Thursday, October 30, 2014

ACTU's Tim Lyons criticises royal commission into trade unions

The royal commission into trade unions has failed to deliver the federal government's "sword that will cut both ways" and has treated suggestions of corporate misbehaviour with "incredulity", the peak union organisation says.

In a speech to the Chifley Research Centre on Wednesday night, Australian Council of Trade Unions assistant secretary Tim Lyons said the royal commission's focus on industry superannuation seemed to be based on an assumption that there was conflict in union involvement in such funds.

He said questions asked in the commission also appeared to be suggest that union involvement in bargaining should be restricted.

He said the inquiry into superannuation was "nothing more than an old fight in a new ring".

"The focus on industry superannuation - and the bargaining that delivers superannuation outcomes for workers - is consistent with the longstanding antipathy of the Liberal side of politics," Mr Lyons said.

"It reminds me of the views expressed by then Opposition Leader John Howard, who in a parliamentary debate around superannuation payable under the Accord, called industry superannuation a Chicago-style protection racket."

Mr Lyons also questioned the federal government's promise that the royal commission would be a "sword that will cut both ways".

"There has been evidence concerning the involvement of firms run by persons with very serious criminal records in the construction industry," he said.

"Some of these firms appeal to "phoenix" as a standard mode of operation.

"These firms are sub-contractors on projects run by much larger firms, and in some cases major publicly listed firms.

"And yet no investigation appears to have been mounted as to why and how the head contractors allow such subbies to gain and maintain work on their jobs."

Suggestions of corporate misbehaviour, according to Mr Lyons, "have been treated with incredulity or as irrelevant to the terms of reference, and the evidence not received".

The commission's questioning of employers who had contributed to training funds and who had signed up to industry superannuation funds assumed they were "rolling over in the face of an illegitimate exercise of power.

"But it is not wrongdoing. It is not corruption. It is bargaining," Mr Lyons said.

The commission has conducted 57 public hearings and 14 private hearings involving more than 200 witnesses in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane. It has focused on the activities of officials associated with organisations including the Australian Workers Union, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the Health Services Union and the Transport Workers' Union.

Commissioner Dyson Heydon will deliver his interim report to the Governor-General on December 15.

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ACTU: Senators pledge to reject Govt's redundancy cuts

30 October, 2014 | Media Release

Australian Unions have enthusiastically welcomed today’s commitment by the cross bench Senators to vote against the Abbott Government’s unfair changes to the Fair Entitlements Guarantee.

A delegation of workers who have recently been made redundant, accompanied by officials from the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) and the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) met with crossbench Senators in Canberra on Tuesday.

The workers told Senators about the importance of FEG in helping them survive being out of work. Some workers said they would have lost their homes without support from the FEG scheme.

“The Coalition broke an explicit election promise when they tried to reduce protections for workers who entitlements are threatened by company insolvency.  Workers are reassured that Senators from Labor, the Greens, Independents and Palmer United Party have all promised to bury and cremate the governments bizarre attack upon vulnerable working people,” AMWU Victorian Secretary Steve Dargavel said.

Senators Ricky Muir, John Madigan, Nick Xenophon, Glenn Lazarus and Dio Wang and MP Clive Palmer have committed to rejecting the FEG changes. The Palmer United Party have confirmed they now have a party position to oppose the changes. Labor, the Greens and Cathy McGowan are also opposed to the FEG amendments which would cut redundancy payments to a maximum of 16weeks.

TCFUA National Secretary Michele O'Neil said: “This is an important decision by the Senators and PUP because it shows they are prepared to stand up for working people facing hardship."

"The Government’s plans target the victims of corporate collapse by slashing FEG payments and the Senators have rejected this bad and heartless policy."

FEG is a vital safety net for workers left high and dry when companies they work for crash, leaving no money to pay owed entitlements. Under FEG,  the Federal Government provides employees with money for some unpaid wages, accrued annual leave, leave loading, long-service leave, and redundancy payments based on their years of service.

Unions are calling on the government to instead take action against unscrupulous business operators who avoid paying debts and employee entitlements.

“Workers and their families will be looking to the cross bench to continue to stick with them and vote against the Abbott Government’s anti-worker agenda,” ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said.

“Workers can’t afford Tony Abbott’s plans to cut their wages, conditions and redundancy payments.

“We know that the Abbott Government is determined to deliver what business and employers want, and swing the pendulum back to them.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

ACTU: Unions push for the right to domestic violence leave

28 October, 2014 | Media Release

Unions are pushing to give millions of Australian workers the right to access domestic violence leave.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said paid domestic violence leave is designed to support victims of domestic violence and help them to keep their job.

“Having a job is critical if women are to leave a violent relationship. Domestic violence is not - and should not - be a private matter that is dealt with behind closed doors.” Ms Kearney said.

The ACTU is making a claim to the Fair Work Commission for 10 days paid domestic violence leave for permanent staff and 10 days unpaid leave for casuals to be included in all Awards.

Ms Kearney said one in three Australian women experience physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner.

“It is a systemic issue involving a wide range of social, economic and cultural factors that must be addressed in the public sphere – including workplaces,” Ms Kearney said.

“Having access to domestic violence leave means victims have time to attend court appearances and related appointments, seek legal advice and make relocation arrangements.

“Evidence shows having an income gives women choice, stops them becoming trapped and isolated in violent and abusive relationships, and enables them to care for their children and provide them with a safe home environment.”

ABS figures show that two thirds of the 400,000 plus people who experience domestic violence each year are in paid employment.

“Paid domestic violence leave recognises that employees experiencing domestic violence often have a history of broken employment, are in casual and part-time jobs and can least afford to take unpaid leave at a time when financial security is critical,” said Ms Kearney.

The ACTU claim also includes the right to request a change in working arrangements, such as start and finish times.

“Stalking is one of the risk factors that can lead to a domestic violence victim being killed, and almost all women with violent partners who stalk them also experience harassment at their workplace,” said Ms Kearney.

“Providing flexibility around working hours will help make the workplace safer for everyone.”

Over 1.6 million employees now have access to paid domestic violence leave in union negotiated workplace agreements.

Ms Kearney said extending this to all modern awards will provide a safety net for millions of workers.

The ACTU claim for domestic violence leave will be lodged in the Fair Work Commission on Tuesday, 28 October as part of the review of Modern Awards currently underway.

Going Viral - Social Media and Journalism

Monday, October 27, 2014

Nurses: Support a tiny levy to secure public health – bring the Robin Hood tax to Australia

