Thursday, September 29, 2011

Australia: Casual work crisis

Speaking at the launch of a national campaign against the spread of casual and contract work, ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said more workers than ever were employed on an "insecure basis".

"What we have in Australia now is a crisis of insecure work," he told union members in Sydney today.

"No longer are there jobs that you can rely on to support families in Australia.

"Insecure work has impacted on people who need a regular income that is required to support their families."

Mr Lawrence said there were now more insecure workers than ever before and that "every year that number is growing faster".

"Insecure work is no longer, if it ever was in fact, the domain of students, or those caring for children," he said.

There are more than two million workers nationwide employed on a casual basis, while about one million workers are contractors, Mr Lawrence said.

This includes some 66 per cent of workers in the hospitality sector who are casuals and 40 per cent of retail staff.

Mr Lawrence said many more sectors such as finance and education were embracing casualised work.

"It means, for example, that if you're a graduate teacher today you're more likely to be on a fixed term contract than ongoing work," he said.

"Some 16 per cent of teachers are now on fixed term contracts."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wanthagi: Cracks in crane

Thiess Degremont spokeswoman Serena Middleton said the workers were evacuated for safety reasons.

"There was a crack detected in a weld on one of the tower cranes - 120 workers were sent home because there were no alternative duties for them," she said.

The scare comes as Electrical Trades Union members claimed Thiess Degremont had mismanaged the project.

Workers said they wait for up to three weeks for tools from the plant's storeroom that could have been bought at Bunnings.

Jobs that should take 10 minutes have been delayed for up to two days while workers wait for a crane to deliver parts to the right section of the job.

Workers also claimed electrical wiring was delayed for almost three months after a tray supporting cables collapsed, according to statements to a Fair Work Australia hearing.

ETU secretary Dean Mighell said management mistakes were frustrating workers.

"This is the worst managed job I have seen in 24 years as a union official," he said.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

60 years ago: Referendum kills Red Bill

McClintock Cartoon 1951
Symposium: The Communist Party Dissolution Bill – 60 Years On
Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, 8 May 2010.

George Williams:

Doc Evatt invested his considerable energy into the fight against the referendum. Despite a lack of support from many sections of the Labor Party, Evatt travelled thousands of kilometres to address numerous meetings. His advocacy for the ‘no’ vote was based less on logic than upon a heartfelt awareness that the referendum proposal contravened fundamental democratic freedoms.

Evatt argued that the referendum proposal would grant the Commonwealth despotic powers that could be used to deal indiscriminately with the enemies of the Government. At times, Evatt sought to associate the proposal with the techniques of Hitler. In four weeks of campaigning Evatt turned the tide of support for a ‘yes’ vote towards a ‘no’ vote. Evatt had tapped the traditional reticence of the Australian people to support constitutional change. Even vehement anti-communists like Jack Lang, Archbishop Daniel Mannix and Laurie Short came to back Evatt’s position.

The referendum failed to gain the support of a majority of electors by a narrow margin, 2,317,927 ‘yes’ votes to 2,370,009 ‘no’ votes. Menzies was bitter about the loss, accusing the proponents of a ‘no’ vote of misleading the public with a ‘wicked and unscrupulous’ campaign.

Evatt won a crucial victory for himself, the Labor Party and Australia by leading the defeat of the referendum. Commenting upon the result he said:

"I regard the result as more important than half a dozen general elections. The consequences of a mistaken vote in an election verdict can be retrieved. But an error of judgement in this constitutional alteration would tend to destroy the whole democratic fabric of justice and liberty."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

OXFAM: Stop Land Grabs

From Uganda to Honduras and Peru to South Sudan, irresponsible investors are acquiring land that's classed as 'unused' or 'underdeveloped', but which is actually being used by small-scale farmers to grow food or support their community in some way.

Farming communities are often violently evicted and left without the land they relied on for their livelihoods. In recent months, Oxfam has been investigating how land grabs have pushed thousands of people into poverty.

In the coming weeks, we'll be letting you know about our findings -- and how you can help put an end to this scandal by taking on the culprits.

To start things off, we've produced this video -- based on Glengarry Glen Ross, the 1992 film where real-estate salesmen will do anything to make a profit.

Please share it far and wide, and help us start a conversation about how land grabs are impacting people's lives. Help stop land grabs now:

Chevron: Sham Foreign Visas Rort

The MUA uncovered evidence of visa rorting by Allseas when a meeting of union members on the Highland Navigator identified foreign crew being paid less than half the rate being paid to their Australian counterparts in the industry.

“Maritime contractors engaged by Chevron have engaged in systematic rorting of visas requirements for foreign workers,” MUA WA Branch Secretary Chris Cain said.

“The MUA is calling on the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, to order an immediate investigation of these rorts and take appropriate action against this apparent breach of Australia’s immigration laws and visa requirements.”

MUA Deputy National Secretary Mick Doleman said this is the third time in as many years that mistreatment of foreign workers on the North West shelf has been uncovered.

“It seems unscrupulous employers think they can get away with this type of conduct which is nothing short of disgraceful,” Mr Doleman said.

“There’s unimaginable profit to be made in offshore oil and gas, yet these companies want to rip off both foreign workers and Australian workers. This also raises serious questions for the Department of Immigration if this can happen.

