Thursday, May 30, 2013

ACT Signs up to Gonski

The ACT has reached a deal with the Federal Government on the Gonski school education funding changes.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher announced the deal while visiting Lyneham High School in Canberra's north.

Under the plan, ACT schools will receive an extra $190 million over six years in school funding from 2014, benefiting about 62,000 students.

The ACT is only the second jurisdiction to sign-up to the deal and the announcement comes just days before the ACT budget is handed down.

Ms Gillard says she is delighted the agreement has been reached and is determined to work closely with all remaining states and territories to see the reforms agreed to by June 30.

"These are practical changes in our classrooms. I want to see them in every classroom around the country, in all 9,500 schools," she said.

The Federal Government has also announced $26 million in funding over six years to establish a centre for quality teaching and learning at the University of Canberra.

"We believe the ACT is the right place for such a centre because of the high achievement of its schools," Ms Gillard said.

Ms Gallagher says the ACT has long been a supporter of the reforms.

"What this will mean is that no school will be worse off. Indeed all schools will receive extra support over the next six years," she said.

"What it also means is for every student in the ACT, regardless of where you go to school ... you will get the same access to resources and support as every other student in the Territory.

"This national funding reform puts to bed the government and non-government divide once and for all. It says regardless of where you go to school, this is the money that we need to provide you with an excellent education."

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

ACT: Nurses Reject "Insulting Offer"

Canberra nurses have rejected an ACT government proposal to increase nursing wages by 2 per cent a year for the next four years.

The ACT branch of the Australian Nurses Federation (ANF) described the pay offer as ''disrespectful'' and ''insulting'' on Tuesday, after members voted unanimously to refuse the offer outright.

The territory's nurses and midwives are the latest workforce among the ACT's 20,000-strong public service to criticise government attempts to set wage increases for the next four years below inflation.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) condemned the offer made to its workforce last week, saying staff were effectively being told to accept a pay cut.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has said the government needs to restrain spending in a tough ACT economy and the wage offer would spare the slashing of public service jobs that has happened in other states.The government did not comment on the negotiations with nurses and midwives on Tuesday.

But ACT ANF secretary Jenny Miragaya said there was ''no respect'' for nurses or midwives in the government's proposal.

''To my recollection, the last time we were offered anything like this was way back in the late nineties when nurses were given the opportunity to salary sacrifice,'' Ms Miragaya said.

''At this stage, they've rejected the offer outright. They felt it was insulting and disrespectful.''
Ms Miragaya said nurses were open to negotiations and would not discuss the possibility of industrial action before the current agreement expired on June 30. ''Come the 30th of June I'm quite sure that is something the membership will consider,'' she said.

The federation said it was also concerned the government would try to diminish existing workplace entitlements and it wanted all entitlements maintained.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

EITI Seeing Results from Natural Resources

A global forum convening world leaders to discuss governance of natural resources

The 6th EITI Global Conference is at an end. The new EITI Standard was agreed and launched, ensuring more transparency in the years ahead. It focused on how transparency and the EITI is leading to change in the 39 implementing countries. This video, produced by the EITI Secretariat, draws from the many videos that countries have produced.

It has been a big couple of weeks for the Publish What You Pay global movement with the recent EITI conference (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative) in Sydney.

Publish What You Pay Australia is funded by Oxfam Australia, World Vision, CFMEU and Oxfam America. Its organiser is Claire Spoors based in Melbourne.

A protest at the Powerhouse Museum focused on four giant energy corporations who are trying to overturn a mandatory payments reporting law in the United States.

EITI is a proposed law that mining and oil/gas companies must publish what they pay to government on a project by project basis, to enable citizens (and governments) to know just what contribution they may be making to economic development, and to minimise corrupt payments.

Australia is yet to agree to EITI, another measure of the power of BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Xstrata, and people like Andrew Forrest, Gina Rinehart, and Clive Palmer.

AWU and the Tarkine

Tarkine activist Scott Jordan has accused the Minerals Council and the Australian Workers' Union (AWU) of giving misleading information to West Coast mining residents in a bid to support the pro-mining campaign.

Mr Jordan said he received feedback that Paul Howes, the AWU National Secretary, told workers to support the mining campaign otherwise they would face losing their jobs.

"Representatives, including Mr Howes himself, have been at the Savage River and Rosebery work sites telling workers that if they don't support the campaign for mining in the Tarkine they are all going to lose their jobs, which is a ridiculous statement," Mr Jordan said.

"There is a bit of straw man stretch going on where they don't want to fight an argument over whether or not wilderness areas like the Tarkine should be mined so they run a strategy of trying to convince people in work places that really aren't effected by this campaign that they are all going to lose their jobs."

Mr Jordan believed the AWU providing such information was not a recent trend. "Certainly over the last 18 months it has been a very common theme that has been coming up both from the Minerals Council and from Mr Howes' campaign through the AWU," he said.

Monday, May 27, 2013

FSU: ANZ offshoring Aussie call centre jobs

Reports today that ANZ bank plans to offshore at least 70 call centre jobs is a clear signal that we need a plan for the services sector, so there are jobs in the future for Australian workers and their kids.

“If we don’t do something now to stop Australian jobs going offshore, we are going to wake up in thirty years and wonder where all the good finance jobs are,” said Finance Sector Union National Secretary Leon Carter.

“More than 20% of ANZ’s recent profit bump was achieved by sacking workers. Today’s announcement that more jobs are going offshore is about the bank increasing their profit at the expense of Australian workers and their families,”

“ANZ is treating their loyal workers like they are an expendable commodity, and affected workers and their colleagues are angry about this latest announcement,” said Leon Carter.

“Finance workers feel more insecure than ever, even though employers like ANZ are more profitable now than they were before the GFC,”

“We have the ludicrous situation of enormously profitable companies like ANZ, who derive their profit from our community, failing to re-invest in the community they profit from. The can reinvest in jobs and skills here, and increase job security for finance workers, but they choose to send jobs offshore – jobs that are being done here, and jobs that should continue to be done here,” said Leon Carter.

“The FSU is very concerned about the workers affected, and we will provide as much support to these workers as we can. But the other concern we have is for ANZ’s customers, and the security of their data.”

“When you ring an ANZ call centre, you are ringing to discuss your banking details. You might be ringing about your mortgage, or your credit card, or your everyday banking. The person on the other end of the phone has access to your sensitive, personal financial data. If the person accessing your data is not within Australia, then the customer no longer has the protection of Australian law,” said Leon Carter.

“So not only do we have workers being thrown out of their jobs, we also have a greater risk to the security of customer data,”

“Australian companies like banks should be required to obtain customer consent before offshoring sensitive data,” said Leon Carter.

Contact: Leanne Shingles, 0423 821 773 or

Politics in the Pub: Education – The Way Forward

The Blue Mountains Unions Council’s Politics in the Pub series returns June 1 with a forum on education and its funding, topics that are expected to be hotly debated all the way up to the September Federal election.

Kenneth Davidson, the experienced and independent thinking senior economics columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age, will be the forum’s keynote speaker.  He is a past winner of the Walkley Award for excellence in Australian journalism.

