Monday, July 30, 2018

AFP to Quiz Michaelia Cash ?

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is liaising with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions about whether charges should be laid over leaks from Federal Jobs Minister Michaelia Cash's office about raids on the Australian Workers Union.

Some journalists were tipped off and waiting when AFP officers raided union offices in Melbourne and Sydney last October to seize documents relating to donations made to Get Up and Labor candidates when Bill Shorten was head of the AWU.

Senator Cash initially denied her office had any involvement in the leak to the media but subsequently told a Senate committee her senior media adviser had confessed that he had tipped off the media before the raids.

The adviser has since resigned.

There has been a long-running police investigation into the leak from her office.

Today AWU national secretary Daniel Walton said it was "troubling but not surprising that the AFP have decided to refer their investigation to the Commonwealth prosecutor".

"Clearly the AFP have learned enough here to believe it warrants the attention of the prosecutor," Mr Walton said.

Labor's employment spokesman Brendan O'Connor called on Senator Cash to answer questions including whether she is a witness or under investigation.

Police are aiming to send material to the director of public prosecutions in the next two weeks.

It is not clear how long it would take for the DPP to decide whether charges should be laid.

ANMF – Bringing Nurses Together From Around The Globe

Lori-Anne Sharp, ANMF Assistant Federal Secretary
I was fortunate to represent the ANMF at the International Council of Nurses (ICN) Triad meetings in Geneva, Switzerland in May this year. The ICN’s theme this year was health is a human right.

Every two years ICN hosts a meeting of its member organisations in Geneva in advance of the World Health Assembly. These meetings bring together national nursing and midwifery organisations, chief government nursing and midwifery officers, regulatory bodies and the World Health Organization (WHO). Over 80 countries were in attendance representing 20 million nurses worldwide.

The four-day Triad meetings focused on ways to support and strengthen nursing and midwifery leadership at national, regional and international levels in the broader context of health workforce, health systems and global health priorities.

Countries shared their stories on recruitment and retention, impact of burnout, social determinants of health, and effects of climate change, universal health coverage and the high percentage of deaths globally attributed to non-communicable diseases.

I was both delighted and impressed to hear that one of the case studies chosen was from Brisbane’s outreach service “homeless to healthcare”, demonstrating how nurses are working to break the poverty cycle in their delivery of healthcare to those experiencing homelessness.

I left the Triad meetings grateful to have experienced this unique opportunity and the chance to share knowledge, network and learn from other health professionals around the globe. I was often reminded how lucky we are here in Australia, compared with many other countries - while not losing sight that there is still much work to be done here, especially in the areas of aged care, mental health, addressing inequality and raising the status of nurses and midwives in supporting them to lead change.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

BMUC oppose Nine takeover of Fairfax

The surprise announcement that the 9 Entertainment group proposed acquisition of Fairfax media has sent shock waves throughout the Australia community. This proposed takeover poses a real threat to the already restricted Australian media landscape.

Blue Mountains Union & Community (BMUC) strongly oppose this blatant move by Nine to consolidate its media monopoly. The merger will give Nine 100% ownership of Stan, 60% of Domain, 54.5% of the Macquarie Radio Network, as well as the ownership of Fairfax mastheads like the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
BMUC is concerned about the future of local and regional newspapers as Nine acquire our own local voices, the Blue Mountains Gazette and the Lithgow Mercury. Will we see more local journalists lose their jobs? Will our region's media lose their local focus and our local stories as more editorial control is centralised?
The Turnbull government's changes to the cross-media laws have allowed media moguls free range to expand their empires which is an alarming development. Will our local and national news outlets "become saleable assets"?
This merger will stifle diversity at a time when there is a need for editorial independence and investigative journalism.  Last year Fairfax media and the ABC collaborated on stories like the one which exposed the exploitation of the elderly in the nursing home industry.

