Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ireland: Unions alternative proposal

Up to 30,000 jobs could be lost through government cuts in the Budget, an economic think-tank has warned.

Researchers claim plans to take €3.5 billion from the economy in December by cutting key services and income protection for low earners could have dire consequences.

The Nevin Economic Research Institute (Neri), which was set up in March and is funded by trade unions, said the State could instead shore up €1 billion by increasing taxes on high earners and wealth groups.

Think-tank director Tom Healy said it was possible to adopt an alternative budgetary strategy that would still meet the terms and targets set by Ireland’s debt masters, the troika of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

“The choice between taxes and spending is ours to make,” said Dr Healy, ahead of the publication of Neri’s latest quarterly report.

“Most people have already taken enough in cuts to public services and wages along with increased charges. What we need instead is a strategy that invests in growth and begins to address the huge shortfall in taxes paid at the very top end of the income distribution.”

In its latest report, Neri said the Government’s austerity strategy was failing and that introducing a stimulus instead of making cuts could create more than 20,000 jobs.

It said existing austerity measures could risk 30,000 positions.

The think-tank suggested maintaining 2012 spending levels, reversing capital spending cuts and introducing a wealth tax.

It recommended the Government scales down its adjustment plans from €3.5 billion to €2.7 billion - €2.3 billion of which would come from its proposals for higher taxes on the wealthy.

It added that investing in infrastructure and job creation would be key to getting the country back on its feet.

“Such a strategy is not only equitable but also makes economic sense,” Dr Healy said.

“In our Quarterly Economic Observer, we show how our proposals are likely to result in 21,000 more jobs than under the Government’s proposed consolidation - while still meeting the Troika’s deficit target.”

Friday, September 28, 2012

Gunns: Corporate Hubris spitting chips

Geoff Cousins

This week's announcement that Gunns, the timber company that once bestrode the forests and valleys of Tasmania like a brooding behemoth, had entered voluntary administration is a case history that should focus the minds of many corporate boards - particularly in the mining industry.

It is difficult to conjure the all-pervasive nature of Gunns at its height, such is the speed of its fall. Not only did it dominate the timber industry in Australia, it spread its roots into a bewildering array of unrelated assets, including hardware stores, wineries and walnut plantations. All are now sold or on the block. Its net assets are stated to be $24 million. Just four years ago, this was a $1 billion company contemplating a $2 billion investment in one of the world's largest pulp mills.

And it was this pulp mill that sank the company, not the markets as some politicians and commentators are now suggesting. Earlier this week, referring to the pulp mill proposal, this comment was made: ''Gunns showed reckless disregard for established procedures. The lesson to be drawn from all of this is the way Gunns set about getting this proposal up. Hopefully, no one will ever try again.''

Did these words come from among the vocal opponents and environmentalists who ran a long campaign against the mill, of which I am one? No, they came from Saul Eslake, the local chief economist for Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

In part he was referring to Gunns' ''decision'' in 2007 to pull out of the public hearing process instituted by the Tasmanian government into environmental and related matters concerning the mill. It was, of course, the state government that closed down the hearing, not the company, but in Tasmania it was often difficult to separate one from the other.

And this was the acid rain that fell on the forests and wilderness areas and even the cities of Tasmania for decades, and blighted its landscape and divided its communities. The poison was the nexus between the state's largest company and successive, submissive governments.

There are well-documented examples of this, although some remain to be properly investigated. When the government introduced legislation fast-tracking the mill through parliament, Gunns' lawyers ''assisted'' with the drafting. The legislation includes a provision that explicitly prevents legal action under criminal law by the public against the mill, even if evidence of corruption is found.

An unusual clause, you say? Not many did say, even in the media. Such was the awe in which Gunns was held, so palpable was the fear of lawsuits and other intimidation for which the company was renowned, that only a few brave souls spoke out. And they were hounded, persecuted and sued. These practices included the infamous ''Gunns 20'' case in which the company sued Bob Brown, leading Wilderness Society officers and pretty much anyone else they could conjure up in a failed effort to silence dissenting voices. It cost the company millions and cemented a hardening opposition into an immovable object.

Even the well-known instances of possible corruption, widely spoken of in Hobart's coffee shops, seldom found their way into the mainstream media. One such classic instance was the renovation of then premier Paul Lennon's substantial Georgian home. Strangely, this renovation was undertaken by a division of Gunns, not a division that normally worked on domestic projects. It was not until author Richard Flanagan co-wrote a story on a website that any other media outlet, including the ABC, made mention of it . You could hardly blame them. One ABC journalist told me she had had to leave the state for years because of Gunns.

It was said by many at the time that we couldn't get a local Tasmanian issue onto the national political agenda, but we did. It helped that there was a federal election looming, that many courageous Tasmanians risked demonisation to step forward in protest against this oppressive company and its political cronies.

Yet Gunns continued to tell its shareholders it was close to financing the mill. When bank support fell away, when deadline after deadline was missed, still the company reassured its shareholders all was well. Surely the regulators will scroll back through this long list and call the directors to account. Surely also, the lessons from this appalling mess are clear to the directors of other companies. In part, they are that if you ignore community interests, contrary voices, environmental issues and proper governance, you will cause pain and suffering to your shareholders, employees and, probably, creditors.

The old paradigm that you can invite the minister or senior staff to the corporate football box and stitch up a deal is broken. The concept that once government approvals are in place and conditions that mean nothing and are never policed have been neatly inserted into an agreement, well then, the debate is over - that concept is dead. Along with Gunns.

Read more in The Age

CFMEU: Whatever it Takes

Song by Rob Mitchell and Mike Brady©Rob Mitchell and Mike Brady 2012


Whatever it takes, whatever the stakes
If we're provoked we'll strike like a snake
Only the strong will survive
Organise, keep it safe, stay alive
Whatever it takes, whatever the stakes
We fight for our rights make no mistake.

We'll fight for our rights that's what we do
Stand up for ourselves that's what we do

Don't let the scab hunter come for you
Be paid up and proud and pay your dues
United we stand, divided we fall
Standing together - touch one touch all

We're looking out for the working class
Not afraid to shake up the top brass
Prepared to fight till the last
Sometimes you just gotta sit on the grass

We'll fight for our rights that's what we do
Stand up, stand proud, we're coming through


Whatever it takes, we're coming through
We'll fight for our rights that's what we do
Stand up, stand proud, that's what we do
Whatever it takes, we're coming through
Whatever it takes, we're coming through
Whatever it takes, we're coming through

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fraser: Australia should be independent

Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser has urged Australia to become independent of the world's super powers.

"I don't want to be a puppy dog to the United States as we have been over the last 10 or 15 years, just doing what America wants. That doesn't mean to say that I want an alignment with China, I don't," Mr Fraser said.

 Mr Fraser says Australia should look to create stronger ties with other independent countries in our region, such as Indonesia.

"Not many Australians realise that throughout all of our history we have behaved as though we were dependent on a great power," he said. "Up until the Second World War we depended on Britain,"

"But now a different world has emerged, the Cold War is over and America is a different America from the one that won the Cold War,"

"China has emerged as the most significant trading partner, the major trading partner of Australia and every other country in the Western Pacific," he said.

"Her markets, her finances are closely intertwined with the West," he said. "She is the largest buyer of US Treasury bonds and therefore America herself is significantly dependent on China."