Mr Davidson is a “Keynesian” economist with a passionate belief in a strong public sector that supports its citizens in reaching their fullest potential in a secure healthy environment.   He follows his passion by co-editing with his partner, Lesley Vick, the Dissent Magazine (www.

In a recent article in the SMH he took umbrage with the way the Gillard government has adopted the recommendations of the Gonski review of school funding.  He thought funding, albeit increased, was still being spread too widely and a more targeted approach would provide more to those school children in real need.

Jude Pearce is the event’s second speaker and she will tell an inspirational story on the intrinsic life transforming value of education.  An indigenous woman in her 50s, she was doing it tough, including being a cancer survivor, when she embarked on a Tertiary Preparation Certificate at Wentworth Falls TAFE.  She not only passed, but her mark of 94.7 topped the state in legal studies.

Rounding off the speakers and giving a higher education perspective is Genevieve Kelly, the Secretary of the NSW division of the National Tertiary education Union, who will speak on the contentious issue of university funding.

Kerry Cooke, Blue Mountains Unions Council President, felt this forum "would help inform Blue Mountains voters on one of the key issues of the 2013 Federal Election".

The forum, Education – The Way Forward , will be held at Katoomba’s Blackburns Family Hotel on Saturday 1 June 2013 at 2.30 pm. Admission is free. Macquarie Candidates for the Liberals, Labor and Greens will be invited to attend.  Kenneth Davidson has generously agreed to stay back for a period afterwards for personal conversations.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

National Sorry Day

Events are taking place around Australia today to mark National Sorry Day, which acknowledges the historical mistreatment of Aboriginal people, including members of the Stolen Generation.

Among the events - which are pushing for a referendum on Indigenous recognition in the Constitution - is a national relay.

The foot, bike and car relay kicked off in Melbourne this morning and will head to Adelaide before travelling up to Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory over the next 11 weeks.

The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, is one of three federal ministers joining today's relay leg.

Ms Macklin says the Government is committed to changing the constitution but it is not the right time to ask the Australian public.

"We want to have a referendum when it has the most chance of success," she said.

"This really is the strong view of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"We don't want to have a referendum that goes down.

"We want to make sure that we get this referendum through with as much support as possible."

But Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda, says there is strong public support.

Mr Gooda says, however, there is a lack of understanding about what changing the Constitution will mean.

"We have a bit of a conundrum where we have polling that shows 75 per cent of Australians say 'yes, we should recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution'," he said.

"But then there's a very low level of awareness of the detail of that.

"This is a chance to raise awareness before we get to the point where we have Parliament decide what sort of questions are put to people in a referendum."

AFL legend Michael Long is leading the first leg of the Journey to Recognition relay, which will then be continued by other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants.

Recognise campaign director Tanya Hosch says the Constitution needs to be changed to recognise the first Australians.

She says the first step is to convince the Federal Government to hold a referendum.

Our intention is to travel as far and wide across the country until we get to referendum day.

Tanya Hosch
"The only way to have a successful campaign on a question as important as this is to reach out to as many Australians as possible, make sure that they know all about this," she said.

"It's really important that the whole part of Australia's history and the wonderful things about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and cultures actually become included in our founding documents.

"Our intention is to travel far and wide across the country until we get to referendum day."

Gillard Stops Sports Betting Madness

Television networks have agreed to implement the Government’s new restrictions on the airing of live betting odds after Prime Minister Julia Gillard threatened to legislate a complete ban.

The networks had put forward a plan that would still allow the practice during quarter-time and half-time breaks, but Ms Gillard today said that did not go far enough.

She gave broadcasters two weeks to present a code that complied with the Government's requirements, which will still allow generic gambling ads during quarter-time and half-time breaks

There was an immediate reaction from Free TV, which represents the television networks.

It described the plan as "unprecedented" but agreed to implement the new restrictions.

"These are unprecedented restrictions for broadcasters but we accept the Government has acted in response to community concern," a statement form Free TV said.

"We will submit a revised code within the next two weeks in line with the Prime Minister's announcement."

Ms Gillard had earlier said if the industry did not impose a complete ban, the Government would introduce legislation to enforce it.

"From the moment the players step onto the field to the moment that they leave the field, there will be no live odds," she told a press conference this morning.

"Broadcasters have been warned that failure to present a suitable code will result in the Government taking further action.

"I think it has got over the top and I think people will be relieved.

From the moment the players step onto the field to the moment that they leave the field, there will be no live odds. I want kids to know their maths but not learn it watching live sports.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard
"I want kids to know their maths but not learn it watching live sports. When they watch sport I want them to be enjoying the contest, the physical prowess and display of team work.

"We believe we have the right balance."

NRL chief executive Dave Smith says the Government's intervention is an important step towards finding right balance.

He says betting must not be allowed to become the primary focus of the game and young fans should not be exposed to excessive promotion of betting during matches.

Gonski and Indigenous Schools

The promise of $5.5 billion to narrow the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous students will be at risk if the states do not sign up to the Gillard government's plan for school improvement, Schools Minister Peter Garrett has warned.

More than $200 million is earmarked to improve the results of about 11,500 indigenous students in more than 1500 Victorian schools under the plan that so far has been resisted by Premier Denis Napthine.

The plan has been dubbed a potential ''game-changer'' by indigenous academic Professor Marcia Langton, provided it is properly backed.

''If the public system is able to engage indigenous students at the primary and secondary level and lift completion rates, that would close the gap faster than any other initiative,'' Professor Langton told The Sunday Age.

Figures to be released on Sunday show a special ''indigenous loading'' under the plan will mean an average of about $30,000 in extra funding for each of an estimated 200,000 indigenous students over a six-year transition to a new funding model.

Mr Garrett said the plan would expand targeted funding that had dramatically improved results in some areas since 2009, and help close a gap in which the reading and numeracy skills of indigenous students are two to three years behind the average for non-indigenous students.

''Education is the passport out of poverty for many indigenous students, yet we are still leaving thousands of kids behind,'' Mr Garrett said.

''New South Wales has shown the way by signing up to our plan and delivering a better deal for almost 54,000 Aboriginal students in that state.

''It's now up to other state and territory leaders to show they care about delivering a better future for young indigenous Australians, and sign up to our plan.''

Read more in the Age

Saturday, May 25, 2013

US: Obama moves to close Guantanamo Bay military prison

US President Barack Obama wants to roll back some of the most controversial aspects of the U.S. “war on terror,” but efforts to alter the global fight against Islamist militants will face the usual hurdle at home: staunch opposition from Republicans in Congress.

In a major policy speech on Thursday, Obama narrowed the scope of the targeted-killing drone campaign against al-Qaida and its allies and announced steps toward closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba.

He acknowledged the past use of “torture” in U.S. interrogations, expressed remorse over civilian casualties from drone strikes, and said Guantanamo “has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law.”

While combating terrorism is still a high priority, polls show Americans’ main concerns are the economy and other domestic issues such as healthcare.

Obama called for an end to a “boundless global war on terror” but Republicans warned against being too quick to declare al-Qaida a spent force.