Do we believe Nine when they say they will support investigative journalism which risks the loss of advertising revenue when unethical corporate behaviour is exposed?
This takeover comes at the same time as the Turnbull governments attack on the ABC with two current reviews of our public broadcaster role as well as devastating funding cuts.
BMUC urges unionists and others to support workers and their families in the media industry at this critical time. 

We live in a society, not an economy, and a strong society has a strong news media which can tell its stories without fear. This proposed take over which has been kept from public discussion because of "market sensitivity" should be called out for what it is...a genuine attack on free speech and a bad day for democracy.

D Smith
Blue Mountains Unions & Community
(Blue Mountains Unions Council Inc)

ACTU – Real wage growth hits 0%

Real wage growth hits 0%
25 July 2018

Real wage growth is now 0%. With CPI announced this morning at 2.1% completely wiping out near record low wage growth of 2.1%.

Costs of essential items and services like electricity, gas and childcare continue to increase well above CPI, meaning that wages are going backwards compared to non-discretionary spending.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “Real wage growth is now zero. The system is failing working people who desperately need a pay rise to be able to afford to support themselves and their families.
  • “Working people in Australia should not be struggling to pay for transport, or healthcare, or to put food on their table. Australians need a pay rise.
  • “When the system is out of balance and big business has too much power, this is what happens. Balance needs to be restored so working people can win the pay rises they deserve.
  • “Turnbull’s trickledown economics does not work. We need to change the rules so that Australians get a pay rise.”

Super election – Labor cuts through Turnbull Hype and Bluster

The argument — put within the ALP itself — that if Labor could not hold Longman, it would lose the federal election, has been answered.

And that leaves big questions for the LNP and the Turnbull Government over their hold on a swag of marginal seats throughout Queensland.

While the swings were not enormous in historic terms for by-elections, the results will put a stop to the political consolidation that the Prime Minister has finally been achieving in the past few months.

And the Government will certainly not be able to claim the results as an endorsement of its company tax cuts strategy.

The LNP has three Queensland seats on margins of 1 per cent or less — Capricornia, Forde, and Flynn — and a further four seats on slim margins — Petrie (1.6 per cent), Dickson (2 per cent), Dawson (3.3 per cent) and Bonner (3.4 per cent).

Dickson is the seat of LNP powerbroker and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. It shares a boundary with Longman.

There will be renewed focus both on Malcolm Turnbull's lack of appeal in the north, and on the LNP's electioneering abilities.

Drilling down into the numbers from Tasmania and Queensland produces very different pictures of the mood of the nation.

The complexity of the trends in Longman was always going to make it the most fascinating seat to watch on the night.
The trends in Longman showed a big collapse in the LNP primary vote, which plunged 10 per cent, and the fact that Labor's primary vote was over 40 per cent — much stronger than the ALP had been expecting.

It seemed to be settling at a split of around 35 per cent to 65 per cent in favour of the LNP.

Labor has secured a major victory over the Turnbull government in a marathon political contest across five byelections, gaining ground in key seats in a show of strength ahead of the next general election.

Labor held its four electorates while the Coalition failed to regain one of its old strongholds, in an outcome that dashed government hopes of turning the tables on its rivals.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten used the victory to intensify pressure on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull by claiming the outcome in two key battlegrounds, Braddon in Tasmania and Longman in Queensland, was a message from voters on issues like Medicare and school funding.

Declaring victory in "four from four" electorates, Mr Shorten assumed victory in Longman and Braddon and said he expected the same in two electorates in Western Australia.

"Tonight is another signpost into the destination that matters for Australians - a Labor government after the next general election," Mr Shorten told supporters in Longman.

This result is ominous for the Turnbull government.

What it shows is Labor’s campaign machine is stronger on the ground, has the resources to run a very long contest and still have financial firepower at the end; and also possesses a message with sufficient political resonance to connect with the disaffection rife in the Australian community, particularly in Queensland.

This latter point about zeitgeist is particularly important. If you can’t connect with voter alienation in the current political climate, and find your own way to speak to it, you will not win elections.

