News of the World made a profit of £89 million in 2010 but, through various corporate pea and thimble tricks, paid just £415,000 in tax.

Then there were those MPs, of all parties, building their country duck ponds and refurbishing their Knightsbridge flats courtesy of the voters.

At the bottom of this seething social pile you have Britain's underclass, the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, trapped in those urine- and graffiti-splashed housing "estates", where the syringes crunch underfoot and unemployment and crime are a way of life. Chavs, they call the youth there: Council House And Violent. Eventually the pressure builds up and the whole show erupts, as we have seen.

NSW: Carbon Price Stimulates Jobs Growth

Study finds carbon price to stimulate jobs growth
11 August 2011

A study by the ACTU and the Australian Conservation Foundation has found strong action on climate change will lead to job growth on the New South Wales mid-north coast.

Both groups are part of the Southern Cross Climate Alliance, which will meet Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott later today to discuss the findings.

Australian Conservation Foundation executive director Don Henry says the report findings fly in the face of scaremongering about the effects of a carbon price.

Mr Henry says the mid-north coast, like most other regions in Australia, will prosper.

"We'll see a job growth of about 23,000 new jobs up to 2030 in the mid-north coast, with strong action to cut greenhouse pollution because in building a cleaner economy it stimulates new jobs, like renewable energy, and helps make traditional jobs like agriculture and manufacturing more efficient," he said.

He says the report supports Treasury modelling on the impacts of converting to a cleaner economy.

"There is a lot of scaremongering out there about the a price on pollution," he said.

"But the bottom line is when you look at independent research, it shows, for example, for the mid-north coast, that we'll see strong job growth over the next 20 years and that makes sense because as you cut pollution and have a cleaner economy, it creates job opportunities."

Friday, August 12, 2011

NSW Public Sector Rally 8 September

Fiji: ILO delgation demands

A delegation to Fiji from the International Labour Organisation must be given unimpeded access to workers so it can investigate serious allegation of human and worker rights violations.

The high-level delegation will arrive in Fiji today following the arrests of unionists and the introduction of a new decree that places further restrictions on worker rights.

Australian unions have called on Commodore Frank Bainimarama and his military regime to revoke the draconian Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree, and restore basic human and worker rights.

"The high-level team from the ILO led by Deputy Director-General Guy Ryder must be allowed to meet with and interview Fijian workers and union leaders without harassment or intimidation” ACTU President Ged Kearney said.

"Under the decrees issued by the military regime, industrial action has been outlawed and unions virtually banned in most workplaces.  Basic rights like protection of wages, minimum conditions such as working hours and protection against discrimination have been scrapped.

Union officials have been detained, threatened and assaulted.  The ILO delegation must have unimpeded access to the facts” she said

The ILO visit comes after two trade union leaders, including the President of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, Daniel Urai, were recently arrested and charged for allegedly holding a meeting without a permit.

"This kind of abuse and disregard for worker's rights can no longer continue and we will not sit back and watch our brothers and sisters in Fiji suffer.

"Bainimarama must know that the world is watching and scrutinising his every action."

Greece: Public Servants file against "Treason"

Greece's main civil servants' union announced today that it will file lawsuits against the nominally Socialist government over its €50 billion (£44bn) privatisation programme.

It branded the EU-IMF mandated fire-sale an act of "national treason."

Civil Servants' Confederation Adedy general secretary Ilias Iliopoulos said that members would make a final decision on the legal action at a meeting on September 22.

Prime Minster George Papandreou's governing Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) announced plans in April to sell €50bn of state assets by 2015, including government stakes in the utility power company PPC, the telecom operator OTE and ATE bank.

"For us this is an act of national treason and those who attempt it will face the consequences accordingly," Mr Iliopoulos declared.

"We will use all means at our disposal to, of course, hopefully overturn the government, but mainly to file lawsuits against those who sign these privatisation agreements."

The union, which had previously supported Pasok, has already announced plans to launch a campaign of strikes against austerity measures mandated by the European Central Bank and the IMF in the autumn.

The government has been battered by months of union-led protests and a series of strikes as it pushed through successive waves of regressive cost-cutting measures that have seen unemployment rise to record levels.

TWU: campaign for safe rates

South Australia is shaping up as a potential flashpoint in the campaign for safe rates.

The Transport Workers Union has warned it could disrupt traffic over the coming months in Adelaide to secure rate increases for couriers and owner-drivers working for Aceit Couriers.

The TWU argues sub-contractor Bob Geary is being "starved out" for trying to organise a better deal for drivers.

TWU South Australian Secretary Ray Wyatt claims drivers are being forced to push themselves to break even because Aceit will not negotiate on rates.

