Thursday, October 31, 2013

Shrinking the public service means less for all

31 October, 2013 | Media Release

ACTU said the announcement from Minister for Employment Eric Abetz that the Government plans to freeze jobs, is a blow for the public who access services and an unfortunate outcome for workers hoping to enter the public sector.

“This will lead to a thinning out of services that are regularly accessed by the public. We will see frustrating delays, queues and backlogs as the government strives to meet its election target of 12,000 job cuts at all costs,” said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

“The Government must confirm its intentions and give assurances that there will not be further job losses.”

“Australians who want to enter the public sector will no longer be able to apply for employment and that is a great shame. What this equates to is a shrinking jobs market and that is bad news for everyone.”

Ms Kearney said unions were particularly concerned about regional areas where there were already only a limited number of public sector employees in town.

“Regional communities, in particular, must be protected from the freeze so that it doesn’t force people to leave town to find other work and strip their communities of those local services.

“The focus should be on how the public sector can best deliver services and look after the public, not about how small the Government can make itself. We need a robust public sector that is big enough to handle the significant demands upon its services.”

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

STRANGE TENANTS: "Who Mines the Riches?"

Strange Tenants dedicate this song to mine workers, their families and communities the world over.

This music clip was shot on location at an old gold mine in Smeaton, Victoria (Australia), on Kodak 35mm motion picture film.

Director/Producer: Jeff Bird
Editor: Mark Atkin ASE
Cinematographer: Ed Goldner
Colourist: CJ Dobson

Copyright: Strange Tenants, 2013   

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hockey's Big Business Commission of Audit

28 October, 2013 | Media Release

ACTU calls on the Commission of Audit to be transparent, consult with stakeholders and release an issues paper if it wants to be viewed as credible.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said: “Transparency and consultation are extremely important considering that this is not a broad-based commission, it is a body that has no representatives from civil society or unions and yet will be responsible for major national reform.”

“The Government has outsourced decision making to one section of the community, namely big business, and must open up the process to community, unions and small business in order to create perception of fairness.”

“Credibility will be a major issue for this commission particularly if there is a lack of transparency and consultation. Australians are not stupid and they will identify rushed policy, created behind closed doors, as something to be very suspicious of. That’s why we call, among other things, for early publication of details.”

“A letter has been forwarded to the audit’s chairman Tony Shepherd from the ACTU calling on consultation, transparency and the publishing of clear and appropriate timelines for submissions.”

“If Joe Hockey follows through with his commitment to keep findings and decisions secret until the Federal Budget 2014 then this will signal an unfortunate modus operandi where the Australian government will only consult with big business on issues that affect the whole nation.”

“How will Australian’s know that this major political process represents all interests and not just an agenda of cuts and contracting out services in a similar fashion to the unfortunate example of the UK? All evidence points in that direction.”

“We have seen the results of government 'austerity' programs in Europe, and we do not want Australia to go down that path."

“While in opposition Joe Hockey boasted of plans to cut 20,000 jobs from the public service. This commission must not be used as an excuse to make deep cuts to services and permanently reduce the capacity of the public service.”

Portugal Strikes Against Austerity

LISBON, Portugal

Portuguese postal workers opposed to the national mail service's planned privatization are walking off the job for 24 hours, marking the start of a series of strikes by labor groups angry about reforms and austerity measures.

The government has announced plans to sell up to 70 percent of the state-owned mail company CTT-Correios de Portugal. Trade unions fear layoffs and a loss of entitlements.

The privatization is part of a lengthy list of measures Portugal agreed to enact in return for its 78 billion-euro ($107.7 billion) financial rescue in 2011. Tax hikes and pay and pension cuts are to continue next year.

Transport workers have called walkouts between Oct. 31 and Nov. 9.

The postal strike Friday was expected to disrupt mail delivery.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Abbott fiddles as Blue Mountains Burns

Winmalee residents criticise disaster relief eligibility rules, as Blue Mountains fires burn

Upset locals used the meeting to vent their frustration at the Federal Government for tightening eligibility rules for disaster assistance, with payments of $1,000 per adult and $400 per child available.

However, the payment is only available for people who are severely injured or if their homes have been destroyed or badly damaged.

Unlike victims of the Tasmanian bushfires or Tropical Cyclone Oswald, the Government is not offering assistance to those who have been cut off from their homes or who are without electricity or water.

Locals say not everyone affected can get the help they need.

One resident, Leigh, said his mother lost her home in the fire and is eligible for the assistance.

But he is angry that funding will not be available for his sister, whose home was damaged, when she would have been eligible in the past.

"When I found out people were having entitlements stripped from them that they would have had previously, I was livid," he said.

"It's something I'll keep on until I get an answer from our local member Louise Markus who is supposed to be representing us."

Labor Senator Doug Cameron, who lives in the area, says he can't understand the Government's reasoning, putting the changes down to "a stupid cost-cutting exercise". 

"The Government made a declaration that diminished the access for residents in the Blue Mountains to a payment, an emergency relief payment set up by the Government," he said.

"What they did, they took away the payment for people who couldn't access their house for 24 hours, were trapped in their house for 24 hours or lost utilities for a period of 48 hours. That's all gone."

Ms Markus, the local Liberal MP, defended the level of assistance on offer.

"What I'm assured... there's much assistance already available and many people are accessing and having their needs met," she said.

"There [are] both payments and allowances that are available to those that have lost their home, or their home has been seriously damaged, or for those families or individuals that may have been injured."

The coordinator of the Blue Mountains bushfire recovery, Phil Koperberg, offered his personal support to those affected by the fires.

"Those people who work with me will think this is a very foolish thing of me to do, but I want you to take note of a telephone number now and that is my personal mobile number." he said.

"Should you find an obstruction in your road to recovery, I want you to feel free to phone me and it doesn't matter when or it doesn't matter what about."

Friday, October 25, 2013

Telstra: 10,0000 Shadow Workforce Overseas


In the fast-moving world of telecoms and digital services it’s hard to see five months ahead let alone five years but that is exactly what we are asking Telstra shareholders and customers to do.

Every day Telstra is shrinking its domestic workforce and every day it is building up a shadow one offshore, one that is trained up by Telstra staff in preparation for the day when the work heads overseas, as it is doing.

As a union we have been doing a lot of work in raising awareness of the issue and the risks that come with offshoring. There are huge business risks when you contract out work to foreign ‘industry partners’ on the scale that Telstra and other companies are currently doing.

10,000 jobs sent offshore

Working off Telstra figures our conservative estimate is that there are at least 10,000 contractors working for Telstra in India, the Philippines and Malaysia at any one time.

To put it into perspective that represents about a third of Telstra’s salaried staff complement.

It’s not just dispiriting for the workers who lose their jobs or those that are left behind see their workforce shrinking, it is also entirely unnecessary.

It’s not as if Telstra is struggling. Yes, revenue in parts of its business are facing challenges but last year it booked $3.8 billion in profits and it stands to bank hundreds of millions more from its participation in the NB


Abbott Agenda: Less Tax for Corporations, Less Super for Workers

24 October, 2013 | ACTU Media Release

The Abbott Government has begun its attack on ordinary workers by drafting laws that cut taxes for big mining companies but scrap programs, including the Low Income Superannuation Contribution, that benefit low and middle-income workers.

The draft of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Repeal and Other Measures Bill 2013 released today will hurt millions of workers today and in retirement, the ACTU said today.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the Abbott Government had shown its true agenda by scrapping a range of measures that supported workers and their families.

“This bill abolishes the Low Income Superannuation Contribution, which reduces tax on superannuation contributions from workers on less than $37,000 per year,” Ms Kearney said.

“This is an effective tax increase on 3.6 million workers, including 2.1 million women. It means that these workers will be paying more tax on their superannuation than on their take home pay and will have less money in retirement.”

“This is class war of the worst kind - an attack on ordinary workers ability to have a decent retirement.”

