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.”

ACTU – Turnbull Super Bill hands more power to banks

15 February 2018

The changes to superannuation that the Turnbull Government has listed for a vote today hand more power to the big banks.

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Improving Accountability and Member Outcomes in Superannuation Measures No. 2) Bill 2017 allows big banks running for-profit retirement schemes to get their hands on the nest eggs of working Australians more easily.

The change comes at a time when people are rightly suspicious of the banks, who are the subject of a Royal Commission into their malpractice.

At least one bank – Westpac – is under investigation by ASIC for using misleading and unethical tactics to push customers into underperforming for-profit retirement schemes over superior industry superannuation funds.

An ASIC report from January found that 75 percent of the advice banks gave customers regarding their retirement schemes breached their legal obligations, and 10 percent of it actively caused the customers to lose money.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary, Scott Connolly:
  • “The greed of the big banks knows no bounds. We know that. But the Turnbull Government wants to pass laws that make it easier for them to get their hands on our retirement savings.
  • “Westpac is currently being investigated by ASIC for using misleading and underhanded tactics to push people into inferior for-profit super instead of member-owned industry super. They would benefit immensely from this law.
  • “People don’t trust the big banks and they’re right not to. Malcolm Turnbull is a former banker and a close friend of the banks.
  • “He is putting his banking friends ahead of working Australians once again.”

Equal Pay – Learning from Iceland

‘Iceland has made it illegal to pay women less than men!’ crowed headlines in January, to a huge collective cheer and social media high-fives.

But the reality is, in most countries it’s already illegal to pay women less than men. From the Russian Federation to Rwanda, it’s against the law. Most nations (and not just in the workers’ paradise of Scandinavia) have had some form of existing anti-discrimination laws in place for decades.

But speaking in Davos, Switzerland, even a very upbeat Pat Milligan, multinational client group global leader for consultancy Mercer, referenced some frustrating findings from the latest World Economic Forum report.

The results show we’re going backwards on gender parity across health, education, politics and the workplace for the first time since 2006. According to WEF calculations, an average gap of 32% (up from 31.7%) still remains and the reversal is being driven in part by declining gender equality in the workplace. And like many other high-profile employers, the BBC is very much part of this debate.

What makes the Iceland plan different is that the onus will no longer be on a beleaguered employee to prove they are underpaid – which can involve years of court battle. It’s up to their boss to prove they are paying workers fairly.

By many measures, Iceland leads the world in gender equality

“Most countries have equal pay laws: the UK established them in 1970,” says Daphne Romney QC, one of the UK’s leading barristers in equal pay litigation. Over and above that, she says, is the European Union right to equal pay, which gives workers the right to go to civil court or a tribunal.

Iceland has made it a criminal offence for employers not to take action on unequal pay. They’ve effectively made it like a health and safety violation – Daphne Romney QC

Although most countries allow workers to take action against employers, the problem is that “it takes years of slog to get it to court, let alone get to the point of compensation.”

“Iceland has made it a criminal offence for employers not to take action on unequal pay. They’ve effectively made it like a health and safety violation,” says Romney, adding there will be a penalty for inaction which will trigger job evaluation schemes.

So why can’t this model be made to work elsewhere?

“I think it’s very radical but to be honest I don’t think it would get through [passed in to law] here in the UK. Nothing works. The new UK gender pay gap regulations will only apply to 34% of employees, i.e. firms of more than 250 employees,” Romney says. Romney is talking about a 2016 UK law requiring all larger firms – around 9,000 companies – to report their pay data. The idea is to get large firms’ pay data out in the open and subject to public scrutiny.

But Romney feels this is as far as it goes: she feels Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative party is opposed to any changes that go further, as they could bring significant costs for the business sector.

If the UK is unlikely to follow Iceland’s lead, are there any other countries looking to try something else?

Professor Sarah Kaplan, director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy at the University of Toronto, points to another model that predates Icelandic legislation – Canada, which is making strides towards closing the gap.

The policies in Ontario and Quebec, for example, focus on equal pay for equal work (through human rights legislation) and also equal pay for equal value work (through pay equity legislation). In Ontario, the Fair Workplaces Bill 148 includes a raft of new laws; from making provision for workers who suspect that they’re not receiving equal pay to ask for a review to banning employers from forcing staff to wear high-heels.

“This is more advanced than the scope of the Icelandic legislation, which only has the former,” she says. “But Iceland has reporting and fines in place which we don’t have in Canada.” Kaplan says that some of Canada’s laws enforce detailed individual audits of a company’s payment practices, which most companies comply with.

Even in the US, some states, such as Massachusetts, have banned companies asking job candidates about former salaries. That’s something that neither Iceland nor Canada has. “So, it is a patchwork of solutions, none of which can be fully effective without the others. No country or jurisdiction has put in the full suite of practices,” Kaplan says.

Richard Reeves, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies the pay gap in different industries and countries, agrees. He says that while Iceland is “at the very edge of reforms” in this space, and that it could be close to breaking real ground in the pay gap problem, it’s unwise to assume that one country’s policies can apply elsewhere.

“However, there are useful lessons to be learned here, including that gender pay equity does not happen by itself.” He feels that the more accountability and transparency, the better: in the UK, for instance, compulsory gender pay audits will help. “Just showing the scale of the problem is an important step.”

The revolution we now need is models of masculinity, not just business models – Richard Reeves
Reeves’s own research suggests that the gap will only be narrowed by a fundamental altering not just of organisational practices, but of cultural assumptions about the respective roles of men and women in the workplace and home. “Women continue to ‘juggle’ family and work life, which impacts on their earnings and advancement. Men are not yet doing the same. The revolution we now need is models of masculinity, not just business models.”

Tiny Iceland, with its population of 336,483, is a heavyweight in gender equality.It has had the closest gender gap of any country for nine years in a row. And according to European Union data, Iceland is the world leader at including women in the labour force: participation was over 80% in 2017. This ranks Iceland not only at the top of all comparable countries but also puts the nation as the highest of all OECD countries.

Since the 1970s, more and more Icelandic women have entered the workforce and stayed there. This can be attributed to several political decisions, such as a legal right for parents to return to their job after childbirth.

So, while moving to Iceland may not be the answer for everyone, learning a little from the Icelandic model could be an excellent start.

BBC – Read More

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Closing the Gap ... Turnbull Style

Cartoon by Moir

UK Pensions Rorted

‘Dubious’ advisers and ‘parasitical’ introducers ‘shamelessly bamboozled’ thousands into moving retirement funds into riskier investments, committee finds

British MPs have called for urgent action over an erupting pensions misselling scandal after finding that financial advisers exploited thousands of savers for “cynical” personal gain.

In a damning report, members of the Work and Pensions Select Committee said “dubious” advisers and “parasitical” introducers, had “shamelessly bamboozled” 2,600 British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) members.

As a result of bad advice, savers moved £1.1bn of pensions out of the company’s “gold-plated” defined-benefit scheme into riskier funds with high management fees, the committee found.

Carillion tried to ‘wriggle out’ of pensions obligations, say MPs

The particular circumstances surrounding the BSPS “created perfect conditions for vultures to take advantage,” MPs said, but similar bad advice on defined-benefit pension transfers could have affected tens of thousands of people’s retirement funds in schemes across the UK.

The true scale of the scandal is not yet known but estimates suggest billions of pounds of savings could be affected. Only half of advice on defined-benefit transfers meets required standards, research by the Financial Conduct Authority found.