Politics in Australia was once about appealing to the swinging centre, the people who determined the outcome of elections. With major party hegemony on the wane, and the landscape littered with disruptors, modern campaigning is now about precision narrowcasting: base activation of the rusted-ons overlayed with a precision courtship to those rusted-off.

It requires something more focused and thought through than Peter Dutton determining at five minutes to midnight that it’s time to fire up the moral panic about migration and see if that peels 3% off Pauline Hanson’s vote in Longman.

It requires an ongoing conversation. It might even require some emotional intelligence.

Given the national polls for the first six months of this year have showed the major party contest tightening and Turnbull enjoying a recovery in his approval ratings, the wake-up call from Queensland will send a chill through the government.

Surely the take home message from Saturday night is that different parts of Australia might need different messages – that the Coalition’s core election pitch might need a bit of work.

The dramatic fall in the LNP vote in Longman, as well as the other defeats, has prompted debate about whether the Coalition should drop its plan to cut the corporate tax rate.

Labor campaigned heavily against the cuts and Mr Shorten repeatedly argued his party would spend on health and education instead of giving tax breaks to "the big end of town".

Today Mr Turnbull said the Government remained committed to ensuring that Australia had a competitive company tax rate.

Mr Shorten signalled Labor would maintain its intense push against the company tax cuts.

"I've always thought that giving away billions of dollars of taxpayer money back to the big banks and the multi-nationals is a shocking idea," he said.

"We have opposed it and we continue to oppose it."

Incoming Labor President Wayne Swan attributed the party's strong win in Longman to the Government's approach to company tax.

"This is an emphatic rejection of Malcolm Turnbull's policies of trickledown economics, which basically boil down to huge tax cuts for large corporations and high-income individuals and wage stagnation for everybody else," Mr Swan said.

"The price of those tax cuts is cuts to health and education."

MEAA – Takeover of Fairfax bad for Democracy

Nine’s takeover of Fairfax will be bad for Australian democracy and diversity of voices in what is already one of the most concentrated media markets in the world, says the union for Australian media workers.

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance calls on the ACCC to block the takeover.

MEAA is seeking commitments from Nine and Fairfax that the Fairfax Charter of Editorial Independence is upheld under any merger.

Marcus Strom, president of MEAA Media, said: “Today’s takeover announcement is the inevitable result of the Coalition’s Government’s short-sighted and ill-conceived changes to media ownership laws that were always going to result in less media diversity. With ongoing inquiries into the independence and long-term viability of quality journalism under way, the ACCC must block this takeover.

  • “This takeover reduces media diversity. It threatens the editorial independence of great news rooms at Nine, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Canberra Times, Illawarra Mercury, Newcastle Herald, Macquarie Media and more - right around the country. It harms the ability of an independent media to scrutinise and investigate the powerful, threatens the functioning of a healthy democracy, undermines the quality journalism that our communities rely on for information,” Strom said.
  • "Nine and Fairfax must explain how they intend to defend the integrity of independent quality journalism in any combined entity."
  • MEAA will demand that all existing employment conditions and entitlements are protected and retained for all workers at both companies; and that existing industrial agreements are respected.

Strom said: “Any further cuts to editorial journalism at Nine and Fairfax would bite into the muscle, bone and soul of the newsroom. The proposed savings of $50m in two years should come from trimmings to bloated executive salaries and from any back-office rationalisation.”

MEAA will be urgently convening meetings of its members at all Fairfax Media newsrooms to discuss the impact of today’s announcement.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Sing It! Say It! Change the Rules! Entry form online now!

The rules aren't working for young people and they need to change.

Blue Mountains Unions & Community want to support your fight for fairness, so this competition is open to Blue Mountains residents aged 18 - 30 years old.

Enter online now!

Perform your original spoken or sung work about what's wrong with the rules and how to change them. 


GUEST JUDGE: Sarah Connor

Expressions of interest to enter the competition: email



Backing music from the house band will be provided if needed.


Hosted by Blue Mountains Unions & Community

Open jam after the competition.

It's only possible for entrants in the competition to win a prize but everyone can jam, just for the fun!