Mr Fraser says Australia is an important part of plans by the US to build up its military in the Pacific to contain China. "It's quite wrong and it puts Australia in I believe a dangerous position to be part of it," Mr Fraser said.

CPSU: Cuts Hurt

New polling shows Australians believe public service job cuts will lead to worse services, hurt the disadvantaged and increase unemployment.

The Community and Public Sector Union says the poll shows that Australians understand the link between cutting public sector jobs and the reduction in quality of essential public services.

Research by Essential Media – done around the State public sector cuts – found that a clear majority of Australians thought that the rate of unemployment (61 per cent), delivery of public services (54 per cent) and the welfare of disadvantaged Australians (53 per cent) would get worse under the cuts.

Despite claims by State Governments that these cuts are necessary to balance budgets, Australians remain sceptical – with only 18 per cent believing that State Government budgets would improve, and 42 per cent saying they would get worse.

CPSU Assistant National Secretary Louise Persse said that the results showed the public’s deep dislike of cuts to public services, and should send a message to Federal politicians looking to use public service cuts to save money in the short-term.

“Despite the spin from Liberal State Governments, the majority of Australians know that public servants provide essential services for the whole community. They know that the public service can not be used as an inexhaustible source of savings without compromising the quality of services,” Ms Persse said.

“Commonwealth public servants are already struggling to deal with a $2.4 billion Budget reduction and 4200 job cuts caused by the Federal Government’s increased ‘efficiency dividend’.

“But Tony Abbott’s Coalition is threatening to make even bigger cuts, getting rid of at least 12,000 public sector jobs and slashing $50-70 billion in government spending if it is elected.

“It is impossible to implement cuts of this size without reducing services and damaging the long-term capacity of the public service.”


Commonwealth Unions and Human Rights

The Commonwealth’s Foreign Ministers are meeting this weekend in New York.  A major piece of business will be approving the draft Charter of the Commonwealth, a summary of the values that bind the Commonwealth together.

The Commonwealth Trade Union Group (part of the ITUC), is calling for the Commonwealth to get tough on member states who abuse workers’ and other human rights. Trade unionists across the world will be lobbying their Governments over the next few days – in particular in Australia, where Labour Senator Bob Carr is the Foreign Minister who will chair the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers meeting.

At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Western Australia in October 2011, an Eminent Persons Group made a series of recommendations about the future of the Commonwealth. Many – both structural and political – were not accepted, such as a human rights commissioner, and support for LGBT equality. But two of the key agreements were:

(a)    that the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG, a sub-committee of the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers meeting, and the body with the power to suspend members of the Commonwealth) should be reformed to have a wider scope than democracy, ie covering human rights; and to have more powers to act, so that it could be more preventative; and

(b)   that there should be a Charter of the Commonwealth, bringing together existing documents such as the Harare Principles, and setting out the values of the Commonwealth.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

US: Paul Krugman - A party that abandons workers

By now everyone knows that Mitt Romney washed his hands of almost half the people in the US - the 47 per cent who don't pay income taxes - when he told donors in Florida: ''My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.''

And many people also are aware that most of the 47 per cent are hardly moochers; they are working families who pay payroll taxes, with elderly or disabled Americans making up a majority of the rest.
The question is, should we imagine that Romney and his party would think better of the 47 per cent on learning that most of them are hard workers, who have taken personal responsibility for their lives? And the answer is no.

The modern Republican Party just doesn't have much respect for people who work for other people, no matter how faithfully and well they do their jobs. All the party's affection is reserved for ''job creators'' - employers and investors. Leading figures in the Republican party find it hard even to pretend to have any regard for ordinary working families - who make up the majority of Americans.

Am I exaggerating? Consider the Twitter sent by Eric Cantor, the Republican House majority leader, on Labour Day - a holiday that specifically celebrates the country's workers said: ''Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.''

On a day set aside to honour workers, all Cantor could bring himself to do was praise their bosses. In case you think that this was just a personal slip, look at Romney's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

What did he have to say about the workers? Actually, nothing. The words ''worker'' or ''workers'' never passed his lips. And when Romney waxed lyrical about the opportunities America offered to immigrants, he said they came in pursuit of ''freedom to build a business''. What about those who came simply to make an honest living? Not worth mentioning.

The Republican Party's disdain for workers is deeply embedded in the party's policy priorities.
Romney's remarks spoke to a widespread belief on the right that taxes on working people are, if anything, too low.

What really needs cutting, the right believes, are taxes on corporate profits, capital gains, dividends, and high salaries - taxes demanded of investors and executives, not ordinary workers. This is despite the fact that people who derive their income from investments, not wages - people like Willard Mitt Romney - already pay remarkably little in taxes.

Where does this disdain for workers come from? It reflects the extent to which the party has been taken over by an Ayn Rand Institute vision of society, that suggests a handful of heroic businessmen are responsible for all economic good, while the rest of us are just along for the ride.

Paul Krugman is a winner of the Nobel prize in economics.

Sun Herald, 23 September 2012

Ed Pickford: Whistleblower We Need You

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Refocusing the Refugee Debate - 30 September

Stopping the boats does nil


Alleviating refugee suffering in our region

30th September 2.00 pm - 4.30pm

Wentworth Falls School of Arts

All welcome - entry fee $5 - enquiries 0408 258 984

Lucy Morgan - Policy Officer - Refugee Council of Australia - Expert on regional Policy.
Will speak on the treatment of refugees in countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia and how Australia can use its influence to make it more humane.

A former refugee - now a proud member of the Australian community - who will speak on their experiences of the harsh conditions refugees suffer in Malaysia.

Jasmina Bajraktarevic - psychologist - NSW Service for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Trauma and Torture Survivors (STARTTS).
Will explain how refugee experiences effect mental health.

Susan Templeman - endorsed Labor Candidate for the Federal seat of Macquarie which covers the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury - progressive politician, former journalist, active member of the Blue Mountains community - will give her own and Labor's perspective on the refugee issue.

Cate Faehrmann - Greens Member of NSW Legislative Council, endorsed Senate candidate, former head of the NSW Nature Conservation Council - will talk about the Greens views on refugees.

Auspiced by Blue Mountains Family Support Services

All enquiries to 0408 258 984

Friday, September 21, 2012

Unions NSW: IR game changer

The Federal Industrial Relations Minister's decision to protect the rights and entitlements of public sector workers under attack from Conservative state administrations is a game changer, Unions NSW said.

Under new arrangements announced by Minister Bill Shorten, the Commonwealth will step in to ensure that when state assets are sold off or services are outsourced, the affected employees will have their rights and entitlements protected by the national industrial relations system.

Unions NSW Secretary, Mark Lennon, said the decision meant State public sector workers would no longer be treated like second class citizens during a privatization or outsourcing.

"Minister Shorten's decision is a game changer. It means that the fate of public sector workers will no longer be determined by the whim of slash and burn Coalition state governments.

"It's refreshing to see that the Federal Government sees public sector workers as an asset, rather than a cost."

Since the O'Farrell Government was elected in March last year, the NSW public sector has been hit by a wage cap, restrictions on the right to collectively bargain, punitive new workers compensation changes and a series of misguided asset sales.

Mr Lennon said Minister Shorten's comments about public sector workers were a morale boost for the 330,000 workers who keep NSW functioning every day.

