Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Corporate Culture: BCA - "Cut the Minimum Wage"

31 July, 2013 | ACTU Media Release

Australian business is again pushing to cut wages with the Business Council of Australia saying that penalty rates should be re-examined and that the minimum wage could be ‘a problem’.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the BCA’s action plan released today showed some vision for Australia so it was disappointing they took a hard line on wages and workers’ rights.

“We agree with the BCA that major reforms are needed to secure Australia’s prosperity, but the attack on wages and conditions will simply make workers worse off while not improving our economy.”

The BCA’s action plan calls for an examination of the impact of penalty rates on jobs and an examination of whether the ‘high minimum wage prevents new labour market entrants from gaining initial experience'  – in other words advocating a cut to the minimum wage.

“It is clear from this report that if Tony Abbott is elected, business will use his Productivity Commission inquiry to push for further cuts to wages and penalty rates,” said Ms Kearney.

“This will not only make workers worse off, but will damage business by reducing the spending power of consumers.”

The BCA is also calling for corporate tax cuts combined with an increase in the GST – a measure that will lead to higher costs for workers and people on fixed incomes.

Ms Kearney welcomed the Business Council's acknowledgement of a range of other important issues, like skills development, innovation and infrastructure.

"We hope they follow through with a mature and broad debate about the future of the Australia's economy that moves beyond the business fetish with winding back workplace rights."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Napthine, Newman, Barnett and Giles have nowhere to hide

23 July 2013 By NSW Teachers Federation

The Australian Education Union has said the Catholic sector’s endorsement of Gonski
means that the hold-out state and territory leaders must act immediately to ensure
public schools don’t miss out on the benefits of extra Gonski funding.

“Premiers Napthine and Newman have been holding out on Gonski, over imaginary
concerns the Catholic and Independent schools sector would be worse off. With both
sectors now endorsing Gonski, there is no excuse but for them to sign up without
delay,” Australian Education Union Federal President Angelo Gavrielatos said.

Extra Commonwealth funds will now be delivered to private and Catholic schools,
whether or not a state or territory has signed up. Public schools will not receive a
single extra Gonski Commonwealth dollar in any state or territory that refuses to

“It would be nothing short of a travesty if those leaders chose to entrench
disadvantage and inequity by letting the resource gap widen between public and nongovernment
schools by refusing to sign up,” said Mr Gavrielatos.

The AEU said today’s announcement showed the federal Coalition were choosing
politics over evidence on the issue of schools funding.

“Today’s announcement exposes the hysterical claims of impacts of Gonski on the
Catholic sector by Opposition Education spokesperson Christopher Pyne as the
cheap-shot politics it’s always been” said Mr Gavrielatos.

“Tony Abbott must stop denying the facts and evidence that shows the current system
is broken. He must embrace the Gonski schools funding reforms,” said Mr

“Australia’s public schools teach 77% of low income students, 86% of Indigenous
students, 80% of students with a disability and 84% of remote students. It is these
students who will benefit most from Gonski,” said Mr Gavrielatos.

“It’s time for Newman, Barnett, Giles and Napthine to get serious on Gonski. If they
fail, it’s only the public school kids in those states and territory that will miss out,”
concluded Mr Gavrielatos.

MUA: Solidarity With Striking Nurses

Paddy Crumlin, the national secretary of the MUA, issued the following statement today in support of striking nurses.

The Maritime Union of Australia expresses its strong support for the members of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA) who struck, or took other protest actions, at more than 180 NSW public hospitals and community health services to protest against the O'Farrell Government's failure to provide guaranteed, safe nurse staffing levels in all public hospitals, public hospital clinical units and community health services and equal ratios in all hospitals around the State.

The MUA stands in solidarity with those workers who play such a crucial role in our society by looking after people who are coping with various illnesses or health challenges. The strikers deserve to work in environments that allow them to safely and effectively deliver those crucial services – services the Liberal government is undermining by its attack on the members of NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA). We will continue to offer our assistance and solidarity as our comrades continue their struggle.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

ACTU: Workforce Segregation Driving Inequality

18 July, 2013 | Media Release

Entrenched division between male and female-dominated industries is perpetuating gender inequality in the Australian workforce and must be tackled.

ACTU president Ged Kearney will today speak at the Fifth International Community, Work and Family Conference and the 25th Women, Management and Work Conference about how the law can help break down the gender gap at work.

