Saturday, January 13, 2018

Trump – There's no other word but racist

Donald Trump has been branded a shocking and shameful racist after it was credibly reported he had described African nations, as well as Haiti and El Salvador as “shitholes” and questioned why so many of their citizens had ever been permitted to enter America.

US diplomats around the world were summoned for formal reproach, amid global shock that such crude remarks could ever be made in a semi-public meeting by the president of America.

In a strongly-worded statement, the UN said it was impossible to describe his remarks as anything other than racist, while the Vatican decried Trump’s words as “particularly harsh and offensive”.

‘Shithole countries’? Words worthy of a racist-in-chief

Trump initially allowed reported accounts of his comments to go unchallenged, but went into damage limitation mode on Friday, insisting he had not used derogatory words – but admitting that the language he had used at a meeting with Senators on immigration was “tough”.

But the democratic senator Dick Durbin – who was present at the meeting with Trump on Thursday – insisted that the reports were entirely accurate.

He said “those hate-filled things and did so repeatedly”.

“Shithole was the exact word used once not twice but repeatedly,” Durbin said, adding that the word was specifically used in the context of African countries.

The UN human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, told a Geneva news briefing: “There is no other word one can use but racist. You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

Trump's 'shithole countries' remark is racist, says UN

Salvador Sánchez, the president of El Salvador, said Trump’s words had “struck at the dignity of Salvadorans”.

“El Salvador formally protests and energetically rejects this kind of comment,” Sánchez wrote on Twitter.

US diplomats and the US embassy in San Salvador sought to assure those in El Salvador of their respect for the country. Jean Manes, the US envoy to El Salvador, tweeted in Spanish: “I have had the privilege to travel around this beautiful country and meet thousands of Salvadorans. It is an honour to live and work here. We remain 100% committed.”

Robin Diallo, the US chargé d’affaires to Haiti, was summoned to meet the Haitian president, Jovenel Moïse, to discuss the remarks. The former Haitian president Laurent Lamothe expressed his dismay, saying Trump had shown “a lack of respect and ignorance”.

Across Africa there was diplomatic fury. Botswana’s government called Trump’s comment “reprehensible and racist” and said the US ambassador had been summoned to clarify whether the nation was regarded as a “shithole” country after years of cordial relations. Uganda’s state minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem, called the remarks “unfortunate and regrettable”.

The African Union said it was alarmed by Trump’s language. “Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behaviour and practice,” its spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo told Associated Press.

“This is particularly surprising as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity.”

Jessie Duarte, the deputy secretary general of South Africa’s ruling ANC, said: “Ours is not a shithole country; neither is Haiti or any other country in distress. It’s not as if the United States doesn’t have problems. There is unemployment in the US, there are people who don’t have healthcare services.”

Unions offer assistance with victims’ submissions to Banking Royal Commission

12 January 2018

The ACTU is launching an online tool for victims of criminal and unethical activities by the big banks to submit their stories, which will then be presented to the Banking Royal Commission.
The Commission, frustratingly, has not yet allowed for public submissions, nor has it launched any of the submission infrastructure that was available during the Trade Union Royal Commission, which included a fully-staffed call centre just 14 days after that commission was established.

The ACTU knows that the extent of banking malpractice means that the number of people wanting to make their voices heard will be significant, and we want to ensure that all complaints against out of control sectors of the banking sector are heard.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

  • “The union movement is determined to ensure that all working people who have been exploited by the banks have their voices heard during the Banking Royal Commission.”
  • “The commission seems to be dragging its feet on allowing submissions, given that its deadline to report is only 9 months away. We are eager to do anything we can to enable more voices to be heard.”
  • “The commission should be given the full range of tools which have been made available to previous commissions.”
  • “To restrict this commission in any way will only confirm the suspicions of the Australian people that the Turnbull Government is more interested in protecting the banks than in ensuring that the system is fair for concerned Australians.”
  • “We encourage anyone who has been mistreated or ripped off by a bank to make use of this resource, and make sure that your voice is heard. 
  • It can be found at

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Japan – Calls for immediate end of Nuclear Power

A group advised by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Wednesday unveiled details about a bill calling for an “immediate halt” to Japan’s reliance on nuclear power to prevent a recurrence of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The group is seeking to submit the bill to an upcoming Diet session in cooperation with opposition parties.

Sporting his signature leonine hairdo, Koizumi, one of Japan’s most popular prime ministers in recent memory, made a rare appearance before reporters with his unabated frankness, lashing out at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over his persistent pro-nuclear stance.

“You may think the goal of zero nuclear power is hard to achieve, but it’s not,” Koizumi said, adding that he believes many lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party support nuclear power passively out of respect for Abe, but that they could be persuaded to embrace a zero-nuclear policy under a different leader.

“Judging from his past remarks, I don’t think we can realize zero nuclear power as long as Abe remains in power. But I do think we can make it happen if he is replaced by a prime minister willing to listen to the public,” Koizumi told a packed news conference organized by Genjiren, an anti-nuclear association for which he serves as an adviser along with Morihiro Hosokawa, another former prime minister.

