Thursday, December 29, 2016

Italy’s Operation Fear Failed

Matteo Renzi’s referendum gamble was a huge error of judgement – but the result offers hope for Italian democracy

The banks were going to collapse. The country would exit from the euro single currency. The PM and his government would fall and political chaos was inevitable.

Operation Fear was running at full throttle in the long build-up to Italy’s constitutional referendum vote on Sunday 4 December.

In the end Italians kept their nerve and resoundingly rejected the proposed changes that they believed were a frontal attack on democracy, enshrined the Italian constitution.

The meteoric career of Matteo Renzi, who assumed power in February 2014 as the fresh-faced Twitter-friendly leader of the Democrats, may well be finished.

He had foolishly staked his premiership on the outcome of the vote, but his wrongly assumed that his youth — he’s the youngest Italian PM ever — and “reforming” credentials, among which deregulation of the labour market to make it easier to hire and fire, would be an asset. And he is now paying the price. As the results came through late on Sunday night, he announced he would resign.

Like the EU referendum in Britain and the recent US elections, this wasn’t supposed to be the outcome.

The changes to the constitution — curtailing the powers of the Senate in order to subordinate it to the lower house — were designed to speed legislation so that the neoliberal “reforms” he’s been championing could be rapidly implemented, without opposition, to meet the demands of big business, the bankers and the political-bureaucratic elite at home, and in Brussels, Berlin and Washington.

But interventions by Barack Obama and other high-ranking foreigners did not help. Nor did near universal local media backing, or vast funds spent on the Yes campaign compared to the No camp. They may have had the opposite effect.

Somehow, Renzi managed to create an opposition to his constitutional proposals that ranged from far left to extreme right. The international business press were early cheerleaders for the changes but as Renzi’s likely failure became clear the tune changed.

In a leader article on November 26, the Economist argued that “Italians should not be blackmailed.” It noted: “In seeking to halt the instability that has given Italy 65 governments since 1945, it creates an elected strongman. This in the country that produced Benito Mussolini and Silvio Berlusconi and is worryingly vulnerable to populism.”

Furthermore, the Economist noted: “Members of the Senate would be picked from regional lawmakers and mayors by regional assemblies. Regions and municipalities are the most corrupt layers of government, and senators would enjoy immunity from prosecution. That could make the Senate a magnet for Italy’s seediest politicians.”

But the main problem the weekly magazine identified was that these changes would do nothing to deal the resistance of the people of Italy to “reform” — just like in France, whose enhanced stronger executive Renzi was trying to ape.

What the business papers and indeed the liberal press in general mean by “reform” is not what the word until recently was understood to mean.

By reform they mean regression — on social, economic and political matters. They mean give even more power to corporations to control people and their lives. And that’s why so many Italians — and above all the “left behind,” the people of the south and the young — voted to protect their constitution.

CPSU – Public Service Commission Highlights Own Bargaining Failure

DEC 21, 2016

The CPSU is disappointed at Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd’s latest attempt to shift the blame for his serious failings in public sector bargaining, rather than engage and negotiate constructively.

Mr Lloyd has today issued a media release that appears to claim that more than three years of counterproductive and unfair bargaining has been a success.

CPSU National President Alistair Waters said: “It’s absolutely extraordinary for John Lloyd to be crowing about the success of his bargaining policy, as 100,000 Commonwealth public sector workers are just a few days out from their third Christmas without a pay rise. It’s a truly horrible situation for them and their families.”

“As usual Mr Lloyd is disingenuously focussing on the number of Commonwealth agencies that have new agreements while ignoring the bigger picture. The fact that two-thirds of workers don’t have new agreements after so long underlines Mr Lloyd’s spectacular failing as APSC Commissioner.”

“Mr Lloyd has finally acknowledged that the four largest agencies still don’t have new agreements, but bizarrely he continues to claim that the CPSU somehow has the power to make union and non-union members vote against their own interests. Deals have been voted down at least three times in these agencies because workers know a dud deal when they see one.”

“Mr Lloyd similarly has a strange idea of ‘overwhelming’ support for agreements settled on his watch, given he then points to results including a 58% Yes vote in the Attorney-General’s Department and 52% Yes for Screen Australia.”

“We believe the closeness of those results confirms absolutely that the majority of agreements that are going through are being voted for through gritted teeth, and reflect the harsh and damaging war of attrition that’s been waged on these hardworking staff.”

“Mr Lloyd criticises the CPSU for being unable to successfully negotiate any agreements, when the reason is the ridiculous barriers he has erected that prevent agencies from negotiating in any real sense to reach agreements that can benefit the community, benefit agencies and benefit hardworking staff.” 

“Public service workers know that the problems in bargaining are being driven by the Government’s approach and Mr Lloyd’s extreme ideology and not what’s best for public sector workers or the community they provide essential services for.”

“The CPSU remains ready and willing to negotiate a sensible resolution to end this long-running dispute.”

SDA – Aldi Management forced to consult on future agreements

December 09, 2016

  • Aldi decision protects right to representation for all 
  • Management forced to consult on future agreements 
  • Workers will now have a say on wages and conditions 

The SDA has won a critical case in the Federal Court that ensures Aldi workers and in turn all Australians can have their say on future wages and conditions.

The dispute arose when ALDI managed to have an Enterprise Agreement approved in the Fair Work Commission without consulting the employees who would be covered by the agreement.

SDA National Secretary, Gerard Dwyer, said the SDA strongly argued against the approval of the agreement, all the way to the Federal Court, and won. 

  • “This decision isn’t just about ALDI workers - it also sends a clear message to employers to appropriately consult workers about their pay and entitlements. 
  • “Now, all Australian workers will have their say on all future agreements and their right to representation is guaranteed,” Mr Dwyer said.  

