Monday, November 28, 2011

ACTU: Foxtel shirking responsibilities

24 November, 2011 | Media Release

The workers who install home services for pay TV operator Foxtel should have secure jobs and fair pay and conditions in line with Australian workplace standards.

The ACTU is backing a new campaign for secure jobs for pay TV installers, which is launched by the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union today.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said Foxtel was exploiting its pay TV installers, employing them as individual contractors through a labour hire company, which had recently begun cutting their pay and enforcing fines for taking sick days.

“These workers are victims of the epidemic of insecure employment practices across Australia, which is now affecting 40% of the workforce” Ms Kearney said.

“They are employed as individual sub-contractors, which should allow them the benefits of operating their own small business. But Foxtel does not allow them to work for anyone else and the workers have to be available seven days a week, whether it is busy or not.

“Even worse, the installers invest tens of thousands in equipment to be able to work for Foxtel, but they receive no job security. Many tell us they have not taken a holiday in years, as they can’t afford the time off or fear they won’t be given more work.

“They don’t know if they’ll be working the next day until late afternoon, or how many jobs they will get. This approach is an unfair shift of risk from business to workers and leads to enormous financial insecurity for families.

“Insecure work suits employers because it allows them to shift costs onto workers, and it is spreading into sectors that were once seen as havens for permanent and secure jobs.

“Ten per cent of the Australian workforce – more than a million people – are now contractors, and many of them are vulnerable to exactly the same exploitation. They are treated like employees, but have none of the protections or entitlements that genuine employees receive.

“Foxtel is a respected Australian brand, which should take responsibility for installers’ work conditions rather than hiding behind the cover of downstream contractors, hired through contracting firms Downer and BSA.”

Britain: Unions prepare to protect community

Len McCluskey General Secretary Unite

Unite meets in Brighton this week in most troubling times for our country.

Faith in the institutions forming the pillars of national life - from the political class to the press - has collapsed.

Fear stalks the global markets, and yet our political leaders seem incapable of steering a course out of the despair.

At home, our government offers no hope to the millions on the dole. Calls from the sensible majority to rein in economic sadism and instead grow the economy go unheeded, while inhuman ideas like slashing benefits and access to employment tribunals take hold.

Our members understandably look to their union to provide a harbour in this storm.

Growing this union is at the core of how we will provide the vibrant opposition to this government working people need. Organising and the 100 per cent drive - priorities for each and every officer - will build Unite into the most formidable force for working people.

Extending the reach of this union informs another Unite initiative - the launch of our community membership.

By getting back into our communities we can remind them our values are theirs too. And if we don't reach out, then who will?

Unite will remain first and above all an organisation representing people at work. But if working people know what Unite is and what we can offer even before they enter or re-enter the workplace, then we become a natural and integral part of the fabric of their lives, from cradle to grave.

We are in the midst of an economic crisis of epic proportions. In the 1970s such crises were blamed wrongly on over-powerful trade unions. Today no-one can deny that it is unregulated, untamed capitalism to blame.

Giving free rein to the greed and drive for profit has brought us to the brink of a second recession.

Unemployment is at its highest for a generation - one million young people out of work and facing a future of despair while child poverty soars once again.

Save Tarkine

MUA: Aussie Resources, Local Jobs

Make sure the resource boom benefits Australian workers - not corporate giants!

Say no to Chevron using foreign labour instead of Australians!

Rally with the MUA:
Tues 29th November, 12noon, The Esplanade - Perth Foreshore

Vic: Unions on the march

As the Victorian Government celebrates a year in office, the state's 23,000-plus public sector workers have issued a bitter birthday demand - cough up with big pay rises or face industrial strife.

Buoyed by the site of thousands of Victorian nurses last week clogging city streets to rally for better pay, a string of other unions today accused the Government of broken promises and massive cuts across the sector.

Unions represented included teachers, ambulance paramedics, child protection workers, disability workers, tertiary education workers and psychiatric workers.

And the state's nurses, seeking an 18.5 per cent pay rise over three years and eight months, were busy preparing for court action in their dispute, according to Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Brian Boyd.

The Government's public sector wages policy is for 2.5 per cent a year plus productivity improvements.

Australian Education Union Victorian president Mary Bluett said the state police and nurses had led the way in the battle for more pay, and the police win of a 19 per cent overall increase had set the "benchmark" for other unions.

"Right across the public sector and teachers in particular have looked at the outcome for police and certainly we see that as the new benchmark and the very tough stance the nurses have taken and their support they've attracted from the Victorian community, we hope and expect that support will be forthcoming in the event teachers are forced to take industrial action," she said.

Before he was elected to office, now Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu promised the state's teachers would be the highest paid in Australia.

But his first 12 months in government have been marked by big cuts to education and pay rise offers well below the eight per cent Ms Bluett said was being offered to West Australian teachers.

Mr Boyd said the Baillieu government had cut deep right across the public sector, not just teachers.

"In one year, he has already made $2.2 billion worth of cuts to education, health care, emergency services and employment assistance for young people..." he said.

"Victorian unions will not stand by and allow the Baillieu government to tear apart our state services."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Abbott throws away Slipper

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has no one to blame but himself for the circumstances that led to the defection of Liberal MP Peter Slipper to the crossbenches, the federal government says.

Government Leader of the House Anthony Albanese said even losing a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives was pretty careless but Mr Abbott had just lost an MP.

Mr Albanese zeroed in on the opposition's hardball approach to the pairing of MPs in the current parliament, under which Mr Abbott has declined to countenance absence of any Labor MP from any vote in the finely balanced parliament, other than in exceptional circumstances.

Under the Australian constitution, the Speaker doesn't get a vote, although the convention has been for the Speaker to be paired with an opposition MP to ensure fairness.

The opposition stance left the government a vote down when Labor's Harry Jenkins was the Speaker.

But with Mr Jenkins's return to the back bench and Mr Slipper's ascension to the speakership, the government has effectively picked up two votes.

Mr Albanese said the government this year had sought an arrangement with the opposition whereby whoever was in the chair wouldn't change the vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

'Tony Abbott walked away from it,' Mr Albanese told reporters.

'It is Tony Abbott's responsibility completely that he finds himself in this position.'

Pairing is a longstanding practice whereby one side of politics agrees to absent one of its MPs from a vote in parliament when an MP from the other side is also absent.

Mr Abbott has already been blamed for failing to rein in the Queensland Liberal National Party (LNP), which was considering preselecting former Howard government minister Mal Brough in place of Mr Slipper, leaving the longtime Liberal MP with nothing to lose.

Mr Albanese also rejected suggestions that Mr Jenkins had been offered an inducement such as a diplomatic posting to stand aside.

'Harry Jenkins is a person of integrity. He has chosen the path that he's now on to participate as the Labor member for Scullin (in Melbourne),' he said.

'There is no deal with Harry Jenkins. It is what it is.'

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

WA: Heritage under attack

On 28 October, at Fortesque Metals Group’s (FMG) Solomon Project in the Pilbara, the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) discovered that FMG had desecrated an ochre quarry and destroyed part of a creek where sacred Gandi are found (stones used in initiation rituals). The WA Department of Indigenous Affairs (DIA) and the Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee (ACMC) were informed of these sites, but no action to halt or mitigate this damage has been taken.

That such damage can occur when YAC has previously provided the DIA with information regarding these sites, is proof positive of the DIA's inability to effectively monitor or enforce the State's heritage protection regime, or stop FMG from desecrating and destroying highly significant heritage and religious sites.

The Yindjibarndi People have appealed to the Hon. Tony Burke (Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) to use his power under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act to make an emergency declaration to stop FMG doing more irretrievable damage. “The tragedy is that every moment spent waiting for Mr Burke to act, means more destruction, more knowledge lost,” said Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation CEO, Michael Woodley.

Fresh FMG legal threats against the WA Registrar of Aboriginal Sites, Kathryn Przywolnik, and a deepening crisis surrounding protection of Yindjibarndi heritage from FMG operations, makes Federal intervention more urgent than ever.

Registrar Przywolnik recently informed FMG that its latest section 18 Notice seeking ministerial consent to impact on Yindjibarndi heritage sites is “inadequate”, legally unsafe and should be withdrawn. The Registrar’s decision expresses no confidence in the heritage reporting of FMG in the strongest of terms, and confirms the grave doubts and objections consistently expressed by the YAC.