More than 100,000 people a year are opting to transfer their money from defined-benefit schemes on the back of this advice, the committee’s report said. Another estimate from financial data firm, Mintel, puts the figure at around 250,000 transfers in 2017, worth around £15bn.

​MPs said a defined-benefit transfer is not usually in someone’s interests because it means giving up generous, indexed and stable benefits in favour of funds often characterised by high investment risk, high management charges and punitive exit fees ranging from 5 per cent to 10 per cent.

As a result of this, anyone transferring more than £30,000 is required to take financial advice.

Advisers to BSPS scheme members typically charged fees of around 2 per cent of the transfer value and many savers were also duped into signing up to ongoing adviser charges, the report said. The average transfer value for members of the BSPS scheme was £400,000, with 20 people moving funds of more than £1m.

Some advisers charged “contingent fees” meaning they offered free advice and only took a fee if a client opted to transfer their pension.

Tom McPhail, head of policy at Hargreaves Lansdown said contingent fees actively incentivise advisers to recommend a transfer, creating a “glaring misalignment of interest between adviser and their client”.

“It would be remarkable if it didn’t lead to at least some misselling,” he said.

Last year, the FCA proposed to drop a safeguard requiring advisers to presume that a defined-benefit transfer is a bad idea for their client. That proposal should now be dropped, MPs said today.

A review should also be conducted by The Pensions Regulator to learn lessons from the BSPS case, the committee said.

Between October and December 2017, BSPS members were asked to choose between two pension schemes which offered inferior benefits to their existing scheme. The two options were the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) or a new scheme called BSPS2, the report said.

Steelworkers yet to reach pension age were encouraged to transfer their defined-benefit pension rights into a defined-contribution pension, known as making a DB transfer.

A lack of basic information on the scheme meant members did not trust the available options and so a DB transfer appeared attractive, the report said.

Jack Dromey, Labour’s shadow pensions minister, described it as a “national scandal” that the Government and regulators failed to protect those with British Steel pensions.

He added: “It has long been clear that ministers were asleep at the wheel, choosing time and time again to ignore our warnings and those from steelworkers, their unions and pensions experts – that people risked being cheated out of their pensions.

“Thousands of steel workers and their families are now paying the price for Tory failure. 

“With the recent collapse of Carillion, the Government must act urgently to protect peoples’ pensions and ensure such a devastating but preventable situation is never allowed to happen again.”

Work and Pensions Select Committee chair, Frank Field said: “I struggle to fathom how things like contingent fees are, or have ever been, considered an acceptable basis for providing ‘impartial’ advice on a decision like this.”

“It is bad enough failing properly to enforce the rules there are, but when the rules are this weak?” he added.

Mr Field also heavily criticised the regulators. “To propose, as the FCA did in July last year, abandoning the adviser presumption against transferring out of a gold-plated, stable, indexed pension scheme: it really makes you wonder whose side they’re on.”

“Once again we find The Pensions Regulator fiddling while Rome burns, when it should have seen this rip-off coming.”

ACTU – Super Gender Gap Persists

15 February 2018

Despite the savings pool of superannuation expanding rapidly over the last 25 years, the retirement savings of women remain systemically lower than men, and non-payment of super is rampant.

The new report from the John Curtin Research Centre ‘Super Ideas: Securing Australia’s Retirement Income System’ lays out a series of recommendations to make sure that in the future, super will be available for everyone.

The systemic issue of insecure work, in which women are over-represented, coupled with the unpaid caring work which an overwhelming majority of women do means that most women have intermittent super contributions across their working lives. This has to change.

Even when workers are in secure work and should be paid super, it is often stolen. Workers have been denied $17 billion in stolen super since 2009, an average of more than $2.8 billion per year between 2009 and 2015.

The report recommends:

  • Increasing contributions from 9.5 to 15% by the end of the next decade
  • Removing the $450 monthly threshold for super payments
  • Finding a legislative solution to the super gender gap
  • A zero-tolerance approach to employer non-compliance
  • An end to government attacks on industry super funds
  • Reducing super account fees
  • Incorporating financial literacy training into school curriculums

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Scott Connolly 

  • “This report provides a credible pathway to safeguarding the security in retirement which super should provide for all Australians.
  • “The ACTU calls on the Turnbull Government to adopt the recommendations of this report, and end the attacks on industry super funds.
  • “The superannuation system should be the envy of the world, but it’s failing too many people and is plagued by poor enforcement and open rorting.
  • “We need to ensure that men and women are retiring with equal savings, and that all employers are paying their workers correctly.
  • “The flat-out refusal of some employers to comply with Australian law and pay their employees should be a national scandal. This is theft of wages from workers and cannot be allowed to continue.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

US – Record Number of Scientists to run for Political Office

Donald Trump’s rejection of science and his administration’s plans to reverse environmental regulations is inspiring a record number of scientists to run for political office.

Although they generally see politics and science as separate fields and are normally happy to simply engage in arguments, while remaining focused on their research, scientists are stepping out of the lab and onto the campaign trail.

“I think that we’ve never, at least not in my lifetime, seen political rhetoric divide us so completely as a nation,” Grant Kier, a conservation scientist and geophysicist running for Montana’s statewide Congressional seat, told The Independent. “We have fundamental issues from healthcare, to natural resources, to energy production that are absolutely essential for the future of our state and our country, and we need sound science and evidence for how we approach those things. Not partisan rhetoric.”

Mr Kier says that he was inspired to run for office soon after incumbent Rep Greg Gianoforte took office last year. Montana saw massive wildfires during that time, and Mr Kier says his elected representative failed to understand the causes – drought, or early snow melt caused by warmer springs,  for example – behind those blazes, and their connection to climate change concerns.

“We saw some massive wildfires in Montana shortly after he was elected, and I think a lot of people were really troubled that he failed to understand what was causing those fires,” Mr Kier said.

All told, there are more than 60 candidates for federal office from science, technology, engineering, and math backgrounds running in 2018, according to the political action committee 314 Action, whose report was first noted by the Huffington Post. Another 200 are running for state legislature, and another 200 are running for local school boards on top of that.

“That’s tremendous, those numbers,” Shaughnessy Naughton, the co-founder and president of 314 Action, said. “We’ve never seen anything like that before. I think it’s a testament to the times that we’re living in.”

The increased engagement has the potential to significantly increase the number of politicians in Washington with a science background if just one is elected.

There is currently only one PhD physicist in Congress, alongside a single microbiologist, and a  single chemist. At the same time, there are more than 200 members of Congress with law backgrounds. A spokesman for 314 Action said that they had received more than 7,000 enquiries from potential candidates this year, and that they have trained nearly 1,500 of those candidates.

That all has followed Mr Trump ushering in a shocking reversal of environmental priorities when his administration took over the government early last year.

In the past year, the President has installed directors of agencies and departments who have made efforts to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s climate change policies. That includes efforts to open up fossil fuel drilling off all American coasts, to roll back greenhouse gas emission restrictions created by the Clean Power Plan, and to open up protected American lands for oil and gas drilling. That's all in addition to reports of chaos in government agencies that have been forced to take down mentions of climate change from their websites while facing threats of slashed research budgets.

At the same time, he has also pulled the United States out of the landmark Paris Climate Change agreement, relegating America’s role as an international leader on the issue.

That was all in spite of polls suggesting that a majority of Americans support staying in that international agreement, and that a majority of Americans say they approve of policies to address climate change.