There’s not many jobs available for young people. Youth unemployment is through the roof. And if you do find a job you could be ripped off by your boss, as many young workers have been.

For many big businesses wage theft is becoming a business model.
We’ve also seen people’s pay cut with the slashing of penalty rates in retail, pharmacy, hospitality and fast food. Now, the Government is replacing proper jobs with $4 an hour positions.

As the cost of everything is getting more expensive, people’s wages aren’t keeping up. 

The rules at work are broken for young people.

Only by being a member of your union can we change the rules, so all young people have better pay and their rights at work protected.

If you want to join a union but you're not sure which to join, you can leave your details with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and they'll help you join the right union for you.

If you aren't working, you can join the Australian Unemployed Workers' Union for free but they appreciate donations too.

Competition entrants can also choose to join Blue Mountains Unions & Community for $1 (normally $5 unwaged and $20 waged).

You can also join the grassroots campaign, organised by Australian Unions and powered by people to 
change the rules.

Enter online now!

Entries close 15th August, competition commences 15th September. Places are limited so act fast!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

ACTU – South32 locks out safety staff on eve of anniversary of Appin disaster

24 July 2018

Mining company South32 has locked out workers responsible for monitoring gas levels and ensuring mine safety, a day before the 39th anniversary of the Appin mine disaster which killed 14 people.
The mine safety supervisors at Appin were locked out because they had stood up to management’s attempt to force them to work for an extra 4 hours, with no extra pay.

South32 are forcing these workers to choose between going back to work and keeping other workers safe, and fighting for their own pay and conditions. No worker should be put in this position.

The union representing the safety supervisors, the Collieries Staff and Officials Association, has written to the NSW Department of Planning Resources Regulator to raise serious concerns about the safety of workers at Appin.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “Management are using worker’s safety as a bargaining chip, and forcing supervisors to choose between proper pay, and making sure their workmates are safe. This is abhorrent behaviour from an employer which clearly thinks it is above the law, and above common human decency.
  • “To lock out safety supervisor on a mine is reckless and shows that employers have been given too much power. Negotiations over pay should never make anyone unsafe at work.
  • “South32 is gambling with the lives of workers. We stand with the Collieries Staff and Officials Association – these workers want to go back to work, but we will never accept workers being told to work for free.
  • “This is what happens when bosses get too much power. They start thinking of workers as numbers on a page, and not people who deserve respect. We need to give power back to working people so they can be safe at work and get the pay rises they need.”

ACOSS – Mandatory cashless debit must cease following damning report

ACOSS calls on the Federal Government to cease mandatory cashless debit card trials, including withdrawing its bill to expand cashless debit to parts of Queensland, following a damning report about the trials’ evaluation by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).

The ANAO found major flaws in the evaluation of the cashless debit card trials in Ceduna in South Australia and the East Kimberley in Western Australia, stating ‘it is difficult to conclude whether there had been a reduction in social harm’ as a result of the card.

The ANAO confirmed the $1.6 million evaluation did not undertake robust data collection, which ‘reduced how effectively the impact of the actual trial on social harm could be isolated and evaluated’.

The government must now explain why it has expanded cashless debit to the Goldfields, WA and continued existing trials when former Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge said the policy would only be expanded if an evaluation found that it works.

Acting ACOSS CEO Edwina MacDonald stated, “as we have said all along, cashless debit card curtails people’s freedom and must be thoroughly evaluated to determine whether the significant incursion on people’s lives is justified.

  • “The ANAO report shows that the evaluation was deeply flawed, failing to provide the evidence that the cashless debit card improves people’s lives.
  • “It is a tragedy that people and communities are being subjected to the trials without reliable evidence that restricting access to cash reduces social harm related to addiction.
  • “People under the trials continue to be treated like second-class citizens, subjected to the card irrespective of how well they manage their money or whether or not they have an addiction.
  • “They cannot freely purchase goods on major online sites such as Gumtree or eBay, or buy produce and goods and cash-only markets.
  • “ACOSS calls on the government to end mandatory cashless debit and redirect the millions of dollars spent on mandatory cashless debit card trials to proven measures for addiction, including improving mental health services in trial sites, tailoring services to meet community need and investing in community-led solutions.”