Retail worker and SDA member Trent Hunter knows the importance of union representation in the workplace. As a union delegate he takes his role as an advocate for members very seriously. 

  • “Making sure members know their rights and entitlements is very important to me. Whether it’s related to breaks or pay, having the support of the union empowers us to have a say. 
  • “If it wasn’t for unions protecting our workers’ rights, protecting our standard of living and ensuring we have a safe workplace, we would lose our rights and entitlements we take for granted today.”

PSA – Landlocked Minister: Property errors due to privatisation not process

Dec 20, 2016

PSA Media release:

The recent errors in relation to certificates from the Land and Property Information Service (LPI) were due to the looming privatisation of the Titling and Registry wing not lack of governance said the Public Service Association (PSA).

The union said the assertions of Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet that the mistakes were due to lack of proper process were rubbish.

  • “The Government has to face facts and the facts are the errors were due to critical staff cutbacks along with many experts normally involved in maintaining the register of properties instead working on the looming privatisation of the Titling and Registry wing of LPI,” said PSA General Secretary, Stewart Little.
  • “This is typical of this Government: cutting staff and then demanding better results from those who remain.”
  • “LPI was an operating model for the rest of the world and now the Government are stripping it for sale it’s suddenly riddled with alleged procedural shortcomings.”
  • “How can you cut expert staff and shunt others off to work on basically preparing the organisation for sale and not expect some fall out?”
  • “It’s interesting that the Minister talks about alleged lack of process because once the service is privatised, there will be no regulation and no accountability, only a profit motive.”

Friday, December 23, 2016

ACTU – All we want for Christmas is to Safeguard Penalty Rates

22 December 2016

The Australian Council for Trade Unions (ACTU) is calling for charitable Christmas spirit by asking the public to consider those at work this Christmas, and a need to safeguard their penalty rates.

Throughout Australia this Christmas, hundreds of workers will be working overtime, in overdrive, to support the holiday season and they should be compensated fairly.

Quotes attributable to Dave Oliver, ACTU Secretary:

  • “All we want for Christmas is to safeguard penalty rates – lets do the right thing. The Fair Work Commission was expected to rule in September on whether to reduce Sunday rates in line with rates on Saturday for certain industries - the decision was delayed for late this year.
  • “We’re pretty sure that Santa would pay his elves penalty rates, and Australian employers should do the same – whilst this is a season for fun, for many this is the most demanding work period of the year, and there should be penalty rates for that.
  • “The ACTU have been fighting to safeguard penalty rates, so we’re asking people to consider having to work on a public holiday, and be paid the same as a weekday.
  • “During a period with changeable hours, business closures and overtime, penalty rates payments help low-wage earners survive.
  • “Christmas is an expensive time for families, and penalty rates help low income workers save a little more to get through the season and treat their loved ones.”
  • “When you go out for a drink or meal this holidays, remember that hospitality and food workers are in the bottom 30 per cent of Australian income earners.
  • “As you do you last-minute shopping this holiday, spare a thought for those overworked retail workers – along with hospitality, retail has the largest proportion of low paid workers in Australia.
  • “Let’s face it, no one wants to work on a holiday, that’s why weekend and public holiday penalty rates are an important for workers who make that sacrifice.
  • “Everyone deserves to be home for Christmas, but if they have to work instead they should be compensated, and that’s why penalty rates are essential,”

The ACTU will continue to campaign to save weekend penalty rates in 2017.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Unions NSW – Challenging Year for NSW Union Movement

While 2016 has been a challenging year for the NSW union movement we should take the time to reflect on the many wins we have had for working people.  Whether fighting privatisations and cuts to services in health, education, prisons and TAFE to putting paid domestic violence leave on the national agenda, NSW union members have shifted the conversation to the issues that matter to working people and our communities.
Here’s a short video to recap our year.

Thank you to each and every union, their members, our volunteers in our local community groups and our retired members for all your support, hard work and dedication to making 2016 a successful year. As we move into 2017 be assured we are a united movement with a clear agenda for improving the lives of working people and their families.
Unions NSW wishes you and your family a merry Christmas and a safe New Year. We look forward to working with you in 2017.

ACTU – Turnbull Government must act now to protect public from Asbestos this Christmas

21 December 2016

Asbestos Safety  ACTU Assistant Secretary  Michael Borowick  Christmas DayThis Christmas, the Australian Council of Trade Unions is reminding the Federal Government of the importance of properly monitoring all imports to Australia, to ensure the public is not exposed to asbestos contaminated products.

Earlier this year, 307,000 crayons contaminated with asbestos were stopped at Australia’s border sparking serious concerns about what could have slipped through customs and come into contact with Australians.

The ACTU said it was deeply alarming that there was no way of knowing how many contaminated products made it into the hands of Australian children in childcare centres, schools and homes.

Asbestos claims the lives of more than 500 Australians each year and the ACTU said the Federal Government needed to better resource the Australian Border Force so that it could properly monitor all imports and protect people from the dangerous material.

Quotes attributable to Michael Borowick, Assistant Secretary, ACTU:

  • “It’s terrifying to think that Christmas presents such as crayons, given to children could be contaminated with traces of asbestos. We need to be sure that all imports to Australia are properly screened so that nothing harmful can slip through the cracks and into the hands of Australians.
  • “The Federal Government needs to be do more to ensure that there is an effective mechanism in place to enforce the ban on asbestos and no company can get away with importing this dangerous material.
  • “Asbestos is a deadly product – the Turnbull Government needs to do everything it can to address the current failings in regulation and enforcement of the import ban. “Current enforcement is simply not good enough. This Christmas we need to be sure that there are effective measures in place to prevent anyone else coming into contact with asbestos contaminated products.”