While Obama largely has a free hand as commander in chief to set U.S. drone policy, Congress has used its power of the purse to block him from closing Guantanamo.

Congress stopped earlier efforts to close Guantanamo by banning the use of federal funds to transfer inmates to U.S. territory.

But two Senate Republicans, McCain and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said they could support closing Guantanamo and moving some of its functions to the United States if Obama presented a workable plan.

Obama suggested a suitable site could be found on the U.S. mainland to hold military tribunals.

Democrats who back closing the camp also say its steep cost - $900,000 per year per inmate compared with $65,000 at a U.S. supermax - might prompt some fiscal conservatives to rethink Guantanamo in a time of budget austerity.

Senator Doug Cameron - Ford Manufacturing Closure

Senator Doug Cameron, while slamming Ford for being ''absolutely delinquent'' in failing to pursue export markets over more than a decade, called on Labor's leadership to convene a crisis summit to rescue Australian manufacturing.

''I think this could have national implications because of the downstream work that takes place in the industry,'' he said.

Senator Cameron, the former national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, rounded on the big mining companies for helping to create the ''Dutch disease'', where the exploitation of natural resources pushes up the currency, increases the competition for labour and crowds out manufacturing.

He praised previous government assistance for the car industry but said the high dollar had made the situation for Ford intolerable.

''I call on the Industry Minister and the Prime Minister to convene a meeting between the industry, the suppliers, the unions and the industry peak organisations like the Ai Group, and some of the issues to be discussed is how do we get lower interest rates and a lower dollar, and should we be providing some tax incentives to companies who are prepared to continue to manufacture in Australia,'' he said.

''I think the miners have got a massive responsibility to ensure that more local equipment is sourced within Australia. They could assist by establishing an engineering and fabrication hub in Geelong for the manufacture, maintenance and repair of mining infrastructure.''

Friday, May 24, 2013

SA: Rally for Gonski this Saturday – Parliament House Adelaide

The Gonski Review found Australia is investing far too little in schools, and that we need an urgent overhaul of the way schools are resourced.

These reforms are needed to fix a system that is broken – too many students are falling behind.

Gonski would provide an excellent education to every Australian child, regardless of their background, postcode or family income.

The Gonski recommendations would help tackle the decline in student performance overall and address the widening gap between students doing well and those who are struggling.

Our children will need a high-quality education to gain the skills and knowledge required to secure jobs in an increasingly competitive, educated global market.

This Saturday all around the country rallies will be held to send our politicians the message that we support the Gonski education reforms. Maxine Winkely speaks to Australian Education Union SA Branch Vice President Jan Murphy.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Safety Accord for 1000 Bangladesh factories

IndustriALL tells us, 

"Over 40 market leading clothing brands have signed the legally binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh with IndustriALL Global Union and Uni Global Union ... The new Accord is an historic victory and will immediately cover over 1,000 Bangladeshi garment factories, certainly a critical mass to be a game-changer.  The LabourStart campaign was one of the important components in a powerful alliance of trade unions and leading NGOs which worked together to achieve this success.  Unprecedented global anger and pressure built in the days after the Rana Plaza disaster and leading up to the 15 May deadline, and that pressure now continues on Gap, Walmart and other companies that disappointingly failed to commit. Work now begins on the implementation phase of the Accord along with two other areas of action, pushing for an ILO-compliant labour law reform in Bangladesh to guarantee core trade union rights, and on raising the minimum wage to match the living wage by 2015.  Workers everywhere will also now seek to expand this historic Accord to other countries and to other industrial sectors."

Bill Oddie's BankWatch

NSW: Green Slip Outrage - Children Lose Protection

Children will no longer be covered for all injuries under changes to the green slip insurance scheme.

The NSW Labor Opposition is calling on the O'Farrell government to ammend its motor accident injuries legislation to ensure children do not lose their special cover under the compulsory third party insurance scheme.

Shadow Treasurer and finance spokesman Michael Daley said the former scheme covered children under 16, regardless of fault, for all injuries and medical expenses for life.

The new law has abandoned that protection for children. Like adults, children whose injuries do not exceed 10 per cent whole person impairment will have their payments for medical expenses cut off after five years.

Mr Daley said the change was unfair because some children have to wait until they are adults to have operations, such as the resetting of a leg.

He said injuries which do not reach the ten per cent threshold include scarring from ear to chin, a moderate traumatic brain injury, complex fractures, spinal injuries causing ongoing shooting pains into the legs and disabling psychiatric injury.

"Currently children who are injured in car crashes receive medical and treatment expenses for life, as well as payments for loss of future earnings," he said.

"Under the O'Farrell Government's changes the overwhelming majority of injured children will now receive nothing for lost wages and will have medical and treatment benefits cut off completely after five years.

"Cutting off treatment and care benefits to injured children is about as low as it gets. It means that instead of the at-fault driver's insurance company paying for these benefits, parents will be left to foot the bill."

"This is cruel and grossly unfair. Making children suffer will do nothing to drive down greenslip prices".

Premier Barry O'Farrell said the existing compulsory third party insurance scheme was unsustainable. He said the new scheme would be fair and sustainable.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

GetUp! - NSW for education reform

Every Australian child deserves access to a high standard of education, regardless of their background or who their parents are.

The Gonski reforms will ensure that differences in educational outcomes are not the result of differences in wealth or income. It will provide a system where all Australian children have access to quality education and place Australia in a strong position economically and socially for generations to come.

ACTU: Lift Minimum Weekly Wage by $30

The Fair Work Commission must use its annual review of the minimum wage to lift it by $30 per week and start to close the pay gap which is hurting low-paid workers.

Hearings began in the FWC today to consider the ACTU’s submission to raise the minimum wage from $15.96 per hour to $16.75, or $636.40 per week.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said wages of low-paid workers had been falling behind for a decade and a $30 per week rise would stop them falling further behind.

“Since 2000, the National Minimum Wage had fallen from 50% of average weekly full-time earnings to 43.4%,” Ms Kearney said.

“A $30 per week rise would be a moderate, affordable increase that will stop 1.5 million workers from falling further behind.

“Despite this the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry are calling for a pitiful $5.80 per week increase, hardly enough to buy lunch, let alone cope with the increasing cost of living.”

“Last year’s wage rise was absorbed by business and the economy continued to grow. Wages growth has been steady but not excessive across the economy and inflation is low. Now is the time to look after the urgent needs of low-paid workers.

“We are talking about cleaners, hospitality staff, unskilled labourers and thousands of other workers who keep our economy and society functioning.

“Any further decline in the relative living standards of these low-paid workers will put in jeopardy the concept of a fair safety net of minimum wages.

“The rise of insecure forms of work in Australia – which sees millions of workers in jobs with unpredictable working hours and no access to sick leave or annuals leave – make a decent minimum wage more important than ever.

“A decent minimum wage is an important protection for workers which will help prevent the emergence of a US-style working poor.”

Ms Kearney said the $30 per week rise would directly benefit 745,000 workers. The ACTU is simultaneously seeking a 4.2% pay rise for a further 792,000 Award-reliant workers.