“Australia has one of the most sex-segregated labour markets among the OECD countries with women’s and men’s work being clearly separate in many sectors. And we know that so-called ‘women’s work’ remains much lower paid than ‘men’s’,” she said.

Ms Kearney said women were over-represented in administrative and caring roles and under-represented in skilled trades. For example women represent 79 per cent in health care and social assistance and only 14 per cent of technicians and trades workers.

“We need to recognise the value of the work many women do in caring roles and service industries,” said Ms Kearney.

“We need to provide more opportunities for women to enter male-dominated industries that tend to be better-paid and have more opportunities for training and promotion.

“We also need to keep fighting the discrimination many women face due to their caring responsibilities.

“We need continued government policy and regulation because it is very clear that letting the cards fall where they might produces inequitable outcomes,” Ms Kearney said.

“Employers are applying the one-size-fits-all approach which is only fair to those who fit the mould: full-time, no dependents and work in a male dominated workforce. Many workers, especially women, are responsible for the care of others, may have to work part-time and are in professions that do vital work that is still undervalued.”

She said new reporting on gender inequality could surprise employers who may not realise how their workplace policies breed inequality.

“The Workplace Gender Equality Agency reporting obligations that started this year may be a wake-up call for employers.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

NSW: Nurses and Midwives Strike

3000 Nurses Rally at Olympic Park - Wednesday 24 July 2013
Nurses and midwives will strike at more than 160 public hospitals and community health services across NSW on Wednesday.

Staff at more than 160 public hospitals and community health services across the state have notified the union about their plans to strike.

They are protesting over the state government's failure to provide safe nurse staffing levels.

NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association General Secretary Brett Holmes said more branches were expected to join the cause by Wednesday.

"For a few hundred million dollars a year the state government can dramatically improve patient care in our public hospitals," he said in a statement on Sunday.

The union wants one nurse to four patients in all general medical, surgical and acute inpatient mental health wards.

It's also calling for one nurse per three children in general children's wards and one nurse to three patients in emergency departments.

The extra staffing would "save lives and money", Mr Holmes said, adding that the nurse-to-patient ratios needed to be consistent at every hospital in NSW, including those in the country.

A special general meeting will be held at Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre from 11.30am on Wednesday, with a live webcast to 17 regional centres, including Albury, Broken Hill, Kempsey, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga.

During the strike life-preserving services will be maintained in all hospitals and community health services, the union said.

Nurses' strike bus leaving Blue Mountains Hospital on Wednesday 23rd July at 09:30 departing from bus stop on Woodlands Road near Great Western Highway.  We would welcome support from the community to attend the Rally at Olympic Park for 11:30 will be back around 15:30.

Catholic schools give a "Gonski"

The Catholic education sector has signed up to the Federal Government's Better Schools funding plan, saying it will "deliver significant increases" in funding for every child in the Catholic system.

The National Catholic Education Commission says it is confident that "no school will be worse off" and is "appreciative of the constructive way" the Federal Government has resolved any concerns.

"The arrangements will progressively deliver increased Commonwealth funding to each state's Catholic education system based on common measures of student need across all education sector," the Commission said in a statement.

The agreement will affect one in five, or 735,403 students currently enrolled at 1,706 Catholic schools across the country.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the agreement means "a big slice" of Australia's education system is now covered by the plan.

"We now have almost two-thirds of the kids in Australia benefitting under the Better Schools plan, which will deliver extra funding and extra resources to government schools, Catholic schools and independent schools in most of the states in Australia," he said.

"But we've still got some who we've got to get across the line."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Qld: Mismanagement of power industry - safety risk for workers

Workers at Queensland’s power stations are reporting concerns for workplace safety as the industry is forced to tighten its belt after years of mismanagement, the CFMEU says.

Employees at a number of regional power generation operations have reported concerns for infrastructure maintenance and repairs as workers and customers wear the cost of mismanagement of the state’s electricity industry.

This follows the decision by Stanwell Corporation and CS Energy to cut jobs from power stations at Tarong, SwanBank and Callide and from corporate offices. The cuts were sheeted home to “unsustainable losses” by the Government-owned electricity generators from its failure to deal with demand.

CFMEU District Vice President Shane Brunker said employees and operations on the ground were copping the brunt of mismanagement at Government and corporate level.

“After years of mismanaging delivery and supply of the state’s power needs management are stating generators and equipment will be exposed to more “business risk”, Mr Brunker said. “We are aware management will be extending maintenance and schedules, including that of major rebuilds and routine repairs, further towards the limits of equipment failure.

