Thursday, October 29, 2015

Doctors warn against US style healthcare

The president of the Australian Medical Association, Brian Owler, urged the government to tread carefully if it was considering a greater role for private health funds in primary care, including visits to general practitioners.

“That could involve setting up the boundaries for private health insurance and the rules for how they engage with particularly general practice and what they’re allowed to fund and that they don’t have the ability to do things like say you can only refer to this group of doctors or you can only order ‘x’ test or ‘y’ test,” Owler said.

“We’ve got to make sure by having them engaged in general practice they’re not introducing a US-style managed care system by stealth.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

SDA: Protesters rally against proposed extension of Boxing Day trading across NSW

A group of singing santas, retail workers and religious leaders have protested outside the New South Wales Parliament building against proposed laws to extend Boxing Day trading across the state.

Currently only retailers in designated trading zones in Sydney's CBD and eastern suburbs are allowed to open on Boxing Day under the Retail Trading Act NSW.

But legislation would allow for Boxing Day trade in other areas across the state, including major trading hubs such as Parramatta, Liverpool and Wollongong.

Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association (SDA) New South Wales branch secretary, Bernie Smith, has called on Upper House MPs to vote the bill down.

"All they have to do is say no. Say no to extended trading and say yes to extended family time," Mr Smith said.

"There'll be no economic benefit at all if they extend trading time. But we all know the loss of family time that retail workers will suffer across the state."

The Baptist Church's Glenn Powell made a direct appeal to Christian Democrat Fred Nile, who holds the balance of power in the vote.

"It's just out of step with Christian values," Mr Powell said.

Upper House Opposition Leader Adam Searle said there was no economic benefit to expanding Boxing Day trade.

"The fact is there is the same amount of money to spend," Mr Searle said.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Native title awarded to Mithaka traditional owners in south-west Queensland

Mithaka traditional owners have been awarded native title over an area of Queensland land and water that rivals Tasmania in size.

The Federal Court, sitting in Windorah in south-west Queensland, made the ruling over 55,425 square kilometres, which is only about 12,000 square kilometres less than Tasmania.

Queensland Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham said Tuesday's determination protected the Mithaka people's rights to access their lands to hunt, fish, teach and conduct ceremonies.

Elder George Gorringe, 68, said the determination would give the Mithaka People a say in how they worked with other groups in the area to ensure their land was cared for properly.

"For many years, I have worked on many of the cattle properties and councils, quite often alongside my father, and I have become aware of the many traditional cultural sites on our land," he said.

"The recognition of native title means I can now be involved with our Mithaka People and our many friends on stations and in the shires to make sure these sites and traditions are looked after so they will last forever."

CFMEU, Textile union in merger talks

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia have confirmed that they have been in negotiations over a proposed merger for the past several months.

"We want our members' future to be in the best possible union – one that is strong and effective," TCFUA National Secretary Michele O'Neil said.

"The CFMEU is a great union. We have chosen to enter into discussions with them because they are a union that campaigns for jobs as well as for workers' rights and conditions."

CFMEU National Secretary Michael O'Connor said the TCFUA was the right fit for the CFMEU.

"The TCFUA is a campaigning union. It has campaigned around protecting and advancing the interests of some of the most vulnerable people in the community, particularly outworkers.

"They are a progressive union that supports policies designed to build a better, fairer and more progressive country," Michael O'Connor said.

Michele O'Neil said she believed a merge was the right thing for the future of the union.

"Our union has a long, proud 130 year history of being forward looking and fighting for our members.

"The world of work is changing – industries, the labour market and the nature of work are all changing and unions have to evolve too.

"Any proposed merge would be put to a vote of TCFUA members. Once endorsed by the union membership, the unions would then proceed to meet requirements under the relevant industrial legislation."

ACTU: China Free Trade Agreement forum at Penrith Raceway 28 October

Just a quick reminder that on 28 October, as part of the Australian Union Movement's Build A Better Future campaign in the Federal electorates of Lindsay and Macquarie, we are holding a debate/forum about the impact of the China Free Trade Agreement on the future of local jobs.

The event will take place at the Penrith Paceway (members lounge) at 6:00 pm for a 6:30 pm start.

Guest speakers include
  • ACTU President Ged Kearney, 
  • Jane Calvert (National President of the CFMEU Forestry Division), 
  • Dr Patricia Ranald of Sydney University (who will be talking about the Trans-Pacific Partnership), 
  • Mark Lennon (Secretary of Unions NSW).
Please spread the word about the event and I look forward to seeing many of you there.

In solidarity,
Aaron

Aaron Reynolds
ACTU Campaign Organiser

Australian Council of Trade Unions

AWU: Port Kembla workers' courageous call ensures the survival of steelmaking

Monday 26th October 2015

Bluescope’s announcement this morning, that steelmaking will continue in Port Kembla, has been welcomed by the Australian Workers’ Union, which has praised the courageous vision of its members in securing the result.

The Bluescope board have issued a statement to the ASX citing “game-changing cost-out” commitments from workers and staff as key to the decision.

Earlier this month, AWU members employed at Port Kembla steelworks decided in a mass meeting to accept temporary freezes to pay and a limited job cuts, in order to secure the survival of steelmaking in the region.

A formal ballot on the new enterprise agreement is likely to be held in coming weeks.

AWU National Secretary Scott McDine said the sacrifice of Port Kembla workers should be acknowledged - and remembered.

“Steelmaking in Port Kembla owes its survival to the courageous and long-sighted decision taken by workers to accept sacrifice today for viability tomorrow,” Mr McDine said.

“However, we note that although Bluescope’s steelmaking in Port Kembla may have been stretched to breaking point, the company overall is now expecting strong EBIT growth.

“And while the pay freeze accepted by workers is for a three-year period, the bonus freeze lasts only until the end of the current financial year. If profitability continues to climb, Port Kembla workers should be at the front of the queue for bonuses to reflect that."

AWU Port Kembla branch secretary Wayne Phillips said the commitment shown by workers needed to be matched by their elected representatives.

“The sacrifice of workers has secured the survival of steelmaking in Port Kembla and that’s a very good thing,” he said.

“But the long-term future of our industry depends on our governments showing some steel themselves and standing up to anti-competitive dumping practices that are prevalent in this country.

“Australian governments need to follow the example of other developed nations like the USA which ensure their steel industry is supported through government procurement and strict anti-dumping measures.”

