Sunday, January 27, 2013

Vic Turner: 3 October 1927 - 30 December 2012

Vic Turner was probably best remembered as one of the dock leaders known as the Pentonville Five, a group of picketers who were jailed in July 1972, triggering one of the largest labour demonstrations in London’s history. The men were arrested and jailed at the direction of the government’s National Industrial Relations Court. The dispute over their jailing was a central moment in postwar industrial relations.

The Pentonville 5 were released from prison when the Government of the day sent its Official Solicitor to the High Court and 'purged the contempt' that the Pentonville 5 were supposed to have committed when they refused to obey an order from the NIRC (National Industrial Relations Court) to desist from picketing (or organising picketing) at two sites, the Midland Cold Store (which was owned by Lord Vestey) and Chobham Farm (which was a former International Rail Depot) that was owned by Port Employers (T.Wallis & Sons), who were using the site to stuff and unstuffy containers. Following their release,  the NIRC was left without real authority, and very soon afterwards the Tory Government removed the NIRC from Industrial Policy. The Tory Government only acted to purge the contempt because tens of thousands of workers laid down their tools in support of the Pentonville 5 and the government feared a general strike was soon to follow.

“Vic Turner was driven by a deep commitment to socialism but his passion and militancy was powered by an even bigger love and loyalty towards the regular worker,” said Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and President of the International Transport Workers Federation. “He always stayed close to the rank and file because of his determination to advance the working conditions of dockers. Wherever he went, in communities or political gatherings, his voice roared on behalf of workers. His lifelong accomplishments stand as a beacon for all of us who continue the fight for dockers rights everywhere.”

Crumlin’s observation of the character of Turner was echoed by his mates around the globe. In an obituary in The Independent , his son Vic recalled: “He never wanted to be one step away from the men. He never courted adulation or esteem, he led the way because it had to be done. Dockers never went on strike for money, only for better conditions, and that's what he wanted.”

Upon bestowing on Turner in 1997 the highest award given by the UK Trades Union Congress, the Men's Gold Badge, TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady remembered the impact that Turner had made: "For Vic Turner, trade unionism was about working class people looking after each other. It was a simple belief, but it was one that led him to organise in support of his fellow dockers when jobs were threatened, it was a belief that resulted in him being jailed; and soon afterwards it was a belief that led to him being released when workers across the country decided they should look after him and the other Pentonville Five.”

In accepting the award, Turner reaffirmed what stoked his passion and activism. “Even when we successfully conclude the issue of low pay and reach an agreement on that subject, namely, the minimum wage, that wage will, in relative terms, still be low pay,” he said. “We must never, ever forget that if we achieve something on a Monday, on a Tuesday we should be striving to enhance that gain, because that is the way employers are…I am concerned for anyone who is unemployed because, although I had a regular job so-called in the docks, I suffered in any one year months of unemployment. I know what it means. I know how it gets to people.”

Vic Turner featured in the award winning 1973 Cinema Action documentary "Arise Ye Workers". The five jailed dockers were Conny Clancy, Tony Merrick, Bernie Steer, Vic Turner and Derek Watkins.

Top Restaurants & Rotten Wages

Top Sydney restaurants have been flagrantly underpaying staff, flouting laws that could result in fines of $32,000 for each breach, a Fairfax Media investigation has found.

Fairfax Media reveals that the Spanish tapas restaurant El Bulli in Randwick and Surry Hills and two Crust pizza stores in Maroubra and Castle Hill have recently paid workers less than the minimum wage, which is currently $15.96.

Crust Pizza is a rapidly growing chain that quotes its chief executive, Michael Logos, as saying: ''Our culture is one of professionalism, entrepreneurship, teamwork and partnership, which helps to create delicious moments.''

El Bulli trades on its Spanish atmosphere, with mains in the range of $20 to $33.50.
The chain shares the name of the now-closed restaurant that was home to the experimental chef Ferran Adria but is not linked in any way.

The examples of underpayment at the restaurants, supported by payslips and other evidence, are on top of more than 40 restaurants reported to Fairfax Media by current and former workers.

But there are signs complaints are not being effectively addressed: of more than 52,000 complaints to the Fair Work Ombudsman in 2011 and 2012, only 3218 were followed up.

On Saturday, Fairfax Media revealed pizza chain Criniti's at Parramatta, Castle Hill and Darling Harbour, Wagaya in Haymarket, Sushi Fushion and Sushi Train in Neutral Bay were all paying some staff below the minimum wage.

Payslips from the El Bulli restaurants at Randwick and Surry Hills show a European kitchen hand on a student visa was being paid $12.50 an hour this month with no weekend penalty rates, while a Sydney waitress, Jemma Williams, 23, was being paid a flat rate of $15 in early 2012.

At the Maroubra Crust store, Amanda Pregl, a German student on a student visa, was paid $14 an hour, working seven days a week.
For two weeks, Ms Pregl, 25, was told by the owner of the store that she would not be paid until she provided her tax file number. She said she had not been paid for those two weeks.
''They were really taking advantage of me,'' she said. ''But I really needed the money and so that's why I didn't say anything.''

It was only when Ms Pregl told the owner she had been to the ATO and what he told her was incorrect, that she was given her pay. Two weeks later Ms Pregl was told she no longer had a job. Crust Pizza has not returned calls.

The NSW secretary of the union representing workers in the sector, United Voice, Tara Moriarty, said casual staff working in hospitality usually had high levels of fear. ''They are vulnerable to having their hours cut back or being left off the roster altogether if they fall foul of their boss,'' she said. ''We can and do help these members, but there really do need to be better laws to protect overseas workers who are even more vulnerable to this kind of exploitation.''

Read more

see also Serving up inequality

Saturday, January 26, 2013

TAFE Community Alliance

Date: Friday 22 February 2013
10.00 for 10.30 am
Finish by 11.30, followed by tea and coffee

Venue:  Western Sydney Community Forum
Level 4, 146 Marsden Street, Parramatta


President, National Welfare Rights Network

Western Sydney Community Forum

former Institute Director, TAFE NSW

Shadow Minister for Education and Training

RSVP: 20 February to

Blue Mountains Health Cuts Battle

NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson met with health workers and union representatives at Springwood Hospital on Monday to discuss the State Government’s plans for a $3 billion cut to health funding.

