Sunday, March 31, 2013

Stiglitz on Singapore

Inequality has been rising in most countries around the world, but it has played out in different ways across countries and regions. The United States, it is increasingly recognized, has the sad distinction of being the most unequal advanced country, though the income gap has also widened to a lesser extent, in Britain, Japan, Canada and Germany. Of course, the situation is even worse in Russia, and some developing countries in Latin America and Africa. But this is a club of which we should not be proud to be a member.

Some big countries — Brazil, Indonesia and Argentina — have become more equal in recent years, and other countries, like Spain, were on that trajectory until the economic crisis of 2007-8.

Singapore has had the distinction of having prioritized social and economic equity while achieving very high rates of growth over the past 30 years — an example par excellence that inequality is not just a matter of social justice but of economic performance. Societies with fewer economic disparities perform better — not just for those at the bottom or the middle, but over all.

It’s hard to believe how far this city-state has come in the half-century since it attained independence from Britain, in 1963. (A short-lived merger with Malaysia ended in 1965.) Around the time of independence, a quarter of Singapore’s work force was unemployed or underemployed. Its per-capita income (adjusted for inflation) was less than a tenth of what it is today.

There were many things that Singapore did to become one of Asia’s economic “tigers,” and curbing inequalities was one of them. The government made sure that wages at the bottom were not beaten down to the exploitative levels they could have been.

The government mandated that individuals save into a “provident fund” — 36 percent of the wages of young workers — to be used to pay for adequate health care, housing and retirement benefits. It provided universal education, sent some of its best students abroad, and did what it could to make sure they returned. (Some of my brightest students came from Singapore.)

There are at least four distinctive aspects of the Singaporean model, and they are more applicable to the United States than a skeptical American observer might imagine.

First, individuals were compelled to take responsibility for their own needs. For example, through the savings in their provident fund, around 90 percent of Singaporeans became homeowners, compared to about 65 percent in the United States since the housing bubble burst in 2007.

Second, Singaporean leaders realized they had to break the pernicious, self-sustaining cycle of inequality that has characterized so much of the West. Government programs were universal but progressive: while everyone contributed, those who were well off contributed more to help those at the bottom, to make sure that everyone could live a decent life, as defined by what Singaporean society, at each stage of its development, could afford. Not only did those at the top pay their share of the public investments, they were asked to contribute even more to helping the neediest.

Third, the government intervened in the distribution of pretax income — to help those at the bottom, rather than, as in the United States, those at the top. It weighed in, gently, on the bargaining between workers and firms, tilting the balance toward the group with less economic power — in sharp contrast to the United States, where the rules of the game have shifted power away from labor and toward capital, especially during the past three decades.

Fourth, Singapore realized that the key to future success was heavy investment in education — and more recently, scientific research — and that national advancement would mean that all citizens — not just the children of the rich — would need access to the best education for which they were qualified.

Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister, who was in power for three decades, and his successors took a broader perspective on what makes for a successful economy than a single-minded focus on gross domestic product, though even by that imperfect measure of success, it did splendidly, growing 5.5 times faster than the United States has since 1980.

More recently, the government has focused intensively on the environment, making sure that this packed city of 5.3 million retains its green spaces, even if that means putting them on the tops of buildings.

In an era when urbanization and modernization have weakened family ties, Singapore has realized the importance of maintaining them, especially across generations, and has instituted housing programs to help its aging population.

Singapore realized that an economy could not succeed if most of its citizens were not participating in its growth or if large segments lacked adequate housing, access to health care and retirement security. By insisting that individuals contribute significantly toward their own social welfare accounts, it avoided charges of being a nanny state. But by recognizing the different capacities of individuals to meet these needs, it created a more cohesive society. By understanding that children cannot choose their parents — and that all children should have the right to develop their innate capacities — it created a more dynamic society.

Singapore’s success is reflected in other indicators, as well. Life expectancy is 82 years, compared with 78 in the United States. Student scores on math, science and reading tests are among the highest in the world — well above the average for the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, the world’s club of rich nations, and well ahead of the United States.

The situation is not perfect: In the last decade, growing income inequality has posed a challenge for Singapore, as it has for many countries in the world. But Singaporeans have acknowledged the problem, and there is a lively conversation about the best ways to mitigate adverse global trends.

Some argue that all of this was possible only because Mr. Lee, who left office in 1990, was not firmly committed to democratic processes. It’s true that Singapore, a highly centralized state, has been ruled for decades by Mr. Lee’s People’s Action Party. Critics say it has authoritarian aspects: limitations on civil liberties; harsh criminal penalties; insufficient multiparty competition; and a judiciary that is not fully independent. But it’s also true that Singapore is routinely rated one of the world’s least corrupt and most transparent governments, and that its leaders have taken steps toward expanding democratic participation.

Moreover, there are other countries, committed to open, democratic processes, that have been spectacularly successful in creating economics that are both dynamic and fair — with far less inequality and far greater equality of opportunity than in the United States.

Each of the Nordic countries has taken a slightly different path, but each has impressive achievements of growth with equity. A standard measure of performance is the United Nations Development Program’s inequality-adjusted Human Development Index, which is less a measure of economic output than it is of human well-being. For each country, it looks at citizens’ income, education and health, and makes an adjustment for how access to these are distributed among the population. The Northern European countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway) stand towards the top. In comparison — and especially considering its No. 3 ranking in the non-inequality-adjusted index — the United States is further down the list, at No. 16. And when other indicators of well-being are considered in isolation, the situation is even worse: the United States ranks 33rd on the United Nations Development Program’s inequality-adjusted life expectancy index, just behind Chile.

Economic forces are global; the fact that there are such differences in outcomes (both levels of inequality and opportunity) suggests that what matters is how local forces — most notably, politics — shape these global economic forces. Singapore and Scandinavia have shown that they can be shaped in ways to ensure growth with equity.

Democracy, we now recognize, involves more than periodic voting. Societies with a high level of economic inequality inevitably wind up with a high level of political inequality: the elites run the political system for their own interests, pursuing what economists call rent-seeking behavior, rather than the general public interest. The result is a most imperfect democracy. The Nordic democracies, in this sense, have achieved what most Americans aspire toward: a political system where the voice of ordinary citizens is fairly represented, where political traditions reinforce openness and transparency; where money does not dominate political decision-making; where government activities are transparent.

I believe the economic achievements of the Nordic countries are in large measure a result of the strongly democratic nature of these societies. There is a positive nexus not just between growth and equality, but between these two and democracy. (The flip side is that greater inequality not only weakens our economy, it also weakens our democracy.)

A measure of the social justice of a society is the treatment of children. Many a conservative or libertarian in the United States assert that poor adults are responsible for their own plight — having brought their situation on themselves by not working as hard as they could. (That assumes, of course, that there are jobs to be had — an increasingly dubious assumption.)