ACTU – Murdoch University attacks on staff damage international reputation

20 December 2016

Murdoch University’s attempts to force their employees onto the safety-net award conditions - stripping conditions and undermining academic independence - is an anti-union attack that risks the world-standard resource which makes Australian Universities so desirable for domestic and international students – their staff.

The ACTU has today written to Vice Chancellor Professor Eeva Leinonen, calling on the university to cease the unnecessary industrial conflict and engage in genuine negotiations with the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) to find a deal which will continue to draw the best and brightest to the university to work and study without cutting pay and stripping conditions.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver:

  • “The unnecessarily aggressive approach taken by Murdoch University is disappointing, and we have written to Vice Chancellor Professor Eeva Leinonen urging her to reconsider this tragically short-sighted action which risks destroying the quality of staff at her university.”
  • “We expect that the university will recommence bargaining in good faith with the union and come to an agreement which will not strip of pay and conditions on the understanding that without them, universities are nothing.”
  • “With a positive approach from the university, rather than continued antagonism, we believe this dispute can be resolved quickly so that it doesn’t impact on the sterling reputation that Australian higher education sector has rightfully earned internationally.”

Sunday, December 18, 2016

"Better Regulation" to make things worse – 100,000 deaths in the EU every year

Industry tactics to delay and weaken workplace cancer law

Our new report shows how industry lobbies present employee protection against work-related cancers as an ‘unnecessary’ burden on companies and explains which tactics they use to weaken and delay the EU’s revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive. In the EU alone, over 100,000 people a year die due to insufficient protection against cancer-causing substances in the workplace, making this lobbying a real threat to public health.

The revision of the Carcinogens Directive is a telling example of how industry is using the rhetoric and tools of ‘Better Regulation’ to pre-empt, delay, and weaken urgently needed rules, and how it plays off regulations against each other. Industry lobbies speaking the language of ‘simplification’, ‘burden reduction’, and ‘harmonisation’ have been well received by a European Commission that is keen to ‘cut red tape’. As a result, its proposal contains far too few, and too weak, exposure limits for workplace carcinogens. The European Parliament, however, still has a chance – and an obligation - to stop worker’s lives being sacrificed for industry’s profits.

As this report outlines, the inadequate regulation of carcinogenic substances in the workplace has devastating consequences: an estimated 100,000 deaths in the EU every year. The cost to society is a minimum of €2.5 billion annually. And yet, occupational cancers are avoidable. But without strict and binding rules they won’t be prevented, for industry has little incentive to do so; the risks and costs of exposure to workplace carcinogens are borne by the victims and society. Despite this, the Commission – heavily influenced by industry lobbies – delayed taking action for ten years. Now that it has finally acted, its proposal still only contains 13 substance exposure limits (promising 12 more by the end of 2016). This is contrary to the recommendation of various member states, health bodies, and trade unions, which advise including exposure limits for at least 50 carcinogenic substances.

Analysing lobby documents on workplace exposure limits for carcinogenic substances like silica dust and ceramic fibres, among others, this report highlights how ‘Better Regulation’ is in fact an attempt to reduce the regulatory ‘burden’ on businesses, regardless of the cost to people and planet, giving industry new opportunities to steer EU rule-making in a pro-business direction. The building blocks of Better Regulation (impact assessments, stakeholder input, evaluations, self-regulation, etc) have been instrumental in industry lobbying on the Carcinogens Directive, with industry tactics including voluntary initiatives to delay regulation, attacks on studies that don’t serve their interests, pushes for greater influence via more impact assessments, and the pitting of different EU rules against each other to erode standards.

Unsurprisingly then, industry was fairly happy with the Commission’s May 2016 proposal: there are not many exposure limits, and it is not very strict. BusinessEurope urged MEPs not to slow things down by changing the Commission’s proposal. But since we’ll be stuck with these exposure limits for many years, it is vital for hundreds of thousands of workers exposed to carcinogens across the EU that we get adequate protective limits now. Thankfully, the European Parliament’s rapporteur has proposed amendments to the Commission’s proposal that go a long way towards achieving this. But it remains to be seen what improvements MEPs are willing to make: ultimately, it will come down to how they assess the relevance of costs to businesses against cost to human life.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Acoss – MYEFO must end ‘zombie’ budget strategy which rips $7B from the poorest

December 15, 2016

ACOSS today urged the Federal Government to halt relentless attacks on people on low incomes, and use next week’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) to chart a fair and realistic Budget reform path and abandon $7 billion of harsh ‘zombie’ social security cuts that have already been rejected by Parliament.

“Low-income families, people struggling to find a job, and anyone who relies on social security payments to survive, need certainty in the Budget as much as business and the ratings agencies do. It is unacceptable for Government to continue its attacks on low income people, holding over their heads the threat of large cuts to their incomes, as it has since May 2014,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“Labor, the Greens and crossbench Senators, including the Nick Xenophon Team have unequivocally ruled out the harshest budget cuts, including the cruel proposal to impose a five-week wait for young people to receive unemployment benefits, the abolition of the $6 a week Energy Supplement for families on the lowest incomes, and severe cuts to family payments which would reduce the income of a single parent with two teenage children by $60 a week.

“In just the last week, we have seen a host of media stories – some involving Cabinet Ministers and a former Prime Minister – blaming unemployment on ‘bludging’, and trivialising serious disabilities including depression and back pain.

“Proposals to impose more penalties on unemployed people, who already have to search for up to 20 jobs a month and attend regular interviews with Centrelink and Jobactive providers and participate in Work for the Dole, show a lack of understanding of how tough the job market – and Centrelink rules – are for people already.

“People on low incomes and unemployed should not be treated as easy targets. Our budget challenges are not because of a so-called ‘welfare blowout’. Social security for people who are unemployed accounts for less than 3% of the Budget and its share is projected to decline in future years. Last year, there were just 29 prosecutions for serious social security fraud.”

