Monday, April 30, 2012

Council landfill programs to earn Carbon Credits

The Australian Government has used a national forum in Canberra to explain how local governments can use landfill to reduce pollution and earn carbon credits.

The forum, on the carbon price and council landfills, was hosted by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) in partnership with the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Mark Dreyfus addressed the forum and urged councils to do their own sums and not take at face value potentially misleading claims about high carbon price impacts.

Mr Dreyfus said some councils appeared to be significantly overestimating the impact of the carbon price on landfill, when the vast majority of landfill sites would not be subject to a carbon price at all.

He said only larger landfill facilities, with emissions over 25,000 tonnes a year, were liable to pay the carbon price, and only on waste disposed after July 1, 2012.

Emissions can be cut by up to 75 per cent using gas capture technology, which will help some landfills drop back below the 25,000 tonne threshold.

Landfill gas can be used to create electricity to power council or other nearby buildings.

“There is opportunity to make money under the carbon price scheme,” Mr Dreyfus said.

“A carbon credit can be earned for every tonne of pollution cut or avoided from landfill, and these can be sold on carbon markets generating extra income for councils or landfill operators.”

Councils should also be aware that they can apply for an energy efficiency grant to help council and community buildings save energy and thousands of dollars through more efficient heating, cooling and lighting, under the Government’s Low Carbon Communities program.

Carbon Farming Initiative

Two-million dollars of funding has been announced for five research projects looking to investigate ways farmers can participate in the Government’s $46 million Carbon Farming Initiative by using biochar to reduce their carbon emissions.

The projects focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving soil management, and developing ways for farms to adapt to and manage climate change.

The Government wants as many farmers as possible to capitalise on the opportunities the CFI presents, and these research projects will help investigate new ways biochar can help farmers get involved.

The projects could help in the development of Carbon Farming Initiative methodologies which farmers can put into practice on their properties to reduce their emissions and earn extra income.

Biochar is a stable, carbon-rich form of charcoal that can improve soil health and water holding capacity.

Biochar demonstration sites will be established in NSW, Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia so researchers are able to determine the effectiveness of biochar as an emission fighting agent.

CFMEU: BHP paranoia at Bowen Basin

BHP’s “please explain” letter regarding a CFMEU Vote-In Day would be laughable if it didn’t reveal a company so paranoid about what its Bowen Basin workers thought, the Miners’ Union said today.

The company today sent a letter citing rumours and allegations regarding the union holding a community family day during the ballot period for workers to vote on the company’s latest Enterprise Agreement offer.

CFMEU District President Stephen Smyth said the letter showed the company was obviously desperate to curtail voter participation after 92 per cent of its workers rejected a prior EA version at an attendance ballot.

Today the union sent out an open invitation to members to attend a Vote-In Day where workers and their families can come together at their local Lodge and cast their vote.

Attendance was optional and workers would still cast their vote in private like any other ballot, Mr Smyth said.

“BHP took away their workers’ choice of having another attendance ballot because postal ballots have lower participation rates: fact,” Mr Smyth said.

“We know attendance-style ballots have greater voter participation so we’re offering the option for workers to do so at a family-friendly event.”

“If BHP genuinely believed their Agreement was a good deal, they’d welcome greater voter participation. But they don’t.

“Why would they hold a ballot they know has poorer participation on an Agreement that offers less than what was offered last year?

Mr Smyth said allegations that members would need to sign-in were ridiculous.

“It just shows how paranoid the company is of its workers talking to one another,” he said.

“It’s the same reason why Stephen Dumble has never outlined the Agreement in person to the workforce.

“The company knows it’s a bad deal. BHP should treat its workers with a bit more respect and realise that the workers know it’s a bad deal too.

“Let’s just hope Mr Dumble doesn’t disapprove of a jumping castle and sausage sizzle on the day.”

ACTU: Abbott anti-worker agenda

28 April, 2012 | Media Release

Tony Abbott’s latest stunt that has nothing to do with protecting workers’ interests and everything to do with undermining unions so he can pursue a radical workplace agenda.

Anyone who believes Tony Abbott has any concern for union members of low-paid workers should look at his record, said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

When in Government Mr Abbott supported moves to cut back protection from unfair dismissal, to reduce workers’ rights to bargain collectively, and moved to allow employers to cut conditions with no compensation for workers.

The Liberals have repeatedly opposed a decent increase in the minimum wage, and they always support employers against workers taking action in pursuit of their rights.

“Mr Abbott and the Liberals are using the misconduct of a few officials in one branch of the Health Services Union to launch an attack on the entire union movement,” Ms Kearney said.

“Mr Abbott’s proposed “Registered Organisations Commission” will do nothing to tackle any future incidents of corruption, and will merely be a vehicle for a future Liberal Government to attack union members and officials.

“Unions are already subject to strong controls including mandatory annual reporting and independent audits.

“On top of this, unions are democratic organisations and members can vote out representatives who they believe are not acting in their interests.

“Make no mistake, there is absolutely no place for corruption in the union movement and the ACTU has already taken the unprecedented step of suspending the HSU’s affiliation until it can show it is able to properly serve members.

“We also cautiously support Industrial Relations Minister Bill Shorten’s decision to take court action to appoint an administrator to the HSU East branch, recognising the extraordinary circumstances involved.

“Any union officials found by a court to have misused members’ funds or committed any other wrongdoing deserve to be punished under existing law.

“But there is no evidence that the actions of a few individuals in the HSU are widespread within the union movement.

“Mr Abbott’s real agenda is the same one he has pursued throughout his career and the Liberals throughout history – weakening unions so they are unable to protect workers’ rights.

“Just look at his record: Tony Abbott and the Liberals have never cared about working Australians.”

SMH: Letter to editor

SMH 30 April 2012

At the H.V. Evatt Memorial Dinner in Katoomba on Saturday, Senator John Faulkner was inspirational in identifying the distorting lack of trust pervading political discourse in democracies around the world.

Before we can begin to chart safe passage through this sea of malevolence, we need to recognise that social media, talkback radio and reliance on endless surveys have reduced public debate to an ill-informed and superficial level. So cynical an environment inevitably reduces our capacity to engage in serious discussion.