Still, the effort to elect scientists into Congress and elsewhere is no easy undertaking.

That is because the spending environmental advocacy groups like 314 Action on federal elections is dwarfed by that of the fossil fuel and energy industries.

Environmental groups have so far contributed nearly $8m to 2018 campaigns and groups, according to data from the Centre for Responsive Politics (CRP). That’s compared nearly $23.6m spent by the oil and gas industry so far in the midterm cycle, according to CRP data. It's early in the election cycle, but the fossil fuel industry has outspent environmental groups by at least more than four-to-one in all of the most recent election cycles.

The billionaire Koch brothers, who are heavily vested in oil and gas interests, have already pledged to spend $400m this election year. Some of that money will help support incumbents these scientists are seeking to unseat – a difficult task for any first time candidate, much less an experienced one.

But, unseating those candidates who receive campaign cash from the fossil fuel industry could have an important impact on how that district votes, Ms Naughton said.

“We do need groups like ours, and environmental groups, that are willing to support candidates that aren’t going to beholden to these industries,” she continued. “Yes that’s about voting, and organising, but it’s also about hard dollars. Even the best candidates, if they don’t have the resources to communicate their message and communicate with voters nobody is going to know who they are.”

Coal lobby ads biggest third-party political expenditure in Australia

AEC disclosures for last year also confirm Malcolm Turnbull was nation’s biggest political donor, giving $1.75m to the Liberals

Advertisements spruiking the benefits of coal and mining were the biggest political expenditure by third-party groups in Australia last year, dwarfing public contributions from unions and GetUp, new data reveals.

The Australian Electoral Commission disclosures for the 2016-17 financial year were released on Thursday showing both major parties at the federal level declare more than $30m in donations and other receipts including public election funding.

The AEC disclosures confirm that Malcolm Turnbull was the biggest single donor to his own party, making a $1.75m contribution to the Liberal coffers just before the 2 July 2016 election.

Political donations 2016-17: search the declarations by Australian parties

Other large donations to the Liberal party included $500,000 from regular contributor Roslyn Packer, the widow of the late Kerry Packer; $200,000 from the Burnewang Pastoral Company; and $150,000 from each of ANZ, the National Automotive Leasing and Salary Packaging Association and supermarket giant Wesfarmers.

ANZ gave the same amount to federal Labor while the party declared other receipts totalling $128,100 from the National Automotive Leasing and Salary Packaging Association, $110,000 from Woodside Energy and $55,000 from Responsible Wagering Australia.

The biggest political expenditure was $3.6m by ACA Low Emissions Technologies Ltd, which manages a fund established by the coal industry to invest in clean coal. Its largest outlay was on political ads to pay for a campaign called Coal - It’s an Amazing Thing.

The Minerals Council spent a further $1.3m, including the Making the Future Possible campaign which spruiks coal and prompted a backlash from BHP.

ACTU – Turnbull Government realizes free labour force not technically ‘employed’

12 February 2018

Closing the Gap set the goal of halving the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous unemployment rates by 2018 in 2007. In the tenth Closing the Gap report, released today, the Turnbull Government confirmed that this target will not be met.

In conceding this failure, the Government argued that the figures on Indigenous employment have been “complicated” by the fact that people who were working, and earning a wage, through previous programs are no longer classified as being employed because they are subject to the Abbott/Turnbull Government’s racially discriminatory Community Development Program (CDP).

Quotes attributable to ACTU Spokesperson Kara Keys:

  • “Workers subject to the CDP are forced to work 25 hours per week, often in manual labour positions, are not paid, receive no employment benefits or rights, have no access to OHS protections or workers compensation. CDP does not generate jobs, in fact, it displaces them.
  • “The introduction of a scheme which creates a pool of free Indigenous workers ready to be exploited by for-profit businesses, decimating employment opportunities in remote and regional communities has undoubtedly “complicated” Indigenous employment.
  • “It is obscene that a Government which has enacted a policy as brutal as CDP is now trying to cook the books and explain away the devastating effects of their own program.
  • “This program is devastating for tens of thousands of people in remote communities who are expected to slave away for no wages. All the hand wringing in the world will not change that.
  • “The CDP has had a disastrous impact on employment opportunities in remote and regional communities. The Turnbull Government is handing out free labour and wondering why employers don’t seem interested in paying anyone a wage.
  • “This program is not about helping Indigenous people or empowering communities, it is about punishment and compliance. The rates of penalties handed out in this program far exceed all other welfare programs.
  • “If the Turnbull Government wants to get serious about closing the gap on Indigenous unemployment it needs to abandon this paternalistic, racist approach and invest in communities on an equal footing, Indigenous workers, like all other workers, should be entitled to decent work, respect and jobs which pay a wage. Until this happens, sadly, we should expect to see more of the same.”

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

ANMF – Some providers spending just $6 a day for nursing home residents’ food

What a disgrace: Some providers spending just $6 a day for nursing home residents’ food
Monday 12th February, 2018

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has expressed its disgust at the findings of a new study showing some nursing home providers are spending a measly $6.08 a day for three meals a day per resident.

The alarming research, published in the Nutrition and Dietetic journal, also found that half of aged care residents suffer from malnutrition, with nursing home providers cutting spending on food by 30 cents per resident last year.

A/Federal Secretary, Annie Butler said today: “The quality and amount of food that vulnerable, elderly nursing home residents are being served is one of the major concerns that nurses, carers and families of residents have about Australia’s aged care system.

  • “It’s appalling that some aged care providers think so little of their residents, spending just $6 a day for three meals.
  • “Our members working in aged care have reported that the food being served in nursing homes is often inadequate, unappetising and not nutritious, with one report stating that party pies were blended up as a meal for residents.
  • “Meal times are also extremely important for residents’ social interaction. It’s something they look forward to and it breaks up the day.
  • “So when meals aren’t appetising or nutritious, they don’t want to eat and it deprives them of the vital social interaction they need to spend with other residents. It’s failing them on so many levels.”

Last week in Queensland, nursing home residents reported to the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, that they were regularly fed less than a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Others reported that their meals were inedible. 

Ms Butler said: “Elderly, vulnerable nursing home residents deserve better.

  • “It’s a disgrace that profitable aged care providers can get away with serving up a mushed-up party pie, or three nuggets and five chips and call it a meal.
  • “As nurses and carers, it’s terribly sad to see these providers showing no recognition, regard or respect to people who have contributed so much to Australian society over the years.”

The ANMF, with over 268,500 members, is the industrial and professional voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.

ACTU – Call for action on labour abuse by diplomats

Call for action on labour abuse by diplomats
13 February 2018

The ACTU has called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to intervene on labour abuses by diplomats after horrifying revelations about the treatment of domestic staff on last night’s 4 Corners program.

The harrowing first-hand accounts of domestic staff working in embassies and the residences of diplomats detailed treatment that amounted to slavery.

They included working seven days a week, up to 18 hours a day, with no or very little pay.

The workers lived in cramped, confined conditions, were not allowed to leave their place of work, and in some cases had their passports confiscated.

Actions available to the Government include instructing DFAT to not approve further employment requests for diplomats alleged to have perpetrated labour abuses.