"Minister Shorten referred to the physical, intellectual and emotional efforts of public sector workers in his comments today - a sharp distinction from the demonisation of public sector workers that we see regularly here in NSW.

"The Minister was correct when he said Australia would not be as compassionate as it is without our dedicated public sector workforce.

"We would love to hear Barry O'Farrell make similar comments."

PSA Venues for October 8 Stop Work meetings

Timetable for the day is:

9.00am to 1.00pm or more if needed - stop work
9.30-9.45am - be seated at the meetings
10.00am sharp - broadcast from Sydney begins

ALBURY Albury Commercial Club- Waratah Room  618 Dean Street, Albury
DARETON Coomealla Club- Harvest Room Silver City Highway, Dareton
GRIFFITH Griffith Ex-Servicemen's Club- Mirrool 2 Room  Jondaryan Ave, Griffith
WAGGA WAGGA Wagga Commercial Club- Nathan Room 77 Gurwood Street, Wagga Wagga
LEETON Leeton Soldiers Club Yanco St
DENILIQUIN Deniliquin RSL Club 72 End St, Deniliquin
ARMIDALE Armidale City Bowling Club Dumaresq Street, Armidale
INVERELL Royal Hotel Byron Street, Inverell
LIGHTNING RIDGE Lightning Ridge Bowling Club Agate Street, Lightning Ridge
MOREE Town & Country Club 5 Frome Street, Moree
NARRABRI Narrabri Bowling Club 176 Maitland St, Narrabri
TAMWORTH West Diggers Grand Ballroom  Kable Avenue, Tamworth
GLEN INNES Glen Innes & District Services Club Grey St (cnr Lang St), Glen Innes
BATEMANS BAY Batemans Bay Soldiers Club Beach Road, Batemans Bay
MERIMBULA Pambala Merimbula Golf Club 173 Arthur Deane Dr, Merimbula
GOULBURN Goulburn Soldiers Club  15 Market St, Goulburn
NAROOMA Narooma Golf Club Ballingalla Street, Narooma
NOWRA/BOMADERRY Bomaderry Bowling Club 154 Metro Rd, Bomaderry
QUEANBEYAN  Kangaroos Club Cnr Stuart St & Richard Ave, Queanbeyan
WOLLONGONG  Illawarra Steelers Club Cnr Burelli & Harbour Strs, Wollongong
MITTAGONG Mittagong RSL Club Old Hume Highway, Mittagong
BATHURST Bathurst Panthers 132 Piper Street, Bathurst
BOURKE  Bourke Bowling Club Cnr Mitchell & Richard Streets, Bourke
BROKEN HILL Musicians Club 76 Crystal Street, Broken Hill
COBAR Bowling & Golf Club Mary St
COWRA Cowra Services Club 101 Brisbane Street, Cowra
DUBBO Dubbo RSL Theatre Cnr Brisbane St & Wingewarra St, Dubbo
LITHGOW Lithgow Club
formerly the Bowling Club 2c Lithgow St
ORANGE  Ophir Tavern 84 Glenroi Avenue, Orange
PARKES Parkes Leagues Club 194-196 Clarinda Street, Parkes
COFFS HARBOUR . C.ex Coffs - Auditorium Vernon Street
GRAFTON Grafton District Services Club 105-107 Mary St, Grafton
KEMPSEY Kempsey Golf Club Pacific Highway, Kempsey
LISMORE Star Court Theatre Star Crt Arcade, Molesworth St, Lismore
PORT MACQUARIE Port Macquarie Panthers 1 Bay St, Port Macquarie
TWEED HEADS Twin Towns Services Club Wharf Street, Tweed Heads
PORT STEPHENS Soldiers Point Bowling Club 118 Soldiers Point Rd, Soldiers Point
CESSNOCK Cessnock Supporters Club ..
GOSFORD Central Coast Leagues Club Dane Drive, Gosford
MAITLAND East Maitland Bowling Club Banks St, East Maitland
MUSWELLBROOK Muswellbrook RSL 113 Bridge St, Muswellbrook
NEWCASTLE Souths Leagues Club 46 Llewellyn St, Merewether
TAREE Taree Leagues Club 43 Cowper St, Taree
WYONG  Wyong Race Club Howarth St, Wyong
CAMPBELLTOWN Campbelltown Catholic Club 20 Camden Rd, Campbelltown
PENRITH  Penrith RSL Club 8 Tindale St, Penrith
SYDNEY Sydney Town Hall 483 George Street, Sydney

Vic: TAFE funding cuts protest

Protests against TAFE funding cuts will target regional MPs and those in marginal seats to pressure them into opposing the slashing of the sector's budget.

Teachers walked off the job yesterday to hold a protest meeting in Treasury Gardens in opposition to the estimated $290 million cut to TAFEs.

Australian Education Union state president Mary Bluett said protesters would next rally outside Coalition MPs' offices.

''It's time for those backbenchers to stand up for their local communities and support their local TAFE,'' she said.

Some protesters wore white chefs' hats with stickers that said ''Stop the cuts''. Students also joined the rally. It came after a prolonged series of protests across the state.Documents leaked to the media last week revealed plans for campus sales and closures, fee rises and college mergers in response to the funding changes.

William Angliss Institute professional cookery teacher Garry Blackburn said the funding cuts would affect young students beginning their careers and mature workers hoping to train for a new job.

''We've got people that have business degrees, engineering degrees, they're coming and they want to cook for a living,'' he said.
''It was quite short notice for the unprotected action, but at the end of the day you have to take a stand and be proud of what you do for a living.''

AMWU: Manufacturing needs a national plan

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Unions NSW: O’Farrell Government’s Attacks and Cuts

Since taking office in March 2011, Barry O’Farrell and his Government have made a number of cuts to funding, jobs, workers’ rights and services. Here is an overview of what the workers of NSW have endured thus far. [ Download pdf ]

Attacks on Workers’ Rights

Taken Control of IRC and Frozen Wages

  • The Government passed the Industrial Relations (Public Sector Conditions of Employment) Act 2011. Consequently the Government has given itself complete power to determine wage increases (or not) and conditions for public sector staff through Regulations which do not have to pass any votes in the Parliament.
  • The Industrial Relations Commission has had its power to arbitrate wage disputes removed.
  • So far, the Government has frozen wage increases for public sector workers at 2.5%. Whilst the O’Farrell Government has claimed this will not leave public sector workers worse off, the University of Sydney’s Workplace Research Centre found that a nurse would be $12, 232 worse off and a teacher $14, 580 worse off each year had the O’Farrell policy been applied over the past decade.

Attacked Injured Workers

  • Government amendments to the Workers Compensation Act saw significant cuts to the support and compensation provided to injured workers.
  • The cuts to Workers Compensation means weekly payments will cease after 2.5 years and medical costs will stop being paid after 3.5 years for most injured workers.
  • Additionally, workers will have almost non-existent coverage for accidents on their way to or from work.
  • No lump sum payments can be made for pain and suffering, regardless of the severity of the injury.
  • Changes to weekly benefits, medical costs and duration of payments are to apply as soon as possible to existing claims.
  • The O’Farrell government attributed the needs for the cuts to a ‘deficit’ in WorkCover. The cuts have shifted the blame of the ‘deficit’ onto injured workers, with the Government hoping for a reduction in insurance premiums for employers.