“Wage rises across the board have not kept up with productivity growth. This is especially the case for low-paid workers.”

“The Fair Work Commission must recognise the need for wage justice for the lowest-paid.”

ABC and SBS under threat from Liberal vandals

Tony Abbott is facing internal pressure from Victorian Liberals to privatise the ABC and SBS if he wins the September 14 election.

State Liberals have launched a push ahead of the election to sell the public broadcasters, arguing the funds raised should be used to pay off government debt.

The Victorian Liberal Party's state conference this weekend will vote on a motion urging the federal Coalition to make a full-scale ''operational review'' of the ABC and SBS to ''look at the feasibility of partial or full privatisation of both''.

The motion says the original arguments for public ownership and operation of the ABC and SBS are ''no longer valid in 2013'', arguing both broadcasters ''aggressively compete'' with private media outlets in a ''high-velocity public information environment''.

''Public ownership of like corporations is not compatible with Coalition policies,'' the motion says. ''In a complex communication market where media outlets are required to set the agenda, ABC/SBS are finding it increasingly difficult to comply with their respective charters, thereby alienating constituents.''

A spokeswoman for the Victorian branch of the Friends of the ABC, Glenys Stradijot, threatened a campaign of ''huge community opposition'' if the Liberal Party continued to attack the national broadcaster.

''Has the Liberal Party learnt nothing from the time the Howard government sought to undermine the ABC?'' Ms Stradijot said.

''If they move to downgrade the ABC, they are both foolish and blind – blind to the importance of a national public broadcaster to this country, and blind to the strong and overwhelming community support for the ABC.''

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Qld: Coal port shelved - but Reef still at risk

Great news - mining giant Glencore Xstrata announced last week that it has pulled out of building a coal terminal on Balaclava Island, 40km north of Gladstone.

It’s a big win for everyone who loves our precious Great Barrier Reef, and shows the real difference people like you can make when we stand up together for the Reef.

While celebrating our success, we mustn’t lose sight of winning the fight!

New and expanded ports, millions of tonnes of dredging and shipping superhighways are still in the planning pipeline.

The World Heritage Centre has called for an immediate halt to any new industrial development threatening the Great Barrier Reef coast, and tougher laws for protecting the Reef.

We need to keep pressure on the Australian and Queensland governments to take urgent action.

You can help by spreading the word about the alarming and unprecedented scale of industrialisation  going on along the Reef.

The more people who hear about the scale of this threat, the more people will join the Fight for the Reef.

Just like Bob says - "It’s your Reef, but you’re going to have to fight for it".

Women in male-dominated industries: A toolkit of strategies

Today the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has released Women in male-dominated industries: A toolkit of strategies.

The underrepresentation of women in industries considered to be male-dominated – mining, utilities and construction – is an issue that is not only undermining gender equality in Australia, but is having negative effects on industry performance and our economy. The Commission’s Toolkit was been developed to help address this problem.

“This is not merely a report, but an interactive website developed to encourage dialogue, engagement and sharing of approaches about increasing women’s representation in male-dominated industries,” Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick said.

This toolkit is designed to assist leaders in organisations to develop and implement constructive and sustainable strategies to increase the representation of women in non-traditional roles in male-dominated industries. It provides practical suggestions and examples of different kinds of workplace strategies and mechanisms across four areas of: attraction, recruitment, retention and development of women.

These examples have been drawn from current practice both within Australia and internationally and through desk based research, interviews and roundtables with employees, HR practitioners and leaders from organisations in the mining, construction and utilities industries. Not all strategies and mechanisms will suit all organisations or workplaces. Organisations will need to consider what is appropriate for their workplace, staff and business needs.

Monday, May 20, 2013

CFMEU and AWU: Unions unite to tackle Rio Tinto

Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Australian Workers Union (AWU) and the have signed an agreement to attempt to start re-unionising Rio Tinto Ltd's iron ore operations.

The agreement puts an end to almost three decades of "demarcation and conflict" between the unions, which according to AWU national secretary Paul Howes says "has been successfully exploited by the company to de-unionise their operations".

"I have no doubt in my mind that disputes like Hamersley Iron and Robe River would not have been successful for the company had it not been for the fact that our two unions had been fighting," he said.

"The only people that win out of demarcation disputes are the employers and that's what occurred in the North West."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Vic: Government attacks on workers' rights in disarray

The Victorian state government's attack on building unions is in disarray after the Federal Court ruled it had broken federal workplace laws by threatening not to use big builder Lend Lease on the new Bendigo Hospital project.

The decision by Justice Mordy Bromberg is a major blow to the Coalition's anti-union agenda and its bid to slash building costs on big projects by destroying workers' rights.

In a related case involving a small recycling firm, the government was also found by Justice Bromberg on Friday to have used coercion to try change a workplace agreement. The Victorian government now faces the prospect of being fined for its breaches of the Fair Work laws.

The cases were mounted by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. CFMEU state secretary John Setka described the decisions as a ''win for democracy''.

Justice Bromberg ruled that the government had discriminated against Lend Lease workers by threatening to not use the builder. The workers, he ruled, were entitled to the ''benefits'' of a four-year agreement struck between the builder and the CFMEU, which had been approved by the Fair Work Commission.

In November 2012, the powerful construction firm Lend Lease was banned from all state government work because its agreement had placed restrictions on the use of outside labour and allowed the flying of union flags.

Under the state government's unlawful code and guidelines that took effect in July 2012, any builders that signed union-friendly deals risked being prevented from bidding for publicly funded work.

Mr Setka said the government's rules were finished. ''It's dead in the water, they can have a code but they can't breach federal law and that's what they did,'' he said. ''For them to get done for coercion and adverse action, they ought to be ashamed of themselves.''

Mr Setka said the case involving the $630 million Bendigo Hospital showed the ''fallacy'' of claims that union agreements cost the community more. In April, the government awarded the contract to build the hospital to a consortium that included Lend Lease as builder, despite it being banned. It had been ranked well ahead of its rival bidder during the tender process.

Slater & Gordon industrial lawyer Marcus Clayton, who acts for the CFMEU, described the judgments as a ''significant blow'' to the government's code that would allow construction workers to ''retain the positive benefits they have fought for and bargained for.''

Friday, May 17, 2013

Japan: Nuclear Regulator stops Monju reactor

Japan's nuclear watchdog said today that the nation's next-generation test reactor will not be allowed to restart due to safety violations.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority's decision is the latest blow to the Monju reactor and Japan's nuclear fuel cycle programme, which is supported by the government but viewed with deep suspicion by most of Japan's population.

Monju uses plutonium fuel instead of conventional uranium and produces radioactive substances which are designed to be reused as fuel.

After nearly 50 years in the works, the problem-plagued reactor, located in the city of Tsuruga in western Japan, is still struggling to get online.

The watchdog's five commissioners unanimously agreed that the reactor's operator, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, "is not ready to sufficiently secure the safety of Monju."

They said that the operator had repeatedly failed to conduct mandatory inspections on equipment and come up with improvement plans.

Many experts have said Monju is a basket case and that Japan should abandon plans to achieve a full nuclear fuel cycle.