The Government may also invoke Article 32 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, requesting that the sending state revoke diplomatic immunity – a step the Turnbull government has not yet taken despite more than 30 cases of labour abuse uncovered by the Salvation Army since 2007.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary, Sally McManus:

  • “People who subject others to what amounts to slavery should not be beyond the reach of the law. There should be no exceptions.
  • “To have our own government departments approving the hiring of people who are later subjected to such appalling treatment is sickening.
  • “We should be ensuring that diplomats who’ve already abused workers are accountable for their actions and cannot employ further domestic workers.
  • ”The Government should work with other countries to charge and convict those who have committed criminal abuses.”

ACOSS – Tax cuts a mistake while service funding shortfalls remain, and unemployment payment too low

ACOSS releases Budget Priorities Statement: Tax cuts a mistake while service funding shortfalls remain, and unemployment payment too low

The Australian Council of Social Service has today cautioned that the Federal Budget must continue to strengthen public revenue to secure vital community services and supports into the future, rather than squander billions on unjustified tax cuts.

CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said, “It would be a big mistake for this government to press ahead with personal and corporate tax cuts when we’re facing major funding shortfalls in vital areas such as the NDIS, health, needs-based schools funding, and action to reduce poverty.”

UNSW and ACOSS to tackle poverty and inequality through new collaboration

UNSW Sydney and the Australian Council of Social Service will work to tackle poverty and equality head on through a new collaboration to be launched on Thursday 8 February 2018. The collaboration includes backing from UNSW, various ACOSS member organisations, and philanthropists to the value of $2 million dollars over 5 years. Read more

Welfare Reform Bill must be opposed

We have produced a briefing note on the Welfare Reform Bill which is currently before the Senate. If passed, this bill will really hurt people already struggling to afford basic items in Australia.

Cashless Debit Card should not be extended

Check out our new fact sheet on the cashless debit card trials, and why they should not be extended. ACOSS recommends government abandon legislation to expand the compulsory program.

Monday, February 12, 2018

International Women's Day – Saturday 10 March 2018

The International Women's Day 2018 theme will be #metoo and we will march to say #menomore. 

International Women's Day will be held on Saturday 10 March 2018. 

The IWD March will meet at the Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park at 10:00AM.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Tanya Plibersek says Barnaby Joyce and Malcolm Turnbull must be ‘fully transparent’

Tanya Plibersek says Coalition MPs should reflect on their treatment of Julia Gillard and Cheryl Kernot as they now argue that Barnaby Joyce’s affair with a former staffer is a private matter.

Speaking on the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday, the deputy Labor leader said the opposition would maintain the pressure on Joyce over the issue of expenditure of taxpayer funds but respected that he does not need to account for his personal behaviour.

On Wednesday the Daily Telegraph revealed Joyce’s affair with his former staffer Vikki Campion, who is now pregnant with his child. The story led to revelations that Campion moved to Matt Canavan’s office in April and then to Damian Drum’s as a senior media adviser before her employment came to an end in December.

She called on Joyce and Malcolm Turnbull to be “fully transparent” about the expenditure of taxpayer funds, which she said was the “only area in which there is a genuine public interest”.

Plibersek said it was an “awful time” for Joyce’s family and Labor did not want to “add to their distress” but would continue to ask questions.

“It does appear that the jobs were created in addition to the jobs that already existed in these offices,” she said. “They were quite high rates of pay.”

Plibersek questioned whether the jobs were necessary and noted that although internal transfers are fine the “proper process” would include giving other applicants who might be interested the chance to apply.

Asked if a sexist double standard had resulted in less scrutiny of Joyce than a woman in a position of leadership, Plibersek said she remembered “horrible things” said by Liberals and Nationals about Julia Gillard, Cheryl Kernot and others.

“I think perhaps they ought to reflect on how they behaved in that period,” she said. “And think about how they want people to behave now. I hope it causes a little bit of self-reflection from some of those people.”

Gillard, Australia’s first female prime minister, partly attributed her difficulties in the job to sexist media coverage and famously denounced the then opposition leader, Tony Abbott, in a speech about misogyny that received worldwide media coverage.

Kernot, a former leader of the Australian Democrats, had an affair with Labor’s Gareth Evans, which attracted adverse media commentary.

On Sunday the government leader in the Senate, Mathias Cormann, told Sky News the issue was “deeply personal” and Joyce had addressed it.

On Wednesday Joyce called the breakdown of his marriage “one of the greatest failures in [his] life” and denied any wrongdoing such as misspending public money to maintain the relationship with Campion.

“This is obviously a staffing position inside the National party ... everything is appropriate here, there were appropriate processes,” Cormann said. “She’s clearly someone who is qualified to do the job, she was hired for certain positions on merit and there’s nothing to add.”

Campion, a former deputy chief of staff of the Daily Telegraph, was hired as a senior media adviser for Drum, which Cormann said was “self-evidently” not improperly created for her.

Cormann said he was not aware of the arrangements but “all of my advice is that everything was above board and I’m very surprised that the Labor party would go here”.

Natalie Joyce has said she feels “deceived and hurt” by her husband and that she is “deeply saddened by the news that my husband has been having an affair and is now having a child with a former staff member”.

On Saturday it was revealed that Joyce declared the gift of a free rental property in Armidale in his pecuniary interest register and is believed to be living there with Campion.

NSWTF – Proper resourcing missing; Aboriginal education gap remains

February 09, 2018

Three of the four education targets of the Closing the Gap Strategy will most likely not be met when the 10th annual report on the initiative is released in Canberra on Monday, the media is reporting.

Outcomes for Aboriginal and non-Indigenous Australians are expected to show the gap has not been closed in the areas of early childhood education, school attendance, as well as reading, writing and literacy rates. The only target still on track will be the Year 12 completion rate, as it was last year.

On Thursday, the Close the Gap Campaign released a 10-year review of the strategy with the news that life expectancy for our First Peoples is widening.

Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chair and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO said the strategy began with great promise but has failed to deliver.

“The life expectancy gap has in fact started to widen again and the Indigenous child mortality rate is now more than double that of other children,” Ms Oscar said.

Federation’s Aboriginal Education Coordinator Charline Emzin-Boyd asked when will Australian politicians “get it right” and engage with the Aboriginal community to find solutions and address “the lack of proper resources”.

“While we live in a First World country, with all its wealth and feeling very comfortable, there are so many who suffer Third World conditions on the poverty line for both white and black families,” she said.

“[Federation] fights for the resources for our kids in education and, of course, our Aboriginal kids, who are still the neediest of all.”

The Grattan Institute has also released a paper that shows the learning gap between Indigenous students in remote areas and students in capital cities was as much as eight years in some categories.

The Institute revealed that the average Year 9 Indigenous student in a very remote area scores worse on the NAPLAN writing test than the average Year 3 non-Indigenous student.

The paper also questions the use of the NAPLAN test as the metric for assessing the learning gap, saying that it set the bar too low and masked the scale of the challenge for educators and policymakers.

The 10-review of the Closing the Gap Strategy recommended a reboot of the program, which co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Rod Little says is the “last chance to get government policy right, in order to achieve the goal of health equality by 2030”.

“You must get the engagement on this right. No half measures. No preconceived policies that are imposed, rather than respectfully discussed and collectively decided,” he said.

Commissioner Oscar said that the Federal Government was not living up to its leadership responsibility, allowing the Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes National Partnership Agreement to expire, and under-investing in the national effort.

ANMF – It’s time we had a nurse in Federal Parliament

It’s time we had a nurse in Federal Parliament
Monday 5th February, 2018

The country’s largest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has welcomed the announcement that Ged Kearney will run for the federal seat of Batman, saying it was time nurses, midwives and carers finally had a voice in our national parliament.

