Tuesday, February 27, 2018

UK – TUC Campaign Plan 2017-2018

Our Campaign Plan sets out our movement’s priorities for campaigning, influencing and organising, this year and into the future.

It's a plan for our whole movement, supporting and enhancing the specific priorities and campaigns of our member unions in their industrial sectors.

In our three priorities, you will see the determination of the TUC and our member unions to win the best deal for working people, as the UK leaves the European Union and as the world of work throws up new ways for bosses to exploit workers.

And you will see our commitment to finding new ways to grow and revitalise our movement so that more of the working people of today and tomorrow get the benefits of strong trade unionism and collective bargaining.

Underpinning everything we do are our core trade union values: dignity, justice, solidarity, respect, fairness and equality. I look forward to campaigning alongside you all in the year to come. 

Frances O'Grady, TUC General Secretary

Priority 1 An economy that works for working people

The British economy is rigged against the interests of ordinary working people – and a “no deal” Brexit will only make that worse, risking good jobs and hard-won rights at work. We need an economy that works for working people – now, and into the future. We need companies interested in long-term greener growth that benefits everybody, not short-term shareholder returns. We need good jobs in all regions and nations of the UK. And we need high-quality, decently funded public services.

Priority 2 Great jobs for everyone

In 2017, too many workers are finding that great jobs that pay a decent wage are disappearing. We have record employment rates, but more than one in ten workers are in jobs where basic rights are denied or ignored. We need no more and no less than great jobs for everyone.

That means an end to insecure work – like zero- and short-hours contracts and bogus self-employment – and an end to bad bosses hiding unacceptable employment practices behind an app or platform. It means real opportunities for progression at work, and safe workplaces for everyone. It means genuine equality at work for women, Black and minority ethnic workers, LGBT workers and disabled workers. It means an end to the artificial pay restrictions that have left dedicated public servants thousands of pounds worse off in real terms. And it means everyone having decent pay and a decent pension for when they retire.

Priority 3 A thriving movement that delivers for younger workers

Young workers not joining unions is the biggest challenge our movement faces. Just 6 per cent of 21–30s working in the private sector are members of a union. Increasing numbers do not know what a union is or how it could be of use to them.

The union offer is not always expressed in a way that feels relevant or accessible to young workers or insecure workers – not least because the union movement needs to launch its own digital revolution. We need unions to grow and thrive after the government‘s draconian Trade Union Act, getting more effective at delivering for members and supporting our thousands of volunteer reps to win a better deal for members in their workplaces.

MUA – Unions and officials in contempt of anti-blockade order: VICT

February 22, 2018

The operator of Melbourne's new third container terminal has lodged civil contempt of court proceedings against the MUA and three top officials over a two-week picket late last year.

Victoria International Container Terminal Ltd (VICT) is seeking orders to punish the MUA for breaching a Victorian Supreme Court order made on December 12.

VICT alleges that the MUA acted through three officials – deputy national secretary Will Tracey, WA branch secretary and national president Chris Cain and Victorian branch secretary Joe Italia – who were within a 100-metre "no go" zone at the terminal's truck gate on December 14.

Documents lodged with the court name the MUA as the first respondent in the proceedings and the CFMEU as the second respondent, but orders are only sought against the Maritime Union.

Solicitors for employer associations have leapt on the VICT summons, telling the Fair Work Commission that it provides a reason to block the merger between the CFMEU, MUA and TCFU.

Comment is being sought from the MUA about the summons and damages claim.

VICT has already begun damages proceedings in the Victorian Supreme Court against both the MUA and the CFMEU over the picket.

However, it has not sought damages from Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Luke Hilakari, even though he was named in a rare representative order that restrained him from organising or participating in the picket.

VICT is the first entry into Australia by its owner, the Manila-based International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTS), which has faced sustained criticism from international transport unions over its operations in Africa, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

In Melbourne, it has completed the first phase of a new international container terminal, which has robotic ship-to-shore (STS) cranes and fully-automated operations from the gate to the quayside, and competes against existing container terminal operators, Patrick and DP World.

VICT has launched an initial $8 million damages claim against the MUA and CFMEU over their involvement in last year's picket but has flagged that the total amount sought could be as high as $100 million.

The stevedore has alleged the picket was imposed after the company refused to allocate shifts to an MUA delegate because he did not have a Maritime Security Identification Card.

The picket ended after the reinstatement of the employee, Richard Lunt, "on pay", but not full pay, which includes shift allowances and the like.

Lunt has taken Federal Court proceedings seeking his reinstatement, alleging that he lost work through union activities.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is investigating the picket.

NSWTF – Union history takes centre stage at council

February 23, 2018

Pieces of Federation's history held prime position at the Council meeting held on Saturday, the first during the union’s centenary year.

The table and chair commissioned for the lecture theatre in Federation's original building in Phillip Street, Sydney, have been restored to their former glory, as a centenary project. They were first used at the official opening of Federation House on 21 December 1938.

On Saturday, the General Secretary and President presided over the Council meeting from the vintage furniture.

In March 1939 Decoration and Glass (March 1939) described the bespoke furniture in a feature article on Federation House: “On the stage is an inlaid Queensland maple desk, designed in streamline mode with rounded corners and stepped up centre-piece. Leather upholstered maple chairs are in keeping.”

The crest on the front of the table is not the same as the one Federation uses today. This is because in 1938 the union was known as the NSW Public School Teachers Federation (Annual Conference 1946 made the decision to change to the current name).

ACTU – McCormack must change Nats direction

Incoming Nationals’ leader Michael McCormack must put working people in regional areas first if he wants to restore the party’s damaged standing with voters, ACTU Secretary Sally McManus has said.

She called on the new leader of the ailing junior coalition partner to prioritise youth unemployment, the temporary visa crisis, damaging trade deals, low wages, coercive work-for-welfare schemes in indigenous communities and the hollowing-out of the VET sector.

