Wednesday, September 30, 2015

ACTU calls on Prime Minister to reject unfair PC recommendations

The Productivity Commission's draft recommendations would increase inequality, drive down wages, strip workers of many rights and create a less prosperous Australia – they must be rejected by Government.

The ACTU lodged its submission to the Productivity Commission on Friday outlining strong opposition to the severity of the proposals.

Unions were pleased that Mr Turnbull recently said to workers that the Government would not be “threatening their conditions”.

However, that’s exactly what the Productivity Commission is seeking to do and unions call on Mr Turnbull to prove his word and dismiss the recommendations.

The Abbott Government set up the Productivity Commission inquiry as a platform to attacks wages and conditions – and that’s what they got.

The attack on penalty rates alone would result in a two-tiered workplace system with Sunday rates cut for thousands of Australians who work in restaurants, cafes and shops.

Cutting penalty rates for hospitality workers would be the beginnings of a slippery slope where more workers are ultimately expected to work weekend and public holiday shifts for little or no acknowledgement of the personal sacrifice associated with unsociable hours.

The Productivity Commission’s call to slow down minimum wage growth would increase inequality in Australia, driving down wages for all.

And in the context of the 7-Eleven case of shocking exploitation of workers, the Commission’s call to wind back Right of Entry provisions is troubling – unions need improved access to workplaces to stop this exploitation.

Just as troubling are the Productivity Commission's unjustified proposals to limit remedies for unfair dismissal and impose further barriers to pursuing claims.

The Productivity Commission’s recommendations would shift the balance of power heavily in favour of employers and must be rejected by the Turnbull Government.

The Productivity Commission’s recommendations include:

  • Cutting penalty rates.
  • Holding back the minimum wage.
  • Winding back Right of Entry provisions which assist in stamping out exploitation, abuse and safety issues.
  • Introducing enterprise contracts that disempower workers and force them to accept unfair conditions. Low paid workers will be worse off under these hidden 'take it or leave it' deals.
  • Making it easier for employers to sack staff.
  • Undermining the independence of the umpire whose role it is to set wages and make sure workplace agreements leave workers better off.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver:

“If you wanted to write a list of what was needed to make Australia less prosperous, less fair, less progressive, then the Productivity Commission’s recommendations are it.”

“The Commission has ticked every box for unfairness: take it or leave it contracts, cuts to the wages of the lowest paid, two-tier system for penalty rates, power disproportionately shifted to bosses and making it easier to sack people.”

“If 7-Eleven is any example, no wonder big business wants to make it harder to access workplaces – it doesn't want its dirty secrets exposed."

“Wage growth in Australia is already low and the national minimum wage is just 43.3 per cent of average weekly ordinary time earnings – the lowest proportion on record – yet the Productivity Commission wants to drop it even further.”

“This is Mr Turnbull's opportunity to show he’s not in the pocket of employers and will stand by his word that his Government won’t attack workers' conditions.

“We call on Mr Turnbull to govern Australia fairly with equal consideration for the rights of workers and business interests, a balance his predecessor failed to manage.”

Sunday, September 27, 2015

SA: Abbott departure gives hope for public transport funding

The South Australian Government's lobbying efforts for federal transport funding have switched focus onto tram and rail projects, and away from roads, following the departure of Tony Abbott from the prime ministership.

Acting Premier John Rau said the State Government would make new submissions to Infrastructure Australia to significantly expand Adelaide's tram network and complete the electrification of the Gawler railway line.

"Mr Abbott as prime minister wasn't very interested in rail," he said.

"The fact that we now appear to have a different attitude in Canberra is very welcome and that means we shift our emphasis now from road projects that we've got sitting there, over to rail projects."

Mr Rau said he had been encouraged by comments from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and recently appointed Minister for Cities and the Built Environment, Jamie Briggs.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Katoomba: Politics in the Pub

Introducing the speakers for "Domestic Violence: Why Not Leave?"

China: Climate Change Policy

China will bring in the world’s biggest carbon-trading scheme in 2017, President Xi Jinping announced yesterday during a visit to the US. The cap-and-trade system would put a price on pollution, giving firms an economic reason to slash their carbon emissions.

China’s huge economic growth has largely been built on power generated from fossil fuels, its pollution worsened by carbon dioxide emissions from construction. But recently the country has taken serious measures to improve air quality at home and boost the fight against catastrophic climate change worldwide.

Official statistics released earlier this year showed that renewable and nuclear power accounted for a quarter of electricity generated in 2014.

But the programme won’t just cover electricity. US officials briefed on the plan, announced at a joint meeting with President Barack Obama, said the caps will cover “basically all heavy emitting industries.”

Greenpeace East Asia senior climate policy analyst Li Shuo said: “Today’s announcement is based on intensive cap-and-trade pilot schemes in seven Chinese cities and provinces, which started in 2011.
“Expanding a nationwide price on carbon is an important step to help China deliver its climate targets and shift away from coal and towards renewables.

“In addition, it will place pressure on the US to implement similar measures.” The US is the world’s second-worst polluter. Cap-and-trade is one element of a package climate deal announced yesterday by China and the US.

China is also due to put up money to help developing countries cut their emissions. The country is the driving force behind the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, pressure from which has driven the US and Japan-dominated Asian Development Bank to double its climate change funding to £4 billion.

The measures announced yesterday boosted hopes that UN climate talks in Paris in December will be able to make headway on agreements to tackle the global threat instead of petering out as in past years.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fear and loathing in Coalition propaganda

The International Association for the Study of Popular Music said it "strongly objects to the linking of participation in the alternative music scene to radicalisation of any kind". 
"There is no reputable evidence to suggest that listening to certain types of music leads to particular political outcomes for the audience," it said in a statement.

"The idea that young people who like certain types of music are problems waiting to happen needs to be challenged, as it has consequences for them."

The Green Party called on its supporters to tell Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull "that everyday Australians who care about our incredible natural environment should be congratulated, not demonised".

Minister Michael Keenan said in a statement the first step to preventing young people being radicalised was helping schools to recognise what radicalisation is.