“The Government cannot legitimately keep booking savings year after year when they are unlikely to pass. It’s time to rule a line under the failed 2014 Budget strategy.

“Real budget reform should review and redesign the spending programs and tax breaks that are growing the fastest or lack a clear justification. The government has made a start with superannuation. It should thoroughly review tax breaks such as those for capital gains, major gas projects, and self-education expenses. It should re-examine whether the health insurance rebate actually reduces the costs of hospital treatment.

“Budget reform worthy of the name requires broad community engagement and support. Governments must bring stakeholders and the community with them by explaining the problem and seeking our views on solutions, rather than keeping us in the dark and then ‘springing’ budget cuts on us as in 2014.

“The Government must accept that Parliament and the community has rejected the failed 2014 Budget strategy. With MYEFO, the Government should end the budget uncertainty and begin to work with the community to forge a new budget strategy that’s fair, acceptable, and realistic,” Dr Goldie said.

UK – Tories Staggering £4.6bn Cuts Create Social Care Crisis

Jeremy Corbyn today blamed a staggering £4.6bn of cuts for the social care crisis – describing it as “made in Downing Street”.

The Labour leader traced the alarming care failures to harsh austerity since 2010.

Mr Corbyn asked Theresa May if she knew the scale of the cuts imposed on local authority social are services since the start of the decade – but received no answer.

He then said: “The Prime Minister does not seem to be aware that £4.6bn was cut from the social care budget in the last Parliament.

“Not mentioned in the autumn statement, underfunded and many elderly people left in isolation and increasing risk because of the lack of Government funding.”

Mr Corbyn also said: “This is social care system that’s deep in crisis. The crisis is made in Downing Street by this Government,” and he added: “Get a grip and fund it properly.”

WA: Coroner Rules that treatment of Aboriginal woman was “unprofessional and inhumane”

The West Australian coroner has ruled the treatment of Aboriginal woman Ms Dhu by police officers was “unprofessional and inhumane” before her death, and has agreed to release CCTV footage of her last hours in custody.

Coroner Ros Fogliani also ruled Ms Dhu’s death in custody could have potentially been avoided if her infection had been treated with antibiotics.

Ms Dhu, whose first name is not used for cultural reasons, died after being taken to hospital in August 2014 while being held at South Hedland Police Station.

She was taken into custody two days earlier because she had not paid $3622 in fines. It was the 22 year old’s first time in custody.

But outside court, Ms Dhu’s grandmother Carol Roe told WAtoday the family felt justice had still not been served after the Coroner failed to hold anyone accountable for Ms Dhu’s death.

She said the family would push for the police officers and medical staff who treated Ms Dhu to be charged.

“There’s still no justice for the family,” Ms Roe said.

“That’s our next step, we want justice, we want to go to court and get everyone accounted for.”

Her uncle Shaun Harris, who runs the Justice for Dhu Facebook and Twitter feeds, said he would share the “shocking and disturbing” footage with international racial justice campaigns, such as Black Lives Matter.

“We’ll definitely be tapping into our overseas networks and definitely be encouraging everyone to share, share and share as much as they can to make people aware not just of Ms Dhu but Aboriginal deaths in custody, to force custodial and judicial reforms,” Mr Harris said.

Ms Dhu was taken to hospital by police officers three times within 48 hours after complaining of feeling unwell and being in pain, and died on the third trip.

During the inquest, some police testified they thought Ms Dhu was faking illness and was coming down from drugs, while some medical staff also thought she was exaggerating.

WA Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan now acknowledges Ms Dhu “was not treated with the right level of compassion or dignity”.

Coroner Fogliani said Ms Dhu’s death was preventable as early as the day before she died, because she could have been treated with antibiotics.

Ms Fogliani said she was allowing the release of the CCTV tapes showing Ms Dhu at the police lock-up, but with footage of her arriving at the Hedland Health Campus redacted.

Some footage shows police dragging and carrying Ms Dhu’s limp body to a police van.

Another clip shows an officer pulling Ms Dhu by the wrist to sit her up before dropping her, causing Ms Dhu to hit her head.

The coroner has also called for the law to be changed so people can no longer be automatically imprisoned in lieu of non-payment of fines.

There were cries of “racism” and “shame on you” from the gallery in court after the coroner finished handing down her findings.

Earlier, Ruth Barson from the Human Rights Law Centre told reporters outside court that “the brutality of her death is inexcusable”.

Ms Barson said there had been a series of failures by police and hospital staff.

“She was treated in cruel and inhumane ways by those who had a duty of care to look after her,” she said.

“She was dismissed, ignored, neglected and denied her basic human rights.”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Western Australia continues to have the highest Aboriginal imprisonment rates in Australia.


  • The law be changed so people cannot be jailed for not paying fines, or that imprisonment be subject to a decision by a magistrate
  • Every police station where detainees are held must have a dedicated lock-up keeper or two officers rostered for custodial care at any time
  • All police based in areas of significant Aboriginal population receive cultural competency training to deal with specific issues, challenges and health concerns, and that the local Aboriginal community be involved in the training
  • Parliament consider legislation to allow clinicians to provide police with sufficient medical information to manage a detainee’s care while in custody
  • Fine defaulters who are incarcerated should be transported to the nearest prison within eight hours of their arrest, where the transport time does not exceed the detention period
  • Police to call the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme when an offender is in a lock-up and when they are taken to a hospital. AVS is a group of Aboriginal staff who provide support and counselling to indigenous people in custody
  • The lock-up procedure manual be amended to ensure more regular monitoring of a detainee who requires repeated hospital attendances, and that an unconscious or not easily rousable person be taken to hospital by ambulance

Friday, December 16, 2016

IndustriALL calls for urgent ILO action on deadly Chinese coal mines

Created Thu 8/12/2016, Last Updated Thu 8/12/2016

IndustriALL calls for urgent ILO action on deadly Chinese coal mines

IndustriALL Global Union has written to the International Labour Organization (ILO) urging it to intervene to improve safety in Chinese coal mines, following the deaths of 86 coal miners in a matter of weeks.