“The Australian people want decency, transparency and job security for all workers whether they be Australian or foreign, but it seems none of these three criteria have been met in this case.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

TWU: Qantas 4am doorknocks

Today’s industrial action by members of the Transport Workers’ Union of Australia has seen Qantas workers alarmed and distressed by representatives of the company delivering threatening letters to employees in the middle of the night.

“Welcome to the New Spirit of Australia.” the National Secretary of the TWU Tony Sheldon said today,

“These employees were delivered official letters from Qantas under cover of darkness from 10pm to 4am this morning.   Most had families woken by loud knocks on the door by Qantas messengers hell bent on delivering Qantas letters.

“A number of the letters’ recipients thought it was the police or someone else delivering bad news. It makes you wonder how Qantas thought this was sound management practice.

“The fact that Qantas would rather go out in the dead of night delivering letters to shocked and frankly worried staff speaks volumes about why unions are unable to reach any reasonable settlement. The question for Alan Joyce and Qantas Chairman Leigh Clifford is ‘who endorsed this disgraceful strategy?’” Mr Sheldon said.

To rub insult into injury, Qantas workers were also locked out today and prevented from resuming work after deciding to shorten the industrial stoppage.

Qantas management rejected efforts by their own workers to resume work early in the interests of the travelling public.

“Qantas is now in a sorry state. They put management pay up by 50% to 71%, sacked a thousand workers, junked their international business, then when night falls they knock on the door of employees, some of who earn as little as $37,000 per year base.

“If this is the new spirit, then it is a sad day for Australia and the iconic brand of Qantas “ said Mr Sheldon.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stand Up For Super

19 September, 2011 | ACTU Media Release

The average 25-year-old worker could lose $143,000 from their planned retirement savings if Parliament does not support the Labor Government’s plan to increase their Superannuation Guarantee to 12%.

Unions will today launch a new campaign to increase the Superannuation Guarantee to 12% amid uncertainty about whether Parliament will support the Labor Government’s plan to improve security in retirement for all Australian workers.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said the new campaign, Stand Up for Super, would be led by a petition of Australian workers addressed to Members of Parliament.

The campaign is being launched online today at It includes an online calculator so workers can see how much more in retirement income they would have with a 12% Superannuation Guarantee.

"Workers deserve a comfortable retirement but the current 9% contribution rate simply means that will not be an option for many Australians," Mr Lawrence said.

He said 8.4 million Australians would receive an increase in their retirement incomes as a result of the Government’s proposed reforms, which would come into effect in July next year.

The reforms mean a worker aged 30 today on average weekly earnings would retire with an additional $108,000 in superannuation. And even someone the same age who can expect interrupted working patterns due to parenting responsibilities would have an extra $78,000 in retirement savings,

"The Government has shown leadership in this important area, but to date Tony Abbott has refused to commit to improving superannuation outcomes, which would be funded by the passage of the Minerals Rent Resource Tax," Mr Lawrence said. "Given the Liberal Party’s history of opposing improvements to the superannuation system since compulsory super began in the 1990s, we can have no confidence they will support this change either.

"Unions fought long and hard for superannuation to be introduced at all in the 1990s, despite opposition from business and the conservative side of politics, who argued the sky would fall in at the time.

"In contrast to the claims of business, Australia’s economic prosperity has thrived and we remain one of the wealthiest nations in the world. However, this is not reflected in the retirement incomes of many Australians who will not have enough money to retire on if employer contributions are stuck at 9%.

"The proposed reforms will also help address the challenges of an ageing population.

"Over the next 10 years, $85 billion will be added to Australia's pool of superannuation savings. A proportion of these savings will be channelled back into the Australian economy to fund jobs and nation-building infrastructure."

Mr Lawrence said unions had already secured super contributions of more than 9% for about 2 million workers through collective bargaining and aimed to extend that through the workforce.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Greeks beware of EU gifts

George Galloway September 2011

It is three years since the masters of the universe at Lehman Brothers went supernova.

The financial crisis unleashed then has morphed around the world and shows no sign of abating.

Indeed the normally news-light summer months brought a slew of shocking surveys revealing falling business confidence, plummeting employment and economic activity from the US, through to Europe to Japan.

Of the big zones of the world economy, only China showed a pulse.

Now we stand on the brink of further round of chaos and collapse.

Talk of a double-dip or W-shaped recession is misplaced. We have had no recovery to speak of and instead have been locked into an L-shaped limbo for many months, shuffling towards another precipice.

The full scale of what lies in store is only beginning to register in the public consciousness. The riots last month were a foretaste of the social consequences of the slash-and-burn policies which Cameron, Osborne and Clegg are pursuing.

Look to Latin America, Africa and Asia at so many points over the last 30 years and you see the effects of structural adjustment programmes designed to hammer public spending and squeeze the public as a whole in order to meet the insatiable appetite of private bankers.

Put simply, people die - and more of them and younger.

And make no mistake - what is being imposed on Britain, Europe and elsewhere is a structural adjustment programme of that kind, not merely some unwelcome cuts that will be reversed after a few years of growth, for growth is the last thing that the austerity-mongers are talking about.

To see where all this is leading, look at Greece. In the business section of the news broadcasts the economic data flashes across the screen and talking heads refer to "bond yields," "haircuts," "rescheduling" and an alphabet soup of international agencies and the latest European financial initiatives.