At the 2016 Federal Election the party received less than five percent of the primary vote, and it has been diminished in the eyes of voters by the Barnaby Joyce scandal.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “Mr McCormack must put working people in the regions first if he’s going to be a good, effective leader for his party.”
  • “Young people in regional areas can’t get a start, while one in ten people in our workforce are on temporary visas. TAFE has been gutted and real jobs have been replaced by $4 per hour internships.
  • “People who want to work are forced into unfair work-for-welfare arrangements because the Turnbull/Joyce government killed real work opportunities.
  • “Rather than being content to sign off on policies that shift money out of regional communities and into big business bank accounts, Mr McCormack has a chance to stand up for working people in regional Australia.
  • “He must take that chance.”

Monday, February 26, 2018

UK – Fujitsu workers fightback against the company's discrimination of whistleblowers

Workers at the Manchester offices of Japanese transnational Fujitsu demonstrated outside the building today against the victimisation of union representatives and whistle-blowers.

Since October 2016, members of the Unite union have been in dispute with the computer giant over its plans to sack 10 per cent of its 18,000-strong workforce in Britain.

Unite representatives also revealed that the company was paying its female staff 16 per cent less than their male counterparts.

Fujitsu workers have staged strikes in Basingstoke, Belfast, Birmingham, Bracknell, Crewe, Edinburgh, London, Manchester, Stevenage, Wakefield and Warrington.

In Manchester, the company is accused of sacking a veteran union representative under the cover of redundancy. The dismissal was the latest in a series of alleged company victimisations of trade union activists.

Today’s protest took place during a visit by Duncan Tait, Fujitsu’s chief executive for Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa.

Unite national officer Louisa Bull said: “Unite believes that Fujitsu is trying to silence whistle-blowers by dismissing some and showing that it can make compulsory redundancies even when these are in breach of its agreements, employees’ contracts or the law.

“Taxpayers and clients need to know what is going on at Fujitsu. Those blowing the whistle should not be sacked.

“Unite is demanding transparency and the reinstatement of our union representative. It is also time to end the unfair targeting of Unite members fighting for their jobs and for Fujitsu to adhere to its own agreements and ethical standards.”

UK – Labour piles pressure on May over Brexit stance

Labour piles pressure on May over Brexit stance

Jeremy Corbyn listens during a United Nations panel on human rights and international cooperation in Geneva, Switzerland, December 8, 2017.
The leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, will clarify the party’s position on Brexit on Monday in a move that could lead to a major parliamentary defeat for Prime Minister Theresa May.

May has ruled out staying in any customs union with the European Union after Brexit because it would prevent the country from striking its own new trade deals with fast-growing economies such as China and India.

In a speech, Corbyn is expected to indicate his party’s support for agreeing a customs union, a decision that could result in the biggest test of May’s fragile authority in parliament.

Supporters of Brexit have long said striking trade deals around the world would represent one of the big potential gains for Britain from leaving the EU.

If instead it stayed in a customs union with the EU, Britain could avoid tariff barriers for its exports to the bloc as well as the risk of a return to a so-called hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a prospect that alarms many in Dublin and Belfast.

Corbyn, a veteran left-wing lawmaker is expected to disappoint some politicians in his party by indicating he, like May, favours taking Britain out of the EU’s single market.

“There will be some who will tell you that Brexit is a disaster for this country and some who will tell you that Brexit will create a land of milk and honey. The truth is more down to earth and it’s in our hands: Brexit is what we make of it together,” Corbyn will say, according to excerpts of the speech.

“Labour would negotiate a new and strong relationship with the single market that includes full tariff-free access and a floor under existing rights, standards and protections.”

If Britain stayed in the EU’s single market, it would have to continue accepting the free movement of people from the bloc, follow the rulings of its top court of justice and carry on contributing to the EU budget, something both May and Corbyn have ruled out.

Labour is currently ahead in opinion polls but, like the ruling Conservative party, it remains deeply split on its Brexit strategy as the clock ticks towards Britain’s formal exit from the EU in March next year.

The party’s divisions were exposed over the weekend when more than 80 senior figures in the party called on Corbyn to commit to remaining in the EU’s single market.

Labour’s Brexit policy chief Keir Starmer said on Sunday his party has agreed that if it wins power it would negotiate to remain permanently in a new customs union with the bloc, opening up a divide between the two main parties.

This could lead Labour to vote with Conservative members of parliament who are backing
amendments to trade legislation that would keep Britain in a customs union.

Starmer warned that “crunch time is coming” for May and Labour would probably support the amendments.

Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the government would delay the key vote on the trade bill partly because it wanted more time to convince its own lawmakers to vote with the government.

May is due to set out her own vision for Britain’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU in a speech on Friday. She hosted an eight-hour meeting of her top Brexit ministers last week in an attempt to forge a common position.

MUA – Thomas Mayor’s Speech on the Uluru Statement

Thomas Mayor is the NT Branch Secretary
Posted by Mua communications on February 23, 2018
I Acknowledge the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, their elders past and present, and I thank Donna for welcoming me to country.

I acknowledge fellow panel members, Professor Mick Dodson and Tanya Hosch.
And I thank Lisa and the Diversity Council of Australia for organising this event and providing me with an opportunity to speak.

I’m a Torres Strait Islander. I was born on Larrakia Country, Darwin. I have always lived there. My father was born on Waiben, Thursday Island. Our roots go to Badugal and Kalkalgal. I’m also descended from Poland, Borneo, Barbados, England and the Philipines.

Talk about diversity yeah!

A little on my background first. I became a port worker at 17yo. Not long after starting at the port, I decided to join the Maritime Union of Australia. I was there when we survived the 1998 Patricks Dispute.

We won the dispute, but there was a job to do, defending the conditions that the old guard had won. I became the delegate at 21. I was a reluctant leader, but I stepped up to protect the conditions that had been won for us through struggle. I negotiated the regional Agreements, then in 2010 I became an organiser and then the elected official.

Its on the docks and as a union official that I learnt the value of unity.

But more than that, I learnt that unity must be worked on, I learnt that unity means little without structure and legitimate accountable leadership, compromise and discipline, toward collective goals.