Mr Brunker power generator mismanagement was evident in the way employees were notified that they were out of a job, including no consultation, no prior notice and no opportunity to seek support during the process.

“Losing your job is an incredibly stressful occurrence for workers but recent job cuts were made much worse for individuals by the blatant disregard management showed during the process. If you sack an office worker improperly there’s an outcry but sack a blue collar worker on the spot and no-one bats an eyelid.”

The CFMEU is calling on Premier Newman to take action on regional jobs in the industry. This would include an industry summit of all station stakeholders convened to mitigate job losses in the state.

“These debacles for Queensland’s provision of power are continually happening on Campbell Newman’s watch but it seems he’s too busy giving himself pay rises,” Mr Brunker said.

Corporate Culture: Men first then Women without Children!

A large number of Australian businesses prefer male employees without children or relationships, according to a survey by workplace management consultancy Kronos.

Kronos's Peter Harte says research found 38 per cent believe men are better employees than women, while just 19 per cent of employers prefer female workers.

The survey of 500 Australian employers also found 40 per cent prefer workers who do not have children, compared to 18 per cent who prefer those who do.

"I was pretty amazed by the survey findings," Mr Harte said.

"The fact that a large majority of businesses thought that their ideal worker was a male, without relationships or interests, who wants to work lots of hours, is particularly concerning.

"With the demographics of the workforce changing, Australian business can't afford to not tap into women and mature-age workers."

Elizabeth Broderick from the Human Rights Commission (HRC) says the survey's findings are distressing.

"To have such a large proportion of businesses who say they prefer men just speaks to the fact that that is the model that's in use in many organisations," she said.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

SA Unions: Workers Rights and Contract Staff

South Australia's labour hire industry needs an independent inquiry because workers are being denied rights and conditions as more businesses turn to contractors to perform work previously done by permanent staff, departing SA Unions Secretary Janet Giles says.

She warned that the workforce's growing number of contract staff, who get no holiday or sick pay because they are not on staff, face losing their jobs if they raised a lone voice about their working conditions.

"It is just not fair," she said. "Women, migrants and young people in particular are at risk in low-paying industries like call centres, cleaning, childcare and food processing. There are thousands of casual workers facing unstable hours, pay so low many hold down two or even three jobs, and no paid leave."

Ms Giles will take up a new role with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, running major campaigns to protect vulnerable workers and share national wealth.

A key case will be fighting to secure more rights for the estimated 40 per cent of the workforce with no job security - an industrial fight Ms Giles cites as one of the great challenges of the times.

"In this prosperous nation, we have seen a big push to casual and fixed term work, contracting and labour hire," Ms Giles said.

"That means low pay, no holiday pay or sick leave, and no access to training. It is just not fair - we need to convert casual employment to permanent employment after periods of consistent work.

"We also intend to push for portable leave schemes, so workers in insecure employment can accrue annual leave, sick leave and long service leave as they move from job to job."

Ms Giles, 55, will finish as SA Unions secretary in September, 11 years after she became the first woman elected to a position once regarded as a male domain.

She will take up the position as campaign director of the new ACTU campaign centre in October.

Ms Giles will remain based in Adelaide and regularly commute to the ACTU's headquarters in Melbourne in her new role.

"Campaigning is the job I love best and when this came up it was too good to pass, but I did want to stay in Adelaide, which I love," Ms Giles said.

"Regardless of who wins the Federal Election, the ACTU will have its work cut out and I look forward to campaigning on a range of big picture issues."

Julian Burnside on Asylum Seekers

The Age 18 July 2013

Asylum seekers do not commit any offence by coming here. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights every person has the right to seek asylum in any territory they can reach. It is a dismal reflection of the state of politics that Mr Morrison frequently refers to asylum seekers arriving by boat as “illegals”. He knows it is a blatant lie, but he also knows that it works.

As for “queue-jumping”, leave aside that there is no queue where boat people come from, the etiquette of the checkout at Coles is not how it works when you are running for your life.

"Border protection" is a grossly misleading term, used by both major parties. It implies that boat people are a threat to us. They are not. We do not need to be protected from asylum seekers: they need to be protected from their persecutors.