He was joined by Blue Mountains Labor spokesperson, Trish Doyle, who said the “extraordinary attack on health funding” made “no sense ... given our growing and ageing population.

Richard Jackson-Hope with Blue Mountains Labor spokesperson Trish Doyle, John Robertson, Union spokesperson Mary Court and Labor MLC and duty spokesperson for Blue Mountains Helen Westwood with residents outside the hospital.
“The people of the Blue Mountains didn’t vote for unprecedented cuts to hospital and education funding but that is exactly what Barry O’Farrell and Roza Sage are delivering.”

Mr Robertson said the O’Farrell Government planned a $3 billion cut to the health system with $2.2 billion cut from health services and hospital budgets and $775 million cut from staffing budgets.

“Some 3600 health workers are set to lose their jobs and eighty per cent of 902 health job cuts this year  will be from Local Health Districts,” he said.

“Frontline hospital workers will be sacked ... this meeting is an important first step.”

The meeting was the first of a series of community health forums being held this year organised by the Blue Mountains Unions Council and Penrith Valley Community Unions.

Union spokesperson Mary Court said she was worried for the future of the small Springwood Hospital and concerned whether it was targeted for closure.

Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, said the NSW Health budget had gone up this year, “with a 5.4 per cent increase in funds from Treasury announced in the record health budget brought down in June”.

She said “It is the case that, over four years, $2.2 billion in efficiency savings will be made in health to be reinvested in frontline services ... in the health system.”

Mrs Skinner admitted that $775 million will be “taken out of the health system over four years — $89 million in the first year” due to “tough economic conditions, mainly due to the collapse in GST revenue”.

Mr Robertson said “local health professionals like nurses, paramedics and other hospital staff do an outstanding job, but we know they are under incredible pressure to do more with less”.

Friends of Springwood Hospital spokesman Richard Jackson-Hope said Springwood needed a physiotherapy unit and was “hopelessly antiquated and needed redevelopment”.

He had voiced concerns over a year ago to the local member Roza Sage without response.

Economic problems hit youth hard

The share of Australians in their 20s who are not learning or earning has remained stubbornly high, failing to ease to pre-global financial crisis levels, a new report reveals.

But there are some positive signs among youth in their mid to late teens, with an increase in 15 to 19-year-olds involved in full-time education and training over the past three years.

And participation rates among indigenous teenagers are rising at twice the rate of the rest of the population.

The results are outlined in the latest evaluation of the National Partnership on Youth Attainment and Transitions, a $706 million program aiming to ensure young people are learning or earning.

The report says the share of 15 to 24-year-olds in full-time education or training rose from 69.5 per cent in 2009 to 73.4 per cent in 2012. But a closer analysis shows lingering problems with the number of 20 to 24-year-olds who are struggling to find their feet.

In this age group, the proportion not fully engaged in education, training or work rose from 19.5 per cent in 2008 to 22.2 per cent in 2009, about the time of the GFC.

This figure has not yet returned to pre-GFC levels, remaining stubbornly high at 21.8 per cent in 2010 and 22.5 per cent in 2011.

The National Partnership, launched in 2009, provides funding for a number of career development and youth training programs, including the Salvation Army's Oasis education centres in Sydney. The education manager at Oasis, Victoria Oettel, said it was tough for people to find work when they had not completed year 12 and this could lead to ''self loathing or despair''.

''I think it's pretty clear that the older people get the more entrenched negative coping skills are and the less that's there for them, I think as time goes by it gets harder.'' Ms Oettel said her job was to connect with youth who had negative impressions of school and it was sometimes a case of building their self-esteem through music, drama and art.

She said students may drop out of school because of bullying, mental illness or responsibility for caring for a sick family member . . . ''We catch the kids that fall through the cracks.''

School Education Minister Peter Garrett said the federal government had invested $706 million over four years in the National Partnership.

He believed the programs were helping young people finish school with the education and qualifications required to move into a successful career.

Read more

Friday, January 25, 2013

NSW: O'Farrell outsources road safety

The State Government's lack of respect for public sector workers is clearer than ever, with today's revelation that road maintenance work will be outsourced and the public sector banned from tendering for the work.

Hundreds of workers employed by Roads and Maritime Services now face an uncertain future.

Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon questioned the Government's motivation.

"If this is supposed to be about efficiency, why would the hard working men and women at Roads and Maritime Services be denied the opportunity to keep doing this work?

"This Government is now going to the extraordinary length of privatising essential services like road maintenance, just to create business opportunities for private sector interests.

"The fact that the public sector has been excluded from tendering for this work shows that there is no fat and the public sector is operating efficiently.

"The new private operators of road maintenance work will need to make a profit. Clearly, that will come at the expense of motorists, the community and the workforce.

"This State Government is more interested in providing a fat contract for the private sector than looking after the needs of the community."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tas: Historic win for Bell Bay

Workers at the Rio Tinto (Pacific Aluminium) Bell Bay smelter in Tasmania will be able to collectively bargain for pay and conditions, after historic proceedings in the Fair Work Commission.

AWU National Secretary Paul Howes today said workers had not been able to collectively bargain at the Bell Bay site since 1994.

“This is a great win for local workers, who now have the opportunity to work together to improve their pay and conditions at the Bell Bay smelter.

“Workers at Bell Bay know that they are stronger together, and by joining the AWU they can have a greater say in how their workplace operates.

“When individuals try to negotiate a better deal out of big global companies like Rio Tinto, which owns Pacific Aluminium, they simply don’t stand a chance.

“But by joining forces workers can make their voices heard, and push for changes to make their working lives better.”

Howes said discussions around a new collective agreement for workers at Bell Bay would commence within weeks.

“Now that the company has agreed to negotiate we will be able to start the process for a new enterprise agreement at Bell Bay.

“The Union will be consulting with members to draw up a log of claims, and we will then present to the claim to the company.

“One of most important priorities will be to lock in workers’ existing pay and conditions place in the event that Rio Tinto sells Pacific Aluminium to another company.”

Monday, January 21, 2013

PBS: The Untouchables 23 January 2013

Watch The Untouchables Preview on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Oxfam: How so few could help so many

An Oxfam study has shown that the world's 100 richest people could easily afford to end the hunger, thirst and basic illness of every person of Earth.