A searing case in point is the tendency for even mainstream media to call into question the legitimacy of Australia's governing coalition because one political party happens not to have a clear majority on the floor of the House of Representatives. Whatever one's political views, it needs to be acknowledged this Parliament has had the nerve and negotiating skills to enact critical legislative reforms. Curiously, no one mentions that Australia has been governed by 14 coalitions since Federation without the sky falling in.

It's an important point. People seem not to grasp that Abbott's Coalition is no such thing. The Liberal Party maintains its uneasy alliance with the National Party with a view to electoral victory and not much else.

But MPs on the opposition and crossbenches need to remind themselves that Labor holds more federal seats on its own than any other political party in the country and there must be very sound reasons for that to be the case. So why don't our political blitherers, pollsters, shock jocks and letters editors encourage some reflection upon that statistic for democracy's sake?

The ''Doc's'' legacy deserves no less.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dust : The Great Asbestos Trial

After years of preliminary investigations by Raffaele Guariniello, the “iron prosecuting attorney,” the first great criminal trial against the “Lords of Asbestos” opened in Turin in 2009 and ended with a 16-year prison sentence on February 13th, 2012.

All international trials related to asbestos so far had been civil proceedings aimed at awarding refunds to the victims or bringing down the local executives of the companies.

The trial of Turin is the biggest environmental case in Europe, with more than 6000 victims in the plaintiff. Stephan Schmidheiny and Louis Cartier de Marchienne were convicted of “causing a continuing disaster in health and environment” and “willfully neglecting safety regulations in the workplace".

The film explores the current situation of India and Brazil in the light of the tragic trail of deaths provoked by asbestos in Italy in the past.

Written and Directed by: Niccolo Bruna & Andrea Prandstralle
Producer: Enrica Capra Produced by: GraffitiDoc
Produced by: GraffitiDoc
Co-Produced by: RTSI-Pacte Audiovisuel Suisse

Friday, April 27, 2012

RTBU: Danger of easing 12 hour Shifts for Drivers

Lives will be put at risk if train drivers are forced to work shifts of more than 12 hours, the railway workers union says.

The Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) has called on the National Transport Commission to dump a recommendation that fatigue standards for train drivers in New South Wales be relaxed - currently there is a 12-hour cap on work - to improve flexibility and reduce regulation.

The current NSW cap is unique, but RTBU national secretary Bob Nanva said it should be extended nationwide as part of the move to have a single national rail regulator.

''Our concern is that uniform legislation across Australia should raise standards across Australia rather than reducing them to the lowest common denominator,'' he said.

In December 2009, federal and state governments agreed to implement a national rail regulator, which included fatigue risk management.

Ministers will discuss recommendations from the commission on May 18.

The RTBU has cited a Monash and Sydney university analysis that found removing shift limits was ''potentially dangerous''.

ACTU: National Asbestos Authority demand

27 April, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

Ahead of Workers Memorial Day 2012, unions are calling for a National Asbestos Authority to manage the mandatory removal of the deadly chemical from all Australian buildings by 2030.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said Workers’ Memorial Day tomorrow was a poignant reminder that Australia has the world’s highest per capita rate of asbestos-related deaths, with up to 18,000 more Australians expected to have died from mesothelioma by 2020.

“This is an abysmal reality that we must change. That is why unions want Australia’s built environment to be asbestos-free by 2030 and we are calling for a stand-alone National Asbestos Authority to make it happen,” she said.

Ms Kearney said to achieve an asbestos-free Australia, there must be a national audit of all asbestos containing material, starting with government buildings and dump sites.

“The Government must initiate a prioritised removal program, to be carried out only by licensed removalists,” she said.

Ms Kearney said unions also reiterated their call for a home audit scheme, which would require home owners to have their houses checked by a registered practitioner prior to selling or leasing out their property.

There was also a need for a co-ordinated education and awareness campaign so that home owners and home renovators are aware of not only the dangers of asbestos contamination, but of how to have it safely removed.

Ms Kearney said it was also important for workers, through their unions, to have a direct say in making their workplace safe and healthy.

“That is why Australian unions have launched a new Speak Up for Health and Safety awareness campaign and website.

“There is no more important role for unions than ensuring people work in a safe and healthy environment.

The new campaign will help raise awareness among OHS representatives within workplaces and workers generally, empowering them to take action and stand up for their rights.”

In Australia, the workplace related death toll is estimated to be more than 4.7 times higher than the Australian road toll.  In 2008 there were 1464 road deaths, while Government statistics show there are up to 7000 work related deaths each year.

“Workers’ Memorial Day is a day where unions across the globe take time to remember those killed because of work and re-double our efforts to make every workplace safer and healthier,” Ms Kearney said. “But it is also a time to reflect on current OHS laws and practices and how they can be improved in order to prevent future deaths at work.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Scotland: STUC annual conference report

UnionNews reports from the STUC annual conference in Inverness, where delegates have demanded infrastructure and green investment banks, to boost employment standards, local jobs.

Argentinia to take back oil resources

Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez has tabled a draft Bill to take over the YPF oil and gas company in which Spanish transnational corporation Repsol has a major share.

President Fernandez has explained to the Argentinian people precisely why she is acting in this way.

She is unhappy that, 17 years after YPF was privatised, her country has become, "for the first time, a net importer of oil and gas with a total deficit of over $3 billion."

It is a sign of the times when ordinary Argentinians, like their counterparts in Venezuela, Bolivia and elsewhere, rejoice when they hear national leaders Fernandez, Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales reassert popular sovereignty over national assets.

Labour movements are beginning to demand that their governments take back the assets sold off to foreign companies that have so dismally failed to deliver for their people.

Venezuela was lectured by big business and the international financial agencies when it began to limit its dependence on the whims of capitalist "investors" and prioritised its own development. It has survived and thrived.

Argentina will be no different, having recognised that following the crazy economic prescriptions that lead to global finical crises hold no benefit for working people anywhere.

Malcolm Fraser: No Darwin Base

Malcolm Fraser says the new American marine "base" near Darwin is a mistake, and that Australia's grovelling to Washington is hampering ties with Asia.