One of the reasons that I am a proud union member, is our history in social justice struggles. As an official, I continued that tradition applying what I had learnt as a delegate and organiser to mobilising the community in Darwin.

Through my activism, I was asked to be one of 5 facilitators at a Darwin Dialogue on Constitutional Recognition.

It was good timing for me because having organised a number of actions around the WA Community Closures and the Don Dale disgrace, I was realising that something was missing from this movement.

The unions National Council was to fall on the same date as the Darwin Dialogue, so I pulled out of being a facilitator. I continued to help out though. With the local co-chairs and facilitators we worked on the invites to the Dialogue, applying a formula aiming for 60% Traditional Owners connected to country in the region, 20% First Nations Peoples from local organisations, and 20% First Nations Peoples that are active in the community.

The National Council dates moved, so I was able to attend the dialogue.

The dialogues were held over three days. Workshops were based on recommendations of the past that, as with many aspirations of our people, had never been adopted and implemented by Parliament. From my perspective, I saw the Dialogues and the culmination of those dialogues at Uluru as a great opportunity to empower us to achieve change.

I asked the elders in the room, “has there ever been an opportunity like this? 13 three day regional dialogues. Informed discussion. Accurate records of meeting. With elected delegates from each meeting, coming together at a place like Uluru? The answer was no.

I thought, WOW. This is an opportunity. This is a chance for my people to build power. If we reach a consensus we’ll have something specific to campaign for nationally. At the dialogues and convention there was high tension. Hot debate. Seven delegates walked on the second day of Uluru. We knew they would. That was their right.

But around 250 remained and completed that days discussions.

On the morning of the third day, the Uluru Statement from the Heart was read for the first time by Professor Megan Davis. She read the last words, “In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.”

What happened next, I will never forget. The entire room stood as one, the Uluru Statement from the Heart was endorsed by standing acclamation.

There were no amendments. One reading, Endorsed with standing acclamation by around 250 First Nations People elected in 13 regions.

As I stood with my comrades during the long applause, I watched people who had been in passionate debate against each other, embracing. Embracing with tears pouring from their eyes. It was a moment of overwhelming hope.

I have since travelled the country with the Uluru Statement. I went from Garma, to Gurindji Country for the Wave Hill Walk Off Anniversary, the Pilbara Yule River Bush Meeting, Lombodina, Cape York, K’Gari, major cities and towns in between.

In all these places the support for a Voice to Parliament and a Makarrata Commission has grown, While the support of the Turnbull Government has disappeared.

I hope you will agree with me, I say we should not take no for an answer.
How can we possibly take no for an answer!

The dialogues and the Uluru Convention involved more than 1300 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People from around this vast continent. Despite the dashed hopes of many a petition, statement, expert and royal commission recommendation, these people afforded this process their heart and souls.

And the result is compelling, achievable, and powerful. It spells out clearly what is next for recognition. A Constitutionally Enshrined First Nations Voice, and a Makarrata Commission to support Treaty making and Truth Telling.

I’ll touch on why this must be next for recognition.

The Dialogues identified what I felt missing from the struggle on the streets.

That is, First Nations need a political voice that is accountable to their First Nations people, a voice, not chosen by a Prime Minister or the media.
A political Voice that is unapologetic in its representation, not sensitive to the axe that a Government can wield over funding.

This Constitutional Recognition considers our past. It considers that symbolism alone only achieves so much. It considers what happened to ATSIC. It picks up on our obligation, our responsibility to the next generations to avoid detrimental repetition. If we build it, it must last.

I conclude by asking you to note that the Uluru Statement from the Heart is written to you, the Australian People. We cannot let this Statement be another trophy on the walls of Parliament. A reminder of Indigenous aspiration again dashed on the jagged rocks of political expediency.

A Peoples Movement is needed now. This must go beyond black and white. Beyond Left and Right.

When the nation walks with us to enshrine our rightful place in the Nation, we will be on the path to closing the gap. The Uluru Statement is a once in a generation opportunity. If you want to help, speak out in public. Do it regularly. Condemn those in parliament who have rejected the reasonable, but powerful step toward Makarrata. Congratulate those in parliament who have committed to the Voice and Makarrata Commission. Join and support in any way you are able. Join the people’s movement for the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Labor does not want electoral law changes to impact charities and not-for-profits.

Sun 25 Feb 2018

Bill Shorten says opposing foreign donations is already Labor policy but he does not want electoral law changes to impact charities and not-for-profits.

The Labor leader Bill Shorten has toughened his language on the Turnbull government’s proposed ban on foreign donations and other electoral law changes, declaring he will not support charities and not-for-profits being silenced.

Shorten’s remarks on Sunday follow a decision by the activist group GetUp to target the ALP in a new campaign urging members to lobby federal parliamentarians against the proposed laws.

GetUp described the call to action on the donations and electoral law bill, which it launched last Monday, as the “biggest week-long campaign” in its history.

The bill, introduced by the government last December, would ban foreign political donations, but it also contains curbs on not-for-profits which has mobilised opposition from GetUp, charities, the Greens and the Institute of Public Affairs, because the proposal will increase red tape, including requiring statutory declarations to check the identity of donors, and for charities to keep foreign donations separately so they are not spent on political advocacy.

With substantial grass-roots activism mobilised against the ALP, and the Greens already pledging to reject the bill, Shorten said on Sunday: “Labor has led the way on reforming political donations and removing foreign influence from the political process”.

“We’ll keep working with the government to ban foreign donations, which is already Labor policy,” he said.

“I believe we can clean up donations without silencing our charities and not-for-profits. Labor is not interested in laws which punish Australian charities”.

Prior to Shorten’s comments on Sunday, the opposition’s charities spokesman, Andrew Leigh, and the deputy chair of the electoral matters committee, Andrew Giles, had sounded the alarm over the changes, but the opposition had not decided where to land.

The risk in digging in to oppose the changes to charities and not-for-profits is sinking the proposed ban on foreign donations, which Labor has sought for a long period of time.

The Coalition has been telegraphing its interest in regulating third-party activists, including charities and not-for-profits, in the same way as political parties since almost losing the federal election in 2016, where a number of progressive activist groups campaigned against the Coalition.