"The potential radicalisation of young Australians to violent extremism, including those in our schools, is something all Australian governments are deeply concerned about," Minister Keenan said earlier in the week.

Unions NSW: Welcome to higher education week!

Unions NSW
Welcome to higher education week! This week is about celebrating how important universities have been in our lives.

Whether you went to university to start your career, were the first in your family to graduate, or you’re raising children who want to study at uni, higher education means something to us all. But our public universities are under threat:
Tell the new Education Minister to stop $100k degrees.
This week we’re reminded of the rampant and far-reaching cuts the current government has inflicted on universities, as well as their plan to deregulate uni fees, allowing students to be charged exorbitant amounts of money for education.

If the Liberal Party get their way a veterinary degree would increase from $52,000 to a whopping $148,000 — nearly 3 times the amount!

We want the best and brightest to attend our universities, not just the richest.
Send the minister a message to say you support quality education for all.

They are certainly starting to feel the pressure. New Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the new Minister for Education, Simon Birmingham, this week indicated they might shelve their higher education reforms. But not because they don’t believe in them — because they are having trouble ‘selling’ them.

We have a chance to turn the heat up and make it clear we won’t accept $100,000 degrees — not now, not ever.
Higher education is not a privilege for the rich, it’s a right for everyone. We won’t allow the Liberal party to lock out those who have all the capabilities of attending university, but just cannot afford it.

Tell the new Minister, Simon Birmingham, why we need to keep higher education for all.
In union,
Emma Maiden
Assistant Secretary

CPSU: Ten Public Service Agencies To Strike

SEP 23, 2015

Tens of thousands of public sector workers at key agencies including Medicare, Centrelink and the Tax Office will go on strike around the country on Thursday, adding to the pressure on the Government as strike action continues at international airports.

The CPSU advises that services may be disrupted at customer service centres and call centres once the half-day action begins at lunchtime, as workers step up their fight against the Government’s attempts to cut their rights, conditions and for many, their take-home pay.

The half-day strike will involve workers from the departments of Human Services, Employment, Environment, Education, Agriculture, Defence and Veteran Affairs, along with the Tax Office, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Bureau of Statistics.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “These workers are extremely frustrated with the Government’s 18-month attack on their rights and conditions. We are calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister Michaelia Cash to rethink this failed bargaining policy and work with the union to find a sensible way forward.”

“This dispute was caused by Government policy requiring Commonwealth agencies to go to war with their own workforce, to strip important workplace rights and conditions from enterprise agreements. Among today’s striking members, for example, mums and dads working at Centrelink and Medicare are deeply worried about the loss of family-friendly conditions.”

“The previous Minister responsible, Senator Eric Abetz, refused to even meet with the union to discuss these concerns since January  2014."

“New Minister Michaelia Cash is being sent a clear message by Thursday’s strike, the ongoing airport action by Immigration and Border Force workers and by staff voting strongly to reject these unfair agreements when agencies have been forced to put them to an all employee ballot.”

“Minister Cash now has a clear opportunity to move away from the failed bargaining policy of  her predecessor and instead take a modern, productive approach to public sector workplace relations.”

“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has clearly stated that he does not want to wage war with workers or unions. We are calling on the Government to change the way it deals with its own workforce.”

More than 100 Government department still do not have new enterprise agreements, representing 96% of total public service workforce.

Earlier this week workers with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection became the latest to emphatically reject the Government’s negotiating approach to date.

More than 91 per cent or over 10,000 Immigration and Border Protection staff voted No to the proposed enterprise agreement, which would cut the take-home pay of many in the new Border Force by $8,000 a year, with a record 82 per cent of all staff voting in the ballot.

Staff in many of the other agencies striking have also voted to reject these unacceptable deals, including an 83% No vote from the Government’s largest department, Human Services.

DIBP workers will be striking along with other agencies on Thursday, but also continuing their campaign of at least 10 consecutive days of strikes that has disrupted international airports and other facilities around the country.

(Members in the ACT did not be take part in the strike action on Thursday 24 September because they took successful action Tuesday 15 September).

TWU: Shell Thumbs Its Nose at Dockers & Eagles Fans

Release date: 24/09/2015


Aircraft refuelers furious over oil company’s no show

100% of local aircraft refuelers have voted in a secret ballot to take protected industrial action against their employer ZIP Airport Services – who are owned by the Shell Oil Company.

The results of the ballot became known yesterday.

And the chance of a refuelers strike in the lead-up to the AFL Grand Final worsened when Shell ZIP management failed to turn up to a prearranged meeting yesterday with the TWU and drivers.

TWU state secretary Mr Tim Dawson said the TWU had hoped to avoid any inconvenience to Dockers and Eagles fans flying to the Grand Final but he could no longer rule out that possibility.

“The drivers are extremely angry at the utter arrogance of Shell ZIP. And the company obviously has little concern for airline passengers.” Mr Dawson stated.

The Union must give 72 hours’ notice of any strike action and the TWU and drivers are now assessing when that might occur.

MUA: New Employment Minister Already Has Form in Allowing Cheap Foreign Labour

Posted by MUA on September 21, 2015

New Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has shown he wants to keep employment and industrial relations as an ideological battleground with his surprise decision to promote Western Australian Senator Michaelia Cash to Minister for Employment

Senator Cash, well-known by the Maritime Union of Australia for thumbing her nose at the Senate and insisting on the use of cheap, foreign labour in the offshore oil and gas sector, was formerly a senior industrial relations lawyer at union-busting legal firm, Freehills.

With unemployment currently stuck above six per cent, many were surprised by the decisions of Senator Cash as Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection in overseeing a substantial increase in temporary work visa programs.

The appointment of Senator Cash follows the decision late last week by outgoing Minister Eric Abetz to promote or commission four ideological warriors at the Fair Work Commission in his final act before getting the chop.

“Many see Malcolm Turnbull as a left-leaning progressive with his historical stance on issues such as marriage equality, climate change and the republic,” MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said.

“Not only has he walked away from those key issues in his bid to wrest leadership of his party but it doesn’t look like industrial relations will get any better either.