Border control is a legitimate concern, but is irrelevant to the discussion. About 4 million people arrive in Australia each year by orthodox means: they come for business, holidays, study etc. If 25,000 a year arrive without authority, it is absurd to suggest that we have "lost control" of our borders. Our borders are close to watertight. Even if this year's rate of unauthorised arrivals continued (which is unlikely, given our history and geography), 25,000 unauthorised arrivals per year means that border control is effective in 99.3 per cent of cases. That is pretty good.

So what should Australia do with people who arrive here by boat seeking asylum? At present we spend from $200,000 to $450,000 per person per year to detain them on an indefinite basis. The cost depends on whether they are held in a metropolitan detention centre (cheapest) or a remote or offshore place (most expensive).

I believe it is reasonable that unauthorised arrivals should be detained initially for preliminary health and security checks. That detention should, however, be capped at one month. After that, while their refugee status is being determined, they should be released into the community on conditions that will ensure that they remain available for processing and (if necessary) removal. They should be allowed to work and live in dignity.

While their refugee status is being determined, they should be required to live in designated rural or regional areas: there are plenty of country towns that would be happy to receive them and benefit from their arrival. This approach has the advantage of being decent, humane, and vastly less expensive than the present approach. Nor does it damage people by subjecting them to the further mental trauma of not knowing when their indefinite detention will end, making their transition to becoming productive members of society, if and when they are determined to be owed protection, much easier.

Australia has signed the Refugee Convention. Indonesia has not. Asylum seekers who get to Indonesia live in perpetual fear of detection. In Indonesia, asylum seekers who are assessed as refugees may wait 20 or 30 years before they are offered a place in a third country. In the meantime they're unable to seek employment and their children are deprived an education. Not surprisingly, some of them – those with initiative and courage – take a chance with a people smuggler and arrive in Australia.

Read more

Friday, July 12, 2013

World Unions campaign against Rio Tinto

At the end of June thirty mining union delegates from across the world at Rio Tinto operations met in Johannesburg to map out a global campaign strategy, marking a significant milestone in the process towards the launch of a campaign against the corporation.

At its inaugural merger conference in 2012, IndustriALL resolved to launch a multi-coordinated, multi-union global corporate campaign against Rio Tinto for its legendary anti-union and unsustainable labour and community relations practice, including environmental practices and conduct across the globe. With the launch of a Rio Tinto Global Network responsible for driving the global campaign, the June meeting in Johannesburg marks a significant step forward.

The purpose of the global campaign is to force a seismic shift in the way that Rio Tinto relates to workers and trade unions across all of their operations. The specific objectives are to increase trade union density in its operations globally and a recognition by Rio Tinto of trade unions and of IndustriALL Global Union as a formal interlocutor or counterpart.

Part of the strategic outcome of the meeting was the launch of a strategic alliance against Rio Tinto (START), envisaged as an alliance of progressive social, community, environmental, faith-based and economic justice network. To this end, an environmental activist persecuted for exposing mining environmental abuses in his country addressed the meeting. A Researcher at one of the leading universities in South Africa also addressed the meeting on the community abuses and social dislocation associated with mining in his home country.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Corporate Culture: Safety Undermined by Cost Cutting

The news that the runaway train of Lac-M├ęgantic was staffed by one engineer is stunning to us, but an old story to the creakingly untended ill-regarded North American rail industry.

The Ballad of the Lone Engineer? Downbound Train? The song writes itself. Yes, Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway had but one man in charge of a train full of crude oil from North Dakota, a train that had run through Toronto, a man who parked the train when his shift ended and went off to sleep in a hotel. That’s the trouble with a staff of one. At some point they need to rest their heads on a pillow.

At this point I’m wondering why he didn’t sleep on a berth the way long-distance truckers do. But this misses the main point, which is that in Canada, as much as the U.S., we worship the god of cheap. A staff of one is dirt cheap.

We want cheap oil, we won’t pay higher taxes for government regulation, we fear the loss of our own jobs, we trade ready cash for safety, and what it all boils down to is an engineer climbing down alone from a train of thin-skinned tankers holding oil that was salvation for a company desperate for freight after the economic collapse reduced demand for the lumber it usually hauled.

This fascinates me. I am always desperate to point out the dollar stamped on our everyday landscape. You should care about finance, you should care about the destruction being wrought in the EU by the ideology of austerity wrought by clueless economists. For someday it will come down to you.
Here is proof: You were never much interested in Wall Street, in decisions made in Ottawa, even in voting. But if you were told that the 2008 crash — built out of deregulation and pure greed — would push over domino after domino until one day you would read about fellow Canadians being burned to death, you would care more.