Monday 27th October 2014
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) has travelled to the nation’s capital to launch a public awareness campaign and garner support from Federal MPs and Senators for the introduction of a Robin Hood tax (or financial transactions tax) in Australia.
Representing more than 59,000 nursing and midwifery professionals, the NSWNMA strongly supports the need for tax reform in Australia to properly fund quality public health and aged care services.
General Secretary of the NSWNMA, Brett Holmes, said members held growing concerns for the future of essential public services and were calling on the Commonwealth to consider an alternative source of revenue to address the issue.
“Recently, we’ve had prominent Australian economists identify a revenue problem in our economy rather than a so-called budget emergency,” Mr Holmes said.
“Instead of shifting our public health services further down the track of an Americanised, two-tier health system, a Robin Hood tax would help fund the continued delivery of equitable universal public healthcare for all Australians.”
Mr Holmes said the NSWNMA was advocating the implementation of a modest levy, between
0.005 and 0.05 per cent, on the trading of financial instruments such as stocks, bonds, derivatives, futures, options and credit default swaps. This would not impact significantly on ordinary Australians’ personal savings or everyday consumer activity such as paying bills online or using ATMs. Instead, the levy would target finance companies engaging in financial transactions at high speed and frequency.
“Given the turnover of our financial system in 2013-14 was $125 trillion, there is a large proportion of revenue to be levied from a Robin Hood tax, depending on its size and the exclusions,” Mr Holmes said.
“Importantly, it could be implemented in a way that ensures low and middle income Australians are shielded from any adverse impact, no matter how small, through other taxation changes.”
Financial transactions taxes (FTT) are continuing to gain political momentum globally. Earlier this year, the European Commission reached agreement over an Accord, to enable the implementation of a specific European Union FTT within eleven member states, from 1 January 2016.
Mr Holmes said it was time for Australia to contribute constructively to international discussions regarding an effective FTT.
“As host of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Brisbane next month, Australian representatives have a perfect opportunity to engage with European G20 members on the merits of a FTT to help inform consultations domestically,” said Mr Holmes.
As part of a public awareness campaign, members of the NSWNMA will embark on a road tour to the G20, encouraging residents and community groups to support tax justice and bring the Robin Hood tax to Australia.
Next Monday (3 November), the NSWNMA group will begin to travel up the east coast from Wollongong, stopping in Parramatta, Gosford, Newcastle, Tamworth, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and Lismore, before crossing the border at Tweed Heads.
Community meetings will be held at local venues along the way, before the road tour continues north to the Gold Coast, where it will meet with members of the Queensland Nurses Union as well as representatives of the peak body, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.
In addition, the road tour will be joined by members of Global Nurses United, representing nursing and midwifery unions from 14 nations, as well as Public Services International (PSI), a global trade union federation whose members deliver public services such as healthcare.
More details of the campaign can be found at Tax Justice.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

AMWU: Whitlam: a legacy to cherish, defend and advance

Oct 23, 2014

The AMWU’s leadership have joined the voices across the labour movement to honour the life and legacy of the great Gough Whitlam, the dynamic Prime Minister who from 1972 to 1975 led Australia into the modern world.

National President Andrew Dettmer and National Secretary Paul Bastian paid tribute to Mr Whitlam, who died this week.

Mr Bastian:
 “There’s sadness with the passing of a Labor icon, whose great reforms are still with us, part of us.
Whitlam brought in so many things that changed Australia forever for the better, how we view ourselves and our place in the world. He had what conservatives have always lacked, a grand vision and a program so Australians all have the opportunity to reach our potential.

His government introduced universal health care, needs-based education to give a fair funding to all schools, higher education for all. Those big ticket items have outlived Whitlam, but they are under attack from conservative forces which opposed them at the time. We must and will defend them.
There’s Aboriginal  land rights, no-fault divorce, ending the death penalty. Whitlam acted on equality for women. He pioneered our relationship with China, took us out of the Vietnam War.

He ended military conscription and lowered the voting age to 18 so no one could ever again be sent off to be killed in a war without a say on whether you go there in the first place.
Anyone old enough will always remember the day Australian democracy was shattered, November 11, 1975. I, like tens of thousands around the country, took to the streets.  Nearly  all of us working on the Sydney waterfront converged on mass at Circular Quay.

The philosopher William James once said: ‘the greatest use of life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.’ Gough Whitlam -  a life well spent.”

Mr Dettmer:
“Gough Whitlam transformed Australia, for the better. His far-sighted views on what Australia could be informed his vision of this country.

Before Whitlam, we always had to take a back seat to forces outside our control: the economy, the budget, the [Vietnam] war, the threat of communism, British or American interests. Whitlam made it OK to question that, he gave us hope. Many Australians realised that hope by making their ways in industry, the arts, politics and education.

If not for Gough, many of my generation would never have received a university education. He opened up the universities to talent regardless of income or class.

Gough had his differences with unions. But he always paid appropriate respect to the collective power and wisdom of workers, and their representatives. He freed up the capacity of workers by making it affordable to get a trade, a diploma or a degree.

Gough developed our cities, with basic things like sewerage and train lines.  He made health care free.  He recognised China and struck an independent foreign policy, so finally we emerged as a player in our own region in our own right, rather than only  an ally of Britain or the US.

Gough was the last Labor PM to refer to himself proudly as a socialist. He believed that by strengthening public ownership of assets that we could have a properly mixed economy, not one subject to the whims of capital or the ravages of an unregulated market.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

ACTU: James Hardie trying to shirk responsibility for the deaths of asbestos victims

22 October, 2014 | Media Release

Unions have been left with little confidence James Hardie will honour its responsibility to compensate asbestos victims following a meeting with the company this week.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver met senior management on Monday to discuss concerns about a shortfall in the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund set up to pay out claims to asbestos sufferers.

Mr Oliver said James Hardie management is seeking to rely on the draw down facility in the fund that was agreed to by previous state and federal governments to cover shortfalls in the fund.

“James Hardie needs to recognise that the assumptions used to set up the compensation fund may no longer be adequate – the sad reality is that more people are dying and at a much younger age than was predicted,” Mr Oliver said.

“Tax payers should not be forced to foot the bill. I am deeply disappointed that James Hardie’s management were rigid and not prepared to be flexible.

“The fact of the matter is James Hardie has a moral obligation to compensate the victims of asbestos-related disease and cannot transfer that responsibility.”

Unions are calling on James Hardie to resolve the fund shortfall to ensure asbestos victims receive lump sum payments - not instalments.

Mr Oliver said comments by James Hardie’s senior staff about this issue were insulting and dismissive of asbestos victims who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

“James Hardie made it quite clear that they believe paying compensation to asbestos sufferers in instalments is an appropriate solution to the shortfall, with a representative stating people want an upfront payment because they “want a trip to Vegas”.

“For James Hardie to trivialize the needless deaths of thousands of Australians with such a comment is disgraceful.”

Mr Oliver said the average mesothelioma victim dies within 155 days of diagnosis.

“Asbestos victims do not die by instalments and should not be paid in instalments.”

Mr Oliver said both the Commonwealth and NSW Governments have also cast doubt over their intention to support use of the compensation fund’s loan draw down facility.

“Dying asbestos victims don’t have the luxury of time so if James Hardie shirks its responsibility to compensate victims then the government must be prepared to step in.

“I will be meeting the NSW Government to discuss the issue further however I am deeply disappointed to have received no response from the Prime Minister Tony Abbott on this matter.”

Whitlam Government Achievements

WARNING: This page may contain the names and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are now deceased.

The Whitlam Government brought about a vast range of reforms in the 1071 days it held office 
between December 5, 1972 and November 11, 1975. In its first year alone, it passed 203 
bills - more legislation than any other federal government had passed in a single year. 
Whitlam reformed not only Australia's laws and institutions, but the way it sees itself. 

This online exhibition provides a chance to explore some of the achievements and reforms 
enacted by Prime Minister Whitlam and the government he led. Click on any of the icons 
below to explore that policy area in greater depth.
Healthcare and social security Education Indigenous Australians 
Foreign affairs and immigration Women and social reforms The economy 
Environment culture and heritage Cities Defence 
Democratic freedoms, human rights and the law National Symbols Whitlam Ministers 

ACTU: Unions pay tribute to one of Australia’s greatest leaders

21 October, 2014 | Media Release

The Australian Union movement today pays tribute to the great Labor leader and bold reformer Gough Whitlam AC QC.