Monday, July 23, 2018



The news that the Blue Mountains is to get extensive  air monitoring for the first time has been welcomed by the community group pushing for action over pollution caused by the hundreds of huge  coal trains that  travel over the mountains every month.

The high number of 60 wagon long coal trains passing through the Blue Mountains was revealed  by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year after questions from  the BMUC's Cover the Coal Wagons Group.

On a weekday the figure for loaded trains was 15-16, rising to 22 at weekends. Empty coal trains Monday- Friday number 19-20 and on week-ends 23-24.

Coal wagons are routinely covered in Queensland and Europe and  doctors from the public health group - Doctors for the Environment - warned a BMUC  meeting in Katoomba last year that pollution from  coal trains can  contribute to heart disease, lung disease, asthma and some cancers.

"We welcome the air monitoring as a first step", said Peter Lammiman , co-ordinator of CTCWG, ''and we look forward to finding more about it. We regard air quality as an important public health issue which affects everyone in the community -  it's an issue that needs to be above  politics.

"We look forward to finding out more from the EPA and the Office of  Environment and  Heritage about  this project - the type of monitors, where they'll be positioned and what they'll deliver.
"We note that the EPA is keen to involve stakeholders from the community - and with this goal in mind we encourage the EPA to hold a public forum to inform the community and gain  feedback before  the monitoring  group is established"

"While it was made clear early in our negotiations that the Blue Mountains will not be getting  monitors capable of  establishing the level of coal dust specifically, or in deed  pollution from diesel fumes that many believe to be a bigger problem - we look forward to seeing what these monitors can deliver"

The announcement that the Blue Mountains is to get  air quality monitoring for the first time is in contrast to Newcastle and the Illawarra where extensive monitoring has  been happening for years.
The importance of fresh air was reinforced earlier this week when Fairfax* newspapers reported that days of severe pollution in Australia's biggest cities will worsen in coming decades.

Professor Jason Evans at the ARC Centre of Excellence  for Climate Extremes said that with more than 3000 premature deaths a year in Australia linked to urban air pollution, worsening low-level air quality could increase the toll.

Further evidence of the high cost of air pollution came from a US study which reported  in the respected medical  journal Lancet Planetary Health that air pollution could be responsible for 3.2 million new cases of type 2 diabetes every year globally.

"We estimate that about 14 per cent of diabetes in the world occurs because of higher levels of  air pollution, that's one in seven cases", said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly of Washington University.

"There is emerging evidence over the past several years that particulates, when they are small enough, make their way through the lungs to the blood vessels. They go to the liver, they go to the pancreas, they go to the kidneys."

The nearest air monitoring stations to the Blue Mountains at present are at Bathurst and St. Mary's.
"We're only just beginning to learn about the true cost of air pollution", said Mr. Lammiman.

"We were excited to learn when we first spoke to the EPA that data from a monitor in the mountains could be made available to the public to access  online at any time.

"We know that fresh air is one of the reasons  so many people visit the world heritage listed Blue Mountains National Park - through this project we should begin to find out just how clean our air is,  and what we can do to ensure it's  fresh and unpolluted".       

* SMH 16 July 2018 Article by Peter Hanna                                                                                                                                                                                       

Sunday, July 22, 2018

ACTU – Industrial Manslaughter Laws, OHS regulatory regime, eradication of asbestos

18 July 2018

ACTU Congress has passed a motion affirming Australian Unions’ ongoing commitment to wide-ranging reform on OHS issues, including national industrial manslaughter laws which would hold companies to account for workers killed by their negligence, systemic reform of all major OHS bodies, the total eradication of asbestos and the effective enforcement of a long-standing but ineffective ban on imports contaminated with the deadly substance.