The operator needs at least until January to catch up with the delays in safety checks but it is unknown when the suspension order can be lifted.

Watchdog chairman Shunichi Tanaka said Monju operators "repeated the same mistakes even though they said they were analysing the root cause of the problem.

"I think they lack fundamental understanding about safety."

Abbott's war on workers

16 May, 2013 | ACTU Media Release

"Failing to commit to Gonski is a betrayal to schools and education," said Dave Oliver, ACTU Secretary.

"The commission of audit is a carbon copy of the Peter Costello report which was used by Campbell Newman to sack nurses and other public servants in Queensland. A frightening prospect for all Australians.

"We have had a glimpse of what this society will be like under a Coalition government. Workers and their superannuation savings under attack while miners enjoy a windfall.

"Not content within his existing plan to increase superannuation taxes for 3.6 million workers, the Coalition is now attacking the retirement savings of every single Australian worker. This will cost the average worker thousands in retirement.

"Given we have an ageing population, pulling money out of the super system is economic vandalism.

"Any political party that commits to pillaging from the pockets of the poor to benefit the rich is no friend of the worker. For most workers saving enough superannuation is the difference between retiring comfortably and finding themselves in financial strife, this after a lifetime of work.

“The Coalition has consistently opposed policies which stimulated the economy and have kept our unemployment rate low.

“We are concerned that a policy of austerity from a Coalition Government would cost jobs unnecessarily. Australia’s government debt is low by international standards and we have retained our triple-A credit rating.

“Mr Abbott has failed to confirm that the Coalition will support the Government’s crackdown on multinational companies using ‘thin capitalisation’ rules to reduce their tax in Australia, a measure which would  ensure extra revenue for services.”

Our Queensland, Our Future - Queensland Rail

Our Queensland, Our Future is a community campaign focused on ensuring that Queensland continues to receive high quality essential services like energy, transport, health and education.

These services are currently under threat from the State Government of being privatised and contracted out in their response to the Commission of Audit.

What the State Government has proposed is privatisation through outsourcing and contracting out. They say we will still own the poles, wires, trains and ports, whilst behind the scenes, they are proposing to outsource en masse. In our communities we know that buildings and assets don’t provide services, people do. In many departments the government will own and control nothing more than a ‘shell’.The services, assets and the workforce will be sold off and privatised.

Thousands of Queenslanders right across the state are joining together to let the Queensland Government know that they do not support the plans to privatise our services and outsource our jobs.

Support the campaign by signing our petition and tell the government not to privatise and contract out our assets and essential services.

Abbott's "Sad Decision" re Superannuation Guarantee

The $1.5 trillion super industry and its veterans have lashed the Coalition's plans to defer the increase in the compulsory superannuation guarantee, labelling it a "sad decision" that would slice $46 billion from retirement savings over the next decade.

The Coalition had pledged not to rescind the increase in the superannuation guarantee (SG) to 12 per cent by 2020, but last night in its budget reply said it would defer reaching the 12 per cent level until 2022. Under the plan, the SG would remain at 9.25 per cent until July 2016, with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott saying this would save $1.1 billion in 2016-17 and more than $2.5 billion over forward estimates.

The Financial Services Council (FSC), a lobby group for retail super funds and fund managers which previously threatened an industry campaign against future changes to the industry, called on the Coalition to "unequivocally re-commit" to increasing the SG to 12 per cent by 2020, rather than 2022.

Labelling the decision a "bitter disappointment" and a "short-term decision", the FSC estimated the deferral would diminish retirement savings and "push the increased cost of an ageing population onto future generations.”

“Australians need a stronger commitment from the Coalition ... They must unequivocally re-commit to increasing the Superannuation Guarantee to 12 per cent," it said.

John Brogden, CEO of the FSC said: “Last night’s announcement is a bitter disappointment and a blow to the retirement savings of Australians.”

“This short-term decision to defer 12 per cent superannuation will reduce retirement savings by $46 billion over the next 10 years”, he said.

“It will also push the increased cost of an aging population onto future generations.”

Mr Brogden also said: “There is a very strong public policy and economic rationale for raising the Superannuation Guarantee to 12 per cent.”Between July 1992 and June 2003, when the Superannuation Guarantee was lifted to 9 per cent:
  • Australian GDP growth averaged 3.9 per cent per annum;
  • Unemployment fell from 11 per cent to 6.1 per cent;
  • Labour productivity grew strongly, above its 30 year average, at 2.2 per cent per year;
  • Real unit labour costs fell over the period by 4.4 per cent; and
  • Business profitability grew by 6.1 per cent a year.
“For Australians to retain confidence in the Coalition’s pledge to make no adverse changes to superannuation in their first term, there must be a guarantee that compulsory superannuation will increase to 12 per cent by 2021-22”, Mr Brodgen said.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Federal Parliament passes NDIS legislation

Legislation to increase the Medicare levy to help fund DisabilityCare has passed the lower house of Federal Parliament.

From July next year, the levy will rise by 0.5 percentage points to 2 per cent, which is expected to raise $11 billion for the scheme over four years.

The bill was introduced into the House of Representatives this morning and has passed with bipartisan support.

It will now be considered by the Senate.

Opposition families spokesman Kevin Andrews has told Parliament the Coalition is hoping it will not be a permanent measure.

"Although this legislation will pass with our support, we view the levy increase as only a temporary measure until the budget has been repaired and is in a strong surplus," he said.

In an emotional speech, Julia Gillard spoke of some of the people with disabilities she had recently met.

She said they would finally have "security and dignity" with the introduction of the DisabilityCare scheme.

"In March, we gave it a place in our nation's laws. Today we inscribe it in our nation's finances," she said.

"DisabilityCare Australia starts in seven weeks - and there will be no turning back."

What is the NDIS?

  • The scheme will support more than 400,000 Australians with a disability, their families and carers
  • It will help pay for carers, to give parents of children with a disability a break
  • It will help pay for new wheelchairs tailored to individual needs
  • It will fund home modifications to help people with a disability move around easier
  • It will fund early intervention services children, like physiotherapy and speech pathology
  • The increase to the Medicare levy equates to an extra dollar a day for an average income earner
  • The change would collect $20 billion in its first five years

2013 Budget and Super Funds

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

ACTU: Budget Analysis

14 May, 2013 | ACTU Media Release

Comments on the Federal Budget 2013 from Ged Kearney, ACTU President:

"The most important measure of a budget is job creation. By that measure, this Budget is a success. The Government has protected Australian jobs at a time of challenging economic circumstances by avoiding a slash-and-burn approach to return to surplus prematurely.

"Australia's future is dependent on strong employment. The Treasurer has prudently ignored misdirected calls for austere measures - like those in Europe - which would have been out of alignment with the reality of Australia's modest deficit and stymied the nation's economic growth.

"Instead this budget outlines investments in areas that will encourage job creation, improve education and deliver a better life for families. This includes infrastructure projects, childcare, disability and education investments.

"The schools improvement plan and the disability funding are historic reforms that will leave a lasting legacy. These are long term projects that require the support of future governments in order to reach their full potential.