"Gough Whitlam was a once in a generation leader", ACTU President Ged Kearney said.

“His commitment to equality and opportunity, driven by a vision for a greater Australia helped shape the society we live in today.

"Gough Whitlam sensed that Australians wanted something different and he harnessed that and ushered in a period of great social, cultural and economic change in Australia.

"He paved the way for a new era of modern progressive policies that had an enormous impact on the lives of millions of Australians.

“The first national health insurance system, universal education, a commitment to a multicultural Australia, the Racial Discrimination Act and the first steps towards reconciliation with Indigenous Australians were all driven by Gough Whitlam.

"From recognising China's significance to our region through to recognising equality for women and the first peoples Gough had courage in his convictions and the ability to make them happen."

Ms Kearney said Australians will always remember the terrific partnership of Gough and Margaret Whitlam.

"Gough and Margaret were a terrific team and together they made an enormous difference to generations of Australians.”

Ms Kearney said that as a nation we can be proud of what Gough Whitlam achieved in three short years as Prime Minister but also for what he contributed to our nation over a lifetime.

"Gough Whitlam's legacy is one of a fairer and more just society and it is our responsibility to instil this in generations of Australians to come."

Corporate Culture: Ausgrid Prepares To Offshore Jobs

Publicly owned electricity distribution business Ausgrid is proposing to send 37 IT jobs offshore as unions step up a campaign to protect their workers'  job security.

The United Services Union said Ausgrid management believes it can save $8.5 million a year by outsourcing the jobs to an overseas company.

Ausgrid employs more than 270 staff in its Information and Communications Technology division. This includes labour hire and senior contract roles.

The offshoring comes as negotiations begin for a new enterprise agreement for Ausgrid.

Unions are fighting for the inclusion of job protection clauses that would prevent the offshoring of jobs, restrict the outsourcing of work, and protect staff from forced redundancies.

USU energy manager Scott McNamara said an internal review had found $2 million could be saved while retaining the services within the company, and $3.5 million could be saved by outsourcing the services to an Australian company.

"Ausgrid employees are deeply concerned by the potential loss of jobs and outsourcing of essential support services," Mr McNamara said.
"For the sake of a few million dollars, Ausgrid management want to send the jobs of 37 loyal staff. 
"Not only will they lose the experience and skills of these loyal staff, but service standards will likely drop as work is carried out by external companies in other parts of the world."

Scott McNamara said the move would not help consumers.

"Networks NSW is driving cost cutting across the business, fattening up the network businesses for NSW Premier Mike Baird's power privatisation," he said.
"If electricity network companies are already looking to cut jobs and send positions overseas, it's no wonder that staff fear massive job cuts from privatisation, which is what happened in Victoria when an overseas buyer took control of the electricity network."

Read more:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gough Whitlam dies at the age of 98 (11 July 1916 – 21 October 2014)

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in China 1973
Indigenous leaders in the Northern Territory have paid tribute to Gough Whitlam, describing him as a champion of land rights.

In 1975 Mr Whitlam handed the Wave Hill cattle station, 800 kilometres south of Darwin, back to traditional owners. During the ceremony, Mr Whitlam famously poured soil into the hands of Gurindji activist leader, the late Vincent Lingiari

Vincent Lingiari and Gough Whitlam - Wave Hill 1975
Mr Lingiari's grandson Maurie Japarta Ryan said that moment marked a seminal point in Indigenous land rights. "It was enormous, it's like the equivalent to Armstrong walking on the moon. It was a giant step for him to do that on behalf of the Australian people," he said.

Mr Ryan says the Gurindji people called Mr Whitlam "Judgadi", which means "big man".
"He was well-respected by our people and all those that he came in contact with when he handed soil back to my grandfather, the late Vincent Lingiari," he said.

Flags at the Northern Land Council (NLC) flew at half mast today to honour the former prime minister. Council chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi said Mr Whitlam was a great friend of the land council and his passing was being mourned.

"Mr Whitlam was a great champion of the rights of Australia's Indigenous peoples," Mr Bush-Blanasi said.Despite spending less than three years in office before being sensationally dismissed by the governor-general, Sir John Kerr, the Whitlam government enacted a series of reforms, including the extension of publicly funded health care (through Medibank, now Medicare) and higher education, a raft of changes in social, Indigenous and arts policy, and the establishment of diplomatic relations with China. His government’s legacy continues to be felt today four decades after it lost office.

Margaret McKenzie, Lecturer, School of Accounting, Economics and Finance at Deakin University

The Whitlam government was more broadly globalist in its economic approach than previous governments, which had served to protect the traditional interests of largely British company subsidiaries, and of agriculture. It had a big task, being faced by the oil crisis of the mid-1970s. The oil price increased around fourfold in nominal terms between 1972 and 1977 (around threefold adjusted for inflation), at a time that inflation doubled from 10% to 20%.

Whitlam’s role in the development of the modern Australian economy is fundamental. Policy direction was shifted towards freeing up both trade and international capital movements. The Whitlam government moved away from the more Eurocentric perspectives of previous governments and recognised that Australia was a part of the Asia-Pacific region. It opened up cultural and educational links with China and Indonesia that were the precursor to economic ties.

Veronica Sheen, Research Associate, School of Social Sciences at Monash University

One of the most outstanding achievements of the Whitlam government was the introduction of the supporting mother’s benefit in 1973 (now called parenting payment). Prior to 1973, only widows were entitled to pension payments, so other women who were raising children alone faced invidious choices, often involving a traumatic relinquishment of the child for adoption or having to work long hours to support her family, which was not an option for many women.

The pension payment gave single mothers (and, in 1977, also fathers) choices and options around the raising of their children, enabling a focus on full-time care for babies and small children and a balance between work and care when the children were older. It was an immensely important initiative in removing old stigmas around single mothers.

Ian Lowe, Emeritus Professor, School of Science at Griffith University

Gough Whitlam will be remembered for passing Australia’s first environmental legislation, the Environmental Assessment (Impact of Proposals) Act; for appointing our first national Minister for the Environment (Moss Cass); and for setting up the inquiry into the environmental impacts of the proposed Ranger uranium mine.

That inquiry broadened into a general consideration of Australia’s role in the uranium industry generally, leading to the conclusion in the 1976 report that it is problematic to export uranium while the problems of weapons proliferation and waste management remain unresolved.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Nurses and midwives threaten legal action over unjust laws

Monday 20th October 2014

The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) is preparing for a possible High Court challenge against the NSW Government over amendments to the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 that impede the effectiveness of third-party campaigners to participate freely in political discourse.

Following the introduction of amendment bills by Premier Mike Baird last Tuesday afternoon (14 October), the Council of the NSWNMA discussed the implications of the proposed laws and unanimously passed a resolution* to fight against it.

General Secretary of the NSWNMA, Brett Holmes, said Council viewed the amendment bills as a deliberate attempt to shut down third-party campaigners and to prevent NSW constituents from being fully informed about public policy issues ahead of the general election in March 2015.

“The Baird Government wants to rush through these amendments under the guise of improved ‘transparency and accountability’ of election funding, however, their real purpose is to increase public funding for political parties and restrict third-party campaigners from collectively organising,” Mr Holmes said.

“The amendment to slash electoral communication expenditure caps on registered third-party campaigners by 78.57% (from $1,166,660 to $250,000) is a knee-jerk attempt to silence third parties, as well as hard-working voters who want to exercise their rights in free political communication.