But the well-being of children is manifestly not a matter for which children can be blamed (or praised). Only 7.3 percent of children in Sweden are poor, in contrast to the United States, where a startling 23.1 percent are in poverty. Not only is this a basic violation of social justice, but it does not bode well for the future: these children have diminished prospects for contributing to their country’s future.

Friday, March 29, 2013

MUA: Tricky Patrick's obfuscation

The Maritime Union of Australia will today withdraw its current application to the Federal Court of Australia for legal remedy regarding Patrick Stevedores’ alleged breach of the Port Botany enterprise bargaining agreement.

MUA National Secretary, Paddy Crumlin, said Patrick’s was hiding behind its complex corporate structure to avoid its obligations to its workers.

“This is just looks like, smells like and tastes like legal obfuscation from Patrick’s,” Mr Crumlin said.

“Patrick’s apparently are attempting to use their byzantine corporate structure to argue that the employer of the workers is a different entity to the company that made the decision to automate. As a result, they claim they had no responsibility totable the plan during the negotiations or before the agreement entered intoforce.

“Their argument is basically: tough luck, you’ve got no remedy regarding breach of an agreement because the Patrick’s you negotiated in good faith with is ‘independent’ from the other Patrick’s company, despite them both being wholly owned by Asciano.

“It smacks of the 1998 corporate dissembling – Patrick’s is making the same old arguments about corporate structure to try and tie their workers’ representative, the MUA, up in expensive, protracted legal proceedings.

“Anyone who claims the IR pendulum has swung too far to the workers is kidding themselves. It is extremely difficult and expensive for workers to seek legal redress where a big employer like Patrick’s decides to halve its workforce and replace them with machines in breach of an agreement to consult with its workers.

“Patrick’s lack of corporate transparency, its lack of good faith bargaining and its lack of respect for its workers and their families is a disgrace. There are 450 workers out there at Port Botany who don’t know whether they’re going to have a job once those machines come in.”

Legal proceedings in the Federal Court were initiated by the MUA in September 2012 alleging Patricksbreached its agreement with its workforce by forcing automation on workers without consultation, as required by the enterprise bargaining agreement.

In October 2012 the MUA also filed a dispute application in the Fair Work Commission (previously Fair Work Australia) seeking a determination that Patrick's had not correctly applied the consultation clause in the EBA.

The MUA is withdrawing the Federal Court proceedings to concentrate on the consultation now being undertaken in the Fair Work Commission but does not rule out filing new proceedings in the Federal Court.

Patrick and the MUA signed an EBA in June last year, after almost two years of negotiations, and within days of the EBA being approved by the Commission, Asciano CEO John Mullen announced the proposal for automation at the Port Botany terminal which would result in job losses of up for 260 employees.

Asciano’s CEO, John Mullen, revealed during a televised interview (Inside Business, ABC TV, 22 July 2012) that the company knew a decision to automate was forthcoming during the EBA negotiations. However, Patrick’s stated to the MUA during the negotiations that automation was not on the cards.

CFMEU: Win for Canberra 457 workers

The CFMEU has achieved an interim settlement for a group of workers on 457 visas employed as construction workers on various Canberra sites.

Workers will be paid an interim payment while calculations are undertaken to establish the quantum of underpayments to each worker.

The workers, employed by K.P. Painting Pty Ltd were underpaid by hundreds of dollars per week, forced to work unpaid overtime and did not receive other legal entitlements covered by Australian law.

Some of the workers had not been paid any wages for up to six weeks.

CFMEU Construction Division National Secretary Dave Noonan said that it was great that the Union had managed to gain better conditions for these workers, but that it wasn’t always this easy.

“Cases like these show that some employers do abuse the system, and that workers on temporary visa arrangements are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

“The CFMEU will continue to fight to ensure justice for 457 visa workers who are being mistreated and underpaid.

“But the 457 visa worker scheme remains major concern for the construction industry as it is wide to open the abuse and underpayment of workers – that’s why the scheme is a focus of the CFMEU’s national The Mining Boom: Let’s Spread It Around campaign.

"Abuse and underpayment of 457 visa holders also puts decent employers who do the right thing in regard to workers entitlements at a massive competitive disadvantage compared to those companies which rort the system.

“We are concerned that the cases coming to light are only the tip of the iceberg - if it were not for the courage of a number of individuals who blew the whistle in this case, these workers would not have been able to resolve the issue,” said Mr Noonan.

Poland: Unions strike against austerity

Up to 100,000 workers in the industrial Silesia region of Poland went on strike in the morning of 26 March in protest over the government's labour, health and education policies.

The general strike was organised by Solidarity, Forum Zwiazkow Zawodowych, OPZZ and August 80 against proposed changes to the labour code, which would extend the use of 'junk' employment contracts and which limit employment rights and reduce overtime payments, and against the government's health policy and changes to the education system.

The protest action was taken by a coalition of trade unions, including affiliates of IndustriALL Global Union, and joined by workers from the rail, mining, metallurgical and energy sectors as well as teachers and public health service employees. Workers at steel mills, mines and electricity plants downed tools till 10am, with the transport sector paralysed for two hours from 8am.

The protest was called after tripartite talks between unions, employers and government on a number of burning labour and social-related problems failed to produce concrete results in January and February.

The demands of the protesting groups are:
  • a system of protection for businesses who do not lay off workers when they reduce their production;
  • compensation for businesses which will be affected by additional taxes because of the adoption by the European Union of its climate package;
  • legal limitation of precarious contracts;
  • liquidation of the National Health Fund and its replacement by regional funds;
  • maintenance of early retirement for workers engaged in arduous work.
  • a stop to liquidating schools and to stop the transfer the financial matters of public education to the local governments.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

ACTU: $30 A Week Minimum Wage Rise proposal

27 March, 2013 | ACTU Media Release

Unions will seek a wage rise of $30 a week for Australia’s lowest paid workers in this year’s Annual Wage Review, with new evidence that they are slipping further and further behind the rest of the workforce.

In a submission to be lodged with the Fair Work Commission later this week, the ACTU will seek to increase the National Minimum Wage to $636.40 a week.

This would mean a 79c/hour increase from $15.96 per hour to $16.75 per hour. For other Award-reliant workers above the benchmark tradesperson’s rate, unions will seek a 4.2% pay increase.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said the time had come to stop the decline in the relative earnings of low-paid workers. He said that since 2000, the National Minimum Wage had fallen from 50% of average weekly full-time earnings to 43.4%.

Mr Oliver said the performance of Australia’s economy meant the claim of $30 a week for the National Minimum Wage was affordable and reasonable.