Stripped Police of their Death and Disability Protection

  • The Government’s Police Amendment (Death and Disability) Act 2011 severely cut the support and rehabilitation provided to police who are injured on the job, as well as support for families of police officers killed at work.

Attacked Workers’ Rights to Fairly Bargain Collectively

  • Currently before Parliament is the Government’s Industrial Relations Amendment (Dispute Orders) Bill 2012. If this Bill is passed, it will increase fines for taking industrial action from $10,000 a day to $110,000 a day.
  • It is also important to remember as mentioned above that unions no longer have the right to independent arbitration over wages and conditions and unlike the Federal industrial relations system have no legal right to strike through protected action.

No Consultation around Significant Industrial Changes

  • By way of example The Technical and Further Education Commission Amendment (Staff Employment) Act 2011 saw 13,000 TAFE teachers transferred to the Federal industrial relations system where they now fall under the Fair Work Act
  • No consultations with unions or teachers were attempted prior to the introduction and subsequent passing of this Act.
  • Similarly, Government abolished the Transport Appeals Board with no discussion with unions.

Forcing Retail Workers to Work on Public Holidays

  • The Retail Trading Amendment Bill 2012 presented by the O’Farrell Government will allow all retailers to trade on Boxing Day and Easter Sunday which will see employees being forced to work on what should be a day for families.
  • The Bill will also lead to backroom staff and staff of retail businesses working on Christmas Day and Good Friday.

No Support for Equal Pay

  • The most recent State budget has not allocated any funding to equal pay for social and community sector workers in line with the recent Fair Work findings.
  • There are 30,000 community and public sector workers in NSW. Without NSW funding these workers will not receive the awarded increases in full which range from 19 – 41 per cent.
  • Prior to the election O’Farrell promised social and community sector workers a fair and equitable pay rise.

Slashing Public Sector Entitlements

  • The O’Farrell Government has applied to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to change 98 different Public Sector Awards and enact massive cuts to entitlements and benefit.
  • Some of the cuts include: slashing annual leave loading, cutting penalty rates for shift workers, removal of additional sick leave entitlements and parental leave.

Attacks on Jobs

The O’Farrell Government’s two budgets to date have announced a total of 15,000 job cuts.

Public Sector Job Cuts (to date)

  • Rural Fire Service: 120 (August 2012)
  • Sydney Water: 300 (July 2012)
  • Illawarra TAFE: 250 (July 2012)
  • Office of Environment and Heritage: 350 (July 2012)
  • Roads and Maritime Services: 400 (July 2012)
  • Grafton Jail: 108 (June 2012)
  • Forests NSW: 40 (June 2012)
  • Rail Corp: 750 (May 2012)
  • Department of Attorney General and Justice: 489 (Oct 2011)
  • Department of Education and Communities: 292 (October 2011)
  • Department of Trade and Investment: 248 (October 2011)
  • Department of Transport: 200 (October 2011)
  • Department of Finance and Services: 214 (October 2011)
  • Department of Family and Community Services: 173 (October 2011)
  • Department of Premier and Cabinet: 138 (October 2011)
  • Industrial Relations Office: 19 (September 2011)
  • Cronulla Fisheries: 147 (September 2011)
  • Parramatta, Berrima and Kirkconnell prisons: 350 (September 2011)
  • NSW Department of Health: 300 (August 2011) Total: 4888

Expected Public Sector Job Cuts

  • 2400 job losses expected from education over next 4 years
  • 1000 TAFE teachers to go
  • 900 job losses expected in Community Services over the next 4 years
  • 3600 job losses expected in Health over the next 4 years
  • 600 job losses expected in the corporatisation of Forests
  • Job losses expected from power privatisation plans
  • Job losses expected from water privatisation plans

Attacks on Our Community and Services

Allowed Shooting in Protected National Parks

  • In a deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party, the O’Farrell Government has allowed shooters to hunt non-native animals in national parks.
  • Such a move poses significant safety risks for workers as well as individuals and families visiting the park. Additionally, this hunting will have significant effects on the native wildlife within our protected national parks.

Destroying local jobs and communities

  • The downsizing and potential closure of Grafton Jail by the O’Farrell Government has seen the Grafton community rally to save their community. Despite the Government’s commitment to invest in regional communities, O’Farrell has chosen to rip the heart out of the Grafton community, by cutting jobs and destroying the local economy.
  • Grafton is not the first regional community to see public sector cuts from the O’Farrell Government and it won’t be the last.

Privatised Electricity Generators

  • Despite an election promise to the people of Lithgow, O’Farrell and his government privatised all generators across NSW.
  • Not only will this significantly affect the jobs of those in the electricity industry, the people of NSW will see further increases to electricity bills into the future as a result.
  • The Government has also not denied plans to privatise the poles and wires if they are returned to Government after the next election.

School Funding Cuts

  • The O’Farrell Government cut $1.7 billion from education funding - $201 million will be cut from public schools and $116 million will be cut from private schools
  • Under these cuts, up to 1,800 TAFE teachers and education support staff will be sacked
  • The O’Farrell Government has abolished a number of TAFE courses
  • TAFE fees increased by 9.5%

Health Cuts

  • More than $2 billion in cuts to services and hospital budgets.
  • $775 million in staffing cuts.
  • Including some 3,600 health workers set to lose their jobs.

Japan to ditch nuclear power

The Japanese government has confirmed it will phase out nuclear power over the course of the next 30 years, following the massive earthquake and tsunami which caused a meltdown at the Fukushima power plant in 2011.

Japan's "strong and growing public demand to ditch nuclear power"
Prime minister Yoshihiko Noda confirmed the country's first comprehensive energy review since the disaster in March last year.

Under the plans, Japan's 50 existing reactors will be forced to shut down when they reach a 40-year lifespan. No new plants will be built, meaning that most reactors will be shut down completely by the year 2040. Prior to the accident, nuclear supplied about 30 per cent of Japan's demand. However, there is now a strong and growing public resentment towards the energy source.

To help fill the energy gap, Japan plans to boost the share of renewable power in its energy mix to 30 per cent. It will also aim to cut energy consumption by at least 10 per cent less than 2010 levels, by boosting energy efficiency measures.

Japan's announcement means it will follow Germany and Switzerland in abandoning nuclear because of the Fukushima disaster, albeit at a slower pace.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has already permanently switched off 17 nuclear plants while another nine will be closed by 2022.

The news was welcomed by anti-nuclear campaigners, including Friends of the Earth, which urged the UK government to follow in Japan's footsteps.

"Fukushima reminded the world how risky nuclear power can be - Japan's landmark move sends a strong signal to other nuclear powers," said Andrew Pendleton, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth.

"Britain should follow suit. We've got a bounty of renewable energy at our fingertips that are already falling in cost and which, together with energy saving and smart technologies, can meet our electricity needs."

Galilee Basin: threat to Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is on the brink of being turned into an industrial zone, with huge new coal ports and shipping routes waiting to be approved. These developments are the result of plans to rapidly increase Australia’s coal exports. The coal will be mined in Queensland’s Galilee Basin and shipped overseas via the Great Barrier Reef.

A new Greenpeace investigation has revealed the full damage these new coal mines would have if they go ahead. The Galilee Basin mines threaten our World Heritage Reef, as well as the stability of our climate, the health of our water supply and the habitat of native wildlife.