“Premier Baird appears quite happy to increase the financial returns for political parties and candidates involved in an election – at taxpayers’ expense – but wants to deny those same taxpayers the ability to access information from a variety of sources to make informed choices.

“It’s clear these amendments are an attempt to impede the rights of membership-based organisations from participating in and responding to debate on public policies.  It’s a further restriction on the rights of third parties to advocate on issues relevant to their core purposes.”

Mr Holmes said the amendment bills were a rushed, knee jerk reaction by the Baird Government, designed to deliver itself a mandate to privatise the State’s public services.

In a letter to Premier Baird, dated 9 October 2014, Chair of the expert panel overseeing the Interim Report into political donations, Kerry Schott, lauded the panel’s Terms of Reference to pursue long term legislative reform, not knee jerk tinkering with the existing laws.  The Interim Report, however, is silent on analysis or recommendations regarding third-party electoral expenditure caps.

The NSWNMA reiterated its view that third-party expenditure caps undermined democracy and disproportionately excluded involvement in political discourse.

Notwithstanding the efforts to increase penalties for anyone rorting the system, the NSWNMA confirmed that it opposes the amendment bill with regard to electoral communication expenditure caps on third-party campaigners and calls on the Opposition and crossbenchers within the NSW Legislative Council to reject the bill as it stands.

*See below a copy of the resolution passed by the Council of the NSWNMA:

The Council of the New South Wales Nurses and Midwives’ Association authorises the General Secretary to engage Holding Redlich – Lawyers for urgent advice on the Election  Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Amendment Bill 2014, to consider launching a constitutional challenge to the Bill should it be enacted by the NSW Parliament.

Council is concerned that provisions of the Bill are illegal as they impede the rights of free political communication under the Australian Constitution.

Further, Council instructs the General Secretary to write to the NSW Premier seeking that should the Bill be passed into law, it will not be commenced until its constitutional validity is determined.

Download this media release: Nurses and midwives threaten legal action of unjust laws

Safe Work Aus: Top Five Deadliest Jobs in Australia

Truckies, posties and warehouse workers  top the list of Australia's deadliest jobs, according to new research. The transport and storage industry recorded the highest number of deaths, with 65 workers killed on the job in 2012, comparison website Life Insurance Finder found. Transport and storage workers accounted for nearly one-third of all workplace deaths that year.

Agriculture, forestry and fishing is Australia's second-most dangerous line of work, with 53 deaths in 2012. Workers in this industry are more likely to die from being hit by an animal, drowning and heat exposure than any other industry on the top 10 list, the research found.

Finder spokeswoman Michelle Hutchison said vehicle collisions caused most fatalities, with one in three workplace deaths occurring on the road.

Muscular stress while lifting, carrying or putting down objects was the most common cause of serious injury across all industries.

"Many Australian workers have to drive vehicles or lift things as part of their job and they may not realise how dangerous their work can be," she said.

Construction workers have the third-most dangerous job, with 30 fatalities in 2012. Falling from a height was the most common cause of death, accounting for 40 per cent of construction deaths.

Manufacturing – Australia's fourth-deadliest industry – also had the highest rate of injury, with 16,670 or 1.8 per cent of workers injured in 2012, according to the research.

Ms Hutchison said many people would be surprised to find retail trade was Australia's seventh-most dangerous line of work.

"You may not think that a sales assistant has a dangerous job," she said. However, retail trade workers sustained more than 11,000 serious injuries and six fatalities in 2012.

Driving, explosions, contact with chemicals and being trapped between objects were the most common causes of death for retail workers.

Transport Workers Union assistant national secretary Michael Kaine said the union had been campaigning for a safer road transport industry for more than 20 years.

"Road transport workers are 15 times more likely to be killed at work than any other worker in Australia," he said.

Other jobs on the list included public administration, safety and defence (13 deaths, 5330 injuries); mining (seven deaths, 2670 injuries); professional, scientific and technical services (six deaths, 2100 injuries); wholesale trade (five deaths, 5315 injuries); and utilities (five deaths, 530 injuries).
The list ranks jobs based on the number of deaths in 2012. The research defines a serious injury as resulting in an absence from work of one week or more.

Read more:

Climate change forcing rethink on fire risk, RFS chief Shane Fitzsimmons says

Climate change is having an impact on every level of fire management, the New South Wales rural fire chief has said on the first anniversary of the Blue Mountains bushfires.

The NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said with more days of high fire danger, there is now a shrinking window of opportunity to carry out back-burning and other hazard reduction.

"If our window of opportunity continues to shrink, in order to get those really important pre-season activities underway then, yes, there's a broader argument that needs to be had around matters of climate change and its effect on fire management and fire seasons," he said.

Last year, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that senior UN official Christiana Figueres was "talking through her hat" when she said there was a clear link between climate change and the sort of bushfires seen in NSW.

Despite those comments, Commissioner Fitzsimmons said he was satisfied that climate change was being taken seriously enough at every level of government when it came to its impact on bushfires.

"Oh, absolutely, right across our industry, it is very much factoring into strategy, into resourcing, into policy development," he said.

I think one of the real challenges we've got across this great country (is) we're now living and populating where fires naturally burnt in decades and centuries past."

"I'm not aware of anyone that is ignoring the fact that climate is having an effect on fire management and the natural disasters landscape as a matter of fact, whether it's here locally in NSW or at our national agenda."

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said while there had been bushfires throughout Australia's history, the spread of population meant they were now having more of an effect on humans.

"I think one of the real challenges we've got across this great country (is) we're now living and populating where fires naturally burnt in decades and centuries past," he said.

"So there's no doubt fires are becoming more impactful upon communities. Fires don't have to burn very long today before they're starting to impact on somebody or something."

Many living close to the bush 'in denial'

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said that coupled with the outlook for more days of extreme weather, the RFS was facing what he called "a bad legacy situation" with more than 1.2 million homes in NSW built on the edge of bushland.

"If we had our time again we wouldn't have built half of the homes in the way that we have or in the location we have if we were considering bushfire (risk) properly. There's no doubt about that," he said.

Fighting fire with fire

702 ABC Sydney's John Donegan captured the efforts of firefighters back-burning during the Blue Mountains blaze.
"Yes, it's great to live in bushland areas; it's one of the beautiful characteristics of this great state.

"But what we've got to do is be realistic about our vulnerability and therefore our responsibility to take action in relation to improving the survivability of our homes and the survivability of our loved ones when it comes to contemplating risk from fire."

The commissioner said the experience of last October's bushfires showed that many householders living close to the bush were in denial.

"Sadly we found most people recognise they live in at risk areas (but) too many people don't seem to personalise that risk and genuinely appreciate that that includes them and their home," he said.

He said the RFS was prepared to make tough decision when it comes to rebuilding in parts of the Blue Mountains destroyed in last year's bushfires.

"We have the provision now where we won't allow sub-divisions," he said.

"We will not allow construction of homes if the risk cannot be ameliorated effectively.

"So nothing can be fireproof in the true sense but what we do have is very strict controls around planning and development."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Leunig : if you see something ...

Corporate Culture: BHP Excercises Muscle Against Mesothelioma Ruling

A Cessnock man awarded a record $2.2million payout for mesothelioma is stunned that BHP Billiton is appealing the verdict.

Steven Dunning, 54, won the settlement in July after Judge William Kearns of the Dust Diseases Tribunal described the case as "one of the worst cases of mesothelioma" he had seen.

At the time, Slater & Gordon lawyer Joanne Wade said she expected BHP Billiton to appeal the decision.