“Senator Cash has shown a singular stubbornness and inflexibility on standing up for Australian jobs, rivaled only by her predecessor Eric Abetz. The new Minister appears to be anti-union and anti-Australian worker.”

Thousands of Australian jobs in the offshore oil and gas sector are being threatened by the Federal Government’s sneaky means of issuing Special Purpose Visas to import cheap overseas workers.

The High Court last month agreed to hear the case brought by the MUA and the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) involving the Government’s use of visas normally reserved for royal guests and overseas dignitaries.

Under Senator Cash’s watch, The Abbott/Turnbull Government has taken four significant steps to undermine Australian participation in offshore oil and gas projects. It has:  

  • Introduced a Bill to repeal the Migration Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Act 2013 (ORA ACT) that was passed by the Parliament in 2013 to address a flaw in Australia's migration law. The introduction of the ORA followed a Federal Court judgment in the Allseas case that found certain groups of workers were not within the migration zone and did not require visas to work in Australia.
  • Introduced a Regulation under the ORA Act that specified an inappropriate visa class as a work visa to conform with the ORA Act (the Maritime Crew Visa, which is a transit visa for visiting international seafarers, not a work visa). This was disallowed by the Senate; 
  • Following the disallowance, within 24 hours introduced a Ministerial Determination ('Immi 14/077') effectively making the ORA Act null and void in complete disregard to the wishes of the Parliament. The MUA and AMOU successfully appealed the decision to the Full Court of the Federal Court.
  • Following the Full Federal Court decision, within 24 hours introduced another determination (‘Immi 15/073’) to again allow cheap foreign labour in the offshore oil and gas sector. The MUA and AMOU are currently pursuing this in the High Court.  
  • “The Abbott Government has already been defeated in the Senate and the full Federal Court and it simply beggars belief that they continue to try to deny Australian workers the capacity to work in their own country,” Mr Crumlin said.

“Unemployment is around 800,000 and rather than address the jobs crisis, Senator Cash wants to sell out Australian jobs on behalf of her mates in big oil and gas companies.

“These hugely profitable companies are looking to import cheap workers, who don’t have to pay tax in Australia and with no security checks or Australian-approved skill sets.”

Mr Crumlin urged Senator Cash to follow her own advice when speaking in the Senate on June 28, 2013, following another change of prime minister:

“You can take the photograph away and put up another photograph, but guess what? Unless you change the direction of your policy, unless you realise that you have made mistakes, the Australian people will judge you.” – Senator Michaelia Cash, Australian Senate, June 28, 2013.

“It is time for Senator Cash and Prime Minister Turnbull to admit their mistakes and instead stand up for Australian jobs and Australian workers,” Mr Crumlin said.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pancake Parlour employees win penalty rates for late nights, weekends

Hundreds of Pancake Parlour workers have won weekend and late-night penalty rates in a case that goes to the heart of a contentious national wage debate.

The pancake chain had its WorkChoices-era wage deal terminated last week in favour of the restaurant industry award, which is expected to raise the pay of up to 750 employees nationally.

Most staff covered by the old deal have been paid flat rates between $13 and $23 an hour but miss out penalty rates for nights and weekends.

An analysis of pay rates shows some waiters could have been up to $2500 a year worse off compared to the award.

The case comes amid a tense feud over a proposed nationwide rollback of Sunday penalty rates, in which unions argue low-paid workers rely on the extra money for sacrificing weekends. Businesses say they struggle to keep operating under current costs in a seven-day-a-week economy and are urging new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to aggressively advocate for reform before the next election.

Mr Turnbull has drawn attention over comments last year about the impact of penalty rates: "You see businesses, particularly hospitality businesses like cafes and restaurants and so forth, closed on weekends ... because the penalty rates are so high," he said. "Now that's nuts."

Union members will rally in Melbourne on Wednesday against what they say is a continued attack on low-paid workers.

In pursuit of better conditions, Pancake Parlour employee Tim Sarder, 21, launched legal action last month to replace the company deal with full award entitlements. The company did not oppose the application.

"Every day the current contract continues to operate, [we] are working under a contract that does not meet the safety net of minimum wages or employment conditions," Mr Sarder said.

The Pancake Parlour told the tribunal that scrapping the agreement would force it to review the trading hours of its 24-hour outlets and those that close at 3am. Management would also consider revoking free staff meals and warned it might be forced to lay off restaurant supervisors in favour of more casuals.

Pancake Parlour managing director Mandy David said the biggest challenge would be striving to offer the same level of work-pattern flexibility that employees wanted.

She said management was consulting every staff member individually as it moves off the old agreement.

"Paying our staff properly is a priority," she said. "If our wage costs go up, they go up.

"We are proud of our strong relationship with our team."

Fair Work Commissioner Julius Roe said Pancake Parlour employees would be entitled to a range of benefits under the restaurant award that they were not receiving under the WorkChoices agreement, including penalty rates, greater certainty of working hours, minimum breaks between shifts and laundry costs.

Hospitality union United Voice said it was uplifting to see young workers such as Mr Sarder standing up for workplace rights.

"His courage means that hundreds of Pancake Parlour staff will now get the weekend penalty rates they deserve," union state secretary Jess Walsh said.

"The Pancake Parlour did not oppose Tim's campaign and that's a good thing ... other employers should follow their example."

Employer group Restaurant and Catering Australia said the existing penalty rates regime was causing business closures and suppressing productivity.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE – Why Not Leave ? – Politics in the Pub 26 September

Blackburns Family Hotel, 15 Parke Street, Katoomba

Domestic Violence:
Why Not Leave?

2:30 to 4.30pm Saturday September 26th
Blackburns Family Hotel, 15 Parke St, Katoomba
All welcome – free admission

By early September this year 62 Australian women had died of gendered violence in 2015 according to Destroy The Joint – Counting Dead Women, winners of the 2015 Inaugural “Our Watch” Walkley Award for Best Use of Social Media. DTJ estimate that 75% of those deaths were due to domestic violence, with the exact figures dependent on variables such as the outcome of court cases, missing persons’ cases and the discovery of new evidence leading to new arrests.