We have seen recently what the power of people can do. Together we stopped the Margiris super trawler from ruining Australia’s oceans. Now can we must protect our great icon – the Reef – and we need your help.

Australia’s biggest contribution to global warming is our coal exports. As plans progress to rapidly increase our coal exports, just yesterday the Arctic ice sheet melted to its lowest point on record; the result of an increasingly warming climate.

Greenpeace’s investigative findings:

  • There are nine mega coal mines proposed here, five of which would be bigger than any mine currently operating in Australia.
  • If the coal from the Galilee mines is burned, it would produce over 700 million tonnes of carbon pollution a year – that’s bigger than the entire fossil fuel emissions of Australia, the UK or Canada.
  • These mines are the single biggest driver of industrialising the Great Barrier Reef. A series of coal ports are planned to be built and expanded, millions of tonnes of sea floor will be dredged and up to 10 000 coal ships will travel through World Heritage Area.
  • If we don’t reduce our emissions, sea temperatures will rise. If they rise by 2-3°C it would result in the annual bleaching of over 97% of the Reef.

There is a movement of people taking action in this epic struggle to safeguard our precious Reef and the stability of our climate. 

Please join us by signing the ‘Save our Reef’ petition now.

Joe Owens - Cranes to fall silent across Sydney

Tower cranes across Sydney will be brought to a standstill at 11am today (September 20) to mark the death of legendary building unionist  Joe Owens.

Owens, a former Secretary of the Builders Labourers Federation NSW Branch, was one of the leaders of the Green Ban movement that during the 1970s stopped the development of iconic heritage sites and open spaces such as The Rocks, Centennial Park, Woolloomoolloo and Botanic Gardens.

A memorial service for Owens, 77, who died earlier this month in his northern NSW home of Nambucca Heads, will be held today (Sept 20)  at Trades Hall from 10.30am.

Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union NSW State Secretary Brian Parker said it was no exaggeration to say Owens had helped changed the face of the building industry in NSW and unionism.

He said Owens played an instrumental role in improving safety on building sites, particularly for the dogman who would be hauled high into the sky while standing on cranes in a practice known as “riding the hook”.

“Joe knew the dangers of this practice and campaigned in the 1970s as Sydney’s skyline grew ever upward to stop the practice,” he said.

“As one of the Green Ban leaders he also showed that building workers had a social conscience and were committed to keeping inner-city liveable for the working classes that then predominantly lived there.

“Today we could not imagine Sydney without historic Rocks precinct or the vast parklands of Centennial Park.”

Owens also played a leading role in campaigning for women’s, Indigenous and gay rights.

Parker said as a tribute to the years he spent “riding the hook” cranes across Sydney would stop work for one minute from 11am to remember his contribution to improving work conditions and human rights and saving Sydney’s heritage.

Workplace deaths increase

WORKPLACE deaths have hit a three-year high and middle-aged men working in transport or trades have been identified as the most likely victims.

An analysis of workplace fatalities over the past decade has revealed 92 per cent involve men, with those aged 45 to 54 years old accounting for a quarter of cases.

In a rise that has triggered union calls for tougher fines and more inspections amid concerns the long-term decline of deaths is rising again, a total of 128 people had been killed yesterday so far this year compared to 119 at the same time last year.

In the latest case, a man, 70, was killed when he fell through a roof near Ipswich in Queensland on Monday.

The most dangerous areas to work were transport, postal and warehouses (41 deaths) followed by agriculture, forestry and fishing (27) and construction (18), according to Safe Work Australia preliminary data for the year starting December 22.

The most dangerous positions were machinery operators & drivers followed by technicians, trades workers and labourers while the safer roles were indoor jobs in healthcare and finance.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said he wanted to make the issue as prominent in the minds of people as the annual road toll.

"We need businesses that openly respect the delivery of bad news at work - employers who act on the bad news and work with their staff to find solutions," Mr Shorten said.

There were 220 deaths for each of the past two years but the surge this year will challenge the 289 deaths in 2008-09.

Queensland led the nation with 56 deaths last year followed by 54 in NSW, 40 in Victoria, 33 in Western Australia, 20 in South Australia and 10 in Tasmania.

Transport Workers Union national assistant secretary Michael Kaine said the new Safe Rates laws monitoring the trucking industry would help next year but that major retailers had to ease off pressuring drivers.

"The trucking industry has become sweat shops on wheels," he said.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union national secretary Dave Noonan said state-based occupational health and safety authorities were biased toward employers and under-resourced.

"In a number of states the inspectors never issue fines and prosecutions don't happen," he said.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Corporate Culture: CEO pay scam

Accountant turned mining boss Tony Poli last year enjoyed a $169 million windfall from Aquila Resources, the iron ore company he runs, even as the second-tier iron miner's annual accounts show he was paid just $572,000.

Mr Poli's pay day - which came about after he cashed in options issued to him five years earlier - is a stark example of the real earnings of the nation's corporate bosses. Analysis of the nation's top 100 companies by the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, which advises the nation's biggest super funds, throws further light on how much our corporate leaders are really paid.

Minimum earnings disclosure fails to take into account the upside chief executives often receive from packages such as deferred bonus payments in shares or the cashing in of options - the right to acquire shares in a company, often at a heavily discounted price.

The ASCI report, released today, also reveals how in 10 years paychecks of the nation's chief executives have grown at twice the pace of an average Australian income and more than three times as fast as inflation. Since 2002, the average CEO wage of $1.94 million is up 120 per cent. The average pay for the chief executive of a top-100 company comes in at $4.72 million.

The ACSI study also showed, however, that fixed pay for these bosses may have held steady over the last year, but bonuses have fallen as profits declined across corporate Australia.
''I think there is a mood for change on executive pay,'' Ann Byrne, chief executive of ACSI, said. ''In the current market conditions, it is clear that boards have been listening to investor views on bonuses in light of company returns,''

BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers, who last year emerged as Australia's highest paid chief executive on $11.8 million, took home $17.3 million after the impact of a deferred bonus payment, according to the ACSI study. ANZ boss Mike Smith realised $4.36 million more from his disclosed $10.03 million in 2011.

Not all chief executives enjoyed the upside, Crown's Rowen Craigie received less than half the $7.71 million the gaming company had set aside for him.

Mr Poli exercised his options in December 2010, paying about 95¢ a share when Aquila shares were changing hands for more than $9.20. However, the company shares have since plunged, closing yesterday at $2.77.

Mr Poli's 30 per cent stake in Aquila took his wealth to $1 billion in 2009 and 2010, but this tumbled to $600 million last year as the resources boom started cooling.

Vic: Hadkiss past catches up

If you want a review into the Victorian building industry which is independent, Nigel Hadgkiss is not your man. He is too linked to one side of the political debate for his findings to win bipartisan support and to lead to cultural change.

Hadgkiss spent six years involved in the Howard government's controversial federal building watchdog and is now running the Baillieu version. Unions will dismiss any findings as emerging from a kangaroo court.

It is true the Victorian industry deserves scrutiny - but also much more nuance in the debate than has emerged. Murky dealings exist among union officials and employers, and while there are many lurid allegations in the industry, firm facts are harder to find.