Grey is the dismal science of economics. Blood red is the reality behind this blizzard of buzzwords.

Children returned to school in Greece last week. They are without textbooks - the education ministry does not have the money to print them - and soon many may be without teachers.

The troika of the IMF, European Union and European Central Bank which is enforcing the savagery flounced out of Athens a few weeks ago saying that Greece had not slashed enough.

The government swiftly announced the immediate sacking of 10,000 public-sector employees, with another 10,000 after, on top of the mass redundancies already underway.

Pay for many households - not the shipping magnates and business elite, of course - has fallen 20 per cent.

Now, in another panic move to secure October's tranche of loans to stave off bankruptcy, the Greek government is imposing a €2 billion tax on housing. It is simply going to add the charge to household electricity bills. Greece has a state-owned electricity company that will cut off anyone who doesn't pay the tithe. It is of course a supreme irony lost on the free marketeers that they are demanding that that enterprise is privatised and broken-up, which had it already happened would now deprive the government of income and revenue-raising power.

Such ironies are built in to this Greek tragedy because the entire play is in the theatre of the absurd.

The European elites seem surprised that by forcing Greece - and before it Ireland - to destroy large chunks of the economy, that the result has been a greater gap between government revenue and the amount it must spend, increasingly to the banks.

But you don't have to be an economics Nobel laureate to know that if the economy shrinks, then the amount paid in tax goes down while the amount paid in welfare - minimal in Greece - and in debt repayments - huge - tends to go up.

Yet this kind of austerity dogma, which tipped the world into the Great Depression of the 1930s, is now being inflicted on Greece and here too.

So obviously destructive are the results that doubts are expressed even among the partisans of capitalist globalisation.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Labour History Conference

Twelfth Biennial Labour History Conference

15-17 September 2011

Manning Clark Centre ANU

The conference is being organised jointly by the Canberra Region Branch of ASSLH with the National Centre for Biography, ANU. The theme of the conference will be Labour History and its People, with particular emphasis on the role of biography in the study of Australian labour history.

more information

UnionNSW: Electoral Funding Challenge

Unions Consider Legal Challenge To Electoral Funding Laws
14 September, 2011

Unions will launch a legal challenge against the NSW Government's electoral funding legislation if it passes in its current form.

The laws are worse than initially expected and would strip unions of their capacity to campaign for the rights of working people.

Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon said the laws represented a fundamental assault on the political expression of working people.

"If these laws pass in their current form, unions will be unable to run campaigns such as Your Rights at Work, which was instrumental in restoring the hard won advances of working people over the last century," Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon said.

"The O'Farrell Government is deliberately tilting the rules in favour of wealthy individuals who have the individual capacity to donate money to political campaigns.

"Should these laws pass in their current form we will mount a legal challenge."

The legislation would stop peak bodies like Unions NSW levying its affiliates for funds in an election environment.

Mr Lennon said fundamental principles such as freedom of association and political expression were at stake.

"Just last week, 35,000 working people gathered in the Domain to express their frustration with this Government's attack on public sector workers and a short time later we see another attack on their rights.

"Working people have always achieved their political aims through collective action and with these laws, the O'Farrell Government has sought to silence us.

"I call on all members of the Upper House to reject these laws."

ACTU: Asbestos safeguards

An Asbestos Safety Certificate should be required every time a residential property is sold or leased in order to protect future generations of Australians from asbestos diseases.

Under a proposal by the ACTU, properties would be audited for asbestos so that residents or buyers were fully-informed of any health risks.

It is estimated that more than a million houses in Australia contain asbestos, which was banned from production in 1988. More than 500 Australians die each year from the asbestos disease, mesothelioma, and these numbers are expected to increase over the next decade.

The proposal for an Asbestos Safety Certificate is in the ACTU’s submission to the Commonwealth Government’s Asbestos Management Review. It says all  asbestos should be removed from the built environment by 2030.

“Unions have successfully campaigned to end the production and export of asbestos from Australia, and to obtain proper compensation for mesothelioma victims and their families,” Ms Kearney said.

“But here we are in 2011, and the number of Australians dying from mesothelioma is on the rise, with a 10% rise in new cases to 660 recorded in the most recent statistics. It is simply unacceptable that more than two decades since the use of asbestos in construction was banned, we have growing numbers of people dying from its effects.

“Clearly the dangers to health from asbestos didn’t end when we stopped mining asbestos or started to ban the use of asbestos in the 1980s, or when we stopped importing it in 2004.

“Australia had one of the highest rates of asbestos consumption per capita in the world and most of that asbestos is still in place and is deteriorating.

“Every third domestic dwelling built in Australia before 1982 is thought to contain asbestos – that’s more than a million houses. It is in our homes, our schools and hospitals and our workplaces.

“Workers in every sector have been affected. Even family members have lost their lives through exposure to asbestos brought home from the workplace. Today, home renovators make up the largest proportion of all non-work cases of mesothelioma and it is time we turned this around.

“That is why in our submission we have also called for a national audit of asbestos in buildings across the country, with priority on Government-owned buildings, as well as asbestos dump sites.

“A failure by our nation to deal comprehensively with ACMs would condemn future generations to continued death and suffering.”