NSWTF: Gonski call for Turnbull

Maurie Mulheron
President 
There is now an opportunity for Malcolm Turnbull, as the new Prime Minister, to fully implement the Gonski schools funding model. Both former prime minister Tony Abbott and former federal education minister Christopher Pyne opposed the needs-based funding model from the day it was released, only agreeing as an act of political expediency at the last election to fund it partially.
At the heart of the Gonski model is a school resource standard. The Gonski plan is to bring all schools up to that standard over a six-year transition period and then to maintain that level of funding so that no school ever drops below the resource standard. Students with greater need attract additional funding through loadings.
One of Malcolm Turnbull’s first acts after becoming Prime Minister was to convene a mini-summit of leaders from business, the community and unions. However, teachers know that Mr Turnbull’s goal of an “agile, innovative and creative” Australia will not be met unless the nation invests in education so that all children can be given the opportunity to reach their potential.
In Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull expressed support for the Gonski model: “But the point about the Gonski review and the Gonski report is that it essentially identified, fairly I think, the need for additional financial resources to be made available for schools and students who are getting inadequate resources given their particular needs, whether that be not coming from an English-speaking household, poverty, an Indigenous background or so forth. Again, in general terms, who would argue with that?” (Malcolm Turnbull, June 2013)
NSW has proven that it is possible to achieve bi partisan support for the Gonski funding model. The question educators are asking is whether Malcolm Turnbull can demonstrate the necessary leadership to achieve this at the national level.

Community language leaflets


The latest Gonski leaflet, advancing the campaign for the full six years of Gonski funding, can be downloaded in several languages:

Saturday, October 24, 2015

ACTU: Build a Better Future


Next week union members, parents and supporters across the country are calling Malcolm Turnbull to demand he fund Gonski.  Be part of this nation-wide action by registering here.

One of the first election promises the Abbott-Turnbull Government broke was bi-partisan support for extra funding for our schools so every child, no matter what their background, gets a quality education. 

Let’s see if we can convince Malcolm Turnbull to reverse this decision.

We will build a better future for our children by winning this funding.  Already some schools have received some Gonski funding and they are getting results. Principals and teachers are using the funding to reduce class sizes, improve student literacy and numeracy and help those at risk of falling behind.

But too many schools and students are still missing out.

The Australian Education Union has put together some great stories on how schools are using the Gonski funding and you can learn more about their Gonski week actions and activities here.

Winning Gonski funding will be a once in a generation achievement and is a key part of our Build a Better Future campaign.

Let’s all get behind the push to make it happen.

In union,

Dave and Ged
Australian Unions Team

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South Africa: Student protests stop fee increases

South African president Jacob Zuma has ruled out fee increases for universities after nationwide protests culminated in police firing stun grenades at students outside government buildings.

Thousands of students gathered near the Union Buildings in the capital, Pretoria, where Mr Zuma was due to address the protesters after he met student leaders and university officials.

Protesters tore down sections of a security fence, set fire to portable toilets and hurled bricks at police lines in chaotic scenes.

A few pushed through a cordon before being pushed back by anti-riot police who fired stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas at the crowd.

The president did not address the university students because of fears for his safety, state security sources said.

Instead Mr Zuma read a short statement at a televised press briefing.

"We agreed that there will be a zero increase of university fees in 2016," Mr Zuma said.

"Government understands the difficulty faced by students from poor households, and urges all affected to allow the process to unfold to find long-term solutions in order to ensure access to education."

Fees were set to rise up to 10 per cent next year, with a general Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Cape Town (UCT) currently costing 46,000 rand ($4,700).

Universities around the country have been closed over the last week as students protested against the proposed fee rises, which they said would mean poorer black youths would be unable to study for degrees.

The issue of education fees has ignited widespread frustration in South Africa over a lack of opportunities for young people since the end of apartheid, worsened by a weakening economy and high unemployment.

Many students said they would continue protesting even after Mr Zuma's announcement on Friday.

"The government thinks we are playing, they think it's because we want to run away from school," said Kgotsi Genge, a 22-year-old student at the University of Pretoria.

"But we will keep fighting. South Africa needs to invest more in education. This movement is because we are being oppressed."

Friday, October 23, 2015

The truth about affirmative action

Annabelle Sheehan, now the CEO of the South Australian Film Corporation, dropped a rhetorical bomb to state a few realities.

‘I’m going to be a bit more about context and behind the scenes, and I want to start by talking about employment and affirmative action, because a lot of our ideas around change centre around affirmative action.  The initial surge of action and politics around affirmative action occurred in the 1970s.’

For Sheehan, that affirmative action is now so undermined that campaigners apologise for deploying it, and they should not. History shows us why.  

‘That means one thousand nine hundred and seventy years of affirmative action for men ran unabated. And it wasn’t just by using levers of policy and discussion – it was engineered, it was hard wired into employment law regarding jobs that women could and couldn’t do, and that married women could and couldn’t do and then had to give up. 

‘So one of the things that I want to say is that men are not above affirmative action – they are the masters of it. They have chosen on the basis of gender for thousands of years and maybe they have some tips for us. 

‘The other thing about affirmative action for me is that they didn’t really have a quota in mind, a fifty-fifty idea, they went for the full one hundred percent…

‘People talk about affirmative action and the quotas to redress this system and suddenly get really concerned about the merit selection process, as if it had been operating prior to this. 

‘I would just ask, give me the definition of merit or excellence.’

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Kim Carr exposes blackmail proposal of Turnbull government

Labor senator Kim Carr said he regarded linking the family benefit cuts with extra assistance for the car industry as being a “blackmail proposition”.

New figures show that single parents who earn less than $100,000 a year and have teenage children make up the biggest group of losers under new cuts, which the federal government is describing as being like a game of “snakes and ladders”.

The new cuts, which save the budget $4.8bn over four years, remove family tax benefits worth $2,737 a year from single income families when their youngest turns 13 and reduces the payment to $1,000 for sole parents of teenagers and grandparents caring for teenagers.

Why is no one questioning the TURC narrative?

By Stephen Long

While the Trade Union Royal Commission has raised legitimate concerns about union governance, it's extraordinary how weak some of the evidence is and how willing the media is to ignore counter-narratives, writes Stephen Long.
Twenty one years ago Johnny Lomax - player of the year for the Canberra Raiders - was suspended by the rugby league judiciary for a high tackle and rubbed out of the 1994 grand final.

He suffered a better fate in the ACT Magistrates Court on Monday: it threw out absurd criminal charges the Australian Federal Police had pursued against Lomax on behalf of the Trade Union Royal Commission.

Lomax's "crime" was to seek better pay and conditions for workers under an enterprise agreement with their employer.

According to the police charge sheet, this amounted to making "an unwarranted demand with menace, namely that an enterprise agreement be signed between NEL Trading Pty Ld and the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union ... with the intention of causing a loss."

The "loss" alleged by police was that the company would have to pay its workers at least $26 an hour under the enterprise agreement, rather than the $17 the employer claimed it might otherwise pay (a wage which was, in fact, below the relevant award minimum).