“It is unbelievable that the Abbott Government intends to slug these workers, while reducing taxes on mining companies.”

“The mining industry sends 80 per cent of its profits offshore and the Minerals and Resources Rent Tax was an attempt to ensure that Australians got a fairer share of the profits generated from their mineral wealth.”

“The bill also scraps the Schoolkids Bonus which helped millions of families with the cost of sending children to school.”

“It also stops the Income Support Bonus, which will hurt people on a range of income support programs, including Newstart and Parenting Payments, which are already too low.

“Small business are also hit, the bill scraps the “loss carry back” provisions that were designed to help small and medium businesses deal with economic downturns. This was a measure recommended by the Business Tax Working Group which included the ACTU was a member.”

“These measures show that the new government will always side with big business at the expense of workers and their families.”

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Stop TAFE Cuts Rally, Parramatta - on Friday 25 October

Friday 25 October,
12:30 PM 90 George St, Parramatta

The NSW Teachers Federation will be holding a rally on Friday 25 October at 12.30pm to protest about TAFE cuts in NSW.

It will be held at 90 George Street Parramatta, outside the office of Dr Geoff Lee, Member for Parramatta in the NSW government.

Community members, TAFE teachers and students and people from across the union sector are invited to come and hear speakers who will inform them about how TAFE course and job cuts are damaging the NSW economy.

Maxine Sharkey Assistant General Secretary of the NSW Teachers Federation said:

"The NSW Teachers Federation's Stop TAFE Cuts campaign aims to ensure the O'Farrell Government’s so called Smart and Skilled policy does not result in the wholesale loss of courses from TAFE or increasing costs to students.

The campaign highlights the risk of losing affordable and accessible second chance learning and vocational employment options."

Following the rally people will be supplied with a kit and invited to Do Your Block To Stop TAFE cuts – that is walk around your own neighbourhood letterboxing a personalised letter explaining the campaign. The kit includes information on the national Stop TAFE Cuts campaign.

Commission of Cuts and Privatisation

22 October, 2013 | Media Release

The Abbott Government's Commission of Audit is nothing but a process to outsource public policy to big business and pave the way for cuts to public services, the ACTU said today.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said that this had already happened in Queensland where the Newman Government used the same process to savagely cut public services such as health care and social welfare services leaving many of its community in the lurch and moving to privatise provision of important public services.

"This is not a broad-based commission, it is a body that has no representatives from civil society or unions and which will support a government agenda of cuts and contracting out services," Ms Kearney said.

"The Government is effectively contracting out policy-making to business.

“This process isn’t about the future of public finances and the needs of the Australian community, it’s about the interests of big business. If the Government intended to contract out responsibility for public finances to an organisation representing the banks and mining companies, they should have told the Australian people before the election.

"The Australian Public Service is a vital institution that provides valuable services to the community that cannot be replicated by the private sector. We have a world-class public service which provides irreplaceable value to Australians.

"Australia has a small government by the standards of other developed nations, and since 2007 the size of the APS has not kept pace with population growth. The idea that we have a bloated public service is patently false.

“The Coalition have already begun its ideological attack on the role of government in delivering a social protection floor through the promotion of 'The Big Society' concept - an abject failure in the UK that resulted in social inequality, major job losses, and cuts to important social services.

"Australians will not support slashing cuts to public services such as Centrelink and Medicare, or the sale of government assets.

"While in opposition Joe Hockey boasted of plans to cut 20,000 jobs from the public service. This commission must not be used as an excuse to make deep cuts to services and permanently reduce the capacity of the public service.

"We have seen the results of government 'austerity' programs in Europe, and we do not want Australia to go down that path."

Ms Kearney said the ACTU was concerned about the prospect of the sale of government assets after Finance Minister Mathias Cormann confirmed today that the Government planned to sell Medibank Private and would not rule out further asset sales.

"We need to know what assets the Commission will be looking at. Is the Government planning to sell off Australia Post?

"Australian workers want the Federal Government to provide good quality services. They will not support widespread cuts, privatisation and contracting out of essential functions of government."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Abbott - climate septic

Tony Abbott reveals his preaching style:

"We are giving the Labor Party a chance to repent of its massive breach of faith with the Australian people in the last Parliament," he added.

"I think that the Labor Party, being pragmatic, political survivors, will ultimately embrace that opportunity."

Meanwhile his rush to dismantle services and access to Federal funds is affecting those most in need because of the bushfires in New South Wales.

People who have been cut off from their homes or who have no electricity have not been deemed eligible in the first round of disaster payments determined by Justice Minister Michael Keenan.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Corporate Culture: Abbott's ABCC mark two

17 October, 2013 | ACTU Media Release

Tony Abbott has confirmed his revamped Australian Building and Construction Commission will continue its predecessor's attack on workers' rights by appointing right-wing ideologue John Lloyd and former ABCC Deputy Commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss to the Fair Work Building Industry inspectorate.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the Abbott Government had made clear its intention to re-establish the ABCC if it could get legislation passed by parliament and the new body would be like the old ABCC which used its coercive powers to unfairly target construction workers.

“The old ABCC was a failed institution that achieved nothing except to intimidate and harass construction workers,” Ms Kearney said.

“The new government has not learnt the lessons of WorkChoices by appointing two of its key figures to oversee its retrograde attack on workplace rights in the construction industry.

“Under the Howard Government the ABCC showed no desire to investigate the actions of employers in the construction industry. It was simply an attack on unions and workers.

“Construction workers were subject to extreme powers - including secret interrogations and the abolition of the right to silence - which did not apply to workers in any other industry.

“The ABCC spent $135 million of taxpayers' money yet failed to find evidence of serious wrongdoing by union officials.

“If there is unlawful activity on construction sites then it should be investigated by the police.”

Ms Kearney urged MPs to block any attempts by Mr Abbott to bring back the ABCC.

Mongolia: Landmark judgement against Rio Tinto

IndustriALL Global Union 15.10.2013

The Supreme Court in Mongolia has ordered Rio Tinto to reinstate an unfairly dismissed employee, as well as to pay compensation.

Gantuya was dismissed from work by Rio Tinto for protesting against discrimination over the remuneration paid to Mongolian employees. The unequal remuneration pay between Mongolian nationals and expatriates translate into a disparity of MNT 3 million for local Mongolian workers at Rio Tinto, to MNT 30 million for expatriates a month on average.

The Ministry of Labor has confirmed that Oyu tolgoi and Rio Tinto were in violation of Clause #8.1 of the OT IA “in the most blatant, wanton manner and never made a single step towards enforcing this  obligation”. The Supreme Court ruled that the termination of Gantuya employmentwas unjust and unlawful.

The ruling of the Supreme Court was the final arbiter over Rio Tinto’s intransigence and arrogance to refuse two lower court judgements in favour of Gantuya. Rio Tinto took the matter on appeal to the Supreme Court and lost.

IndustriALL Global Union applauds this important victory, and Assistant Secretary General Kemal Özkan says:

This is a huge victory not only for Sainkhuu Gantuya, but for all workers in Mongolia, especially at Oyu Tolgo. This is a significant and important pushback against Rio Tinto, particularly in the context of IndustriALL Global Union’s global corporate campaign against Rio Tinto.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

ACTU: Coalition Attack on Public Service

16 October, 2013 | Media Release

Today's announcement confirms the Federal Government intends to commit Australia to follow the failed UK model, rely on unpaid labour, slash jobs and privatise the public sector.

"The government has confirmed they intend to follow a version of the failed British 'Big Society' concept that caused such high unemployment and dysfunctional privatisation in the UK," said ACTU president Ged Kearney.

Ms Kearney said the Coalition has been in the process of campaigning to reduce the role, scope and breadth of government and the public sector.

"This latest announcement of giving more control to charities has much broader implications than first appears."

Charities do a fantastic job but they are there to fill gaps, not take on the full responsibility of supporting all those in need. They already work very hard, are under-resourced and over-burdened. It is the Government's responsibility to protect people and provide a robust public sector, not handball their duties to charities and volunteers," she said.