In 2006, the Supreme Court heard evidence from Ted Sent, former chief executive of retirement home developer Primelife, who revealed he paid gangland figure Mick Gatto more than $200,000 in unmarked envelopes over three years.

Gatto's role, the court heard, was to broker meetings with Sent and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. There were also regular lunches with up to 20 people including developers, finance brokers and CFMEU officials.

The court heard Sent paid to guarantee a smooth industrial environment.

But the payments highlight that Gatto's role in the industry as a mediator exists because employers pay him. Gatto then uses his reputation and links with senior union officials, such as John Setka, to make a buck.

If the industry, as a whole, made a stand, no matter how painful that would be at first, these links would begin to fade.

Grocon suffered a lengthy blockade in Melbourne's CBD with the union defying Supreme Court orders over an issue - the election of safety representatives ... But earlier this month, The Age published a photograph from March of two Grocon managers meeting with a Hells Angel with allegations the bikie was used to intimidate union protesters in Brisbane. Grocon rejected this allegation.

Construction is a tough industry and having Hadgkiss do the review smacks of an act by a government running an attack on the unions. Lasting change will only occur if independent scrutiny of the industry is done by someone unions and employers accept.

Read more

NSW: TAFE promises trashed

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli and 15 government MPs signed a pledge promising to guarantee TAFE funding and hire more TAFE teachers – ahead of their decision to cut an unprecedented $1.7 billion in education funding for NSW.

"TAFE students and teachers have been lied to by the Education Minister and O'Farrell Government," Opposition Leader John Robertson said today.

"Liberal and National MPs campaigned on signing the TAFE pledge to guarantee funding and increase teachers for their local communities, but are now supporting the biggest attack on education in NSW in more than twenty years.

"Liberal and National MPs have clearly forgotten the value of education in the past 18 months.

"Slashing 800 TAFE workers and increasing TAFE fees will rip apart our vocational education system, see an exodus of experts from NSW and discourage many people from accessing vital skills training.

"Every student, parent, teacher, school and TAFE community in NSW will suffer because of these devastating funding cuts."

The following government MPs signed the 'Invest in TAFE for a Better State' pledge:

Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner
Education Minister Adrian Piccoli
Environment Minister Robyn Parker
Rob Stokes (Pittwater)
Troy Grant (Dubbo)
Leslie Williams (Port Macquarie)
Shelley Hancock (South Coast)
Kevin Anderson (Tamworth)
Tony Issa (Granville)
Lee Evans (Heathcote)
Matt Kean (Hornsby)
Gareth Ward (Kiama)
John Barilaro (Monaro)
Richard Torbay (Northern Tablelands)
Geoff Provest (Tweed)
Darryl McGuire (Wagga Wagga)

"Liberal and National MPs have turned their backs on their local students and school communities by supporting Barry O'Farrell and Adrian Piccoli's $1.7 billion cut to education," Shadow Education Minister, Carmel Tebbutt said.

"At a time of a skills shortage, the O'Farrell Government should be investing more, not less, in skills and training opportunities.

"These mean spirited cuts by the O'Farrell Government will only hurt the students who rely on TAFE to give them a leg up in their working life."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Demolition of jobs - Lib strategy

12 September, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

Massive cuts to public sector jobs and services by the Newman Government in Queensland are the latest wave in a disturbing trend that points to what the Coalition would do if it gained power federally.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the state government had slashed 14,000 Queensland jobs including nurses, doctors and other health services, and Premier Campbell Newman was now calling for Federal government to make changes to IR laws that would make all Australian jobs less secure.

Ms  Kearney pledged the support of the Australian union movement to workers taking action in Queensland today following yesterday’s state Budget which confirmed the axing of 14,000 public sector jobs.

She said unions Australia-wide were concerned that the Newman Government was continuing a pattern of attacks on services, jobs and rights at work that had already been seen in New South Wales and Victoria. She said there were fears the new conservative government in the Northern Territory would adopt a similar strategy.

“The demolition of the Queensland public service is straight out of the Liberal Party’s copy book,” Ms Kearney said. “Tony Abbott must be licking his lips at the prospect of doing the same thing federally if he wins the next election.

“The Liberals have a terrible track record of slashing services, cutting jobs and handing out lucrative taxpayer funded contracts to the private sector. The 14,000 job cuts in Queensland must be seen as part of a broader agenda by the Liberal-National Coalition throughout Australia to again attack the rights of working people.

“On television last night, Campbell Newman revealed this was just the beginning and he thinks that wages are too high. He called for more ‘IR reforms’ like the ones introduced by his Government.

“Why is it that one of the first acts of every new Coalition Government is to attack the job security of the very people who are the bedrock of public services?

“We are talking about the services particularly in regional areas and health that will impact Queensland families. Some regional areas already have above average jobless rates.

“The LNP government plan to cut more jobs puts more pressure on these struggling communities. That means less money in these regional economies, less money for people to spend in local shops and businesses. These regional economies could slow further.”

Ms Kearney said the attacks on jobs in Queensland were the blueprint for what an Abbott Government would unleash Australia-wide.

Friday, September 14, 2012

NSW: O'Farrell vandals trash TAFE

On Tuesday, 10 September, Barry O'Farrell deleted Fine Arts from TAFE NSW.

Since the 1850's directors of technical education in NSW took the view that education should not only strengthen job prospects – it should enrich society.

On Tuesday, Pam Christie Deputy Director-General, TAFE and Community Education notified all TAFE staff that from  "From January 2013 student fees for government supported places (in TAFE) will increase and Fine Arts courses including sculpture, visual arts and ceramics will no longer be subsidised by the Government."

This will mean the end of Fine arts in TAFE NSW (particularly in regional areas) & the added value of creativity to all peoples lives & enrichment to the community & Australia.

Shame! O'Farrell Shame!

Please add your name & email to this important petition. Every name that is added builds momentum around the campaign and makes it more likely for us to get the change/decision reversal that we want to see. Will you join me by taking action on this campaign?

Please lick on this link & sign.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Qld: Union action limits job slash and burn

The Newman government’s announcement of a job cuts cap of 14,000 means it has finally recognised union and community outrage over its slash and burn policies.

Queensland Council of Unions President John Battams said the government had only changed direction after recent negative opinion polls after just five months in power.

“The polls show Premier Newman is power-diving into an abyss of unpopularity,” Mr Battams said.

“Whatever the original number of job cuts the LNP had in mind – 20,000, 15,000, 14,000 – nobody believes that they would have reduced that number willingly without pressure,” he said.

He commended unions and community groups for speaking out against the cuts, often in the face of withering criticism from the government.

“I’m pleased that fewer Queenslanders face the sack but Premier Newman should have listened to the voices of workers and community groups long before now instead of indiscriminately sacking workers and cutting services,” Mr Battams said.

“This government has a slash and burn philosophy but no plan for growth. It has approached the issues around public debt too quickly and without thought. This has just ensured uncertainty among workers, community groups and the public.”

Two independents reports released this week also exposed the Government’s blueprint for budget cuts – the Costello report – as unreliable and ‘intellectually dishonest’.

A report by NSW academics Professor Bob Walker and Dr Betty Con Walker said the Costello work was neither independent nor a proper audit, while a report from University of Queensland Professor John Quiggin said it was ‘misleading’.

Mr Battams said a union and community campaign would continue to highlight and speak out against the impacts of hasty and unplanned government budget policies.