Ms Kearney, the former Federal Secretary of the ANMF and President of the ACTU will contest the upcoming by-election for the inner-Melbourne electorate.

A/Federal Secretary, Annie Butler, said the ANMF and its members were delighted that Ms Kearney, a former registered nurse, was standing for federal parliament.

  • “This is great news for all of our members,” Ms Butler said today.
  • “As a former registered nurse and a former Federal Secretary of our union, Ged has hands on experience working in healthcare and aged care.
  • “She understands the daily pressures our members are facing each and every day, in public and private hospitals and aged care facilities.
  • “Ged also understands the issues that need to be resolved for the sake of patients and their families. For example, the overwhelming workloads faced by many of our members working in aged care are just not understood let alone supported by our current politicians.
  • “Without mandated ratios, nurses are run of their feet and in too many facilities, there is often just one registered nurse caring for more than 100 residents. This is unacceptable.
  • “As a former nurse, Ged realises it’s now crucial that we have mandated ratios and staff with the right mix of skills in order to create a high-class residential aged care system. But we need the support of our politicians to get this done.
  • “That’s why the ANMF and our members are excited that Ged now has the opportunity to finally ensure that frontline nurses, midwives and carers have a voice in federal parliament.”

The ANMF, with over 268,500 members, is the industrial and professional voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.

ACTU joins calls for release of Korean Union leaders

9 February 2018

The ACTU has written to South Korean President Moon Jae-In to request that the Korean Government release of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions President Han Sang-gyun and drop charges against former KCTU General Secretary Lee Young-joo.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Scott Connolly:

  • The imprisonment of Han Sang-gyun for exercising his democratic right to protest and freedom of assembly has lasted nearly two years and is in clear violation of his human rights. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has stated that imprisonment is arbitrary and called for his release.
  • On new year’s eve last year Lee Young-joo was arrested while in hospital after a 10-day hunger strike at the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Party.
  • Both Han and Lee have been charged for their role in a protest on 14 November 2015.
  • The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association has asked the South Korean government to take any measures in its power for the release of Han, as well as all other trade unionists for organisation of and participation in the demonstration on 14 November 2015.
  • The ACTU joins the calls of the international union movement to release these prisoners and end attacks on the liberty of union leaders in Korea. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Pat Dodson – Importance of Remote Housing

WA Senator Pat Dodson made a statement in the Senate about his concerns regarding the future of funding for housing in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

This is what he had to say:

"I rise tonight to put on record my serious concerns about the funding for building housing and for maintenance in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. There are grave fears in Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia that the minister is preparing to crab walk away from a decade of Commonwealth commitment to the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing.

These fears stepped up when funding for future years failed to rate a mention in the budget forecast in December. It now seems that only the minister's electorate in the Northern Territory has been guaranteed any funding beyond June 2018. The government is not closing the gap. By pulling out of one of the fundamental building blocks of economic development, employment, education and community safety in remote Australia, it is widening the gap. Without safe, secure and uncrowded housing, the targets for closing the gap will never be achieved.

I met yesterday with mayors from Queensland's remote Indigenous communities—from Kowanyama, Wujal Wujal, Hopevale and the Torres Strait. As leaders of their communities, they are very worried about the lack of certainty for housing beyond June this year. Cancelling the program will have huge impacts on the growth of local community jobs that has taken place since the program was introduced by Labor a decade ago.

If the program stops in June, first nations apprentices, subcontractors, labourers and tradesmen will have to put down their tools and look for work somewhere else, to say nothing of their families. In those four communities alone, 198 local people are employed in the program, and 30 apprentices will be off to the Centrelink office to apply for the Newstart allowance. If the program stops in June, the minister will need to step in and make sure that alternative arrangements are there to support investment in our communities. The Commonwealth cannot take its bat and ball and simply walk off the field.

The national program has grown in significance and effectiveness over the decade. Commonwealth investment has facilitated state and territory co-investment, which has grown over time. We need a committed, ongoing partnership from all levels of government to meet the scale of the need in remote communities. I have received strong expressions of concern on this issue from the Western Australian government, community organisations and Indigenous leaders.

On the one hand, the minister is saying there are negotiations taking place with state governments on a shared contribution going forward. I'm at a loss to know whether the minister is obfuscating, telling mistruths or simply playing games. The minister must come clean about this issue because so much of the future of these remote communities rests upon it.

In my own state of Western Australia, some 12,000 Aboriginal people are living in remote communities. The quality of their services and infrastructure is generally poor. Overcrowding and poor housing standards are rife, leading directly to poor outcomes in health, education and family violence. Of the state's 274 remote communities, most do not have municipal or local government services.

Indeed, the state government's funds for services do not stretch to the smallest 110 of those remote communities. The minister's own evaluation of these matters said that 1,300 houses were needed in the next decade just to keep up with the population growth. The Shire of Halls Creek expressed its concern and fears over a year ago that the overcrowding would worsen within its boundaries if the federal government Indigenous housing program were discontinued. As a consequence, 30 illegal dwellings have been constructed outside the township of Halls Creek.
Housing is a basic human right.

It is wrong morally, politically and economically for the Commonwealth government to abruptly and unilaterally cancel the investment in remote community housing. The government's Closing the gap public discussion paper, released in December, says, 'Australian governments have committed to work in genuine partnership with Indigenous leaders, organisations and communities.'

I call on the Commonwealth government to get back to partnering with the Western Australian government and all the other states and territories to co-invest on a long-term basis in remote Indigenous housing. Housing is a right, not a privilege. Without decent housing, the yawning gap in first nations health, employment and education standards will never be closed."

CFMEU – Nothing Has Changed at the ABCC

The Turnbull Government’s building industry attack dog has issued new Building Code rules that specifically ban the Eureka Flag from being displayed on a building site. 

If an employer breaches the Code, they are ineligible to compete for Government work.

CFMEU National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan said it showed that nothing had changed at the ABCC since former boss Nigel Hadgkiss was forced to resign after breaking the very laws he enforced. 

  • “Former ABCC boss Nigel Hadgkiss acted like a partisan attack dog for the Turnbull Government,” Dave Noonan said. 
  • “We can now see that the new leadership of the ABCC is no different. 
  • “It is very clear that the Turnbull Government’s ABCC is not about productivity or industry reform. The ABCC is merely a taxpayer funded vehicle for the Liberal Party’s culture war against unions. 
  • “There are real problems that require the PM’s attention, like stagnating wage growth and casualisation of the workforce. 
  • “Yet they have gone out of their way to make a specific set of rules for one flag – a flag that represents a struggle for democracy and fairness. 
  • “Under these rules, it would be permissible to display the flag of North Korea, an ISIS flag, or a swastika - but not the Eureka Flag.” 
  • The changes also include making the display of a single union logo on equipment on a construction site a breach of code. Union logos were permissible under the previous rules unless they were ‘voluminous or large scale’. This would mean, for example, that a union sticker on a hard hat would be a breach of the Code. 
  • “At the same time they try to criminalise journalism, they are making rules about putting stickers on hard hats and flying the Eureka Flag. 
  • “It’s behaviour you would expect under a dictatorship,” Dave Noonan said. 

Friday, February 09, 2018

ACTU – Turnbull attacks own workforce with regressive bargaining policy

9 February 2018

The cabinet-approved bargaining policy released by Malcolm Turnbull’s Public Service Commissioner undermines job security, takes power from working people and is designed to start a wage race to the bottom, the ACTU has said.