"What they want to do is privatise vital public services on a massive scale. But without an adequate state controlled safety-net many people will fall through exacerbating inequality and ensuring that we well and truly live in a society of haves and have-nots," she said.

"In the UK it has caused a massive rise in unemployment, where those who once had jobs now face the double barrel of a punitive benefits system and drastically pared-down public services."

She said, "In the UK unpaid labour and the charitable and voluntary sectors were intended to fill the gaps left by public services, however this was too high a burden and what they ended up with was a small number of corporations that are acting as government agents, providing health, education and social services in a for profit system."

"They tried and failed in the UK and now the Australian Government wants to follow that same unfortunate path that caused such polarisation between rich and poor neighbourhoods and greater social divide," Ms Kearney said.

"This subject needs real debate and thorough evaluation. The public should be made well aware of the implication because what is clear is that the government's strategy is to implement its agenda bit by bit so that before we know it, Australia will be a very different nation than it is today."

MUA: Support for Greenpeace "Arctic 30" Activists

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) is calling on the Russian government to release, with immediate effect, 30 Greenpeace activists who have been detained and charged with piracy.

On September 20, the Russian Coast Guard illegally boarded a Greenpeace ship - Arctic Sunrise - while in international waters and arrested 30 people on board at gunpoint.

The activists were protesting Arctic oil drilling on the Gazprom platform, Prirazlomnaya, in the Pechora Sea off the Russian coast.

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the piracy charge was ludicrous and urged national council to unanimously support a resolution of support for the wrongfully detained activists.

“They are being detained on an outrageous charge that is completely unjustified,'' Crumlin said.

“You can understand why there is such an outpouring of support.''

"This was a peaceful protest and these jumped up charges in no way qualify as piracy,"

“Make no mistake, the real threat to the Arctic comes not from Greenpeace but from oil companies like Gazprom that are determined to ignore both science and good sense to drill in remote, frozen seas," he said.
Arctic Sunrise
Australian Greenpeace activist Colin Russell from Tasmania is one of 30 activists who could face up to 15 years in prison if Russian authorities persist with the piracy charge.

Worldwide protests were held last for the ‘Arctic 30’, who were detained in the port city of Murmansk with  successive rallies also held in Sydney, Hobart, Adelaide and Brisbane.

A British-born Australian resident and a New Zealand man who lives in South Australia have also been charged.

The MUA passed a resolution outlining the support at the National Council held in Sydney last week.

The following resolution was passed in support of the ‘Artic 30’:

The Maritime Union of Australia strongly condemns the Russian government and its Coast Guard for the illegal boarding of the Arctic Sunrise, Greenpeace International boat's which was engaged in a peaceful protest in international waters to protest the environmentally reckless drilling in the Arctic by Gazprom at the Prirazlomnaya platform.

The MUA knows very well the rule of law as it relates to international waters, shipping rights and piracy. The actions of the Arctic Sunrise were part of a peaceful protest, and not piracy as the Russian Government has falsely charged. International law, in no way, shape or form, conjoins peaceful protest and piracy. By alleging that a peaceful protest is piracy, the Russian government has made the sea a potentially more dangerous place.

We join with the thousands of people who engaged in 220 solidarity events in 48 countries and demand the immediate release of the 28 activists and 2 freelance journalists who are being held illegally by Russian authorities.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Nurses: Brisbane Rally 17 October

ANMF Media Alert: Brisbane Rally 17 October
Wednesday 16th October, 2013

Hundreds of nurses and midwives from across Australia will join construction workers and supporters in a rally through the Brisbane CBD to oppose the Newman Government’s changes to WorkCover laws and its continued privatisation of hospitals and nursing homes, public sector cuts and sacking of frontline health staff in Queensland.

WHAT: ANMF rally against Queensland health cuts.
WHEN: 12.45 pm Thursday 17 October, 2013.
WHERE: Outside the Sofitel Brisbane Central, 249 Turbot Street, Brisbane walking to Parliament House

ANMF media contact 0411 254 390.

Let's Save the NBN

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

CFMEU: Dave Noonan's address to National Conference

"Tony Abbott has no mandate to take away our members’ human rights; no mandate, to cut their wages and no mandate to make their jobs less safe," CFMEU Construction National Secretary Dave Noonan told the union's Divisional National Conference today in an address that also talked about reform in the Labor Party and proposed that union members should have a vote in the Party leadership.

Dave concluded his address pledging the Union's commitment for the next few years:

"Abbott has no mandate turn his back on Australia’s history of permanent migration. He has no mandate to sell out Australian workers by allowing employers open slather on temporary visas, with no obligation to first employ Australian workers or to train Australian apprentices.

"This means the exploitation of more 457 workers, less jobs and apprenticeships. This is a real threat to conditions that were achieved from generations of struggle.

"Unlike Tony Abbott our union keeps its promises, and we promise this:

"We will not shirk our responsibility to stand up for our member’s rights on site.

"We will not compromise on defending our member’s safety.

"We will fight to keep our wages and conditions.

"And we know we are not alone.

"Despite Tony Abbott’s attempts to demonise construction workers and their union, despite his friends’ attempts in the Murdoch media to denigrate us for our pay and conditions, we know that we have friends everywhere.

"Working people, even those not in unions, look to the CFMEU for inspiration. They like the fact that we stand up for ourselves, fight for better wages and conditions and look out for each other in a tough working environment.

"They like it because they know that each time we raise our head and take a stand, we are not just doing it for ourselves.

"They like it because they know that strong unions have the ability to not only help their own members, but to also be there for others in our community who need a hand.

"And under an Abbott government when they come after us, we will all need to reach out and help each other.

"We will need to stick together, and we will need to back those in our communities who are also doing it hard.

"It’s what we’ve always done and that’s how we’ll get through the bad times and come out on the other side of this, together, united and strong."

Time for tough questions on Abbott's industrial relations policy

From Worksite by Mark Hearn*

Tony Abbott was desperate to smother a debate on industrial relations during the 2013 election campaign. It's hardly surprising, because industrial relations raises fundamental questions about the society we live in, questions Mister Abbott seemed keen to avoid. How should we share the rewards of work - productivity - between us? How much time should we spend at work or with family, or friends? What are your rights at work?

Senator Eric Abetz, the Coalition's spokesman on industrial relations, barely surfaced during the long weeks of the 2013 election campaign. Interestingly, his brief appearances attracted attention - although possibly not the kind enjoyed by Tony Abbott or Liberal Party campaign headquarters.

Prior to the election Fairfax Media reported that 'Tony Abbott's industrial relations spokesman Eric Abetz attracted internal criticism for "freelancing" on future Coalition policy by suggesting an Abbott government would intervene in wage settlements if wage rates were too high.'

Abetz also warned that an Abbott government would not consider 'excessive ambit claims' as good faith bargaining. These claims should be subject to a 'productivity' test.

Apparently, Senator Abetz failed the honesty test: he was a little too honest with the Australian people about the Coalition's policies. 'Senior Liberals were aghast on Thursday when they read that Senator Abetz had granted an unscheduled interview on his party's workplace relations laws', Fairfax reported.

Abetz did not define what he meant by an 'excessive ambit claim', or how 'productivity' would be measured. When are wage rates too high? It seems sufficient to deploy these vague edicts untested by any kind of rigorous methodology.

Abetz also promised that the Coalition would initiate a Productivity Commission inquiry into Australia's industrial relations. That sounds pretty significant, doesn't it?

It would suggest that Australians could expect to see some profound changes flowing from the Productivity Commissions' ensuing report: changes to the rules governing work, how pay and conditions are negotiated, how employers and employees manage their workplace relationships.

Abetz declined to outline the specific terms of reference that will frame the Productivity Commission's inquiry. And apparently, Abetz felt little pressure to really explain Coalition industrial relations policy to the people of Australia during election 2013. 