Poultry workers win equal pay concession

Chicken workers have won significant restrictions on the use of contract and cash-in-hand labour, with Baiada Poultry agreeing to pay temporary workers the same rates as permanent staff.

The National Union of Workers has said cash-in-hand workers were paid as little as $8 an hour at Baiada in Laverton North, and a mass meeting of workers yesterday welcomed the news of a two-year collective deal with cries of ''no more $10 [an hour]''.

Union organiser Godfrey Moase told workers they would get a 4 per cent annual pay rise, redundancy entitlements would be more than doubled, and all casual and contract labour would be paid at least the minimum site rates.

The agreement is a significant shift from Baiada and the NUW has said nearly half the 430 workforce at Laverton North were contractors, cash-in-hand or temporary labour. Most of the workforce are migrants and yesterday's meeting was translated into Vietnamese.

NUW organiser Tim Gunstone told the meeting that the court action, along with a $1.7 million damages claim against the union, had been dropped as part of the settlement.

Read more:

ACTU: Reckless employers

22 November, 2011 | ACTU Media Release

Unions have today resolved to vigorously defend workers’ rights against a new wave of employer militancy that is threatening the livelihoods of working Australians.

A meeting of unions in Melbourne today has condemned the antagonistic and counter-productive behaviour of Australian employers emboldened by the Qantas dispute, and pledged to strengthen protections for workers’ rights against being railroaded by aggressive tactics by business.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the peak body’s Executive had today resolved to seek improvements to the Fair Work Act, including allowing workers better rights to bargain for job security and strengthening access to arbitration in an even-handed manner.

“A new pattern of industrial militancy by employers has emerged following the reckless and disproportionate action of Qantas management to ground its entire fleet and threaten to lock out its workforce last month,” Ms Kearney said.

“This deliberate escalation needlessly disrupted the plans of tens of thousands of passengers and caused enormous damage to the national economy and to Qantas’ reputation. It is of serious concern that Alan Joyce and Qantas management claim to have had other major employers endorse this action.

“It is clear employers have been emboldened by Qantas’ action, in particular Liberal State Governments, including the Baillieu Government in Victoria, which prepared a secret strategy to provoke an escalation of the dispute with the state’s nurses. None of this is in the spirit of bargaining in good faith, as envisaged by the Fair Work Act.

“Productive and co-operative industrial relations are not achieved by declaring war on a company’s workforce and customers. Workers should be able to seek secure jobs and better pay and conditions without threats of lock-outs, big fines or punitive legal action, the use of strike-breakers or thugs to physically disrupt peaceful picket lines, or by other similar tactics.

“Harmonious and productive industrial relations are achieved through genuine negotiation and engagement with workers and their unions, not by making them the enemy. Responsible business and political leaders should disown such tactics as counterproductive in the workplace and contrary to the national interest.”

The ACTU Executive today resolved to pursue explicit reforms in the ALP platform at next month’s national conference to improve the ability of workers to negotiate for secure jobs, and to strengthen the rights of workers to have access to arbitration to settle disputes.

“Secure jobs matter to all workers. With 40% of the workforce in casual, contract or labour hire employment, unions are determined to campaign in workplaces and communities for a better future for these workers.

“We will take this campaign to next week’s ALP Conference and beyond,” Ms Kearney said.

Hacking comes home to roost

Federal police are investigating allegations that News Ltd offered a then-serving federal senator a ''special relationship'' involving favourable coverage if he crossed the floor on a vote of financial interest to the company.

The investigation was sparked by a statement given to them by the former Nationals senator, Bill O'Chee, who alleges a News Ltd executive said he would be ''taken care of'' if he crossed the floor.

The inquiry has been secret until today due to sensitivities around those involved.Mr O'Chee, a Queensland senator between 1990 and 1999, has had a long and difficult relationship with the Murdoch press, which spent years reporting on his large parliamentary superannuation payout and an acrimonious split with his first wife.

The incident came to light during a recent conversation at an Australian airport between Mr O'Chee and a sitting MP, involving the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

The MP said they doubted anything similar would be unearthed in Australia's independent media inquiry. Mr O'Chee then relayed the incident.

The conversation was brought to the attention of the federal police last month. The matter is being investigated by the special references unit which deals with sensitive political inquiries.

The allegations centre on proposed legislation regarding the creation of digital television in Australia, a bill called the Television Broadcasting Services (Digital Conversion) Act.

Read more:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stop Canadian Exports of Asbestos

Friday 25 November 2011
3 pm
Canadian Consulate
111 Harrington St, Sydney
(Behind the Four Seasons Hotel) near Circular Quay Railway Station

Canadian Exports of Asbestos

The ILO has stated that asbestos is the world’s biggest ever industrial killer, with one person dying every five minutes from this fatal fibre. Yet the Canadian asbestos industry continues to be one of the world’s top asbestos exporters, with more than 95% of Canadian produced asbestos being exported; largely to the developing world.

Bans on asbestos imports were planned for introduction in South East Asian at the beginning of 2004. Shamefully these were postponed, following intense lobbying by the asbestos industry, led by Canadian exporters. While asbestos sheeting has been banned in western countries, it is being sold to the impoverished peoples of India and South East Asia as a cheap way to provide housing for their families

Canada can proudly claim to be at the forefront in many areas of social and economic responsibility. It is certainly a very dark stain on that country’s reputation that the Canadian asbestos industry, supported by the Government, has been aggressively targeting the world’s most vulnerable people for its poisonous products.

Friday 25 November is the day of International Mourning for people who have lost their lives as a result of exposure to asbestos.

We ask that all affiliates join with victims of asbestos diseases and their families in a small protest delegation to meet with the Canadian Consul General in opposition to Canadian asbestos exports.
Organised by Australian Manufacturing Workers Union

Gingrich: "Put poor kids to work"

The comment came in response to an undergrad’s question about income equality during his talk at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

“This is something that no liberal wants to deal with,” Gingrich said. “Core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization against children in the poorest neighborhoods, crippling them by putting them in schools that fail has done more to create income inequality in the United States than any other single policy. It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid.

“You say to somebody, you shouldn’t go to work before you’re what, 14, 16 years of age, fine. You’re totally poor. You’re in a school that is failing with a teacher that is failing. I’ve tried for years to have a very simple model,” he said. “Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising.”

By combining union bashing with child labor law bashing, Gingrich hits the rightwing daily double.

Remember when children were not “entrapped” by those “stupid” laws?

Himalayan states agree climate pact

Monday 21 November 2011

Four Himalayan states have agreed to collaborate on ways to combat climate change following a two-day summit in Bhutan.

India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan were part of the Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas held in Thimphu.

They agreed to work together to increase access to "affordable and reliable" clean energy resources and technology.

The deal also covers ways to adapt and improve food production and help vulnerable communities get better access to nutritious food.

The UN World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) warned today that heat-trapping carbon dioxide concentrations in the air have reached 389 parts per million - the highest concentration since the start of the industrial era in 1750.

Between 1990 and 2010, according to the report, there was a 29% increase in radiative forcing - the warming effect on our climate system - from greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide accounted for 80% of this increase.

“The atmospheric burden of greenhouse gases due to human activities has yet again reached record levels since pre-industrial time,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “Even if we managed to halt our greenhouse gas emissions today – and this is far from the case – they would continue to linger in the atmosphere for decades to come and so continue to affect the delicate balance of our living planet and our climate.”

“Now more than ever before, we need to understand the complex, and sometimes unexpected, interactions between greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, Earth’s biosphere and oceans. WMO will continue to collect data to further our scientific knowledge through its Global Atmosphere Watch network spanning more than 50 countries, including stations high in the Andes and Himalayas, in the remote expanses of Alaska and in the far South Pacific,” he said.

Greenhouse gases trap radiation within the Earth’s atmosphere causing it to warm. Human activities, such as fossil fuel burning and agriculture, are major emitters of greenhouse gases which are drivers of climate change. After water vapour, the three most prevalent long-lived greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.


Monday, November 21, 2011

VIC: Nurses and midwives vote to continue fight

ANF: 21 November 2011

Victorian nurses and midwives fighting to save and improve nurse/midwife patient ratios voted this afternoon to continue to fight and take unprotected industrial action across Victoria's public hospitals.