“Last year’s disappointing decision by the Fair Work Commission pushed us further towards the creation of an American-style class of working poor in Australia,” Mr Oliver said

“Any further decline in the relative living standards of low-paid workers will put in jeopardy the concept of a fair safety net of minimum wages for people whose work is crucial to Australia’s economy.

“With the rise of insecure forms of work in Australia – which see millions of workers in jobs with unpredictable working hours and no access to sick leave or annual leave – safeguards like a decent minimum wage are more important than ever.

“Last year’s wage rise was absorbed by business and our economy continues to grow, with relatively low unemployment and rising profits, but wages have failed to keep up with productivity growth – especially the wages of the lowest paid.

“Low-paid workers rely solely on unions to fight in their corner for a decent wage, and that’s why we are seeking a $30 pay rise for them this year.

“This would be a moderate, affordable increase that on its own would not restore the ground lost by low-paid workers in the past decade, but it will stop these 1.5 million workers from falling further behind.”

The claim for $30 would benefit about 745,000 workers, including about 32,200 on the National Minimum Wage. A pay rise of 4.2% will be sought for a further 792,000 Award-reliant workers who are paid above the C10 tradesperson’s rate. In total, about 16% of employees depend on the wage increased obtained by the ACTU through Annual Wage Reviews.

Last year, the then-Fair Work Australia granted a 2.9% across the board wage rise, well short of what unions had been seeking, and well short of the increase in average wages.

US: Unions and Big Corporations

Ann Robertson, a lecturer at San Francisco State University and a member of the California Faculty Association, and Bill Leumer, a retired member of Teamsters Local 853, wrote an article entitled, "A Doomed Trajectory: AFL-CIO's Own Oil Disaster."

In 2012 James Hansen, a NASA scientist, in a New York Times op-ed article forcefully argued that Canada's development of its tar sands oil supply, because it contains twice the amount of carbon dioxide as other oil reserves, will tip global warming trends past the point of no return. He concluded: ' will be game over for the climate...'

"...When wealth becomes concentrated in the hands of corporations, power becomes equally concentrated. For this reason, corporations have been particularly successful at imposing their agenda on the rest of society.

"They have successfully attacked unions and thereby lowered wages, eliminated safety regulations and reduced benefits; they have undermined public education by defunding it and by promoting charter schools that have a dubious record of success; they have undermined health care by insisting that profits be prioritized over the welfare of patients; they have torn the safety net by campaigning for a reduction in government spending; and they have placed the survival of the planet as we know it in jeopardy by refusing to curtail the consumption of fossil fuels. The 1% surges forward at the expense of the 99%...

"...unions could begin to organize and mobilize the 99% in order to create a powerful movement capable of sweeping the country... unions would not only fight for their members' interests, they would fight most tenaciously for working people in general, especially those most in need. They would demand that the government institute a public works program like those in the 1930s that would create good paying jobs for all. They would fight for the protection and extension of Social Security and Medicare, protection of the environment, amnesty for undocumented workers, fully funded public education and social services, all to be paid for by taxing the rich. In this way the unions could begin to create a movement of millions...

"Above all it [unions] must never try to advance the interests of its own members at the expense of other working people and of the survival of the planet. By offering support for the Keystone XL pipeline, the AFL-CIO wins a few construction jobs and a little money; but it sacrifices everything of value."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Northern Hemisphere Climate Chaos

Freak blizzards and freezing weather over the first few days of spring have hit Europe and parts of the United States, causing fatal cases of hypothermia, power outages and transport chaos.

In Poland five people have died from exposure since spring arrived on March 21 with overnight temperatures plunging to a bone-chilling minus 24 Celsius.

The latest death toll pushed the total death toll this month to 25.

Bad weather has also claimed at least two lives on the British mainland, where media have dubbed the unseasonably icy month "Miserable March."

The military was called into action on Tuesday to air-drop fodder to farms cut off by freak snow as thousands of homes remained without power for a fifth straight day.

A Royal Air Force (RAF) helicopter was deployed in Northern Ireland in a bid to reach remote farms where up to 10,000 animals are believed to have been buried beneath snowdrifts six metres high.

British bookmakers used to offering bets on a White Christmas now say a White Easter this weekend is more likely than not.

And in south-west Scotland, the Isle of Arran was still without power following Friday's unseasonal snowfall that brought down power lines.

In the United States, where a huge spring storm dumped several inches of snow from St Louis to the East Coast and grounded hundreds of flights on Monday, temperatures were struggling to climb back to normal in most areas.

Nearly a week after the spring equinox, huge swathes of the United States remained deep in winter's clutches. Temperatures hovered well below freezing and snowploughs and shovels were pulled back out of sheds.

A March chill hovered over large sections of the south and the Midwest, but the mercury was bouncing back along the east coast. In Washington, temperatures were expected to hit 15C by the weekend.

Back in Europe, Ukraine's capital Kiev was still feeling the effects of Monday's record-breaking snowfall, which saw residents skiing down city streets as drivers fumed in vast traffic jams.

Up to 15 centimetres of snow also blanketed Romania, shutting down schools and hampering road traffic in three regions, including the capital Bucharest.

Deadly black ice coated roads in Croatia while ferry services on the Adriatic had to be suspended because of high winds.

No injuries were reported as violent winds tore the roof off a supermarket in the eastern Czech city of Sternberk.

Both Austria and Belgium saw temperatures plunge to record lows, with forecasters warning the unseasonable cold snap is expected to last past the Easter weekend.

ACTU: $30 for lowest paid

Unions will seek a wage rise of $30 a week for Australia’s lowest paid workers in this year’s Annual Wage Review, with new evidence that they are slipping further and further behind the rest of the workforce.

In a submission to be lodged with the Fair Work Commission later this week, the ACTU will seek to increase the National Minimum Wage to $636.40 a week.

This would mean a 79c/hour increase from $15.96 per hour to $16.75 per hour. For other Award-reliant workers above the benchmark tradesperson’s rate, unions will seek a 4.2% pay increase.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said the time had come to stop the decline in the relative earnings of low-paid workers. He said that since 2000, the National Minimum Wage had fallen from 50% of average weekly full-time earnings to 43.4%.

Mr Oliver said the performance of Australia’s economy meant the claim of $30 a week for the National Minimum Wage was affordable and reasonable.

“Last year’s disappointing decision by the Fair Work Commission pushed us further towards the creation of an American-style class of working poor in Australia,” Mr Oliver said

“Any further decline in the relative living standards of low-paid workers will put in jeopardy the concept of a fair safety net of minimum wages for people whose work is crucial to Australia’s economy.

“With the rise of insecure forms of work in Australia – which see millions of workers in jobs with unpredictable working hours and no access to sick leave or annual leave – safeguards like a decent minimum wage are more important than ever.