Lomax told the subcontractor, in a phone call, that his company might struggle to get work on building sites if it didn't have an EBA; a statement of fact, since most enterprise agreements with principal contractors contain clauses requiring subcontractors to pay industry rates.

Somewhat apologetically, the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions wrote to Lomax's lawyers this month saying it would "offer no evidence" when the case went to court - conceding, in effect, there was no case to answer.

A waste of taxpayers' money, a waste of time, and an extraordinary overreach by the AFP and Dyson Heydon's royal commission.

Yet it occurred to few reporters covering the Trade Union Royal Commission to question the tactics. To publicly ask: should a union organiser be arrested and charged for doing his job? To ponder whether it was a stretch, even a dangerous precedent, to equate hard bargaining over pay and conditions with blackmail. To say: isn't it more appropriate to deal with such issues through workplace relations law?

There is no doubt the Trade Union Royal Commission - or the TURC, as it's become known - has raised legitimate concerns about union governance, and exposed corruption (including another organiser in Canberra who allegedly hit up employers for wads of cash).

It goes without saying that the exposure of corruption is welcome: any union official who takes bribes or misappropriates funds should face harsh punishment.

But it's extraordinary how weak some of the evidence trumpeted at the commission is; how dubious the conduct of some of the companies lionised at the commission; and how willing the media is to ignore counter-narratives.

At the hearings, there's been a parade of dodgy builders with poor safety records or serious question marks about their treatment of workers.

One of the star turns in the early stages was Lis-Con, a concreting contractor employed on major infrastructure jobs in Queensland including the Brisbane Airport Link tunnel.

Counsel assisting the commission, Jeremy Stoljar, portrayed Lis-Con at the hearings as a company "forced out" of Queensland by a thuggish union campaign.

A simple internet search shows that Lis-Con was, at the time, in a protracted dispute with the Queensland Government over an alleged $5.2 million underpayment of payroll taxes - which the company claims had nothing to do with it exiting the state.

And the company has also been subject to allegations of gross worker exploitation.

In an affidavit provided to the royal commission, an Irish backpacker alleges tactics at Lis-Con as shameful as those at 7-11: migrant workers housed two or three to a bedroom, on couches and on the floor in "Lis-Con houses"; workers systematically underpaid; subjected to bullying, intimidation, standover tactics and unsafe work practices; hired as sham contractors; paid in ways that illegally sidestepped visa requirements; and told that if they joined the union, they'd get the sack. A Lis-Con representative rejected some of the allegations, while others went untested at the royal commission.

The affidavit form the whistleblower is publicly available, though Dyson Heydon considered it outside the terms of reference and declined to call him as a witness.

Yet, as far as I can tell, no reporter from the mainstream media has covered it or investigated the allegations.

By contrast, months of damaging headlines and reports followed the revelation that employees at an industry superannuation fund, CBus, had given details of 400 Lis-Con workers to the CFMEU.

The essential context was all but ignored: that Lis-Con companies were three to four months in arrears in superannuation payments and owed workers close to $650,000 in unpaid entitlements.

I know it's an unfashionable point of view, but shouldn't we be more concerned about a company underpaying superannuation to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars than by a super fund giving information to a union that wants to get that money paid?

Back in Canberra, weeks after the arrest of John Lomax, new light was shed on the conduct of aggrieved local builders who'd been feted at the commission.

Photographs of serious safety breaches on building sites were presented in evidence. In cross examination, builders put up their hands and conceded wrongdoing.

One had already confessed to losing his scaffolding license for a period after an apprentice was injured on one of his jobs in 2013 and, more recently, to being issued with a prohibition notice because of serious safety hazards.

To put this in context: Canberra's construction industry has one of the worst safety records in Australia.

A report three years ago, commissioned in the wake of three fatalities, found its serious injury rate was 31 per cent higher than the national average and its long term injury performance 50 per cent worse than most Australian jurisdictions. On average, a construction worker in Canberra gets injured every working day.

None of this fazed Jeremy Stoljar. The counsel assisting the royal commission re-examined the building company witnesses and appeared to downplay the concerns.

A royal commission is not a court. It is an arm of the executive government.

With rare exceptions, such as the child abuse royal commission, most recent exercises of this kind have been blatant in their political motivations - this royal commission perhaps more than most.

Latika Bourke's revelation in the Fairfax newspapers that Commissioner Dyson Heydon had agreed to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser shifted the narrative, leading the media to focus, briefly at least, on the politicised nature of this inquiry.

The expose by Pamela Williams in The Australian that the commission treated with kid gloves the corrupt former HSU official Kathy Jackson - a darling of the right - reinforced this perception.

But these examples are the exception.

Too many journalists have been willing to passively receive the narrative as laid down by the royal commission.

Of course, journalists will report sensational allegations from the TURC - there'd be something wrong if we didn't. But some might say it's a star chamber.

Knowing this, don't we, as journalists, owe it to the public and our craft, to treat the evidence sceptically, probe the bona fides of those airing the allegations, and form some independent narratives out of this inquiry?

ACTU: In the rush to the sharing economy let’s not give up worker’s rights

22 October 2015

Unions welcome moves by Labor to tackle the complex issues around workplaces and the new digital economy.

New sharing services like Uber and AirBNB are changing the way we work and Australia needs to ensure rights, conditions and wages are not sacrificed in the process.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s six principles are a welcome beginning to the debate around how Australia should tackle the changing nature of work, particularly through technology.

Next month the ACTU is convening a symposium of leading strategic thinkers in this area for union leaders from across the country to build our response to the future of work, how we as a movement embrace the positives of a digital economy and what the dangers are for working people of all ages.

Workers, families and communities are concerned about the current trend where risk is shifting from businesses onto workers.

This damages the social fabric of Australian society, increases financial insecurity and uncertainty over working hours and has a debilitating effect on workers’ capacity to balance work and home life.

Quotes Attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Scott Connolly:
  • “The reality that the bulk of the jobs people have today will not be around or look like the currently do in the next 30-50 years is becoming increasingly accepted.” 
  • “Progress and change is a great thing for society but there needs to be protections to ensure that worker’s rights, wages, safety and other conditions aren’t decimated in the process.”
  • “These are difficult but important issues for workers and the nation and we can’t be dazzled by new technologies and not protect the standards we value.”
  • “Unions will meet next month to discuss how we can assist and protect workers within this changing landscape.”

Corporate Culture – "Freedom of Choice for Super"

Andrew Dyson

Unions NSW: Workers super at risk under changes

Posted on October 22, 2015

The Federal Government’s proposed changes to the governance of superannuation funds will leave millions of workers with less to retire on according to the peak union body in NSW.