For every woman killed, countless more live with violence in the places they should be able to feel the safest, in their homes, with their families. Our speakers will explore the obstacles that prevent those who endure violence from escaping their situation - and the solutions which would reduce these dreadful statistics.

Our speakers are:
·         Trish Doyle MP, Member for Blue Mountains made domestic violence a priority in her powerful Inaugural Speech in the NSW Parliament in May this year. Her personal childhood experience of family violence and her work in women’s services bring a refreshing change in perspective to the NSW Parliament. Trish is also Vice President of the Blue Mountains Unions Council.

·         Natalie Lang, General Secretary of the NSW Branch of the Australian Services Union, represents workers in community services who support women attempting to leave violence. The ASU is behind the “We Won’t Wait” campaign to legislate for universal Domestic Violence Leave. 

Authorised by K Cooke, President, Blue Mountains Unions Council Inc
Presented under the auspices of the Mountains Community Resource Network (MCRN).

Monday, September 21, 2015

Turnbull on built environment

In announcing a new "cities and the built environment" portfolio, to be held by Jamie Briggs, Mr Turnbull said the Government would no longer prioritise roads over public transport.

"We shouldn't be discriminating between one form of transit and another," he said on Sunday.

"There is no ... 'roads are not better than mass transit' or vice versa, each of them has their place. 

"Infrastructure should be assessed objectively and rationally on its merits. 

"There is no place for ideology here at all. The critical thing is to ensure that we get the best outcome in our cities."

Victoria's Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the new direction was good news for the State Government's bid to secure funding for the Melbourne Metro Rail project.

"I think there are encouraging signs that are now coming out of Canberra that would give the Victorian community every reason to be optimistic that we will secure federal funding for the Melbourne Metro Rail project," she said.

Border Force and Immigration workers are conducting stop-work

Border Force and Immigration workers are conducting stop-work action for four hours each day over the coming 10 days, at eight international airports around the country.

In Sydney, hundreds of passengers have been confronted by lengthy queues.

One passenger told the ABC that some people were frustrated by the wait.

"People pushing, pushing their bags. They're getting upset, we're getting upset," he said.

Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Nadine Flood said the Federal Government planned to cut workers' conditions allowances, severely cutting their take-home pay.

"They're looking at getting cuts to current pay of up to $8,000 a year," she said.

"Border Force and Immigration do a very tough job, often a difficult and dangerous job.

"They deal with bikie gangs, ice importation, guns, organised crime."

Passengers avoided disruptions at Melbourne Airport this morning, despite Border Force workers stopping work at the international terminal.

China-Australia Free Trade Agreement

Sally McManus has asked all ACTU organisers around Australia to arrange debates/forums around the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement and its impact on local jobs, wages, conditions, and workers' rights. These events would involve the sitting Liberal MP debating the issue with a senior member of the trade union movement (e.g. national secretary of the AMWU) with a very large audience and plenty of media coverage.

Mary Yaager and I have decided to hold a joint event covering the electorates of Macquarie and neighbouring Lindsay. I have already spoken to some of the key people from the Penrith Valley Community Unions and they are keen to arrange a meeting with key people from the BMUC to lock in details such as the event date, time, venue, etc. I will be joining Mary and the PVCU team in handing out flyers at the Penrith Paceway Markets on Wednesday morning so perhaps it would be possible to set up a meeting on the tail end of this?

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Havana

Standing in the symbolic heart of political Cuba, Pope Francis on Sunday began his first full day in the island nation with an outdoor Mass at Revolution Plaza attended by President Raúl Castro and other leaders, and later met with the country’s former leader, Fidel Castro.

At Revolution Plaza, Francis arrived at about 8:30 a.m. in his familiar open-air popemobile, which moved through the crowd of thousands of people before delivering him to a covered stage for the service. Francis praised the vibrancy of the Cuban people and urged them to pursue a Christian model of selfless service.

“Whatever wishes to be great must serve others, not be served by others,” Francis said during his homily.

The scene blended faith, politics and revolution: Huge portraits of two revolutionary heroes, Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, overlook the square, which also had large banners of Jesus and Mother Teresa. Francis was scheduled for a private meeting later in the day with President Castro. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, president of Francis’ native Argentina, also was in attendance.

In such a political setting, Francis made his most directly political remarks not about Cuba but on the Colombia peace talks underway here in Havana. Francis urged negotiators for the Colombian government and the FARC rebels to find a solution and end the decades-old conflict in their country.

“We do not have the right to allow ourselves yet another failure on this path of peace and reconciliation,” Francis said at the end of the Mass.

Afterward, the pope went to the home of Fidel Castro for what was described as informal visit with the leader of Cuba’s 1959 revolution. A papal spokesman said that Francis gave Mr. Castro a copy of his encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si,” and several books. The meeting lasted about 40 minutes.

Francis’s trip through Cuba offers a telling look at unique challenges, and influence, that the first Latin American pontiff has obtained in his native region. He is part rock star, part diplomat and part politician — even as his overriding priority is spiritual, and focused here on the Cuban church.

His outsized profile has also lifted expectations and pressures that he takes public positions on charged issues, like political and religious freedom. Cuban dissidents are pushing for the pope to meet them.

At the outdoor Mass, Francis cited the biblical story of the disciples quarreling over their importance — and Jesus’ rebuke of them — as an object lesson against “those who would be chosen for privileges, who would be above the common law, the general norm, in order to stand out in their quest for superiority over others.”

A spectrum of Cubans, from the devout to the secular, turned out to see the Mass, filling the entire plaza. Waves of people cheered and snapped photographs as he passed.

Greece: Syriza secures dramatic victory

When the first exit polls flashed up on the big screen in the same marquee at 7pm local time on Sunday, there were as many reporters, photographers and cameramen as there were party supporters. But as the night wore on and what had long looked the most uncertain of outcomes was steadily transformed into a dramatic, even a remarkable triumph, the crowd multiplied.

By the time the centre-right New Democracy leader, Vangelis Meimarakis, conceded defeat and Syriza and its leader, the outgoing premier Alexis Tsipras, seemed on course to win almost as many seats as it had nine months ago, the cheering, chanting, flagwaving and foot-stamping throng was in electoral ecstasy.