In a strongly worded submission to the federal government's white paper on future relations with Asia, Mr Fraser has criticised Australia's subservience to the US as a product of misguided assumptions America offers a security guarantee.

"Over 20 years now we have given the impression of doing that which America wants" ... "We seem to believe that our security can be best assured if we do what we can to win brownie points with the US.

This is a mistaken assumption. ''No country can really win brownie points with great powers. Great powers follow their own national interests and we should follow ours."

Mr Fraser is highly critical of the deployment of US marines in the Northern Territory, saying it fuels Chinese concerns over a policy of containment. He also dismisses claims by Labor and the Obama administration that the presence of the marines does not amount to a "base". "For America to say that 2500 troops do not constitute a base is nonsense, indeed a fabrication," Mr Fraser writes. "In military terms, a base does not have to be bricks and mortar. If 2500 troops are stationed in a particular place then the language makes it quite plain that they are based in that place. It is a base.

"To say that they are just passing through and that it is not a base is deceptive and misleading. It sends the wrong message, not only to China, but to countries like Indonesia."

Read more

Sydney Freight Terminal

The federal government is to announce the go-ahead for a $1.6 billion freight terminal in south-west Sydney that is expected to take thousands of trucks a day off the city's roads.

Freight will be transferred from trucks onto trains at the terminal in Moorebank, from where it will be taken to Port Botany, reducing the number of truck trips by 3300 a day.

The 220-hectare site, on the western side of Moorebank Avenue, is occupied by the Defence Department and the School of Military Engineering. It is near the M5, the M7 and the southern Sydney freight line.

A spokesman for Senator Wong told the Herald that the government's proposal would ensure that the terminal remains "open access", meaning that freight firms would not have to apply to a potential competitor for access to the terminal.

Cabinet approved the project last week. Construction will start in 2014 and be completed by 2017. More than 1600 workers will be employed on construction and 950 when the terminal is up and running, rising to 1700 jobs if it is expanded to handle interstate freight.

"It will deliver significant dividends across the entire Australian economy: more jobs for south-western Sydney; savings for Australian businesses, and less congestion on Sydney's roads," Senator Wong's spokesman said.

"It will contribute significantly to Australia's productivity. More than two-thirds of the freight that arrives in Port Botany does not stay in the Sydney region."

Read more

Monday, April 23, 2012

O'Farrell swings compo axe

The O'Farrell government will take an axe to workers compensation, slashing lump-sum payments for the injured and removing long-term recipients of weekly benefits from the scheme after a set period.

Workplace lawyers said the changes, if delivered, would transform NSW into ''the meanest system in the country''.

The government has flagged its intention to overhaul the $13 billion WorkCover system, which faces a deficit of up to $5 billion. An announcement is expected as early as Tuesday.

Barrister Bruce McManamey, a spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, said: ''It's the kind of stuff that will result in injured workers losing their homes.''

The changes, according to sources, would include:

ABOLISHING lump-sum payments for injured workers with ''less than 10 per cent whole-body impairment'' (and therefore excluding payment for injuries such as a fused ankle or back and neck injuries not requiring surgery).

A CUT-OFF after 2½ years (or 130 weeks) for weekly payments for those considered to be partially injured.

A LIMIT of nine years for all entitlements except for people who are ''totally incapacitated''.

Mr McManamey said NSW currently had one of the better schemes, but ''if they go through with these changes, NSW will have the meanest system in the country.

''It's the kind of stuff that will result in injured workers losing their homes. People lose the ability to repay mortgages when they are thrown back on to social security.''

He said the majority of lump-sum payments were between $6000 and $13,000. ''If they abolish lump sums for injuries less than 10 per cent, I think it falls into the category of mean and petty,'' Mr McManamey said.

LabourStart successes

We have just received word that Hasan Abazi, President of the Independent Metalworkers’ Union of Kosovo, was released from jail in Serbia on Friday and is now back home.

Hasan's release followed a two-week long online campaign by LabourStart which generated nearly 8,000 messages to the Serbian government.

"Worldwide mobilisation, including the immediate reaction of LabourStart activists and unions pressing the Serbian government through the EU, embassies and other diplomatic channels has clearly been decisive in winning Hasan’s release," said Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of the International Metalworkers' Federation.

Hasan's release is one of several recent victories following LabourStart campaigns -- including ends to lockouts of port workers in New Zealand, metal workers in Turkey and bus drivers in Canada.

Most spectacular of all was the effect of a two-day long campaign back in November when we were able to pressure the government of Fiji to release two jailed senior trade union leaders.

Our campaigns work, and over the last decade we have built a network of just under 100,000 trade union activists who care about these issues -- and who can be mobilised rapidly.

But to continue doing this work, and building toward our third annual LabourStart Global Solidarity Conference in November, we need your support.

Please take a moment to donate $25 or more to LabourStart today:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Dial M for Murdoch

'Dial M for Murdoch uncovers the inner workings of one of the most powerful companies in the world: how it came to exert a poisonous, secretive influence on public life in Britain, how it used its huge power to bully, intimidate and cover up, and how its exposure has changed the way we look at our politicians, our police service and our press.'

Rupert Murdoch's newspapers had been hacking phones, blagging information and casually destroying people's lives for years, but it was only after a trivial report about Prince William's knee in 2005 that detectives stumbled on a criminal conspiracy. A five-year cover-up then concealed and muddied the truth. Dial M for Murdoch gives the first connected account of the extraordinary lengths to which the Murdochs' News Corporation went to "put the problem in a box" (in James Murdoch's words), how its efforts to maintain and extend its power were aided by its political and police friends, and how it was finally exposed.

The book is full of details which have never been disclosed before in public, including the smears and threats against politicians, journalists and lawyers. It reveals the existence of brave insiders who pointed those pursuing the investigation towards pieces of secret information that cracked open the case.

By contrast, many of the main players in the book are unsavoury, but by the end of it you have a clear idea of what they did. Seeing the story whole, as it is presented here for the first time, allows the character of the organisation which it portrays to emerge unmistakeably. You will hardly believe it.