She said it had settled the rest of its Newcastle steelworks cases out of court but had fought Mr Dunning every step of the way.

In a statement on Friday, BHP Billiton said: "After careful consideration of the judgment, the company has concluded that the findings and application of legal principles made by the trial judge are such that review by the NSW Court of Appeal is warranted.

"As the matter is now before the court, it is not appropriate for any party to comment further."

Mr Dunning's wife, Roma Dunning, said on Friday that she and her husband were dismayed at the company’s "heartless" decision to keep fighting the case.

"Steven hasn’t seen a cent yet after four years of fighting,’’ Ms Dunning said.

"Three weeks after Steven’s verdict, BHP announced a profit for the year of $15billion.

"That’s $15,000million in one year. My Stephen was awarded $2.2million for their steelworks cancer and they don’t want to give him anything.

‘‘He has terminal mesothelioma. He is incredibly short of breath, he is on medication for pain and depression.

‘‘Every morning he gets out of bed and he vomits. He’s a grandfather to one little girl but he won’t see that girl grow up.’’

Ms Dunning said she hoped the appeal would fail but if BHP succeeded she expected Slater & Gordon would seek leave to appeal to the High Court of Australia.

Ms Wade said on Friday that BHP Billiton’s disappointing decision to appeal reflected its lack of compassion towards Mr Dunning.

"We think this appeal is baseless, but BHP has a right to exercise its financial muscle – and it has," Ms Wade said.

‘‘It has argued every available legal point for the duration of this case and it now continues to do so.

"It is not fair that Mr Dunning and his family are still caught up in this legal battle which has lasted for four years."

Tasmania: Nurses Blame Budget Cuts for Sickening Work Conditions

Nurses union blames budget cuts and red tape for record numbers of double shifts. Tasmanian nurses claim working a 17-hour shift to cover roster shortages is becoming increasingly common.

The Nursing and Midwifery Federation's spokeswoman Neroli Ellis said a record 288 so-called double shifts were worked at the Royal Hobart Hospital last month.

She estimated more than 500 17-hour shifts were worked across Tasmania in September, the highest number on record.

Research suggests working for 17 hours with minimal breaks equates to having a blood alcohol reading of 0.07.

Ms Ellis said overtired nurses are making mistakes.

"A nurse working a double shift will work a late shift - so starting at two o'clock in the afternoon, and then be required to work right through to eight o'clock the next morning with very few breaks in that period of time," she said.

"It's dangerous to be providing patient care with that sort of level of tiredness."

What we want the Government to do is make sure that we employ enough nurses to fill the rosters.
Neroli Ellis Nursing and Midwifery Association

She said the long hours led to hefty overtime bills which was a waste of taxpayers' money.

"There's 124 nurses in Tasmania looking for work, so we do know that there's nurses out there," she said.

"What we want the Government to do is make sure that we employ enough nurses to fill the rosters."

Ms Ellis said nurses have been pushing for changes to hiring paperwork processes to make them more efficient.

"We've raised for years now the HR system - it requires 17 signatures to put one nurse on in a permanent position, and that usually takes three months, and during that whole time the roster is vacant," Ms Ellis said.

Ms Ellis' comments come as the Treasurer Peter Gutwein urged nurses to agree to freeze their own pay for 18 months in the bid to protect frontline jobs from budget cuts.

ACTU: Anti-Poverty Week

When things get tough the rich sell a beach house while everyone else may lose their job, their livelihood, their home.

Never has Amanda Vanstone spoken a truer word but unfortunately the rest of her thoughts about the rich versus poor debate in Australia shows just how out of touch the Liberals really are.

The former Howard Government minister’s opinion piece in Fairfax newspapers on Monday defending the so-called rich from the “rough deal” they receive in the media comes just one day after the release of the Poverty in Australia report revealed that poverty in Australia is increasing, with one in seven Australians living below the poverty line.

The irony is overwhelming.

Anti-Poverty Week is not the time for clichéd discussions about the rich and the poor – it’s an opportunity to think about what we as a society value and the sort of Australia in which we want to live.

Our living standards are under threat

Australians fundamentally believe in the fair go, that everyone deserves the right to a decent job, universal healthcare, education and the social wage – the public services and social safety net that is so important to our way of life.

But the reality is that the living standards we have fought so hard to enjoy are under threat from a Federal Government that is out of touch with the lives of everyday Australians.

While Amanda Vanstone may be sick of hearing about the growing gap between the rich and poor – thousands of Australians live with that gap everyday. They are not wondering if they will have to sell their holiday house, they are wondering how they are going to find the money to pay for their child’s school excursion or doctor’s visit.

The truth of the matter is that it is not just the unemployed living in poverty, the number of working poor in Australia is increasing and if we as a society are serious about addressing rising poverty and inequality, then we need to get serious about tackling insecure work.

A staggering 40% of the Australian workforce is employed in insecure work and one in four of all employees have salaries that vary from one pay period to the next.

More and more Australians have jobs with irregular and unpredictable working hours and pay, as well as inferior rights and entitlements, including limited or no access to paid leave and no job security.

While Vanstone may be sick of hearing about the growing gap between the rich and poor – thousands of Australians live with that gap everyday.

They may have a job, but the insecure nature of casual and contract work makes it difficult for these workers to get loans, rent a house and get access to training and promotion opportunities.

Quality, secure jobs are the key to a shared national prosperity, which is why unions are pushing to give more than two million casual workers in Australia the right to become permanent employees.

Under the current review of modern awards, the ACTU is preparing to lodge a claim with the Fair Work Commission to have a clause entered into all modern awards that will allow casual employees to become permanent staff members.

This change is targeted at workers who are permanent in everything but name, not genuine casuals such as students who work irregular shifts in bars or restaurants.

This is about the teachers, receptionists, disability support and aged care workers who are already genuinely working permanent hours and deserve to have that recognised.

People are not just tools

Getting this change into Awards isn’t the complete solution nor is it the end of the debate about secure work but it’s a part of the puzzle and unions will continue to offer solutions to improve people’s lives.

We need to remember that people are not just tools for employers to use – they have lives and families and deserve to be given the respect of decent, secure work.

A lack of job security and irregular income can see people slip into poverty. What’s at risk is an American-style working poor emerging in this country – something that Australian’s overwhelming reject.

This is the sort of discussion that we should be have during Anti Poverty Week – a genuine policy solution that will benefit millions of Australians instead of tired clichés about the rich and poor.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

US: Pentagon warns the military of climate change

New Scientist 14 October 2014

Climate change does not respect borders and we must work together to fight its threats. These are not the words of a tree-hugger, but the US Department of Defense.

A report published on Monday says that extreme weather, rising temperatures, unpredictable rainfall and rising oceans could fuel armed insurgency and heighten the impact of a pandemic, through their effects on political instability, poverty, migration and resource disputes.

It warns that developments like these could undermine fragile governments and challenge stable ones, creating "an avenue for extremist ideologies and conditions that foster terrorism".

The roadmap, intended to prepare the US military for climate change, reveals that more than 7000 US military installations have already been surveyed for vulnerability. Some sites have even begun to prepare for sea-level rises.

The report also notes that rising seas may affect amphibious landings, while extreme weather could interfere with reconnaissance flights over foreign territory.

It points out that the military may increasingly be called upon to help civil authorities when natural disasters occur.

"We must be clear-eyed about the security threats presented by climate change, and we must be proactive in addressing them," said US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel as he launched the report in Arequipa, Peru.