It seems that everything will be 'fair' under the Coalition's new rules of work: its industrial relations policy document assures workers that they will have the 'right' to 'access fair flexibility', in order to 'work innovatively'. Sounds fair; workers can only assume that left to their own resources in negotiations with the boss, flexibility and innovation doesn't simply mean longer hours and less pay. 

The right of unions to enter workplaces will also be 'sensible and fair', under a Coalition government and, one suspects, virtually non-existent. Union right of entry - to consult their members - is a major source of employer irritation.

The Coalition justifies a critical stance on unions by reference to the criminal charges brought against Health Services Union officials over the alleged misappropriation of funds. The Coalition will require tighter financial disclosure and reporting guidelines, like those subjected to companies. Union officials will also be held to the same standards and tough financial penalties applying to company directors.

The trouble is, unions aren't companies. They are non-profit associations, whose tasks are not only fulfilled by paid officials but by the volunteer labour of thousands of ordinary working men and women who serve as rank and file union delegates or on the union's management committees. They are not running profit-generating enterprises. They often perform demanding tasks for little or no recompense and precious little glory.

Persons charged with criminal offences should face the courts. If the Coalition intends to treat rank and file unionists who take on elected roles as if they are company directors - the Coalition's policy does not clarify what it means by a 'union official' in this context - it will amount to a punitive sanction and an attack on democracy. It will discourage participation in what is essentially a voluntary community service. Perhaps the Coalition knows that?

It's difficult to shake off a suspicion of deviousness about the Coalition's industrial relations policies. Just as newly-elected governments love to 'open the books' and discover the financial wickedness left behind by their predecessors, it seems that the Productivity Commission is being primed as the bomb to plant under 'obstructive' workplace practices that hamper 'productivity' growth. Look, Tony Abbott will say: we can't ignore the shocking problems uncovered in this damning report.

There is little critical analysis of the way in which the term productivity is used in public debate. Simply invoking the word apparently justifies reducing wages and cutting entitlements, or outsourcing jobs, or even sending them offshore.

Productivity is often polite code for what employers have always craved: reduced labour costs. They want someone to do the same amount of work - or more - for less money.

Presumably an Abbott government will be forced to clarify how it intends to renovate the rules of work. The terms of reference handed to the Productivity Commission will likely give the Coalition's game away.

* Dr Mark Hearn is a lecturer in the Department of Modern History and Politics at Macquarie University.
Published 4 September 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

ACTU: Australia must act to reduce levels of poverty

14 October, 2013 | ACTU Media Release

Insecure work is pushing more Australians with jobs below the poverty line and entrenching inequality.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said Anti-Poverty Week, which starts today, was a reminder of the difficulties faced by millions of Australians on low incomes.

“Despite the strength of our economy over the last decade there is still a stubbornly high rate of poverty in Australia,” Ms Kearney said.

She said around 12.8% of all Australian's were living below the poverty line, after taking account of their housing costs -  17.3% of all children were also living below the poverty line.

“There are too many families living lives of stress and deprivation due to poverty.

“Disturbingly, we are seeing an increase in the number of people with jobs who are living below the poverty line, due to underemployment and insecure work.

“Not only do these workers often not have the sick leave and carers’ leave permanent workers can fall back on in an emergency, they do not know how many hours they will be working from one week to the next. This makes it difficult to plan for the future and makes buying a house a distant dream.

“We are seeing the development of a working poor in Australia, where workers in full-time jobs face a constant battle to support their families, save money, or pay the rent,” Ms Kearney said.

At the same time as this growing poverty we are seeing that the richest 10 per cent of Australians have gained almost 50 per cent of the growth in income over the past three decades.

"At this rate we will have an American-style split between the working poor and the super-rich. Stemming job insecurity by ensuring workers can rely on jobs that pay them a fair wage is one way to protect Australia from that scenario."

“Growing inequality of income is made worse by the increasing cost of housing and cuts to public services.

Ms Kearney said that welfare payments in Australia needed to be raised.

“We have a situation in Australia where the Newstart Allowance has been allowed to decline relative to average wages and other welfare payments and is now barely enough to live on,” Ms Kearney said.

“Unions and business groups agree that subjecting the unemployed to this level of poverty is actually making it harder for them to find work.”

“Cuts to payments to single parents have added cruel and unnecessary hardship to their lives and those of their children.”

Rural Australia: 2013 Snapshot of Poverty

Two of the nation’s peak community bodies have come together to release a snapshot of the extent of poverty and disadvantage outside Australia's major capital cities, highlighting the devastating impact on people's lives and on country towns and communities.

The report, 'A Snapshot of poverty in rural and regional Australia', shines the spotlight on poverty and other resource disadvantages that prevent people in country areas from attaining the basic standard of living and access to services the rest of us take for granted.

Speaking at the launch of the report in Tamworth today, Executive Director of the National Rural Health Alliance, Gordon Gregory said, “It’s time for our leaders to face the fact that for many people in rural areas life is extraordinarily difficult, with an unfair share of basic resources like income, work and access to essential services and infrastructure being the norm rather than the exception.

“There’s a perception that somehow life in rural and regional areas is easier and cheaper, away from the stresses and speed of life in our major cities. In so many respects life in rural Australia is the best in the world, however, we know that country life brings its own set of stresses that are mostly unseen and not talked about. That’s precisely the reason for this joint effort by our two peak bodies to bring this reality to the attention of policy makers and our government leaders at all levels.

“People living in poverty in our country areas are missing out on opportunities and resources the rest of us enjoy, such as adequate health and dental care, good education, employment opportunities, affordable quality food and recreation. Overall the prevalence of deprivation is higher in large country towns and other rural areas than in our major cities,” Mr Gregory said.

Also speaking at the launch, Deputy CEO of ACOSS Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine said, “We certainly want to see measures to address growing poverty in our country to be a priority of this federal Parliament.

“We know that despite two decades of unprecedented growth, the gap between people who are doing well and those that are falling behind is growing. This includes the city-country divide.

“ACOSS’ major poverty report last year found that, allowing for the costs of housing, poverty is worse in rural, regional and remote areas (13.1 per cent outside capital cities) than in capital cities (12.6 per cent). Having more than two million people living below the poverty line in a country as wealthy as ours is simply unacceptable.

“It’s critical we all work together to improve the underlying factors that are leaving people behind in our country areas. These include reduced access to services such as health, education and transport, declining employment opportunities, lower incomes of people living in these regions, and distance and isolation,” Dr Boyd-Caine said.

“From the perspective of the National Rural Health Alliance, alleviating poverty is a crucial part of what needs to be done to achieve better health for the people of rural and remote communities,” said Mr Gregory. “To do this there needs to be work on critical determinants of health, such as education, work, housing and transport, access to and the cost of goods and services, and community connectedness,” he added.

“ACOSS and the National Rural Health Alliance will continue to draw attention to these issues and urge our elected representatives at local, state and federal government levels to work together in the shared interest of improving the life opportunities of all our citizens,” Dr Boyd-Caine concluded.

Media Contacts:
Fernando de Freitas (ACOSS) - 0419 626 155
Penny Hanley (NRHA) - 0430 102 488


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Stop the TPP Song

CFMEU: Youth Unemployment and Free Trade Agreement

Youth unemployment continues to rise as new Federal Government trades away more jobs

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) is today calling on the Federal Government to re-think free trade negotiations currently underway and reject an employer push to turbo charge the 457 visa program, in the face of ever rising youth unemployment.

New figures out today from the ABS show that, whilst the headline national unemployment rate dropped slightly, youth unemployment continues to move upwards to unacceptable levels.

Youth unemployment is now 12.6% nationally, the highest it has been since 2002. It has risen in each of the last consecutive 6 months.

CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor said today that young people in Australia were being let down.

“Currently our Government is negotiating free trade agreements where they intend to give greater access to our markets to countries such as China, which we have consistently argued is not a market economy.