"Drivers are being forced to work for $15 to $19 an hour with fuel taking up a good 15 percent of that – and that has risen in recent years," Wyatt says.

"Bob has been working for this company for the best part of a decade and he, and all couriers, deserve better treatment from their bosses. Safe rates legislation is the way to get that to happen."

Geary says petrol prices have risen considerably in recent years but income has dropped at the same time.

"For a trip from Adelaide to Victor Harbour, you used to get about $100 for the return trip. That has dropped to $60," he says.

The TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon wants a tribunal system set up that is capable of ruling on pay rates for different transport sectors.

The Federal Government last year released a discussion paper on possible reform options, including expanding the powers of Fair Work Australia and establishing a tribunal.

Protect Retail Workers' Rights

Retail employers are proposing cutting wages by 10 per cent and scrapping penalty rates. 

Joe Hockey thinks that workers need to work at 3 am without any penalty rates as compensation to compete with online retail.

What do you think? Tell talk back and write letters to editors

The National Retail Association is applying to change retailer workers’ conditions to:

  • Cut wages by 10%.  
  • Scrap all penalty rates on Saturdays and for late night work; and
  • Reduce penalty rates on Sundays.

If they can cut pay and penalty rates for retail workers, who’s next?
What Joe Hockey, the National Retail Association and a host of other employers in a co-ordinated campaign are seeking would undermine the minimum safety net that protects all workers.

Blaming retail workers for the woes in the retail industry is flawed logic. Employers in the sector are using the challenge of online retailing as an excuse to bring back WorkChoices by stealth.

Show your support for retail workers by writing letters to the editors and calling talk back radio.

Retail workers earn a minimum $17.03 an hour (less than $34,000 a year) with junior workers earning even less, as little as $7.67 an hour; they do not deserve to have their pay cut by 10% and their penalty rates slashed in some race to the bottom.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

National Disability Insurance Scheme welcomed


The Federal Government will take the first steps to establish a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), as recommended by the Productivity Commission and advocated by the disability sector.

An NDIS would transform the provision of support services to Australians with significant disability. NDS congratulates the Government on its endorsement of the vision articulated in the Productivity Commission's final report on Disability Care and Support and looks forward to strong progress in implementing the reforms.

Today, Prime Minister Gillard, Ministers Macklin and Shorten and Parliamentary Secretary McLucas released the Productivity Commission's final 1,000-page report on Disability Care and Support. While supporting the Productivity Commission's vision, the Government has yet to endorse its recommendations or commit the additional funding required to implement the NDIS beyond an allocation of $10 million to support a newly-established technical advisory group. It will respond to the detailed recommendations in the report at a later date.

In the plan set out in the report the NDIS would be implemented in stages and not fully implemented until 2018-19.  Regional launch sites would operate in 2014 to enable the new system to be tested and fine-tuned. In the 2012 Federal Budget NDS would like to see forward estimates reflect a funding commitment to support these launch sites. The NDIS must be built on the security of a guaranteed and sustainable funding commitment.

NDS strongly supports the Productivity Commission's conclusion that while full implementation of the NDIS would require an additional $6.5 billion a year, the social and economic returns will outweigh its cost.

Riots without cause!

Seumas Milne www.guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 10 August 2011

It is essential for those in power in Britain that the riots now sweeping the country can have no cause beyond feral wickedness. This is nothing but "criminality, pure and simple", David Cameron declared after cutting short his holiday in Tuscany. The London mayor and fellow former Bullingdon Club member Boris Johnson, heckled by hostile Londoners in Clapham Junction, warned that rioters must stop hearing "economic and sociological justifications" (though who was offering them he never explained) for what they were doing.

When his predecessor Ken Livingstone linked the riots to the impact of public spending cuts, it was almost as if he'd torched a building himself. The Daily Mail thundered that blaming cuts was "immoral and cynical", echoed by a string of armchair riot control enthusiasts. There was nothing to explain, they've insisted, and the only response should be plastic bullets, water cannon and troops on the streets.

We'll hear a lot more of that when parliament meets – and it's not hard to see why. If these riots have no social or political causes, then clearly no one in authority can be held responsible. What's more, with many people terrified by the mayhem and angry at the failure of the police to halt its spread, it offers the government a chance to get back on the front foot and regain its seriously damaged credibility as a force for social order.

But it's also a nonsensical position. If this week's eruption is an expression of pure criminality and has nothing to do with police harassment or youth unemployment or rampant inequality or deepening economic crisis, why is it happening now and not a decade ago? The criminal classes, as the Victorians branded those at the margins of society, are always with us, after all. And if it has no connection with Britain's savage social divide and ghettoes of deprivation, why did it kick off in Haringey and not Henley?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Japan: "Give Fukushima back to us!"