Murdochs in the dock - House of Commons 2011

$3.7 Billion Aged Care overhaul

The overhaul will be implemented over five years:
  • $1.9 billion for better access to aged-care services.
  • $1.2 billion to strengthen the aged-care workforce.
  • $268.4 million for dementia.
  • $54.8 million to support carers.
Julia Gillard says the changes are designed to make the system fairer.

"For the first time in aged care, fairness will also get a look-in. For too long pensioners have had to subsidise those who are much better off than themselves," she said.

"Under these changes - which I emphasise will only apply to new people entering care from July 1, 2014 - ability to pay will be taken into account.

"This recognises a simple reality that those who can support themselves and contribute a bit more should, and that we must look after the needs of those who can't."

"Instead of a bond up to $2.6 million and bearing no resemblance to the actual cost of accommodation, you will be able to pay, through a lump sum or a periodic payment or a combination of both, whatever you choose," she said.

"People will also have long to make that choice, with a cooling-off period introduced so they can take up their aged care place and then think about the best way to pay."

The overhaul is being welcomed by those who work in the aged care system.

Aged Care Association spokesman Rod Young says it is desperately needed because of the enormous growth expected in the industry.

"Our difficulty is that we have 300,000 workers at the moment in the industry. By about 2030, we have to increase that number to about 600,000, and by 2045 by about another 200,000," he said.

Martin Laverty from Catholic Care Australia says the changes will make the sector more sustainable.

He says the package delivers on what aged care providers and consumers were looking for, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Other measures:
  • $192 million over five years to support people from diverse background accessing age care.
  • $39.8 million for consumer support and research.
  • $256.4 million through Aged Care Reform package.
  • $26.4 million to establish new Aged Care Financing Authority.
  • $16.6 million for greater transparency, including establishment of My Aged Care website.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rio Tinto: Gold for rights abuse!

SYDNEY/TORONTO - Three of Australia's biggest unions announced today that they will back an international campaign to remove mining giant Rio Tinto as an Olympic supplier for this summer's London Games.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Australian Workers Union (AWU) together represent over 400,000 workers in Australia.

"If there was a gold medal for abuse of human rights, work rights and the environment, it would go to Rio Tinto," said CFMEU spokesman Tony Maher. "We are a mining country with a booming resources economy. Rio Tinto is a major player in Australia and we all have an interest in holding Rio Tinto to account for its corporate behaviour."

Rio Tinto is providing 99 per cent of the gold and other metals that are being cast into medals for victorious Olympic athletes. The Canadian United Steelworkers union (USW) launched the campaign in London on Monday (April 16) calling on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to reject Rio Tinto as a supplier and to recast the medals

The unions contend that Rio Tinto's treatment of its own workers does not live up to the Olympic spirit.

Recently, the company announced plans at a profitable smelter in Quebec to replace retiring employees with contract workers at half the wages and no benefits at all. When employees refused to accept, Rio Tinto locked them out.  The dispute has now gone on for over 3 months.

Rio Tinto has a controversial track record in labour relations and environmental protection in Australia and other countries.

"At those low wage levels, a worker in Quebec cannot support a family," said Steelworkers (Quebec) spokesperson Real Valiquette, who was in Sydney to mobilize support for the campaign. "Locking out its workers in Quebec is a violation of Rio Tinto's obligations to fair play under the Olympic Charter," he said.

All Australians should support the campaign to get Rio Tinto off the Olympic podium."

Doug Cameron eBulletin

From Senator Doug Cameron

Welcome to my April eBulletin. We’ve had a big month in parliament since my last eBulletin; the abolition of the ABCC (scroll down to see my speech on this issue), along with the passing of the health insurance rebate means test, and the road safety remuneration bill.  These bills add to the progressive policy agenda developed and implemented by the government.

While speaking at a recent Labor Party function I quoted from Charles Dickens' “A Tale of Two Cities”.  The famous opening line of this classic epitomises the situation that the government finds itself in at the moment.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us….”

We must continue to develop a progressive policy agenda that epitomises a Labor government.  Building a good society and the best of times for Australians demands courage and belief.  In my view hope must always triumph over despair and as Dickens notes “we have everything before us”.

The recent speech and Lateline interview by Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey (see the interview here) demonstrates the growing influence of the dark side of Conservative politics. It certainly would be the season of darkness and winter of despair for many Australians under a Conservative Coalition government. Hockey has foreshadowed a return to the law of the jungle where the rich and powerful gain even more wealth and power at the expense of ordinary Australians. Given Hockey has a reputation as being one of the moderates in the Liberal party, can you imagine the planning and extreme policy development that is going on amongst the more aggressive Conservatives?

My staff are currently putting together a new website and we have began uploading my speeches to YouTube as an alternative to Hansard PDF’s. Please watch and re-share through your social media networks.  I will also be pleased to receive comments, criticism, and ideas for my newsletter.

In solidarity,

Doug Cameron.

MUA: Asciano agreement

Asciano and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) are pleased to announce that they have reached a final agreement in respect of a new Enterprise Agreement (EA) for Asciano’s Container Terminals employees.

After almost 20 months of negotiations, both parties have settled on a new agreement which maintains Asciano's fundamental right to manage its business while balancing the need for improved productivity and efficiency with a fair and sustainable outcome for Asciano's Container Terminals employees.

On Monday, following involvement from Minister Shorten, both parties entered into a formal, structured resolution process before Fair Work Australia (FWA) with agreement that all matters would be either agreed or determined within a targeted 72 hour timeframe.

 Through this process, Asciano and the MUA have now reached agreement on all outstanding items, including a national disputes resolution clause and the remaining local issues at Fremantle and Port Botany. Asciano has also agreed to reinstate back pay for its Container Terminals employees.

 The final EA provides a 22.5% wage increase over five years to July 2015, or an average of 4.45% per year, which will be very significantly offset by commitments of improved productivity at each of the four Patrick Container Terminals. There is a further at risk incentive of 0.75% available which is subject to the achievement of specific business and customer KPIs. If achieved, these payments will be made to employees as superannuation.

Asciano says that the agreement signals certainty on productivity and efficiency measures and will ensure productivity on Australian wharves lifts towards global benchmarks enabling us to maintain a high standard of customer service.