“It’s a great, great night,” Anastasia Giamali, Syriza’s candidate in Athens’s second electoral district, shouted above the strains of the anti-fascist anthem Bella Ciao belting from a loudspeaker. “Syriza suffered a major setback, there’s no denying it.

“But the people have shown as much responsibility as we did. They saw that we had done our best, that we had tried to help those who we defend – the poor, the unemployed, the bankrupt. This is a massive endorsement for Alexis Tsipras. He has won hearts and he has won minds.”

As if to prove her point, the tent erupted when Tsipras put in a brief appearance later, bounding onto the stage to tell his voters they had won a “great victory”. He had a “crystal clear” four-year mandate to “rid Greece of its corrupt old system”, he said, but warned of hard work ahead: “We won’t recover from the struggle by magic.”

There is, certainly, a long and very painful road ahead: the new government is already committed, under the terms of the cash-for-reforms rescue package, to undertake a root-and-branch overhaul of the shattered Greek economy, accompanied by radical changes to the country’s health, welfare, pensions and tax systems.

But on Sunday night it was hard to duck the euphoria. Giamali gushed that the victory really belonged to Syriza’s youthful, 41-year-old leader: “He was the first Greek prime minister to at least try to negotiate with the creditors. He was the first to admit he made mistakes.

“Above all, he was the first to really tell the truth: to say: ‘This will hurt, but it is necessary and we’ll do everything in our power to soften the blow for the weakest in society – not the strongest – whom we defend.”

Sunday, September 20, 2015

'Canning Voters unhappy’: Shorten

Mr Shorten said the Liberal Party made the by-election about their own jobs rather than jobs in the electorate and across WA. He said the result was a strong rejection of the federal Coalition’s “cuts and broken promises”.

“It is clear that thousands of Western Australians have voted Labor for the first time,” Mr Shorten said in congratulating the ALP candidate Matt Keogh. Mr Hastie, a former SAS soldier, won preselection after the death of sitting member Don Randall in July.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Vic: Tram dispute resolved

Tram strikes planned for Melbourne next week will not go ahead after Yarra Trams and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union union reached an in-principle agreement.

Employees will receive a 14% pay rise over four years as well as two separate cash payments totalling 3%, Yarra Trams said in a statement on Friday evening

Trauma and family violence leave will be introduced in new enterprise agreements while maternity leave, secondary carer’s leave and bereavement leave will be increased.

"We have only maintained or improved conditions in this agreement, giving our employees a better work-life balance,” the statement says.

Vote NO Telstra Enterprise Agreement 2015

Kicking the Abbott

Saturday Paper 19 September 2015
It is no exaggeration to say Tony Abbott is the worst prime minister Australia has had. To the extent that his brief and destructive leadership of the country is remembered, it will not be remembered well.

Abbott is a prime minister without a legacy. In attempting to defend one this week, he came up with not much: some jobs, a few trade agreements, an infrastructure project, a border protection regime founded on human rights abuses, a royal commission so compromised by bias its own commissioner had to consider removing himself.

Abbott governed for the past and the few conservatives desperate to continue living there. He governed against science and in contempt of the environment. He governed in opposition to social equality, in terror of reform. His was a government of fear and avoidance, a rolling sideshow anxiously avoiding the fact it had nothing to add and no idea what to do.

Abbott spent his time in opposition degrading the office of the prime minister. His was a campaign of debasement: a coarsening of debate, a running down of the respect once stored in the institution. Those who say he was a fine opposition leader do so in error. There is no victory in destroying what you set out to win.

On prevailing at the 2013 election, he placed on his head a small and tinny crown. He did nothing to repair it in the years that have passed since. Indeed, he added only to its dents and tarnish.

He treated law like a plaything. He made policy at odds with the country’s own constitution. He fought consensus and held out against change. He refused humility. He let run the island camps where women and children are raped and men killed. He turned in from the world. He mocked treaties. He failed obligations. He fed prejudice wherever he could.

He was a coward with reform. He left the tax system lumbering and unfair. He failed to articulate policy. He hectored the ABC, cowing it and becoming ludicrously involved in editorial processes. He shunned innovation. He craved distraction.

Abbott’s great fear, and the fear of those people left supporting him, is tomorrow. He is fearful of same-sex marriage. Fearful of an economy remade by climate change. Fearful of the fair distribution of taxes. Fearful of power as it ebbs away from the places where it was once concentrated. But tomorrow is always close; his prime ministership was always doomed.

Abbott is an experiment that failed. He is proof that Australia cannot be governed from the far right, just as it cannot be governed from the far left. He was the last hope and final holdout of a group of people wishing desperately against a modern Australia.

His time in the office leaves a hole in this country’s agenda. A period of incompetent stasis. Two wasted years we must now hungrily get back.

He will not be missed. He should not be praised. He was a failure selfishly wishing that the world would fail with him. We can only hope his like will not be seen again.

Protest against possible closure of BlueScope Steel

Protest against possible closure of BlueScope Steel draws hundreds in Wollongong, NSW

More than 1,000 people have joined a rally in Wollongong to protest against the potential closure of BlueScope Steel's major plant in Port Kembla, in the New South Wales Illawarra region.
The closure has prompted the Australian Workers Union (AWU) to call on the Federal Government to introduce protectionist measures to ensure the region's economic future.
BlueScope Steel has flagged its intention to shed 500 jobs, equating to $200 million in savings, but up to 5,000 could be lost if the mill closes.
The company has been struggling, largely due to the regional oversupply and a flood of cheap exports pouring out of China, which produces about half of the world's steel. 
AWU South Coast branch secretary Wayne Phillips said the steel industry was a lifeline for people in the Illawarra region.
"We don't have any other industries to come on online; [the] steelworks generates a lot of industries and opportunities in Wollongong and Shoal Harbour, Port Kembla and Warrawong," Mr Phillips said.
"People are extremely angry. People have had enough... this uncertainty of whether the steelworks is going to be here or not is starting to affect people."
The AWU said the union was not in negotiations with BlueScope, but were lobbying the Federal Government for protectionist measures, including the introduction of import tariffs on steel or temporary tax breaks for the company. 
"We've been reviewing some work practice changes that affect the whole plant," Mr Phillips said, adding that this included sick leave, how work was performed and a number of positions that could be made redundant. 
"It's now up to politicians and the board of BlueScope."