"While we still believe the single Newstart allowance should be increased, the Government has made a welcome move in the right direction by allowing people on NewStart to work more hours each week without losing their payment.

"Unions are strongly supportive of changes that will stop businesses using loopholes to bypass paying their fair share of company tax.

"When multinational companies are able to exploit loopholes to reduce the tax they pay, that shifts the bill onto local businesses, as well as workers and consumers. The changes announced in this Budget will mean that multinational companies are called on to pay their fair share in tax.

"Unions strongly support welfare that assists those who need it most. The baby bonus has been superseded for working families by the better targeted Paid Parental Leave scheme.

"This is a good budget from a reformist government which balances jobs and growth with fairness and compassion, especially for those with disabilities. There is much for workers and their families to be pleased about," Ms Kearney said.

ACOSS: Budget Analysis

ACOSS Tuesday May 14, 2013

“ACOSS warmly welcomes the Federal Government’s vision to secure disability care and dental and schools reform and the strengthening of public revenue to secure funding for these and other services, but cannot believe that there is no income relief for the people who are the poorest,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“We praise the move by the Treasurer to lock in government expenditure on crucial social reforms such as education and disability care, in some cases for a decade. We have also been strong supporters of the more equitable and effective system for dental care in Australia and that begins with two-thirds of all children in this Budget. These are not only visionary reforms but long overdue," Dr Goldie said.

“However, we remain deeply concerned at the failure to reduce the rate of poverty in Australia by increasing the single rate of Newstart and other allowances. While we welcome the modest easing of income rates for people on Newstart and other allowances, the Government has failed to assist the four-fifths of Allowance recipients who are unable to obtain paid work. Each year we fail to act, this gaping hole in our safety net grows. One in eight people, including one in six children, are living in poverty and an increase in the lowest social security payments would have the most immediate and direct impact in reducing it.

“On the savings side, there are some incredibly important measures in this Budget. In addition to the welcome increase in the Medicare levy to fund DisabilityCare Australia, we are pleased that the Budget makes significant inroads into closing tax loopholes and inefficient tax arrangements. With tax receipts down by over $20 billion from the pre-GFC period, we must pull back from generous tax breaks that are not delivering on policy outcomes and eroding our tax base. ACOSS advocated the extension of the Medicare Safety Net threshold, the abolition of the medical expenses tax offset, the capping of self-education expense deductions and the tightening of the thin capitalisation rules, all of which we welcome in this Budget.

“We are also pleased that there is greater investment in tackling tax evasion through trusts. We would have liked to have seen changes to tax rules as well, but hope this commences the reforms needed to close this glaring tax loophole.

“We welcome the integrating of the baby bonus into the family payments system so that it is better targeted but remain concerned about reductions in payments for the poorest families.

“The next step to secure our economic and social progress must be to strengthen revenue. Otherwise we face painful cuts to essential expenditure down the track. Australia is the 5th lowest taxing country in the OECD. If we want a decent safety net, and universal health education and dental services, as well as the housing and infrastructure for present and future generations, we need a sustainable tax base,” Dr Goldie said.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Corporate culture: Bank greed slashes jobs

"By sacking people it (ANZ) was able to boost profit significantly. Put simply, a reduction in headcount produced 22 per cent of the increase in profit from the first half of 2012 to the first half of 2013." 
Sydney Morning Herald, 1st May 2013

In their latest public announcement of impressive facts and figures in reporting the half year result, ANZ continue to prove that their profits are more important to the bank than their people. Disappointingly there is no mention given to the people whose jobs and livelihoods have been lost in order to achieve this outcome.

In an interesting comparison, the number of FTE jobs at Wespac has actually increased at the same time as the bank reported a 10% profit increase - demonstrating that profit does not actually have to come at the expense of jobs.

Culling jobs in order to boost profits is indicative of pure and relentless corporate greed.

Our finance industry is the most stable and successful in the world, and workers should therefore be entitled to job security and their fair share of these astronomical profits. There is no excuse for finance sector workers to be losing their jobs when they work in the country’s most profitable industry. If billion dollar companies like ANZ are making money out of our communities then it’s time they started returning the favour and investing in Australian jobs and skills.

NAB’s half-year results were announced today. The bank reported cash earnings of $2.92 billion, up 3.1 per cent rise, and a 22.8 per cent increase in net profit to $2.52 billion.

In achieving this result NAB cut jobs by 731 FTE globally, driven by a reduction in the UK of 795 FTE jobs.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Hong Kong: Dockers Claim Victory

A 40-day strike of more than 500 dockworkers at the Port of Hong Kong has ended with a settlement that included a 9.8 percent wage increase, non-retaliation against strikers, and a written agreement, all of which had been fiercely resisted by the four contractors targeted in the strike.

Strikers accepted the offer by a 90 percent vote.

The four contractors also agreed to work through the port manager Hong Kong International Terminal (HIT) to provide meal and toilet breaks, which had been lacking even for workers on 12 or 24-hour shifts. Crane operators laid off during the strike will be rehired.

Workers see HIT—owned by Li Ka-shing, one of the world’s wealthiest capitalists—as the real power at play, as the interview below demonstrates.

"The battle of the Hong Kong dockers, as union Secretary Wong Yu Loy reveals, was important not only because of the rarity of strikes in Hong Kong, or because it was a pitched battle with Hong Kong’s wealthiest corporate magnate, but also because of the way corporate globalization set up the terms of the battle and the importance unions around the globe attached to it"

"Cross-national solidarity during this strike is very important, therefore. For example, the Maritime Union of Australia has sent representatives here to express support."

Responding to the news, ITF president Paddy Crumlin commented: "The Union of Hong Kong Dockers, supported by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, has won a real victory: a pay rise and promises of continuing dialogue on working conditions and health and safety. Their bravery has been rewarded. We in the ITF and the wider union movement are proud to have been able to mobilise the international support they deserved and needed."

He continued: "We trust that Hutchison Port Holdings will now address the issues around the dignity and working conditions of the workers at the port."

Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation), added: "This is an important result for the dock workers of Hong Kong. We congratulate them on their resilience and determination to get a fair deal, and we are proud to have been able to give international solidarity in their quest for justice at work."

ASU: Abbott's War on Workers

From ASU Secretary Sally McManus

Tony Abbott has just released the policy he will implement if he wins the 14 September election and gets control of the Senate as John Howard did when he introduced WorkChoices. I have represented ASU members under many laws over the years, including under WorkChoices and know very well the effect of his proposed changes on your rights at work and the ability of your union to defend members and negotiate agreements.