August 2011

People rallied in the capital of Japan's Fukushima region, home to a crippled atomic power plant, on Sunday, calling for an end to nuclear energy, local media reported.

"Abolish all the nuclear power plants!" and "Give radiation-free Fukushima back to us," the demonstrators chanted as they marched in Fukushima City, some 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the nuclear plant.

The rally, joined by residents evacuated from areas outside the Fukushima Daiichi plant, was organised by the Japan Congress Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs as part of its longtime campaign against nuclear weapons.

It was the first time that the leading anti-nuclear organisation staged a rally in Fukushima to observe the anniversaries of the World War II atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945.

"We have tended to focus on abolition of nuclear weapons while being weak in our campaign against nuclear power plants," Koichi Kawano, a Nagasaki atomic-bomb survivor who heads the organising group, told the rally.

"Let there be no more nuclear plant accidents."

A 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami ravaged the Fukushima plant on March 11, leading to radioactive leaks.

Hiromasa Yoshida, a 45-year-old school teacher evacuated from the town of Namie inside a 20-kilometre no-go zone outside the plant, told the rally: "Let us become the last victims of any nuclear plant accident.

"Now is the time to shift away from nuclear power generation."

The organisation held similar rallies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the run-up to the 66th anniversaries of the bombings.

GFC phase 2

ABC 9 August

STEPHEN LONG It was the biggest binge in history. Before the GFC, the world gorged on debt. Credit was cheap and easy, it was almost force-fed and lending was super-sized. Ninja loans: that's no income, no job, no assets. Then Wall Street took the loans, packaged them up into fancy financial products and passed the debt parcels around the world. But after the binge came the purge.

September 2008: the Wall Street icon Lehman Brothers collapsed. Then the world's largest insurer, AIG, went broke, sparking a global credit crash. The engine of commerce seized as lending dried up. Share prices slumped as the biggest credit bubble in history burst. Banks failed, as the dodgy loans and fancy products they fashioned out of them imploded. The world plunged into the deepest downturn since the Great Depression.

But the GFC never went away. It just morphed from a private debt crisis into a public debt crisis.

SATAJIT DAS, RISK ANALYST AND AUTHOR: In 2008 and 2009, when the global economy got into problems, the Government spent up big to try to stabilise the economy. And they succeeded to a point. But the problem is we've been passing the parcel of debt. So companies passed it to individuals, individuals passed it to governments. Now of course, the governments have nobody else to pass it to.

STEPHEN LONG: In early 2010, Greece was bailed out by the European Union. Next, Ireland and Portugal had to be rescued from potential default. Then last week, the crisis spread to Italy and Spain. The world panicked and shares tumbled as the cost of funding the public debt of Italy and Spain soared to unsustainable levels.

SATAJIT DAS: The situation in Europe is very serious, but it's not about Greece, Ireland or Portugal. It's really about Spain and Italy, which, as is commonly said, are too big to save, but they're too big to fail.

STEPHEN LONG: Across the Atlantic on the weekend, inglorious history was made. The US had its credit rating downgraded for the first time.

The mining boom and the rapid industrialisation of Asia has insulated Australia's economy, but that may not last if the sovereign debt woes in Europe create bank losses and another credit crunch.

SATAJIT DAS: Despite the fact that our commodities boom is ongoing, Australia still needs to borrow very large sums of money overseas - this is the banks and the business need to borrow. If there is another credit crunch, then what will happen is the cost of money will go up again and the availability of money will go down, and that will have an immediate impact on the Australian economy in terms of growth.

STEPHEN LONG: And all this against the backdrop of the weakest recovery from the bleakest recession we've had since the 1930s, and it's not over yet.

Magnate slags miners

A workface dominated by soft, satisfied idealists is ''pissing away'' Australia's position of economic strength and taking the nation backwards, according to the boss of a Chinese-controlled mining company with multiple projects in Australia.

Former Western Mining Corporation boss Andrew Michelmore - now chief executive of Chinese government-dominated, Melbourne-based miner MMG - warned Australia was suffering from ''rich country's disease'' and would devolve into a welfare state unless workers rediscovered a hunger for excellence.

"need to get some hunger"
Addressing the Australian-British Chamber of Commerce (while London burns), Mr Michelmore lamented the immobility of the Australian workforce and the resulting skills shortage in remote areas such as Western Australia's Pilbara.

''People can't be bothered moving 25 kilometres to get a job because they will live off social welfare instead, and it's a real worry for me watching Australia have a luxurious time at the benefit of our relationship with China,'' he said.