“Last year’s wage rise was absorbed by business and our economy continues to grow, with relatively low unemployment and rising profits, but wages have failed to keep up with productivity growth – especially the wages of the lowest paid.

“Low-paid workers rely solely on unions to fight in their corner for a decent wage, and that’s why we are seeking a $30 pay rise for them this year.

“This would be a moderate, affordable increase that on its own would not restore the ground lost by low-paid workers in the past decade, but it will stop these 1.5 million workers from falling further behind.”

The claim for $30 would benefit about 745,000 workers, including about 32,200 on the National Minimum Wage. A pay rise of 4.2% will be sought for a further 792,000 Award-reliant workers who are paid above the C10 tradesperson’s rate. In total, about 16% of employees depend on the wage increased obtained by the ACTU through Annual Wage Reviews.

Last year, the then-Fair Work Australia granted a 2.9% across the board wage rise, well short of what unions had been seeking, and well short of the increase in average wages.

NSW: Hinton Public School - Save Our Teacher!

Parents from the small village of Hinton, near Maitland, took a fight over school staffing ratios to State Parliament on Tuesday, pleading  with the government not to strip their school of a teacher because enrolments are short just four students.

Hinton Public School, the second oldest to continually operate in the state, has 100 students but needs enrolments to return to at least 104 or it will lose one of its five teachers from next term.

Parents and Citizens Association member Karin Hines said students would have to form a years 3, 4, 5 composite class of 28 because of the strict application of the student-teacher ratio.

At Parliament, P&C members met with Maitland MP Robyn Parker, senior bureaucrats of the Department of Education and Training and a representative for Education Minister Adrian Piccoli.

Their concerns were also a subject of Question Time, when Labor education spokeswoman Carmel Tebbutt asked Mr Piccoli whether the government would listen to the Hinton community as was promised under the government’s ‘‘Local Schools Local Decisions’’ policy.

The government is cutting $1.7billion from the education budget over four years.

P&C committee president Linda Siever said the school community understood ‘‘we’re not the only ones’’ but was appealing for consideration of its size.

‘‘This little school is already feeling the effects of the government’s education cuts,’’ she said.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

BMUC Springwood Rally

MUA: Wharfies battle for right to work safely

Warren Smith Op-Ed:

Deaths on the waterfront can be prevented, but not if the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the big stevedores have their way.

The fact is, wharfies are still 14 times more likely to die on the job than the average Australian worker.

The Maritime Union of Australia is determined change that.

For more than five years the union has been campaigning for a national stevedoring code of practice to ensure safety standards are boosted. However, industry groups  are arguing the draft code is too prescriptive and too costly.

From the union’s viewpoint, the draft code simply clarifies what Australian law already requires, setting out recommendations and suggestions for how to comply. Industry argument about additional costs arising from the introduction of a code are deceptive, because there won’t be any. The debate is really about employers pre-emptively fighting potential restrictions on their ability to reduce safety-critical roles to make future savings.

The Maritime Union of Australia has welcomed the principles embedded in the draft code because they reflect international best practice.  Industry groups have been at best obstructionist and at worst downright heartless.

Just a day after the death of Newcastle wharfie Greg Fitzgibbon last September, Shipping Australia, which represents foreign shippers along with stevedoring companies Patrick, QUBE and DP World,  tried to tear up the draft code. This was an incredible mark of disrespect to wharfies at a time when they were mourning the death of a comrade.

Union members responded en masse, staging major national rallies around the country, with Greg Fitzgibbon’s two daughters Georga and Taylor bravely leading the Sydney march to highlight the importance of this code, to put a stop to deaths on the waterfront.

Today, wharfies around the country will be doing the same, targeting those business groups who are trying to undermine safety standards in their workplaces.

One of the points that industry groups have decided to target is the hatchman position. These workers – the eyes and ears of the crane driver – stand on the deck of the ship, directing the driver and warning of safety hazards. Every crane operation in Australia is required to have such a position, yet for some reason they now think the maritime sector should be exempt from existing crane safety provisions.

Wharfies, dockers and longshore workers around the world use a hatchman. All regard it as a primary safety position.

In Australia the hatchman position already exists so no extra people would be engaged as a consequence, except where employers disregard the law.

Likewise, their opposition to the election of health and safety reps – something currently included in the  laws of every state and territory – harks back to a ridiculous 19th-century view of safety.

Australian stevedores and Shipping Australia are not just lobbying against this code, they are lobbying against every Australian worker’s  rights under existing safety legislation. They are arguing for a reduction in safety protections in a dangerous sector.

This debate shouldn’t be about costs, it should be about people’s lives. All workers have a right to come home safe to their families, and we make absolutely no apology to these employers and business lobbyists for refusing to cave to demands that make a dangerous workplace more dangerous.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

World Bank Creates Poverty

Australian unions, fair trade advocates and environmentalist gathered today (22.03.13) in front of the Sydney offices of the World Bank at noon on Friday to protest the Bank’s affiliation with the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a tribunal that hears corporate lawsuits seeking to bypass national courts, laws and regulations setting local standards for health, human rights and the environment.

“The World Bank turns its back on its responsibilities when it assists corporations to sue some of the poorest people in the world for millions of dollars. This is an example yet again of the needs of greedy billionaires riding roughshot over the needs of working people, the environment and wider community needs.” said Tony Sheldon, National Secretary of the TWU. "I am proud to give my support to today's protest, and I call on the new president of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, to put human rights and democracy before private greed, and to end the Bank's ties with the ICSID."

Dr. Patricia Ranald, convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, Ltd. compares the ICSID process with the one Philip Morris is using to sue Australia for billions of dollars claiming future loss of profits from Australia’s tobacco plain packaging laws “Companies like Philip Morris are gaming the system,” Dr. Ranald stated. “Public opposition ensured there was no investor state provision in the bi-lateral trade agreement between the U.S. and Australia. That’s why US–based company Philip Morris moved into Hong Kong to sue Australia under an obscure investment agreement with Hong Kong. Clearly, corporations are using these trade agreements to blackmail countries seeking to protect their own citizens.”

“Australia should stop funding the World Bank if it won’t cut ties to ICSID, “ said Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia,. “Australia has smartened up and stopped signing trade agreements with investor state arbitration clauses. We should also drop our membership in ICSID. It’s a matter of principle.“

“The World Bank’s ICSID is allowing the Canadian mining company Pacific Rim to sue El Salvador for refusing to issue a permit to use cyanide and arsenic to mine gold in the headwaters of a river supplying the majority of its population with drinking water,” said Cam Walker spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Australia. “And the United Nations reports that el Salvador has the most vulnerable environment in the world. How does the World Bank see this as helping to alleviate poverty or promote sustainable development?”