Thirty-two miners were reportedly killed in a gas explosion at a coal mine owned by the Baoma Mining Company in northern China’s Inner Mongolia region on 3 December. Twenty-one miners were killed in a coal mine blast in the city of Qitaihe in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang on 29 November, while a further thirty-three miners were killed in an explosion at a coal mine in the southwestern city of Chongqing on 31 October.

The fatalities come as pressure mounts on coal mines to increase output during wintertime.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

AMWU – CUB Win Shows the Power in Our Union

You can get it behind the wicket, or you can get it on the picket. 

And workers at Melbourne’s CUB Factory have got it now, having secured a huge union win in one of the country’s longest running industrial disputes. 

After exactly 6 months of boycott, beers like VB, Melbourne Bitter, Carlton Draught are back in unionists’ fridges this summer, as AMWU and ETU members at CUB in Melbourne secured a victory in time for Christmas.

Members held their heads high as the win came down, vindicated in standing strong for their rights. By the end, management of CUB-InBev buckled to all of the union’s demands: all workers able to go back to work (should they choose) on their original pay and conditions, a guarantee of no involuntary redundancies and any new contractor must meet the existing conditions. The temporary non-union workforce employed by the company will be leaving very soon.

State Secretary Steve Dargavel paid tribute to the CUB 55, the entire union movement, and the support of the general public.

“The members on the picket are the ones that held this together and their strength and endurance has been tremendous. But the support flowing in from fellow union members across the entire movement was critical, as was the work and support from friends and supporters in the general public.

“The Boycott Campaign took on a life of its own and this was a huge lynchpin to our success. We want to thank every person in Australia that chose not to drink CUB as a sign of their solidarity for the rights of these workers.

“We’re delighted that there’s now no beer off limits over the summer season – but even more importantly, that these guys stood strong, and that they got the result they deserved!”

Bitter Victorians: A long fight finally over

The dispute was long, cold and hard – workers at the CUB brewery in Abbotsford, Victoria, started picketing the plant in June 2016, when the company sacked 55 maintenance workers, all AMWU and ETU members. Non-union replacement workers were brought in.

The sacked workers were given the option of applying for their jobs through a new contractor – doing the same job for up to 65 per cent less pay. They refused – and were thrown out into the coldest, wettest winter Melbourne had seen for years.

It became the site of Australia’s most high-profile industrial dispute for many years.

AMWU Delegate Chris Brown became one of the public faces of the battle.  He says the mood on the picket line was strong throughout the dispute, with workers confident they would get a positive result.

“Over the months morale stayed high,” Chris says. “It was really tough, but the support rolling in from union members and the everyday public was extraordinary.” 

Dispute Exposes Sham Agreements

The battle with CUB wasn’t just about the sacked 55 workers.  This dispute has exposed big flaws in the Fair Work system that allows sham ‘Trojan Horse’ agreements to undermine genuine agreements with real workers.

In the case of the CUB maintenance workers, an agreement struck by a company with just three casual workers in Perth two years ago was used as the basis of the deal between CUB and the contracted labour hire firm, Programmed Skilled.

An investigation by the ABC Radio program Background Briefing tracked down the worker who signed the original Enterprise Agreement – a 23 year-old who only worked for the company for six days, and who readily admitted that he didn’t understand what he was signing.

“It’s pretty blurry; I didn’t really know much about it,” he told Background Briefing.  “I just sort of signed it because they asked me to do it." 

Using this dodgy agreement, Programmed Skilled was able to pitch for the CUB work promising to dramatically reduce labour costs.

As it turned out, Programmed Skilled bit off more than it could chew.  By the end of August it decided to pull out of the agreement with CUB. 

But instead of reinstating the workers on their former pay and conditions, CUB kept the plant running on a minimum maintenance schedule.

AMWU Victoria State Secretary Steve Dargavel said the CUB dispute, along with the recent behaviour of companies such as Griffin Coal in WA and Esso in Victoria, has sparked a Senate inquiry into the legal loopholes companies use to avoid their responsibilities under the Fair Work Act.

“Too often we are seeing situations like this where companies use labour hire firms or dodgy manipulations of the Fair Work Act to come in and slash the pay and conditions of workers. 

“These practices need to be stamped out, and we’ll be fighting every step of the way.”

Beer sales go flat

The CUB maintenance workers received enormous support from trade unionists and everyday beer drinkers around the country.

A campaign to get consumers to boycott CUB products took off.  CUB-Free Grand Final day parties were held right around the country, and people pledged to have a CUB Free Melbourne Cup. With each passing week more people became aware of the boycott campaign. The campaign was ready to continue with a CUB Free Christmas and CUB Free Summer when the company called a truce.

Chris Brown said the support was overwhelming.

“Everyone was right behind us.  We received support locally, nationally, and internationally, with messages of solidarity coming from around world.

“Even pubs got in on the act, with many turning off their CUB taps to show their support. It was amazing.”

In the meantime, Chris says the workers got a taste for local boutique brews.

“We even had a craft beer festival down here, and some of them have grown on us!

“But more importantly, we knew that sticking together and holding tight would see a victory in the end – and it did. It wasn’t easy but together we are the union, and together we saw it through.”