Closure would cause statewide 'economic decline'

NSW Greens MP John Kaye said the loss of the plant would plunge the Illawarra into a long-term economic decline and impact on unemployment across the state.
"It's critical that governments' infrastructure projects focus on purchasing steel that's made in Australia," Mr Kaye said.
"Our steel [mills] have no protection whatsoever. The concern is that in the unequal playing field that's created by subsidised steel being dumped in Australia - workers in the Illawarra face a very grim future."
Mr Kaye said the mill had been badly managed by the private sector, and the NSW Government should intervene to secure its future. 
A spokesman for BlueScope Steel said the company did not support industry wide tariffs.
He said other countries would swiftly retaliate against such measures leading to the possible closure of the Port Kembla plant.
The spokesman said targeted measures against individual acts of the "dumping" of steel onto the Australian market were the appropriate way to deal with the problem.
He said the company has had three rulings in its favour over steel dumping but was frustrated at how long the process took.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Save Our Weekend.

Save Our Weekend
Yesterday I listened to the head of the Restaurant & Catering Association calling for my wage – and hundreds of thousands of other peoples’ wages - to be cut.
I work in an RSL club. As part of my normal working week, I work every Sunday. Like many people, my Sunday penalty rates are what help me pay the bills and keep food on the table.
The Restaurant & Catering Association, along with a number of other employer groups, is calling on the government and the Fair Work Commission to slash weekend penalty rates for people like me:
We believe that in a contemporary environment, one shouldn’t have to pay penalty rates for working after hours.” – John Hart, CEO, Restaurant & Catering Association
Yesterday I appeared at the government’s inquiry into our pay and working conditions. I told them why their recommendation to cut weekend penalty rates was such a bad idea and why it needs to be withdrawn.
I have worked Sundays for the last 25 years. Working Sundays means I have missed out on many family gatherings and events over the years. It’s hard but my Sunday rates help keep my family afloat.
This is what I told the Productivity Commission and the employer groups. And I wasn’t alone. Retail workers, nurses, bus drivers and wharf workers all stood alongside me and said the same thing.
The final decision on weekend penalty rates will rest with our new Prime Minister. If you haven’t already, sign here to tell Prime Minister Turnbull that weekends matter and that he needs to commit to maintaining weekend penalty rates for everyone who has to work them.
We’ll also be letting the Restaurant & Catering Association know exactly what we think of their plans to cut wages!
I can’t do it on my own, but together we can save our weekend rates.
For the Save our Weekend team

Thursday, September 17, 2015

TWU: Productivity Commission changes will lower standards and impoverish families

TWU MEDIA RELEASE, 17 September 2015

Transport employees will be forced into poverty if the Productivity Commission’s draft report is implemented, the TWU has warned as hearings convened today in Sydney on the report.

The report will see the voice of workforces in aviation and road transport weakened and their pay and conditions reduced.

TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon said the recommendations would devastate working families and the economy. “If we want a strong economy then we need quality, full-time, permanent jobs to fuel it. This report will instead give us an Australia divided between the wealthy elites squeezing from the top and employees struggling at the bottom. But this kind of inequality will serve no one in the long run,” he said.

Plans to reduce penalty rates for some employees is unacceptable and would undoubtedly be broadened to include all workers. Bus driver Dave Pola said ahead of the hearing: “Penalty rates are not an added extra for me and my family: If I don't get my weekend penalty rates I won't be able to pay the rent on my house."

The proposal for an “enterprise contract” would destroy pay and conditions as it would allow the vital transport awards to be bypassed. It would undermine the security of employment as employers could hire new employees on a take-it-or-leave-it basis just as AWAs were used against new employees under WorkChoices.

“In road transport this will inevitably result in drivers being sweated to work longer hours on lower pay with inevitable tragic results in death toll on our roads. In aviation workers are already earning low wages with 21% earning below the poverty line. These changes will lower standards and impoverish families,” said Sheldon.

CPSU/CSA: Western Australia's water is under threat

Western Australia's water is under threat. Our state is growing but the Barnett Government is cutting jobs and privatising services. We call on the Barnett Government to ensure our infrastructure and water accessibility can cope with our growing population. Save Our Water is a campaign to raise awareness about the importance of publicly provided water. The Save our Water Campaign team is committed to ensuring that water supply, services, account management and faults are roles undertaken by the public sector for better services to the public.


"The Water Corporation’s ability to maintain and implement water efficiency programs appears doomed with the decision to scrap its Sustainability portfolio.

Staff were told on June 3 that the Sustainability unit would be abolished, another example of an agency struggling with its ongoing funding cutbacks.

CPSU/CSA branch secretary Toni Walkington said this decision was typical of the Barnett Government cutting funding without evaluating what the impact will be on services the community expects government agencies to deliver.

“The Water Corporation has been a big target for this government for a few years now as it winds it down even more,” Ms Walkington said.

“Now that they are closing down the Sustainability unit all the good things those people have been working on will stop.

“Water is a precious resource here in Western Australia and it is important that we have a dedicated unit to continually develop sustainability measures for now and the future.”

Ms Walkington said their members in the Water Corporation rejected the suggestion that sustainability was already integrated into work of other teams.

“The feedback we have received is that this is not the case and is unlikely to change upon the abolition of the Sustainability team.

“Our members said it won’t happen because the Water Corporation doesn’t properly quantify, value or assess energy efficiency or sustainability at a planning, design at a project management or even operational stage.”

Ms Walkington also attacked any talk of the unit offering little commercial value or not giving a positive return on its investment.

“A lot of the work they do is in the research and development space and is for the long-term benefit of the state, so it is hard to put a dollar value on that.

“Morale at the Water Corporation has hit rock bottom and a lot of our members have dwindling faith in the agency’s future.