"We are pleased that by following the FWA process and with help from the Australian Government, we have been able to reach agreement with the MUA on an EA for our Container Terminals workforce," Mr Alistair Field, Director Patrick Terminals and Logistics said.

"Our objective throughout the negotiations has been to deliver productivity and efficiency improvements for our customers and fair and competitive conditions of employment for our workforce. A significant part of this has been ensuring the right to manage our business.

"We would like to thank the minister for his persistent efforts and constructive role in engaging with the leaders of both parties to enable an agreement to be reached," he concluded.

Asciano CEO and Managing Director, Mr John Mullen said, "The agreement is a significant testament to the strength of our Patrick management team and their commitment to see these negotiations through to a productive outcome."

MUA National Secretary, Mr Paddy Crumlin said: "We welcome the agreement with Asciano and believe it is a clear example that agreements which are acceptable to both workers and employers can be reached under the Fair Work Act.

"The agreement offers significant improvements in health and safety for our members along with greater productivity. It offers surety for Asciano in a tight and competitive market and gives them long term stability nationally and in Port Botany specifically."

AFL-CIO: Executive Pay Watch

Check out the new AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch website—this year’s version is called CEO Pay and the 99%. It’s your one-stop shop for the most recent information on out-of-control CEO pay and what you can do to stop it.

Go to now to search through our updated database on CEO pay, compare your pay with CEOs in your state and across the country and share the shocking results with your friends and family.

At, we highlight both the unbelievable overall statistics and examples of corporate greed run amok, like Verizon.

From 2007 to 2011, Verizon’s cash holdings and short-term investments grew to $14 billion, a more than 300 percent increase since before the financial crisis at the end of 2007. Meanwhile, Verizon thinned its employee rolls by 17.5 percent.

Go to to check out some of the worst examples of CEO pay gone wild and help spread the word.

Here are some truly shocking facts:

  • The average CEO now makes an astonishing 380 times what the average worker makes. That ratio used to be 42 times in 1980. 
  • The average CEO of an S&P 500 company got a nearly 14 percent increase last year. They now make an average of almost $13 million—while millions of jobless workers spent countless hours searching for work. Many jobs were shipped overseas, and people fortunate enough to keep a job were lucky to get a basic cost-of-living increase.
  • S&P 500 companies last year had more than $1 trillion amassed in cash. That’s enough money to create a living-wage job, for a year, for every single American who is unemployed, underemployed or has stopped looking for work.

It’s hard to believe. Click here to see for yourself and share the astonishing facts with your friends and family.

Runaway CEO pay isn’t just bad for our economy, it’s bad for the morale of working families, too. All workers, from the executive suite down to the shop floor, contribute to making a company successful. But these corporations are buying into the myth that the success of a corporation is the result of its CEO alone.

Without the painter, office assistant, welder, electrician and hundreds of millions of workers who work every day to support their families and keep our economy going, our society could not work.

We hope you will visit to help us shine a light on the egregious practices of only rewarding CEOs for the work of many.

America can continue with failed policies that offer increasing rewards to corporate profiteers who cut jobs and load up their own pockets—like Mitt Romney did when he was at Bain Capital—or we can work together to make our economy work for everyone. A simple place to start is getting CEO pay under control.

Thank you for all the work you do.

In Solidarity,

Richard L. Trumka
President, AFL-CIO

Thursday, April 19, 2012

WA: Barnett offshores jobs

Western Australia’s steel fabrication is winning even less work from Chevron’s Wheatstone LNG project, that it has from its Gorgon project.

Monday's revelation that 150,000 tonnes of steel pipe would be manufactured offshore for Wheatstone means that Chevron has now awarded more than 300,000 tonnes of steel contracts, yet not one contract for steel manufacturing has been awarded to WA.

This is an even poorer performance than for its Gorgon project, which saw more than 90 per cent of the 300,000 tonnes of fabricated steel required for the project sourced offshore.

AMWU State Secretary Steve McCartney said the Wheatstone project highlighted the Barnett Government’s policy failures.

“Since our WA Jobs from WA Resources campaign started highlighting the increased offshoring of engineering and fabrication work by our big resources companies more than a year ago, Colin Barnett has promised a lot, but actually taken WA backwards,” he said.

“Not only is Chevron awarding less work to local steel fabricators, but the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) continues to confirm what we all know – WA manufacturing jobs are heading offshore.

“The ABS revealed that more than 2,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in the South West Metropolitan suburbs surrounding the Kwinana strip during 2011.

“The ABS has also revealed that the youth unemployment rate in and around Kwinana has increased from 21.7 per cent in January 2011 to 28.1 per cent in January 2012.  An even more shameful statistic is that the youth unemployment in and around Kwinana has almost doubled since the election of the Barnett Government.

Mr McCartney said the failure of the Barnett Government’s local content policy was a tragedy, because it impacted on real people.

“Every steel fabrication contract that heads offshore represents hundreds, if not thousands, of skilled jobs and apprenticeships that won’t be going to local kids.

“When future generations of Western Australians look back at the current resources boom, they are likely to judge the Barnett Government very harshly for allowing so many jobs and opportunities to go offshore, and doing little to secure a lasting economic benefit for Western Australians.”

The steel pipe contract will see JFE Steel supply UOE pipes for a 225 km pipeline to transport natural gas to Wheatstone’s LNG plant at Ashburton North.  Pipes with a 44-inch outer diameter will be shipped from January 2012.

This contract comes on top of the following additional offshored Wheatstone steel projects:

  • Offshore platform – 57,000 tonnes – awarded to Daewoo Shipbuilding, South Korea
  • Onshore LNG processing modules (outer battery limits) – 42,000 tonnes – awarded to Bohia Oil Marine Engineering and Supply, China
  • Onshore LNG processing modules (inner battery limits) – 60,000 tonnes – awarded to Kencana, Malaysia

Hockey: pension hack plan

Liberal Party welfare cut plan will entrench poverty among vulnerable Australians

19 April, 2012 | Media Release
Vulnerable people would be left without a safety net and the longstanding Australian tradition of egalitarianism and a fair go would be ditched under a Coalition plan to help the wealthy at the expense of the poor.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey’s proposal to cut support programs for Australia’s most vulnerable people shows the Liberal Party is completely out of touch and clueless when it comes to social and economic justice.