Even a quarter of the world's hundred richest people's annual income would be enough to supply basic health care, food and clean drinking water for everyone, costing about $56.64bn.

Since 1990 the billionaires and millionaires making up the world's richest 1 per cent have seen their incomes grow by 60 per cent.

And they have grown even faster since the 2008 financial crash.

Oxfam chief executive Barbara Stocking said world leaders could no longer pretend that pouring wealth into already overflowing pockets was an economic cure-all.

"In a world where even basic resources such as land and water are increasingly scarce, we cannot afford to concentrate assets in the hands of a few and leave the many to struggle over what's left."

She said that the "first step" should be a return to the income inequality levels of 1990.

"It is time our leaders reformed the system so that it works in the interests of the whole of humanity rather than a global elite."

The TUC backed Ms Stocking's call, but general secretary Frances O'Grady said only strong unions could win the world a pay rise.

Skyrocketing inequality was largely behind the ongoing economic crisis, she said, with ordinary workers forced into debt and the wealthiest seeking ever-riskier investments against a falling rate of profit.

"Working people and the global poor need a real boost to their incomes if we're to escape from decades of stagnant growth and social strife.

"And rich people need to pay their taxes and curb their greed - voluntarily or not," she said.

The call also follows revelations in August that the world's richest companies and individuals have stashed at least $19.6 trillion in tax havens.

The Tax Justice Network's groundbreaking report found the real figure excluding assets could be up to $30 trillion - nearly three times the size of the historic 2008 US banking bailout.

Researchers also found tax havens left many countries mired in debt when they should have been turning surpluses.

The study of 139 low-to-middle income countries found aggregate net debts of $4 trillion, when taxable income on offshore wealth would have seen a combined surplus of between $9.7 billion and $12.5 trillion instead.

Stiglitz: How Inequality Holds Us Back

The re-election of President Obama was like a Rorschach test, subject to many interpretations. In this election, each side debated issues that deeply worry me: the long malaise into which the economy seems to be settling, and the growing divide between the 1 percent and the rest — an inequality not only of outcomes but also of opportunity. To me, these problems are two sides of the same coin: with inequality at its highest level since before the Depression, a robust recovery will be difficult in the short term, and the American dream — a good life in exchange for hard work — is slowly dying.

Politicians typically talk about rising inequality and the sluggish recovery as separate phenomena, when they are in fact intertwined. Inequality stifles, restrains and holds back our growth. When even the free-market-oriented magazine The Economist argues — as it did in a special feature in October — that the magnitude and nature of the country’s inequality represent a serious threat to America, we should know that something has gone horribly wrong. And yet, after four decades of widening inequality and the greatest economic downturn since the Depression, we haven’t done anything about it. A fifth of our kids live in poverty — an aberration among rich nations.

There are four major reasons inequality is squelching our recovery. The most immediate is that our middle class is too weak to support the consumer spending that has historically driven our economic growth. While the top 1 percent of income earners took home 93 percent of the growth in incomes in 2010, the households in the middle — who are most likely to spend their incomes rather than save them and who are, in a sense, the true job creators — have lower household incomes, adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1996. The growth in the decade before the crisis was unsustainable — it was reliant on the bottom 80 percent consuming about 110 percent of their income.

Second, the hollowing out of the middle class since the 1970s, a phenomenon interrupted only briefly in the 1990s, means that they are unable to invest in their future, by educating themselves and their children and by starting or improving businesses.

Third, the weakness of the middle class is holding back tax receipts, especially because those at the top are so adroit in avoiding taxes and in getting Washington to give them tax breaks. The recent modest agreement to restore Clinton-level marginal income-tax rates for individuals making more than $400,000 and households making more than $450,000 did nothing to change this. Returns from Wall Street speculation are taxed at a far lower rate than other forms of income. Low tax receipts mean that the government cannot make the vital investments in infrastructure, education, research and health that are crucial for restoring long-term economic strength.

Fourth, inequality is associated with more frequent and more severe boom-and-bust cycles that make our economy more volatile and vulnerable. Though inequality did not directly cause the crisis, it is no coincidence that the 1920s — the last time inequality of income and wealth in the United States was so high — ended with the Great Crash and the Depression. The International Monetary Fund has noted the systematic relationship between economic instability and economic inequality, but American leaders haven’t absorbed the lesson.

Our skyrocketing inequality — so contrary to our meritocratic ideal of America as a place where anyone with hard work and talent can “make it” — means that those who are born to parents of limited means are likely never to live up to their potential. Children in other rich countries like Canada, France, Germany and Sweden have a better chance of doing better than their parents did than American kids have. More than a fifth of our children live in poverty — the second worst of all the advanced economies, putting us behind countries like Bulgaria, Latvia and Greece.

Our society is squandering its most valuable resource: our young. The dream of a better life that attracted immigrants to our shores is being crushed by an ever-widening chasm of income and wealth. Tocqueville, who in the 1830s found the egalitarian impulse to be the essence of the American character, is rolling in his grave. Bryan Patrick/The Sacramento Bee, via Associated Press Protesters at California State University, Sacramento, railed against cuts to higher education in April 2011.

Even were we able to ignore the economic imperative of fixing our inequality problem, the damage it is doing to our social fabric and political life should prompt us to worry. Economic inequality leads to political inequality and a broken decision-making process.

Despite Mr. Obama’s stated commitment to helping all Americans, the recession and the lingering effects of the way it was handled have made matters much, much worse. While bailout money poured into the banks in 2009, unemployment soared to 10 percent that October. The rate today (7.8 percent) appears better partly because so many people have dropped out of the labor force, or never entered it, or accepted part-time jobs because there was no full-time job for them.

High unemployment, of course, depresses wages. Adjusted for inflation, real wages have stagnated or fallen; a typical male worker’s income in 2011 ($32,986) was lower than it was in 1968 ($33,880). Lower tax receipts, in turn, have forced state and local cutbacks in services vital to those at the bottom and middle.

Most Americans’ most important asset is their home, and as home prices have plummeted, so has household wealth — especially since so many had borrowed so much on their homes. Large numbers are left with negative net worth, and median household wealth fell nearly 40 percent, to $77,300 in 2010 from $126,400 in 2007, and has rebounded only slightly. Since the Great Recession, most of the increase in the nation’s wealth has gone to the very top.