A full list of the commitments made in the motion can be seen below.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick:

  • “One death or injury at work is one too many. We need to change the rules so that every worker in Australia, from construction to offices to the gig economy, can rely on a safe and healthy workplace.
  • “Industrial manslaughter legislation will ensure that employers are held accountable when people die because they are trying to cut corners and save money. No worker should be put at risk to save their employer a few dollars.
  • “The 2003 ban on Asbestos importation isn’t working, and workers are the ones who will suffer as a result. Enforcement of this ban should be a priority for the Turnbull Government, but instead they are giving $80 billion to big business.
  • “We need root and branch reform of all major OHS bodies to ensure that all workers are safe at work and get to go home to their families.”

The Motion states that the ACTU commits to and will work towards:

  • The introduction of corporate manslaughter laws;
  • Preventing the use of corporate restructuring practices and insurance arrangements to avoid OHS penalties;
  • Meaningful measures, including dedicated laws, to tackle fatigue in the road transport industry;
  • Enshrining the health rights of workers in national OHS regulatory regime;
  • Significantly strengthening the importation ban on asbestos so it is effectively enforced, this includes removing legal loopholes;
  • Appropriate resourcing for the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency
  • Improved consumer laws to protect the community from hazardous imported goods and which allow the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission to act in real time;
  • Increasing the role of workers and unions in the work of OHS regulators;
  • Transforming key national OHS bodies such as Comcare, the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, National Rail Safety Regulator; Federal Safety Commissioner and the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority into effective regulators with the active involvement of workers and their unions;
  • Enhancing co-ordination and cooperation between OHS regulators and policy making bodies at a national and state and territory level;
  • The mandating of crush protection devices on quad bikes;
  • The establishment of a new federal body to oversee the chemical regulatory regime.

ACTU – Statement on the Republic

Statement on the Republic
18 July 2018

The ACTU would like to reaffirm its support of the Australian republican movement, after an inspirational address from Peter FitzSimons at the ACTU Congress dinner.

The Australian union movement has a proud history of supporting the Australian Republican Movement, and the campaign for a head of state who is Australian and chosen by Australians.

This is an idea which has broad support across the political divide and should be acted on at the earliest possible opportunity.

We are involved in a campaign for systemic change, and have always supported the ARM campaign to make Australia a truly independent country.

Making Australia a Republic would fundamentally change our country and how we view ourselves and our place in the world, and it is overdue.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

ANMF – Financial and Tax Practices of For-Profit Aged Care Providers

The author of a report commissioned by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) showing that Australia’s top for-profit aged care providers have posted large profits whilst taking advantage of AUD $2.17 billion in Australian taxpayer funded subsidies will today give evidence to a Senate Economics Reference Committee investigating the financial and tax practices of Australia’s for-profit aged care providers.

The report, Tax Avoidance by For-Profit Aged Care Companies: Profit Shifting on Public Funds, was prepared by Jason Ward from the Tax Justice Network, as part of the ANMF’s national aged care campaign calling for mandated staffing ratios in residential aged care facilities. It revealed how the top-six providers, some with foreign ownership, used various loopholes, corporate structures and discretionary trusts to avoid paying their fair share of tax, at a time when chronic understaffing has resulted in dangerous workloads for nurses and missed care for vulnerable residents.

Speaking before giving evidence to the Inquiry sitting in Sydney today, Mr Ward, who is an Adjunct Senior Researcher, Institute for the Study of Social Change, at the University of Tasmania, said he was hopeful the Senate Inquiry will continue to “shine light on the sector and lead to meaningful reforms.”

“Most people would have a hard time believing the claims by the largest for-profit aged care companies that they are fully transparent and solely dedicated to providing high quality care. The aged care sector will need additional public funding, but there needs to be greater accountability to ensure better staffing levels and care rather than lining the pockets of executives and investors,” Mr Ward said today.