The policy and guidance issued this week by Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd demands “wages restraint” and caps public service wage rises at two percent a year. It also advises public service senior management that they do not need to make collective agreements and can push their staff onto individual contracts instead.

The policy also bans agreements limiting the casualisation of people working for the Federal Government, as well as the use of outside contractors and labour hire companies to replace full-time and part-time employees.

Quotes attributable to Sally McManus, ACTU Secretary:

  • “This document was approved by cabinet and has the fingerprints of Turnbull and Cash all over it. It’s designed the undermine the wages and job security of tens of thousands of ordinary Australians workers.” 
  • “You can see what the Turnbull Government thinks about working people from the way they treat the people who work for them. And it’s appalling.”
  • “These workers need a decent pay rise and job security, just like all Australians, but this regressive policy is designed to delivery exactly the opposite.”
  • “This Government has broken collective bargaining across the economy and is now pushing this policy of individual contracts on public sector workers. It’s reminiscent of WorkChoices and would kick off a race to the bottom.”  
  • “Australians need good secure jobs and decent wages but the Government instead wants us to be farmed out to labour hire companies or placed on short-term deals.
  • “It’s the ultimate act of disrespect to people who have been bargaining in good faith, even though the system is stacked against them, for four years without a pay rise.”

ACTU – Gag orders muzzle staff and victims in Banking Royal Commission

8 February 2018

Huge numbers of bank customers and staff trying to reveal the extent of banking malpractice to the Banking Royal Commission are gagged by non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements.

Unlike the institutions at the centre of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Banking Royal Commission has not moved to ensure that banks cannot pursue legal action against people who breach confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements to blow the whistle on wrong-doing inside the banking sector.

The ACTU is calling for the Commissioner Kenneth Hayne to ensure that all witnesses have protection from all non-disclosure, confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions relating to previous settlements by the banks, or included in employment contracts or employer policy.

Quotes attributable to Scott Connolly, ACTU Assistant Secretary:

  • “The banks are using non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements to shield themselves from the most damning details of their malpractice.
  • “These agreements affect people who work for the big banks, and people who have been paid out by the banks for being victims of malpractice. The Royal Commission, and the public, has a right to hear what they have to say.
  • “The people coming forward to us are talking about predatory lending, misleading and unconscionable financial advice, possibly illegal fees and fraud by the banks, which in many cases has driven people to bankruptcy and to lose homes and businesses.
  • “The Turnbull Government has already truncated this Commission. We cannot allow large numbers of witnesses to be silenced by the banks.
  • “None of the infrastructure that was put in place to collect evidence for previous commissions has been mobilised for the Banking Royal Commission. The Turnbull Government is trying to protect its mates and former colleagues in the banking sector.

Quotes attributable to Julia Angrisano, Finance Sector Union National Secretary:

  • “Finance sector workers who want to speak out about the unethical practices and toxic behaviour are faced with an impossible choice – remain silent in accordance with their employment contracts, or speak out at the cost of their livelihood and ability to provide for their families. 
  • “Finance sector workers are victims of the worst cultural issues in the sector.  By gagging the very workers who can expose these issues, we ask what the banks are trying to hide.
  • “For the Royal Commission to start to rebuild trust and confidence in the finance sector, workers must be able to speak openly and honestly, and without fear of losing their livelihoods.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Votes For Women – UK Centenary

One hundred years ago, eight million British women secured the right to vote after a long struggle by the Suffragette movement.

Suffragettes 1911
It was not until a decade later that universal suffrage was introduced, but the 1918 Representation of the People Bill was still a major step forward that put the the country ahead of other nations, such as France.

Several countries, including former British colonies, outpaced the UK's rate of progress by introducing votes for women earlier.

New Zealand (1893)

The Pacific island nation, then a self-governing colony of the British Empire, was the first country to allow all women to vote in parliamentary elections. Women were not allowed to stand in the elections until 1919. New Zealand elected its first female Prime Minister Jenny Shipley in 1997.

Australia (1902)

The Australian Constitution extended voting rights to non-Aboriginal women across the country. Women in Southern and Western Australia had been able to vote in federal elections since the previous year. However, Aboriginal women and men were barred from voting in national elections until 1962.

Finland (1906)

The Nordic state, then part of Russia, blazed a trail for gender equality by becoming the first in the world to five women unrestricted rights to both vote and stand in parliamentary elections. Nineteen women became MPs in elections the next year.

Women demanding the right to vote in a march during the Russian Revolution

Norway (1913)

Middle-class women had won the right to vote in parliamentary elections in 1907. Six years later a motion to introduce universal suffrage was passed unanimously by MPs.

Denmark (1915)

Danish women won the right to vote in parliamentary elections following decades of increasingly disruptive campaigning. Suffrage was extended at the same time to women in Iceland, which was then part of the Kingdom of Denmark.

Russia (1917)

The government gave women the right to vote following months of suffragist rallies, including a 40,000-person march on the Tauride Palace.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Building Commission Drops Eureka Flag Ban

Eureka Flag Flies in Sydney
The building watchdog has quietly dropped probes into two companies for displaying construction union flags and posters on building sites, despite subsequently warning the industry that employers ­faced bans if employees showed the Eureka flag image.

The Australian understands the Australian Building and Construction Commission has backed off recommending sanctions against Probuild and Watpac for displaying posters and flags of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union on building sites.

The ABCC initially wrote to the companies last year asking them to respond to allegations that could have resulted in their being banned from tendering for commonwealth building work if they were found to have breached the national building code.

Sources said no reasons were given for the decision and the letters were received before the ABCC released new guidance on January 30 warning employers against employees displaying the Eureka flag or union slogans on company-supplied clothing and equipment, including hard hats and mobile phones.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has accused Kane Constructions of undermining the constitution and freedom of association after the company told site managers on Tuesday to remove all union-related flags from its building sites.

The builder's action follows the Australian Building and Construction Commission releasing updated guidelines on the building code last month that specifically ban "the iconic symbol of the five white stars and white cross on the Eureka Stockade flag" from display on employer property due to its association with the CFMEU.

In a letter to Kane Constructions, CFMEU state secretary John Setka demanded the company confirm by noon that it would not proceed with removing the flags.

  • "We will take any action required to maintain our members' right to freedom of association," he said.
  • "We request that Kane refrain from any conduct that undermines this and will not hesitate to enforce our rights through the relevant legal channels."

Victorian building sites are understood to feature the union's John Cummins Memorial Fund flag, which includes the Eureka flag in the background.

The ABCC has said its ban on union insignia on clothing, property or equipment is in line with the code and freedom of association "because such practices can result in an implication that membership of a building association is a mandatory requirement of employment".

However, the CFMEU has objected to the watchdog's interpretation and argued that such conduct would be a breach of the code.

  • "In fact the forced removal of an individual's right to wear union logos or to display a union flag is a blatant attack on freedom of association," Mr Setka said in the letter.
  • "It implies one cannot join a union."

CFMEU national construction division secretary Dave Noonan said the union was told the agency had been threatening contractors throughout the industry for some time with blacklisting over displaying union stickers and posters.
  • “The real point here is you have an industry with an unacceptable safety record, an unacceptable rate of fatalities, the exploitation of migrant workers, wage theft going on and all these guys can do is try and ban the Eureka flag,’’ he said.
  • “It says they are not interested in a more productive, safe or ­efficient building industry. They are interested in right-wing ideology and culture wars.”