Workers Win Big CUB workers won:

  • Every worker able to return if they desire
  • Their original pay and conditions
  • No Involuntary redundancies
  • Any new contractors must meet these conditions
  • Temporary non-union workforce will be leaving 

Bowral – Politics in the Pub 19 December

NSW Labor – Shocking gender pay gap is a strain on our economy

Just last week a report was released showing that women working in Australia’s top paying occupations are earning up to 56% less than men in the exact same job.

Just look at the statistics below; The average yearly pay for women, compared with men in the same job is unacceptable.
The gender pay gap is a strain on our economy, community, and families and we need to do everything that we can to stamp it out.

When women right across Australia on average work for 18% less pay than men – It is unacceptable.
We must stand up and do all we can to ensure fairness and equality in the workplace, 

and together we work to ensure fairness and equality in the workplace.

Monday, December 12, 2016


The Textile Clothing and Footware Union of Australia (TCFUA) and CFMEU have signed an Amalgamation Memorandum of Understanding, increasing the likelihood of finalising the amalgamation of the two unions by the first half of next year.

“The signing of the Amalgamation MOU gives us a clear way forward to finalising the amalgamation, hopefully in early 2017,” CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor said.

“Members, delegates and officials have been enthusiastically supportive of the amalgamation discussions. They know that it will lead to better outcomes for our collective members, their families and the communities that rely on our jobs,” TCFUA National Secretary Michele O’Neil said.

“People have asked me why our two unions have committed to an amalgamation process and I can give them no better reason than what is written in our MOU,” said O’Connor.

“The CFMEU and TCFUA share a common pride in the history of their respective unions, their members, their struggles, their campaigns and their wins. They share a common belief that the strength of a union lies in organised workers and both seek to create a strong union that fights for members’ jobs, safety and rights.”

The two unions have been increasingly collaborating over the last 12 months.

“This is a historic combining of unions with different cultures but a common passion for justice and fairness. This new union will increase worker power and that’s a great outcome,” Michele O’Neil said.

The proposed amalgamation would be put to a vote of TCFUA members.

Once endorsed by the unions’ membership the unions would then proceed to meet requirements under the relevant industrial relations legislation.

Turnbull – Abbott – 300,000 Age Pensioners to face Age Pension entitlements cut

More than 300,000 Age Pensioners will have their Age Pension entitlements cut, with just under 100,000 of those affected Australians losing all Age Pension entitlements, taking immediate effect from 1 January 2017. And due to some miscalculations by the federal government, it looks like many thousands more will be affected by the January 2017 changes.
We were told by the federal government, that, as a couple, if you currently receive the Age Pension, and you own more than $823,000 in assets including super and all other assets (but excluding your home), then you will no longer receive the Age Pension from 1 January 2017. For those Age Pensioner home-owning couples who own less than $823,000 in assets, but more than $450,000 in assets, then you were warned to also expect your Age Pension entitlements to be hit. All of this continues to be the case, but the harsher Age Pension assets test for a couple actually cuts out at a lower amount – $816,000!
Oops! The federal government had based the earlier information on projected Age Pension rates as at 1 January 2017, and Age Pension rates are actually lower than anticipated. What this boo boo means is that the cut-off point for a PART Age Pension is even lower than $823,000 for a couple. According to Centrelink (DHS), the cut-off point will be $816,000 for a home-owning couple. I anticipate that many more thousands of Australians than predicted will be getting a shock from January 2017. Currently a home-owning couple can have up to $1,178,500 in assets before they lose the Age Pension. You can find more details on the specifics, including tables, later in the article.
Likewise, we were told by the federal government, that as a single person, if you currently receive the Age Pension, and you own more than $547,000 in assets including super and all other assets (but excluding your home), then you will lose your Age Pension entitlements from 1 January 2017. For those Age Pensioner home-owning single people who own less than $547,000 in assets but more than $250,000 in assets, then you were warned to expect your Age Pension entitlements to also be hit.  All of this continues to be the case, but the harsher Age Pension assets test for a single person actually cuts out at a lower amount – $542,500!
Another oops! The federal government had again based this information on projected Age Pension rates as at 1 January 2017, and Age Pension rates are actually lower than anticipated. What this boo boo means is that the cut-off point for a PART Age Pension for a single person is even lower than $547,000. According to Centrelink (DHS), from 1 January 2017, the cut-off point will be $542,500 for a home-owning single person. Currently a home-owning single person can have up to $793,750 in assets before they lose the Age Pension. You can find more details on the specifics, including tables, later in the article.
Note: Higher assets test thresholds apply for Age Pensioners who don’t own their own home (for more information, see table below and tables at the end of the article).
Important: On a positive note, the assets test thresholds for claiming the FULL Age Pension are increasing from 1 January 2016, which means an estimated 50,000 extra Australians will be eligible for the FULL Age Pension. On the downside, the harsher Age Pension assets test for PART Age Pension means an estimated 300,000 Australians will lose Age Pension entitlements, with 100,000 of those retirees losing all entitlements.  Now that we know the PART Age Pension thresholds are lower than first announced, we expect these estimates to be conservative.
Warning: The harsher assets test also applies to other social security pensions, including disability support pension, wife pension, carer payment, bereavement allowance, widow B pension and certain pensions administered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. According to the revised Explanatory Memorandum accompanying the legislation, the assets test also applies to parenting payment and allowances (widow allowance, youth allowance, austudy payment, newstart allowance, sickness allowance, special benefit and partner allowance).

What are the Age Pension assets test thresholds from January 2017?

In the tables below, we outline the FULL Age Pension thresholds (Table A), and also in Table B, we outline what the current Age Pension assets test thresholds are (from 20 September 2016 until 31 December 2016), and what the federal government said the UPPER asset thresholds (for PART Age Pension eligibility) would be as at 1 January 2017, and what they are actually going to be as at 1 January 2017.