Victorian nurses and midwives fighting to save and improve nurse/midwife patient ratios voted this afternoon to continue to fight and take unprotected industrial action across Victoria's public hospitals.

This afternoon's meeting at Festival Hall in West Melbourne also voted to march to Parliament House on Thursday to call on Premier Baillieu to step in and fix this dispute.

Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian Branch) Lisa Fitzpatrick said: "Minister Davis has forced nurses into this position because he rejected our 4 November olive branch of gentler bans, when nurses and midwives voted to implement paperwork bans and wear T-shirts. This was designed to enable constructive talks and could have avoided bed closures and surgery cancellations from 12 November.

"Minister Davis also rejected His Honour Justice Boulton's proposal for consent arbitration which would have enabled the matters in dispute such as nurse patient ratios, the requirement to have registered and enrolled nurses and shift lengths to be included in that arbitration," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

"The ANF was agreeable to lift the bans and agree to consent arbitration, but Minister Davis rejected the Boulton solution and declared he would only be satisfied with restricted mandatory full arbitration as outlined in the secret plot he signed on 5 May," she said.

"The dispute isn't about wages, if it was we'd achieve a substantial increase, certainly above 2.5 per cent, in forced arbitration. Minister Davis's secret plot acknowledges forced arbitration could deliver significant wage increases to Victorian nurses and midwives. Despite this, Minister Davis is still pushing for forced arbitration demonstrating that more dollars are to be made by abolishing ratios than paying higher wages," she said.

"Nurses and midwives will not trade patient safety for a wage rise. Mandated minimum nurse patient ratios protect patient care," she said.

"Minister Davis has left nurses with no choice. Either they do nothing, retreat and get a 3.5 per cent wage increase and lose nurse patient ratios or they choose to protect their patients by fighting to maintain and improve their nurse patient ratios," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

Conciliation talks between the parties, with the assistance of Commissioner Gooley, resume in Fair Work Australia tomorrow morning.

Important exemptions to the bans are: emergency, neo-natal and paediatric patients, haemodialysis patients, haematology patients, maternity patients, oncology patients, palliative care patients, terminations of pregnancy, intensive care unit, coronary care units, high dependency patients (including medically indicated telemetry) and the Royal Children's Hospital and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Occupy Wall Street (We're Gonna Stay Right Here) - David Rovics

A Song by David Rovics©2011 David Rovics

Because this is where they buy the politicians
Because this is where power has its seat
Because ninety-nine percent of us are suffering
At the mercy of the madmen on this street
Because all of us are victims of class warfare
Being waged on us by the one percent
Because these greedy banksters rob the country
Leaving us without the means to pay the rent
Because the last time that we had a decent government
Was about 1932
Because we the people are supposed to run the country
But instead it's all run by and for the few
Because now we know the rich do not pay taxes
But when they need a hand it's us who bail them out
Because we suspected we lived in a plutocracy
But suddenly of late there is no doubt

And so we're gonna stay right here (2x)

Because both my parents lost their savings
Because I have never opened an account
Because the interest on my credit card just doubled
And now I can't pay the minimum amount
Because these budget cuts are just immoral
With our schools as overcrowded as they are
Because there are no buses where I live
But I can't afford to drive a car
Because so many of us don't have health insurance
The rest of us have it but it sucks
Because the rich are riding in their private jets
While the rest of us are slogging through the muck
Because capitalism isn't working
This system has just failed to produce
Because the one percent is prospering
While the rest of us just suffer their abuse

Because it has been demonstrated amply
That the winners are the ones who stick around 
Because this world should belong to everyone
Not just the banksters who would smash it to the ground
Because we've noticed voting doesn't change things
When the politicians are mostly millionaires 
Because we're learning how to stand up like Tunisians 
Like they did in Tahrir Square 
Where a young man named Mohamed Bouazizi
Struck a match that lit up all the Earth
And all around the world the spell was broken
And a movement for the future was in birth
Because there's only so much sh** the rich can feed us
Before we figure out which side we're on
Because we've learned if we want our liberation
It will come only if we stay here til the rising of the dawn

Because corporations are not people
And we can't just let them choose
Because if we leave our fate to them
Then all of us will surely lose
Because the climate clock is ticking
And we can't just leave our world behind
Because corporate rule isn't working
And it's time for humans' hearts and minds
Because you can't take it with you
Because the rich just do not care
Because it doesn't matter how much you make
But how much you can share
Because these moments don't come often
Because we want truly to be free
Because we know what really matters
Something called society

VIC: NUW Baiada picket

More than 200 images and video clips taken inside the Baiada Poultry plant in Laverton North show uncovered raw chickens sitting atop plastic bags full of chickens as well as cockroaches inside empty storage containers.

Baiada is one of Australia's biggest chicken producers and a main supplier to Coles in Victoria. It owns brands Steggles and Lilydale and also supplies KFC, Aldi and Woolworths.

A worker, Sarel Singh, was decapitated at the Laverton North plant last year and other safety issues are captured in the images including boxes and crates packed precariously and safety exits blocked by bins.

A picket and blockade at the site today enters its 12th day with the company pushing for stronger police intervention to end it after it won Supreme Court orders against the National Union of Workers and the union's staff. The NUW says nearly half the workforce at Laverton North are engaged as contractors, cash-in-hand workers or from labour hire firms with some paid below minimum wage.

Baiada have rejected the claims, but signed statements by former and current workers allege cash in hand workers are paid as little as $8 an hour. One said he was paid every Friday in cash, received no superannuation and worked with about 50 people engaged in the same way.

Worker Phuoc Dang, who has worked at Baiada for 11 years, yesterday said there had been a large increase in temporary workers, particularly after about 50 staff were made redundant in the middle of the year.

A WorkSafe Victoria spokesman said it was still investigating the 2010 death of Sarel Singh.

Read more

Sunday, November 20, 2011

California: Police attack peaceful protest

As some faculty members called for her ouster, the chancellor of University of California Davis launched an inquiry Saturday into the pepper-spraying of apparently peaceful Occupy Davis protesters by campus police.

A video of the Friday incident that went viral on the Web showed a police officer dousing the protesters with a canister of pepper spray as they sat huddled on the ground. The police had been attempting to clear the university's Quad of tents and campers.

Faculty and students reacted with outrage. Nathan Brown, an assistant professor of English, said in an interview that the episode was the latest example of "the systematic use by UC chancellors of police brutality" to suppress protests.

In an open letter, he wrote: "Without any provocation whatsoever, other than the bodies of these students sitting where they were on the ground, with their arms linked, police pepper-sprayed students. Students remained on the ground, now writhing in pain, with their arms linked."

Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi initially did not criticize the police, but she said Saturday that she had since watched the video and reviewed more accounts from the scene.

"It left me with a very bad feeling of what went on," Katehi said in a telephone interview. "There was enough information to show that we need to take a serious look at what happened."

She said she authorized police to remove the tents, but not to use the pepper spray in the manner shown on the video. "Absolutely not," she said.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wage gap increasing

Peter Martin The Age 18 Nov 2011

Australian men earn on average $13,213 more than women, according to a report, marking the largest gender wage gap in 28 years.

The CommSec report released yesterday also shows that the female wage is just 82.1 per cent of the male wage - the smallest proportion in 25 years. Report author Savanth Sebastian, an economist at CommSec, called the gap ''surprising and alarming''.

''We've known for some time that males have been earning a higher wage than females but the gap seems to be widening at a faster pace,'' he said.

Mr Sebastian said the disparity was partially a factor of the rising demand for labour in male-dominated sectors such as mining and construction. According to the report, Western Australia has the highest average annual wage at just under $80,000.

Dr Jo Lindsay, of the Centre for Women's Studies and Gender Research at Monash University, said she was disappointed to hear the wage gap had reached such a historic point. With increased childcare costs and ''patchy'' support for working mothers, Dr Lindsay said some mothers could not go for the same positions as men.

''Women with children are unable to compete with jobs that are requiring people to spend very long hours in work,'' she said.

''They are also much more likely to go part-time and reduce hours to look after their children while they're young.''

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Occupy Wall St - Angela Davis speaks

In the past, most movements have appealed to specific communities – workers, students, black people, Latinas/Latinos, women, LGBT communities, indigenous people – or they have crystallised around specific issues like war, the environment, food, water, Palestine, the prison industrial complex. In order to bring together people associated with those communities and movements, we have had to engage in difficult coalition-building processes, negotiating the recognition for which communities and issues inevitably strive.