Meanwhile, as incomes have stagnated or fallen, tuition has soared. In the United States now, the principal way to get education — the only sure way to move up — is to borrow. In 2010, student debt, now $1 trillion, exceeded credit-card debt for the first time.

Student debt can almost never be wiped out, even in bankruptcy. A parent who co-signs a loan can’t necessarily have the debt discharged even if his child dies. The debt can’t be discharged even if the school — operated for profit and owned by exploitative financiers — provided an inadequate education, enticed the student with misleading promises, and failed to get her a decent job.

Instead of pouring money into the banks, we could have tried rebuilding the economy from the bottom up. We could have enabled homeowners who were “underwater” — those who owe more money on their homes than the homes are worth — to get a fresh start, by writing down principal, in exchange for giving banks a share of the gains if and when home prices recovered. Obama bailed out banks but didn’t invest enough in workers and students.

We could have recognized that when young people are jobless, their skills atrophy. We could have made sure that every young person was either in school, in a training program or on a job. Instead, we let youth unemployment rise to twice the national average. The children of the rich can stay in college or attend graduate school, without accumulating enormous debt, or take unpaid internships to beef up their résumés. Not so for those in the middle and bottom. We are sowing the seeds of ever more inequality in the coming years.

The Obama administration does not, of course, bear the sole blame. President George W. Bush’s steep tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 and his multitrillion-dollar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan emptied the piggy bank while exacerbating the great divide. His party’s newfound commitment to fiscal discipline — in the form of insisting on low taxes for the rich while slashing services for the poor — is the height of hypocrisy.

There are all kinds of excuses for inequality. Some say it’s beyond our control, pointing to market forces like globalization, trade liberalization, the technological revolution, the “rise of the rest.” Others assert that doing anything about it would make us all worse off, by stifling our already sputtering economic engine. These are self-serving, ignorant falsehoods. Market forces don’t exist in a vacuum — we shape them. Other countries, like fast-growing Brazil, have shaped them in ways that have lowered inequality while creating more opportunity and higher growth. Countries far poorer than ours have decided that all young people should have access to food, education and health care so they can fulfill their aspirations.

Our legal framework and the way we enforce it has provided more scope here for abuses by the financial sector; for perverse compensation for chief executives; for monopolies’ ability to take unjust advantage of their concentrated power.

Yes, the market values some skills more highly than others, and those who have those skills will do well. Yes, globalization and technological advances have led to the loss of good manufacturing jobs, which are not likely ever to come back. Global manufacturing employment is shrinking, simply because of enormous increases in productivity, and America is likely to get a shrinking share of the shrinking number of new jobs. If we do succeed in “saving” these jobs, it may be only by converting higher-paid jobs to lower-paid ones — hardly a long-term strategy.

Globalization, and the unbalanced way it has been pursued, has shifted bargaining power away from workers: firms can threaten to move elsewhere, especially when tax laws treat such overseas investments so favorably. This in turn has weakened unions, and though unions have sometimes been a source of rigidity, the countries that responded most effectively to the global financial crisis, like Germany and Sweden, have strong unions and strong systems of social protection.

As Mr. Obama’s second term begins, we must all face the fact that our country cannot quickly, meaningfully recover without policies that directly address inequality. What’s needed is a comprehensive response that should include, at least, significant investments in education, a more progressive tax system and a tax on financial speculation.

The good news is that our thinking has been reframed: it used to be that we asked how much growth we would be willing to sacrifice for a little more equality and opportunity. Now we realize that we are paying a high price for our inequality and that alleviating it and promoting growth are intertwined, complementary goals. It will be up to all of us — our leaders included — to muster the courage and foresight to finally treat this beleaguering malady.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, a professor at Columbia and a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and chief economist for the World Bank, is the author of “The Price of Inequality.”

A version of this article appeared in print on 01/20/2013, on page SR1 of the NewYork Times with the headline: Inequality Is Holding Back The Recovery.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

NSW: Fracker O'Farrell's gasbag o' promises

Promise: "A key part of the strategic land use planning process will be to identify strategic agricultural land and associated water and ensure that it is protected from the impacts of development."
Fact: Strategic Agricultural Land can be approved for mining via a ‘gateway’ process resulting in either a gateway certificate to proceed or a conditional certificate to proceed. There is no option for nonapproval and the gateway can never close.

Promise: "It will provide certainty to local communities that cumulative impacts are being taken into account,"
Fact: The Plan only requires the development of a methodology on ‘managing’ cumulative impacts in 2013. The Plan does not require consideration of cumulative impacts before new mines are approved.

Promise: “Strategic agricultural land is a finite resource that must be conserved into the future to ensure future food security. It will be identified using a triple bottom line assessment of the environmental, social and economic characteristics of the area.”
Fact: Commitments in the draft Land Use Plan for a public interest test and cost-benefit analyses have been dropped and are now only voluntary for coal and gas companies. There have been no triple bottom line or agricultural economic impact assessments.

Promise: "I can assure the member that we intend to protect all areas of high conservation value through the process that we are developing."
Fact: The maps of Tier 1 Biodiversity Areas that were included in the draft Land Use Plans were removed after complaints from the gas lobby. The final Plans provide no protection for high conservation value areas.

Promise: "The next Liberal/National government will ensure mining cannot occur in any water catchment area and that any mining leases and exploration permits will reflect that common sense. No ifs, no buts, a guarantee."
Fact: There is no protection whatsoever for water catchments in the Strategic Regional Land Use Plans or associated policies.

Promise: "Where CSG activities involve interference with groundwater systems, we will require that proponents must obtain an Aquifer Interference Approval under S91 of the Water Management Act 2000."
Fact: The regulation has been downgraded to a policy that has no legal standing. No approval is required. The Minister for Primary Industries and the NSW Office of Water have been relegated to a purely advisory role.

Promise: "Review the Water Management Act 2000, the Water Act 1912, the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 and related legislation to ensure aquifers are protected."
Fact: There has been no such review and there is no protection for aquifers threatened by mining in NSW.

Corporate Mining Rules OK?

The NSW government has replaced the entire board of the Sydney Catchment Authority. Who chairs the new board? Only the former director of two of Australia’s largest mining companies. 