Other recommendations the ACTU made in its submission to the Government’s review included:

  • Establishment of a stand-alone National Asbestos Authority
  • Prioritised removal to get rid of asbestos, starting with Government-owned buildings
  • An education and awareness campaign as an important component of an asbestos strategy
  • Asbestos must only be removed by licensed removalists

NSW: Community Cabinet Meeting

NSW Community Cabinet Meeting

19 September 2011, 6.30pm
St Marys Rugby League Club, St Marys

At 6.30 pm the Premier will address a public forum and this will be followed by a question and answer session from the audience.

All members of the public wishing to attend must register prior to the meeting.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Qld: BHP coal mine Workers fight back

BHP has ended negotiations with the three unions representing 4,000 coal mineworkers at its seven Central Queensland operations and issued an ultimatum in the form of a proposed new EA that undermines working and living conditions and attacks families.

The mineworkers will continue their campaign of protected action as the company ramps up its attack for extended overtime, longer rosters and an end to Christmas and Boxing Day as the only two days shut down across its operations.

CFMEU Mining & Energy Queensland District President Stephen Smyth said that for a company that has just raked in a $23.4 billion profit for the year, “BHP is acting like a spoiled greedy bully.

“This is a company that once prided itself on being ‘The Big Australian’ and when it had much smaller profits it actually cared more for its workers, their families and the communities. Now it is all about greed at the expense of fair working conditions, decent accommodation and respect for families and their need to spend time together.

“BHP does not need to further swell its super-profits by attacking workers who provide their wealth nor the families that make up the mining communities that support them. It is a disgrace and our members will continue to fight BHP for a fair go”, he said.

Ansett: Ten year battle for entitlements

14 September, 2011 | ACTU Media Release

Australian unions will today reflect on a 10 year journey alongside thousands of former employees of Ansett airlines to ensure they received as close to 100% of their entitlements as was possible.

The Ansett fleet was grounded by administrators on 14 September 2001, leading to the demise of the 65-year-old airline and one of the largest corporate collapses in Australian history, impacting on the lives of 15,000 employees.

From day one, unions were determined that those workers should not be left out of pocket, and worked closely with administrators KordaMentha over the past decade to extract every cent they could for the workers.

The final dividend payment was made earlier this month, bringing the average payment to 96 cents in the dollar of their entitlements. In total, employees have received $727.5 million in 14 payments.

“The collapse of Ansett destroyed the livelihood of thousands of people, and has caused immense pain over the past decade,” said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

“This has been a long and arduous journey, not only for Ansett employees but for their unions.

“The payment of almost all of their entitlements will not ease that pain, but delivers some justice to the Ansett workforce.

“Shortly after the airline was grounded, the workers faced receiving just a fraction of what they were owed.

“The ACTU and Ansett unions worked tirelessly, both publicly and behind-the-scenes, to ensure the workers were not shortchanged. That included making sure employees were at the front of the queue of creditors, and seeking the administrators realised every possible cent in asset sales and that was paid to the employees.

“No workers should have to go through the same long ordeal as those at Ansett, just to receive what is rightfully their money.”

Ms Kearney said the Ansett collapse had highlighted deficiencies in the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS), most of which have now been rectified by the Gillard Government’s Fair Entitlements Guarantee. It means 97 per cent of eligible workers will receive all the redundancy pay they are owed because of the removal of a cap on redundancy payments at 16 weeks.

“These changes have been in place since January, but need to be enshrined in legislation so that no future government can take them away, and workers are not left in the lurch again,” Ms Kearney said.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

October: The Future Jobs Forum

The Future Jobs Forum to be held next month needs to focus on the crisis of insecure work in Australia, and should not be allowed to become a forum for business groups to attack workers’ rights, say unions.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the Future Jobs Forum would be a valuable opportunity to bring together representatives of workers, employers and government to map out constructive solutions to the challenges faced by the Australian economy.

She said unions will approach the forum with a range of proposals for how jobs can be protected and created in industries such as manufacturing and tourism that are under pressure.

“Australia’s labour market is the envy of the developed world,” Ms Kearney said. “Credit for this must lie with the Labor Government, which protected jobs in Australia through its strong actions to stimulate the economy during the Global Financial Crisis.

“But last month’s small rise in the jobless rate shows we cannot afford to be complacent.

“We cannot accept these job losses as the norm, and there is a need for industry planning to consider issues confronting the manufacturing sector in particular, which is under extraordinary pressure from the booming dollar and unfair competition from illegal foreign dumping.”

Ms Kearney said the jobs forum should address the rise of insecure work and shifting of financial risk from business to households over the past two decades. More than 40% of workers lacks permanent work, either as casuals, contractors, fixed term or labour hire - they do not have all the same rights as the rest of the workforce and cannot plan for the future.

“Insecure work, where millions of Australians have no certainty about their income, or even if they will have a job, from week to week, is building a fragile house of cards in the economy,” Ms Kearney said.

“Non-permanent jobs should exist only where they are absolutely necessary, or when it genuinely offers benefits for both employer and employee. We do not want to see it continue to be used as a way of undermining pay and conditions and shifting the risk from business to workers.”

Ms Kearney said unions were committed to lifting Australia’s rate of productivity growth, but this would not be achieved by taking away workers’ rights.

“Genuine productivity growth will occur through investment in skills, education and training, spending on infrastructure, and investment in technology and innovation.