Unions NSW is calling on the Senate to block the ‘ideological attack’ on the retirement incomes of hardworking Australians and ensure our high-performing industry superannuation system is protected.

“Unions support a strong superannuation system so working Australians can provide themselves with a retirement income that is sufficient to meet their needs. We believe the current model of equal representation is the best such system,” Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon said.

“This is an assault on a model that has been categorically proven to deliver superior returns to workers for the past three decades.”

Myriad studies have shown the overall superiority of industry super funds compared to retail funds in terms of costs and returns. A recent independent report found the industry funds’ trustee governance structure is the model most likely to maximise retirement incomes.

The McKell Institute report: The Success of Representative Governance on Superannuation Boards draws on 25 years of data and concludes there is no evidence that mandating independent directors on not-for-profit superannuation funds would improve fund performance.

Unions fear placing so called ‘independent’ directors, most likely from the business sector on to super industry boards would tip the balance from members.

“The trustee governance structure, which shares board positions equally between employer and employee representatives, has been proven as the most effective model in Australian superannuation.  It ensures decisions are made in the best interests of super fund members and has seen industry super funds consistently outperform retail super funds by around two per cent. And that’s exactly why the big banks and the Coalition hate it,” Mr Lennon said.

 “The Turnbull Government is so obsessed with tearing into unions, that they are even willing to risk the retirement savings of millions of Australian workers.

“While there is always room for reform across the superannuation sector, this is one area that is actually delivering and seems to be a solution in search of a problem.

“This is a classic example of cutting off your nose to spite your face and we are calling on the Senate to block the Government’s fixation with fixing successful not-for-profit super funds and instead focus on tackling governance problems in other parts of the finance sector,” Mr Lennon said.

“More needs to be done to investigate the scandals plaguing the finance sector including the lack of governance and control in regards to financial advice and the lack of transparency with trailing commissions, charges and fees. We should be calling for a Royal Commission into the banks and their relentless undermining of workers retirement incomes to provide already out of control financial institutions with even more cash.

“While Unions NSW strongly supports good governance in super we don’t support a one size fits all approach that risks diluting rather than strengthening the super system and enriching the big banks rather than the hard working people whose futures depend on it .”

Poker machines may be illegal

A potentially landmark case to have poker machines declared in breach of Australian consumer law is being considered by a leading Melbourne law firm.

Maurice Blackburn said it was working with the newly-formed Alliance for Gambling Reform on what legal strategies could be pursued to crack down on pokies.

Lawyer Jacob Varghese said they were exploring whether the machines breached consumer laws because they were designed to deceive users and encourage addictive behaviour.

Mr Varghese said the case was still in its early stages and had not yet been lodged in any state or federal court.

"Under consumer law it's illegal to do things which are misleading and deceptive," he said.

"We think there's a genuine argument that some of the behaviour by the pokie designers is misleading and deceptive in that it makes people think things are happening that are not actually happening. 

"One of those things is losses described as wins, in which the machine will act as if you've won but really you've net-lost. You might have won 30 cents on the dollar you played.

"You've still lost 70 cents but you still get all the stimulus and reaction from the machine as if you've won.

"The neuroscience shows that gives you a little bit of a hit, and that hit is not dissimilar to the hit you get when you take a drug."Mr Varghese said past cases brought against poker machine companies had often failed because the individual making the claim had largely been considered responsible for their own addiction. 

But he said new scientific research now suggested that was not always the case, as the machines were designed to "entrap" them into addiction.

"The problem is the players, sit there in the chair, are unaware that this is what the machines are doing to them," he said.

He said they would not necessarily push for a ban on pokies, but the introduction of clear warnings, like those on cigarettes, or to the machines themselves.

"If they're going to be as dangerous as they are at extracting money out of people and encouraging addictive behaviour, they need to be much more upfront about what they're doing," he said.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Keating on Indigenous recognition and Republic

We need an Australian republic and our own flag, but only Indigenous recognition will make us a truly great country, former prime minister Paul Keating has said during a wide-ranging discussion about his legacy.

“I always hoped and believed that Australia would be a great country,” the former Labor leader said of his vision for Australia when he became prime minister in 1991, after eight years as treasurer.

“No great country has a monarch of another country as their head of state,” Keating said at the Sydney Opera House, in conversation with ABC presenter Kerry O’Brien on Tuesday evening. “No great country has the flag of another country in the corner.

No country which is great … wants to live with the shame of the dispossession of its original people

"But more than that, but more than that, no country which is great, and calls itself great, wants to live with the shame of the dispossession of its original people.”

Indigenous dispossession and Australia’s colonial shame was a theme Keating returned to often during the lively 90-minute discussion, saying his greatest “emotional commitment” was the historic Mabo legislation that he ushered in which recognised the land rights of Australia’s indigenous people.

“We beat being marginalised, like South Africa was with apartheid, by the skin of our teeth,” Keating said. 

Malcolm Turnbull could deliver a republic in his next term in office, Keating said, in a strong push for an Australian republic.

ACTU: ChAFTA concerns remain for workers despite new agreement.

Today’s announcements on the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement show that despite the best efforts of the ALP the Turnbull government continues to dismiss the concerns of Australian workers and cares little about protecting jobs and professional standards. 

 

Whilst there has been significant and welcome movement on labour market testing for larger projects through IFA regulatory provisions, the agreement still presents the same problems with regards to all other 457 visa applicants. This means outside the IFAs there are still no mandatory requirements to test the local labour market first.  The clear result of the government’s refusal to move on this issue is that companies will be able to source workers from other countries without offering jobs to local citizens and residents. 

 

There are also serious concerns that the Turnbull government has refused to put in place proper and enforceable licensing requirements for workers such as electricians, who may come to work in Australia without the proper skills and qualifications to work in fair, safe and equitable conditions.    

 

The requirement for licensing under this deal goes some way to recognising that there is a major problem in this area but without proper and well resourced government compliance mechanisms the arrangements are not adequately enforceable and will leave migrant workers open to exploitation and undermine the safety of the Australian public.

 

We welcome the Labor party achieving an outcome for temporary workers wages and conditions.  Where unions have bargained for and secured decent pay rates through enterprise bargaining these changes will help ensure migrant workers are paid decently and comparably with Australian workers but again, with many temporary migrant workers being employed in enterprises that refuse to bargain and attempt to prevent workers from accessing their union, the government has fallen far short of what is actually required in this area.  

 

While we appreciate the efforts of Penny Wong and Bill Shorten to fix a bad deal, the proposed changes simply do not go don’t go far enough. 

 

Australian Unions will be holding town hall debates with government MPs around the country next week.  We urge Bill Shorten and Senator Wong to continue their participation in this debate and hear our communities concerns.