“They have scoffed at suggestions that the work they do will be imbedded into other parts of Water Corporation, saying that is nothing more than talk.”

Recently the corporation recently confirmed it was planning on getting rid of 300 full-time equivalent position with about 89 already gone.

“Given 10 per cent of its workforce is set to disappear the public should be worried about how it was doing to deliver all of its services.”

WA: Joint Statement: Criminalising Peaceful Protest

Posted: September 17, 2015

On behalf of our members and communities we represent, we, the undersigned organisations, are gravely concerned by the Criminal Code Amendment (Prevention of Lawful Activity) Bill 2015 and the implications it has for Western Australia’s democracy and the rights of citizens to engage in peaceful protest.

Rev Rick Morell of the Uniting Church speaking to press after the release of the joint statement.

Australians have a long and proud history of peaceful demonstration which has been instrumental in securing the rights that many of us now take for granted.

The right to vote, to a fair wage, to a fair price for farm produce, and to protect of the places we love, from the Franklin River to the Ningaloo Reef, most if not all of these rights would not have been achieved if it were not for citizens engaging in peaceful protest.

The Prevention of Lawful Activity Bill is legislation which has only recently come back on for debate. Political games should not be used to try to bury and hide legislation which is deeply unpopular in the community.

We foresee dire consequences from legislation which criminalises any form of peaceful protest and removes the presumption of innocence for citizens engaging in such activities, as this Bill will do. Concerned citizens exercising their rights to peaceful protest should not be presumed to have criminal intent in any democratic society.

We are calling on all our Parliamentarians to oppose this bill in order to protect our fundamental rights and values and to maintain the healthy function of our democratic society.

Rev Rick Morell, on behalf of the Uniting Church Western Australia
Piers Verstegen, Director, Conservation Council of WA
Meredith Hammat, Secretary, UnionsWA

ACTU welcomes Andrews Government inquiry into modernising worker entitlements

15 September 2015

ACTU Secretary, Dave Oliver, yesterday gave evidence to the Victorian Government inquiry into the portability of long service leave entitlements.

Mr Oliver told the inquiry that single-employer based long service leave models were no longer adequate for the modern workplace.

People now have multiple jobs during their life as opposed to building careers at single employers but this doesn’t change the fact that after many years of work people need an extended period of rest.

The nature of the workplace has changed and fundamental rights to extended leave after a long period in the workforce are now less accessible due to long service leave regulations failing to keep pace.

Long service leave entitlements vary from state to state and the ACTU submission calls for them to be standardised at the “highest common denominator” so that workers don’t lose current entitlements.

The ACTU submission to the inquiry proposes three potential models for portable long service leave:

  • The Approved deposit fund model; where employers deposit the funds into an account that rolls over into new accounts that follow an employee from workplace to workplace.
  • Industry-based defined benefit fund model; a more limited portability model where employers register as part of an industry based fund and workers entitlements are accrued from workplace to workplace as long as they stay in the defined industry.  This is similar to many existing schemes.
  • Accumulation model; Similar to how superannuation currently operates employers would pay long service leave entitlements into an account held for the worker by an approved financial institution which the worker could only access the funds after meeting release criteria.

Quotes attributable to Dave Oliver:

“The increasingly casual nature of so many jobs coupled with the fact people are working 10, 15, 20 different jobs in their life means we need to rethink long service leave away from the notion of service to a single employer and towards service in the workforce.”

“Long service leave is only one area where we need to rethink the way we deliver entitlements to workers.”

“The changed nature of our economy requires us to rethink other forms of leave entitlements so that all workers are able to access paid time off for illness, family and recreation.”

“Just as we did with superannuation we need to develop a new framework that reflects the needs of workers in a changing workplace environment.”

“This will ensure workers have time to rest and recover after extended years in the workforce and are able to not only enjoy time off but also come back better rested to make a contribution to the workforce well into the future.”

ACT : Guarantee of free preschool hours

Canberra families will now be able to rely on 15 hours of free preschool a week, following an announcement from the ACT Government.

The future of the current preschool funding arrangement had been in doubt, creating uncertainty for families.

But today the territory's Education Minister Joy Burch said the ACT Government would guarantee the hours.

Ms Burch said the ACT and federal governments were close to signing a new national partnership agreement for 2016-17.

Similar agreements have provided funding for the ACT service in the past.

But Ms Burch said notwithstanding the signing of the new agreement, Canberra families could now count on the provision of those hours.

"I expect to sign a national partnership with the Commonwealth that would be great news," she said.

"Regardless, Canberra families now know they've got 15 hours of government preschool."

Ms Burch said the ACT continued to be one of the only jurisdictions to offer 15 hours free public preschool per week to all four-year-old children in the year before formal schooling. 

"I'm expecting Canberra families will really welcome this news ... certainty for the 15 hours of preschool in 2016 and there has been a slight question over this," she said.

Ms Burch said ACT public school principals would now advise families of preschool hours for 2016 and continue the enrolment process.

"We acknowledge that lifelong learning is the foundation for Canberra's ongoing prosperity, and want every child to have the opportunity to thrive," she said.

Trade Agreements: Anything but free

Three decades ago, when Canberra was first contemplating the American offer of a bilateral trade agreement, the distinguished trade economist, Richard Snape, warned that acting by itself, Australia would have little leverage in international negotiations. Far better to negotiate in partnership with like-minded countries, a strategy that Australia pursued with some success during the Uruguay Round of global trade negotiations when it was a prime sponsor of the Cairns Group of fair agricultural traders.
In the last decade Australia has jumped on board the bandwagon of preferential trade agreements with seemingly an ever-growing enthusiasm. Not surprisingly, given the country’s limited coin in international trade negotiations, the benefits of these agreements have been modest at best. Even when negotiating with smaller economies such as Thailand and Malaysia, Australia has made few market access gains relative to those achieved by its partners.
The Productivity Commission warned that:
“At least in some quarters, there tends to be a mindset of ‘agreements for agreement’s sake’, premised partly on the view that Australia must follow a trend in other countries”.
This has been particularly true of the Abbott government, which in its rush to complete bilateral trade agreements seems to have forgotten elementary principles of negotiation.