Iran – Haft Tapeh workers in Iran win unpaid wages after months of struggle

22 February 2018 News

The long struggle by workers and their union at the Haft Tapeh sugar complex in Shush, Iran to secure wages  unpaid since July 2017 has ended with full payment of the massive wage arrears to all company workers. Permanent and temporary Haft Tapeh workers have now been paid their arrears through mid-January of this year.

There is unfinished business: the company has not recognized the union, which was established in the course of a 42-day mass strike over unpaid wages in 2008. The union continues to insist that daily contract workers are also paid the wages owed them. And there are no guarantees that management will not revert to form and again deny workers their wages.

It is nonetheless an important success for the workers and the union, who showed unwavering determination and discipline in the face of consistent provocation and brutality by the employer, the police and the local authorities. The rolling strikes and demonstration underway since December have been an object lesson in the power of solidarity, and international support was crucial in publicizing the workers' fight and sustaining morale.

The Haft Tapeh Sugar Workers' Union has expressed its warm appreciation for the solidarity and support they have received.  

UK – University Pensions Scandal

Students in Leeds march in solidarity with striking lecturers

Lecturers beginning an escalating programme of strike action over pensions deserve unreserved support from the public and overwhelmingly this is what they’re receiving.

It is no coincidence that those most affected by the strike, the students at the 60-odd universities involved, are behind their teachers.

Indeed, while an impressive 61 per cent of students overall say they support the strike, the figure is actually even higher (66 per cent) at the institutions affected.

Clapped-out Blairite Lord Adonis might tweet his disapproval, sniffing that strike action by academics “damages their professional standing,” but that’s clearly not the way students see it.

This is not because students would rather skip their lectures anyway and have a lie-in.

If that were the case we would not see them braving the cold to back striking staff on picket lines and their demand that universities refund them for missed classes — quite justifiable given the staggering debt young people in this country are forced to take on to get a degree — would not be attracting tens of thousands of signatures.

It is because of a growing understanding that solidarity across trades, professions and generations is essential if we are to stop the race to the bottom on pay, pensions and quality of life that has disfigured our country for far too long.

It will not have escaped students’ attention that Universities UK, which is behind the raid on pensions, has consistently lobbied the government to raise tuition fee thresholds so universities can charge them more for their education.

University lecturers are on strike over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) — the largest funded defined-benefit pension scheme in Britain.

Universities UK claims the defined-benefit scheme is unsustainable, though doubt has been cast on its calculations. Sheffield mathematician Sam Marsh argues that USS problems are at root “political, not financial.

“Decisions were actively being made that would force the appearance of deficits. Assumptions that had big effects on the valuation were presented without justification, and seemingly contrary to the evidence,” he writes in Times Higher Education.

What is less contested is how much the proposed changes will cost scheme members who have already swallowed a succession of bitter pension pills since 2011, with staff forced to pay more into pensions at the same time as losing access to final-salary schemes and having to work longer before being entitled to claim their pension.

The University and College Union (UCU) points out that a typical lecturer could see their pension slashed by £10,000 a year if Universities UK gets its way.

Younger academics are set to lose almost half their retirement income if the defined-benefit scheme is replaced by a defined-contribution replacement.

These changes are being pushed through by university vice-chancellors on preposterous salaries who, like the grossly overpaid chief executives of the private business sector, claim credit for the hard work of thousands of employees who deliver the education and research that makes and breaks institutional reputations.

The higher education sector suffers from many of the problems that characterise the British economy — insecure work on fixed-term and zero-hours contracts, low pay and the cynical exploitation of staff aspirations to go above and beyond for their students.

Bosses now want to add an insecure old age to this toxic cocktail. If pension payments are dependent on the whims of the market, then they cease to be a “wage in retirement” that people can rely on to allow them to plan and manage their money and their lives.

There is no need for Universities UK to be so intransigent — indeed, while the Tories could hardly be expected to show solidarity with academics by backing their strike as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has, even the government wants bosses back at the negotiating table with the union.

They should heed that advice and enter serious talks with the UCU on resolving this dispute in a way that doesn’t involve picking the pockets of their staff.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Guns – International Comparison of Killings

How does the US compare with other countries?

About 40% of Americans say they own a gun or live in a household with one, according to a 2017 survey, and the rate of murder or manslaughter by firearm is the highest in the developed world. There were more than 11,000 deaths as a result of murder or manslaughter involving a firearm in 2016.

Chart comparing gun-related deaths as % of total homicides - 64% in US, 30.5% in Canada, 13% in Australia, and 4.5% in England and Wales

Homicides are taken here to include murder and manslaughter. The FBI separates statistics for what it calls justifiable homicide, which includes the killing of a criminal by a police officer or private citizen in certain circumstances, which are not included. 

Who owns the world's guns?

While it is difficult to know exactly how many guns civilians own around the world, by every estimate the US with around 270 million is far out in front. 

Chart showing top 10 gun-owning countries - US is top, followed by Yemen, Switzerland, Finland and Cyprus - info from Small Arms Survey

Switzerland and Finland are the European countries with the most guns per person - they both have compulsory military service for all men over the age of 18. Cyprus, Austria and Yemen also have military service.

How do US gun deaths break down?

There have been more than 90 mass shootings in the US since 1982, according to investigative magazine Mother Jones.
Up until 2012, a mass shooting was defined as when an attacker had killed four or more victims in an indiscriminate rampage - and since 2013 the figures include attacks with three or more victims. The shootings do not include killings related to other crimes such as armed robbery or gang violence. 
The overall number of people killed in mass shootings each year represents only a tiny percentage of the total number.

Graphic showing 33,594 died from guns in 2014, of those 21, 386 were suicides and 11,008 were homicides and only 14 died in mass shootings

There were nearly twice as many suicides involving firearms in 2015 as there were murders involving guns, and the rate has been increasing in recent years. Suicide by firearm accounts for almost half of all suicides in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found there was a strong relationship between higher levels of gun ownership in a state and higher firearm suicide rates for both men and women. 