“The Liberal Party’s Dickensian 19th century approach to social justice is in complete contrast to community sentiment,” Ms Kearney said.

“Unlike Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party, most Australians recognise that many in our community need greater support in order to overcome unemployment and be able to contribute to the nation’s economy. Many welfare payments in Australia, including the Newstart allowance, are barely enough to survive on.”

Ms Kearney said Mr Hockey was either wilfully misleading or ignorant about the true state of Australian public social spending.

“At 16% of GDP, Australian public social spending is lower than the vast majority of OECD countries, including the United States,” Ms Kearney said.

“The biggest component of our social spending is on health, so if Joe Hockey wants to significantly reduce Australian social spending, this would have to involve large cuts to Medicare and pensions.

“We know the Liberal Party is champing at the bit to take away workers’ rights and now we have evidence it is also gearing up to take away the rights of those who are not fortunate enough to even be in the workforce.

“Smart leaders know that there are real and complex reasons why people are on welfare and that cutting the support and telling them to ‘go it alone’ is no solution.

“All that will do is further grow the divide and entrench generational poverty among those who are capable of turning their lives around, as long as they have support to do so.”

In its submission to the 2012-13 Federal Budget, the ACTU has called for the Newstart Allowance to be lifted to parity with the Age Pension.

The first step should be to increase the single allowance, which 60% of recipients receive, by $47.82 a week to $282.67 a week.

“The Newstart Allowance for a single person is currently disgracefully low at just 18% of average weekly ordinary time earnings,” Ms Kearney said.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

AMWU: Asbestos Campaign

Asbestos is a word that strikes fear into the heart of many. Once only thought to cause illness and death to miners and builders, it’s now on its third wave — the general public. Paul Bastian, the acting National Secretary of the AMWU, tells 3Q of plans to clean up public and private buildings by 2030. But the bigger aim is to have the toxic substance banned worldwide.

Australia has some of the highest levels of exposure in the world. However, we lead the world in a positive sense, in that our courts recognise the direct link between exposure to asbestos and the development of mesothelioma. Other countries are only just coming to this conclusion.

A third of the world’s countries still use asbestos and Canada and Russia are still exporting it — even though its use is banned in their own countries. Countries like Vietnam and India are still using asbestos in construction – often without any protective gear. The AMWU is part of a network that is campaigning for a total ban on the use of asbestos worldwide.

Paul Bastian talks about the AMWU’s involvement in the campaign that delivered justice for victims of asbestos exposure by getting billions of dollars in compensation from James Hardie (despite attempts to restructure overseas so its assets were out of reach of victims). Bernie Banton, who became the personal face of mesothelioma sufferers, was a former AMWU member.

The AMWU is calling for the establishment of a National Asbestos Authority representing three tiers of government, asbestos support groups, experts, unions with powers to report on and instigate asbestos removal from private and public buildings, especially schools, by 2030.

AMWU has slams Toyota job cuts

The AMWU has slammed Toyota’s handling of 350 job cuts this week.

On Monday, after months in limbo, workers at the company’s Altona plant were asked to leave their work and privately informed about their redundancy before being escorted by security guards off site.

AMWU National Vehicle Division Secretary, Ian Jones, said the way workers were told of their redundancies was disrespectful and undignified.

“This could have been achieved in a much more respectful and sensitive way. We do not agree with the process.”

He said the AMWU would now investigate whether workers had been selected for redundancy on the basis of their union activity.

“We’ll be meeting with our shop stewards and our lawyers today (Tuesday). We’re going to scrutinize Toyota’s methodology,” Mr Jones said.

“There’s been a disproportionate percentage of shop stewards and OHS reps made redundant. There’s been some selective criteria applied to our shop stewards and we’d like to know why.”

Assistant Vehicle Secretary, Dave Smith, said the union's perception of Toyota has been shattered

“A part of the Toyota way, the Toyota philosophy; a central plank of that is respect, and they have shown no respect for their workforce today, none whatsoever.”

The Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, said the Federal Government was already working with the AMWU to help the redundant employees find work.

“Those workers can turn around and face their families and say, 'well the Government's got an employment coordinator, they're going to provide special assistance so that we can find and re-enter the workforce as soon as possible. Because mum and dad didn't lose their job because they did anything wrong. Mum and dad have been affected by the high Australian dollar which is making it difficult for manufacturing."

Tasmania: Save Tarkine

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Olympics: Stop The Rio Tinto Taint

Mining giant Rio Tinto’s reputation doesn’t even come close to the lofty ideals of the Olympic movement - friendship, solidarity and fair play.  

Instead Rio Tinto is infamous for increasing profits by driving down wages.

Rio’s latest move is the months-long lockout of smelter workers in Quebec Canada because they refuse to let Rio Tinto replace retiring workers with contract employees who would  earn half the wages for doing the same work.

Despite this, when the athletes take the podium at the London Olympics,  the medals they take home will have been manufactured from metals supplied by Rio Tinto.  No athlete should have to wear a medal tarnished by Rio Tinto’s practices.

The United Steelworkers is leading a global campaign to have the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reject Rio Tinto’s participation in the Olympic Games, helping to draw attention to Rio Tinto’s abuse of workers, their families and communities around the world.

In just 20 seconds you can send a message asking IOC President Jacques Rogge to get Rio Tinto off the podium!

Just click HERE.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Unions NSW: HSU suspension

The Executive and full council of Unions NSW has tonight voted to accept Michael Williamson's resignation as Vice President, and also to suspend the Health Services Union's affiliation until governance issues can be resolved.

Mr Williamson was asked to resign last week, amid ongoing negative publicity about the Health Services Union leadership spilling over to affect the reputation of the broader union movement.

Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon noted Mr Williamson's resignation.

Further, he said tonight's suspension of the HSU East branch sent a clear message about appropriate behaviour and governance for the NSW trade union movement.