“This flies in the face of all available evidence that shows that lower tariffs will make us even more vulnerable to dumping and products that don’t meet our standards while our competitors continuously subsidise their industries and use non-tariff trade barriers to keep our exports out.

“Going down this route will spell disaster for manufacturing jobs.

”In addition, they have explicitly and deliberately placed the bringing in of foreign nationals to work in Australia on the negotiating table.

“Equally, there will be a sustained push by employers over the next few months to return to the bad old days of a de-regulated 457 visa scheme allowing tens of thousands more temporary overseas workers in to Australia to work, displacing young people who need a start in the job market

“How can these policies possibly be justified in the context of a growing youth unemployment problem?

The top line national figures released today also of course don’t capture effectively the huge problem with youth unemployment in some regional and rural communities.

“That Tony Abbott wants to rush into a swathe of free-trade agreements and that employers want to abolish any requirement to try and place Australians in Australian jobs in Australia, in the face of these youth unemployment figures, is a national disgrace.”

Chicago - Legacy of La Casita

Labor Beat:

On Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013 a van rented by the Chicago Teachers Union pulled up outside Whittier School, along the fence opposite from which once stood "La Casita", the diminutive one-story structure that housed a makeshift library and community center. It was an empty lot now because Chicago Public Schools decided to demolish it on the pretext that it was 'unsafe'. The La Casita supporters had an independent engineer look at it and he reported that demolition was not necessary. It could have been repaired and fixed up. But the school board saw it as a symbol of community independent resistance to the dismantling of public education. At considerable expense CPS had it demolished in August 2013, three years after the parents, students and supporters began occupying it.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Abbott’s rush to Free Trade deals will leave workers short-changed

AMWU Oct 08, 2013

Tony Abbott’s push to sign a Free Trade Agreement with China within a year and to speed up negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) involving the USA is a foolish policy that will hurt workers, the AMWU said today.

AMWU National President Andrew Dettmer said that rushing trade negotiations to fit an arbitrary deadline was a potentially disastrous strategy that could cost jobs in Australia.

“Australia should only sign a free trade deal after a comprehensive analysis that shows it benefits Australia and Australian workers.

“This applies to a deal with China or any other country. Trying to set deadlines for agreements just weakens our negotiating position.

“Free trade agreements generally promise much and deliver little. They usually come at the price of lost jobs and threatened industries.

 “Australia, unlike most of our trading partners, has an open economy and few barriers to imported goods. This makes it difficult for Australian manufacturers who often face unfair barriers when they try to export.

“We need to make sure that these deals do not give away the few protections Australian workers have.

“We also need to make sure it does not reduce the powers of the Foreign Investment Review Board to examine overseas investment and evaluate if it is in the national interest.

 Mr Dettmer said any agreement with China needed to address labour standards, in particular the issues of forced labour and child labour, and require signatories to uphold ILO conventions on these issues.

 He said that the TPPA should not include investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions.

“These provisions would undermine our democratic sovereignty by letting foreign corporations sue over changes to legislation that they believe damage their investments.

“Major multinationals would have the right to challenge and overrule our Parliament – and that is unacceptable.

“A US mining company is using the ISDS provisions in the North American Free Trade Agreement to sue the Québec provincial government of Canada for $250 million because it dared to have an environmental review of shale oil mining – we cannot allow this type of thing to happen in Australia.

“Previous governments have rejected giving corporations the right to sue governments for losses brought about by law changes, and Mr Abbott must not budge on this issue.

“Trade deals must be about the interests of Australia and Australian workers, not big multinationals,” said Mr Dettmer.

Tas: Nurses Vote to Defend Conditions

Neroli Ellis
Tasmanian nurses are preparing to take industrial action over attempts to change their working conditions, according to Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation state secretary Neroli Ellis.

After about six weeks of negotiations with the state government, the ANMF has agreed to a 2 per cent wage increase.

But Mrs Ellis said about 190 nurses in Hobart and Launceston have unanimously voted to reject the offer over an unacceptable reduction in conditions.

She said such conditions included mandatory rostering of annual leave, the removal of 11.5 public holidays a year, and reducing eight-hour shifts to six-hour shifts.

"For every nurse in this state to lose about five days of public holiday leave is significant, and that week of salary they're losing equates to [the salary rise] they're offering, the 2 per cent," Mrs Ellis said.

She said if the government did not present an acceptable offer by October 18, nurses would take industrial action on October 21.

"Nurses are really propping up the system at the moment on good will, so all they have to do is remove that good will and start claiming their award entitlements," Mrs Ellis said.

"That's claiming for missed meal breaks, claiming overtime, claiming for what is rightly theirs."

Orange NSW: AMWU urges Electrolux to stay in Orange

AMWU Oct 10, 2013

AMWU members are urged to join the NSW community of Orange in their fight to keep their largest employer from relocating production of great Australian fridges and freezers to Thailand.

The fate of 500 jobs at the Electrolux plant and hundreds more in the Orange region depends upon the company’s board in Sweden recognising the high quality of its research and production in NSW as suitable for its next generation of products, with a decision expected by mid-December.

A positive outcome would see the Orange plant - which makes a third of the freezers and fridges sold in Australia - gaining Swedish investment to expand production of Electrolux, Westinghouse and Kelvinator brands by a further 30 per cent.

That would include a big boost in exports to South East Asia.

But if the company chooses to put its investment into its plant in Rayong, Thailand, it would likely lead to winding down and closure of Orange from 2015.

The potential annual loss to the region in jobs and investment would be nearly $100 million dollars a year – a catastrophic economic and social impact on the NSW Central West.

AMWU State Secretary Tim Ayres said the Orange factory made about 400,000 fridges and freezers of varying size each year for Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

It also had a world-class research and development centre with 44 expert staff.

Orange produces the highest quality products of any Electrolux plant worldwide, with repair rates far lower than overseas plants and remains profitable in the face of cheaper import competition.

“It’s crunch time for Electrolux,” he said.

“Now is the time to stand up for the local workforce and retaining the skills and expertise Australia needs. The company’s board need to know how strong our members’ case is.”

Members are urged to send a message of support for Electrolux in Orange directly to the Chairman of the company’s board in Sweden, Marcus Wallenberg, via

FSU: Together We Win

When 590 finance sector jobs were threatened by offshoring in 2013, ANZ workers organised and drove a fantastic campaign involving their colleagues, the local community and local members.

590 jobs were saved.

Penalty Rates win for Hospitality and Restaurant Workers

10 October, 2013 | ACTU Media Release

Low-paid hospitality workers will be the winners from a Fair Work Australia decision to reject a Restaurant and Caterers’ Association bid to scrap penalty rates on Saturdays and Sundays.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said the decision recognised the importance of penalty rates in compensating workers for working unsociable hours.

“Workers in hospitality should be relieved that Fair Work Australia has seen reason and rejected this attempt to cut their wages,” she said.

“However this will not be the last attempt business makes to get rid of penalty rates.”

The RCA was seeking a change to the penalty rates system, which would have seen workers only paid penalty rates if they worked six consecutive days, rather than every Saturday and Sunday.

“The RCA did not dispute that hospitality workers are low-paid and that penalty rates are the way that many make ends meet,” Ms Kearney said.

“It simply tried to cut those already low wages with no compensation.

“Fair Work found that the RCA had not shown that reducing penalty rates would increase productivity or create jobs.

“Yet again the arguments raised by business when they want to get rid of penalty rates have been shown up when subjected to independent scrutiny.

“The only result of a cut to penalty rates will be greater hardship for low-paid workers. Cutting penalty rates will not create jobs because it will lead to these workers spending less.”

Ms Kearney said the union movement remained concerned that business would redouble its efforts to reduce penalty rates, with the Abbott Government unwilling to defend them.