I will say it again. The god of cheap is the wrong god to worship.

“Movement of hazardous material by rail not only can be, but is being handled safely in the vast majority of instances,” droned CN spokesman Mark Hallman, who decades ago was a journalist. But safety isn’t about the irrelevant majority, it’s about guarding against the tiny number of moments when towns are levelled. Ottawa is cutting funding for Transport Canada by nearly a third.

Most jobs aren’t done well solo. It’s unsafe for clerks to work the night shift alone. Pilots, train engineers, air traffic controllers, care home staff and tree planters should work in teams, as surgeons do.

But the trend is to pare teams to the minimum to save money on salaries.

Many people work alone now, including those who shouldn’t. I bought a Miele dishwasher for its alleged excellence but was appalled to see it hauled and installed by one man, which is how Miele saves money As nursing staff is pared down, you need a relative to speak up for you in hospital. Rural airports are neglected. Airlines cut flight staff, which works until a crash and then passengers escape while hauling their carry-on baggage, as happened in the San Francisco catastrophe.

One worker is not enough. “If we’d had five guys on that train, I think the results would have been the same,” the owner of Rail World, the holding company that owns the Montreal, Maine railway, told the Globe and Mail. Really? Why? Presumably they wouldn’t all have left the five-locomotive, 72-car train at the same time, would have been there to ensure the brakes were on and functioning.

Every stage of profit is shaved to the bone now in our effort to compete with a Chinese level of efficiency. But Canada doesn’t have a peasant army moving to cities to work for dimes and live in dormitories. If we did, worshipping the god of cheap — shopping at Walmart, working alone, expecting subways without paying the taxes to fund them, living a Mayor Ford way of life — would be plausible.

Instead we clean up the muck. It’s composed of oil, human bodies and black rubble. The god of cheap accepts our offerings and rejoices.

Heather Mallick: Toronto Star 10 July 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

NAIDOC WEEK in the Blue Mountains

More than 150 people celebrated the start of NAIDOC week with a lunch at the Gully Heritage Centre in Katoomba on Monday.

The lunch was hosted by the Blue Mountains City Council’s First Peoples Advisory Committee. It followed the official flag raising ceremony and morning tea at the council chambers.


Annual NAIDOC Flag Raising
Monday 8 July 2013
Official Flag Raising Ceremony and morning tea from 9.30am at Blue Mountains City Council followed by a march down Katoomba Street.
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Community Lunch

Monday 8 July 2013
The Council’s First Peoples Advisory Committee invites the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to a lunch at the Gully Heritage Centre, 23 Gates Ave Katoomba from 12.30pm. There will also be activities for children and families. Transport will run from Council / Katoomba Station to the Gully from 12.25pm

Our Living Culture: Celebrating Local Aboriginal Artists & Our Country: Photographic Exhibition
8 – 28 July 2013
The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre in partnership with the First Peoples Advisory Committee will host this NAIDOC Week Aboriginal Art Exhibition featuring local Aboriginal artists. There will also be an exhibition during this period of photographs taken by local Young Aboriginal Men as part of a recent workshop with Aboriginal photographer Wayne Quilliam . For more information visit

Saturday 13 July 2013
Hosted be the Blue Mountains NAIDOC Committee the theme for this year’s NAIDOC Ball is Red Black and Yellow. Prizes for the deadliest Red Black and Yellow Outfit or hair-style!!! The Ball will be held 6.30-11.30pm at the Palais Royale, Katoomba with a Seafood Buffet, Live Music and Great Company! Tickets are $40.00 Waged and $30.00 Concession. Tickets can be booked through phone or email and must be paid on pickup.

A NAIDOC week Aboriginal art exhibition will be officially opened on Saturday at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, along with photographs taken by 15 young Aboriginal men.

For more details visit

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

End Wage Discrimination Against Young Workers

From Joe de Bruyn
National Secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association.

Some of the most logical changes to industrial awards and legislation over the years sparked outrage from vocal minorities at the time. With hindsight, it's often hard to believe there was any debate at all.

The present case to pay 18 to 20-year-old workers the full adult rate will no doubt join that list in years to come.

The Fair Work Commission is considering a submission to pay younger adult workers under the general retail award the full rate. At present, 20-year-olds get paid 10 per cent less than the full rate, 19-year-olds get 20 per cent less and 18-year-olds get 30 per cent less.