"Six hundred thousand working people across NSW rely on a strong and vibrant trade union movement to represent their interests in the workplace and tonight's decision allows us to get on with the job of representing working people,” Mr Lennon said.

"This was not an action taken lightly, but it is in the interests of all working people across the State.

"Unions NSW will continue to assist the members of the Health Services Union in whatever way we practically can."

Mr Williamson has also resigned as a Unions NSW representative on the board of First State Super.

"In due course, Unions NSW hopes to restore the Health Services Union to full affiliation, but only once we are satisfied that all governance issues have been rectified," Mr Lennon said.

"We want to send a clear message to HSU members that they have our full support as we continue to defend their workplace rights and conditions."

Monday, April 09, 2012

Union NSW: Easter penalty rates warning

Unions have issued a reminder to employees who have to work the Easter long weekend to ensure they're paid proper penalty rates.

Analysis by The Australia Institute shows almost three in ten casual workers (28%) perform unpaid overtime.

And the most recent ABS Social Trends paper indicates that 36% of casuals do not get a loading rate.

Unions NSW Secretary, Mark Lennon, said casual employees were particularly vulnerable to being ripped off during public holiday periods.

"In key industries such as retail and hospitality, special loading rates of double time and a half tend to apply for working Easter Sunday.

"It's vitally important employees are aware of this, and if they're in any doubt or think they're being ripped off, they should contact their union delegate or organiser."

Mr Lennon also reminded employees that it was voluntary to work on public holidays such as Easter Sunday.

"No worker should feel coerced into working Easter Sunday  - you have every right to decline a shift," Mr Lennon said.

"The Easter long weekend is a good time to relax with family and friends and that's what we encourage working people to do.

For the broader community, it's worth sparing a thought for the workers who keep our restaurants, stores, hospitals and police stations staffed while the rest of us are relaxing."

Qld: BHP’s Bowen Basin coal workers take more strike action

Workers from BHP’s seven Bowen Basin coalmines have voted to take more strike action to protest against the company’s latest Enterprise Agreement offer.

At mass meetings at Moranbah, Dysart, Emerald and Blackwater workers overwhelmingly rejected BHP’s latest offer and voted to take another seven-day stoppage to protest the company reneging on key in-principle agreements.

CFMEU District President Stephen Smyth said workers were “understandably furious” at the company after management went back on it’s word during negotiations on important rostering issues.

After a delegates meeting in Mackay last Friday, the Single Bargaining Unit (SBU) held ‘report-back’ mass meetings across central Queensland to seek direction from its members.

Mr Smyth said members agreed to reject the company’s offer and overwhelmingly voted to strike again.

“The workers are ropable that these negotiations have gone on for so long and just when they thought a resolution was getting nearer, the company comes back to the table having altered in-principle agreement clauses,” Mr Smyth said.

“The company partly blaming industrial action in declaring force majeure this week didn’t help. Force Majeure is declaring you cannot fulfill a contract for reasons beyond your control.

“The workers were insulted that BHP considers it somehow beyond its control to offer an Agreement that doesn’t insult more than 90 per cent of its workforce.”

“As BHP said previously, it never intended to bargain in good faith, ‘not now, not next month and not next year’.”

“Management are just gunning to improve their record profits during the mining boom and they see smashing the rights of their workforce as a speed-bump along the way.”

Mr Smyth said it was also disappointing to see BHP intending to ballot its workers during the school holiday period when many employees would be away with their families.

ACTU: Suspension of HSU

The Executive of the ACTU met in Melbourne 5 April and voted to suspend the Health Services Union from the ACTU until it can resolve serious issues of governance and financial management.

This decision has been made to send a clear message to the National Executive of the HSU that it must demonstrate it has a plan to deal with governance and financial management issues.

In making this decision, the ACTU Executive is acting in the interests of and to give encouragement to the officials, delegates and members of the HSU who are dedicated to a strong, democratic and accountable union.

The ACTU Executive will continue to provide services and support to members of the HSU. It is essential that no HSU member should be disadvantaged as a result of this decision.

The ACTU reiterates that the central obligation of all union officials above all else is to serve the interests of their members. This is particularly true of elected officials who are entrusted with the management of members’ funds.

The Australian union movement has zero tolerance for corruption or the misuse of members’ funds or for maladministration of union affairs.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

VIC: Government union logo attack

A State Government "code of conduct" for publicly funded construction projects in Victoria will crack down on the display of union logos, mottos and insignia on building sites.

''No Ticket, No Start'' signs on sites, or any indicators that imply union membership is compulsory, will be banned under the code.

Premier Ted Baillieu and the Finance Minister Robert Clark yesterday released the government's long-promised code of practice for the building and construction industry.

''If contractors don't comply with these guidelines, then they won't be working on state government projects,'' Mr Baillieu said. Peter Reith and local employer groups welcomed the code.

Victorian Trades Hall secretary Brian Boyd attacked Nigel Hadgkiss, the man who will run the state government's new Construction Code Compliance Unit and its team of inspectors. ''This bloke is an ideologue, and he wants to be able to say to employers that if they allow a Eureka flag to fly off a crane, they are not allowed to tender,'' Mr Boyd said.

Bill Oliver, state secretary of the construction division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, branded the code a sham.

''What projects have the state government got lined up for Victoria in the next three or four years? At the moment, Baillieu can't answer that. This is all about Ted Baillieu union bashing.''

CFMEU: Ark Tribe honoured

Dave Noonan & Martin O'Malley present
Ark Tribe with the Awards and meda
Ark Tribe has been awarded honorary life membership of the CFMEU SA Branch and presented with a Robert Tressell Award for his service to working people and courageous stand in support of workplace safety against the anti-union ABCC.

The Awards were presented to Ark by the CFMEU at the March national executive meeting in Brisbane.

“Ark Tribe is a real hero in the eyes of construction workers and the working class of Australia,” said CFMEU SA Secretary Martin O’Malley. “He didn't ask for awards; he just stood up for what he believed in and as a result will be forever recognised, not just by construction workers but by the working class.

“The CFMEU is proud to count him among our members. CFMEU SA awards Ark with Life Membership of the Union in recognition and respect for the stance he took against the ABCC’s coercive powers.