ACTU: Unions fight employer grab for annual leave

16 October, 2014 | Media Release

Australian Unions are fighting a push by employer groups that could see workers never taking annual leave.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said around two million Australian workers could be impacted by the employers’ push for a clause to be entered into awards allowing annual leave to be cashed out.

Australian Unions will contest the employer claim in the Fair Work Commission today under the review of the modern award system.

“Annual leave is for rest and recreation. Exchanging it for cash defeats its purpose,” Ms Kearney said.

“There is nothing in the employers’ clause to ensure that people will ever get a break from work. Employees can simply accrue four weeks leave but never take it, then continually cash the rest out.”

Ms Kearney said the clause will affect employees who rely upon the safety net and have limited bargaining power in the workplace.

“The reality is that many of the lowest paid workers who are covered by awards will be forced to cash out their leave and never take a break just to make ends meet.”

Ms Kearney said cashing out annual leave will let employers squeeze extra work out of their employees, while not having to make arrangements to cover staff on leave or properly manage rosters so employees can take annual leave at a particular time.

“Employers shouldn’t be looking for ways to stop people from taking leave, they should be looking for ways to support their employees to have a break and return to work happier, healthier and more productive.

“The employers say excessive leave is a problem and they need capacity to manage leave accruals. We don’t accept that cashing out is the answer,” Ms Kearney said.

Instead, Australian Unions have proposed a new award clause that will allow employees and employers to negotiate a suitable time for an employee to take leave if they have built up 2 years’ worth of leave.

“Big leave balances aren’t in anyone’s interests so we are proposing a fair and sensible process whereby employers and employees can reach agreement on when leave is taken.”

“This gives both the employer and employee flexibility while still safeguarding the long standing entitlement to annual leave.”

Ms Kearney dismissed claims by employers that it was unfair that cashing out is available to some employees but not to those under awards.

“Annual leave must be protected as part of the safety net. If employers want to pursue cashing out of annual leave then they can do so by negotiating an enterprise agreement with their staff.”

Ebola: Public servants want isolation units set up in Canberra

Public servants want isolation units set up in Canberra to quarantine government officials returning from Ebola-stricken regions of Africa.

The demand comes as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed its top doctor had visited Australian diplomatic posts in African nations hit by the epidemic to "discuss key issues arising from the outbreak."

The departmental staffers accuse their bosses of "dereliction of duty and failing to show respect to employees and the Australian public" by not being upfront about plans to cope if an Australian official contracts the disease.

Workplace delegates have suggested luxury apartments at Canberra's upmarket Kingston Foreshore be rented to keep officials returning from Ebola hotspots in isolation until they are confirmed as all-clear of the infection.

Leaked internal documents show growing disquiet among the department's public servants and union delegates are now demanding that departmental bosses brief staff on contingency and emergency plans in the face of the outbreak.

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The latest Ebola epidemic is the worst outbreak of the deadly disease on record and has killed more than 4000 people, mostly in the west African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

There have been several cases of infection among western aid workers, medics and missionaries.

One of the department's Community and Public Sector Union delegates, Christopher Lang, has demanded the department's bosses level with staff about what they are doing to mitigate the threat.

Mr Lang said public servants engaged in aid work in Africa, as well as diplomatic activities,  brought them into the Ebola danger zone.

 "At a minimum, management must share with employees its contingency arrangements to mitigate adverse impacts of Ebola risk."

The union delegate said management was failing its duty of care to the department's employees if it maintained its silence.

 "Silence on this front indicates dereliction of duty and failing to show respect to employees and the Australian public in neglecting to fulfil its obligation to take action to protect employees."

Mr Lang cited the case of  German UN doctor from the disease.

"The significance of this event is that the UN health care worker died despite being under the 'best of' German care," Mr Lang wrote.

"The response from management is a non-response in terms of the risks colleagues face daily in travel and work in the country."

There is also concern about contact by Australian expatriates with local workers at diplomatic installations in Africa and worries that the disease might be spread by the system of cleaning toilets at the department's Canberra buildings.

Senior department executive Arthur Spyrou said: "I can advise that the department is working directly with posts in the region to address the issues arising from the outbreak.

"The senior departmental doctor has also visited relevant posts to discuss key issues arising from the outbreak. "This work is ongoing."

Read more:

WorkCover NSW appology for Bullying

A belated and unconditional apology has been given to Wayne Butler who was bullied by the workplace safety regulator, WorkCover NSW.

The apology comes four months after a joint parliamentary committee found that bullying is rife in the ranks of the regulator.

The cross-party committee urged WorkCover to make a public apology to staff including Wayne Butler, an employee it was forced to reinstate after it sacked him for dubious reasons. The committee said this was important to help the organisation rebuild trust with staff.

A letter by Vivek Bhatia, chief executive officer of the WorkCover Safety, Return to Work and Support dated on Wednesday apologised for the way Mr Butler was treated during an investigation and for his dismissal. WorkCover accepts that he was exonerated and completely cleared of all allegations.

"This is an unconditional apology, made without any qualifications or reservations. I regret the way in which you were treated during the investigation and your dismissal and I acknowledge that you and your family did go through a difficult and distressing time. I would also like to extend my apology to your family as well," the letter said."The STWS Executive Team and I, sincerely apologise for all statements made during the inquiry hearings which may have inferred that WorkCover held other evidence if misconduct by yourself. This is not the case at all.

"I confirm there are no matters to your conduct other than the allegations made against you in 2012. All of those 2012 allegations were not sustained even partially in a court of law, whose decision we accept without reservation."

Deputy President of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission Rodney Harrison described an investigation WorkCover conducted into Mr Butler as little more than a "witch-hunt" and characteristic of "institutional bullying".

Mr Butler had spent 12 years in WorkCover's Safety, Return to Work and Support Division until being sacked in November 2012 following an investigation Mr Harrison denounced in June last year as "deplorable".

The committee also recommended new anti-bullying laws for all workers in NSW in a report that was damning of WorkCover. It also called for independent oversight of the agency, which has responsibility for regulating workplace safety and providing workers compensation.
Greens MP and Industrial relations spokesperson David Shoebridge said the government apology comes just 48 hours before WorkCover is required to make its submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into bullying.

"Without this continuing Parliamentary pressure it is pretty obvious that WorkCover would not have apologised," he said.

"This apology is far too late, but I welcome the fact that it is unconditional and has finally been delivered.
"Mr Butler, like every employee in NSW, deserves to be treated with far more respect than he received at the hands of WorkCover."

Read more:

Abbott Gov: Sinking billions on offshore subs

Australia's economy stands to lose $29 billion if the Navy's next fleet of submarines is built overseas, the South Australian Economic Development Board says.

The board released a report ahead of a Senate inquiry into naval shipbuilding to be held in Adelaide tomorrow.

It claimed 140,000 "man years" would be lost to Australian workers over a 40-year period if the submarines were built offshore.

It further claimed the national economy would be boosted by $20 billion if they were built locally.

Chairman Raymond Spencer said the board had looked past the "one-off" purchase price of a submarine.

"We were concerned that decisions were getting made without an adequate analysis of the broad-based impact on the national and the state economy," he said.

"We felt that we had to look at it over the long term rather than simply look at it."

State Defence Industries Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith was to appear before the Senate inquiry tomorrow.

"From today's economic report, it's quite clear we won't save money, we will lose money," he said.

ACOSS: Governments sleep at the wheel as housing affordability crashes

Thursday October 16, 2014

The Australian Council of Social Service today urged Australian Governments to take coordinated action to tackle the worsening housing supply crisis.