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor said if the government, “which purports to be full of freedom-of- speech warriors, is banning union members from displaying union symbols or the Eureka flag, then we are in dangerous territory”.

ACOSS welcomes opposition to cashless debit card

7 February 2018

Contrary to extensive expert advice, the Federal Government is pushing ahead with its legislation to allow the mandatory cashless debit card to be extended to anywhere in Australia.

ACOSS welcomes opposition from the Greens, Labor and the Nick Xenophon Team to this Bill.

The Coalition government’s cashless debit card trials began in 2016 in Kununurra Western Australia and Ceduna South Australia and were designed to address perceived drug, alcohol and gambling addictions of working age people receiving income support, particularly Indigenous people. The trials are scheduled to complete June 2018.

Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS says there is no reliable evidence that this kind of policy works, nor is it possible to collect reliable evidence in the trial sites about the policy’s impact because no baseline data was collected.

  • “ACOSS opposes mandatory cashless debit,” says Dr Goldie.
  • “While ACOSS does not support Labor and the Nick Xenophon Team’s decision to allow continuation of the trials for another 12 months, the good news for people on income support is that this policy won’t be extended elsewhere.
  • “People living in Kalgoorlie and the Hinkler region – the two further proposed trial sites – can breathe a sigh of relief because their voices have been heard.
  • “And their message has been clear. People want to be treated with dignity and respect. 
  • “The imposition of mandatory cash management is deeply offensive to people on low incomes who are typically experts at managing on inadequate incomes because they have to be to survive.
  • “People trying to survive on income support want jobs, not their freedoms restricted nor further stigma attached to their plight.
  • “As a mandatory scheme, the cashless debit card screams entrapment without sufficient reliable evidence to show the trials are meeting the desired health and social outcomes.
  • “We are very concerned about the increase in domestic violence call-outs in Kununurra. We are worried that the cashless debit card scheme is causing more harm than good.
  • “ACOSS’ position is on the cashless debit card trials is clear. The cashless debit card should be voluntary, providing it has community support, with transition arrangements in place for individuals and communities wishing to remain under the card.
  • “Opt-in schemes should be co-designed with communities and include services as directed by communities, including wrap-around supports such as drug and alcohol, mental health, financial counselling and social support services.
  • “The government must abandon legislation to expand the compulsory program to other parts of Australia. They must not continue mandatory trials in Ceduna and Kununurra. They must ensure that people on income support are treated with dignity and receive the respect they deserve.”

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

NSWTF – 60,000 strong and growing

60,000 strong and growing
Nicole Calnan
Acting Deputy Secretary

A consistent focus on the recruitment of new members has resulted in significant membership growth in 2017.

At the end of October, Federation celebrated reaching 60,000 financial school and TAFE members ensuring Federation remains a strong and powerful union.

This milestone is significant because it has been more than 10 years since we have been above the 60,000 financial member mark.

Federation has been growing strongly over the past couple of years, but this year there has been a significant spike in membership.

Recruitment is everyone’s responsibility in schools and TAFE, not simply that of the Federation Representative.

If there are new faces in your staffrooms, ask if they are members of Federation and assist them to join in the correct membership category, by completing and returning a membership form or joining online here.

With enrolment growth in public schools, it is imperative we continue to recruit new members and promote the benefits of union membership in all workplaces.

In the new year, a new generation of teachers is about to embark on their career next year and it is the responsibility of all members to ask new teachers: “Are you a member of the Teachers Federation?”

Federation Officers draw strength in the knowledge that when they are sitting down to negotiate with the Department of Education or TAFE NSW that there are more than 60,000 members standing behind them.

We should celebrate this milestone, but we must also continue to build our collective strength.

Peace Boat in Sydney Harbour

6am, Monday 5th February, 2018. The first rays of sunlight break over Sydney harbour. We’re speeding along in Greenpeace’s inflatable motor boats, hot on the heels of our target.

But this time we weren’t going after oil giants or reef destroyers. Yesterday morning we had the pleasure of welcoming Peace Boat to Sydney’s shores, where they’re spreading their message of peace and nuclear disarmament and calling for Australia’s leaders to sign the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Last year we took your name and thousands of others to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to show her how necessary it is that Australia signs the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty. We sent a strong message, but Bishop wouldn't budge. It's barbaric that in 2018, our leaders still won't turn away from catastrophic nuclear weapons.

That's why this time we're keeping the pressure on the Government to sign the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, and we need your help. Will you help us get the message out there?

If you're not on social media, forward this email to a friend and ask them to tell Turnbull: sign the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty now.

Peace Boat is an international organisation that travels the world on peace voyages, stopping in at ports to meet locals, talk about peace issues and create social change. On board this time were many incredible people, including survivors from Nagasaki, Fukushima and the nuclear testing in our own Australian outback. They spoke movingly at yesterday’s Peace Rally in Sydney’s CBD, alongside our friends from ICAN, Uranium Free NSW and more.

It’s frustrating, though, that Peace Boat has to come here to pressure our Prime Minister into making the obvious right choice and standing up against nuclear weapons. Nuclear warfare is catastrophic, deadly and horrifying. As second-generation Yankunytjatjara-Anangu nuclear test survivor Karina Lester put it, “We don't want to live a life of fear. We need to send a very strong message that we do not want nuclear weapons.”

Thanks for all you've done for nuclear disarmament Let's keep up the good fight.

ACTU – Company tax cuts put corporate profits ahead of people

The Coalition’s planned $65 billion tax cut for corporations will come at the expense of working Australians, the ACTU has warned.

Research by the Australia Institute to back its television ad campaign against the cuts shows that the primary beneficiaries of the cuts are large businesses in the banking, insurance and resources sectors whose hiring and remuneration practices would be unaffected by a reduced company tax rate.

This flies in the face of Treasurer Scott Morrison’s assertions in the AFR Monday morning that his big business handout would boost wages for working people.

The Australia Institute analysis found that the economy would run better if the $65 billion was invested in services like schools and hospitals.

A full third of the money would end up in the coffers of only fifteen companies: Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, National Australia Bank, ANZ, Macquarie, QBE, BHP Billiton, Woodside, Wesfarmers, Woolworths, Scentre Group, Westfield, Telstra and CSL.

These companies already enjoy unchallenged market power in their sectors and do not operate in an environment that is competitive enough for the company tax rate to affect their decisions on employment and remuneration.

Quotes attributable to Sally McManus, ACTU Secretary:
  • “Trickle-down economics has failed, and it has failed repeatedly. Working people know this, and they won’t be fooled by Mr Morrison’s attempt to spin a $65 billion dollar corporate handout into a win for wage earners.”
  • “The Turnbull government is addicted to trickle-down economics. They know no other way. They believe if we give handouts to the wealthy and multi-national corporations somehow working Australians will get a pay rise. But this is not how the world works.
  • “This unnecessary and expensive corporate handout comes at the expense of government investment into schools, hospitals and community services. It takes the tax dollars of working Australians and shovels them into the coffers of big business. You have to wonder if there is any limit to their greed.
  • “Instead the government should be focusing on making sure that corporations pay their fair share of tax and that working people have strong enough rights to win pay rises.”

ACTU – Equal Pay rules are broken for women:

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus has condemned Australia’s workplace laws as incapable of providing gender pay equity after a Fair Work Commission decision against two unions seeking equal pay for early childhood educators.