Corporate Culture: BHP Appin Mine lockout

BHP is set to take the extraordinary step of locking out its own mining supervisors at Appin Mine on Sunday and Monday, in response to planned protected stop work meetings.

Chris Walton, CEO of the Association of Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia (APESMA) said BHP’s lockout was completely out of proportion and unnecessary given the mine supervisors have repeatedly asked BHP to help resolve the dispute amicably.

“BHP’s lockout is over the top and unreasonable. Mining supervisors want to resolve this dispute today and get on with their jobs but BHP refuses to talk this through,” Mr Walton said.

“Today BHP hit the panic button. Mine supervisors want to work with BHP to fix this dispute by talking it through like adults.

“This unreasonable step shows a complete lack of respect for the mine employees who want to keep working to keep the mine safe and profitable,” Mr Walton said.

Mr Walton said mining supervisors were extremely disappointed BHP had resorted to such a drastic measure.

“BHP is slapping its own hardworking and loyal employees in the face instead of talking things through,” he said.

Mr Walton said mining supervisors were upset with the hard-line tactics used by BHP who is trying to force them to an agreement that would give them no guarantee of annual increases for the next four years.

“BHP’s aggressive escalation tactics could make this dispute more difficult to resolve and affect a wider workforce,” he said.

Mr Walton called on BHP management to end its lockout immediately and re-commence discussions to resolve the dispute immediately.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Corporate Culture and the death of Aaron Swartz

United States prosecutors hounded a young man to death last week for the "crime" of making publicly funded data accessible to the public.

Aaron Swartz killed himself in his New York flat on Friday night, weeks before he was due to face trial.

Swartz was only 26 but the scale of his achievements as a programmer and activist for internet freedom and open data is clear just from looking at who paid tribute to him.

Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee tweeted: "Aaron dead. World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep."

Among many other projects Swartz had worked with Lessig and others to create the extremely successful Creative Commons licences as a less-restrictive form of copyright.

Aged just 14 he helped develop RSS, the technology for subscribing to websites.

Swartz was a major figure in the successful campaign to defeat the draconian Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa).

He "jailbroke" a massive chunk of US law - all public-domain material - from its clunky, outdated, paid-for database and set it free on the open internet.

He helped build the hugely successful "social news" site Reddit and the ambitious online library

Swartz wasn't just a believer in the liberal watchword of "transparency," though. He blogged at length about its limitations, warning that it can "promote apathy" by showing "the mindnumbing universality" of corruption and occasionally offering a sop in the form of "an extreme case (which) is located through your work, brought to justice, and then everyone goes home thinking the problem has been solved."

It's tricky to pin down exactly what he believed in but it apparently involved freeing information to clean up elections, empower the media and educate voters - all as a starting point to transform the entire system.

The size and danger of the challenge he set himself is shown by a tribute from an unlikely source - former Guantanamo Bay prosecutor Morris Davis, sacked for publicly warning the Obama administration not to reopen kangaroo courts at the torture camp.

Davis feared the US Justice Department wanted to make an example of Swartz as it did with alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning.

"Facing their seemingly limitless power and resources month after month takes a toll on your spirit and your finances," he said.

Swartz's family were in no doubt that was what drove their son to suicide. In a statement the day after his death they said his death "is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach."

Certainly the charges against him were absurdly trumped up.

Swartz had smuggled a laptop into a broom cupboard at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), connected it to the university's network, left it downloading Jstor articles then sneaked back to collect it.

That's not a million miles from the harmless "hacks" that MIT's notoriously roguish, super-intelligent and wildly inventive students routinely perpetrate.

To gauge the value of his "theft," a Jstor subscription costs around $50,000 a year. And many argue access should be free, considering how much research is produced with public money.

Jstor quickly ended its pursuit of Swartz and asked the government to drop its case. But ambitious district attorney Carmen Ortiz pressed ahead with the harshest charges she could muster.

Ortiz desperately claimed this week that her office had pushed only for a six-month sentence and that "prosecutors recognised that there was no evidence against Mr Swartz indicating that he committed his acts for personal financial gain."

But her statement was flat-out false. When Swartz was charged in 2011 Ortiz said: "Stealing is stealing," and an aggressive press release her office made great play of the potential 35-year sentence and $1m fine.

It's not at all clear Swartz committed any offence, though. Certainly not theft. Possibly copyright infringement, although tellingly that wasn't mentioned in his indictment. Demand Progress director David Segal described Swartz's actions as "allegedly checking too many books out of the library."

Arguably his real "crime" was to challenge the racket that is academic publishing, where publicly funded research is squeezed for profit by companies such as Reed Elsevier.

Reed Elsevier is notorious for its profiteering, its links to the arms trade, its support for Sopa and the accompanying law Pipa, and for publishing fake journals paid for by pharmaceutical firm Merck and containing articles praising Merck's products.

Swartz named Reed Elsevier in particular in his 2008 "Guerilla Open Access Manifesto" calling for a counter-attack against the way in which "the world's entire scientific and cultural heritage" is "increasingly being digitised and locked up by a handful of private corporations."

The music and film industries have already shown how if they make sufficiently outlandish claims about billion-dollar "thefts" they can get laws rewritten to protect their interests, and to attack people's right to use their own data any way they see fit.

Swartz's case suggests a similar pattern is emerging in academic publishing, as activists start to question why in the 21st century we are paying private corporations to act as gatekeepers to data which we paid for and which should be freely available to all.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Blue Mountains Community – Have Your Say on Health

From Mary Court
Penrith Valley Community Unions

The Blue Mountains community must have a say on the future of the Health services in our region.  It is important that the community and the people who provide these services, including all health care and community workers, volunteers and community organisations have a forum to come together.  A number of health forums will be organised which will cover a wide range of topics including a various subjects within the health and social environment of the local area.

Guest speakers and leading health experts will also be invited to come along to give detailed information. All forums will allow for a question and answer style session at the end of the meeting giving everyone an opportunity to have their say.

The Leader of the NSW Opposition, John Robertson is launching the campaign here in the Blue Mountains next week on Monday 21st January and would like to meet with Health Care workers and members of the community to listen to their concerns.