Quote attributable to Ged Kearney:

 

“Australian Unions will continue to fight for local jobs now and into the future.  We do not accept that trade deals mean trading away jobs here in Australia.  The Build a Better Future Campaign is hosting town hall debates on this issue because people have said they are concerned about what it all means for them and their families.  Today’s announcements simply mean there are new elements to explain and discuss which we will do in communities from Darwin to Launceston, Penrith to Perth over the next few weeks.”

ACOSS’ proposed reforms for family payments

ACOSS’ proposed reforms
 
  1. Index family payments to wage movements as well as the CPI, by restoring previous benchmarking of maximum rates of family payments to pension rates, which were based on the age of each child.
  2. For Part A, consider introducing a ‘middle benchmark’ for children of primary school age (in addition to one for preschoolers and another for those of high school age).
  3. Replace Family Tax Benefit Part B for single parent families with a Sole Parent Supplement to provide adequate supplementation for the extra costs of raising a child alone regardless of paid workforce status. This should be set at the level of the current Part B payment for younger child, so that payments to single parent families no longer fall when the youngest child reaches 6 years. This would provide an increase to affected single parent families (many of whom recently experienced payment cuts) of $23 per week and clearly separate this function from that of supporting the main carer of a child to ‘stay at home’.
  4. Progressively replace the ‘remaining’ FTB Part B payments in respect of couples with school-age children with higher Family Tax Benefit Part A payments, in a way that minimizes any income losses for families on low incomes. For example, the Part B payment for couples could initially be restricted to those whose youngest child is 12 years or less, and low income families with older children. Any income losses for those affected should be substantially offset by proposed increases in the FTB Part A payment for school age children, and proper indexation for those payments.
  5. Retain FTB Part B for couples where one parent cares for a young child ‘at home’.
  6. Establish an independent review of the adequacy and indexation of social security payments: The Government should establish an independent payments review commission to review the adequacy of all payments (including pensions, allowances, family payments and supplements) and indexation arrangements on a regular basis (say every 3 to 4 years) with a view to ensuring all households are able to achieve an acceptable standard of living. This body should recommend benchmarks for income required to achieve an adequate standard of living, including for children, based on the best available research.

NSWTF: Inquiry shows why NSW Government should reinvest in TAFE

By NSW Teachers Federation 16 October 2015

The Senate inquiry report into the funding of vocational education and training shows all the more reason why the NSW Government should start reinvesting in TAFE, Federation President Maurie Mulheron said. 

"The NSW Government should stop the closure of colleges, the cutting of courses and the increases in TAFE fees," he also said. 

As state governments have moved towards contestable funding models for vocational education and training (VET) dollars, funds have been channelled to private providers at the expense to TAFE colleges.

Australian Education Union Federal TAFE President Pat Forward said if the quality, capacity and experience in TAFE are lost, the standards of vocational training in Australia will fall. 

Governments have also been shifting the cost of training onto students via VET FEE-HELP student loan debts, with some students incurring debts in the tens of thousands of dollars. 

The inquiry found that controls on VET providers have been "unacceptably loose" and there is "no effective price control" in the private VET system and that continued operation of student loan scheme posed an "unacceptable risk to the Commonwealth".

VET FEE-HELP student loan debts have gone from $25 million in 2009 to an expected $4 billion in 2015.

Vic: Historic ratios win for nurses and midwives

Friday 9th October, 2015
by ANMF Victorian Branch

Victoria last night became a world leader in patient safety when the ‘Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Bill 2015’ was passed through the state parliament’s Upper House.

The only other state in the world to have legislated safe nurse/midwife: patient ratios is California, which enacted their ratios in 2004, and Queensland’s Palaszczuk Government will be introducing a similar ratios legislation in the next year.

The legislation passed unopposed through its third reading in the Legislative Council, following some fairly robust debate between Labor’s Jenny Mikakos and the Liberal Party’s Mary Wooldrige and Craig Ondarchie.

Ms Mikakos told the House that the Bill was designed to future proof the Victorian health system from the Liberal Party, specifically former Health Minister David Davis.

The passed legislation protects, in law, a range of nurse and midwife patient ratios across public hospitals and aged care facilities in Victoria covered by the public sector enterprise bargaining agreement.

Based on scientific research, the law outlines the minimum number of nurses and midwives needed in most public hospital wards and departments level of care required by patients and the time of the day.

For example, an emergency department at a large metropolitan hospital would have the following ratios on its morning and afternoon shifts: One nurse to every three patients (1:3), one in-charge nurse and two triage nurses.

The ratios set out in the legislation are the same as the ratios in the '2012-2016 Public Sector Enterprise Bargaining Agreement'.

Now that legislation is in place, we can begin working on improving ratios to ensure Victoria's patients continue to receive world class care.

Victorian nurses and midwives from across the state witnessed the historic decision in the public gallery, alongside ANMF Vic Branch Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick.

Prior to the introduction of ratios in 2000, approximately 20,000 Victorian registered nurses and midwives had chosen to leave the profession and Ms Fitzpatrick said the ratios success was a victory 15 years in the making.

‘Since 2000, every four years the Federation has needed to stand up for patient safety by renegotiating ratios into the public sector EBA,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.

‘With Premier Daniel Andrews passing nurse/midwife: patient ratios in law, forever, the public can be assured the level of care they’ll receive in Victorian public hospitals will be of the highest standard.

'Victorian patients will no longer need to worry about potential understaffing when they present at one of our public hospitals and nurses and midwives can focus on giving safer care.'

As the legislation directly affects the current public sector EBA, the legislation must be accepted by ANMF members through a postal vote conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission. It is expected this step will be completed before the end of the year.

We encourage all nurses and midwives in the public sector to vote ‘yes’ for the current 2012-2016 EBA to be varied to include the legislation.

CPSU: Medicare Outsourcing Trojan Horse

Newly released documents raise more questions about the scope of Medicare Outsourcing plans

Last year the Government sought expressions of interest from the private sector about outsourcing the Medicare payments system. Given the Government’s attack on our universal healthcare system the announcement generated significant concern that the process might be a trojan horse for the full privatisation of Medicare - hurting jobs, services and privacy.

We commenced a community campaign and the Government responded by denying that they are privatising Medicare. However, this week we received the results of a Freedom of Information request on the expression of interest process.

These documents reveal that the private companies that expressed interest in the work asked to take over more Medicare work than originally planned – and that the Department of Health were at least considering giving in to these requests.

In addition to calculating entitlements, processing claims and making payments, companies asked if they could have call centres, registers and other processing. An internal briefing note from mid-2014 said that the Health Department would ‘wait until we see what the commercial sector is offering and then make choices based on the benefits and risks of having a range of DHS services provided by a commercial operator’.