Here is my quick summary of his policy and how it will affect you:
  1. Mandate individual contracts in all collective agreements. Workers cannot bargain to restrict the employer from undermining collective agreements. These individual contracts are another form of AWAs.
  2. Take away a proportion of annual leave loading from your leave entitlements when your employment ends.
  3. Consider taking away the excellent long service leave provisions that all NSW workers have - reducing them to the lower provisions that exist in other states (eg. Long service leave is after 15 years in Victoria).  
  4. Weaken the Award safety-net (loosen then "better off overall test" so agreements can go below even the Award minimum).
  5. Make it easier for employers to introduce individual contracts outside of the Award or EBA.
  6. Make it harder for workers to cancel or get out of individual agreements.
  7. If your employer transfers their business to another employer, your existing rights at work will only be protected if you transfer voluntarily.
  8. Massively weaken protections for workers and delegates who are discriminated against for trying to enforcing a right they have under law (eg. this is a law Labor introduced to stop employers from discriminating or acting against delegates for standing up for others (or individuals standing up for themselves) when their employer does the wrong thing).
  9. Establish an appeal mechanism for the Fair Work Commission. This could allow decisions like the Equal Pay decision for ASU SACS members to be overturned.
  10. Conduct a review of the whole Fair Work Act by the Productivity Commission, which views everything from the perspective of what is good for the economy first and foremost, not from the perspective of the rights for workers. We do not know what they would recommend, but can imagine what big business will ask for. This gives Abbott lots of room to make lots of changes after the election.
  11. Return right of entry provisions to the WorkChoices laws making it much harder for your Union Organiser to visit you in your workplace.
  12. Make taking legal strike action even harder. There are already so many hoops to jump through. The Fair Work Commission will be given the power to prevent action if they determine workers claims are not "reasonable" (we have made – and won - many claims that maybe seen as “unreasonable” such as “no forced redundancies” at Railcorp and a 40% pay increase for SACS workers) AND if workers are not seriously considering the employers claims for productivity improvements (in my experience, “productivity improvements” are nearly always about reducing rights of workers).
  13. Restrict your Union officials in the operation of their job by introducing laws regarding union officials "bullying" employers!
  14. A paid parental scheme for, in Tony Abbott’s words, "women of calibre" (ie earning $150K) paid for by a tax on large companies. Companies such as Qantas are already raising in EBA negotiations that they will have to cut back on our claims because of this.
  15. Bring back a special police force (ABCC) for building workers which give them less democratic rights than any class of people in Australia, including the right to silence. Set up a special anti-union code for building projects and refuse to fund any projects that do not comply.
  16. Set up a special "Commission" that oversees the internal operations of all unions and tie members’ resources up in red tape. Apply huge fines and jail terms for breaches of the new law.
  17. Allow employers to force through "greenfield agreements" (this is an agreement where the employer sets up a new company with no workers) by giving Unions 3 months to agree to the terms of an Agreement and if they don’t have the court decide.
  18. If you are underpaid, Abbott will generously allow you to keep any interest on money taken from you (but it will be harder to make a successful underpayment case - see above re: right of entry for union officials)
  19. Abolish minimum hourly rates for truck drivers to stop them being pushed to drive dangerously and take drugs to meet the deadlines imposed on them.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Queensland signs on to NDIS

Queensland has signed on to the national disability insurance scheme (NDIS), with Premier Campbell Newman declaring it a "historic day" for the state and a victory for disability campaigners.

Mr Newman made the announcement with Prime Minister Julia Gillard at Autism Queensland's headquarters in Brisbane today.

The deal leaves Western Australia and the Northern Territory as the only jurisdictions yet to sign on.

The scheme, which is now known as DisabilityCare, will cost the state $1.9 billion over the next decade and provide support for 97,000 people.

With Queensland on board, almost 90 per cent of Australians will be covered by DisabilityCare.

Mr Newman congratulated disability campaigners who have fought for the the scheme, saying they have "fought the good fight".

"It's a fair comment to say that as you look across the nation I don't think you will find too many families where somebody doesn't have a close relative or a close friend that is affected by a disability," he said.

"Throughout this whole debate I've been painfully conscious from a personal perspective of the needs of people with disabilities and particularly what it means to families to have to care for somebody, a close relative, in such circumstances."

Ms Gillard said the scheme will provide "practical, real-world solutions" for people with disabilities and their families.

"Here, particularly in Queensland, people have felt those stresses and strains," she said.

"People with disabilities, their families, their carers, their friends, their loved ones have for a long period of time now asked us as a nation to do better. For too long their voices went unheard."

"This will make a difference to almost 100,000 people in Queensland for severe disabilities.

"This is a big thing to do. It's also a costly thing to do and so as two governments we've had to work together to put the money together to make this happen."

Monday, May 06, 2013

NSW: Public Housing disgrace

Greens councillor Irene Doutney has warned the forced eviction of public housing residents in Millers Point may be just the tip of the iceberg.

As Millers Point residents anxiously wait for the Land and Housing Corporation to finish their assessments of the historic neighbourhood, it has been revealed they may not be the only ones facing potential eviction from their homes.

"Similar meetings have been held in Redfern and Waterloo and what happens is they go in and do this community consultation but all the time they are just assessing what they will get rid of, what they will demolish and what they will sell," Cr Doutney said.

"You already have these high-rise developments being planned for Redfern and Waterloo right on the side of the area that all this public housing sits.

"Developers are not going to want to put these sites here for a wealthy market if they are being overlooked by public housing.

"In Redfern and Waterloo the proposal was to remove 700 pubic housing dwellings but where are these people supposed to go?

"The majority of these people are good members of the community and they are just going to be brushed aside.

"We have over 50,000 people currently waiting to get into public housing as it is."

Cr Doutney said demolition by neglect was fast becoming justification of eviction.

"Some of these houses have been left to degrade for so long they can no longer be repaired," Cr Doutney said.

"I have lost count of the number of complaints I have received from residents in Millers Point, Glebe and Redfern about guttering issues that have been left for so long they are now falling apart.

"I have spoken with residents who have so much mould in their homes they are now at risk of developing bronchitis.

"There are some who have floors that have become spongy and others whose paint is peeling away or becoming bubbly."

Saturday, May 04, 2013

BMUC New Banner

Ready for May Day 2013

Join BMUC members and supporters in the second last carriage of the train leaving Katoomba at 8.26am. 

0408 238 586 if you're trying to find us in the crowd.

Sydney May Day - 5 May 2013 - Proud Past & Fighting Future

Date : Sunday 5 May 2013
Time : 11:30 am
Place: Parliament House, Macquarie St Sydney
March Starts: 12.00pm

Join BMUC members and supporters in the second last carriage of the train leaving Katoomba at 8.26am.

0408 238 586 if you're trying to find us in the crowd.

See for up to date timetable information.

FSU: Privacy and Offshoring Australian Banking Jobs

Finance Sector Union (FSU) report

The Australian Bankers’ Association, the industry body representing 24 Australian banks, marked the beginning of Privacy Awareness Week with a media release reminding us that that one of the most valuable services that a bank can provide is to protect its customers’ privacy.

The ABA is right. Australians are concerned about the security of their private information. The Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities (APPA) published data this week reporting 78% of Australians have refused to provide personal information online.

“What are banks and insurance companies doing to protect your privacy?”

20,000 services sector jobs are being offshored every year, and since 2007 more than 6,000 Australian finance jobs have been offshored by our banks and insurance companies. Without intervention more job losses are on the way. While the companies try and make a virtue of the fact that the jobs they send offshore are not customer facing roles, what they don’t tell you is that all of the jobs they send offshore involve data-handling.