How old are the killers?

The average age of attackers in 91 recorded US mass shootings, including the Las Vegas attack, was 34.
Stephen Paddock, the gunman who killed 58 concertgoers in Las Vegas, is one of three killers aged over 60. The others are: William D Baker, 66, who killed five people in Illinois in 2001; and Kurt Myers, 64, who killed five people in New York state in 2013.
The youngest killer is Andrew Douglas Golden, 11, who ambushed students and teachers as they left Westside Middle School in Arkansas, in 1998. He was jointly responsible with Mitchell Scott Johnson, 13, for five deaths and 10 injured.

Ages of 94 killers responsible for 91 mass shootings in the US

Attacks in US become deadlier

The Las Vegas attack was the worst in recent US history - and the three shootings with the highest number of casualties have all happened within the past 10 years. 
The Parkland, Florida, attack is the worst school shooting since Sandy Hook in 2012.

Worst mass shootings since 1991 -Las Vegas 58, followed by Orlando 49 in 2016, Virginia tech 32 in 2007, Sandy Hook in 2012 27, and Killeen, Texas 23 in 1991.

What types of guns kill Americans?

Military-style assault weapons have been blamed for some of the major mass shootings such as the attack in an Orlando nightclub and at the Sandy Hook School in Connecticut. 
Dozens of rifles were recovered from the scene of the Las Vegas shooting, Police reported.

Pie chart showing most gun-related murders are committed using handguns

A few US states have banned assault weapons, which were totally restricted for a decade until 2004. 
However most murders caused by guns involve handguns, according to FBI data.

How much do guns cost to buy?

For those from countries where guns are not widely owned, it can be a surprise to discover that they are relatively cheap to purchase in the US.
Among the arsenal of weapons recovered from the hotel room of Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock were handguns, which can cost from as little $200 (£151) - comparable to a Chromebook laptop.

Graphic showing price of an assault rifle $1500 and handgun $200

Assault rifles, also recovered from Paddock's room, can cost from around $1,500 (£1,132).
In addition to the 23 weapons at the hotel, a further 19 were recovered from Paddock's home. It is estimated that he may have spent more than $70,000 (£52,800) on firearms and accessories such as tripods, scopes, ammunition and cartridges.

Who supports gun control?

US public opinion on the banning of handguns has changed dramatically over the last 60 years. Support has shifted over time and now a significant majority opposes a ban on handguns, according to polling by Gallup.
But a majority of Americans say they are dissatisfied with US gun laws and policies, and most of those who are unhappy want stricter legislation.

Chart showing Americans unhappy with US gun laws want stricter rules

Some controls are widely supported by people across the political divide - such as restricting the sale of guns to people who are mentally ill, or on "watch" lists.

72% of Republicans, or adults who lean Republican, believe that 'concealed carry' should be allowed in more places while only 26% of Democrats do.

But Republicans and Democrats are much more divided over other policy proposals, such as whether to allow ordinary citizens increased rights to carry concealed weapons - according to a survey from Pew Research Center.
In his latest comment on the shootings, President Donald Trump said he would be "talking about gun laws as times goes by". The White House said now is not the time to be debating gun control.
His predecessor, Barack Obama, struggled to get any new gun control laws onto the statute books, because of Republican opposition. 

Who opposes gun control?

The National Rifle Association (NRA) campaigns against all forms of gun control in the US and argues that more guns make the country safer. 
It is among the most powerful special interest lobby groups in the US, with a substantial budget to influence members of Congress on gun policy. 

Chart showing rise in lobbying expenditure by NRA - from just over $1m in 2000 to more than $3m in 2017

In total about one in five US gun owners say they are members of the NRA - and it has especially widespread support from Republican-leaning gun owners, according to Pew Research.
In terms of lobbying, the NRA officially spends about $3m per year to influence gun policy. 
The chart shows only the recorded contributions to lawmakers published by the Senate Office of Public Records. 
The NRA spends millions more elsewhere, such as on supporting the election campaigns of political candidates who oppose gun controls.

ACTU – Ciobo either mistaken or misled on TPP

23 February 2018

The Trade Minister is either mistaken about the impact of his own pet project or he has been incorrectly briefed by his department, ACTU Secretary Sally McManus has said.

Mr Ciobo incorrectly assured the nation on ABC Radio that only intra-corporate transferees in high-level professions were allowed to work in Australia under the deal.

His assurances appeared ignorant of the sections of Annex 12-A dealing with contractual service suppliers and installers/maintainers, which cover a much wider range of circumstances and occupations.

These sections allow people from Mexico, Chile, Japan, Canada, Malaysia and Vietnam in any of the more than 400 professions on the temporary skills shortage list to be hired without employers first advertising jobs in Australia.

The Turnbull Government’s own explanatory materials on the visa schemes it has introduced to replace 457 visas explicitly states that no labour market testing will be provided in the event that a trade deal allows people to be brought over.

Ms McManus called on Mr Ciobo to immediately retract and correct his statements and to release the text of any side letters to the agreement that have yet to be made public.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “The Minister is either ignorant of the impact of his own trade deal, has received bad advice, or is trying to deceive the public.”
  • “DFAT confirmed to the ACTU last year that the contractual service suppliers provisions of Annex 12-A have the effect of allowing companies to bring to Australia people from those six countries in any of the professions on the skills shortage list without having to advertise jobs here first.
  • “There are now 435 occupations on the skilled shortage list. It includes cooks, hairdressers, bakers, barristers, roof tilers, property managers, nurses and carpenters.
  • “It is very hard to believe that we cannot find anyone in Australia who will do this work.
  • “I call on the Minister to immediately retract and clarify his public statements and to correct the record.
  • “He must also release any side letters to the deal that are still being kept from the public.”

Friday, February 23, 2018

ACTU – VET Review Vital and Overdue

23 February 2018

The peak body for working people has welcomed an ALP plan for a National Inquiry into Post-Secondary Education should it win office, saying that the vocational education and training (VET) sector in particular is in urgent need of reform.