Australians as a whole believe in equal pay for equal work. It's why women, by law, are no longer allowed to be paid less than men, and why we don't have employees who work long hours to receive a handful of food stamps at the end of it. We've fought for that right over the decades.

Yet there's a small, but vocal, segment of society dragging its heels: a number of - not all - businesses have been ducking their heads over the years, hoping no one will notice that they're continuing to buck the equal-pay-for-equal-work trend and get away with paying adults as children. Those archaic practices are now being dragged out into the light at the Fair Work Commission.

If you listen to the voices of some of the business lobby groups, you could be led to believe that if the commission moves to provide younger workers with fair pay, the retail industry will collapse.

It won't.

Many fair-minded employers are already paying adult rates of pay to 20-year-olds, and in some case 18 and 19-year-olds too. It's common practice and the changes the commission are considering would merely reflect what is already happening in much of the industry.

In New Zealand, junior rates of pay for those over 18 were removed well over a decade ago. Government studies in the country show there has been no negative effect on employment for younger workers as a result. In fact, the report suggests it has been a positive move for youth employment.

As baseless as they are, the cries of fear from the business lobby groups in response to this case don't come as a surprise. They're the same lines used every time there is a hint of change within the industry - that it will put unnecessary burden on business and cost jobs. All the evidence suggests that's not the case.

Vocal opponents will also play to the outdated belief that young workers are unproductive, inexperienced and can't be trusted.

One argument put before the Fair Work Commission against fair pay for younger workers was that these employees can't tell the difference between a watermelon and a pawpaw.

If it were not so serious, untrue and offensive, it would be comical.

In retail, by the time a worker reaches 18 to 20, they've often had several years' experience in the industry. Many are even in positions of leadership.

But due to an antiquated clause in the general retail award, they are still paid significantly less than their 21-year-old colleagues. Our practice of paying workers fairly is one of the things that makes our country great.

To make a baseless exception for one specific age group doesn't make any sense at all. At 18, 19 and 20 you are an adult. It's time our businesses moved with the times and started paying our adults what they deserve - adult rates.

Friday, July 05, 2013

NSW: Nathan Rees support for Federal ALP intervention against corruption

Former New South Wales Labor premier Nathan Rees says the federal takeover of the state party represents a seismic shift for the old guard.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday took the rare step of launching a federal ALP intervention into the scandal-plagued NSW branch, saying he is "appalled" by the recent allegations of corruption levelled at former state ministers.

Mr Rudd has demanded the NSW party implement changes within the next 30 days - a process that will be overseen by the ALP national executive.

The changes include a zero-tolerance stance on corruption and a ban on property developers standing as Labor candidates unless they "divest themselves of any major property development interest".

Mr Rees expects it will be strenuously resisted in some areas but he says the intervention is needed to restore public trust in the party.

"In western Sydney where I live, I think the events of ICAC in the last six to 12 months, the public airing of the activities of only a couple of people has probably meant, in polling terms, [about] 2 to 3 per cent in terms of a two-party preferred vote," he said.

"The prime minister has done precisely the right thing here."

NAIDOC WEEK 7 - 14 July 2013

NAIDOC WEEK 7 - 14 July 2013

The theme for NAIDOC Week 2013 is We value the vision: Yirrkala Bark Petitions 1963.

This year’s theme proudly celebrates the 50th anniversary of the presentation of the Yirrkala Bark Petitions to the Federal Parliament.

In August 1963, the Yolngu people of Yirrkala in northeast Arnhem Land sent two bark petitions – framed by traditional ochre paintings of clan designs – to the Australian House of Representatives.

The petitions protested the Commonwealth’s granting of mining rights on land excised from Arnhem Land reserve and sought the recognition by the Australian Parliament of the Yolngu peoples’ traditional rights and ownership of their lands.

Asserting title to Yolngu country under Yolngu law, the petitions were the first traditional documents recognised by the Commonwealth Parliament and helped to shape the nation’s acknowledgment of Aboriginal people and their land rights.

We value the foresight, strength and determination of the Yolngu people whose Bark Petitions set into motion a long process of legislative and constitutional reforms for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

While appealing for the recognition of Yolngu rights to land, the Bark Petitions were a catalyst in advancing changes to the Constitution in the 1967 referendum, the statutory acknowledgment of Aboriginal land rights by the Commonwealth in 1976, and the overturning of the obstacle of the concept of terra nullius by the High Court in the Mabo Case in 1992 that recognised the traditional rights of the Meriam people to their islands in the eastern Torres Strait.