Mr Michelmore said more seniors and women should be returned to a workforce that was dominated by people with ''airy fairy'', ''idealistic'' and ''altruistic'' attitudes. ''We need to get the grey hairs back into industry and working, we need to get more women involved in work,'' he said. ''We need to get some hunger and drive back into this country, we are becoming soft.''

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union national president Tony Maher rejected Mr Michelmore's comments, saying they were ''a Trojan horse for a Chinese labour debate''.

''Chinese companies want to use Chinese labour, that is the real problem here,'' he said. ''The truth is Australians are on the move for work. Other industries outside mining are complaining about the drain on labour. They can't both be right.''

US: Poor ratings standards

SMH 9 Aug 2011

There's a certain irony that one of the key villains in the great financial meltdown of 2008 once again is creating economic havoc.

It was Standard & Poor's, along with fellow ratings agencies Moody's Investor Services and Fitch, that in the early part of the century conspired with caffeine- and cocaine-fuelled Wall Street bankers to flood the world with trillions of dollars of worthless junk masquerading as rock solid, risk-free investments.

By dishing out thousands of AAA ratings - for a handsome fee of course - the agencies ensured that governments, banks, and financial institutions across the developed world were loaded to the gills with toxic time bombs, all loosely based on high risk loans over marginal American real estate.

Having man-handled global finance to the precipice, forcing the US government into a massive and prolonged bailout of Wall Street and the economy, S&P, in a breathtaking display of arrogance and denial, has sagely concluded that America is a credit risk.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Tasmanian Forest success

GetUp news

Exciting news: yesterday 430,000 hectares of Tasmania's magnificent native forests, including spectacular areas such as the Blue Tier, Tarkine, Upper Florentine and Styx were announced for immediate protection by Prime Minister Juila Gillard and Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings.

Just weeks ago it looked as though the forests would only be declared 'informal reserves' -- but now those forests will be protected from logging by a legally binding Conservation Agreement, which can only be removed by both houses of Federal parliament.

The Federal Government has also ruled out providing any funds for Gunns' proposed pulp mill. Hundreds of thousands of Australians have fought long and hard for over thirty years to see these forests saved, especially through community groups and conservation groups such as Environment Tasmania, The Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Congratulations to the tens of thousands of you who over the last two weeks have written to the Prime Minister calling on her to give the forests immediate legal protection. As a result of that pressure, combined with the work of other groups and the parliamentary Greens, the forests that go into informal reserves will also be given additional protection by a legally binding Conservation Agreement.

Many forests, including high conservation value forests on public and private land remain threatened. There still remains a lot of work to do before we can feel secure that Tassie's forests have received the permanent and lasting protection they deserve as globally significant treasures. The Federal and State Governments have committed a total of $276 million to deliver the agreement, including funds to manage the new forest reserves and to initiate regional development opportunities.

Our ongoing efforts will be required to ensure the passage of the National Park legislation through the Tasmanian parliament. We will also need to keep the pressure on Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke to make sure all 572,000 hectares of Tasmania's high conservation value native forests are permanently protected, including giving the globally significant areas World Heritage status.

WA: workplace 'wages' scams

Investigators believe they have uncovered a scam in which Filipino workers were paid just $210 a week while working on oil rigs in WA's North-West.

Two Perth companies and a director are among those being taken to court over alleged underpayments running into tens of thousands of dollars. Documents lodged with the Federal Court in Perth this week allege four Filipino specialist marine painters on two rigs worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, but were paid only $840 a month.

The Fair Work Ombudsman says the men were in Australia on sub-class 456 visas and that the underpayments, totalling about $127,000, occurred while they were based at the North-West Shelf between July 2009 and March 2011. The watchdog alleges that because the oil rigs were in Australia's exclusive economic zone, the men were entitled to minimum wage rates, allowances, overtime rates and weekend and holiday rates applicable in Australia.

WA-based company SurveySpec and its sole director Thomas Civiello are facing court action, along with Philippines firm Supply Oilfield and Marine Personal Services, and Hong Kong outfit Pocomwell. 

Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said it was alleged that the three companies and Mr Civiello were involved in 11 breaches of workplace law. The companies face maximum penalties of $33,000 for each breach if convicted, while Mr Civiello could be fined up to $6600 a breach.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has also launched a prosecution against Ultra Tune Australia after a Filipino mechanic working at the now closed Warwick branch on a 457 visa was allegedly paid a flat hourly rate of only $15.34, which is below the minimum hourly and overtime rates.