The Abbott/Turnbull Government has cut public funding for apprenticeships by a billion dollars, and the sector as a whole has seen a thirty percent reduction in its funding over the last decade.

When the Coalition was elected in 2013 there were 413,000 apprentices in training in Australia. But by June last year, that had dropped to 268,600 apprentices – a 35 percent reduction in apprentice numbers.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Scott Connolly:

  • “Young people today are being robbed of the education and job opportunities they deserve.”
  • “The Turnbull Government has turned their backs on young Australians who want to gain the skills and knowledge they need to thrive.”
  • “They have taken money from public TAFEs and funnelled it towards dodgy private VET operators at the expense of young Australians who want to learn. It’s indefensible.”
  • “The ACTU welcomes a full review of the sector that will identify the ways in which privatisation has failed and charts a course that restores publicly funded TAFEs as the backbone of a world-class VET system.”

Zelda D'Aprano fought for equality all her life

Zelda D'Aprano fought for equality all her life. The fire in our bellies is her legacy
Leena van Deventer

Zelda D’Aprano chained to the front doors of the Commonwealth Building in Melbourne in 1969. 
As women, we have allowed ourselves to be the frogs in hot water. Zelda isn’t here any more to see us fix it, but fix it we will.

Zelda D’Aprano was an unstoppable force, and if you didn’t like it, you best got out of the way. It’s through my work as a director of the Victorian Women’s Trust that I got to know Zelda, and she has been a personal hero of mine ever since. I feel lucky for every conversation we had together. Each time I walked away feeling like I could do anything, and she utilised those powers very skilfully. She told me to ask for more from the world, even if I wanted the sun. So, to honour my friend: I’ll have your moon too, thanks.

Zelda D’Aprano passed away on Wednesday, at the age of 90. A staunch feminist, labour unionist, and pay justice advocate, Zelda had a profound and everlasting impact on the women’s movement and labour movements within Australia. She also took the time in her later years to mentor and nurture young feminists. I, and many others, are benefactors of that kindness, and we find ourselves grieving an immense loss.

She left school at 14 to join the workforce, and it was in this factory work she began to witness first-hand the inequity between male and female workers. With each job she took she would point out the injustice of this disparity to her employers and would be swiftly sacked. She didn’t care about personal consequences, she cared about fairness.

In 1969, fed up with the lack of progress for women, Zelda secured herself to the doors of the Commonwealth Building to protest the dismissal in the arbitration court of the equal pay case, of which she was a test case with the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU). In an all-too-familiar pattern, for this “outspokenness” she was fired from the AMIEU.

Women weren’t allowed to drink in pubs, just in the ladies lounges, so she held pub crawls and invited all her friends. Women were only making 75c to the dollar, so she only paid 75% of her tram fare. I remember suggesting on one of my visits that she was the head of the “Ain’t Havin’ It Union” and she laughed.

The legislation Zelda fought for has been all but eroded. The Equal Pay Act of 1972 has been aggressively watered down to become the “Fair Work Act” and no longer even mentions “pay equity”, “gender discrimination” or “equal pay”. We allowed ourselves to be the frogs in the hot water. Zelda noticed, and I’m heartbroken she couldn’t stay long enough to see us fix it. But fix it we will.

When Zelda was chained to the doors of parliament, a police officer (foolishly underestimating her commitment) began to chastise her. “Aren’t you embarrassed? It’s just you on your own,” he said. Without hesitating, she replied “No. Because soon there will be three, then there will be five, and then there will be …”. She was right. Ten days after her protest she was joined by Alva Geikie and Thelma Solomon. From that action, the three women founded the Women’s Action Committee and the Women’s Liberation Centre, from which the Women’s Liberation Movement in Melbourne was born. This changed the landscape of feminist organising in Australia forever.

In her 1995 biography, Zelda described wanting to get more women involved in activism, because “we had passed the stage of caring about a “lady-like” image because women had for too long been polite ... and were still being ignored”. She didn’t care about what people thought of her, she cared about fairness.

The Women’s Action Committee organised the very first pro-choice rally in 1975, with an impressive turnout of over 500 women. It was reported by the media as a “hoard of angry barefoot women” taking to the streets. Zelda assured me they were definitely wearing shoes. She really did walk the walk, throughout her entire life.

As she outlived many of her friends and comrades, in her later years she described herself as lacking “good conversation” with fellow lefties and unionists. Someone from the Trades Hall’s women’s team would come every month to talk shop, and it was a highlight for everyone involved.

In 2015, the Victorian Trades Hall Council introduced the Zelda D’Aprano Award for union activism. In a bittersweet coincidence, the nominations for the 2018 award opened on the very day she passed away. The flag at Trades Hall was lowered to half mast in her honour.

The legacy of Zelda D’Aprano cannot be contained within memorial writings or obituaries, and it cannot die. It lives within the hearts of feminists – young and old – who, inspired by her spirit, will continue to fight for equality and fairness. It lives in the fire in our bellies. It lives in the smirk we wear when we are doubted. Even through the heartache of loss, it lives.

“Oh sisters, you’ve done me proud” – Zelda D’Aprano, 2015.

Leena van Deventer is a writer, game developer and teacher from Melbourne

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Federation welcomes decoupling of NAPLAN from HSC

February 22, 2018

Federation welcomes the announcement by NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes that NAPLAN will be decoupled from the HSC.

While supporting the push for all students needing to reach minimum standards by the end of schooling, Federation opposed the use of NAPLAN as a minimum benchmark.

“It was an inappropriate use of NAPLAN due to the extremely narrow focus of the tests and the lack of relevance to curriculum content,” Federation President Maurie Mulheron said.

“Its use risked labeling students as failures early in their high school career.”

Instead, Federation maintains that there needs to be greater system-wide support for all public schools in order allow them to provide intensive and early intervention for those students in danger of not meeting minimum standards.

“Unfortunately, that has become much harder now that the Federal Government has torn up the previous funding agreements with the states resulting in a loss of $856 million of funding from NSW public schools over the next two years,” said Mr Mulheron.

Federation looks forward to working with NSW educational authorities on the next stage of the plan to ensure all students meet minimum standards by the end of Year 12.