In a strikingly different configuration, this new Occupy Movement imagines itself from the beginning as the broadest possible community of resistance – the 99%, as against the 1%. It is a movement arrayed from the outset against the most affluent sectors of society – big banks and financial institutions, corporate executives, whose pay is obscenely disproportionate to the earnings of the 99%. It seems to me that an issue such as the prison industrial complex is already implicitly embraced by this congregation of the 99%.

Indeed, it can be persuasively argued that the 99% should move to ameliorate the conditions of those who constitute the bottom tiers of this potential community of resistance – which would mean working on behalf of those who have suffered most from the tyranny of the 1%. There is a direct connection between the pauperising effect of global capitalism and the soaring rates of incarceration in the US. Decarceration and the eventual abolition of imprisonment as the primary mode of punishment can help us begin to revitalise our communities and to support education, healthcare, housing, hope, justice, creativity and freedom.


NZ Union Busting: Meat workers locked out

IUF 15 November 2011

Members of the New Zealand Meat Workers Union at CMP ANZCO have been targeted by a particularly vicious form of union busting which is being practiced more and more in IUF sectors across the globe. It works like this: an employer proposes radical changes to terms and conditions in CBA negotiations, then goes through the motions of bargaining with the union while actually just biding time, then locks out the workers in an attempt to force a signature on an essentially non-negotiated agreement.

The NZMWU have been in CBA renegotiations with CMP at its lamb processing plant in the town of Marton in the southwestern part of New Zealand's North Island since April 2011. The company, claiming financial difficulties,  has proposed such outrageous cuts in pay, bonuses and allowances and an increase in working time without overtime pay that no agreement could be reached. The proposals amount to cuts of more than 20% in overall pay for workers!

On 3 October, the company issued a lockout notice due to take effect on 19 October unless the union agreed to all their demands for cuts in wages and working conditions and shift pattern changes.

The week before the lockout notice, the company put the workforce on annual leave and used this time to contact workers at home and induce them to sign individual agreements containing the new terms and conditions. In the absence of their union representatives, some 100 workers gave in to this intimidation and signed. These workers were also forced to leave the union before signing the individual agreements.

On 19 October, the remaining 111 workers were locked out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sth Korea: Save Jeju Island

Jeju was recently selected among the New Seven Wonders of Nature, which with its UNESCO triple-crowned status makes the island among the world’s most precious cultural and national treasures. In addition, the marine ecosystem that lines Gureombi is an absolute preservation area designated by the South Korean government because of the many endangered species that inhabit Gureombi, including the red-clawed crab and soft coral. The spring water that bubbles up from Gureombi provides up to 80% of the drinking water for residents of Seogwipo City, the southern half of Jeju Island. The destruction of Gureombi threatens the surrounding marine life and the clean water that farmers and villagers depend upon for their survival.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

TCFUA Protest outside The Smith Family

The Smith Family has been treating a group of its employees particularly poorly. The Textile Clothing and Footwear Union gathered outside The Smith Family's office in Sydney.

ACTU: Sham contracting

11 November, 2011 | ACTU Media Release

Workplace protections must be strengthened to ensure secure jobs in the wake of a Fair Work Ombudsman’s report that sham contracting is rife across a range of industries.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the Fair Work Ombudsman’s report confirmed longstanding concerns that employers are avoiding their obligations, including pay and entitlements, by disguising a straightforward employment relationship as a contracting arrangement.

The office of the Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson has today released a report based on an investigations of employers in the cleaning, hair and beauty and call centre industries, which found one-in-five engage in sham contracting, a third of them knowingly.

The Ombudsman has already prosecuted a number of employers and is considering further legal action in other cases.

The report found the issue is not limited to these industries, confirming union reports that it is also rife in construction, transport and other sectors.

“Sham contracting is one of the dirty secrets of the modern Australian workplace," Ms Kearney said. “By hiring someone as a contractor, employers manage to avoid their legal responsibilities including pay rates and other entitlements.

“Hiring an employee as a contractor shifts the risk onto the worker and makes it impossible for them to plan for their future because they have little or no job security, slim chance of securing a mortgage and no holiday or sick pay.

"We have cleaners, call centre workers, hairdressers and other workers forced to register an Australian Business Number and be treated as a contractor so their regular employer can avoid giving them decent pay and conditions, and entitlements like superannuation.

“We know that 40% of workers in Australia are engaged as casual, on short-term contracts, in labour hire, or as contractors in work that is unpredictable, uncertain, and that undermines what ordinary Australians need to feel secure in their lives and their communities.

“Insecure work makes it tough on working families, who have less certain incomes, rising fixed household costs, and the shouldering of more and more household debt, and are trying to plan for their future.

Secure jobs are getting harder and harder to find and this is not about improving efficiency or productivity - it is about shifting risks and costs onto workers, to increase profits.

Ms Kearney said unions were aware the problem had become so widespread that there were cases where people had to register for an ABN to get work dropping leaflets in a letterbox.

“Stronger enforcement of existing laws and tougher legislation and penalties are necessary to prevent employers setting up sham contract arrangements, either knowingly or unknowingly.

“The definition of sham contracting needs to be tightened too, to make sure it captures cases where the employer claims it did not deliberately break the law," Ms Kearney said.

Suncorp xmas blow: offshoring jobs

Suncorp employees in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria face a bleak Christmas, learning yesterday that their jobs will head offshore in December, said the Finance Sector Union today.

“This is just the beginning of large scale offshoring by Suncorp. I fear we will see an exodus of insurance jobs from Australia unless Suncorp’s plans are halted,” said Acting FSU National Secretary Chris Gambian.

The FSU has received confirmation that jobs and processes within Recovery and Settlements and 50 staff in the Claims Centre Payments team will be the first targeted by Suncorp’s offshoring program.

“We are in the midst of an offshoring epidemic.  There is something seriously wrong when some of Australia's biggest, most profitable companies insist they can't afford to keep employing Australians, said Chris Gambian.

“This week one of our biggest banks, Westpac, put offshoring jobs back on the agenda on the same day they announced their biggest ever profit. Suncorp also posted a healthy profit this year but are still determined to cut costs, starting with local jobs. It just doesn’t add up.”

“It comes down to the sort of country we want to live in: do we want to be able to leave the next generation an Australia with good, well-paying jobs, and opportunities to make the best of themselves, or do we want an Australia where the boss' bottom line is the only thing that matters?” said Chris Gambian.
“What is really at stake is the kind of Australia we want for ourselves and our families.”

The FSU will work with Suncorp and any members affected to maximise redeployment opportunities, and the union will continue its public campaign to keep Suncorp jobs in Australia.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Equal Pay: Historic win

10 November, 2011 | ACTU Media Release

Decades of undervaluation of the work of women will be overcome following the Labor Government’s historic commitment to fund pay rises for 150,000 social and community sector workers.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said today’s announcement by Prime Minister Julia Gillard was a landmark day for the thousands of social and community sector (SACS) workers, who do important but traditionally undervalued work for the community’s benefit.

“Today’s commitment from the government to fund its share of pay rises averaging 20% and up to 33% in some cases for social and community sector workers is an historic milestone on the road towards true equal pay,” Ms Kearney said.

“It is a win for those workers and their unions who have been determined to gain wage justice in the SACS industry.

“We are talking about workers who are mostly women and who look after the homeless, the disabled, refugees, domestic violence victims, children at risk and other vulnerable people in our society.

“This is difficult and demanding work, yet this female-dominated industry is one of the lowest paid in Australia because it has been historically viewed as ‘women’s work’.

“This has been a major reason why the gender pay gap remains at 18%, despite the right to equal pay for equal work being enshrined in law several decades ago.

“The skills and professional judgement of these 200,000 workers deserve to be recognised and properly valued.

“This shows the equal remuneration provisions work in really delivering on the promise of equal pay. Equal pay is a workplace right and a human right, so unions welcome the Government’s commitment to redress the inequity that has occurred for too long for these women.

“And now that the Federal Government has committed to funding equal pay it is time for those state and territory governments who have not already done so to follow.

“The $2 billion commitment from the Government is carefully structured over a six year period, after negotiations with the Australian Services Union and other unions.

“It is not okay to pay one group of workers less than another doing work of comparable value simply because one group of workers is women.