"But there is still no long-term certainty that workers will keep their penalty rates. The Coalition has refused to guarantee penalty rates in law, which means employer groups will continue to try and use Fair Work to cut wages."

see Fair Work Australia decision

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Anti-Poverty Week

Unions NSW as part of our Community Outreach Program will be launching a partnership initiative program with TAFE and the St Vincent De Paul Society during Anti-Poverty Week.

The purpose of this initiative will be to raise funds to implement program to provide education and training through the TAFE’s Outreach Program.  This program is aimed at providing education, training and skills to low paid workers and the most disadvantaged people in our community.

Unions NSW will be encouraging unions and their members to donate funds or sponsor a person for as little as five dollars per week.

We would like unions to donate towards the establishment of this program during the Anti-Poverty Week by sending your donations to Unions NSW. The funds will be managed by the St Vincent De Paul Society and paid to the TAFE Outreach programme.

We are planning to launch this initiative in Western Sydney on the Wed the 16th of October at our Parramatta Office.

There will be series of fund raising events throughout the week in our city, metropolitan and regional areas.

Poverty and severe hardship affect more than a million Australians. Around the world more than a billion people are desperately poor.

The main aims of Anti-Poverty Week are to:
  • Strengthen public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship around the world and within Australia;
  • Encourage research, discussion and action to address these problems, including action by individuals, communities, organisations and governments.
  • Last year, at least 600 organisations around Australia participated in more than 400 activities during the Week, with a total participation of more than 10,000 people.
For information and ideas,

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Qld: government’s decision will put worker’s lives at risk

07 October, 2013 | Media Release

ACTU condemns the Queensland government’s proposed amendments to the Work Health and Safety Laws which will put worker’s lives at risk and take the heat off employers who choose to cut corners on safety.

ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said, “These proposed amendments will put all workers at risk, not just on construction sites but across many workplaces. It takes the pressure off employers to do the right thing and it makes it harder for unions to protect their members.”

“Unions are fearful this type of dangerous thinking could spread to other states creating a lowering of health and safety standards in Australia.”

Jarrod Bleijie Attorney-General and State Minister for Justice said he would be seeking the agreement of other states and territories to get on board. “This would be very bad for Australia because at the end of the day, these amendments reward bad employers and make going to work more dangerous, especially for those on construction sites.”

“We don’t believe there has been proper consideration of the impact of these changes on workplaces.

“Government has provided no evidence that current laws are a problem, in fact only evidence given by Government is that non-fatal injuries and disease claim rate for construction sites in Queensland are improving and at a faster rate than the rest of the country.”

“Forcing unions to give notice before entering worksites will give employers time to cover up dangerous practices, therefore putting lives at risk.”

“Employers need to be vigilant with safety all the time, not just on the day of an inspection.”

Mr Borowick said that further to the dangers involved in a weakening of right of entry laws created to protect workers, he was concerned with Queensland’s decision to reject the national standards for health and safety.

“Queensland is basically going it alone. They are moving away from national standards that aim to make Australia one of the safest countries in the world and are instead doing it their way and doing it the wrong way.”

“Unions are the number one reason why safety in the workplace is such a key issue here in Australia. While there are many good employers out there, too many others will cut corners to save money if they can and the cost of that is injury and death of workers.”

“We want people to go home at the end of the day and will fight any move to weaken occupational health and safety laws.”

Mr Borowick also said it was disappointing that the Queensland government would attempt to sway opinion by using false connection such as militant union activity and safety.

“This is an unsurprising but still disappointing attempt to link strike action with laws around safety. The laws that govern workplaces need to be of the highest order and whether there is strike action at that workplace or not should have no bearing on this.”

Monday, October 07, 2013

Labour Day 2013 - Qld, NSW, ACT and SA

Queensland, New South Wales,
Australia Capital Territory & South Australia

Labour Day is an annual public holiday that celebrates the eight-hour working day, a victory for workers in the mid 1850s. The argument for the eight-hour day was based on the need for each person to have eight hours labour, eight hours recreation and eight hours rest.

The Garrison Church: sketch by Peter Neilson on the 150th anniversary of the eight hour day in Sydney

On 18 August 1855 Sydney stone masons building the historic Garrison Church (Trinity Church) in The Rocks downed tools and marched into town demanding an eight hour day. After winning the claim on 1 October 1855 the masons celebrated with a slap up dinner. There is still no memorial to their pioneering victory on or anywhere near the church. Instead Sydney remains full of statues of dead white men who opposed such a limit on the hours of exploitation in the name of freedom.
On 21 April 1856, following negotiations between building tradesmen and contractors, and with the approval of the colonial government, an eight hour day was introduced into the building trades in Melbourne. The movement was led by the stonemasons who argued that eight hours a day was appropriate in the Australian heat. It would also give them time to improve their 'social and moral condition'.

Two employers, with substantial contracts for public buildings at the Western Market and Parliament House, resisted the new working hours agreement. In response to their intransigency, the stonemasons lead a protest march from University of Melbourne to Parliament House, calling out workers at building sites on the way. Within a fortnight the contractors had given way.

Melbourne's building workers, generally without loss of pay or other conditions, had gained an unprecedented widespread and sustainable victory.

The First Eight Hour Day Procession

Reproduction of the original 1856 Melbourne Eight Hour Day banner, designed by Thomas Vine.
Melbourne building unions led by the stone masons and the banner above, celebrated their Eight Hour Day victory on the Whit-Monday holiday, 12 May 1856, with a procession from the Carlton Gardens to the Cremorne Gardens in Richmond. A special banner, 8 Hours Labour 8 Hours Recreation 8 Hours Rest, was launched.

Shortly after 10 am the procession, about 1200 or 1500 strong. The procession was followed by a dinner for six to seven hundred, speeches, sports and other festivities including fireworks.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

PSA: Rally 22 October Defend Public Services

ETU: No to Privatisation of Public Assets

Electrical union leaders across the country have rejected outright calls by Australian Workers Union secretary Paul Howes for unions to embrace asset sales, saying past experience proves the move would be bad for consumers, workers and governments.

In an expansive essay, Mr Howes claimed those opposed to the privatisation of assets were “reactionary”, “ideological” and stubbornly clinging to “sacred cows”, instead arguing that the union movement and the Labor Party should embrace asset sales and social privatisation.

Electrical Trades Union representatives from around the country have challenged those claims, saying the experiences of millions of Australians who have endured the sale of community assets over the past two decades have been negative, with higher prices, poorer services, and fewer jobs.

ETU national secretary Allen Hicks said the majority view of union members, as well as the Australian community, has consistently been that essential services are best owned by government.

“Our union has a long, consistent, principled position against the privatisation of essential services, and it is a position that has been reaffirmed time and again by our members across Australia,” Mr Hicks said.

“In our industry, we have experienced first hand the impact of electricity network sales in Victoria and South Australia.

“The results have been bad for consumers, with price increases and service reductions. Workers have been hit with cost-cutting and job losses. Governments have also lost long-term, sustainable income streams that previously funded things like schools and hospitals.

“South Australia now has the highest electricity prices in the country as a direct result of privatisation, while in Victoria 173 people lost their lives due to lack of maintenance on the privately owned electricity network causing the horrific Victorian Bushfires.

“Perhaps worst of all, the community no longer has a recourse at the ballot box when these sorts of problems occur, because private owners only have to answer to their shareholders.
 “While some may have a vision about the benefits of ‘social privatisation’, experience around Australia tells us that selling off essential government-owned services always adversely impacts the community.”

ETU branches in NSW, Queensland and Victoria have also rejected the push.

ETU NSW secretary Steve Butler said governments should be investing in income generating assets to build national wealth, not privatising them.

“It is unbelievable that foreign governments in China and Singapore see the value in investing in infrastructure such as electricity, ports and water to build wealth for their nations, but our own governments prefer to privatise them,” he said.

“When you sell an income generating asset, whether it’s to a super fund, foreign owner or a rich individual, what you are doing is making Australia and the Australian people poorer.