Federal Court documents claim he was underpaid a total of $21,700 between February 2006 and January 2008. It is alleged that Ultra Tune further breached workplace laws by failing to keep proper employment records for 10 Filipino workers it employed through 457 visas to work in WA, Victoria and Queensland. The company faces maximum penalties of up to $33,000 for each breach. The cases are listed for hearings in August and November.

 It was revealed in 2009 that five Chinese migrant workers in Perth were paid as little as $3 an hour while employed by WA construction firm Kentwood Agencies and sometimes working 11 hours a day, seven days a week. In June this year, Kentwood was ordered to pay the workers $242,000 plus interest of about $65,000. Managing director and part-owner Jian Yang Zhang was fined $24,600. The company was fined $123,000 and ordered to pay the Fair Work Ombudsman's legal costs.

Trading away public health?

Health issues in the Trans-Pacific Partnership
free trade agreement
Public meeting 12:30-1.30 PM, Thursday, September 1

Jubilee room, New South Wales Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney

The Australian government is negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement with the United States, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.

But the agenda on health issues is being set by giant US corporations.

Leaked US documents reveal that pharmaceutical companies are demanding higher prices for medicines through changes to the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and more rights to delay access to cheaper generic medicines. US tobacco companies like Philip Morris are demanding the right to sue governments over proposed tobacco plain packaging legislation. Negotiations are continuing in September. We must urge our government to stand by its policies and refuse these demands.

Speakers include:
  • Dr Debra Gleeson, Public Health Association of Australia.
  • Dr Patricia Ranald, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network
  • A representative of the National Association of People Living with HIV AIDS
The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network will be launching a leaflet explaining the issues and what you can do about them.

Please RSVP by cob August 31 to Harvey Purse campaign@aftinet.org.au ph 02 9212 7242

Public Sector Workers and Community Meeting

Public Sector Workers and Community Meeting
“O’Farrell’s Public Sector Attacks”
6pm to 8 pm Tuesday August 16
The Cyprus Club Stanmore Rd Stanmore

John Sando (PSA), Rita Martin (Nurses), Jim Casey (FBEU), Stuart Holt (MUA), Adam Kerslake and Shay Deguara (Unions NSW) as well as speakers from the RTBU and the Police Association.

Unions NSW & the Inner City Teachers’ Association, NSWTF, invite you and your members to a public sector workers and community meeting on the O’Farrell government attack on public sector employees and community services.

The aim of the meeting is to build community awareness of the O’Farrell government’s legislation and the impact it will have on the wages and conditions of public sector workers and the community services we deliver. This will also be an ideal opportunity to promote the Unions NSW Public Sector campaign.

Each public sector union will speak briefly on how the government’s new industrial laws will impact on the wages and conditions of public sector workers and the devastating impact this will have on the community services we deliver. This will leave more than one hour for questions and discussion.

Join fellow public sector employees and our community to learn how your union will be affected by these attacks and how we will defeat them.

WA: Saving The Kimberley

Bob Debus (Wentworth Fall May 2011)

A successful strategy to maintain or improve the conservation of the Kimberley must seek to preserve the connectivity of vegetation and waterways both at the level of individual land owners – the average pastoral station is around 230,000 hectares – and also at the regional level. All property managers will have to join in.

And this is where national heritage listing could bring significant benefits. It would support a variety of the protective and restorative measures that can be put in place to keep the country intact: the creation of more national parks using state or federal funds; the philanthropic purchase of leasehold properties for conservation purposes ; the provision of incentives to land holders to improve management of fire and weeds and to protect river banks and rain forest patches; the continued expansion of the highly successful federally-funded Aboriginal ranger program on indigenous owned and managed land.

However, you can’t make a whole of landscape conservation strategy that works if people are going to be permitted to stick gigantic industrial plants or strip mining operations in the middle of pristine environments.

I don’t believe it is realistic at all to expect that extractive industry could ever be prohibited but it is certainly reasonable to ask, as more people are now asking, that government should develop “a comprehensive conservation and development plan for the Kimberley.” It is not reasonably acceptable, from the point of view of many people, for the premier of Western Australia to refer to the Kimberley as “the new Pilbara”.

It is certainly reasonable, from the point of view of a many people, that government should, in consultation with traditional owners, create a large multiple use marine park right along the Kimberley coast. After all, that’s what was been done long ago in Queensland.

Until conservation and protection strategies of the sort I have described are actually in place there is little chance that World Heritage status for the Kimberley– such as we here in The Blue Mountains enjoy—will ever be achieved

We enjoy that status but it is manifest that the Kimberley also deserves it– and we need a lot of people to make a lot of fuss so that it may be so.

more at Save the Kimberley

UK: Riot after police shooting

Riot-scarred Tottenham began picking up the pieces today from a night of violence that local trade unionists warned could erupt anywhere in Britain due to unemployment and social alienation.