These issues raise significant doubts about the Government’s assurances about Australia’s largest database of medical information staying inside the public service. We will be writing to the minister to seek a meeting and his assurance that this priceless and critical database and Medicare administration will remain within the public service.

In the meantime please encourage members, friends and family to register their support for Medicare and Medicare workers at www.stopmedicareselloff.com.au

MUA and CFMEU merger on the cards

Maritime Union of Australia and Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union Joint Statement

In an historic moment for trade unionism, the Maritime Union of Australia and Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, have commenced discussions on a possible merger.

CFMEU National Officials Michael O'Connor, Dave Noonan, and Tony Maher met today in Sydney with the MUA's National Council to begin formalising a merger, which will be taken to the membership of the MUA at the union's National Conference in February.

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the potential merger would create Australia's most powerful union, which would better serve the membership of both unions.

"We have been presented with a monumental opportunity to represent working men and women in the Australian workplace without losing the long and proud history of our union," Mr Crumlin said.

"The MUA is no stranger to mergers and since the Waterside Workers' Federation and the Seaman's Union of Australia amalgamated in 1993 the MUA today is here to stay and can only grow in strength in this new union.

"This is a huge decision that hasn't been taken lightly, but discussions to merge with the like-minded CFMEU will help us fight the ever-pervasive anti-worker and anti-union attacks on workers and their entitlements and job security.

"We will continue to work through the issues with our members to ensure any merger is in their absolute best interest and have their total support.

CFMEU National Secretary Michael O'Connor said his union would welcome a merger with the MUA.

"The opportunity we've been presented with will bring great strength to the national and international union movement," Mr O'Connor said.

"The MUA offers us a chance to strengthen our politics within the CFMEU, because the struggle isn't just about increasing wages, or creating a safe work site, there is also a bigger and important political struggle.

"We're very conscious of the MUA's identity and we want to make it clear that this is a merger of equals.

"This move will be hugely beneficial to not just the members of the MUA and CFMEU but will lead the way for all working men and women."

AMWU: Westgate Bridge Legacy

Younger union activists mixed with building industry veterans last Thursday and spoke with emotional relatives of workers lost to learn the lessons from the West Gate Bridge collapse, Australia’s worst industrial disaster.


It was the 45th anniversary of the October Thursday when a gigantic span on Melbourne’s biggest construction job fell crashing into the lower Yarra River, taking with it the lives of 35 men and a workmate who died later.

Their names are honoured on a plaque at the base of the modern bridge’s Spotswood pylon.

The gathering of hundreds of people around that plaque fell silent for a minute at 11.50am, the time of impact which ended those lives and changed the futures of every person on that project and their loved ones too.

AMWU Victorian State Secretary Steve Dargavel spoke to the memorial service soon after, thanking organisers and vowing to honour all West Gate Bridge workers and their families in the most effective way any union can.

“It’s important 45 years after the event we give practical expression to our commitment that this not occur again,” he said.

 Mr Dargavel said the collapse was a failure of design and process, but that government standards and inspections in 1970 were  tougher than today’s regime.

 “So, in a way, there’s a larger burden now on unions to ensure  decent safety on the job because so much in society has been  deregulated and safety is one of those things,” he said.

 He said it was important to reverse the retrograde steps on  safety of the previous Victorian Coalition Government, getting  more specialists on to the job.

 He committed the AMWU to continuing our vigilance on OH&S,  making sure our jobs are well organised so no worker dies.

 Mr Dargavel said it was “fantastic” that so many younger  unionists and officials were at the service, as this was their  responsibility into the future.

 A similar safety message came earlier from CFMEU Victorian  Secretary John Setka, whose father was among 18 survivors in the wreckage that overcast day in October 1970.

“What they saw they will take to their grave,” he said, also recalling Kingsville schoolmates with dads who never came home.

He reminded union officials their greatest duty was making sure every member went home safe, no matter how much it cost fighting to ensure that.

Sisters Yvette Pram and Giselle Botten come back to Spotswood for the service each year. They were teens when the family sold up and moved out of the area soon after their father George Pram, a rigger, was killed.

“It was too much for mum to be near the bridge,” said Giselle. “There was a lot of fund raising, the union, the church, the school, the Salvos – the community came together.”

She said their mum, who died last year, had a breakdown months after the bridge disaster but had recovered and worked two cleaning jobs to bring up her three children.

 “It’s important to us that everyone remembers, so it doesn’t happen again,” said Giselle.

ACOSS Report

Key points
  • Community service guarantees would specify a set of services that are available to all who need them regardless of income or where they live.
  • The Commonwealth Government would be responsible for ensuring that guarantees and related outcomes are achieved, while State and Territory governments would be responsible for planning and delivery of the services.
  • Costs would be shared according a formula set in legislation – not by administrative fiat.
  • In return for these funding guarantees, State and Territory Governments would be required to provide services in a cost effective way, for example through investment in prevention and health promotion.
  • We already have a legislated guarantee for access to doctors through Medicare and in some areas for disability services through the NDIS. We propose to extend this principle to other services such as home care, hospitals, schools, and affordable housing subsidies for households with low incomes.
  • Funding arrangements for community services should be pragmatic and fit for purpose. Reform in this area should be free of ideological assumptions: for instance, that private is more efficient than public and that costs will be reduced without sacrificing quality if governments put all services out to tender.
  • Gaps in the revenue base need to be filled in order to pay for essential community services into the future. This is a better way to fund future services than user pays models or consumption tax increases. Reform of income tax is a priority to curb tax shelters such as superannuation, capital gains, negative gearing, and private trusts and companies.
  • An increase in the GST would fall disproportionately on people with low household incomes. The GST raises 7% of income from the lowest 20% of households compared with 3% from the top 20%. A higher GST would require substantial compensation for people on low and middle incomes, which would reduce the funds available for community services.

Dalai Lama plea for action on climate

The Dalai Lama on Tuesday urged strong global action to limit global warming and to protect fragile environments, including the Himalayan glaciers and Tibetan plateau.

Calling climate change a “problem which human beings created,” the 80-year-old Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader said all of humanity was now responsible for taking action. But instead, he said, “we are relying on praying to God or to Buddha. Sometimes I feel this is very illogical.”

He issued his plea in a pre-taped video released as part of a campaign launched by the Tibetan government-in-exile in the north Indian hill town of Dharmsala, where the Dalai Lama has been based since fleeing a Chinese military crackdown in Tibet.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Arctic waters: relief from oil and gas drilling

Great news: The Obama Administration just announced that it will cancel all lease sales for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic’s Chukchi and Beaufort Seas for the next two years. This grants  by Shell and the other oil industry giants circling the region like sharks.