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mike Carlton on the Coalition

You know exactly what the Coalition will do if it wins government in September. First up there’ll be the Gothic horror of a Labor budget “black hole” – even worse than expected, we’ll be told. This will be the pretext for a savage round of expenditure “savings” and the sacking of thousands of public servants.

That done, all the same-old, clapped-out Tory machinery will creak into place. Once again there’ll be grovelling deference to the Americans in our defence and foreign policies. Billions will be wasted on bright and shiny military hardware, just as the Howard government did by buying 59 useless main battle tanks for the army, the navy’s Seasprite helicopters that could fly only in daylight in fine weather, and the eye-watering extravagance of the struggling Joint Strike Fighter project for the air force.

Domestically, Labor’s reforms in healthcare and education will be scrapped, with money ripped out of the public sector to be shovelled back into private hospitals and private schools. Climate change will be crap again. WorkChoices will eventually re-emerge with a new name; there will be a swingeing ideological attack on the ABC, enforced by a whopping funding cut; the national broadband network will be gutted; social reforms like same-sex marriage will be further off than ever; and the gap between rich and poor will grow ever wider, as it does in the US.

Been there, done that, deja vu all over again.

Underpaid for 15 years

After almost 15 years of being underpaid, a Surfers Paradise retail manager has received $34,600 owed by his previous employer.

The manager was underpaid annual leave entitlements and penalty rates between 1998 and 2012, and lodged a complaint with the Fair Work Ombudsman after leaving the business.

Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said it was important employers understood their obligations to ensure staff were paid correctly the first time around.

“Even a small error, if left unchecked for a long period, can lead to a significant underpayment, as occurred in this case,” Mr Wilson said.
“That's why it's important that employers understand their obligations so they can ensure they get it right the first time around.”

Other recent investigations on the Gold Coast have recovered $6900 for a Southport retail manager, while an apprentice hairdresser received $6600 in back-pay.

The Fair Work Ombudsman recovered $8.6 million in back-pay last year for 4906 Queensland workers.

Mr Wilson said employers usually co-operated with the ombudsman and gave the employees what they were owed with minimal hassle.

“When we find mistakes, we're here to assist and give practical advice to employers on how to voluntarily resolve issues and in the overwhelming majority of cases, that's what occurs,” he said.

CPSU: Abbott's 12,000 Cuts policy

Sunday, March 17, 2013

ACTU : Penalty Rates Law

ACTU President Ged Kearney said that all political parties needed to commit to enshrining penalty rates in law to ensure that workers required to work week-ends were adequately compensated.

The Gillard Government today announced it would insert a new modern awards objective in the Fair Work Act to protect penalty rates and make it clear there needs to be additional remuneration for employees who work shift work, unsocial, irregular, unpredictable hours or on weekends and public holidays.

“Penalty rates are paid to more than 500,000 low-paid Australian workers in hospitality, retail, and other sectors who work weekends or public holidays,” Ms Kearney said.

“For those in casual or other insecure forms of work, penalty rates are vital to paying rent and bills.”

"Penalty rates have been part of the Australian workplace for decades but they are now under attack from employers.

“Removing penalty rates without compensation would be an effective pay cut for these low-paid workers.

The decision by the Prime Minister is the result of major campaign by the union movement to highlight the growing attack on penalty rates by employers, and to protect the Australian week-end.

“Weekend work is often necessary, but there should be recognition that weekend workers sacrifice time with friends and family, and penalty rates provide that,” Ms Kearney said.

MS Kearney said employer groups had lodged more than 20 submissions to a Senate Inquiry on penalty rates calling for them to be scrapped or reduced.

These include calls from the National Retail Association for week-end penalty rates to be removed altogether in the fast food industry, and the Restaurant and Catering Association arguing that penalties should only apply in restaurants after an employee has worked six consecutive days.

"There is clearly a concerted push to reduce penalty rates, despite the fact there is no evidence this will create new jobs, and plenty of evidence it will hurt low-paid workers," Ms Kearney said.

“Mr Abbott must now match the Prime Minister’s promise and let workers no that he will protect their penalty rates. The Coalition cannot continue to dodge the debate on these important issues for workers.”

For more information on the Save Our Weekend campaign visit

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Coal Seam Gas: Call to Country

Blue Mountains Community has a say on two years of the O'Farrell Government

From left to right; Mark Lennon (Secretary Unions NSW), Greg Carty, Shirley Ross-Shuley, Nick Franklin, Kerry Cooke (President Blue Mountains Unions Council Inc), Rory Cooke-Ives, Kate Mlinaric Cooke, Debra Smith (Secretary Blue Mountains Unions Council Inc).

The Blue Mountains Unions Council marked the two year anniversary of the O’Farrell Government by launching a community report card to give the community the opportunity to have their say about the performance of the Government in seven key areas.

BMUC spokesman Kerry Cooke said local MP Roza Sage had made plenty of promises to the local community before the election but this was the chance for voters to have their say on how well she had delivered.

The local report card was launched outside Katoomba TAFE on yesterday.

“This report card asks people to have their say about the actions of the O’Farrell Government — and our local MP — over their first two years in power,” Mr Cooke said. “It covers key topics such as their investment in jobs, transport, infrastructure, health, and education, as well as what they have done to look after workers and the community and keep key vital public assets in public hands.

“The O’Farrell Government made a lot of promises to get elected, including to create 100,000 jobs, invest $3 billion in health, not sell out electricity generators and to invest in TAFE, schools, transport and the community. “But they have failed to keep many of those promises and have instead: - cut 20,000 public service jobs, with plans to axe a further 15,000; - done a deal to sell power generators; - slashed $3 billion out of health, with hospital beds closed and ambulance services compromised; - cut $1.7 billion from education, including support for disabled students; - cut TAFE courses vital to the local tourism industry, sacked teachers and increased fees; and - done a deal to allow shooting in our National Parks, putting lives at risk.

“Two years ago we heard a lot about how things were going to change in the Blue Mountains if an O’Farrell Government was elected but unfortunately the vast majority of locals I speak to say that very little has changed and in many places government services have gone backwards,” Mr Cooke said.

Find out more about what they promised and what they've delivered.

Blue Mountains' locals can fill out a physical report card, or vote online at O'Farrell/Sage Two Year Report Card.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Media Moguls upstaged

Today's "Terror" - Corporate Culture

Murdoch-cracy in action aka "news" "limited"

Ban Uranium mining: Fukushima survivor urges Queensland

A survivor of the Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident has urged the conservative Liberal National Party state government in Queensland to reinstate a ban on uranium mining.

Japanese dairy farmer Hasegawa Kenichi is in Brisbane with a delegation from the Japanese disaster relief organisation Peace Boat.