“New data shows that the housing supply crisis is getting worse and this is taking a heavy toll on first home buyers and low and moderate income renters who are under increasing financial stress,” said Dr Cassandra Goldie, ACOSS CEO.

The new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare highlighted the serious gap between housing demand and supply, with as estimated shortage of 284,000 dwellings in 2011 projected to increase due to population growth, ageing and decreasing household size.

“'We know that exorbitant rents, particularly in our major cities, is placing a great deal of stress on families, with 47% of low-income earners paying more than 30% of their income in rent. This is one of the major factors driving people into poverty.”

“Commonwealth Rent Assistance has a major impact on households' rental affordability, with the AIHW report showing a 27% point reduction in the number of low-income recipients in housing stress after receiving this targeted assistance. Our concern is that this vital rent assistance payment is not keeping up with the rise in community living standards and call for an immediate increase in the maximum rate. The gap between the maximum rate of Rent Assistance and average rent has grown steadily because CRA is linked to the CPI, rather than to national average increases in rent.

“The report also found that social housing schemes, which are highly targeted to people in greatest need, have been extremely effective, however waiting lists continue to grow and supply is not keeping up. As at 30 June 2013, there were over 217,000 households on waiting lists for social housing. There is a critical shortage of over 500,000 rental properties that are affordable and available to low income renters which must be addressed.

“While Australia’s housing situation becomes ever more critical, governments seem to be asleep at the wheel. There is no national affordable housing strategy and growing uncertainty about the future of funding for housing and homelessness investment and programs.

“The most recent budget reduced funding to the National Rental Affordability Scheme, which will result in a loss of 12,000 affordable housing dwellings. At the same time, it extended funding for homelessness services for only another 12 months, with growing uncertainty again in the sector about the future of services and those who rely on them for support.

“The Federal Government has a vital leadership role to play in setting national housing policy to ensure all arms of government are working towards increasing the supply of affordable housing stock, alleviating rental stress and ensure pathways out of homelessness. This cannot be achieved without changes to current housing tax settings which encourage speculative investment in existing housing stock, inflate house prices and do little to increase affordable housing stock,” Dr Goldie said.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

NURSES: Why we must help fight the ebola epidemic

Health care workers who volunteer to work with Ebola patients should be commended, not criticised.
But instead Federal MP Bob Katter has taken aim at these amazing people. Mr Katter unfairly claims that returning aid workers are putting Australians “at risk” by travelling to West Africa to help the victims of the virus.

Already, almost 4,000 people have lost their lives to the Ebola virus, which is sweeping countries, such as Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia and Senegal.
And there’s no end in sight.

Unfortunately, these countries lack the healthcare expertise and the necessary resources for the treatment and management of the deadly virus. They simply cannot cope with what has become a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.
In Australia, we have highly-educated healthcare professionals who can provide the appropriate care and quarantine procedures for people who have been in contact with infectious diseases like Ebola.
Australian nurses have a long, proud history of travelling overseas to join international relief efforts in times of great need. This is one of those times.
It’s crucial that the Australian Government give more support to the fight against the growing Ebola virus.


Lee Thomas
Federal Secretary, Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

ACTU: WA Budget cuts short sighted

09 October, 2014

The Barnett Government is following the well-worn path of conservative governments that think slashing public services and jobs is the answer to balancing their books, despite evidence to the contrary, Unions said today.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said it is accepted now that austerity measures do not stimulate economies but rather cause hardship and pain by creating unemployment and taking away vital public services.

“West Australian workers and their families deserve better than this,” Ms Kearney said.

“Savage cuts to public sector jobs and public services hurt communities.
“Australians don't want to be treated like a number on a balance sheet. They want governments that effectively and efficiently manage budgets in a way that creates local jobs, supports local industry and provides for a better life for all Australians.”

Ms Kearney said Australian workers are being attacked by both State and Federal Governments at the moment.

“The Abbott Government has a clear agenda to strip away workplace rights, wage and conditions from everyday Australians,” MS Kearney said.

“The Government is starting with the Fair Work Amendment Bill in the Senate before it launches a Productivity Commission review of workplace laws with terms of reference that may as well have been written by big business.

“Australian Unions will stand up for workers and decent living standards that Australians want protected.”

Tony Abbott proposed new laws under the Fair Work Amendment Bill will:

  • Strip protections for workers on individual contracts to cut wages and penalty rates
  • Allow workers to be paid with something other than money
  • Make it easier for a boss to rip you workers by having them sign away their right to compensation.
  • Take away workers’ right to strike by allowing bosses to veto industrial action
  • Gives mining and construction employers a special deal to write their own Enterprise Agreements.
  • Make it harder for workers to access and be supported by their union at work.

WA: Simplot AMWU members continue fight for a fair go

Oct 09, 2014

Members at Simplot are being advised by the AMWU to ignore the company’s media scaremongering as “not worth a hill of beans” as they continue their campaign to get a fair deal and secure jobs in both NSW and Tasmania.

AMWU National Food Division Secretary Tom Hale said the union was hoping Simplot would return to the bargaining table with a realistic offer which would not leave members falling behind as cost of living rises.

“Contrary to some stories being circulated, AMWU members just want a fair deal and for security of employment and conditions,” Mr Hale said.

“It’s no coincidence that Simplot’s growers have just been reported as also seeking a price rise for their bean crops – seems everybody just wants a fair go.”

That’s except for Simplot management, who are refusing to negotiate in good faith with the union, and have disparaged workers.

Members voted last month for taking authorised industrial action. Tasmanian factories took an overtime ban last weekend, and Kelso and Bathurst in NSW will take a stoppage today (Friday).
Ulverstone also had a one-hour stoppage yesterday, with Tasmanian State President Shane Littler saying he witnessed workers wanting to make a clear, symbolic point to management.

Mr Hale said: “Simplot is a profitable American company – last year they posted a 49% profit increase. All we want is to negotiate in good faith with Simplot, and get a fair deal for workers."

Saving Hockey's busted budget – waging war on wages!

Australian Defence Force personnel say the government's new pay offer is "an outrage", "a disgrace" and "a joke".

Thousands of sailors, soldiers and Air Force personnel have reacted with fury to being asked to give up some of their Christmas and recreational leave in order to get the pay rise of just 1.5 per cent a year over the next three years.

By Monday afternoon 7123 soldiers, sailors, Air Force personnel, reservists or their families had contacted the peak defence advocacy group with 90 per cent of them saying they "strongly disapproved" of the government's offer.

Many of the service people spoke of leaving the military as their pay and conditions deteriorated under the offer which will be considered by Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal in Canberra on Wednesday. The military's top brass told their troops that the deal, which is about half the rate of cost-of-living rises, was the best that could be expected in the current climate of public sector spending cuts.

But respondents to the Welfare Association's survey said they were "disgusted" and "outraged" at being asked to take an effective pay cut when they felt they had already made great sacrifices to serve their country.

Defence Welfare Association national president David Jamison said he and his colleagues had not anticipated the angry reaction to the offer.

"It's strengthened our position to one of total opposition to what is being offered," Mr Jamison said.
"We were expecting that some people wouldn't be happy with it, but now we simply have to say that it's just not acceptable."

Mr Jamison said he and his colleagues would now strongly oppose the case, challenging the three-member remuneration tribunal to prove their independence from government.

"It's going to be interesting to see," he said.
"If they are truly independent then they have to take note of what we're saying, even though it's an agreed position between the Commonwealth and the ADF."