Table A: Age Pension LOWER assets test thresholds (for FULL Age Pension) – Age Pension assets-test free area

 Until December 2016*January 2017Until December 2016*January 2017
*Current asset-free areas (for FULL Age Pension entitlement) were indexed on 1 July 2016 and apply until 31 December 2016.

Table B: Age Pension UPPER assets test thresholds (for PART Age Pension)

 Home ownerNon-homeowner
 Until 31 December 2016Announced for 1 January 2017ACTUAL for 1 January 2017Until 31 December 2016Announced for 1 January 2017ACTUAL for 1 January 2017
Single $793,750$547,000$542,500$945,250$747,000$742,500
In anyone’s language this is a retrospective change to the Age Pension rules and hits retirees receiving a part Age Pension. In most cases, these retirees are not in position to return to work to replace the income they will lose from 1 January 2017, and the Coalition government, with the support of the Greens, have essentially devastated the retirement plans of several hundred thousand Australian retirees. Although the ALP’s position is not much better, with Opposition leader Bill Shorten publicly stating that the ALP will not reverse the changes with the help of the independents, even though the ALP opposed the passage of the legislation when it became law.

Friday, December 09, 2016

John Falzon – Australia does not have a welfare problem. We have a poverty problem

You don’t build communities up by putting people down. Structural changes to the economy have resulted in entire communities being left without work and often without adequate social and economic infrastructure.

We see manufacturing jobs disappearing, the loss of jobs in some sectors due to privatisation, and the global quest for ever greater profits by using ever cheaper labour. We have seen a worrying trend towards casualisation and insecure employment and, on the latest ABS labour force figures, a decline in the total number of monthly hours worked in all jobs. Trends change rapidly and, as the prime minister is fond of reminding us, it is useful to be agile and innovative in a period of everlasting uncertainty and flux.

Which is why it really is time we actually invested in people and communities instead of putting people down and blaming them for their own exclusion. Living in poverty is not a sickness. Nor is it a crime. Yet we continue to fall into the ideological trap of either pathologising or criminalising people who sin against the dominant moral code by not being “self-reliant” in the marketplace.

This is not new. The earlier McClure Report, tabled by Jocelyn Newman in 2000, began from the same premise; that we urgently needed to address the problem of “welfare dependency” because it, and people’s lives, are seemingly spiralling out of control.

It’s time we stopped disguising market failure as a personal failure to participate in the market. For this is where we are starting again, with the current offerings of “revolutionary” vision and “radical” change by social services minister, Christian Porter. By focusing on the supposed failings of the individual, we are missing the bleeding obvious: that there are not enough jobs (and more specifically, not enough hours!) for those who can work as well as a seriously inadequate level of income support for those who cannot.

In the same way, the persistence of homelessness is not a failure of individuals to “do the right thing” and buy a house (or get their parents to pitch in), but rather a failure of the housing market, which is structured in such a way as to be brilliant at providing choice for those at the top, and dazzling as a speculative sport, but lousy at ensuring access to affordable and appropriate accommodation for all.

The other trick that is used to mask the failures of the market is to blame social services. In this discursive sleight of hand, the persistence of unemployment and poverty is proof that the services are not working, and that their funding is a waste of public money because they have failed to end homelessness or unemployment or poverty.

So, the endgame is not even the modest alleviation of poverty, let alone the arresting of inequality. It is the running down of what actually does work or would work as an investment in people and communities, like Gonski, a highly targeted investment in children’s education, focusing on student need rather than sector. Or like Tafe, a national treasure, that on the watch of governments of both sides of politics, has been systematically undermined and gutted. Likewise, community health programmes, community legal aid programmes, social services and justice reinvestment programmes have been either deliberately cut, like the highly successful Youth Connections, or decidedly ignored.

Australia does not have a welfare problem. We have a poverty problem and an inequality problem, but you know that these problems are going to be ignored when the dominant discourse focuses our attention on the “welfare problem.” 

It is true that providing someone with income support and forgetting about them is not the solution to unemployment. But neither is it the cause of unemployment. In short, it is neither the solution nor the problem. And the problem of unemployment and underemployment, which is a structural rather than a behavioural problem, is not going to be addressed by forcing people to live below the poverty line, which is what we appear to be comfortable with allowing to remain as the status quo, even after the welfare revolution. And in the meantime, we are still eagerly being told that corporations need welfare assistance via tax cuts and concessions.

Poverty is not a personal choice. Being a full-time carer, or living with a disability or mental illness, or leaving a violent partner, or being residualised by the labour market, should not result in poverty in a prosperous and progressive country. We should certainly not begrudge the money we spend to make sure that no one is left out or pushed out; that no one is excluded from having a place to call home, a place to work for those who can work (and appropriate income support for those who cannot), a place to learn, and a place to heal. We should not be comfortable with the retrograde notion that charity should be the default mode of providing social security.

If we take as our starting point the supposed need to reduce social expenditure, we will not arrive at the goal of reducing poverty and inequality. If our efforts as a society are predicated on the alleged need to “get people off welfare” we will certainly go some way to cutting the welfare budget and getting people off the government ledger. But we will find that, even though, as in New Zealand, there will hopefully be some good news stories, there will also be entire cohorts of people who are thrown into the arms of loan sharks and predatory payday lenders and condemned to count on charity when all they long for is justice.

It is time we actually invested in people and communities. It is time we invested in a jobs plan instead of fantasising about a putting-the-boot-into-the-unemployed plan (for example by forcing young people to live on fresh air and sunshine for a month of every year) or a cutting-penalty-rates-and-undermining-the-minimum-wage-plan (exemplified in the PaTH internship proposal). 

The $96m “Try, test and learn fund”, will no doubt be used for some worthy ideas, but unless we see a comprehensive investment in people and communities, in jobs, education, social and affordable housing, public and community health, community legal centres, and social services, and unless we see the billions in cuts to these areas restored, and appropriately indexed and expanded, then instead of an investment in a more socially just Australia, we’ll be staring down the barrel of divestment and the divisiveness that follows.