Fires still smouldered following running battles through streets in the north London borough of Haringey.

Reports of injuries including stabbings among members of the public could not be confirmed today however two police officers were hospitalised and 24 others injured in the fighting.

At least 42 people were arrested.

Haringey Trades Council secretary Keith Flett was one of many local community leaders working to calm the area down after peaceful protests over a fatal police shooting spiralled into violence on Saturday night.

But he warned that communities across Britain were facing the same problems with the whole country "going back again" to the '70s and '80s.

"It happened here but it could happen anywhere.

"I don't think it's anything unique about Tottenham," he said.

The rioting broke out following a march by around 300 residents to Tottenham police station over the shooting dead of local father of four Mark Duggan by an officer on Thursday night.

Mr Duggan had been a passenger in a minicab pulled over by police around 6.15pm on Ferry Lane Bridge in Tottenham Hale in what was called a "pre-planned" event under Operation Trident, which investigates gun crime in the African and Caribbean communities.

It is understood that Mr Duggan was shot twice in the face with a submachine gun, while an officer shot once in the chest was saved by the bullet jamming in his radio. It is unclear who shot the officer.

The incident has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission but locals angry at the authorities' muted response gathered at Mr Duggan's home on the Broadwater Farm housing estate and marched to Tottenham police station.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

US: What Debt Crisis?

Mark Weisbrot Centre for Economic and Policy Research

Since the U.S. “Debt Crisis” has been a big international story for the last few weeks, it is worth clarifying what is real and what is not. First, the U.S. government does not have a “debt crisis.” The U.S. government is paying net interest of just 1.4 percent of GDP on its public debt – this is not much by any historical or international comparison. The relatively large annual deficit at present (9.3 percent of GDP) is overwhelmingly the result of the recession and weak recovery. The long-term deficit projections are driven by health care costs in the private sector. These spill over into public spending because the U.S. government pays for almost half of health care spending, at a rate that is twice as high as other developed countries – and rising fast.

There was never any chance that the U.S. would actually default on its debt. The whole “crisis” was manufactured from the beginning, with Republicans in the House of Representatives using a technicality to win unpopular spending cuts that they could not win at the ballot box. It worked: They got an agreement that promises large spending cuts without any tax increases on America’s rich or super-rich, who have vastly increased their share of the national income over the past three decades.

The right won because President Obama chose to collaborate with them, also seeking to take advantage of the manufactured “crisis” to implement cuts that offended and hurt the people who voted for him. Of course he also wanted to increase taxes on the rich, but because he had accepted the legitimacy of the Republicans’ extortion, he lost that too.

The worst damage from this “weapon of mass distraction” – and President Obama’s capitulation to it -- is that the policy debate in the United States has been sharply altered. The phony “debt crisis” is seen as the main problem; and even more absurdly, a cause of the economy’s weakness. The U.S. economy barely grew in the first half of this year, and we have 25 million people unemployed, involuntarily working part time, or having dropped out of the labor force. We are more than one-third of the way into a “lost decade,” and the shift of the policy debate toward deficit reduction will increase the probability that we will experience the whole thing.

If President Obama loses both houses of Congress and/or the presidency in the next election, it will be the result of a weak economy and high unemployment, and because he let his opponents not only sabotage the economy – which they are all too happy to do – but also to redefine the economic debate so that the president and his party will get blamed for the mess.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Fiji: new attacks on workers

Australian unions have condemned the overnight arrest in Fiji of the President of the island nation’s Trades Union Congress, Daniel Urai, amid the introduction of a new decree that places further restrictions on workers’ rights.

ACTU President Ged Kearney has today written to Prime Minister Julia Gillard to urge Australia put maximum diplomatic Pressure on Fiji to immediately release Mr Urai and warn strongly against any attempt to arrest the FTUC Secretary, Felix Anthony.

“We are gravely concerned, in light of these developments, for the safety and continued liberty of all unionists in Fiji, including Mr Felix Anthony,” Ms Kearney wrote in a letter to Ms Gillard today.

The latest actions come after Mr Anthony, who has been previously arrested for speaking out about the military regime’s prohibition of workers’ rights, recently addressed the ACTU Executive about the ongoing situation in Fiji. In a show of support for Australia’s neighbours, the ACTU Executive resolved to call on the Fiji government to restore workers’ rights and democracy through an immediate election.