“It is time all governments acknowledged that and commit to funding their share.”

UnionsNSW: Govt slashes and trashes Police conditions

The State Government's changes to the Police Death and Disability Scheme both slashes conditions for injured officers and trashes their right to appeal to an independent umpire.

The Government yesterday moved an urgency motion to rush the laws through parliament in the current session, despite the Police Association's request for negotiation and consultation.
Unions NSW Secretary, Mark Lennon said the move was an attempt to silence debate and rush through laws that undermine the rights and conditions of injured front line officers.

"The workplace umpire, the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, will be completely sidelined, giving injured police officers no avenue to have their compensation determined by an independent umpire," Mr Lennon said.

"These laws rip away at the basic rights of front line officers who are injured in the line of duty.

"Once again, the State Government has confused its role of employer and regulator. As an employer it has to understand basic principles of justice, and acknowledge the right of employees to have their workplace conditions decided by an independent umpire."

"The NSW Industrial Relations Commission is not the personal plaything of the NSW Government."
Mr Lennon called on MPs to support the withdrawal of the legislation.

"Police officers do demanding work every day. As a community, the least we can do is allow their perspectives to be heard before the parliament undermines their death and disability scheme."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

AFL-CIO: Workers make history in Ohio

I’m in Ohio right now, where working families just won an incredible victory.

Ohioans overwhelmingly voted to repeal Senate Bill 5—Gov. John Kasich’s attack on middle-class jobs that was designed to destroy collective bargaining rights in Ohio.

We pieced together a short, powerful video summing up the amazing energy that went into this. I hope you’ll take a moment to watch:

Tonight’s victory represents a turning point in our collective work to protect good jobs, working families and workplace rights. But it’s more than that. It’s a long-overdue return to common sense.

From the very beginning of our jobs crisis, anti-worker politicians like Ohio’s Gov. Kasich have used our poor economy to push a cynical political agenda that favors the richest 1 percent at the expense of the 99 percent. Today, Ohio voters rejected that agenda.

During this campaign, firefighters, nurses, teachers and other public employees were joined by construction workers, bakery workers and all kinds of private-sector workers. They came together to ensure the survival of the middle class. And together, we’ll keep doing it. Politicians who side with the richest 1 percent will find their radical efforts stopped by working people who want America to work for everyone.

This is our moment, and we won with solidarity. We won because the working people of Ohio—public and private sector, union and nonunion—stood together.

But the solidarity went even further than that: Volunteers traveled not just from neighboring Wisconsin—but from states as far away as California and New York—to help get out the vote. And activists from dozens of states as far away as Alaska gave up their nights and weekends to call Ohio voters from home.

Solidarity means that when workers anywhere are under attack, we will all do whatever we can to help. It means we’re in it together.

I hope you’ll celebrate this moment in your own way. But the most important thing is to find a way to keep your own energy going and growing—so you can be a part of sustaining and growing our movement for all working people—the 99 percent.

This fight we’ve taken on and won—and the threats we face going forward—are about more than Democrats or Republicans, or 2012 battleground states. They are about good jobs and our right to a voice on the job.

Together, we're building a new kind of politics. A politics that works for the 99 percent, not just the 1 percent.

We’ve got to start getting ready now to win tomorrow’s victories. Over time—together—we’ll build a future that works for working America.

Thank you for being a part of this movement, and for all you do for America’s workers.

In Solidarity,

Richard L. Trumka
President, AFL-CIO

P.S. America is waking up. Here’s one big reason we won in Ohio—people can see that the firefighters, teachers, nurses and snowplow drivers hurt by SB 5 didn’t cause our economic problems. Wall Street did. Ohio voters saw through Senate Bill 5—they understood it was a plan to make the 99 percent bear the burden of Wall Street’s recklessness—and that it would do nothing to create jobs.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Al Gore: "A Historic Moment"

"This is a historic moment. Australia's Parliament has put the nation's first carbon price into law. With this vote, the world has turned a pivotal corner in the collective effort to solve the climate crisis. This success is the result of the tireless work of an unprecedented coalition that came together to support the legislation, the leadership of Prime Minister Gillard, and the courage of legislators to take a vote that helps to safeguard the future of all Australians. 

I have spent enough time in Australia to know that their spirit of independence as a people cannot be underestimated. As the world’s leading coal exporter, there’s no doubt that opposition to this legislation was fierce. But through determination and commitment, the voice of the people of Australia has rung out loud and clear. 

Today, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we do everything we can to ensure that this legislation is successful." 

- Al Gore, November 2011

Vic: Govt plans hospitals lock out

The Age 09 November

Victorian public hospitals have received detailed advice on how to conduct a Qantas-style lockout of nurses, and to consider using a strike-breaking workforce in the event of industrial unrest.

The advice to hospitals, from a group representing them in industrial negotiations, also told managers they should photograph protesting nurses and record the number plates of any potential organisers of unlawful industrial action.

The lengthy ''private and confidential'' advice was sent by the Victorian Hospitals Industrial Association last week and includes a range of form letters that employers would give to workers if they locked them out.

There are also prepared ''scripts'' on how to tell nurses they have been stood down or will not be paid if they engage in partial work bans.

Australian Nursing Federation state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said the planning for a lockout was an ''amazing'' over-reaction to any industrial action nurses might take, and could result in hospitals being closed by employer industrial action.

''It's a total lack of appreciation and understanding of who nurses are and what we do,'' Ms Fitzpatrick said. ''Nurses stayed at work while their pay was being docked when taking industrial action during the 2007 campaign.''

Ms Fitzpatrick said the approach seemed to be to ''put the fear of god into nurses'' and to encourage a ''rogue employer'' to do a lockout.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Robin Hood Tax at G20

At the G20 last week, a growing group of G20 countries including South Africa, Argentina and Brazil joined with France, Germany and Spain to back the Robin Hood Tax. The link between the Robin Hood Tax and fighting poverty and climate change became clearer than ever.

Momentum is building and leaves leaders who opposed the tax looking increasingly isolated and protecting the interests of a privileged few in the financial sector. Australia continues to oppose global collaboration on financial transaction taxes. Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan missed this opportunity to join international efforts to tackle market instability and ensure that essential international and domestic social services are appropriately funded.

As expected, Bill Gates presented an excellent report calling for a ‘Robin Hood Tax’ on financial transactions to raise much-needed money for poor countries struggling to cope with the economic crisis and climate change. Bill Gates’ report is a game changer – it shows that a tax is both feasible and desirable but crucially that countries can no longer hide behind the excuse that financial transaction taxes needs to be global to work.

We are now part of a movement of millions. From church services in St. Paul’s to nurses on Wall Street, people everywhere are saying enough is enough. A Robin Hood Tax remains the best option on the table to start making the financial sector work for people, not just for profit.

The extraordinary actions of people around the world mean this fight can be won. Nurses had travelled all the way to Cannes from South Korea, Spain, Ireland and America with one simple message: enough is enough, and to ask governments to do what they do everyday – put people, not profit first with a Robin Hood Tax. A glimpse of their determination came in a story told away from the media spotlight. One nurse visited her progressive Congressman to ask him to support the tax, and got the response ‘you nurses, you should lower your ambition.’ She replied: ‘Would you like me to do that when you come in for heart surgery?’

Tim Noonan of the International Trade Union Congress presented at the G20 and went straight to the heart of the argument, saying “Governments should have a contract with their people, not with the banks. When you strip away the technical arguments about derivatives, high frequency trading and credit default swaps, it really is simple: a tiny tax on some of the richest people in the world that could raise billions to help the poorest.”

More Murdoch hacks

The Guardian UK

The News of the World hired a specialist private investigator to run covert surveillance on two of the lawyers representing phone-hacking victims as part of an operation to put pressure on them to stop their work.

The investigator secretly videoed Mark Lewis and Charlotte Harris as well as family members and associates. Evidence suggests it was part of an attempt to gather evidence for false smears about their private lives.

The News of the World also took specialist advice in an attempt to injunct Lewis to prevent him representing the victims of hacking and tried to persuade one of his former clients to sue him.

The surveillance of Lewis and Harris occurred during the past 18 months, when Rupert Murdoch's son James was executive chairman of the paper's parent company, News International. He is due to give a second round of evidence to a House of Commons select committee on Thursday, and is likely to face intense questioning about the quality of his leadership.