And in the end, we’ll be going down the US path of building profitable prisons instead of investing in the common good, for being locked up follows hot on the heels of locked out.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

NSWTF – PISA results show why we need equity in schools funding

Submitted by nswtf on 6 December 2016

Australia’s continuing decline in the PISA international school test results shows the urgent need for investment in disadvantaged schools, the AEU said today.

AEU Deputy Federal President Maurie Mulheron said the data showed that years of distorted schools funding had failed to lift results, or close the big gaps in achievement between advantaged and disadvantaged students.

“Australia’s results have declined from 2000 to 2015 – a period where schools funding became more inequitable, and the biggest funding increases went to the schools which needed them the least,” Mr Mulheron said.

“Australia is still above the OECD average in its PISA scores, so we need to recognise the strengths of our school system, but take action to address the inequities that are hurting our performance.

“We now have gaps equivalent to three years of schooling between students from rich and poor areas, and that is what is dragging our results down. We need the full needs-based Gonski funding to give all students a chance to succeed.

 “Between 2009 and 2014 total recurrent government funding per student to public schools rose by 14.6%, while funding to private schools rose by 30%.”

“While the Gonski reforms are beginning to address these distortions, when the PISA tests were taken in 2015 less than 10 per cent of the total funding increases from the Gonski agreements had been delivered.

“We need the full six years of needs-based Gonski funding right through until 2019 to ensure all schools have the resources they need for their students.

The 2015 PISA data showed:

  • The difference in results between students from the highest SES quartile and the lowest were a full three years of schooling in maths, science and reading.
  • Students from advantaged backgrounds were five times as likely to be high performers as students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • The difference in results between students from metropolitan areas and regional areas was equivalent to at least one full year of schooling in maths, science and reading.
  • The PISA Report finds that equity of resourcing is vital for improving the overall success of a school system.

p.205: “How educational resources are distributed among students of different backgrounds can be an important determinant of equity in education opportunities. Education systems that are successful, both in quality and equity, attract the highest quality resources to where these resources can make the most difference.”

p.206: “PISA consistently finds that high performance and greater equity in education opportunities and outcomes are not mutually exclusive. In this light, success in education can be defined as a combination of high levels of achievement and high levels of equity.”

“These are the principles behind the Gonski agreements, which recognised the importance of funding schools on the basis of student need,” Mr Mulheron said.

“The Turnbull Government’s plan to cut $3.8 billion from schools and move away from needs-based funding after 2017 will deny schools the resources they need and entrench inequity in education.

“It is no wonder the majority of states and territories have said they do not support the Federal Government’s plan to cut schools funding. They have seen what Gonski funding is delivering in schools, and know how crucial it is for the future.”

ACTU – CUB Workers Victory

Six months ago, the 55 workers who maintain the CUB brewery in Abbotsford were sacked and offered their jobs back with a 65% pay cut.

They refused to accept this. And it’s ordinary people from every corner of this country who have stood with them. Thousands of people have refused to drink CUB and have spread the word in their local communities, from Darwin to Grafton and from Cairns to Geelong.

These efforts turned #BoycottCUB into the biggest consumer boycott of our generation.

Alongside the 55 workers and their unions who refused to give up, it worked. The new management at CUB accepted all of the demands of the 55.

Help us to celebrate this historic win for working people – please share this graphic and include

Wondering what drink to celebrate with? CUB beer will now be proudly union-made at the Abbotsford brewery again. Cheers to that.

Our efforts show that no matter how strong a company thinks it is, if it chooses to treat its workers badly, we can stand together and can beat anyone.

If another company tries this on we’re ready.

Make sure you are too: sign up to volunteer with Australian Unions and keep fighting with us for decent jobs.

In solidarity,

Dave Oliver
ACTU Secretary

ACTU – Pensioners face pre-Christmas hit from Scrooge-like Turnbull

6 December 2016

On 1 January 2017 the Federal Government will make changes to the Age Pension, meaning around 300,000 to 350,000 Australians can expect a cut to their income as a present this Christmas.

Pensioners will start to lose eligibility to the full pension from a relatively small amount of assets (around $350,000 for a couple who own their own home). The amount they lose from the pension now drops away much more steeply than before, with access to the part-pension ending at a level where previously a couple would have received about $250 per week.

The table below shows the reduction in pension which is to occur.

The pension cuts affect much of middle Australia in retirement - mainly retirees with a combined pension and superannuation retirement income of around $1000 per week (as a couple). This group is paying for all the savings made by the Government in this area, through their pensions being cut - and the richest, those who can afford to pay more - are paying very little extra.

Affected retirees will now have a lower standard of living in retirement than what they had planned for and many will be forced to dip into their superannuation savings faster than what is generally advised. Instead of super being planned to last 20-25 years into retirement it may only last a little over 10 years.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver:

  • “This is just the latest example of the Federal Government trying to improve the budget by squeezing hard working people in their retirement.”
  • “The pensioners targeted by these cuts have worked hard their whole lives and are entitled to a comfortable retirement.”
  • “They rely on the pension to make ends meet each week and now the government is pulling the rug out from under them.”
  • “It’s disgraceful that some pensioners are going to be told just before Christmas that they are hundreds of dollars a week out of pocket, all while Malcolm Turnbull continues to spruik a massive corporate tax handout.”

Impact of proposed Pension cuts:
- $56
- $106
- $156
- $206
- $256
- $278
- $36
- $86
- $136
- $186
- $236
- $242
- $35.50
- $85.50
- $135.50
- $185.50
- $193
- $65.50
- $115.50
- $157.50