“Australian unions are deeply troubled that Fiji’s military regime has not only ignored the fact it is under the international microscope, but it has stepped up its attacks on workers’ rights,” Ms Kearney said.
Ms Kearney said other concerning developments yesterday included the adoption of of the draconian
Essential National Industries Employment Decree, which appears to:

  • Ban all strikes, slowdowns, sick actions or any action that may negatively impact the employer
  • Ban unions from representing workers in negotiating collective bargaining outcomes
  • Void all current collective agreements within 60 days
  • Provide that after 60 days period any strike or lockout may take place only with the written authority of the Minister
  • Ban overtime payments, including for weekend work, work on days off, and work on public holidays unless agreed by the employer
  • Cancel all current Wages Council Orders regarding minimum terms and conditions of work in designated industries
  • Require that all members, office bearers, officers and executives of the union shall be employees of the designated company
  • Applies to all Government owned industries and any other that the Minister may designate

“Also, as reported in the local media, on Monday the Attorney General of Fiji announced he would immediately shut down the process which allows payment of union fees for all public sector workers, including teachers, nurses, the civil service and other government workers,” Ms Kearney said.

ACTU: Working Australia Census 2011

More than 41,000 Australian workers from all industries will help shape future workplace campaigns following their participation in the biggest ever national survey of workers, conducted by unions this year.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the response to the Working Australia Census 2011 had been overwhelming, with workers clearly wanting a say in their future.

“An early analysis of Census data has confirmed what unions believed about the cost of living placing increasing stress on workers and their families, while the work-life balance has become more and more difficult to manage,” Ms Kearney said. “Australians are working longer and harder but life is not getting easier.

“The ACTU conducted this survey because we want to ensure workers have a voice. The results of the Census will help shape our future campaigns and ensure that we are working to give Australians the better life they want and deserve. The Census results will be used to inform future union policy and campaigns as well as provide insights into the working lives of working Australians and the issues that are important to them.

“We want to thank everyone who took the time to fill in the Census, because these are the people the ACTU represents and it is so important that their views are reflected in all of our campaigns.”

The ACTU is now analysing the data from the Working Australia Census, which was open for eight weeks until 1 July. Headline results will be released in coming weeks.

Fukushima update

Japan will replace three senior bureaucrats in charge of nuclear power policy, the minister overseeing energy policy said on Thursday, five months after the world's worst atomic crisis in 25 years erupted at Fukushima.

The move comes as Prime Minister Naoto Kan calls for enhanced nuclear safety accountability and an overhaul of Japan's energy policy, with the aim of gradually weaning it off its dependence on nuclear power as public safety concerns mount.

It also follows a series of scandals in which government officials in charge of safeguarding the operations of nuclear power plants tried to influence public opinion on atomic energy.

Trade Minister Banri Kaieda, who played a key role in handling the Fukushima crisis, vowed to carry out major changes in the ministry's personnel, including the three top officials. Kaieda has also said he intends to eventually step down to take responsibility for missteps.

"I'm planning to breathe fresh air into the ministry with a large-scale reshuffle," Kaieda told a news conference.
"I'll have new people rebuild the ministry."

AFL-CIO: Budget bad for US workers

The budget agreement Congress passed this week is a bad deal for our country—especially working people. It will make it even harder to solve our country’s biggest crisis—the jobs crisis.

The AFL-CIO—and the entire labor movement along with our community partners and allies—is committed to putting people back to work. And we’re determined to protect and strengthen workers’ rights so people have the opportunity to get good jobs that provide a pathway to the middle class.

Americans agree—we need jobs. When asked in a poll last week whether Congress and the president should focus on the federal budget deficit or jobs, 67 percent of the public said “jobs.”

America needs to stop wasting time on manufactured political debates that will make our economy worse. According to economists, the recent deal to raise the debt ceiling will undermine economic growth and job creation across the board and make our fragile economy worse.

We need to demand politicians and major media outlets focus on our jobs crisis. And congressional Republicans in particular need to hear that message. Last November, they campaigned on jobs, jobs, jobs. But then, they forced us to waste months on raising the debt ceiling—and finally forced a “solution” to the manufactured debt crisis that will destroy jobs.

The only solution to our jobs crisis is a national jobs strategy. Outside of Washington, job creation is at the top of everyone’s agenda. Only in this topsy-turvy Alice in Wonderland place are long-term deficits more urgent than massive unemployment. We’re years into a jobs crisis with no end in sight. It’s time our leaders and the media started paying attention.

Urge our political leaders and the media to bring just as much urgency to the task of creating jobs as they brought to the politically manufactured crisis over the debt ceiling.

In Solidarity,

Richard L. Trumka
President, AFL-CIO

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Vandals slash ABC TV

The ABC has blamed its decision to axe three television programs and make workers redundant on falling audiences, tight budgets and a strategy of focusing on prime-time shows.