Neither lawyer would comment but friends say they are furious at what they see as an attempt at "blackmail" and are considering suing the News of the World for breach of privacy. They have previously had to reassure clients that their private lives would not be exposed if they dared to sue the paper.

A News International spokesperson said : "News International's enquiries have led the company to believe that Mark Lewis and Charlotte Harris were subject to surveillance. While surveillance is not illegal, it was clearly deeply inappropriate in these circumstances. This action was not condoned by any current executive at the company."

Fiji: Fascist laws

The rights of Fijian workers have deteriorated further following the start of a draconian decree that effectively bans collective bargaining.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the Essential Industries Employment Decree, which came into full effect yesterday, denied workers of many fundamental rights, including to freely organise or collectively bargain.

“This is yet another example of the continued attack on workers’ rights by the Fiji military Government,” Ms Kearney said.

“Australian unions are increasingly concerned at what appears to be a systematic campaign of persecution by the Fijian Government of workers and their representatives.”

The decree’s implementation comes immediately after Fijian Trades Union Congress President Daniel Urai was charged with sedition and accused of political violence, and follows the arrest of FTUC Secretary Felix Anthony.

“Unions are among the few Fijian institutions still able to campaign for democracy and human rights, which appears to be why they are being targeted by Fiji military leaders.

“The detention of union officials in recent weeks is evidence of the Government’s repression and Australian unions are concerned that other Fijian union activists have been forced to go into hiding with their families.”

The restrictions on worker rights under the Essential National Industries Employment Decree include:        

  • Banning unions from representing workers in negotiating collective bargaining outcomes;
  • Making void all current collective agreements;
  • Banning overtime payments, including for weekend work, work on days off, and work on public holidays;
  • Removing minimum wages, terms and conditions of work in designated industries;
  • Banning all strikes, slowdowns, or any action that may negatively impact the employer;
  • Requiring that all members, office bearers, officers and executives of the union shall be employees of the designated company.

Ms Kearney called on Australian companies operating in Fiji, including ANZ and Westpac banks, to publicly denounce the Government’s decree and commit to workplace rights consistent with International Labour Organisation obligations.

“Australian companies cannot wash their hands of the repression, while continuing to profit from the labour of Fijians,” Ms Kearney said.

Canberra: Carbon tax passes Senate

Tuesday 8 November 2011

The Federal Government's carbon pricing legislation has been passed by the Senate, clearing the way for the plan to take effect from the middle of next year.

After two failed attempts, months of negotiations, and many hours of parliamentary debate, the Government and Greens used their numbers in the Senate to force a final vote.

For the first time, Australia will have a price on carbon. This will create incentives to reduce pollution and invest in clean energy.

The legislation represents important environment and economic reforms for Australia. The reforms will ensure that Australia plays its responsible part in global efforts to tackle climate change, and also ensures that Australia reduces its carbon pollution in the most economically efficient manner and includes extensive measures to support jobs and competitiveness.

Australia is one of the top 20 polluting countries in the world. Scientists advise the world is warming and that high levels of carbon pollution risk environmental and economic damage. Taking action sooner rather than later means the transition to a clean energy future can be more gradual, manageable and affordable.

Qantas: Senator Xenophon’s Speech

Senator Xenophon’s Speech in Parliament - Hansard 23Aug11

I rise to speak tonight on an issue that is close to the hearts of many Australians, and that is the future of our national carrier, Qantas. At 90, Qantas is the world's oldest continuously running airline. It is an iconic Australian company. Its story is woven into the story of Australia and Australians have long taken pride in the service and safety standards provided by our national carrier. Who didn't feel a little proud when Dustin Hoffman uttered the immortal line in Rain Man, 'Qantas never crashed'?

While it is true that Qantas never crashes, the sad reality is that Qantas is being deliberately trashed by management in the pursuit of short-term profits and at the expense of its workers and passengers.   For a long time, Qantas management has been pushing the line that Qantas international is losing money and that Jetstar is profitable. Tonight, it is imperative to expose those claims for the misinformation they are. The reality is that Qantas has long been used to subsidise Jetstar in order to make Jetstar look profitable and Qantas look like a burden. In a moment, I will provide detailed allegations of cost-shifting that I have sourced from within the Qantas Group, and when you know the facts you quickly see a pattern. When there is a cost to be paid, Qantas pays it, and when there is a profit to be made, Jetstar makes it.

But first we need to ask ourselves: why? Why would management want Qantas to look unprofitable? Why would they want to hide the cost of a competing brand within their group, namely Jetstar, in amongst the costs faced by Qantas?

To understand that, you need to go back to the days when Qantas was being privatised. When Qantas was privatised the Qantas Sale Act 1992 imposed a number of conditions, which in turn created a number of problems for any management group that wanted to flog off parts of the business. Basically, Qantas has to maintain its principal place of operations here in Australia, but that does not stop management selling any subsidiaries, which brings us to Jetstar.

Qantas has systematically built up the low-cost carrier at the expense of the parent company. I have been provided with a significant number of examples where costs which should have been billed back to Jetstar have in fact been paid for by Qantas. These are practices that I believe Qantas and Jetstar management need to explain. For example, when Jetstar took over the Cairns-Darwin-Singapore route, replacing Qantas flights, a deal was struck that required Qantas to provide Jetstar with $6 million a year in revenue. Why? Why would one part of the business give up a profitable route like that and then be asked to pay for the privilege? Then there are other subsidies when it comes to freight. On every sector Jetstar operates an A330, Qantas pays $6,200 to $6,400 for freight space regardless of actual uplift. When you do the calculations, this turns out to be a small fortune. Based on 82 departures a week, that is nearly half-a-million dollars a week or $25 million a year.

Then there are the arrangements within the airport gates. In Melbourne, for example, my information from inside the Qantas group is that Jetstar does not pay for any gates, but instead Qantas domestic is charged for the gates. My question for Qantas management is simple: are these arrangements replicated right around Australia and why is Qantas paying Jetstar's bills? Why does Qantas lease five check-in counters at Sydney Terminal 2, only to let Jetstar use one for free? It has been reported to me that there are other areas where Jetstar's costs magically become Qantas's costs. For example, Jetstar does not have a treasury department and has only one person in government affairs. I am told Qantas's legal department also does free work for Jetstar.

Then there is the area of disruption handling where flights are cancelled and people need to be rebooked. Here, insiders tell me, Qantas handles all rebookings and the traffic is all one way. It is extremely rare for a Qantas passenger to be rebooked on a Jetstar flight, but Jetstar passengers are regularly rebooked onto Qantas flights. I am informed that Jetstar never pays Qantas for the cost of those rebooked passengers and yet Jetstar gets to keep the revenue from the original bookings. This, I am told, is worth millions of dollars every year. So Jetstar gets the profit while Qantas bears the costs of carriage. It has also been reported to me that when Qantas provides an aircraft to Jetstar to cover an unserviceable plane, Jetstar does not pay for the use of this plane.

Yet another example relates to the Qantas Club. Jetstar passengers can and do use the Qantas Club but Jetstar does not pay for the cost of any of this. So is Qantas really losing money? Or is it profitable but simply losing money on paper because it is carrying so many costs incurred by Jetstar? We have been told by Qantas management that the changes that will effectively gut Qantas are necessary because Qantas international is losing money but, given the inside information I have just detailed, I would argue those claims need to be reassessed.

Indeed, given these extensive allegations of hidden costs, it would be foolish to take management's word that Qantas international is losing money. So why would Qantas want to make it look like Qantas international is losing money? Remember the failed 2007 private equity bid by the Allco Finance Group. It was rejected by shareholders, and thank goodness it was, for I am told that what we are seeing now is effectively a strategy of private equity sell-off by stealth.