The case, brought by United Voice sought a pay rise for early childhood educators, who currently earn as little as $21 per hour.

The Fair Work Commission dismissed the application, which sought to use metalworking industry classifications as a basis for comparison. There is still one application Independent Education Union that the Commission is yet to decide on.

The ruling for early childhood educators has ramifications for working women across all industries, but in  industries such as aged care, where the majority of the workforce are women. 

Early childhood educators have walked off the job several times as part of their Big Steps campaign for equal pay, with another walkout planned for March 27.

Quotes attributable to Sally McManus, ACTU Secretary:

  • “This decision is proof that our current laws and institutions are incapable of addressing the gender pay gap.” 
  • “This decision sets working women back 30 years in their pursuit of wage justice. Our current laws are not capable of addressing the issue.”
  • “Women’s work will continue to be undervalued unless our broken rules and institutions that govern the lives of working Australians are fixed.”

Eureka Flag – Ban on the most Australian symbol of them all an outrage

Peter FitzSimons

Yes, I grant you, when you wander into the realms of what is "un-Australian", you can quickly get lost in a miasma of hoary breast-beating, all to the tune of Waltzing Matilda, but ... as you might guess, I can't resist.

For I refer, of course, to a report on Monday that notes, as of recently, companies face being banned from doing any federal building work "if employees display the Eureka flag or union slogans on employer-supplied clothing and equipment", all because of "Turnbull government restrictions on workers showing support for the CFMEU".

Yes'm, according to the diktat released by the Australian Building and Construction Commission – responsible for monitoring and promoting workplace relations in the Australian building and construction industry – from now on employers must be "more stringent", on the display of union logos and mottos. In fact, so stringent that, as noted by The Australian in its report, the presence of a single union logo might see them in breach, and such offending material, specifically includes "images generally attributed to, or associated with an organisation, such as the iconic symbol of the five white stars and white cross on the Eureka Stockade flag".

Friends, I ask you, does it get any more un-Australian than that – 163 years on from the most inspiring event in our history, of individuals rising against an unfair government, we have a modern government attempting to ban the individual's right to display the very symbol of that struggle.

Eureka is not just any symbol. It is the most iconic Australian symbol of the lot, the one that has endured through the ages, the symbol that, to quote my own tome on the subject, stands for "justice, multiculturalism, mateship, egalitarianism, democracy, republicanism and the rights of the workers".

This is the symbol the Australian government thinks is such a danger to shipping it has to be shut down?

And yes, yes, I know, in response to the very idea that the Eureka symbol is an important one which, far from meriting banning, deserves veneration, will bring predictable howls from the denizens of talkback – and here's a special hello to you, Alan – along the lines that anything that is a symbol of unionism deserves to be done down, just on principle.

If it please the court, I seek your leave to call the first witness for the defence ...

The courtroom stirs, as footsteps are heard on the oaken floors outside. The door opens. In walks ... Senator Cory Bernardi! SENSATION in the courtroom. The witness no one was expecting!

And thank you, your honour, you are quite right. Mostly, it is fair to say, Senator Bernardi and I cannot agree that it is Tuesday, let alone anything substantive in the realms of Australian politics. But here is the thing. Look at his shining eyes right now. Though opposed on everything, we both tear up at the vision of the Eureka flag.

December 1st 1854 – Swearing allegiance to the "Southern Cross" – From Notebook of Charles Doudiet

Saturday, February 03, 2018

ACTU statement on the passing of Andrew Casey

2 February 2018

The ACTU expresses our sorrow and condolences on behalf of everyone in the Australian union movement to the family and loved ones of Andrew Casey, who passed away suddenly Thursday.
After starting his working life as a boilermaker’s assistant, Andrew transitioned into the media, working as a reporter covering industrial relations and education for the Fairfax newspapers in Australia and London, before taking a communications position at the ACTU under Bill Kelty, where he worked for nearly a decade.

He served the movement in subsequent roles at the Australian Workers Union, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the Australian Nurses and Midwives Foundation and the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union (now United Voice).

Andrew’s work laid the foundations for the online component of the strong campaigning culture that exists within the Australian union movement. He ran the first Australian email campaign for wage justice for working people at the Hilton Hotel during his time at the LHMU, and was a founding editor of global union news portal LabourStart.

Andrew was a committed and active member of the Australian Journalists Association and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, and a passionate educator of journalists about industrial relations. His legacy includes the establishment of a Walkley Award for industrial relations reporting.

Andrew arrived in Australia as a refugee from Hungary when he was a small child in the 1950s – he was fond of saying he had people smugglers to thank for his life in Australia.

He was a passionate campaigner for social justice both within Australia and throughout the world, particularly for asylum seeker and human rights causes.

Andrew is survived by his brother, son and daughter.

Quotes attributable to Sally McManus, ACTU Secretary:

  • “The passing of Andrew Casey represents an immense loss to the Australian union movement.”
  • “Andrew’s contribution to the lives of working people in this country, his tireless energy and his guidance for young unionists and reporters will be sorely missed.
  • “Andrew was the kind of unionist we all aspire to be – he lived union values every day, giving his experience, his wisdom and his time to improve the lives of working Australians. He was principled, compassionate and generous.
  • “He was an elder statesman, a moral barometer and an active and vigorous campaigner for the length of his life.
  • “On behalf of all Australian unionists I offer condolences to his friends, family and loved ones.” 

Quotes attributable to MEAA media section President Marcus Strom

  • “Andrew was an active member of the Australian Journalists Association and MEAA for all his working life.”
  • “He already had a fine record as a newspaper journalist before becoming a pioneer of modern union communications.
  • “He was passionate about preserving good industrial relations reporting, and was the driving force behind the establishment of the Walkley Award for workplace journalism.”

“He will be sorely missed.”

UK – DHL tells couriers: Take £2,000 pay cut or get on your bikes

Union GMB tells the firm to drop threats or 'face the consequences'

PARCELS delivery firm DHL-UK Mail has told its self-employed couriers they must take a £2,000 a year pay cut or be sacked.

General union GMB has warned the firm to drop its threat or “face the consequences.”

Since the deregulation of the postal service in 2006, UK Mail, now a subsidiary of the transnational Deutsche Post DHL Group, has competed with the Royal Mail in collection and distribution of mail.

The firm delivered its ultimatum to drivers at 55 depots despite having made profits of £41 million in 2016, forking out £5m in dividends to shareholders and £900,000 in pay to directors. It delivers for big brand names including Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser, O2, Ebay and Argos.

GMB accused DHL “of appalling treatment” of couriers, who at some depots were called in by management one by one and confronted with new contracts incorporating the £2,000 pay cut. They were told to sign or be sacked.

GMB national officer Mick Rix said: “GMB has been inundated with calls from members and other drivers at DHL-UK Mail over its draconian treatment of drivers.

  • “The company made healthy profits in 2016 and appears to be aping other parcel firms’ model: paying executives huge amounts while expecting workers to do more as they cut their pay.
  • “We are urging all drivers for DHL-UK Mail to contact GMB — we have lawyers waiting to talk to them.”

GMB organiser Stephen Boden said: “The way UK Mail is treating drivers is nothing short of appalling.

“Forcing self-employed drivers to take a £2,000 pay cut on pain of losing work is scandalous.

“GMB calls on UK Mail to drop this exploitative sort of action or face the consequences.”