New Inventors, Art Nation and Collectors are to be dropped, with the last to be replaced by a new show called Auctions.
Quentin Dempster, host of 7.30 NSW and a former staff-elected ABC director, has called for a public inquiry into ''the siphoning of taxpayers' funds meant to sustain independent public broadcasting to the commercial television sector''.

He said the so-called schedule refreshment was in fact the ''intentional destruction of the ABC's creative independence'' given the outsourcing over time of production of drama, natural history, documentary and arts.

''The public trust of the ABC is based on an expectation that we are independent of commercial influence; that trust is being breached by current management and board policy.''

The union representing affected staff said the number of redundancies was in the region of 100 and called the demise of Art Nation on Sundays ''an act of cultural vandalism''.

The section secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, Graeme Thomson, said the ABC's ''distinctiveness, rationale and ultimately its funding'' were under threat as a result of buying rather than making more programs.

That risked making television more ''homogenous'', given the production companies that made the programs also served commercial networks.

ABC staff will take stopwork action today to protest against the changes.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Health: most fundamental reform since Medicare

Julia Gillard has launched the Government's hospital funding agreement with the states and territories, describing it as "the most fundamental change since Medicare".

Under the deal, the states will get an extra $175 billion over the next 20 years and the Commonwealth will fund 50 per cent of public hospital costs.

The agreement has come 15 months after former prime minister Kevin Rudd announced he had the support of all states except Western Australia.

Ms Gillard says the new agreement will provide:

  • 2.9 million extra cases in emergency departments
  • 2 million additional in-patient services, such as major surgery or treatment for severe conditions
  • 19 million more outpatient consultations, such as minor surgery or physiotherapy.

Key initiatives

  • A 4-hour target for emergency waiting times
  • A target that 100 per cent of elective surgery patients get their operations on time
  • Less waste, with hospitals funded for what they actually deliver
  • Greater local control of hospitals
  • Improved levels of public reporting on health services and expenditure

Ms Gillard says the deal will enable faster access to emergency department and elective surgery procedures, through the establishment of a 4-hour target for emergency waiting times, greater local control of hospitals, and less wasted funding.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Gillard govt: Ratification of ILO conventions

01 August, 2011 | ACTU Media Release

Australia’s ratification of three International Labour Organisation Conventions is a significant achievement which sends an important message to about the value and respect for workers’ rights.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said unions welcomed the Government’s commitment to upholding the ILO standards for Australian workers.

The three conventions to be ratified include the Convention Concerning Safety in the Use of Asbestos, the Protocol to the Occupational Health and Safety Convention 1981 (No. 155) and the Part-Time Work Convention.

“All of these standards provide important safeguards for workers’ rights and their ratification is an additional protection,” Ms Kearney said. “The ratification also means Australia’s compliance with these important standards will be regularly reviewed by the ILO supervisory bodies.”

Ms Kearney said the ratification would also send a strong message within our wider region about the importance of respect for international labour standards.

The Part Time Work Convention focuses on ensuring part-time workers have the same rights as their full-time counterparts, including in areas of occupational health and safety, discrimination, rights to organise and bargain collectively and leave entitlements. It also requires part-time workers receive a basic wage that, proportionately, is no lower than the basic wage of a full-time worker.

“Ratification of this convention is an important step towards ensuring quality part-time work in Australia so that people can afford to meet their living costs, however it is important to remember that over half of all Australian part-time workers are employed on a casual basis and are not protected under this convention,” Ms Kearney said.

“Unions are adamant that Australia needs to do more to ensure that all part-time work in Australia – including that done by casual employees – is decent quality work. We will be campaigning over coming years to improve the rights of all insecure workers, including part-time casuals.”

Ms Kearney said the Asbestos Convention (No. 162) required all states to implement laws and regulations to protect workers against health hazards from exposure in the workplace to asbestos.

“Ratification of this convention is an important step in the ongoing efforts for an asbestos-free Australia,” Ms Kearney said. “Australia had the highest per capita use of asbestos in the world from the 1950s until the 1980s, but after years of concerted campaigning by unions and other interested groups, the importation, production and use of asbestos was completely banned in Australia in 2003.

“But there is still much work to be done in ensuring adequate compensation to those affected by the deadly material and to eradicate asbestos in Australia.”

Ms Kearney said unions also welcomed the Government’s ratification of the Protocol to the Occupational Health and Safety Convention, which focuses on ensuring employers record and notify relevant authorities of accidents and diseases at work. It also requires states to establish and periodically review requirements and procedures for this reporting.