The sort of data people in these jobs handle is your sensitive financial and personal data. Your name, address, and date of birth. Your partner’s details. Your beneficiaries. Your banking and credit details. Your assets and liabilities. How much you have, and how much you owe. Your credit card number. Your drivers’ licence and your passport. It’s the sort of data that you wouldn’t want falling into the wrong hands, or used without your permission.

When it comes to privacy, Australians want to know what’s happening to their data. When we polled Australians earlier this year, 85% wanted banks and other businesses to obtain their consent before offshoring their data.

Three of our biggest banks, ANZ, NAB, and Westpac, have all offshored Australian jobs, and ANZ and NAB are still at it.

After the insurance giant Suncorp blazed the offshoring trail (not surprising given CEO Patrick Snowball achieved notoriety by offshoring thousands of jobs from British insurer Aviva) QBE are now following Suncorp’s lead by offshoring over 700 jobs to the Philippines and over 100 IT jobs to India.

Thousands of jobs that used to be done here in Australia, handling the sensitive data of hundreds of thousands – perhaps even millions - of Australian customers, are now being done offshore.

So while the ABA wants to reassure us that banks are protecting your privacy, and the Insurance Council stays silent on the issue, no one seems to be stating the obvious - Australian privacy law does not apply outside of Australia.

If our banks and insurance companies really do want to protect our privacy, the best way to do that is to keep jobs and our data in Australia.

Pacific Northwest Labor History Association

General Strike Band at reception for Pacific Northwest Labor History Association Annual Conference 2013

Friday, May 03, 2013

NSW: Baird Makes Grab For Our Super

The NSW Government is putting a further squeeze on public sector employees’ pay by revealing it will make them pay for the Federal Government’s compulsory rise in superannuation out of their own pockets, the Public Service Association said today.

Treasurer Mike Baird has confirmed he considers the rise in compulsory superannuation – 0.25% from July as part of a staggered rise from 9 to 12% – as an employee-related expense falling under the Government’s 2.5% cap.

This is a blow to public sector workers already saddled with a sub-inflation wage cap, said Public Service Association General Secretary Anne Gardiner.

“The NSW government has set the bar very low in the way it has made this decision,” she said.

“There has been no consultation with public sector unions. We would have expected the biggest employer in NSW to show more respect for its workers.

“The rise in superannuation means the cap has now effectively been reduced to around 2.25% and will reduce further as the compulsory superannuation rate increases.

“This is supposed to be an employer contribution to superannuation but the NSW Government is shifting the cost of this increase on to their employees.

“Unlike other employees in NSW, public sector workers can’t even offset this superannuation cost with increased productivity because this is not permitted under the O’Farrell Government’s wages policy.”

Bendigo: Unions Slam Cutbacks in Child Protection

The Department of Human Services is understaffing the DHS child protection services in Loddon Mallee, causing injury and illness to workers, the Community and Public Sector Union claims.

A Provisional Improvement Notice given to the DHS Bendigo office on March 23 and seen by the Bendigo Advertiser states the DHS is failing to provide a safe work environment for employees.

“Staff are allocated and required to work with excessive workload and caseload demands that cannot be reasonably met in their contracted 38 hour working week,” the notice states.

It goes on to say staff are reporting “significant health problems related to uncontrolled systems of work, excessive work demands and work overload”.

The union claims that the DHS revealed at an April 18 Fair Work Australia hearing that they did not have the funds to continue employing 146 child protection positions across Bendigo, Swan Hill and Mildura and would have to shed 15 jobs.

The union claims only 131 positions are currently filled and the other 15 were being deliberately left vacant to save money.

A DHS spokesman confirmed there were 131 workers, but said this was due to a departmental restructure several months ago.

“There have been no job cuts,’’ the spokesman said.

“There are currently 131 FTE (full time positions) and (those jobs) are ongoing. “

CPSU industrial officer Mandy Coulson said staff were suffering under the workload.

“The workloads are so extreme in the Bendigo office in particular,’’ she said. “They haven’t been filling vacancies and workers are being hurt and suffering significant illnesses. The workers work so hard because they want to protect vulnerable children but it’s at a huge cost to their own health.”

Qld: Community Pressure Against Privatisation

This week, due to pressure from community members like you the Queensland Government was forced to back down in it’s response to Peter Costello’s Commission of Audit recommendations to fully privatise Queensland’s essential services such as power and transport.

There is no doubt the political consequence of unequivocal community opposition to privatisation has spooked the Government into squibbing it in their response to the audit recommendations. What the Queensland Government has proposed is privatisation ‘stealth’ and we have every confidence that our communities will see straight through it.

Energy - The Government has indicated they sell our power generators and while they say they will not sell the poles and wires, they will allow private firms to invest our public network companies like Energex and Ergon.

Rail – City passenger and network infrastructure will allow for private providers to bid to operate services and to carry out maintenance under franchise or lease arrangements.

Ports – The commercial operations of Gladstone Ports Corporation and Port of Townsville Ltd for long term leases to private operators.

Hospitals - Expand contestable markets in metro areas for private provision. Increase more non-government sector delivery of outpatient services and for rural and remote health services.

Community and disability services - Introduce contestability to community health and disability services. The Queensland Government requires all funding from Australian Government to provide the NDIS.

It is absurd to say we will still own the poles, wires, trains and ports, whilst behind the scenes, outsourcing en masse is occurring. Buildings and poles don’t provide services, people do. The network will not maintain itself, nor will it repair itself after extreme weather or natural disasters.

Rather than act to protect Queensland, the Government is outsourcing work to be sale ready for the highest bidder. This will put the price and reliability of our Queensland owned and operated services at risk.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Indonesia: Textile Workers Agreement with Adidas

On 24 April 2013 Adidas and Indonesia Coordinating Committee of PT Kizone Workers and their union, DPC SPTSK-SPSI, announced an agreement potentially ending a 2 year long dispute.

The company and the union agreed not to disclose the details of the deal, however according to the preliminary reports the company agreed on severance pay for 2,700 workers who remain without jobs following the closure of PT Kizone apparel factory in April 2011.

The factory faced economic problems late in 2010 and failed to fulfill its obligations towards its workers regarding severance payments and compensation to families of the deceased workers. Later on the owner did not pay wages earned by workers till December 2010 and in January 2011 fled the country without any notice. Despite some efforts of Green Textile, the main buyer from the factory who took over the factory from February to March, in April 2011 the factory was closed and proclaimed bankrupt.

Since then workers of PT Kizone have been trying to get justice in their plight. The total amount of debt to the workers was almost US$3.4 million. Other buyers from the factory covered almost half of the debt by paying US$1.6 million to redundancy fund, Adidas till so far has been refusing to contribute.

It took 2 years of campaigning organized by a broad coalition of unions and NGOs including workers of PT Kizone, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), the Workers’ Rights Consortium (WRC) and the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) before the company agreed to resolve the dispute.

The case sets another precedent in making brands accountable for all terms and conditions of employment in their supply chains, obliging them to support decent wages and permanent employment through granting stable orders at fair prices to factories they are sourcing from.