“Uranium is something the human body cannot handle, cannot cope with. It’s like opening Pandora’s box,” he said.

“This government, all governments, must stop using this substance, they must be left underground.”

The Uranium Implementation Committee, tasked with developing a best practice framework for the resumption of uranium mining, will submit its recommendations to the government this month.

The committee has been examining the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia’s uranium export industry.

However, Peace Boat spokesman Akira Kawasaki is urging the government to think carefully about the Fukushima accident, which has devastated thousands of lives.

“Think about all those people, all those lives this substance destroyed, before making your decision,” he told AAP.

“Don’t make the mistake we did,” Mr Kawasaki warned.

The Fukushima nuclear reactor was badly damaged in a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami, which hit Japan on March 11, 2011, causing multiple reactor meltdowns.

Residents were evacuated over an 80 kilometre radius while there remains continuing radioactive contamination of land and the Pacific Ocean, including the sea floor and fish.

More than 15,000 people were killed in the most powerful earthquake ever known to have hit the country.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

O'Farrell / Sage | Blue Mountains Score Card

- - - - - - To create 100,000 jobs in NSW.

- - - - - - Axed 20,000 jobs and plans to axe another 15,000.
- - - - - - Not to sell the electricity generators.
- - - - - - Sold the generators.
- - - - - - Invest $3billion in health.
- - - - - - Slashed $3 billion out of health.
- - - - - - Invest in quality services.
- - - - - - Slashed $1.7 billion out of education.
- - - - - - Invest in transport.
- - - - - - Fares have increased and trains shortened from 8 carriages to 4.
- - - - - - Disability access at Wentworth Falls station.
- - - - - - Wentworth Falls station is only accessible by stairs.
- - - - - - Invest in TAFE.

- - - - - - Invest in 900 extra literacy teachers in schools.
- - - - - - Invest in education
- - - - - - Support Gonski school funding reforms.
- - - - - - Cut Outdoor Recreation Cert IV from Blue Mountains TAFE,
               vital to our local tourism industry and jobs.
              Some course fees from $1,400 to $7,000 - a 500% increase!
- - - - - - Abolished TAFE courses, sacked teachers and increased fees.
- - - - - - Backed away from implementing Gonski.
- - - - - - Keep our community safe.
- - - - - - Closure of the Katoomba 000 centre and rolling closure of
               fire stations. 
- - - - - - Allowed shooting in our National Parks & placing lives at risk.

The BMUC Government’s SCORE CARD fill it in at

Monday, March 11, 2013

Japan marks Fukushima anniversary

Thousands of people marched in the Japanese capital Tokyo today demanding the government turns its back on nuclear power permanently.

The demonstration was timed to coincide with the second anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in central Hibiya Park where anti-nuclear activists and trade unionists packed a concert hall to voice their opposition.

Academics, business people and volunteers gave anti-nuclear talks as musicians performed, before the crowds marched through the government district of Kasumigaseki to parliament.

They planned to hand petitions to anti-nuclear lawmakers, urging the government to stop its nuclear programmes.

Similar rallies were held elsewhere in Tokyo and across the rest of the nation, with local media reporting as many as 150 anti-nuclear events planned for the weekend and tomorrow.

In many tsunami-hit cities, residents dressed in black for ceremonies to mourn the victims of the disasters.

In the city of Rikuzentakata, where almost 1,600 people died and 217 people are still missing, Mayor Futoshi Toba reiterated his pledge to rebuild the city.

"We will move forward to build a beautiful city that is the pride of the nation where its citizens live happily and comfortably," he said.

Japan is still coming to terms with the disaster that ravaged its north-eastern region two years ago - the earthquake and tsunami killed more than 15,000 people and several thousand are still unaccounted for.

The nuclear meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power's (Tepco) Fukushima Daiichi plant forced 160,000 people from their homes and many of them will never return.

Tepco faces a decades-long effort to decontaminate and decommission the wrecked nuclear plant after the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

All of Japan's 50 reactors were gradually shut down after the Fukushima disaster and all but two of them remain idle.

But the sweeping December victory of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party, which supports nuclear power, is a worry for nuclear power's opponents.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Sydney: International Women's Day 2013 : 9 March

Bring your friends and family and come to the march!
9 March 2013
The march will start at noon outside 
Town Hall and proceed to Circular Quay.  
But there will be speakers
Including special guest Tara Moss!

ACTU President Ged Kearney - Today is International Women’s Day.

As unionists, we recognise that our movement is stronger for the ongoing activism of our sisters.

Women, working collectively, have won many battles like equal pay and paid parental leave. But they also run strong industrial campaigns, taking on tough employers and never backing down.

We celebrate today, but every day women and men are still fighting for real equality in the workplace and especially the right to fit caring responsibilities along-side our work, without sacrificing the security of a permanent job and income.

We are at our best as a movement when we stand united, and work together, for a better workplace and society for all.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Gwarosa - "death from overwork"

Peter Bentley executive director of the McKell Institute

Gwarosa can be translated as "death from overwork". It's an officially recognised phenomenon in Korea where, in recent decades, people have been suffering from overwork-induced heart attacks, strokes and mental illness.

The condition is not figurative. Medical research shows that overwork leads to a sustained build-up of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases the likelihood of cardiac disease, sleep problems and depression. Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Yet in Australia we are being constantly pushed to work longer. Across the nation, business lobby groups are hustling for longer working hours, less overtime, and more weekend work.

The Restaurant & Catering Association, for example, has a submission before the Fair Work Commission arguing for an end to existing weekend penalty rates.

Measures designed to engineer longer hours are often promoted as a means of improving labour productivity. But this misunderstands the fact that labour productivity is output per hour, not total output per worker.

But is it still reasonable to assume that the Australian economy would benefit if we all worked longer?

Koreans still put in long hours today, but back in 2000 they were working longer than the rest of the OECD, with the average worker pulling 51 hours per week. The average Australian at the time was working 37 hours per week. Yet Korean labour productivity levels were abysmal. An hour of work was adding an average of $US17 per hour to the GDP, compared to $49 per hour in the US, $33 in Japan and $41 in Australia.

So the Korean government decided to reduce the working week from 44 to 40 hours and the average weekly hours have fallen from 51 to 44.

The change in productivity has been spectacular. In real terms, Korea is up 56 per cent since 2000. By comparison Australia rose 13 per cent. All of this proves that those pushing for longer, tougher working hours are failing us not just socially, but economically as well.

It is vital that we shatter these myths because surveys show Australians want to work less. More than half of working people would prefer an extra two weeks annual leave over a rise in pay. It's a lesson we should know by now.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Unions NSW: University of Sydney strike

Unions NSW members will join Sydney University workers at picket lines on Thursday. 