"Life membership of the Union gives Ark all the benefits of full membership at no cost and is recognised right round the country."

As well as a plaque, Ark was presented with the SA Branch Life Membership Medal to mark the honour.

Presenting the Robert Tressell Award, CFMEU Construction National Secretary, Dave Noonan said: “Ark’s principled stand for safety and refusal to dob in his mates, despite the threat of six months’ jail, drew admiration around the world.

“Trade unionists from Canada, the US, Europe, South America and the Indian sub-continent sent messages of support, during Ark Tribe’s two year ordeal waiting for the court hearings of his case.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

ACTU: Importing workers

02 April, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

Plans by Australian mining and construction companies to embark on an overseas recruitment drive with Australian Government support are premature and a process must be established for thorough market testing of the skilled labour requirements of the resources sector.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said there had been no independent evidence to back up claims by mining magnates like Gina Rinehart that there weren’t enough Australian workers to meet the needs of future resources projects.

She said without an independent jobs board that advertised all vacant positions on major resource projects to rigorously market test the labour requirements of mining, suspicions would remain this was simply a ploy to import cheaper, short-term workers.

“Australian workers across the nation deserve the opportunity to benefit from the resources boom, which will provide a massive jobs boon in coming years,” Ms Kearney said.

“While  resources states such as Western Australia have very low unemployment, workers across the rest of the country are facing increasing rates of insecure work. In fact, the latest ABS figures show that employment in the construction industry is actually falling.”

Ms Kearney said unions were not opposed to  today’s announcement of an agreement to better match unemployed skilled American workers with genuine, temporary skill shortages in the Australian resources sector.

This is based on an understanding that the initiative is confined to licensed trades only, operates only in the resources construction sector, and the ACTU and unions will be fully consulted in the implementation of the initiative.

“However, the fundamental difficulty with an initiative like this is that there is still no requirement for labour market testing under current 457 visa program settings,” Ms Kearney said.

“This means there is no way unions, government, or the wider community can be confident that employers have made every effort to provide job and training opportunities to Australians before resorting to the use of overseas labour – whether from the US or any other country.

“To help rectify this, we call on the Government to immediately implement the commitment made at last year’s Labor Party conference to establish a national Jobs Board for the resources sector. This would be a simple, low-cost, practical measure to ensure that Australian employers are making every effort to employ locally.

“There also need to be far more stringent training obligations on employers using 457 visa labour. Currently, the Government has no idea if employers using overseas labour are making any effort to train Australian apprentices.

“Australia’s wealthiest person, Gina Rinehart, is very keen to fly workers to the remote north-west for her iron ore projects, under the guise of giving them a better life, yet she has no independent evidence that this is the case, or that Australian workers cannot do the work in the first place.

“At the same time, there remain outstanding allegations that many workers flown to Australia on 457 visas are being underpaid and are doing very different work to what their employers claimed.”

Jimmie Little 1937 - 2012

Monday, April 02, 2012

ACTU: Facebook and privacy

Moves by the social networking site Facebook to prevent employers from intruding on workers’ privacy by forcing them to hand over access to their personal information should be commended.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said employers seeking access to their current or prospective employees’ personal Facebook sites was an excessive breach of individuals’ privacy and their rights.

“Unions have been increasingly concerned about moves by employers to delve into their employees’ personal lives so we are pleased that Facebook has taken affirmative action to send a message that this is not okay,” Ms Kearney said.

“Facebook and other social media sites allow people to keep in touch, express themselves freely and to share information - but they have a right to choose who they share this with.

“Employees are entitled to have a life outside of work and away from their boss and they have a right to control who sees their personal information. There is little difference between forced access to someone else’s Facebook site and intruding on their home.

“If an employee is not performing their duties correctly, or does not seem the right applicant for the job, then employers have existing ways to deal with this and do not need to take excessive and over-the-top measures simply because technology has advanced.”

Ms Kearney said stories of employers seeking access to workers’ Facebook accounts were deeply concerning and they needed to be stopped before it got out of control.

“This amounts to nothing less than employers attempting to further tip the power balance against workers,” she said. “Everyone has a right to privacy, at work and especially away from work.”

Facebook’s chief privacy officer has issued a statement outlining its opposition to employers having access to private accounts, and indicating it will take action against alleged breaches of its policies.

Job Security: Woolworths agreement

A new agreement between the federal Government and retail giant Woolworths to create 10,000 new jobs this year must be accompanied by measures to ensure these are secure jobs and not just transient, casual positions, say unions.

ACTU President Ged Kearney congratulated Woolworths for its initiative but said there must be assurances that the majority of positions created will be permanent, secure jobs that lead to full careers in retail.

Woolworths and the Government today announced a memorandum of understanding in which Woolworths will be provided with streamlined access to a range of government job-matching and training services to help it achieve its target of 10,000 new jobs this financial year.

Ms Kearney said Woolworths was showing corporate leadership by particularly seeking to increase employment of groups of disadvantaged Australians, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“Woolworths recognises that the pathway to sustainable, secure jobs and careers – and to better productivity - is through skills and training, and unions commend the company for its commitment to these values,” Ms Kearney said.

“The retail sector has an over-reliance on casual employment and insecure work, so we intend to monitor the implementation of this Fresh Start Agreement to ensure it lives up to its promise to deliver secure jobs.

“Woolworths main rival, Coles, has reaped the benefits of restructuring its workforce so that a clear majority are now permanent.

“Three years ago, 70-80% of Coles’ employees were casuals, sometimes working as little as one shift a month.

“But in the past three years, a new management culture has altered that so today only about 30% of its 87,000 employees are casual.

“While this is still too high, the results of this conversion of the workforce have been reduced staff turnover, lower absenteeism, improved staff engagement, better productivity and higher profits.

“Other major companies can learn from the Coles’ experience, and it is to be hoped that this new initiative by Woolworths will be accompanied by a similar approach.

“Having said that, all the signs are promising at this stage.”

Ms Kearney said that with 40% of Australians in casual, labour hire, contract and other forms of insecure work, unions were interested in working with innovative employers to produce secure jobs.