“The low road of taking away workplace rights and cutting pay and conditions was discredited by WorkChoices, during which productivity growth slowed even further. Employer groups who are gearing up for a new assault on workplace rights should not see the jobs forum as another soapbox for their campaign to take Australia back to WorkChoices.

“Rights at work, along with decent pay and conditions, are an integral part of the solution to Australia’s future prosperity.”

Friday, September 09, 2011

UnionsNSW: 45,000 Strong

Unions have vowed to hit the streets again after more than 45,000 NSW public-sector workers demonstrated against what they say is an attack on their jobs and wages.

Firefighters in uniform, police, teachers, nurses, prison officers, and bus and ferry drivers carried placards and flags into central Sydney shortly after 11am (AEST) on Thursday as the sounds of Bob Dylan blasted from loudspeakers.

The crowd of 35,000 protesters in Sydney was far greater than the union movement's forecast of a 20,000 turnout.

Across regional NSW, another 10,000 made themselves heard, with rallies in Dubbo, Coffs Harbour and Albury each attracting an estimated 1000 demonstrators.

Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon vowed there would be more unrest unless Premier Barry O'Farrell backed down from plans to slash 5000 public service back-office jobs and impose a 2.5 per cent cap on government wages.

"As this campaign continues, we become stronger, co-ordinated, more flexible and united," he told the rally.
"From here, this campaign will continue to roll out politically, in our communities and we'll continue to roll out this campaign industrially as well."

NSW: Robertson budget reply

SMH 9 Sept 2011

Opposition Leader, John Robertson, has derided the inaugural budget of the O'Farrell government as ''the first grisly chapter in the story of a new unfair NSW''.

Delivering his budget reply speech to Parliament yesterday, Mr Robertson also announced a policy to redirect $280 million from a regional relocation program to a policy to support regional businesses and staff.

As up to 40,000 public sector workers gathered in the Domain yesterday for a protest over the government's decision to cap wage rises, Mr Robertson declared: ''That sound you will hear today is the cry of betrayal from tens of thousands of nurses, police, firefighters and other public sector workers.''

He said inflation was forecast to run at 3.6 per cent per year but the workers were being forced to accept rises of only 2.5 per cent.

''When Tony Abbott called Work Choices dead, buried and cremated, Barry O'Farrell was already stomping out into the graveyard to exhume the body,'' he said.

Mr Robertson said there was ''epic disappointment'' about the budget in western Sydney, the central coast, the Hunter and the Illawarra and he repeatedly highlighted the move to restrict the stamp duty exemption for first home buyers to new homes.

The government has argued the measure would stimulate the housing construction market, but Mr Robertson said it was ''a gratuitous poke in the eye'' for first home buyers.

He said the impact of the decision to shed 5000 public sector jobs through voluntary redundancies would ''seep across NSW like slow-acting poison'' and that ''laying off people in uncertain times is exactly the wrong thing to do''.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

British Justice

England's Attorney-General backed judges who handed out harsh sentences following last month's riots. 

Dominic Grieve QC created waves at a Commons committee on the riots, telling MPs he believed the recent rash of harsh sentences was "extremely important" as a deterrent to others.

Mr Grieve denied that the rioters were "in some kind of pariah category."

Appeals are already pending for several high-profile cases.

In one a Brixton student with no prior convictions was jailed six months for taking a £3.50 pack of bottled water. In another two men are facing four years in prison for posting a riot as an "event" on Facebook, despite no riot taking place.

 More than 1,000 people have been charged across England and court papers show most are males from impoverished communities, with an average age of 20.

UnionsNSW: 40,000 Strong

UnionsNSW: Workers Rally

30,000 workers have walked off the job to march in a mass rally in Sydney over the NSW government's wage cap and job cuts today.

NSW parliament has gone into lockdown as the protest begins to march along Macquarie Street.

They have arrived at the Hyde Park fountain and all streets around the park are closed.

Visitors are unable to attend and workers have restricted access with security and police guarding all access points to parliament house.

Speaking on behalf of hospital workers and cleaners at the rally, Margaret Pike said her co-workers at the RPA needed protection.

"We've already gone from 450 to 180 cleaners. Barry O'Farrell you've gone to caviar and the 2.5 per cent will buy us dog biscuits," Mr Park said.

Sydney firefighter Leighton Drury said the O'Farrell Government was offering them an "impossible choice".

"Firefighters have got mortgages and bills to pay. We can't see wages go backwards otherwise we can't pay them," Leighton Drury said.

"We're only asking for a fair go for us and the community."

The crowd has just sent an SMS to Premier Barry O'Farrell's feedback mobile number 0459601230.

They are now distributing the beach balls with Barry O'Farrell's head on them to the crowd.

They chanted "shame Barry shame'' after Premier Barry O'Farrell's 2.5 per cent wages cap policy, which will also strip the Industrial Relations Commission of its power to arbitrate on behalf of public sector workers, was condemned.

Mr Lennon told the crowd more than 30,000 protesters appeared to have turned up.

"Friends, we have a problem, there's too many of us here,'' he told the crowd, evoking wild applause.

"We said there would be at least 20,000 people here today, it looks like ... there are 30,000 people here today.

"If the premier had any doubt about the anger of the public sector, all he has to do is look out the window of Parliament House.''

The crowd started singing 'We're not going to take it' several times during Mr Lennon's address, in which he said the O'Farrell government had launched an "unprecedented attack on public service rights''.