Employees at one of the country's largest and oldest universities have voted to strike to keep limits on workloads and working hours.

National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU)  and Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) members at Sydney University will take action from 7am.

Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon said the future of tertiary education was at stake.

"Management at Sydney Uni want to abolish workload limits and remove restrictions on working hours," Mr Lennon said.

"They're effectively undercutting the very conditions that guarantee quality education.

"We can't allow our universities to become a production line for substandard degrees."

Increase Newstart: Peak community welfare groups and charities

Peak community welfare groups and charities today restated their call for a $50 increase in Allowance payments such as Newstart in this year’s Federal Budget as a fundamental requirement to help lift hundreds and thousands of people out of worsening poverty in Australia.

Media reports yesterday suggested the Government is considering a proposal to allow single parents and other people on the Newstart Allowance to keep more of their earnings before losing benefits, rather than increasing the Newstart payment itself. This is not an ‘either or’ choice. While we need to allow people to keep more of the money they earn, we also need a more adequate base payment.

There should not be a trade-off or the central problem that current payment levels are driving people further into poverty and making it more difficult for people to find paid work will be missed. It is like filling potholes in a road when the road should be rebuilt.

The poverty experienced by people on these very low payments, including those parents who are unable to find any paid work, is real and must be addressed if we are going to make any difference in the worsening plight of people on allowance payments.

If the problem with Newstart Allowance isn’t fixed then more and more people will suffer a loss of income as they are bumped down from the pension onto Newstart. The gap between the pension and Newstart Allowance for a single adult without children is $140. For single parents on Newstart it is $120 per week.

The evidence is clear that the inadequate $35 a day payment is having a devastating impact on people’s lives. They are simply unable to keep a roof over their head, feed themselves, pay bills and look for work on a payment that hasn’t been increased in real terms for nearly 20 years.

There’s no doubt that increasing the amount people can keep before they start losing their payment is crucial, and this will help the hundreds and thousands of people already supplementing their income through part time and casual work. However this does nothing for the most disadvantaged people on unemployment benefits, especially those with disabilities, mature age people and single parents who are unable to find paid work.

There are currently over 100,000 on Newstart Allowance with a partial capacity to work, with significant disabilities. By 2014, one in five people on Newstart will have a partial capacity to work. Of the 789,976 on Newstart and Youth Allowance, 253,000 have been looking for work for more than two years, 250,000 are aged over 45, and 155,000 are aged over 50.

With one in five receiving the Newstart Allowance for more than five years, it can no longer be claimed that the Allowance is a ‘temporary’ payment for people in between jobs.

We need a comprehensive approach to this issue if we are really going to make a difference to worsening poverty in Australia, and provide people with a hand up to participate in our society.

We are calling on the Federal Government to listen to the overwhelming body of evidence from parliamentary inquiries, countless reports from charities and community groups, unions and business groups, and its own Social Inclusion Board and Henry Tax Review panel.

Signatories to this statement:

  • Australian Council of Social Service
  • Anglicare Australia
  • Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
  • Australian Youth Affairs Coalition
  • Catholic Social Services Australia
  • COTA Australia
  • Jobs Australia
  • National Council of Single Mothers and their Children
  • National Welfare Rights Network
  • St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia
  • The Benevolent Society
  • The Salvation Army

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

ETU: QR privatisation by stealth

The plan to allow a private company to maintain rolling stock at the new multi-million dollar Wulkuraka train maintenance depot has been slammed by the rail union as privatisation by stealth.

Transport and Main Roads Minister Scott Emerson said in yesterday that the private sector would supply 75 six-car trains that would be maintained by a "public-private partnership".

The two companies bidding for the work are Bombardier Transportation Australia and AdvanceRail.

But Jason Young, state rail organiser for the Electrical Trades Union, said: "This is the start of the privatisation of the passenger trains of Queensland Rail (QR).

"The Newman government say they won't privatise without getting a mandate, but they are doing it by stealth."

For the future, he said, it could mean "the closure of the yard at Bowen Hills and less work there".

"It will mean less job certainty for employees because ... as the fleet is replaced the older vehicles will be retired and the workforce dwindled down, with the work going to private contractors," he said. "All their employment conditions will be gone."

ACTU: A Shrinking Slice of the Pie

Artwork by Peter Lake.
The ‘wages breakout’ has been a recurring theme in the Australian public policy debate in recent years. Political conservatives, media commentators and some business groups have warned that Australian wages growth is unsustainable, or threatens to become unsustainable (for example, see The Australian 2010). This paper critically examines such claims and finds that they are not supported by the evidence.

Warnings about a ‘wages breakout’ appear to refer to a period in which real wages growth exceeds productivity growth, thus causing the labour income share to rise. This paper shows that Australia has experienced the opposite of a ‘wages breakout’ since 2000.  Over this period Australian real wages have not kept pace with productivity growth. This means that labour’s share of total income has fallen and capital’s share has risen. We would now need a period in which real wages rose faster than productivity growth merely to restore the labour income share of the 1990s.

This paper also shows that many other OECD countries have experienced a falling labour share in recent years, but the fall in Australia’s labour share has been relatively large.  The fall in the Australian labour share has been broadly-based – the labour share has fallen within a broad range of industries. Only a small portion of the fall can be ascribed to structural change in the economy towards low-labour share industries such as mining.

The decoupling of real wages and productivity, and thus the fall in the labour income share, is a worrying development. One key implication of this fall is that household income inequality will tend to rise, as capital ownership is highly unequally distributed among households.

Download File:
A Shrinking Slice of the Pie report (pdf)

Pillaging the Pilbara

The Pilbara may sit alongside the Kimberley on the map but it’s a different world; a world of fluorescent yellow and blue, hi-visibility mining shirts and steel-capped boots; a world where mile after mile of powerlines rudely interrupt the watercolour landscape that stretches as far as you can see; a world that’s been inhabited by Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years; and a world where indigenous poverty and great mining wealth collide.

Venuzuela: Chávez dies

Tuesday March 05, 2013  07:09 PM

Hugo Chávez Frías, the President of Venezuela, died after waging a long battle against cancer, treated in Havana since the middle of 2011. The president had traveled to Cuba in the final stage on December 8, 2012, two months after his fourth re-election to undergo his fourth surgery.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon extended on Tuesday his "heartfelt condolences" to the Venezuelan people and government upon learning from the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

"This is the first news I have and while I will make a formal statement later, I would like to convey my heartfelt condolences to President Chávez's family, as well as to the Venezuelan government and people," Ban K-moon told reporters at the UN Headquarters.

Chávez’s departure not only affects the political balance in Venezuela, the fourth-largest foreign oil supplier to the United States, but also in Latin America, where Venezuela joined a group of nations intent on reducing US control in the region.