Come and meet John outside Springwood Hospital at 12:30 next Monday 21st January to have your say on the future of Health in our region.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

FBEU: O'Farrell's irresponsible cuts

A car fire posed a dangerous threat to public safety in Maroubra yesterday, thanks to the O'Farrell Government's budget cuts and irresponsible policy of closing fire stations.

At 15:48 yesterday Firefighters received a call about the blaze near Maroubra shops, just 600 metres from the local fire station.

However, Maroubra station was empty because the local crew was forced to relocate to Sutherland due to a temporary station closure caused by budget cuts.

The situation was not properly dealt with until the next closest crew arrived from Matraville station, taking seven minutes to get there, instead of the seconds Maroubra station would have, had it not been closed for the day.

Fire Brigade Employees' Union President, Darin Sullivan, said the State Government's reckless approach to public safety was unsustainable.

"This blaze, just 500 metres from Maroubra Station demonstrates this Government's blatant disregard for community safety," Mr Sullivan said.

"A car was allowed to blaze on a busy road near shops putting the public at risk for longer than necessary. Sooner or later, someone will be in that car."

"The State Government is treating fire protection like a game of musical chairs."

"Communities across NSW need to know that at some stage, the music will stop and they will be left exposed."

"What makes this policy even more galling is that the State Government is attempting to slug households with a new property tax which will cost the average family $300 per year."

"The O'Farrell Government wants to cut fire protection and charge more for the privilege. That's simply unacceptable."

CFMEU: Paid Parental Leave scheme

The CFMEU is proud to inform members that children born or adopted from 1 January 2013 now come with two-weeks' paid Dad or Partner leave.

Dad and Partner Pay is a new payment under the Australian Government’s Paid Parental Leave scheme, which took effect in 2011, after a strong campaign by unions, including the CFMEU (news archive Paid Parental leave scheme arrives 1 Jan 2011 ).

Paid Parental Leave is now available to eligible working dads or partners (including adopting parents and same-sex partners) who care for a child born or adopted from 1 January 2013.

It provides up to two weeks of government-funded pay at the rate of the National Minimum Wage (currently about $606 per week before tax).

Claims must be lodged by the dad or partner who is eligible to receive the payment. Claims can be lodged up to three months before the expected date of birth or adoption or within 12 months following their child’s birth or adoption.

More information about the value of such leave and eligibility requirements can be found on the Australian Government website.

There is additional information for Indigenous fathers or partners and in languages other than English

Putting a price on Community - Thiess and Xstrata

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has accused contracting company Thiess of failing to follow correct processes when determining which workers would lose their jobs.

The mine is owned by Xstrata Coal, however Thiess operates the project.

It was revealed in December that 95 mine workers would lose their jobs due to poor coal prices.

CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth said since then the union had become concerned over how Thiess was selecting which workers would go.

"Length of service at the mine, absenteeism, training skills and discipline was the criteria but the company weren't applying it how they should have been," Mr Smyth said. "They were starting to change the criteria.

"If people are to be laid off then ... everyone (should be) treated the same and not ... left up to management just because they may have a personal dislike or due to union involvement.

"We want it open and transparent, which in our view hasn't been occurring." Mr Smyth said the union was in discussions with Thiess and had recently met with Fair Work Australia in an attempt to resolve the issue.

"We're still working out the detail," he said.

"Obviously Xstrata isn't squeaky clean but because Thiess is the employer they will be meeting with representatives of the union."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

ACTU: Fiji Bill of Rights demand

Unions call on the Australian Government to demand an explanation by the Fiji military regime for its decision to ignore the independent Constitution Commission, which confirms concerns that the regime’s only interest is protecting its own power in the lead up to the 2014 elections.

The Constitution Commission, headed by Professor Yash Ghai, a respected and experienced academic, undertook extensive consultation and prepared a report outlining its recommendations for a new Fiji constitution.

This included a Bill of Rights, which would enshrine basic worker rights such as freedom of association, collective bargaining, freedom from discrimination, equal pay and a just minimum wage. The report also included a recommendation on transitional arrangements that would require Commodore Bainimarama to step aside in the lead up to elections.

A draft constitution was also prepared by the Commission. Reports suggest that when the Commission attempted to publicly circulate copies of the draft constitution, the regime burnt the documents.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the latest decision by Commodore Bainimarama is one in a long line that demonstrate the charade of Bainimarama’s stated commitment to return Fiji to democracy.

“There will be no democracy in Fiji without a transition that is open, inclusive and participatory,” Ms Kearney said. “Commodore Bainimarama’s actions demonstrate that he has no interest in democracy. He needs to be held accountable for this position.

“We acknowledge the work of Professor Ghai. A number of the recommendations of the Constitution Commission were very positive including an obligation to respect human and trade unions rights. For Fijian workers the proposed Bill of Rights would protect freedom of association, freedom of assembly, the right to bargain collectively, freedom from discrimination, equal pay and a just minimum wage.

“It is now of serious concern how the regime’s own proposed constitution will impact on workers given the military regime’s systematic violation of workers’ rights over the past few years.

“In addition, the non-negotiables established by the regime for the transition need to be challenged. There is no hope for peace and stability in Fiji, if immunity is granted to coup perpetrators and human rights violators.

“We reiterate our serious concern that the decision by the Australian Government to begin normalising relations with Fiji is premature and only provides legitimacy to a regime that has repeatedly failed to respect the rights and promote the interests of the Fijian people."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

NSW: Teachers Make A Difference campaign

Australian film director Ray Lawrence, director of the films Lantana, Jindabyne and Bliss, directed "Teachers Make A Difference" for the NSW Teachers Federation.

The $1 million two-week television and cinema ads written by public education advocate Jane Caro will run from Sunday, featuring storylines about a new teacher and a retiring teacher.

At the launch of the "Teachers Make A Difference" campaign in Sydney today, Lawrence said he wanted to shoot in schools but the department's immediate reaction was to send an email to every school banning filming.

"The Education Department went out of their way to sabotage doing it ... it was just ridiculous, it was a shock."

Lawrence said that even when he offered the scripts to show they were non-political, the department declined to view them. He said the filming ban was a big stumbling block, but the University of NSW assisted with shooting locations.

Teachers Federation President Maurie Mulheron said no teachers would be shocked at the department's ban on filming as its officials always acted to "protect their political masters".