Today’s victory, combined with Shell’s recent decision to call off its drilling plans for the foreseeable future, have once more demonstrated that the Arctic is no place for drilling.

But the fight is far from over. Because today’s announcement only covers lease sales for the next two years, Arctic drilling is still very much on the table. The Obama Administration will soon release its next five-year offshore drilling plan for 2017-2022, which could include the Beaufort and Chukchi, as well as waters off our cherished Atlantic coast, from Virginia to Georgia.

What we really need is permanentprotection of our Arctic and Atlantic coasts from all offshore drilling -- shielding our coasts from the risk of a catastrophic oil blowout and preventing more of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. 

This is an important step President Obama can take for the nation and our planet -- one that will help secure his environmental legacy and put America on the path to 100% clean energy.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Corporate Culture – Bypassing Democracy

From GetUp!

The wealthy and powerful just got their way in the Senate, without even needing a proper vote. 

The Turnbull Government just passed a law to hide the tax secrets of major private companies, owned by the likes of Gina Rinehart and James Packer. 

What's worse, it passed without a formal vote, because not enough Labor, Greens and crossbench senators were even in the room (did you know that could even happen?!). It's a sneaky move from the Coalition, and poor form from the rest for dropping the ball so badly.

The ATO recently revealed that 1 in 5 of these major companies paid no tax last year – but we won't know who, thanks to this shambles of democratic process.2 

Tax dodging that we'll never know about, because of a vote that never happened and that the opposition parties are now too embarrassed to talk about. Looks like it's up to us to make sure this doesn't go down quietly.

Even if our house of review in the Senate was caught asleep at the wheel, we're not going to let this rest. We're reaching out now to allies to see if we can launch our own investigation into the tax arrangements of some of these companies and report them ourselves. So watch this space.

But in the meantime, let Prime Minister Turnbull know he might be able to dodge the Senate, but he can't dodge us. 


NSWTF: Permanent employment benefits students and teachers

By NSW Teachers Federation 14 October 2015

The Sydney Morning Herald today reported on the number of temporary teachers employed in NSW public schools in recent years.

The research report is a timely reminder that permanent employment is a major recruitment and retention incentive for teachers to work in public education, and an important means of ensuring stability and continuity in delivering educational programs for students.

Temporary teachers perform an important role in replacing permanent teachers on leave. In recent years, many temporary teachers have also been employed to deliver additional, special programs for students that have been funded by fixed term government policies such as the National Partnerships.

Implementation of the NSW Gonski agreement means these temporary funding programs have been included into the recurrent funding model for all schools. This provides scope for schools to use the additional needs-based Gonski funding to employ teachers permanently.

The employment of permanent and temporary teachers is regulated through the School Staffing Agreement between the Federation and the Department of Education. This agreement has proven to be vital for ensuring security, equity and stability in teacher supply to all 2200 public schools across NSW. Under this agreement, all students, wherever they live, are provided with a curriculum guarantee delivered by qualified teachers.

Federation will continue to work to ensure that the Staffing Agreement upholds the importance of permanent employment for teachers and students.

United Voice: Anti-Poverty Week march and protest against cuts to weekend rates of pay

Canberra region workers and their supporters will commemorate Anti-Poverty Week today with a protest against the push by some employers and parliamentarians to cut the weekend penalty rates of some of Australia’s lowest paid workers.


The protestors will march to the Queanbeyan office of Dr Peter Hendy, the member for Eden-Monaro and Assistant Productivity Minister.

Lyndal Ryan, ACT Branch Secretary of United Voice, the hospitality union says “Our members are very concerned by the increasingly strident campaign against penalty rates. They know this campaign is about taking money from their pockets and putting it into the pockets of their employers.

“For many people weekend penalty rates make the difference between financial security and living in poverty.

“We want to send a strong message to the Turnbull Government and to our local member of Parliament that it’s not good enough for them to be contemplating pay cuts for the people who can’t afford it and don’t deserve it.

“Right now in the Fair Work Commission United Voice hospitality members are fighting an application by employers to cut their weekend penalty rates. Meanwhile, the Productivity Commission recommended in its recent draft report that Sunday penalty rates be cut for people who work in the hospitality and retail industries.

“Cutting penalty rates is out of step with the views of the overwhelming majority of Australians.

“This protest is about sending a strong message to Dr Hendy and to the new Prime Minister that they must stand by the hard working people who give up precious weekend time to work so the rest of the community can enjoy the good things in life that are so much a part of the Australian weekend” says Lyndal Ryan.

Treasurer Morrison – still talking tax instead of jobs

Rob Burgess from New Daily

Mr Morrison is ignoring the demand-side of the economy, because it does not fit the rigid, old-fashioned supply-side thinking of some of his fellow MPs in the party room, or indeed with Coalition voters.

Ideology tends to ‘make the perfect the enemy of the good’, and right now the economy needs something good – namely stronger growth and job creation.

What Mr Morrison’s mantra overlooks is that Australian workers actually “work, spend, save and invest”, and it’s the ‘spend’ part of the formula that is in the most trouble.

And fundamentally, the next election is not about tax as Mr Morrison argues so doggedly. Nor is it even about a budget surplus. It’s about jobs.

If Mr Morrison had not yet grasped the precariousness of this economic moment, Westpac’s out-of-cycle mortgage rate increase on Tuesday should have been the wake-up call he needed.

The other big banks are expected to follow, and the more they raise, the more impotent the RBA becomes – its recent rate cuts have not stimulated investment and job creation as hoped, and the central bank only has 200 basis points left to cut anyway.

The 20 basis point increase in Westpac’s variable rate this week will not only dampen consumer confidence and demand for new mortgages, and further sideline the RBA, but will suck a bit more private demand out of the economy through a direct hit on family budgets.

For an average 30-year mortgage of $450,000, raising the variable rate from 5.48 per cent to 5.68 per cent will mean a $57 a month hit to the family budget.

For a Westpac borrowing that’s $684 of demand taken out of the economy a year – it does not flow through as greater profits for Westpac, because the hike is only covering the bank’s increased funding costs.

Other banks are expected to follow Westpac and raise their mortgage rates. To put that in perspective, the Coalition made much of the Gillard-era carbon tax, worth $550 per year per household, as being a “handbrake on the economy”.

Well it wasn’t, and an average $684 hit to Westpac-mortage households won’t, by itself, cripple the economy either.

But it is just another worrying trend for a Treasurer stuck talking about tax instead of jobs.

There has been a heartening jump in consumer confidence in the past week, widely attributed to the upbeat tone of the new Turnbull government.

But that won’t be enough to sustain growth in the longer term, because alongside Malcolm Turnbull’s morale-boosting speeches, voters will still be reading about, or experiencing directly, the many headwinds the economy faces.