Claiming that the March 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant exposed the “extremely dangerous” and “costly” nature of atomic power — with a means of disposing of spent fuel still not in sight — the bill drafted by Genjiren calls for Japan’s “complete switch” to renewable energy.

Specifically, it demands that all active nuclear reactors be switched offline immediately and that those currently idle never be reactivated. It also defines the government’s responsibility to initiate steps toward a mass decommissioning and to map out “foolproof and safe” plans to dispose of spent fuel rods.

The bill sets forth specific numerical targets, too, saying various sources of natural energy, including solar, wind, water and geothermal heat, should occupy more than 50 percent of the nation’s total power supply by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

That Japan has experienced no mass power shortage following the shutdown of all 48 reactors in the wake of the 2011 crisis, except for a handful since reactivated, is in itself a testament to the fact that “we can get by without nuclear power,” Koizumi said.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Harry Belafonte and Arlo Guthrie – Induction of Pete Seeger to Hall of Fame

ACTU – Statement on Protests in Iran

9 January 2018

Statement from the ACTU:

Beginning on the 28th of December protesters took to the streets in Mashhad, Iran's second-largest city. Demonstrations have quickly spread to other cities as Iranians protest the rising cost of living amid spiraling inflation and ongoing state repression. The authorities have reacted brutally, leading to scores of deaths and hundreds of arrests. Many of those detained have been accused of crimes against the state and “enmity against God”, a crime that carries the death penalty. 

The non-payment of wages is a major cause of the demonstrations, such as at the Haft Tapeh sugar production complex. Here workers have gone for over 4 months without pay following the privatisation of the facility. Those who attempt to engage in independent trade union activity have suffered severe repression, including torture and imprisonment on false charges such as the cases of Reza Shahabi, Esmail Abdi, Ebrahim Madadi.

Many Iranians believed that following the lifting of nuclear sanctions living standards would improve, but instead workers have seen their wages suppressed and conditions worsening. Since the signing of the nuclear deal, the economy has liberalised and foreign investment has begun to enter the country. To attract greater foreign investment the government is pushing rapid privatisation and lowering wages. This has benefited the already wealthy elite, but not working people. The unemployment rate has risen to 12.4 per cent, and youth unemployment, in a country where half the population is younger than 30, is at 40 per cent.

These brave protesters are fighting intolerable conditions, and demanding a life free from oppression and poverty. The global community must stand with them and ensure that the Government of Iran stops repressing trade union activity, allows freedom of association and collective bargaining, prevents companies from stealing wages and protects workers from aggressive privatisation.

ACTU – Glencore’s Oaky North 6 Month Lockout

10 January 2018

Workers at Glencore’s Oaky North site have today marked 6 months since they were locked out by their employer.

Despite the desperate tactics being employed by the company, the workers have stayed strong and have the full support of the Australian union movement. They will stay united for as long as it takes to show Glencore that intimidation and bullying of Australian workers will never be rewarded.

Glencore pays no tax in Australia and is exploiting our broken industrial relations system to try and slash wages and conditions for hard working, highly skilled workers at Oaky North. We cannot tolerate this and we have to change the rules.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:
  • “Glencore is a prime example of how broken the rules which once protected workers have become.”
  • “This is a company which makes massive profits from our natural resources, pays no tax on those profits, and is now trying to slash the pay of workers.”
  • “These workers are not on strike, they are not taking industrial action. They are keen to work, but the company is locking them out to deprive them of wages and a fair living. This company is trying to starve its workers and their families into submission.”
  • “The union movement will stand with these workers for as long as it takes. We won at CUB, we won at Streets, Glencore is working from a failed playbook.”
  • “Employers are pushing the envelope further and further every day. The increased use of lockouts, cancelation of agreements and other anti-worker tactics is alarming, but the union movement is equal to any challenge and we will change the rules.”

FSU – Super system failing women

The ACTU supports the FSU in pushing for changes to superannuation contributions to ensure that there is no gap in contributions while workers are on carers or parental leave.

The superannuation system is one of the great achievements of the Australian union movement but it was designed many years ago and fails to take into account the needs of modern working people, especially women, who need to take time out of work for caring and parenting responsibilities.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

  • “We need to change the rules to ensure that all working people have a comfortable retirement.”
  • “The superannuation rules are failing women. Women on average retire with 47% of the super a man does.”
  • “We know that 85% of Australians have some form of caring responsibility, and many have to take time away from work to care for others.”
  • “It is categorically unfair that people with caring responsibilities, who spend months or years caring for others, should have a less secure retirement because of that.”
  • “The superannuation system needs to be brought up to date and made fit for purpose in 2018.”
  • “The work the FSU is doing on this issue is fantastic but we need systemic change so that all workers can benefit.”