“Let’s not forget that the loss of 14,000 jobs from across Queensland will have a massive impact on regional economies and services.

“The impact in regional areas will be very severe. The two areas where most jobs will go  – health and transport – are critical, especially if you live outside of Brisbane.”

Unions and community groups are planning further action, with community activities to be held across the state on 12 September, the day after the first LNP state budget is delivered.

“These community days of action will be a message to the government that we stand for Queensland. We are saying ‘enough is enough’ of cuts to jobs and services. This government needs to take a step back and look at the damage it is doing to jobs, livelihoods and communities.”

UK: Teachers vote to strike

Sunday, September 09, 2012

United Mineworkers Federation Memorial Day 2012

9 September 2012

ACTU President Ged Kearney address to United Mineworkers Federation Memorial Day

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today and pay my respects to elders past and present. It is a privilege to be invited to deliver this address today, back in the heartland of our great union movement.

I would like to acknowledge my hosts here today: Peter Jordan, the District President of the United Mineworkers’ Federation, and Grahame Kelly, the District Secretary.

Tony Maher, the National President of CFMEU Mining and Andrew Vickers, the General Secretary. And members of Parliament both federal and state: Joel Fitzgibbon, Jill Hall and Clayton Barr.

But most importantly, union members, their families and their friends who attend this memorial service every year. This service is for you, and the memory of your lost ones or those whose lives were sacrificed in early generations. We owe it to them to make sure that the workplace is safer for those who came after them.

In addressing this annual commemorative service, I am conscious that I am following in very illustrious footsteps. The Memorial Wall was opened by none other than Paul Keating, then the Prime Minister of Australia, in 1996. Alongside him was Jim Comerford, who would be celebrating his 99th birthday this very day if he was still alive.

And last year, the current Prime Minister, Julia Gillard gave the address. To my great regret, I never had the opportunity to meet Jim Comerford, but I feel like I know him through the legend.

Jim Comerford : Rothbury shooting witness
This is a man who as a teenage underground pit boy witnessed the Battle of Rothbury of 1929, where police fired on protesting out-of-work coalminers, killing one. That event left such an impression on Jim that 77 years later, he published a book about the lockout the year he died.

Jim wanted to be a journalist, but at his father’s insistence began working in the mines at the age of 16. It was an era when boys routinely left school in their early teens for dangerous and difficult jobs. We can be thankful that today child labour is not still used in mining in Australia, another win by the union movement.

He dedicated his life to his workmates, his union and his industry, holding the position of Northern District President of the Miners Federation for several decades.

Sadly, Jim is no longer with us but his legacy lives on with the Jim Comerford Memorial Wall. We are here today to honour the fallen. The more than 1800 men and boys who have lost their lives in the northern district coal mines over more than 200 years.

Every small Australian town has a war memorial, a monument to the young men who went away overseas in the two great wars of last century and did not return. Those war memorials and the services held at them are often the focal point for a community, particularly in rural areas. They carry three words laden with meaning: Lest We Forget.

But it is important we also do not forget those those who have been killed at work. And redouble our efforts to prevent future deaths.

The Hunter Valley plays an important role in the history of the Australian trade union movement. In so many ways, the story of trade unions and working class struggle can be told through the story of the Hunter. It was in Newcastle that the first 8 hour day committee was formed.

Because of the nature of the work, coal mining has always been associated with unionism, and Newcastle was Australia’s first coal port in the early 1800s. And it is still Australia’s, and the world’s biggest coal port.

The first coal mining operations began here as early as 1801, and unionism has been part of the landscape almost the entire time since. From the earliest Lodges, a sense of mateship, camaraderie and collective unity has existed and continues today with union density of almost 90% across the mines of northern NSW.


Qld: Newman's axe

Kevin Lewis has had a full and colourful career in Queensland. He's worked as a teacher, owned and operated a small business and worked in the community sector, before moving into the public sector working for the Queensland Government.

Now in his 50's, after many years working as a public servant Mr Lewis has found himself unemployed for the first time in his life after his contract was not renewed in the latest round of the LNP Governments public service cuts.

"It came as quite a shock. I've been with the Department [of Communities] and with the Government in this stint for around four and a half years.

The affect of his job loss on his family has most concerned Mr Lewis.

"I was surprised at the affect on my family; I've found that this is a concern, even for our young daughters. It's been heavily on their mind. Is dad going to get a job? Where is it going to be? What is going to happen to me?"

Mr Lewis says the hardest part about his new job search is the places he's now found himself approaching for work.

"I've found it a bit embarrassing at my age and stage to be walking up with my CV, knocking on the door saying 'have you got a job'".

Speaking for the first time as himself and not the Department he once represented he says with the loss of longstanding employees of the public service will ultimately mean a loss of corporate knowledge and memory for Government Departments.

"For the people who have been terminated, there are losses in a number of areas. The corporate history and memory that is lost with those people. And the other part is the job is still there to be done, but there are in fact less people to do the same amount of work or more."

Although the role Mr Lewis held wasn't described as 'frontline', he believes that government services will suffer as a result of the behind the scenes jobs that have been axed.

"I believe they will, and I know that some of them have. It's in relation to timely payments to service providers, so there is a fairly direct impact on those service providers.

"I've had a strong reaction from the colleagues I've left, in a sense some of them feel guilt that they're there and some of us are not."


Give a Gonski

The Gonski Review was the most comprehensive review of schools funding in almost 40 years. Its recommendations give us a way to ensure real equality of opportunity for our children in education. 

Here are five key findings:
  1. There is an urgent need for change. The Gonski Review found that Australia is investing far too little in schools and the way the money is distributed is not efficient,  effective or fair. The system is failing too many students who are missing out on the resources they need. 
  2. There are growing gaps in student achievement. While Australia remains a high achieving nation in education, our overall performance has fallen in the last decade. Students in disadvantaged areas are up to three years behind those of the same age who live in wealthy areas. One in seven 15 year old students does not have basic reading skills.
  3. We must invest for success. The review recommends a major increase in funding to schools. The way it is distributed would also change to better meet the needs of students. It says public schools should get the greatest increases in funding for additional staff, learning programs and upgraded facilities. Funding would vary according to the needs of students, but the average increase would be almost $1,500 a student per year.  That is enough for seven extra teachers in a public school with 500 students.
  4. The Federal Government needs to lead the way. Gonski recommends a much greater funding commitment to public schools from the Federal Government. Currently it is only providing 15 per cent of the money that public schools receive, despite having access to greater revenue sources than state and territory governments
  5. Our children’s future is at stake. The report’s recommendations are aimed at ensuring every child has the same chance to receive a high quality education. But Gonski warns a failure to act will cost not only our children but our country: “Australia will only slip further behind unless, as a nation, we act and act now.”

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Joe Owens dies aged 77

Joe Owens - third from left

Green Ban Fusiliers - Denis Kevans

Owens, who died earlier this week, was secretary of the Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) NSW branch between 1973 and 1975.

With other BLF leaders Jack Mundey and Bob Pringle, Owens was an instrumental part of the Green Bans movement that saved some of Sydney’s now-iconic tourist sites such as The Rocks, the Museum of Contemporary Art building, Woolloomoolloo’s heritage and Centennial Park.