NSW Demonstration – NSW Govt "fallen asleep at the wheel"

NSW residents and commuters gathered in the Sydney CBD last Saturday to protest recent transport decisions made by Gladys Berejiklian’s state government.

Approximately 1000 individuals marched together through the Sydney CBD, commencing at Hyde Park and finishing at Martin Place, as a demonstration of concern and frustration with the NSW State Government and their handling of the state’s public transport.

Greens MP for Balmain, Jamie Parker, said the rally should serve as a wakeup call to a state government that many feel has fallen asleep at the wheel.

“It’s a really clear demonstration of the frustration that people feel not only about public transport but about the direction the state government is going.
“This is a demonstration of everyday people saying they’ve had enough.”

The rally drew protestors from within The Greater Sydney Region, The Blue Mountains, Newcastle and Wollongong, with many advocacy and local government groups represented among those attending.

NSW Secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), Alex Claasens, said the anger of many protestors at the rally stemmed from a lack of effective community consultation between residents and the state government.

“We’ve had a transport minister that just hasn’t bothered talking to anybody; doesn’t consult people, and; this is what happens.

“Most people just want to hear that somebody is listening to their issues and at the moment, a lot of people think that nobody is.”

Indeed, the anger directed at the NSW Government by those marching was palpable. Secretary of Penrith Valley Community Unions, Mary Court, drew the loudest cheers of the day when she evoked Peter Finch’s iconic monologue from the 1976 film, Network.

“We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore,” she said to a rapturous reception.
Speaking further, Ms Court said that many Sydney residents felt it was time for the state government to start listening to their concerns.

“The whole community is sick to death of politics. This is our issue, and we’re taking it straight to the voting booths,” she said.

Issues raised by individuals at the rally included the F6 Tunnel Route, tollways along the M4, privatisation of public transport in Newcastle, and WestConnex Stage 3, each of which has faced significant public backlash throughout their respective developments.

Greta Werner, F6 Action Group, said that she hoped to appeal to the NSW Government to fix issues she fears may harm her community.

“The [exhaust] stacks are spewing pollution over schools, roads and parks. It’s not safe for our kids,” she said.

Another principle concern of many attending was the recently completed sale of the Inner West’s bus transport systems to a private operator by the NSW State Government.

Transit Systems, a Perth-based public transport group, recently won the eight-year tender and will begin handling principle operations on July 1.

Colin Schroeder, Co-Convenor Eco Transit, says that the new plans have not been made with the best interest of Inner West residents in mind.

“It won’t serve the Inner West at all. You just have to look at Newcastle with the privatisation of the transport up there. There are less routes; the bus stops are being reduced in number so they can speed the busses up, but they don’t get the same service.

“Transport in the Inner West is going to become a bigger and bigger problem. They don’t really have any answers,” he said.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Exposed: Exxon escapes tax again

20 February 2018

Multi-national oil giant Exxon has failed to pay any company tax in Australia for several years, disguising its profits behind an opaque corporate structure that funnels money to tax havens.
An ACTU submission to the Senate Inquiry into Corporate Tax Avoidance draws on new and existing research to show the effect of the company’s alleged revenue theft on Australia’s schools, hospitals and the NDIS.

Beyond the avoidance of corporate tax, the submission reveals that Exxon pays less Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT) than its partners BHP on joint ventures in Bass Strait.

Highly conservative figures contained in the submission show that the forgone tax revenue the company funnels offshore through an opaque network of companies in the Netherlands and the Bahamas would:

  • Treat 76,000 people in public hospitals 
  • Educate 5500 public high school students
  • Support 1685 Australians with disabilities through the NDIS

Exxon’s alleged revenue theft is possibly worse than that of US company Chevron, which lost a landmark case to the tax office in 2016 over its use of holding companies and related-party transactions to avoid paying Australian company tax.

The suspected revenue theft occurs as the company attempts to drive down wages at its Esso Longford operations in Victoria.

The ACTU has launched robo-calls and advertisements in key marginal seats calling on elected representatives to make Exxon accountable for its tax affairs.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “Exxon pays no company tax despite billions in revenue, and is also finding ways to avoid paying a fair share of public royalties for the gas they extract. They’re funnelling billions away from Australian schools and hospitals and into offshore bank accounts.
  • “Why isn’t the Turnbull Government making it a priority to make Exxon pay their fair share of tax so all Australians benefit? Instead it is pursuing $65 billion in corporate tax cuts so even more companies pay no tax.
  • “If reduced company tax is supposed to drive wage increases, then workers at companies like Exxon should be seeing massive wage increases, but the opposite is occurring. Exxon is cutting working people’s wages while paying no tax. Evidently, the rate of tax a company pay doesn’t have an impact on how it treats its workers, or what they are paid.
  • “Cutting taxes to big business doesn’t raise pay; pay goes up when we have rules that make companies give workers their fair share of their profits. We need to change the rules so working people can win pay rises again.”

Be Like Australia – US School Kids Protest

Makenzie Hymes, a 13-year-old who loves dancing and the piano, about Australia's gun control laws on a placard she took to the White House this week where she joined dozens of other school children demanding tougher gun laws.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

NSWFT – Federation switches on to solar energy

February 13, 2018 NSWTF

Federation has always been a powerhouse of the union movement, and now its Sydney headquarters is literally just that.

An array made up of 158 solar panels has been installed on the roof of Teachers Federation House in Surry Hills, generating 85 kilowatt hours of energy and saving more than $30,000 in electricity bills per year.

Federation General Secretary John Dixon said that during the renovation of the building, further environmental measures were undertaken, including the latest LED lighting technology and motion sensor lights.