Today, we look to a future that better understands and celebrates the unique connection that Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander’s share to country, as we continue to build an Australia that reflects the achievements and furthers the aspirations of our people.

ACTU: Paid in Pizzas - where's the dough ?

03 July, 2013 | Media Release

A case of underpaid young hospitality workers having their wages topped up with pizza and soft drink exposes the consequences of the push from business and the Coalition for more workplace flexibility, the ACTU said today.

The Fair Work Ombudsman revealed today over 100 mostly teenaged employees of a pair of Melbourne pizza restaurants had been underpaid by over a quarter of a million dollars.

It has been reported the restaurant owner believed he could ‘top up’ their sub-minimum wage pay packets by providing pizza and soft drinks.

“It’s easy for business to rail against red tape – but the consequences of cutting regulation are that more workers will miss out on their pay and entitlements with no recourse,” said ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver.

“Business has been out making their views on workplace relations very clear: they don’t want to pay penalty rates, they don’t want to pay additional superannuation, they want more ‘flexibility’ – but all on their own terms.

“When the Coalition says it will introduce individual flexibility agreements into our industrial relations system, it is paving the way for more employers to pay their workers in pizza rather than fair wages.”

The ACTU reminds all workers concerned they are not receiving their correct pay and entitlements to get advice from a union.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

AMCS: Great Win on Marine Parks Legislation

Great news! Despite choppy waters in Canberra the forecast looks brighter for our seas.

Just before rising for the winter break, Australia's Parliament got it spectacularly right on marine protection. Thanks to our hard work, they voted to support the largest network of marine parks in the world!

This simply wouldn’t have happened without so many Australians speaking up for our seas. That’s people like you. So, a big thanks. You have made a big difference. You've ensured a brighter future for our ocean and the wonderful wildlife within.

Renowned author and AMCS patron, Tim Winton, has a special message for you here. Take a minute to watch it. It will make you happy!

Parliamentarians from across the board have supported the push for more protection for years.

But we’ve all witnessed how quickly the tide can turn in Canberra. If we want to keep the parks in place, it’s vital that our MPs know how much they mean to us. A positive response today will keep marine parks in the sea tomorrow.

Please send a quick ‘Thank You’ to your local MP.

Don’t leave them with any doubt about how much you care. Say thanks, and protect it forever.

ETU: Eraring - O'Farrell Gift to Private Sector

Electrical Trades Union NSW secretary Steve Butler criticised the Government’s failure to undertake a competitive market tender process which would have seen buyers bidding against each other, instead negotiating with only one buyer.

“The O’Farrell Government has failed the simplest test to get the best value for money for NSW taxpayers from this asset sale,” Mr Butler said.

“Treasurer Mike Baird chose to only hold talks with a single buyer for this asset rather than test the market and open the sale to a competitive tender which is likely to have delivered a better deal for taxpayers.

“In March this year the O’Farrell Government spent $200 million on upgrading the Eraring Power Station only to sell it today for $50 million, it doesn’t make sense.

“This is nothing more than a fire sale that does not represent value for the people of NSW.”

Mr Butler said that the deal was a disgrace and that the sale should be aborted.

“Here we have the Treasurer effectively handing a valuable asset over to the private sector without any transparency,” Mr Butler said.

“Just weeks after the NSW National Party State Conference voted unanimously to oppose the privatisation of the NSW electricity network, the NSW Treasurer has performed a fire sale of a major electricity generation asset.

“The Government should not be selling any assets, let alone an essential service such as electricity generator, but if they do sell off an asset like this they have a responsibility to guarantee that NSW taxpayers are getting the best deal possible.

“Not only has the NSW Government sold this asset for well under its value, they will also forego future years of profits and dividends that have helped to fund other public services like our hospitals, schools and transport.

“The NSW Government has failed and that is why I believe this deal should be aborted all together or at the very least put out to market tender to ensure the best possible sale price is achieved.”

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

ACTU: Lowest Paid $15.80 Weekly Increase

Australia’s lowest paid workers will from today receive an extra $15.80 in their weekly pay packet, as a result of this year’s National Minimum Wage review.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said about 1.5 million workers had been granted a pay rise of 2.6% , helping them and their families keep pace with the rising cost of living, following the annual wage review by the Fair Work Commission.