House prices are probably the biggest worry right now. We have just passed through an incredible boom in prices, mortgage credit growth, and housing construction – three things that have helped keep GDP growth positive.

But with even Macquarie Bank now forecasting a 7.5 per cent fall in prices, the wealth effect of the housing boom will go into reverse and households will be looking to cut back on spending – more demand disappearing.

On top of that, job losses in auto manufacturing and the resources sector continue.

Against that backdrop, winding back spending as a percentage of GDP is just another kind of vanishing demand.

None of this is to argue that allowing the budget deficits to stay at their current $40-billion-plus levels is desirable, or that a growing federal debt won’t eventually be a problem.

Rather, what Mr Morrison needs to get to grips with – in contrast to former Treasurer Joe Hockey – is that reducing public demand, just as private demand is faltering, sends jobs and growth in the wrong direction.

A growing number of economists expect 2016 to be the first grim year after the great ‘inflection point’ in the housing/banking and resources sectors.

It would be useful, given the near certainty of the arrival of these waves of pain, to dial down the rhetoric around cutting taxes and spending, and talk up job creation in all its forms – some of which simply has to be supported by government spending.

Australians don’t just ‘work, save and invest’. They also spend. Mr Morrison must see that sooner rather than later if he wishes to avoid the mistakes of his predecessor.

ACTU: Three workers killed every week in 2015

13 October 2015

Three workers killed every week in 2015, vigilance on workplace safety must be made a priority

Australian Unions are meeting this week in Canberra for the 2015 ACTU Occupational Health Safety and Workers Compensation Conference to discuss how to tackle significant workplace safety issues and barriers.

This comes as Safe Work Australia figures show there have been 126 workplace fatalities in Australia already this year (to 12 October). This equates to three fatalities each week on average. The highest number of recorded fatalities occurred in the transport, postal and warehousing
sector, which have accounted for 42 deaths so far in 2015.

Data from the agency also shows 531,800 workers are injured – 118,000 of those seriously – each year, costing Australia more than $60 billion annually.

The annual ACTU Occupational Health Safety and Workers Compensation Conference will bring together a range of academic experts, along with legal specialists and union leaders to focus on the latest research and work through real-life issues in an attempt to help build a healthier and safer work force.

An additional area of concern that the conference will focus on is workplace mental health and bullying. Despite the introduction of anti-bullying legislation in 2014, workplace bullying remains under-regulated and affects both men and women causing long term physiological issues and in
the worst cases, death.

In 2012-13 (the latest data available), 9.4% of all serious Workers Compensation claims made by women were for mental disorders and there was a 17% increase in the number of serious claims caused by mental stress.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary, Michael Borowick:

"Worker safety is just another in a string of issues where the government is prioritising its big business backers, rather that supporting the rights of everyday Australians."

“With three workers losing their lives every week on average in Australian workplaces so far this year, it’s clear that this is an area that needs more attention, not less.”

"As we've seen with the attacks on penalty rates, lack of action on the minimum wage, and proposed cuts to paid parental leave, this is a government prepared to cut corners in the workplace, with disastrous effects."

"OH&S regulations and Workers Compensation rights are not prohibitive red tape to be cut in a misguided deregulation drive, they are a sensible, best-practice approach to ensuring workers can get on with their jobs without having to worry about the risk of injury or death."

“Employers, governments and unions must work together to ensure safety is at the highest level in our workplaces because we can do a lot better than we currently are.”

UGTT in Tunisia receives Nobel Peace Prize

09.10.2015
Trade unions make a difference! The 2015 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to a quartet of Tunisian civil society groups for their promotion of democracy in the country following the Arab Spring. National trade union centre, Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT) is one of the winners.

Four Tunisian organizations, the UGTT, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League, and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers, are to receive the Nobel Peace Prize 2015 for their achievement of an "alternative peaceful political process in 2013 when the country was on the brink of civil war and subsequently guaranteed fundamental rights for the entire population", according to the Nobel Peace Prize committee.

Tahar Berberi, general secretary of Fédération Générale de la Métallurgie et de l’Electronique affiliated to the UGTT, and a member of the IndustriALL Executive Committee, says:

We are very moved and extremely proud of the award. It recognizes the hard and difficult work done so far, and gives hope to continue building on that. We thank all who supported us and especially trade unions like IndustriALL.

I hope that the Nobel Peace Prize brings together all political and social sides to work together on the noble task of creating a democratic constitution.

IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Jyrki Raina says:

We congratulate our Tunisian brothers and sisters on what they have achieved for their country. This fantastic news shows that trade unions are an important part of building a democratic and peaceful society.

In December 2014, IndustriALL held its Executive Committee in Tunis as a show of support for country’s democratic development, in which trade unions have played an important part.

Invited as a key speaker, Houcine Abassi, General Secretary of UGTT, promised to protect gains made by workers and said that:

“Workers are instrumental in the strive for a democratic Tunisia. IndustriALL’s presence in our country sends a strong message of support for our trade unions and their work.”

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Penalty rates loss affect women most

Around 4.5 million Australian workers rely on penalty rates. Emergency service workers, hospital and health workers, doctors and nurses, the manufacturing sector, police and many other workers. 

It is no coincidence that the government, the business lobby and employer associations are creating a conversation about abolishing penalty rates paid to workers in particular industries, namely hospitality and retail. 

I argue it’s for two reasons; first, there is still a gender divide across the Australian labour market and a gender pay gap of 26.1% in Western Australia against the national average of 17.1%. Women in Western Australia and across the country are going backwards in terms of pay and women are clustered in the sectors where the government wants to slash penalty rates. 

Second, many believe hospitality and retail jobs are the jobs you do on your way to securing a better job. Yet many employers want mature workers over a weekend because they value customer service and/or product knowledge. There are many workers across hospitality and retail who have made these jobs their careers and many are women.

The government appears to think these female workers are an easy target. And since they have little bargaining power and low rates of unionisation across many of these small workplaces, maybe they are. 

Make no mistake: if the government is successful in lowering penalty rates in hospitality and retail, it will flow onto all sectors of the labour market and penalty rates will be lost or lowered forever.

These same sectors were the areas where individual agreements in Western Australia flourished: low paid, insecure work with employees who have little or no bargaining power. These workers were targeted and were more vulnerable to the new agreements which cut their wages and conditions, including penalty rates.

paper by Janis Bailey and Bob Horstmann examined industrial reforms in Western Australia from 1993 onwards. The paper, titled Life is Full of Choices, reported that more than 50% of agreements in these sectors reduced or eliminated significant conditions such as penalty rates, overtime and leave loading. And as second generation agreements came in, there was a fivefold increase in agreements which offered below award rates of pay.