NSW Teachers Federation deputy president Gary Zadkovich: "They changed the law to deny our right to an independent hearing in that very commission. Our salaries and working conditions now are going to be attacked in the next four years by the unfair use of Parliament to enact laws that deny us the same rights as any other employee in this state. I think people out there would understand ... there are times in history when people in a democratic society can exercise their right to strike when the government gets it so wrong."

But Premier Barry O'Farrell has dubbed the mass protest as "pointless''.

Qantas: Profits and Job losses = CEO gains

Qantas's annual report, released yesterday, shows "talking head" Alan Joyce's package totalled $5 million for the year to June 30, compared with $2.9 million previously. Qantas's share price fell 16 per cent in the same period while the airline's profits more than doubled.

His latest package includes $2.04 million in fixed pay and $2.2 million in short-term benefits.. It makes him one of the highest-paid airline chiefs in the world. Richard Anderson, the boss of US airline Delta, received $US8 million last year, while Cathay Pacific's former chief, Tony Tyler, received $HK11.48 million ($1.4 million) in his final full year.

Unions lashed out at the pay rises for Qantas senior executives, which have been disclosed three weeks after the company announced that it would axe 1000 jobs - mostly pilots, engineers and cabin crew.

Richard Woodward, vice-president of the Australian and International Pilots Association, said the rises ''smacked of hypocrisy'' when management urged restraint from its workforce.

''They are taking huge pay rises when they are offshoring jobs to reduce people's pay and get around Australian workplace laws,'' he said. ''There is one rule for them and one for the airline's workers.''

Taxpayers fund mining profits, manufacturing workers miss out

AMWU Sep 08, 2011

New figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the mining industry received more government assistance for operational costs than manufacturing over the past 12 months, despite record mining profit levels.

The ABS figures show that the mining sector received 1.104 billion in federal, state or local government assistance in 2009/10, while manufacturing received $887million.
The figures also show that the mining sector was 5 times as profitable while it was receiving those handouts. (Mining profit margins averaged 33.4%, while average manufacturing sector profit margins were only 6.5% over same period.)

The AMWU says it is outrageous that mining profits are being propped up by government support at the same time as manufacturing is struggling with the high dollar and cheap imports.

AMWU National Secretary, Dave Oliver, said:

“The figures expose the myth that manufacturing relies on government support while mining pays it's own way.

“Manufacturing is far more significant to the economy. It employs 5 times as many people as mining, and contributes far more to training and research & development.

“At the moment, manufacturing is facing significant challenges with the high exchange rate caused by the mining boom.

“It's shocking to see that mining profits are being propped up by the taxpayer, while manufacturing is receiving less government investment.

“Government investment in manufacturing is good value because it delivers important structural outcomes - employment, training and innovation.

“The subsidies big miners are receiving should be redirected to manufacturing, instead of just propping up the miners' massive profit margins.”

NSW: September 8 Rallies

Download flyer

If you go by train, meet us in the 2nd carriage from front 
B’heath 9:08 , 
Katoomba 9:20, 
Leura 9:24, 
Lawson 9:38, 
Springwood 10:00, 
Blaxland 9:45.
Download the full train timetable.

There is also a BUS organised

Our timetable for the day will be tight, it is imperative that you are at the pickup points on time.  The bus will not be able to wait, it will be a quick pickup and go.

Timetable - To Sydney
Ogden's Coaches - (02) 6884 3101

Bus arrives 8.15am and leaves 8.30am sharp
Great Western Hwy, below the Tourist Information Centre

Bus arrives 8.40am and leaves 8.55am sharp
Great Western Hwy outside the hotel opposite Blackheath Railway Station

Bus arrives 9.30am and leaves 9.45am sharp
Great Western Hwy McDonalds restaurant/garage.

The bus will leave Sydney to return home at

Cassandra 0429 234 163

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Don't Risk Coal Seem Gas

Don't Risk Coal Seem Gas

UnionsNSW: Workers suffer under budget cuts

The budget papers reveal at least 5000 public sector jobs will be cut by the O'Farrell Government, with thousands more to go through natural attrition.

Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon said the first budget of the O'Farrell Government would be remembered for undermining public services and the people who deliver them.

"Tonight, thousands of public sector workers will be anxiously pondering their future, hoping their job is not on the chopping block," Mr Lennon said.
"The Government has absolutely no mandate for this, there was no mention of mass job cuts before the election."

The Government must immediately answer a series of questions:
  • Will the 5000 job losses be treated as true 'voluntary' redundancies or will these workers be put on the excess employees list and given no option but to leave the public sector?
  • How many positions will be shed through natural attrition and staff turnover?
  • How will $6 billion in 'efficiency dividends' be achieved and what will it mean for service delivery and jobs?
How will the privatisation of Port Botany affect its workforce and the local community?
"Public sector workers and the broader community have every right to feel duped and let down. This Government promised to improve public services. Instead, they're sacking crucial public sector workers and selling off public assets."

Mr Lennon criticised the Government for drawing an artificial distinction between 'front line' and 'back office' public sector workers.
"The fact is, if you gut the back offices of our public sector agencies, you'll end up drowning police officers, nurses and firefighters in a sea of paperwork," Mr Lennon said.
Unions believe the Government's unfair workplace policies will make recruitment of extra nurses, police and teachers extremely difficult.