“Many public assets return stable and reliable financial dividends to government that help fund schools, hospitals and transport, as well as providing an asset base against which to borrow to fund other infrastructure.”

ETU Queensland and Northern Territory secretary Peter Simpson said current assets sales being undertaken by Coalition Governments across the country were short sighted and unsustainable.

“Right now we have a raft of Liberal National Governments undertaking a privatisation agenda across NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory,” he said.

“The problem is that once these assets are sold, the government loses a valuable long term income stream, creating a future funding crisis.

“The fact is, selling off public assets is short sighted and unsustainable.”

Mr Hicks said ETU members in Victoria experienced expensive privatisation during the Kennett era and saw first-hand the destruction of an industry.

“They saw the decimation of many regional communities as a direct result of the Victorian privatisation experiment,” Mr Hicks said.

“When Jeff Kennett privatised the electricity industry in Victoria, towns like Morwell and Gippsland were destroyed. Unemployment, marriage break-ups and suicides all sky-rocketed, while local economies in regional towns were decimated, not to mention the loss of valuable trainee and apprenticeships.

“On top of this, the private owners of the Victorian electricity networks were too busy chasing profits and less interested in doing necessary maintenance, ultimately resulting in the Victorian Bushfire disaster where thousands of people lost their homes and 173 people died.

“According to our Victorian members privatisation has been a disaster, and their advice to people in other states is that you must do everything in your power to stop this from happening in your own backyard.”

Friday, October 04, 2013

Nurses: Determined To Continue Campaign for Safe Patient Care

Tuesday 1st October 2013

The O’Farrell Government thinks that by unilaterally setting the wages of public health system nurses and midwives our pay and ratios campaign is done and dusted. They couldn’t be more wrong.

“We need to maintain our resolve to keep the government honest.”

We have yet to win the whole campaign but nurses and midwives, along with other public sector workers won a significant battle last month when the New South Wales parliament voted to stop the O’Farrell Government slashing your take home pay. The ALP, the Greens and the Shooters and Fishers’ Party combined to block the Coalition’s attempt to legislate away its responsibility to pay an extra 0.25% in superannuation.

Those three parties responded to the arguments advanced by Unions NSW, the NSWNMA and other New South Wales unions and their vote reflected the support our arguments have garnered in the community.

The Shooters Party said “our expectation when we discussed (legislating the pay cap) with the government, was that 2.5% means 2.5% in [workers’] wages, in their pay packets. Not 2.25% plus a quarter of a per cent in their superannuation.”

After the vote, and not for the first time when their dictatorial impulses have been challenged, the government immediately flagged that they would move the goal posts if they could.

Treasurer Mike Baird said, “we must look at every option available, whether it be a legal appeal or whether it be taking additional savings measures to ensure we remain living within our means”.

We should look at this development within a bigger picture. The government thinks that by gutting the power of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission and legislating a cap on public sector wages – effectively by repealing many of your workplace rights – it can do whatever it wants.

Thankfully, we live in a democracy and it cannot do whatever it wants. The parliamentary block of its attempt to cut your take home pay is evidence of that.

We are in a serious struggle with the government for safer patient care and our campaign to extend and improve ratios will be a long game. We need to be patient, innovative and determined to win. It needs more than what we have done in the past because we can no longer rely as much on the machinery of industrial relations.

We can still use what industrial processes we have at our disposal to enforce our wins of the past. As things now stand the Award has been varied to pay a 2.27% wage increase. Meetings with the Ministry of Health have stopped. It is reasonable to expect that the next award pay increase is due in July 2014.

The award is still active so there is an opportunity for the government to improve and extend ratios between now and July 2014.

There are also opportunities for nurses and midwives to put pressure on the government to do the right thing. But we cannot confine our efforts to the industrial arena. We also have to fight the good fight in the political domain and in the court of public opinion.

All year we have been building that pressure with workplace activities, MP visits and paid advertising. We need to maintain that momentum, albeit strategically timed, between now and 2015.

What is crucial here is the support of the community and we must double and redouble our efforts to win the support of the public for our campaign for safer patient care through improved and extended ratios.

We need to maintain our resolve to keep the government honest. Each day that the government stonewalls is another day closer to the next state election. That makes it vulnerable if they continue to defy the support we have in the community.

We are not alone. We have allies – lots of them. The vote on superannuation shows that from time to time we have diverse allies in parliament. Our affiliation with Global Nurses United links us with nurses and midwives around the world who share our ambition for better public health systems.

And last, but certainly not least, we have the support of a public that consistently expresses its desire for a world class public health system.

Any government who ignores that community aspiration does so at its peril.

FSU: Improvements to Enterprise Agreement

Friday, 4 October 2013

Over the past few months FSU has been negotiating with Fiserv for a new enterprise agreement covering staff.

Fiserv’s initial pay offer was 6.25% including any superannuation increases over the life of the agreement.

After consulting FSU members who told us the offer was not good enough FSU went back to Fiserv who improved their offer to the following:
  • 7.25% including any superannuation increases over the life of the agreement.
  • Change in shift loadings which will see any shift starting after 8pm now be considered late night shift and it will attract a 27.5% loading.
Minimum rates have been increased

It is now time to have your say and vote on your new agreement.

The ballot for the proposed new Enterprise Agreement 2013 – 2016 will commence at 9.00am on Monday, 14 October 2013 and will conclude at 5.00pm on Tuesday, 15 October 2013.

Contact Details
Finance Sector Union of Australia
Ph: 1300 366 378

CFMEU: Abbott Government should not be negotiating our jobs away

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, should not bow to pressure to allow for easier access of Indonesian temporary labour to Australia, the CFMEU said.

Referring to Mr Abbott’s visit to Indonesia and a call from Professor Hal Hill in the Australian Financial Review, to weaken the 457 visa rules, CFMEU Construction National Secretary, Mr Noonan expressed concern that workers in Australia would lose out if the government continued down the path of allowing temporary overseas labour in without Labour Market Testing (LMT).

“We understand that the Coalition Cabinet will soon be approving the negotiating mandates for easier access to 457 visas for temporary overseas labour in all international trade negotiations.

“Mr Abbott and his government govern for all Australians and their priority should be ensuring that the citizens of this country are able to work and train for jobs before companies can bring in temporary labour from overseas,” said Mr Noonan.

“Australia is currently offering to remove Labour Market Testing (LMT) from the 457 visa for all ‘specialists’ (persons with trade, technical and professional skills) in the WTO GATS Doha Round (World Trade Organisation General Agreement on Trade in Services). This same Australian offer is believed to be on the table in the many Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) currently being negotiated with individual countries or groupings”, said Dave Noonan,  CFMEU Assistant National Secretary.

Mr Noonan said that if these offers stay on the table and are incorporated into the final trade agreements, the Australian government will have a permanent and binding international obligation to:

Not require employers to first search for and prove no suitably qualified Australian workers were available, before granting 457 visas to temporary foreign workers covered by the trade agreements.
Grant 457 visas to temporary foreign workers regardless of the number of qualified Australian workers who are available to do the work, including unemployed workers.

“Australia’s temporary visa programs should not even be on the negotiating table in trade deals – these are properly domestic policy matters for the Australian Parliament. Is the Australian government aware of what’s at stake by offering to give up its sovereign right to impose obligations on employers to employ Australian workers first?”

Mr Noonan said the Howard government made the original Doha offer to remove LMT for all ‘specialists’ in 2005, and that the Labor governments failed to withdraw the offer between 2010-13.

“This should be a bipartisan policy position. The new Coalition government now has the opportunity to reconsider and rectify this situation with an early announcement that will support Australian jobs and still allow constructive trade deals to be negotiated.”

“Now is the right time to drop this excessive offer which no other developed country has been foolish enough to make. Unemployment is rising and forecast to reach 6.25% by mid-2014, youth unemployment is dire and worsening and labour force participation is falling as more Australians drop out of the job market altogether,” Mr Noonan said.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Corporate Culture: Apprentice Underpayment

03 October, 2013 | ACTU Media Release

The widespread underpayment of apprentices revealed by the Fair Work Ombudsman demands further investigation, the ACTU said today.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the findings were shocking and showed how widespread under-payment of apprentices was.