Chávez changed Venezuela in fundamental ways, empowering and energizing millions of poor people who had felt marginalized and excluded.

Chávez, director Oliver Stone and Tariq Ali at the Venice film festival in 2009. 
Chávez spoke to Tariq Ali about his hopes for change in Venezuela

"I don't believe in the dogmatic postulates of Marxist revolution. I don't accept that we are living in a period of proletarian revolutions. All that must be revised. Reality is telling us that every day. Are we aiming in Venezuela today for the abolition of private property or a classless society? I don't think so.

But if I'm told that because of that reality you can't do anything to help the poor, the people who have made this country rich through their labour – and never forget that some of it was slave labour – then I say: 'We part company.'

I will never accept that there can be no redistribution of wealth in society. Our upper classes don't even like paying taxes. That's one reason they hate me. We said: 'You must pay your taxes.'

I believe it's better to die in battle, rather than hold aloft a very revolutionary and very pure banner, and do nothing … That position often strikes me as very convenient, a good excuse … Try and make your revolution, go into combat, advance a little, even if it's only a millimetre, in the right direction, instead of dreaming about utopias."

Corporate Culture:

The Globe and Mail gloats today that "torrents of oil" will now be available to US and Canadian oil monopolies under its headline "Chavez's death opens door to Venezuela's oil riches" 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Climate Change: 123 Records Broken

Climate Change Commission

Key facts:

  • The Australian summer over 2012 and 2013 has been defined by extreme weather events across much of the continent, including record-breaking heat, severe bushfires, extreme rainfall and damaging flooding. Extreme heatwaves and catastrophic bushfire conditions during the Angry Summer were made worse by climate change.
  • All weather, including extreme weather events is influenced by climate change. All extreme weather events are now occurring in a climate system that is warmer and moister than it was 50 years ago. This influences the nature, impact and intensity of extreme weather events.
  • Australia’s Angry Summer shows that climate change is already adversely affecting Australians. The significant impacts of extreme weather on people, property, communities and the environment highlight the serious consequences of failing to adequately address climate change.
  • It is highly likely that extreme hot weather will become even more frequent and severe in Australia and around the globe, over the coming decades. The decisions we make this decade will largely determine the severity of climate change and its influence on extreme events for our grandchildren.
  • It is critical that we are aware of the influence of climate change on many types of extreme weather so that communities, emergency services and governments prepare for the risk of increasingly severe and frequent extreme weather.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Abbott: Kangaroo Code for Building Workers

The Coalition's plan to introduce a national building code for the construction industry will do nothing to create secure jobs, and is simply an ideological stunt, the ACTU said today.

Media reports today quote Liberal workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz as saying that the Coalition will consider a national version of Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu's construction code if it wins office.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said that any attempt to copy Ted Baillieu's flawed code - which bans companies who have struck legal agreements with unions from tendering for government contracts - would be an attack on workers' rights and an attempt to intimidate businesses.

"This is simply an attempt to introduce Workchoices by stealth by intimidating companies into implementing a right-wing ideological agenda," Mr Oliver said.

"In Victoria, businesses who have entered into legal agreements with their workers are being told they cannot bid for Government contracts.

This includes companies who simply agreed that they will employ a certain amount of apprentices on sites."

"This is a major infringement of the right for workers to be represented by a union, and for employers to make their own decisions about how to run their business."

"In Victoria it will reduce competition for major building contracts and will deliver no benefit for taxpayers."

"If the Liberals will do this in the construction industry, then workers have to ask which other industries will be targeted if they win Government?"

"This is a return to the Howard Government's policy of using government money to try and bully businesses into changing the industrial relations policies."

"Australian workers want to see policies that address their concerns about insecure work and work/life balance, not attacks on their rights."

"Workers should be concerned that despite Tony Abbott's attempts to avoid debate on his IR policies, every detail that emerges shows the Coalition is still the same party that introduced Workchoices."

Greece: Factory Occupation

In this video, the representatives of the workers of Viomihaniki Metalleftiki (Greece) talk about their attempt to take over the factory and run it as a cooperative of workers.

After 3 days of intense mobilization, the factory of Vio.Me. has started production under workers' control earlier today! It is the first experiment in industrial self-management in crisis-striken Greece, and the workers of Vio.Me. are confident this is going to be only the first in a series of such endeavours.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

21 Century: The Revenge of History

The Revenge of History: The Battle for the 21st Century
by Seumas Milne

One of Britain’s foremost political writers confronts ten years of murderous delusion.

In 2001, Tony Blair declared that those who opposed the war on terror had been ‘proved wrong’ – along with critics of unfettered corporate power and free market capitalism.

Ten years later, the critics have been comprehensively vindicated and the champions of the New World Order proved catastrophically wrong. The evidence on hand includes the disastrous occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq and the failure of an economic model that has brought the Western World to its knees.

The Revenge of History is a powerful corrective to the discredited dominant account of the first decade of the twenty-first century. As Seumas Milne shows in a panoramic narrative that reaches from 9/11 to beyond the Arab uprisings, crisis and war have turned the orthodoxies of a generation on their head.

The neoliberal market, hailed as the only economic option, crashed with devastating consequences; calamitous western military interventions demonstrated the limits of US global power; the rise of China challenged both; while Latin America has embraced social and economic alternatives that were said no longer to exist.

In a culture dominated by eager apologists of power, Milne has consistently written against the grain. This book offers a compelling perspective on the convulsions that have brought us to today’s crisis and the shape of the emerging politics of the future – and an indictment of a global and corporate empire in decline.

CFMEU: Mining News update

TAFE Community Alliance

No matter who you are TAFE is open to everyone.

TAFE gives everyone a second chance, the opportunity to learn skills for employment and an opportunity to contribute to the community.

If you are uncertain about your career or need more education and training; TAFE has always been there - affordable, accessible - providing great quality education and professional specialist student support. There is a TAFE College in every community across NSW.

Who we are

The TAFE Community Alliance is an advocacy and strategy group that recognises the central role of the public VET provider in the building of social, cultural and economic capacity of communities across NSW. The Alliance will campaign to maintain TAFE's central role in vocational education and training.

What we do

The TAFE Community Alliance is campaigning for TAFE. It is open to teachers, educational staff, community members, industry members and others. Our immediate plans include:

  • developing a list of interested community members to communicate with creating awareness of the effects of the competitive training market and loss of funding for TAFE
  • collecting signatures on the petition (download). the document is double sided, the back repeating the statement for the petition in a more readable format.
  • working with other groups interested in pursuing this campaign, including community groups, professional associations, industry groups, unions and political parties
  • providing research and background information to inform members
  • providing case studies of TAFE's role in changing lives and the community
  • communicating with media and social networks
  • holding a forum

TAFE Community Alliance