In a rush to sign

When it came into office, the Abbott government signalled its frustration with the stalled trade negotiations with China, Japan and Korea and asserted that “this government is determined to bring them to a swift and satisfactory conclusion”. Quality, however, was sacrificed for speed in reaching an agreement.
The essential trade-off in the recent negotiations with Japan was supposed to be duty-free access to the Australian market for Japanese cars in return for substantially improved access for Australian agricultural exports, especially beef, to the heavily protected Japanese market.
The outcome was cuts that would leave tariffs on beef in the 19.5 to 23.5% range, and take from 15 to 18 years for full implementation. Japanese concessions in the agricultural sphere were largely on products that are relatively unimportant Australian exports. The Australian Dairy Industry Council noted that it was “extremely disappointed” with a deal that left the tariff on fresh cheese, the most important dairy item in the negotiations, unchanged, while making a few symbolic concessions on products that together constitute only 10% of the total value of Australia’s dairy exports. The story in sugar was similar with the tariff unchanged on the main category of Australian exports.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Finland: Unions are taking to the streets on Friday.

From LabourStart

Finland's new right-wing coalition government has announced plans to unilaterally cut pay and benefits negotiated through collective bargaining.

The proposed legislation violates basic trade union rights, conventions of the ILO and international and European human rights instruments.

The changes include substantial reductions in compensation for overtime, weekend and night work, sick pay, the elimination of two paid national holidays and a significant reduction in annual leave.

Unions estimate that the impact would be a 4-6% reduction in pay, with the impact falling hardest on the most vulnerable, including part-time and women workers.

The national trade union centers SAK, STTK and Akava have called for a mass demonstration on Friday, September 18 as the first stage in a fight to defeat these laws.

The IUF's Finnish affiliates, on behalf of the country's labour movement, have called for messages to be sent to the country's Prime Minister and Minister of labour in the run-up to the demonstration.  The IUF has therefore launched an online campaign.

Please take a moment to show your support:

Click here to send your message.

And please spread the word to your fellow union members.

CFMEU sues over Royal Commission Police Taskforce raid

The CFMEU is suing the Australian Federal Police over the Royal Commission Police Taskforce raid on the CFMEU office in Canberra last month.

The CFMEU claims the AFP search and seizure of material on 25 August 2015 was unlawful.

The CFMEU is seeking an urgent injunction to stop the AFP from examining or using the seized material until its case can be heard.

The union’s injunction application will be heard at the ACT Supreme Court on Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 2pm by Chief Justice Helen Murrell.

CFMEU Construction Division National Secretary Dave Noonan said:

“We believe the Royal Commission Police Taskforce raid on the union’s ACT office was both unnecessary and unlawful.

“The union received a huge number of Royal Commission Notices to Produce and has complied with every single one. We have produced an enormous volume of material to the Royal Commission which it can share with the Police Taskforce.

“If the Royal Commission Police Taskforce wanted further material, the Royal Commission could have issued further notices rather than storming our office.”

“The police were at our office for nearly 13 hours and our staff assisted them by identifying documents and providing passwords and PINs.

“Yet despite all that, the police then obtained a second warrant to continue the search after 9pm on the basis that it was necessary ‘to prevent the concealment, loss or destruction of property’. We say that warrant was invalid because there was no evidence to justify that finding.

“We also say that in carrying out the raid the AFP acted contrary to requirements of the ACT Crimes Act,” Mr Noonan said.

At the trial, the CFMEU will seek orders that the AFP return all the seized materials to the union.

“The union has no tolerance for corruption in its ranks and has always made clear that corruption allegations should be investigated by the police who will have our full cooperation” Mr Noonan said.

“However the raid on our Canberra office and the charging of our organiser Johnny Lomax with ‘blackmail’ for getting members higher wages through an EBA are part of a coordinated campaign to use the police and criminal law against the union’s legitimate and lawful industrial work on behalf of our members.”

Sydney – Communities United Rally 19 September

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Corbyn reveals most female front bench ever

WOMEN make up the majority of Labour’s front bench for the first time in the party’s history after Jeremy Corbyn unveiled his shadow cabinet yesterday.

Labour’s top team now includes 16 women and 15 men, including Angela Eagle, who becomes shadow first secretary of state.

The role will see her take on Chancellor George Osborne at Prime Minister’s Questions when David Cameron is away.

The defence, education and health portfolios — all previously held by men — were handed to Maria Eagle, Lucy Powell and Heidi Alexander respectively.

“We have delivered a unifying, dynamic, inclusive new shadow cabinet, which for the first time ever has a majority of women,” said Mr Corbyn after finalising his team following 24 hours of meetings.

He had been criticised early in the reshuffle for choosing men for three top roles.

John McDonnell is shadow chancellor, Andy Burnham becomes shadow home secretary, while Hilary Benn remains shadow foreign secretary.

The appointment of leftwinger Mr McDonnell, who chaired Mr Corbyn’s leadership campaign, was considered controversial by political pundits.

But the new shadow chancellor said: “I have got a long history in terms of financial administration.

“I was chancellor of the exchequer for London at the age of 29.

“My new policies, with Jeremy’s, have been roundly endorsed by the leadership election, so the economy would be safe in our hands but also it would be more prosperous.”

But Mr Corbyn overlooked many fellow left-wing MPs as he sought to unite the Labour Party’s different factions.

Lucy Powell, a close ally of former leader Ed Miliband, was made shadow education secretary, despite tweeting a month ago she had “never, ever met or spoken to” Mr Corbyn.

Owen Smith, who becomes shadow work and pensions secretary, is among nine senior supporters of Andy Burnham appointed.

And Chris Bryant and Vernon Coaker, who supported Yvette Cooper, also remain in the shadow cabinet despite differences with Mr Corbyn.

“The shadow cabinet is a strong combination of change and continuity that will now come together to hold this government to account, starting today with this pernicious Trade Union Bill,” Mr Corbyn said.

Jon Trickett, the only shadow cabinet member who nominated Mr Corbyn for the leadership, took questions on communities and local government just two hours after being handed the portfolio.