Owens played a key role in other social issues such as the push for Indigenous and women’s rights and the anti-Vietnam War campaign.

He was also a key player in the democratisation of the BLF that included a limit on tenure of the executive and was Secretary when BLF Federal Secretary Norm Gallagher took over the NSW Branch and blacklisted the former leaders.

Parker says the union movement has lost an outstanding leader.

“Joe Owens never took a backward step in his commitment to the betterment of workers’ lives.

“Through the Green Bans, with Jack Mundey and Bob Pringle, he sought to save our city from over-development.

“He did this in the belief that workers were not only concerned about better wages and conditions they also wanted to live in a better environment and protect their children’s future.”

Thursday, September 06, 2012

VIC: Teachers strike

A resolution to begin the next stage of the protracted industrial campaign was passed at a mass rally attended by more than 15,000 striking teachers, principals and education support staff at the Rod Laver Arena yesterday.

Teachers brandishing placards with slogans such as ''Misled by Ted'' and ''Ted Faillieu'' expressed their anger over the state government's broken pre-election promise to make
Victorian teachers the highest paid in the nation.

They also booed government proposals to sack the bottom 5 per cent of teachers, introduce performance-based pay and recruit principals from professions other than teaching.

They were later joined in a march to State Parliament by more than 4000 Catholic teachers - whose pay is directly linked to that of state teachers - even though their strike was not legally protected. Fifty Catholic schools closed and 180 were severely disrupted on top of the 400 state schools estimated to have closed.

Australian Education Union state president Mary Bluett, said last night she had no idea how long the protracted campaign would drag on.

''The Baillieu government don't seem to have the capacity to work out how to negotiate with the public sector,'' Ms Bluett said.

TAFE: Lessons from Victoria

Beware of bankers bearing gifts!

Greece's eurozone creditors are demanding that the government introduce a six-day working week as part of the stiff terms for a second bailout.

The demand is contained in a leaked letter from the ''troika'' of the country's lenders, the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

In the letter, the officials policing Greece's compliance with the austerity imposed in return for the bailout insist on radical labour market reforms, from minimum wages to overtime limits to flexible working hours.

After a long delay caused by months of political paralysis in Greece, the troika of inspectors return to Athens this week to scrutinise observance of its bailout terms. They are expected to deliver a verdict next month that will determine whether Greece is ultimately allowed to remain in the single currency.

The letter, sent last week to finance and labour ministries, orders the government to extend the working week into the weekend.

''Measure: increase flexibility of work schedules: increase the number of maximum workdays to six days per week for all sectors.

''Set the minimum daily rest to 11 hours; delink the working hours of employees from the opening hours of the establishment; eliminate restrictions on minimum/maximum time between morning and afternoon shifts; allow the consecutive two-week leave to be taken any time during the year in seasonal sectors.''

The instructions focus on labour market reforms, calling for the national labour inspectorate to be radically reformed and put under European supervision.

NO to plunder of the oceans

Giant fishing vessels known as super trawlers are pushing our oceans into an urgent crisis. Now one of the world's most notorious super trawlers, the Margiris, is coming to Australia. This will be the largest vessel ever to fish in Australian waters.

Senegal has banned all super trawlers after its waters were plundered by the Margiris and similar vessels. It's time for the Australian Government to do the same -- before it's too late.

Sign Petition:

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

TAS: Gunns pulp mill in doubt

Tamar Valley pulp mill site
The Tasmanian timber company Gunns has raised the possibility it will not proceed with its planned $2.3 billion Bell Bay pulp mill project.

Gunns has told the stock exchange its board can not agree on whether the Tamar Valley project will go ahead.

It is now accounting for the $250 million it has already spent on the project as an expense rather than an asset.

The money is included in a $800 million asset write-down which the company is anticipating as part of its annual result expected later this month.

Gunns says this does not necessarily mean that the project will not go ahead, only that it is an indication of the company's decreased confidence about it proceeding.

"The company's board has been unable to reach a view for the purposes of the company's 30th of June 2012 financial accounts that the mill project is 'probable to proceed' in terms of the concepts defined in relevant accounting standards," the statement reads.

"The decision taken by the board does not necessarily mean that the mill project will not proceed.

"Rather it is an indication of decreased confidence from the company that is has the ability to influence the mill project proceeding."

CFMEU offers to extend cooling off period in Grocon dispute

The National Secretary of the CFMEU Construction Division Dave Noonan has written to Fair Work Australia proposing that the Tribunal vary its recommendation for a cooling off period in the Grocon dispute.

 Fair Work Australia President Iain Ross last week recommended a 14-day cooling off period to allow negotiations to occur. This recommendation was accepted by the CFMEU and rejected by Grocon.

 The CFMEU notes that Mr Grollo’s stated reason for refusing to agree to President Ross’s recommendation was that the that the 14 day period was not acceptable to the company.

 In the interests of reaching a resolution on this dispute the CFMEU has written to President Ross, advising him that it would accept a revised version of this recommendation which would remove the reference to a two-week cooling off period.

 "We have written to the Commissioner in order to find a way through this dispute. There are serious matters that require negotiation and this proposal addresses the key issue that the company has identified in refusing the recommendation of President Ross of Fair Work Australia."

"If this is accepted by Grocon, talks can resume with all protest action and court action suspended," Mr Noonan said.

Office for Asbestos Safety

04 September, 2012 | ACTU Media Release

The establishment of a new national agency to oversee the management and removal of asbestos is an important step towards eradicating all asbestos from Australia by 2030.

ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said asbestos remained a silent killer and the Government’s announcement at the joint ACTU-Cancer Council Australia summit in Sydney, showed it took the issue seriously.

He said the new Office for Asbestos Safety must quickly move to implement a plan to make Australia asbestos-free within two decades.

“About 600 Australians are dying from asbestos-related diseases each year, including increasing numbers who inadvertently breathed in asbestos fibres during home renovation projects,” Mr Borowick said.

“Although asbestos was banned almost a decade ago, Australians are concerned that it remains a major health hazard in the community, and unions are determined that the removal of asbestos by 2030 remains on the public agenda.

“Today’s announcement by the Minister for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, that the Government will establish a new agency is a good step towards our goal,” Mr Borowick said.

“Unions called for a new government agency as part of our submission to the response to the recent Asbestos Management Review by Geoff Fary, so we are pleased the review panel supported our recommendation and that the Government has also listened.”

Mr Borowick said a strategic plan by the new Office for Asbestos Safety would pave the way towards the ultimate goal of complete asbestos removal, and would help deal with its existence now, while ensuring all Australians were made aware of its dangers.

“People have a right to be protected, both at home and at work, so awareness of its prevalence is a crucial first step,” he said. “Until we know exactly which homes and buildings it is in, Australians are effectively rolling the dice on their own lives.”

Mr Borowick said today’s Asbestos Summit in Sydney was an important opportunity for experts, governments and advocates to work towards solutions to ending the 600 deaths that continue each year from the asbestos disease, mesothelioma.

“Australia has the highest rate of mesothelioma deaths in the world and experts predict this will worsen in the future, with the rise of home renovations,” he said.

“Unions have long been calling for the safe removal of asbestos by 2030, starting with Government buildings, and for an audit of its existence in residential properties built before production ended in 1987. The trail of asbestos leaves a grim legacy and today’s Summit is an important discussion about how to end it.”