"Public education is seen by too many politicians as a cost as opposed to an investment in the future," he said.

Mr Mulheron said many politicians denigrated the teaching profession to weaken teachers' voices in defending the role of public education and to justify the denial of higher wages.

Friday, January 11, 2013

NSW: O'Farrell's Slash and Burn vandalism hits firefighters

Rural Fire Service firefighters yesterday attacked damaging cuts to its frontline operation, saying the bushfire-ravaged state was now in even greater danger.

The NSW government decision to slash cash for the replacement of tankers and fire brigade stations over the past year had severely hurt their fire-fighting capability.

"Governments cut emergency services at their peril," RFS Association president Mr Brian McKinlay said yesterday.

"What it means is infrastructure items such as tankers and capital equipment and control centre (construction) hasn't proceeded as in previous years."

Premier Barry O'Farrell, who has posed with RFS bosses as they fought fires across the state, tried to hose down the claims last night, saying the government had increased funding to the RFS.

But the RFS claims were backed by figures released by the Auditor-General last month which showed cuts across the board.

The Auditor-General reported total expenditure on the Rural Fire Service fell from $307 million in 2010-11 to $287 million in 2011-12.

The number of tankers supplied or refurbished fell from 216 in 2010-11 to 177 in 2011-12.

The number of active, trained firefighters in 2011-12 had decreased from 94 per cent to 82 per cent and local government firefighting and equipment spending had fallen from $128.7 million in 2010-11 to $109.5 million in 2011-12.

Public Service Association industrial officer Shane Howes said the RFS had been told to cut labour costs by $12 million over four years, which would lead to 120 redundancies.

In an association newsletter last year, Mr McKinlay wrote: "With dismay we note the reduction in the Rural Fire Fighting Fund from $271 million in last year's budget to the figure of $263 million in the FY12/13 state budget."

Of even greater concern was that " the total allocation for brigade stations and fire control centres amounts to $5 million from the O'Farrell government. In the last two years of the Keneally government this allocation for the same period was over $30 million".

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Japan preparing for nuclear U-turn?

Since its electoral victory in December, the right wing Liberal Democratic party has been setting the stage for a return to Japan's former policy of promoting nuclear power.

Shinzo Abe, who took over as prime minister last month, has given a clear indication that the government is looking to build new nuclear power plants, despite massive and widespread public demonstrations following the Fukushima disaster. "We are likely to build new nuclear power plants on winning the public's understanding," Mr Abe said in a television appearance this week.

In response to public concerns, the previous government halted all but two of the country's 50 nuclear reactors and ordered them to undergo stringent safety inspections before being restarted.

A survey conducted by the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper, just before the elections last month, showed that more than 60 per cent wanted to phase out nuclear energy completely.

In its statements before the election, the LDP conceded that its pro-nuclear energy policy had been flawed and apologised for causing the Fukushima nuclear accident and promised "to establish a social and economic structure that does not need to depend on nuclear power".

By promising to pour resources into promoting alternative energy development and to develop an optimal energy mix over the next decade "the LDP kept their position on nuclear energy ambiguous before the elections", says Norimichi Hattori of the Tokyo-based Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes.

But "since the Abe administration was formed, their rhetoric on nuclear power has changed quite rapidly", says Koichi Nakano, professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo.
"It now looks like the LDP feels it is their duty to promote nuclear energy," Mr Nakano says.

In the short term, Japan's new government may want to avoid taking concrete steps, such as restarting more reactors, which could prove controversial in the run-up to upper-house elections this July.

Winning a majority in the upper house, which is controlled by the opposition, is an important objective for Mr Abe, who has long espoused reactionary projects for educational and constitutional reform.
"There isn't much time before the upper-house elections, so they have to move carefully," says Mr Hattori at the Coalition Against Nukes.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Love and Justice

Stirring Women's anthem sung by 400 Women of Victoria Australia to mark the centenary of Suffrage - finally getting the Vote in Australia after 19 attempts in Parliament. Sung at the BMW edge in Melbourne, composed by Kavisha Mazzella ( and commissioned by the Victorian Women's Trust - for more info please visit

Friday, January 04, 2013

US: Climate Crisis: Alarm Translates Into Action

The climate crisis is the top story of 2012, with record-breaking heat, severe drought that led to the declaration of more than half of U.S. counties as disaster zones, wildfires that burned more than 9 million acres, and superstorm Sandy, with costs reaching into the billions. Four out of five Americans now believe that the climate problem is serious, according to an AP-Gfk poll.

The Obama administration has done little to address this problem—in part because of congressional resistance—but did set higher fuel emissions standards for automobiles, an important step in curtailing greenhouse gases.

The real action, though, is at the grassroots. Bill McKibben and launched a national movement in the fall of 2012 to press colleges and universities to divest their holdings in big energy companies. Texas and Nebraska landowners, Canadian tribes, and environmentalists everywhere are taking action to block the construction of a tar sands pipeline to ocean ports. Thousands turned out at hearings in Washington state to oppose the transport of millions of tons of Powder Basin coal through the region for export to China. And resistance to natural gas fracking is spreading throughout the Northeast.

Meanwhile, coal plants across the U.S. are closing, and a West Virginia coal company is giving up mountaintop removal as a result of pressure from environmental groups and falling demand in the wake of low prices for natural gas.

With widespread alarm at the extreme weather events, conditions are now ripe for a strong popular movement to take on the fossil fuel industry and its threat to human civilization.


People in the prime of their working lives make up the largest share of those on unemployment benefits, a trend unions and social services groups say reflects greater insecurities at work.

While older workers face a greater risk of long-term unemployment, official figures show those aged 25 to 34 and 35 to 44 are the two biggest groups to receive Newstart payments. Between them, these two groups account for nearly half of all Newstart recipients. The next largest group of Newstart recipients are aged between 45 and 54.

The chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), Cassandra Goldie, said the extent of Newstart payments to people in their 30s and 40s was affected by the growing prevalence of irregular and casual work, which was being experienced by workers of all ages.

''The idea that there's a job for life is no longer the reality in Australia,'' Dr Goldie said. ''People can lose their job and this can happen in the prime of your working life, and then it becomes really hard. Often there's a need to retrain … and if you don't have the financial resources to do that you can get really stuck.''