The investigation randomly audited 142 businesses in WA, SA and the NT and found that more than half were in breach of workplace law and almost a quarter had underpaid their apprentices by a combined total of $67,180.

“Apprentices are usually the youngest and lowest-paid workers on a site. It is unforgivable for employers to exploit their vulnerability and rip them off,” Ms Kearney said.

“It is also unfair to their competitors who are paying their staff correctly.

“If these underpayments are the result of genuine mistakes, employers need to be better informed of their responsibilities; if they are deliberate then they should be punished.

“Despite the success of a union push to increase apprentice wages, they remain in many cases lower than the minimum wage, and this has led to a high drop-out rate among apprentices.

“Training apprentices is crucial for ensuring that we have enough skilled tradespeople for the future, and that our economy is not held back by skills shortages. This is not going to happen until we pay apprentices decent wages.

“Apprentices are often unaware of their entitlements or unwilling to speak up if they feel they are being underpaid. Unions have helped in many cases, but there needs to be a broader effort to ensure they are paid properly.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman investigation should be expanded to cover all states and territories, so we can get an idea of the full extent of this problem."

Apprentices are encouraged to contact their unions or the ACTU hotline.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

AFL-CIO: Don't Shut Down Our Country.

Greece: Neo Nazis Arrested

According to Greek media reports, several police officers thought to have had links to Golden Dawn were suspended ahead of the operation to prevent them potentially tipping off the targets.

Police also arrested one of their own colleagues who was reportedly working as a bodyguard for the party, during a raid on its offices in the western town of Agrinio a week ago.

After the raid on Mr Michaloliakos's home, police said they had found three pistols, ammunition and thousands of euros in cash.

The crackdown has was sparked by outrage at the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssas, 34, whose stage name was Killah P.

George Roupakias, 45, who said he was a supporter of Golden Dawn, was arrested in connection with the killing.

On Friday, Golden Dawn - which won nearly 7% of the vote in 2012 elections - threatened to pull its 18 MPs out of the 300-strong parliament.

The governing coalition headed by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, which has 155 seats, would then face by-elections.

Speaking on a visit to the US on Monday, Mr Samaras vowed to eradicate the "shame of neo-Nazism".

In recent months, Golden Dawn has been accused of perpetrating attacks on migrants and political opponents.

Golden Dawn officially denies being a neo-Nazi movement, though its badge resembles a swastika, and some senior members have praised Adolf Hitler.

TAFE: Lessons from Victoria

In a 2008 paper, Per Capita called for a new market design in vocational training based on contestability (Cooney, 2008). Now, five years on, we evaluate the experience of contestability in Victoria against its original objectives.

The ‘uncapping’ of the market has led to a bubble which has resulted in a $300m p.a. blow-out in public spending on VET. This type of bubble is common in sectors where public funds are newly made available to private providers – employment services and household solar energy systems are two recent examples. A related feature of such bubbles is that new entrants offer variable quality. In the case of VET, employer groups report falling confidence in the quality of skills delivered by the training system.

The response of the Victorian Government to the blow-out has been to cut back annual spending by around $300m; these cuts have fallen largely on TAFEs, the traditional public training providers. We believe this is a detrimental step as it undermines TAFEs’ ability to deliver their statutory community service obligations which assist disadvantaged and disabled students. In addition, it weakens the financial viability of TAFEs, which is particularly concerning in thin regional markets poorly serviced by private training providers.

Taken together, this is an unacceptable state of affairs. For the economic and social health of Australia, it is critical that we get this system of human capital investment right. While it is commendable that supply has increased and government has reined in overspending, Australia cannot afford to settle for declining quality in its training sector and the dilution of the distinctive community services offered by TAFEs.

To address this situation, this report proposes four principles that should underpin the next stage in the market design of the VET sector in Victoria.

First, we recommend the retention of uncapped public subsidies in skills shortage areas only. Capping should be returned in other areas.

Secondly, we call for a streamlined subsidy structure which removes the extraordinary complexity of the current regime and delivers the highest subsidy to skills shortage areas courses.

Thirdly, we demand the reinstatement of dedicated public funding to TAFEs to allow them to deliver their community service obligations. This could be paid for by tightening eligibility for Recognition of Prior Learning programs and foundational courses.

Finally, we call for an independent Ombudsman to oversee the regulation of the sector. This role would replace the current undesirable structure in which government acts as purchaser, provider and regulator.

We are confident these principles offer a sustainable, high quality future for the VET sector, both in Victoria and in the other states currently redesigning their training provision. Australian trainees and their employers deserve nothing less.

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Julia Gillard Breaks Her Silence ...

NSW: Gladstone Entertainment Centre: Closed for Safety

The Gladstone Entertainment Centre project has shut down as a dodgy worksite after a random check revealed safety problems.

The check on Friday morning found people working on the roof with no fall protection, materials lying on the roof unfastened, out-of-date powerboards and unconnected toilets being used.

The union reps said the conditions were "atrocious" and "primitive" at the $35 million development site. They were told rectification works would begin on Saturday before work could restart.

Plumbers Union acting secretary Gary O'Halloran said if the business was taking safety seriously, unions wouldn't have to be correcting them.

"These builders need to take some respect for the safety of the people on site," he said.

"They just seem to turn a blind eye - we know it's coming to an end, so there's a rush on, but they've got a lot to answer for."

Construction company ADCO refused to comment and Gladstone Regional Council could not be contacted.

CFMEU: Yallourn 100 Day Lockout Ends

Operators at Energy Australia’s Yallourn power station have today voted to accept a workplace agreement that boosts pay and job security and gets them back to work after a record 100-day lockout, the CFMEU said.

The 75 operators will go back to work on Monday.

The agreement addresses workers’ concerns I ncluding job security and staffing levels, said CFMEU National President Tony Maher.“This is a great outcome for the workers, who were determined to stand up for fair conditions at Yallourn,” said Mr Maher.

“They and their families are delighted to have this dispute resolved so they can get back to work.

“But it should never have come to this. These workers have been locked out of their workplace for 100 days in the longest ever lockout in the power industry.

“The lockout was an overreaction from the company to a set of reasonable demands from its workforce. It has made the road to a fair deal much longer and more painful than it needed to be.

“The CFMEU is enormously proud of its members at Yallourn, who have held together in very tough circumstances.”

Key elements of the offer accepted by workers:

  • Four-year term
  • Job security clause providing that no employee can be made redundant in order to be replaced by a contractor
  • Guaranteed minimum staffing level of 73 operators
  • Comprehensive dispute settlement clause
  • 22.5% wage increase over four years

Labor Leadership Debate: No to ABCC

Labor's leadership contenders have embraced the party's links with the trade union movement and vowed to oppose Coalition government legislation to reintroduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), the Howard Government court opposed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese, who are facing off in a leadership ballot decided in equal part by their parliamentary colleagues and ALP grassroots members, both told a party forum at their second debate on Friday in Melbourne that they would oppose the Coalition's push to reintroduce the ABCC. They defended Labor's links with the unions.

"If you have no unions you have no Labor party," Albanese said, but advocated party processes that empowered union members rather than just leaders and officials.

The Coalition has pledged to restore the ABCC, which was abolished by the Gillard government.

"I am opposed to any law that says this worker will be treated differently to another worker, any law that attempts to force a worker to give evidence against another without any due process," Albanese said in response to a question from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union to the two contenders.

Shorten responded that if he was leader he would oppose the resurrection of the ABCC, and if it was re-established he would abolish it again if he came to power.

"Construction workers do not need a separate system of laws from other Australian workers," he said.

"Construction workers … you are a constructive bunch … you earn your money. I don't mind workers getting penalty rates … I will stand beside you."