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

ACTU – Vale Don McDonald

Statement from ACTU President Ged Kearney

The ACTU joins with the entire Australian Union movement in mourning the loss of Don McDonald, who passed away last week after a battle with cancer.

Don was a fearless advocate for working people and dedicated his life to the improvement of the lives of others. During his time at the Builders Workers’ Industrial Union he was pivotal in winning workers’ compensation, superannuation and redundancy pay for construction workers, historic achievements which have benefited untold numbers of workers in the decades since.

Don also fought to get TAFE courses run during business hours, so that apprentices didn’t have to study at night after working all day.

After the amalgamation Don became a national official with the newly formed CFMEU.

Having experienced firsthand the devastating impact the illness can have, Don established NISAD, an organisation working to discover a cure for schizophrenia.

He will be sorely missed, and my thoughts are with his family and his brothers and sisters at the CFMEU during this time.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

History of NSW Teachers Federation

Public Education

Throughout its history, Federation has campaigned long and hard on issues affecting public education, teachers' salaries and teachers' working conditions, those issues which are at the heart of teaching as a profession in New South Wales.

The first Annual Conference of Federation in 1919 had listed as part of the agenda "inadequacy of teachers' salaries, understaffing of schools, unwieldiness of classes, insufficiency of accommodation, conducting of classes in sheds, corridors and unsuitable rooms to the detriment of the health of teachers and pupils". Other matters included "unhealthy congestion of school population in overgrown suburban schools, as against decentralisation into schools with a maximum enrolment of one thousand, the high percentage of unclassified and insufficiently trained teachers, inadequacy of supervision by heads of departments owing to class duties and absence of schools for the mentally disabled".  Federation continues to campaign on these issues. All go to the very heart of a quality public education delivery.

In the years immediately following its establishment, Federation was concerned to increase its membership. In 1920 the membership of the Federation was 5,600 or 78% of the total membership of the Department of Education. At the end of the Twentieth Century membership was about 64,000. This number included permanent full time school, TAFE and AMES teachers, part time school, TAFE and AMES teachers and casual teachers as well as those teachers in other associated groups. Now, in the 21st Century, membership remains high.

It was not until 1937 that the first organiser was appointed, following an Annual Conference decision of 1936 that stated "we are firmly of the opinion that, for a really effective increase in membership, it is necessary that some person be employed for the whole of their time organising the schools". More officers were progressively appointed. There are now 43 full time administrative officers, who service the needs of the membership and undertake recruitment activities. The First Aboriginal Education Coordinator being appointed in 1986.

In 1961, 241,000 signatories for a National Education Petition were presented to the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, calling for Commonwealth funding to state schools. This was the culmination of a long campaign begun in the 1940s, to encourage the Commonwealth Government to fund certain programs in State schools. This number of signatories was a record which was only broken in 1993 by a petition calling for private health insurance to be tax deductible. (To this day such programs are funded by the Federal Government.) There is, of course, an ongoing dialogue with successive Federal Governments over equitable and adequate funding of Public Schools.

Until 1968, the Union campaigned on the theme of "United Action", emphasising a community of interest between different sectors of the membership and the community, in policy development. Political, industrial and professional issues concerning public education were given focus and emphasis. There were significant advances - in 1946, for example, there was a major salaries breakthrough for teachers which gave the first realistic salary increases since 1920 and set the standard for other professional workers. The average gain was over 100 pounds for men and 80 pounds for women. Equal pay coming in 1963, with Federation among the first to gain this right for its female members.

Federation made a major break with the past in 1968, its 50th anniversary, when the first state-wide strike was called over the appalling conditions in which teachers were working. The strike was an overwhelming success - the vast majority of members stopped work and the demonstration outside Parliament House is still remembered.

Since then, industrial action has become a part of the Federation's campaigns - not as a threat to be used lightly but as one way of indicating the depth of teachers' concern.

Significant breakthroughs in salaries and working conditions have been achieved at certain points of our history. Improvements to public education have also been achieved but the Federation remains concerned with the provision of satisfactory levels of salaries to attract the highest quality teacher graduates to the public system. After the 1988 NSW State election, a radical conservative government posed a most significant challenge to the nature and shape of public education. The view put forward was that the concept of a self managing small business should be applied to public schools. This is a fight which continues in the 21st Century.

Federation knows that this is an agenda based on corporate managerial practices; cost cutting measures and not on education. We are determined to support and campaign politically and industrially to protect a state-wide public education system when it is under threat. This principle remains the centrepiece of Federation's campaigning as successive governments apply economic rationalist approaches to education.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Stephen McBurney gets ABCC War on Workers position

A new head of the Australian Building and Construction Commission has been appointed to replace Nigel Hadgkiss who resigned in September after admitting he contravened the Fair Work Act.

Stephen McBurney will begin a five-year term as commissioner from 6 February.

McBurney served as an assistant commissioner for the the Howard government anti-trade union ABCC from 2006 to 2008.

Another fat cat position for the Turnbull government in its War on Workers.