This week government payments to some single parents were cut by $115 a week, as part of a group of cuts affecting tens of thousands of people.

The Minister for Families, Jenny Macklin, sparked an outcry when she claimed she could live on the $35-a-day Newstart allowance. The comment was later omitted from the transcript of the press conference where she made the remarks.

The president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Ged Kearney, said there were anecdotal reports of many people who had finished studying or training struggling to find full-time work, leading to a cycle of casual or irregular employment.

''What we've seen is people are caught in short-term work or casual labour, '' she said. ''This certainly is a story we're hearing from a lot of people in their late 20s and 30s.''

Although people in their prime working years account for the highest share of Newstart benefits, those over 55 have a higher risk of long-term unemployment - being jobless for a year or more.

Newstart and other payments are indexed twice yearly with the CPI, meaning that they are linked to increases in prices, rather than wages. That means they fall behind increases in community living standards. They have not been increased since 1994. While the CPI rose by 17% between 2005 and 2011, average wages rose by 23%.

Newstart is less than half of the minimum wage in Australia. While minimum wage is $606, Newstart is $246 – 40% of minimum wage. Even taking account of income tax, a single unemployed person would double their disposable income if they got a job at the minimum wage. So there is scope to increase it without eroding work incentives.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

NSW: Save Historic Windsor Bridge

Brian Pearson and Ray Wedgwood spent two decades as the state's chief bridge engineers, in which Mr Wedgwood led the design and construction of, among others, the Anzac Bridge.

So when they were asked by the ABC's Ian ''Macca'' McNamara to have a look at the controversy around one of the state government's big bridge projects - the replacement of Windsor Bridge in far north-west Sydney - they felt qualified to express an opinion.

Windsor Bridge in 1888
They think it's a folly. As do thousands in the area who believe the government's proposal will ruin the rare historical appeal of a town square laid out by Governor Lachlan Macquarie more than 200 years ago. ''I think it is all political,'' Mr Wedgwood said this week. ''I think Barry O'Farrell wants to do something for the people of Windsor and this was a proposal that was ready to go and they want to make it happen.''

That Windsor needs a new or upgraded bridge is not in question. The existing one was completed in 1874 and there are few places for motorists to cross the Hawkesbury River around Windsor and nearby Richmond. But how that bridge should be built has split the community near Windsor and its historic Thompson Square.The government's preferred option was developed before Mr O'Farrell took power. Worked up in 2008, the option is to close the bridge and replace it with a higher concrete structure about 35 metres downstream.

Roads and Maritime Services lodged an environmental impact statement late last year, and approved work could start mid-year. But the campaign against the proposal has only intensified. The group Community Action for Windsor Bridge won more than 12,000 signatures to trigger a debate in Parliament.

The National Trust is against it, saying it would be better to build a bypass for Windsor to prevent the town becoming a thoroughfare and preserving the appeal of Thompson Square, a rare colonial relic.
Mr Pearson and Mr Wedgwood, who between them were in charge of development of the state's bridges from 1981 to 2000 and who sit on RMS's Heritage Committee, have joined the fray.
They say the existing proposal would ''direct an increasing volume of traffic, including heavy vehicles, through the heart of Windsor'' and would offer little relief from the regular flooding of the Hawkesbury.
They say the structure could be refurbished relatively cheaply, and a bypass built at a much higher point downstream, with much less risk of flooding.

Read more

Windsor Bridge, built 1874, is the oldest extant Hawkesbury crossing. The square from which it springs - Thompson Square, 1795 - is still older. A rare remaining Georgian space, it is the oldest public square in the country. Yet the government wants to destroy both, asap.

Thompson Square in the 1880s
When Thompson Square was built, Windsor was still the village of Green Hills. The name change came in 1811, when Governor Lachlan Macquarie adopted it as one of his five Hawkesbury towns.

Windsor Bridge is individually listed in the Hawkesbury local environment plan and the state register.

Even the Roads and Maritime Service (RMS) calls it "highly significant". The Government Architect describes the project's level of impact on a dozen or more heritage properties as "very high".

The square, says the Heritage Council, is "of crucial importance to the heritage of the state". The Government Architect's office says it reflects "Macquarie's visionary schemes for town planning excellence in the infant colony".

Windsor is a small 1600-person town, and heritage is definitely an outré´ issue. But in July, hundreds watched a thunder of horsemen cross the bridge under the Eureka Flag to highlight the bridge's plight, and in November the Community Action for Windsor Bridge (CAWB) group presented state Parliament with a 12,000-signature petition.

Yet the O'Farrell government proceeds apace to demolish the bridge and rebuild a high level four-lane concrete monster that will queue B-doubles and mining trucks through the town and relegate what is left of the square to a siding.

Read more

Building Industry Sham Contracts exposed

Up to 50,000 Australian builders could be missing out on the holidays, sick leave and superannuation they are entitled to, as a result of being improperly employed as contractors instead of permanent staff.

The first national research of its type by the Gillard government's Fair Work Building and Construction inspectorate has found up to 13 per cent of the nation's building workers employed on ''sham contracts''.

This means they are working in conditions identical to being a permanent employee - but are being paid as if they are an independent contractor providing a service for a fee.

Hiring a worker who should be a permanent staff member on a sham contract is illegal, because it allows the employer to avoid paying superannuation and leave, and to avoid the risk of hiring permanent staff.

Leigh Johns, chief executive of the Fair Work Building and Construction authority that commissioned the research, estimated that 50,000 workers in construction could be on sham contracts.

"This means they are missing out on entitlements like annual and sick leave and their employer making superannuation contributions," he said.

The research finds that 9 per cent of all contractors in construction are working for one employer only. And the practice of illegally contracting instead of hiring permanent staff has become particularly prevalent among non-English speaking workers.

It follows a 2011 inquiry into unlawful contracting. Separate research in 2011 by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union found up to 168,000 people on illegal contracts in the building industry.

The union's construction division national secretary, Dave Noonan, attacked employer groups, saying that some, such as the Master Builders Association, downplayed the problem.

''Companies that employ workers legitimately are becoming increasingly frustrated that the organisation that's meant to represent them and their interests are instead representing those who break the law,'' he said.

Stop the Sham!