Here is how it works. You have to keep Qantas flying to avoid breaching the Qantas Sale Act but that does not stop you from moving assets out of Qantas and putting them into an airline that you own but that is not controlled by the Qantas Sale Act. Then you work the figures to make it appear as though the international arm of Qantas is losing money. You use this to justify the slashing of jobs, maintenance standards and employment of foreign crews and, ultimately, the creation of an entirely new airlines to be based in Asia and which will not be called Qantas. The end result? Technically Qantas would still exist but it would end up a shell of its former self and the Qantas Group would end up with all these subsidiaries it can base overseas using poorly paid foreign crews with engineering and safety standards that do not match Australian standards. In time, if the Qantas Group wants to make a buck, they can flog these subsidiaries off for a tidy profit. Qantas management could pay the National Boys Choir and the Australian Girls Choir to run to the desert and sing about still calling Australia home, but people would not buy it. It is not just about feeling good about our national carrier—in times of trouble our national carrier plays a key strategic role. In an international emergency, in a time of war, a national carrier is required to freight resources and people around the country and around the world. Qantas also operates Qantas Defence Services, which conducts work for the RAAF. If Qantas is allowed to wither, who will meet these strategic needs?

I pay tribute to the 35,000 employees of the Qantas Group. At the forefront of the fight against the strategy of Qantas management have been the Qantas pilots, to whom millions of Australians have literally entrusted their lives. The Australian and International Pilots Association sees Qantas management strategy as a race to the bottom when it comes to service and safety. On 8 November last year (2010), QF032 experienced a serious malfunction with the explosion of an engine on an A380-800 aircraft. In the wrong hands, that plane could have crashed. But it did not, in large part because the Qantas flight crew had been trained to exemplary world-class standards and knew how to cope with such a terrifying reality. I am deeply concerned that what is being pursued may well cause training levels to fall and that as a result safety standards in the Qantas Group may fall as well. AIPA pilots and the licensed aircraft engineers are not fighting for themselves; they are fighting for the Australian public. That is why I am deeply concerned about any action Qantas management may be considering taking against pilots who speak out in the public interest.

A lot of claims have been made about the financial state of Qantas international but given the information I have presented tonight, which has come from within the Qantas Group, I believe these claims by management are crying out for further serious forensic investigation. Qantas should not be allowed to face death by a thousand cuts—job cuts, route cuts, quality cuts, engineering cuts, wage cuts. None of this is acceptable and it must all be resisted for the sake of the pilots, the crews, the passengers and ultimately the future of our national carrier.

Fortescue: Yindjibarndi sacred site

The Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) is calling on Federal Minister, Tony Burke, to invoke emergency powers to stop the destruction by Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) of Yindjibarndi sacred sites and ‘living heritage’ areas that date back thousands of years.
YAC has received evidence showing FMG forced heritage consultants to change a heritage report about the significance of the area by threatening to withhold payments on their invoices.
On 23 October YAC representatives travelled to FMG's Firetail lease (Solomon Project) to check on the safety of their sites, but were barred by FMG security guards for “safety reasons”, because a blasting program was under way. On 28 October Michael Woodley and other senior Yindjibarndi Lawmen took time out from Birdarra ceremonies to travel into the area, avoiding FMG checkpoints. To their horror they found the landscape mutilated and sites damaged.
FMG’s conduct is a direct assault on the 40,000 year-old traditions and heritage of the Yindjibarndi people and contravenes the most fundamental international human rights covenants. These actions show FMG conduct to be unethical and in breach of the State Aboriginal Heritage Act.
Mr Woodley said, “The world threw up its arms in horror when the Taliban blew up Buddhist statues in Afghanistan. How will Australia respond to desecration of our cultural sites that date back tens of thousands of years, right here, under their noses?”

This Wednesday 9 November, Mr Woodley will be seeking leave to directly address shareholders and investors at FMG’s AGM, to present evidence of their appalling conduct and to ask that the Fortescue board and executive be held to account, and ordered to abide by basic business ethics.

(FMG AGM Venue: Hyatt Regency Perth, 99 Adelaide Terrace, East Perth 11.00AM)

Monday, November 07, 2011

Qantas bats for the 1%

Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz in an essay on the subject of inequality in the May 2011 issue of Vanity Fair writes:

"The top 1% have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn't seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99% live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1% eventually do learn. Too late."

Stiglitz is concerned about the 1% of the population in the United States who take home almost 25% of the nation's income; who control 40% of the nation's wealth.


Alan Joyce, the chief executive of Qantas, in the news over a shock lockout of airline employees and grounding of the fleet thought to have cost the airline millions of dollars, has trimmed the Aussie carrier of more than 1000 workers this year. His ostensible reason?

The airline is uncompetitive and losing money - $200 million a year in its international operations, he says.

In fact, across the entirety of its activities, Qantas is one of the more competitive airlines in the world and last year earned profits of $552 million. So from its perspective, the board of directors could justify rewarding Mr Joyce, even as industrial relations in the company reached a new low.

As the chief executive played hardball over staff conditions and remuneration, they awarded him a 71% salary increase - to $A5 million.

The ordinary folk whose daily grind keeps the airline in the air - from pilots to cabin crew and ground staff - were not amused. Who can blame them?

The boss destroys the livelihood of hundreds of workers and tries to materially downgrade that of thousands of others and is rewarded extravagantly by "the system" for so doing.

No wonder people are increasingly inclined to question "the system".

Otago Daily Times 2 November 2011

Overcoming Adversity: The Australian Refugee Story

A Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group Forum
A project of the Family Support  Service Inc.

That the humanity of Australian refugees’ lives is understood and their considerable contribution to Australian society appreciated.
Adam Searle, MLC, barrister, former Blue Mountains Mayor and with a track record as a fair, firm and impartial chair

David King from the Gundungurra indigenous people. David will also give his view
on the refugee issue.
Date: 12 November 2011, Time: 2:00 pm to 5.00 pm. Location: Mid Mountains
Neighbourhood Centre, 9 New St Lawson, a 5 minute walk from Lawson train
station. Signs will be put up to assist people find the place.  Entry: $5
Professor Glenda Sluga:  
Glenda Sluga is Professor of International History at the University of Sydney. How on earth did she end up there? Her parents were classic beneficiaries of a postwar immigration program targetted at refugees of the European war, albeit in the early 1950s when immigration had become much more blatantly about labour, and
less pedantically about ‘Northern’ European and Aryan types.  They came from a rural part of Slovenia, then in Yugoslavia and near the border with Italy.  In her presentation she will talk about what she learnt from her early work on the history of Australian immigration, and set the current refugee debates in much needed comparative and historical context.

Professor Kevin Dunn
Kevin Dunn is Professor in Human Geography and Urban Studies, and commenced this position at UWS in May 2008. He was formerly at the University of NSW (1995-2008), and the University of Newcastle (1991-1995). His areas of research include:
immigration and settlement; Islam in Australia; the geographies of racism; and local government and multiculturalism. He teaches cultural and social geography, migration and urban studies.
Recent books include Landscapes: Ways of Imagining the World (2003) and Introducing Human Geography: Globalisation, Difference and Inequality (2000).

Dr Sanjugta Vas Dev
Sanjugta has over ten years experience in research on issues pertaining to refugees. She has a deep interest in the way that refugees interact with and impact on their hosting community and the ways that they contribute to community life at an economic and social level. She was a lead researcher to the recent report "A Significant Contribution: The Economic, Social and Civic Contributions of First and Second Generation Humanitarian
Entrants" commissioned by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, and authored by Professor Grame Hugo. Sanjugta completed her PhD dissertation on the role of refugee advocacy organisations in Australia and
Malaysia. She currently works for the Government of South Australia.

Cyril O’Conner 
Cyril, 39, was the immediate past manager of the House of Welcome, a project of the NSW Ecumenical Council, which provides essential services to asylum seekers and refugees who are in real need, and are often at immediate risk of homelessness and destitution. Cyril grew up during a time when Ireland had serious
economic and political problems. He said “With a Catholic upbringing and a country in distress it was not surprising that I developed a social justice conscience”. A humble man with a big heart  who has worked like a Trojan with asylum seekers.

Eh Say Aung
Eh Say is a Karen refugee who came to Australia  in 2007 via the official humanitarian program. Prior to his arrival he spent ten years in Them Hin Refugee Camp on the Thai Burma border. He is now working in Sydney. Eh Say will talk about his journey and his new life in Australia.
Entertainment : The Mudlarks, the popular Blue Mountains based all women choir, will perform contemporary, folk and traditional songs from their cappella harmonies repertoire.
Organiser’s Say: 
Credible polling had consistently shown negative attitudes towards asylum seekers, especially boat arrivals. Many thought they were queue jumpers, who at best should only be given temporary stays. Remarkably, a number of Greens voters expressed this type of view. Politicians paid heed and, in the hysteria that has
followed, everyone has forgotten the great contribution that refugees have and continue to make to Australia. A reminder was needed and we hope the forum will be a valuable contribution towards that.
Ilan Salbe
More info: BMRSG website or contact Ilan Salbe
( or 0408 258 984) or Marie Standen 4751-2120 or

Sunday, November 06, 2011

VIC: Government plan to dud nurses

The Baillieu government has developed a secret plan to goad the state's nurses into industrial action so it can force them into arbitration, cut nurse numbers and replace them at hospital bedsides with low-skilled ''health assistants''.