“Those lowest paid workers will receive $15.80 a week extra, taking their weekly wage to $622.20 a week, or $16.37 an hour,” Ms Kearney said.

“We were disappointed with this year’s decision, which failed to close the gap between low-paid workers and the average wage, but this rise will still help low-paid workers meet their everyday expenses.

“For many of these workers, the annual wage case run by Australian Unions in the Fair Work Commission is their only chance of a pay rise.

“Over the past decade, the gap between workers who are dependent on award wages and the rest of the workforce has widened dramatically, and unions will continue to advocate on their behalf so they do not fall further behind.”

The wage rise affects about one-in-six Australian workers who depend on their industry awards to set their pay. For people with mid-level skills, such as retail shop managers, or trades-qualified workers, their weekly earnings should rise to $734.50 or $19.07 an hour.

Ms Kearney said the ACTU would again hold a National Check Your Pay Day on Friday, 12 July – the date by which most workers should have received their first pay for the new financial year.

“Now that the minimum wage has gone up, all workplace agreements and contracts need to be checked to make sure that the rates of pay stay above the legal minimum,” she said.

“This means that some workers on workplace agreements or over-award contracts will be entitled to a pay rise, because the award rate is the absolute minimum an employer can pay a worker. For others, wage rises in their enterprise agreements often also take effect at this time of the year.”

“We understand that the system can be complicated for workers to navigate, so on 12 July we are urging workers to call our Australian Unions helpline on 1300 4 UNION (1300 4 86466) to get expert advice on what you should be paid – and what you should do if your pay is incorrect.”

Monday, July 01, 2013

ACOSS: Devastating Housing Affordability Crisis

The largest survey of Australia’s community services sector reveals that frontline agencies are under enormous strain and unable to meet the growing demand for help, according to the Australian Council of Social Service.

The annual Australian Community Sector Survey of over 500 agencies shows that housing availability and affordability is the greatest unmet need for clients of welfare services, followed by community-based care and treatment for mental illness and emergency relief.

“The clear message from this year’s survey is that Australia’s housing affordability crisis is having a devastating impact, especially for people on the lowest incomes who are falling deeper into poverty,” said  ACOSS Deputy CEO, Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine.

“This is borne out by the fact that across the board, all services overwhelmingly nominated this as the greatest need of clients coming to them for help. Nearly 70% of housing and homeless services themselves reported that they struggled to meet demand, with a 5% increase in the number of people turned away.

“One of the striking features was that almost 80% of people presenting to the housing and homeless services that participated in the survey were wholly reliant on income support payments. They were also highly represented in numbers seeking help as reported by emergency relief providers (75%) and mental health services (61%). This is extremely alarming and further evidence of the damage being caused by keeping allowance payments such as Newstart as low as $35 a day.

“The other services under significant stress who reported being unable to meet demand among their own client groups were legal services (63%), youth services (52%) and emergency relief (47%) providers. Mental health (47%) and domestic violence and sexual assault services (46%) also reported being unable to meet demand for services.

“Most services reported having targeted their services more tightly or limiting service levels to meet demand. This was especially so for legal services (85%), emergency relief providers (82%) and mental health services (70%).

“These measures resulted in lower numbers of people being turned away than otherwise would have been the case. However, legal service still reported the highest level of turn-aways (20%). High numbers were also turned away from youth welfare (17%), housing and homelessness services (16%) and domestic violence services (13%).

“Our overall findings paint a disturbing picture of a sector under critical pressure, including from chronic underfunding and uncertainty about the funding of services.  A majority of all services reported that the cost of delivering services exceeded revenue, and over the past three years our survey has consistently identified this as the most significant challenge facing the sector into the future.

“Australia’s community welfare sector makes an enormous contribution to Australian society: community services and health are our country’s largest industry grouping, employing 12% of the total workforce. This is projected to grow by at least 35% over the next ten years, according to the Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council. Our sector already contributes more than 5% to GDP.

“Yet the community sector is being undermined by severe underfunding and lack of action to deal with the national housing affordability and availability crisis that continues to squeeze households and plunge those on the lowest incomes into deeper poverty.

“We need urgent action to address these issues, along with a plan to increase the abysmally low income support allowance payments like Newstart, if we are going to prevent more people falling into poverty and into the arms of our already stretched community services,” Dr Boyd-Caine said.