“While the aged care companies have attacked the report, they have not acknowledged clear examples of questionable tax practices. These include Allity’s loan from shareholders at a 15% interest rate and the ATO’s audit of Bupa for offshore debt payments. Bupa shifted over half a billion in profit to its UK parent company in 2016.

“Bupa continues to insist, despite additional investigations into the company’s tax affairs by the European Commission and the Spanish government, that it does not use any tax avoidance or aggressive tax minimisation strategies.”

ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler welcomed Mr Ward’s appearance at the Inquiry, saying his evidence will demonstrate the need for legislation that enforces greater transparency, accountability and financial reporting by Australia’s largest for-profit aged care providers.

“Elderly nursing home residents continue to suffer, even though the top six for-profit providers are reaping in over $2 billion in taxpayer funded subsidies. The report shows that providers clearly have the financial capacity to improve staffing levels, but instead are focused on maximizing their profits,” Ms Butler explained.

“We’re confident that evidence provided to the Inquiry will justify the need for the introduction of legislation whereby aged care providers receiving billions in government subsidies must show the funding is directly being used on care for their elderly residents. That must be a pre-requisite for any taxpayer subsidy, otherwise providers will continue to put profits before people.”

ACTU – Michele O’Neil elected Preident

ACTU President Michele O'Neil
The new president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions insists it was a difficult decision to nominate for the job, even given her almost 30-year involvement with unions representing textile, clothing and footwear workers. But for Michele O’Neil, 56, if there was ever the right time for a bigger stage, this is it.

“This moment in history, when winning change is so critical to the future of work and the future of working class people’s lives and their families and communities – if ever there was a moment to be part of that fight, this is the moment,” she says.

O’Neil, the national secretary of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union before its controversial merger with the CFMEU in March, brings her experience in an industry that has been at the forefront of globalisation and deregulation shocks and the exploitation of mainly migrant workers. She sees the same pressures in other workplaces that once seemed immune.

“It used to just be us, but now you see that sort of insecure work, sham contracting, removal of the ultimate employer from the worker who’s doing the work and any responsibility for their pay and conditions and treatment, exploitation, wage theft, non-payment of super.

“All the things that I’ve been fighting for many years in the TCF [textile clothing and footwear] industry are now really the norm for the majority of workers,” she said in an interview a few days before her election as president on Tuesday.

O’Neil is replacing Ged Kearney as president, who won the seat of Batman in Melbourne in March. The seat has been renamed Cooper. Sally McManus remains the ACTU secretary.

O’Neil’s ascension, assured after she received the support of leftwing unions, will thrust her into a higher profile role, but within the movement she is a well-regarded lifetime true believer. She didn’t think twice about joining a union when she had her first after-school job as a waitress in Canberra aged 14.

Michele O’Neil has represented workers in the textile, clothing and footwear industry for almost 30 years.

Her social justice passions began early, influenced by her parents and four older sisters, who took her to the Aboriginal tent embassy in Canberra when she was just 10 and to marches as a teenager to free Nelson Mandela from a South African jail. In recent years, she has been a critic of Australia’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, slamming the major political parties’ “shameful bipartisan approach”.

O’Neil never attended university, and after school she threw herself into community activism, representing people she believed had no voice. She moved back to Melbourne from Canberra in her early 20s to head up the National Youth Coalition for Housing, which raised awareness and proposed solutions to youth homelessness.

In 1989, she took her first job with the Clothing and Allied Trades Union and the Amalgamated Footwear and Textile Union before their merger a few years later. It was a short-term contract and when it finished she got jobs in the industry – working a bank of knitting machines and sewing on labels on jumpers. She wanted to understand how to better represent people who worked in these jobs, but there was a practical reason – she needed a job. “I understood what it was like to be a low-paid worker. I’d been in plenty of low-paid, casual and insecure jobs pretty much my whole life.”

What she learned was while pay and conditions were essential, often it’s the little things that gave work dignity.

“The boss decided to turn off the hot water system in the middle of a cold Melbourne winter to save money. There was no hot water to wash your hands when you went to the bathroom and no hot water to use in the kitchen. Even though our pay was low and there was a whole range of conditions that you might think were the things that would be the top-line items, it was that one act of disrespect and lack of dignity for workers that hit people the hardest.”