  • “It makes us sound cheap and hollow to say the decision was all about money because it was also the right thing for the union to do,” Mr Dixon said.
  • “The union has a range of environmental policies and a sustainability committee, so essentially we put our money where our mouth was.”
  • The solar array cost $155,000 to install, and attracted $40,000 in rebates based on trading credits meaning the investment will pay itself off within four years. It will also return power to the grid.
  • “You think when you open your electricity bill you get a shock you should see Federation’s,” Mr Dixon said. “Our electricity bill is around $230,000 a year.”
  • He said Federation had also reduced its power usage by up to $20,000 a year from the installation of the most recent LED lighting technology.
  • ”We’ve also investigated the possibilities of solar farm battery technology but that’s still an ongoing project,” Mr Dixon said.
  • “At the moment the batteries are too expensive for a commercial organisation, and you don’t get much in the way of a rebate from the Government for batteries at the moment.”

Federation President Maurie Mulheron told October Council last year that the union has a long history of environmental activism dating back to the late 1960s, early 1970s and was one of the first unions to support environmental movements.

Federation’s Environment Policy from 2011 Annual Conference states: “NSW Teachers Federation recognises the preservation of our natural environment and addressing environmental challenges such as climate change is union business. As workers who are educators, our members have a role in encouraging the growth of a clean economy that will be safe and prosperous for future generations."

TWU – Airports Federal Court Case

TWU MEDIA RELEASE, 16 February 2018

Airport employees are protesting at all major airports today as a Federal Court case opens on bringing in split shifts and poverty conditions for all aviation staff.

Protesters are calling on airports, airlines and Governments to end the race to the bottom in aviation and ensure quality jobs.

The times and locations of the protests are:

Sydney Airport – 12pm international terminal
Melbourne Airport – 1pm – Qantas domestic terminal
Brisbane Airport – 10am – domestic terminal carpark walkway
Adelaide Airport – 10.30am – main entrance to terminal

The court case is being taken by Aerocare, which is at the centre of a scandal involving below poverty rates and staff sleeping at airports. But the case will have implications for all aviation employees and workers in other industries including nurses, aged care workers, electricians and shop workers.

“It is immoral that airports and airlines make billions of dollars in profit while employees in their supply chains struggle below the poverty line and are forced to sleep at airports because of low rates and split shifts. It is immoral that Governments are sitting on their hands and refusing to hold airports and airlines to account for these conditions. Today workers are taking a stand and saying it is time to hold this immoral behaviour to account,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.

Airport employees on split shifts are forced to stay at work for 15 hours and more while being paid for as little as six hours. Australia’s four major airports – Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane – reported a record-breaking $1.8bn profit according to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s annual Airport Monitoring Report.

“The system is clearly broken when employers are allowed to game the system and profit from workers being forced onto degrading conditions. It is up to Governments to change the broken rules because the community are demanding it,” Sheldon added.

Working conditions and deliberate understaffing at airports are impacting on safety and security. Records from Sydney International Airport show, 132 injuries were reported over a one-year period, among a Aerocare staff of just 324. At Perth Airport passengers were allowed unsupervised onto a secure airside area to collect their own baggage when one Aerocare employee was made to unload an aircraft alone.

The Fair Work Commission last year rejected Aerocare’s new enterprise agreement, which again contains below award rates and illegal split shifts.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Latest Polls – Labor's commending lead

Two new opinion polls show Labor is closing out the turbulent political year with a commanding lead over the Turnbull government, while one of the surveys underscores the profound fatigue of Australian voters with Canberra’s lethal coup culture.

Both the Newspoll and the Fairfax-Ipsos poll have Labor ahead of the Coalition on the two party preferred measure, 53% to the Coalition’s 47%. Last week’s Guardian Essential poll had Labor ahead 54% to 46%.

As federal parliament enters what is expected to be the final sitting week for the year, the Ipsos poll also recorded 71% support for the idea that prime ministers should be allowed to govern for a full term, rather than being turfed out in leadership contests prior to elections.

Over the past decade, the Labor party switched leaders from Kevin Rudd to Julia Gillard then back to Rudd, and the Liberal party switched from Brendan Nelson to Malcolm Turnbull to Tony Abbott then back to Turnbull.

Labor managed victory in its own right in 2007 before being pitched into minority government at the next election, while the Coalition won the 2013 election outright before Turnbull scraped back into government at the last election with a one-seat majority in the lower house.

The build-up to the final sitting week for 2017 has seen a burst of febrile speculation about Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, fuelled in part by the fact the Coalition has trailed in the opinion polls all year, but the prime minister on Sunday said he was confident he would remain in the top job.

“I have every confidence, every confidence, that I will lead the Coalition to the next election in 2019 and we will win it, because we are putting in place the policies that will deliver for the Australian people,” the prime minister told Sky News in an interview.

The Fairfax-Ipsos poll contained questions about preferred leaders for the Liberal party and the survey had the foreign minister Julie Bishop ranked ahead of Turnbull as the most popular choice, with 32% support compared to Turnbull’s 29%.

The former prime minister Tony Abbott polled at 14%, favoured conservative choice Peter Dutton at 5% and the treasurer, Scott Morrison, at 4%.

Turnbull ranked ahead of Bishop among Coalition voters, and the Newspoll recorded improvements in his net satisfaction rating and in his standing as preferred prime minister.

The latest Guardian Essential poll will be published on Tuesday morning.

Grenfell Tower Billboards – “71 dead”, “And still no arrests?”

Grenfell Tower activists have parked three billboards opposite the remains of the charred north Kensington block, calling for justice on the eight-month anniversary of the fire.

Campaigners from Justice4Grenfell recreated a scene from Golden Globe-winning film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” in a bid to raise awareness around the lack of arrests made in the investigation into the fire, which claimed 71 lives last June.

The posters, marked with “71 dead”, “And still no arrests?”, “How come?”, were driven through central London on Thursday before being parked in front of the remains of Grenfell Tower.

Campaign coordinator Yvette Williams said the group hoped the stunt would harness the power of advertising to bring about justice.

“We wanted to harness this power to remind people how little has been done since the tragic event shook this community, and the country, just over eight months ago,” she said.

“These billboards are here because there have still been no arrests, hundreds of survivors remain homeless, and 297 other towers in the UK are still covered in flammable cladding.

“Furthermore, requests from survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire to appoint a diverse decision-making panel to sit alongside the head of the public inquiry have been denied.”