The Defence Welfare Association says the survey of its membership now dwarfs the official consultation carried out by the ADF before it presented the deal to 57,000 men and women in uniform.

"The consultation comprised 62 road shows, they called them, and 3000 attendees, but we're gonna have well over 8000 responses by the close of business tomorrow (Tuesday) and 90 per cent of them are saying they're dissatisfied," Mr Jamison said.

Read more:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Abbott and Pyne Education Plan - Stop Them In Their Tracks!

Check out this ad about uni fees, it is an absolute cracker.

Members of the National Tertiary Education Union, campaigning group Getup!, and the National Union of Students have teamed up to get it on the air and paint a picture for the public of just how bad the uni fee changes will be.

On the weekend we put out the call for Australian Unions supporters to get behind the campaign by chipping in to get the ad on air. The response has been wild with hundreds of people from all walks of life chipping anywhere from $3 to $50.

The more money raised the more people we can warn about these horrible changes.

Click here and help the NTEU, NUS and Getup! get the word out across the country.

Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne’s plan increases fees and burdens generations of students with American-style student debt.

Let’s stop them in their tracks.

In union --

Ged Kearney

NSWTF: Taxing Learning

By Maurie Mulheron, President NSW Teachers Federation

A few years ago, on the last school day of the year, I was sitting at my desk in the principal’s office. I heard a knock and looked up to recognise Marija*, one of our year 12 girls who had just completed her HSC. I was pleased to see her as she had received an excellent set of HSC results that had been released earlier that week.

In one subject, Chemistry, she had topped the class and I had been told by the year adviser that she had received an exceptional university entrance score. This was all the more remarkable as only five years earlier Marija had arrived from Macedonia, with very little English, a refugee along with her family from the dreadful conflict that had followed the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

Marija told me that she had just returned her textbooks and asked if I would sign her school reference. I invited her in and as I was scanning the reference before signing it, congratulated her on her excellent examination results. I had a faint memory that Marija had told me at her enrolment interview that she had wanted to go to university to become a chemist, just like a favourite aunt back in Macedonia, so I asked her if she was excited about starting university. It was an assumption made in haste.

She seemed embarrassed by the question and I felt uncomfortable. She told me that her parents would not be allowing her to go to university. They had already too much debt, she explained, and were afraid of a HECS bill they might receive. Nothing would persuade them, she told me. Instead, Marija would work to assist the family but she was pleased that she might be able to go to TAFE.

Marija’s story keeps playing out in my mind as I think about the attacks on TAFE by both state and federal governments. As the Abbott Government moves to dismantle the system of higher education as we know it, no longer will entry into a public university be determined on students’ academic ability but rather on their capacity to pay. In the new privatised higher education market merit may matter but money will dominate.

There will be so many more Marijas as the situation worsens. So much loss of human capacity and potential. A loss to the individual, a loss to the nation.
But a question that many people must be asking is, how can this happen in a country as wealthy as Australia?

The market now seems to dominate all aspects of life with boundaries between public and private breaking down. We are seeing public assets turned into private wealth, but that wealth is increasingly concentrated into the hands of very few.

In this context, I’d like to put the education cuts, in particularly the cuts to the fifth and sixth years of Gonski funding, in perspective.

This year, the combined wealth of Australia’s richest 10 Australians is $73.72 billion. That is five times more than what six years of Gonksi funding would deliver to schools. Ten people as opposed to the 3.5 million students in all schools across the nation.

The Business Review Weekly's BRW Richest 200 list puts their wealth at $196.6 billion this year, up from $176.8 billion last year. Just the increase in their wealth alone in one year is $19.8 billion. One year’s wealth for 200 individuals is 1.3 times more than the six years of Gonski funding for 3.5 million children.

Australia’s largest coal mining company Glencore Xstrata gained $15 billion in revenue over the past three years. This one company’s revenue is $500 million more than the cost of six years of Gonski. Earlier this year the Sydney Morning Herald (June 27) argued the Swiss-based company had engaged in aggressive tax avoidance in Australia.

Recent research undertaken by the Australia Institute showed that the mining industry has received more than $17.6 billion in government subsidies and financial assistance. But this did not stop the mining industry and the Business Council successfully lobbying the Abbott Government to repeal the Minerals Resource Rent Tax.

Just cuts to the growth in spending on schools funding will cost schools almost $30 billion over the next 10 years by halving the indexation rate as stipulated in the Australian Education Act 2013. Abbott’s cuts to schools funding are scheduled to continue each and every year until 2025.

Years ago at a Federation rally, someone held a placard that said, “Education cuts don’t heal”. In current times, these words resonate even more.

What kind of government would stifle the hopes and aspirations of young people by cutting schools funding and, at the higher education end, replace a mining tax with a learning tax?

Perhaps somewhere an older Marija could answer the question.

*Name changed

ANTI-POVERTY WEEK: 12-18 October 2014

ACOSS: 2.5 million people living in poverty in Australia

12 October 2014

The Australian Council of Social Service has today released a new report revealing that poverty is growing in Australia with an estimated 2.5 million people or 13.9% of all people living below the internationally accepted poverty line.

The report provides the most up to date picture of poverty in the nation drawing on new data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Income and Expenditure surveys for 2011-12 and previous years. It finds that 603,000 or 17.7% of all children were living in poverty in Australia.

"This is deeply disturbing and highlights the need for a national plan to tackle the scourge of poverty which diminishes us all in one of the wealthiest countries in the world," said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

"In particular, the child poverty rate should be of deep concern to us all, with over a third (36.8%) of children in sole parent families living in poverty. This is due to the lower levels of employment among sole parent households, especially those with very young children, and the low level of social security payments for these families.

"Most of the poverty we found is concentrated among the groups of people facing the most disadvantage and barriers to fully participating in our community. Those most likely to be in poverty are people who are unemployed (61.2%) and those in a household that relies on social security as its main source of income (40.1%), particularly on the Newstart Allowance (55.1%) or Youth Allowance (50.6%).

"This finding brings into focus the sheer inadequacy of these allowance payments which fall well below the poverty line. The poverty line for a single adult is $400 per week yet the maximum rate of payment for a single person on Newstart - when Rent Assistance and other supplementary payments is added - is only $303 per week. This is $97 per week below the 50% of median income poverty line.

"It also emphasises the danger posed by Budget proposals to reduce the indexation of pension payments to the Consumer Price Index only, which is likely to result in higher poverty rates over time than would be the case if payments were indexed to wages and therefore community living standards.

"We are also concerned about the higher level of poverty among people born in countries where the main language is not English (18.8%), which is much higher than those born overseas in an English speaking country (11.4%), or in Australia (11.6%).

"All available evidence on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continues to show these groups are at a significantly higher risk.

"Being unemployed is the strongest predictor of poverty. However, a significant finding of the report is the number of people living in poverty whose main source of income is from employment. Although workers in paid employment face a lower risk of poverty, they form one third (33.2%) of all people below the 50% poverty line. It is likely that most of these are either employed part time or supporting dependent children on a low wage.

"These overall findings are a wakeup call for us as a community and shine a spotlight on the current policy direction of Federal Government. It provides an opportunity for the government to work with the whole community to reconfigure its first Budget and national policy priorities around the urgent need to address poverty in Australia.

"We need the development of a comprehensive national plan to tackle poverty if we are going to build on our great wealth and more fairly share the opportunities that will include all our citizens," Dr Goldie said.

DOWNLOAD: ACOSS Poverty in Australia Report 2014