The secret government document outlines an aggressive approach to achieving its policy - by deliberately frustrating pay negotiations - prompting claims from the nurses' union secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick of ''duplicity''.

A cabinet-in-confidence submission, signed by Health Minister David Davis in May and leaked to The Sunday Age, confirms that the government had detailed plans to cut the annual nursing budget by $104 million.

In order to make the savings, the government planned to make nurse-patient ratios - currently one nurse is rostered on for every four patients - more flexible; replace some nurses with low-paid, low-skilled ''health assistants''; reduce the ratio of university-qualified nurses on wards; and introduce shorter shifts and split shifts.

Mr Davis's submission reveals that in return for these cuts, which amount to 4 per cent of the nurses' wage budget, nurses would get a pay rise of just 3.5 per cent per year. Police recently received a 4.7 per cent pay rise.

The government appears determined to pursue its policy despite its submission acknowledging that interstate nurses ''receive significantly higher pay rates'' than Victorian nurses.

Negotiations for the new agreement began in September, and on Friday nurses voted to give themselves the ability to take legally protected industrial action from Thursday.

The government's aim, revealed in the submission, is to have the crisis continue to a point whereby the industrial tribunal, Fair Work Australia, is either called in or steps in because negotiations have broken down and the nurses' action is deemed harmful to public welfare.

This would force both parties into arbitration, where the government's push to reduce nurses' conditions is likely to be successful because the tribunal is not permitted under the constitution to tell states the ''number, identity or appointment'' of the workforce they employ.

Read more

Saturday, November 05, 2011

G20 farce

Leaders of the world's biggest economies wound up the G20 summit in Cannes today without having come to an agreement on steps to counteract the deepening economic crisis.

Attempts to address the deepening financial problems in the US and European Union reached a consensus that the resources of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should be boosted - but no deal on how or when, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy saying the G20 could look at the question again in February.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said that increasing IMF resources would help countries around the world - "not just the eurozone" - but the emerging economies which might provide extra funds remained sceptical.

China in particular has shown a preference in recent years for bilateral deals which bypass the Western-dominated institution.

The summit's final communique suggested that the IMF set up a separate fund for assistance to the eurozone so that countries which do not wish to contribute can avoid doing so.

The US, which is itself grappling with recession, opposed the prospect of its IMF contributions being used to bail out European governments.

Investors in the European Financial Stability Facility - the so-called "bailout fund" - were even harder to find, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitting that no non-eurozone countries had shown any interest in it.

China, Russia and Brazil suggested that any assistance for Europe would have to be channelled through alternative routes which allowed them a greater say in how loans were spent.

Eurozone chiefs had pinned their hopes on a Chinese buy-up of sovereign debt but Chinese leaders are wary of a plan lambasted in the country's media as "the poor rescuing the rich."

Many Chinese economists hold that China would have little chance of recovering money invested in Europe.

USA: Golden Gate picket

Friday, November 04, 2011

Need for international unions

SMH 04 November 2011 by Piergiorgio Moro

Not surprisingly, the Qantas dispute is not an isolated case. It is part of an overall push by airlines in the region to reduce costs by decreasing the wages and conditions of their workers via casualisation and outsourcing. In the past year we have seen similar issues at play at Philippines Airlines, Garuda Airlines, and Malaysia Airlines. At Philippines Airlines, about 2500 workers have now been on strike for more than a month over the issue of outsourcing their jobs.

By striving to be internationally competitive, airline companies have embarked on a global "race to the bottom" in terms of pay and conditions for their workforce.

For Qantas employees, this is becoming a new reality. Qantas is no longer just the iconic Australian brand. Qantas is an international company that may have its headquarters in Australia but resides in many countries.

For workers, there is only one way forward in order to defend their wages and conditions. Workers and unions will need to emulate companies like Qantas and go global as well. Unions will need to be able to work, organise and bargain at the international level, exactly the same as the companies that employ workers.

Unions will need to organise new standards and structures so that workers can receive the same pay for the same work, can have the same conditions and benefits regardless of the city, state or country in which they live. This will undercut the companies' relentless search for cheap labour as the labour costs will be equalised across various countries. The result will be that jobs will not be outsourced to the country that has the least organised and cheapest workforce, but will instead be located where they are most suited.

This new type of organising will not be easy to implement, but the constant pressures of globalisations will make this inevitable. The only question is whether we, as unionists, are going to make this transition ourselves, when our forces are still strong, or will we be forced, once our present structures have proved inadequate.

The maritime unions, under the auspice of the International Transport Federation (ITF), have shown the way. The ITF has established an international minimum wage for seafarers, regardless of what country they are from, or in which country their ship is registered in. The Maritime Union of Australia has successfully blocked international ships while in port until the wages of the ships' sailors were paid in full.

Creating trade unions in the 1800s was not easy, but it was done. Trade unions over the years have shown an incredible ability to adapt. The time to change is upon us again. The alternative of having no trade unions, for workers to be un-organised, is too grim to bear.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Boost to Superannuation

The average Australian will be $108,000 better off when they retire, under laws introduced to parliament today that boost the superannuation guarantee to 12%, Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon said.

Unions have campaigned for the boost to retirement savings and have welcomed today's introduction of the legislation.

"Boosting the superannuation guarantee from nine to 12 per cent will make a massive difference to working Australians by significantly improving the quality of their retirement savings," Mr Lennon said.

"Without this increase, three quarters of Australians would rely on the Age Pension in some form to boost their retirement income. With an ageing population, that's a real concern.

"These reforms are crucial and the Government deserves to be congratulated for their introduction."

Mr Lennon said broader economic benefits would flow from increasing the superannuation guarantee.

"Let's not forget that superannuation provides an ever expanding pool of national savings for the Australian economy," Mr Lennon said.

"Those savings provided an important ballast for the Australia during the global financial crisis and will continue to improve the nation's economic foundations in the decades to come."

Qantas updates

Labor senator Doug Cameron has told parliament Qantas and the coalition colluded over the controversial grounding of the airline’s fleet and planned lock out of its workers.

Senator Cameron also said it was ‘‘sickening’’ the Qantas board and shareholders gave CEO Alan Joyce a $2 million pay increase when they knew the airline would be shut down the next day.

He said he was ‘‘pretty sure’’ Opposition Leader Tony Abbott knew Qantas would ground its fleet last Saturday.

‘‘There hasn’t been any criticism of the reprehensible behaviour by Qantas because they were in collusion with Qantas on this issue,’’ Senator Cameron said of the coalition.

It fitted the coalition’s industrial relations ideology, which was about increasing employer militancy and denying employees industrial democracy.

‘‘They will continue to take a hard-line position on industrial relations,’’ Senator Cameron said.

He warned Work Choices would be reintroduced, but under a different name, if the coalition won the next election.

The multi millionaire chief executive of Qantas, Alan Joyce, will face his first grilling at the hands of federal politicians since his shock decision to ground the airline when he turns up in Canberra for a Senate inquiry on Friday.

The airline went into damage control yesterday as it attempted to patch up relations with the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese.

As Ms Gillard renewed her attacks on Qantas, its government relations boss, Olivia Wirth, made a flying visit to Canberra in an effort to repair a relationship which insiders now describe as toxic.


A University of Adelaide law expert, Andrew Stewart, said arbitration typically took months and this case was ''much bigger'' with three separate negotiations potentially to be decided.

The tribunal would consider the public interest, whether the parties had negotiated in good faith and how ''reasonable'' the parties were during negotiations.

Unions are pushing for restrictions on outsourcing and want greater job protection at the airline and Professor Stewart said arbitration meant the tribunal could agree to those claims.

The Slater & Gordon partner Marcus Clayton said he expected arbitration hearings, if required, would extend into next year. Unions would likely seek answers on ''live'' issues in dispute around jobs, outsourcing and sending jobs overseas, he said.