The Treasurer spoke of maintaining the real value of wages in his budget speech, yet his own economic forecast shows inflation will outpace the Government's wages cap over the next two years.
"This Government thinks it can attract nurses and teachers to the profession and yet it's offering wages that will go backwards in real terms over the next two years."

Mr Lennon said the Treasurer was risking the health of the NSW economy with today's announcement.
"The Treasurer is telling us today that the NSW economy is in a soft patch, but he's cutting jobs and services. NSW deserves better."

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Save the Sydney Ferries (part 2)

A Song by Balmain Ukelele Club©2009
(To the tune of Lili Marlene with apologies)

To whom it may concern this week, at Transport Ministry
Regarding sale of Ferries as a possibility
If selling the Ferries it's your plan
We oppose it, everyone

Keep our Sydney Ferries, safe in public hands
Yes, keep our Sydney Ferries, safe in public hands.

Our international icon, should stay in public hands
Looking after tourists who come from foreign lands
Customer service that's their game
Private ferries are not the same

Keep our Sydney Ferries, safe in public hands
Yes, keep our Sydney Ferries, safe in public hands.

Homebush to Mosman, Darling Harbour too
While there's nothing like a Ferry to get out to the zoo
Regular commuters cruise the bends
Enjoy the sights and tell their friends.

Keep our Sydney Ferries, safe in public hands
Yes, keep our Sydney Ferries, safe in public hands.

Our famous Manly service, could well go Telstra's way
Why should we sell, when we've already paid
For a public transport system we will fight
To try and sell is just not right

Keep our Sydney Ferries, safe in public hands
Yes, keep our Sydney Ferries, safe in public hands.

So Ministers of Transport, please do think again
If Ferries they go private you will lose your friends
Think of the election and the heat
You'd end up losing lots of seats

Keep our Sydney Ferries, safe in public hands
Yes, keep our Sydney Ferries, safe in public hands.

Balmain Ukelele Club on YouTube:

This post is from almost exactly 2 years ago August 2009 when the Labour Government was trying to privatise the ferries. Unions are again organising to stop Barry "Chopper" O'Farrell from pulling the same old same old. When will we get a government that is willing to take the responsibility they are paid good wages for instead of handing it all over to their mates the modern privateers?

Thanks to Balmain Ukelele Club and Save Our Sydney Ferries for permission to add this song to the BMUC Blog.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Joe Hill: the man who never died

Westword: What inspired your interest in Joe Hill?
William M. Adler: I was reading Bob Dylan's memoir shortly after it came out in 2005, and he devotes three pages where he talks about Joe Hill's influence on Woody Guthrie. He said that if Hill was a forerunner of Woody Guthrie's, that's all he needed to know. But I needed to know a bit more. I was also attracted to the whodunit nature of his story. And another thing fascinating to me is how this was a largely unexplored period of American history. It's the closest Americans had come to an actual class war.
How is Joe Hill relevant today?
A lot of the issues Joe Hill was fighting for are still with us today: the income equality and callous disregard for health insurance. People have been fighting against those things for a long time. Joe Hill stood for the concept of solidarity of working people. In a time when other states are stripping public workers of their collective bargaining rights, we can learn from what the IWW went through. There are many similarities with those times: The economy was rapidly changing, there was a lot of brand-new technology, it was a rising era of capitalism. In a way, we're right back there again.
You say you've uncovered evidence that could exonerate Joe Hill of the murder of a butcher during a botched robbery attempt.
First of all, not everyone knows that Joe Hill was shot on the same night as the grocery store owner who was murdered. It was then alleged that he was shot by the son of the grocer, but the evidence was said to be circumstantial. No one could ever ID Joe Hill, and there was no motive or murder weapon ever found. Hill told a physician who was treating him that he'd been shot in a row with a friend over a woman, but he never named the woman or the friend. But 35 years later, the woman in question came forward and wrote a letter to researcher Aubrey Haan, who was then gathering material for a book about Hill. The book was never published, but her notes remained in an attic in Michigan. My research led me to her survivors, and her daughter went into the attic and found a trove of material. That was a holy cow moment! In there, she detailed how he came to be shot.
How do Joe Hill's songs stand up over decades?
He was not a classic songwriter. He never performed, but his songs, which were written and intended to be sung en masse, were mainly topical and satirical. Sometimes satire doesn't wear very well. Some hold up, but mostly satire written in the crucible of the time wouldn't work that well now. But if Joe Hill were around now, I'm sure he would be out there still, writing modern material.
Do you have a favorite Joe Hill song?
There's a song, "The Preacher and the Slave," that contains what is probably his most famous lyric, which actually helped coin the phrase "pie in sky." It goes like this:
You will eat, by and by,
In that glorious land above the sky
Work and pray, live on hay --
You'll get pie in the sky when you die -- that's a lie!

Friday, September 02, 2011

NSW: Budget cuts will cripple economy

A Unions NSW commissioned report shows that the State has no budget black hole and that public spending must be maintained through the current ‘soft patch'.

"This report confirms what we've suspected, the State Government has confected a budget crisis to explain unjustifiable cuts to services, jobs and wages," Unions NSW Secretary, Mark Lennon said.
"Enough is enough. The Premier cannot keep on referring to a fictional black hole. From here on in, this Government owns all political responsibility for budget cuts."

The report makes four major points

  • There is no budget black hole and cutting either front line or support staff will place undue stress on already stretched services
  • The Government's wages straitjacket will make it difficult to attract and retain good staff and this will worsen due to the national labour shortage
  • A strong infrastructure program is needed to kick start the NSW economy
  • Cutting services will push NSW residents to other states, a further drain on the state's economic growth

"All the indications show that the State Government is preparing a slash and burn budget, but it's not too late to change tack," Mr Lennon said.
"Now more than ever, we need a government that invests in services and infrastructure. The O'Farrell Government must take heed."

See Report

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Kimberly Heritage Listing

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke announced near Broome this morning that more than 19 million hectares of the west Kimberley will be given national heritage listing.

But the Woodside project at James Price Point, 60km north of Broome, will not be included in the listing.

“The west Kimberley belongs on a list of the places which define Australia,” Mr Burke said in a statement.

“Its unique wildlife, stunning coastlines, spectacular gorges and waterfalls, ancient and ongoing Aboriginal cultural traditions as well as its pastoral and pearling history make this one of the most remarkable places in our nation.”

Areas in the west Kimberley identified as having outstanding heritage values and inscribed on the National Heritage List include:

  • The incredible natural beauty of the coast from the Buccaneer Archipelago to the King George River; the Mitchell Plateau; King George Falls; Geikie Gorge, Windjana Gorge and King Leopold Ranges;
  • Rich biodiversity, including many plants, mammals, reptiles, frogs and invertebrates that are found only in this part of Australia;
  • Remnants of a vast coral reef, similar in scale to the Great Barrier Reef, that existed nearly 400 million years ago;
  • Dinosaur footprints on the west coast of the Dampier Peninsula which are remarkable remnant of past life in the region;
  • Ongoing Aboriginal traditions associated with Wanjina and the Rainbow Serpent and spectacular rock;
  • Sites which tell a more recent history including Jandamarra, the dispute at Noonkanbah Station and the drove to Fossil Downs which became the longest overlanding cattle drive in Australia’s history; and
  • Evidence of early contact with Indonesia as well as early European exploration of the Australian continent.

Asylum seekers: High Court bars "Pacific Solution"

Following a challenge by the refugee lawyer David Manne, the High Court ruled the Malaysia plan invalid on the grounds that a third country to which asylum seekers were sent was legally bound to meet three criteria: being bound by international or domestic law
  • to process asylum seekers seeking protection
  • to protect those asylum seekers while being assessed
  • to protect those given refugee status pending their resettlement elsewhere.
Malaysia is not a signatory to the United Nations convention on refugees and the Chief Justice Robert French said Mr Bowen's declaration that Malaysia was an appropriate place to send asylum seekers "was made without power and is invalid".

As the government grapples with the High Court decision, Labor's left faction held crisis talks by telephone and this morning, the factional convener, Stephen Jones, warned the executive against knee-jerk responses.

Doug Cameron says the government should rule out using Nauru or temporary protection visas.
"We can't go down a Pacific solution,"

More details: The High Court's judgment

Equal Pay Day - 50 year battle

The five-year Australia at Work longitudinal study of more than 4000 employees by the University of Sydney's Workplace Research Centre has found a wage gap of more than 8 per cent between men and women on an hourly basis, even after all mitigating factors are taken into account.

The results were obtained after controlling for a broad set of economic and non-economic variables, including age, industry, qualifications, experience, care commitments, workplace size and location and the level of input each employee had in pay negotiations.

The researchers concluded that once all factors were weighted to create a level playing field, women were still being paid 8.2 per cent less than men doing exactly the same work.The largest non-gender-based factor in low pay was the industry in which a person worked, the survey found, with the highest-paying sector being mining and the lowest-paying retail.

A worker from a culturally or linguistically diverse background earned on average 6.8 per cent less than their co-workers, and those working in regional areas earned 8.7 per cent less than counterparts in a capital city.

Those who were employed on a collective agreement were found to have no significant earnings advantage over those on awards, but those who said they were working under an individual agreement earned on average 17.4 per cent more.

However, less than a third of the gender wage gap could be explained by such variables, the survey found, leading the researchers to conclude that the large ''unexplained'' gap was due to gender ''in and of itself''.

The Unions NSW deputy assistant secretary, Emma Maiden, said the study reinforced the need for effective political and industrial campaigning.
''No one is going to hand us equality on a platter. More women need to join trade unions and campaign for equality, just as preceding generations did,'' she said.

The research, which was conducted in partnership with Unions NSW, will be launched today to mark Equal Pay Day, at a function which will pay tribute to the women who fought for equal pay over the past century.

One of those planning to attend is 81-year-old June De Lorenzo from Bondi, who as a bus conductor led the fight for women's workplace rights in the public transport sector for more than five decades. Over the years she fought for the right for women to become bus drivers, then for their right to continue working while pregnant, and for access to the same social benefits as their male colleagues.

In 1986 she became president of the NSW branch of the Tram Rail and Bus Union.
That the gender pay gap remains in 2011 makes her feel ''disgusted'', she said.
''I worked with women who had been deserted by their husbands, rearing kids on their own, yet they were earning less than single men,'' she said.
''It was so unfair. But the days of exploiting women should have been long gone.''