O’Neil often speaks of the little things. Her mother, Joan, now 93, left school at 13 to work in a tannery in Melbourne because her father had lost his job during the Depression. Decades later, when O’Neil was a child, Joan worked as a waitress at the Parliament House dining room in Canberra. “I remember really clearly her coming home and telling me how you could tell what sort of a person a politician was [by] how they treated the waiting staff. That stayed with me.”

She reflects on her own experiences of hospitality work through the modern #MeToo prism. Restaurant customers pinched her on the bottom and propositioned her, and a supervisor would take her into the storeroom and attempt to kiss her. She learned about the power of the group, or the collective, as she puts it. “Once I was finally brave enough to tell someone else what was happening, it was the union members and the union delegates in that workplace who stood up for me and made sure that I was safe. I realised really fast that I wasn’t alone.”

If it wasn’t for collective power, textile and clothing workers would never have won landmark charges in 2012 that meant that, whatever they were called or whether they worked in factories or at home, they would have the same minimum pay and conditions as employees. And it is collective power that O’Neil says will make the difference in the coming federal election.

Already, unions are running grassroots campaigns for the 28 July byelections and are pledging a bigger effort at the national level than they achieved in 2016. O’Neil knows the Labor leader, Bill Shorten, well – he headed the Australian Workers Union in Victoria when she led the state branch of the textiles union. “He’s someone who does understand unions and he does understand what’s happening for ordinary working people.”

The unions are comparing the looming election with its effective “Your Rights at Work” campaign against John Howard’s Work Choices in 2007. This time, “Change the Rules” is about something more, O’Neil says.

“[In 2007] it was very explicitly saying there is this clearly articulated set of industrial laws called Work Choices that are having this effect on people and we’re going to get rid of them.

“What you’re seeing us doing now is saying there is a range of changes to industrial laws and rights that have reduced workers’ conditions and pay, but there’s also fundamental changes that have happened in terms of the economy. There are increasing disparities between the rich and the poor.

We’re seeing businesses not paying tax and getting away with huge corporate tax avoidance; we’ve seen banks getting away with [illegal activities]. This time we’re explicitly campaigning for change, and we’re explicitly campaigning for something we’re trying to win, and what we’re trying to win is a fairer society.”

O’Neil praises McManus, the secretary of the ACTU, for articulating so well why change is essential. The distinction between the roles of the secretary and the president is at times unclear, with the secretary having an operational role, but also acting as the movement’s public face, which is part of the president’s responsibility.

“I’m confident that we’re going to be able to work out a delineation of roles and responsibilities that are to do with our different strengths,” O’Neil says. “Sally is a fantastic leader and campaigner and I’m very honoured to have her back.”

Asked what her first priority is, she says: “I am absolutely passionate about getting rid of the Turnbull government. Their attacks on ordinary working people and unions and their bias towards the big end of town, large corporations and the wealthy is something that Australia cannot afford and must change.”

Friday, July 13, 2018

MUA – Chinese bulk carrier deliberately underpaying its crew

Posted by Mua communications on July 13, 2018

A tip-off from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) regarding unpaid wages has led to the banning of the Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier MV Shandong Hai Wang for one year from Australian waters.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said that on July 6 it received information from the ITF alleging discrepancies in the payment of crew wages, which have since been paid.

After boarding the vessel the following day in Gladstone, AMSA said it has now banned the MV Shandong Hai Wang for 12 months after it was discovered that crew had been deliberately underpaid.

During the inspection, the surveyors found evidence that crew had been deliberately underpaid by about $56,000 (AUD) from the amount specified in their seafarer employment agreements.

The ship was immediately detained for breaching the Maritime Labour Convention which sets out seafarers' rights to decent working conditions.

ITF Australia Co-ordinator Dean Summers said it was unlikely the underpayment of crew would have  come to light without the ITF.

“The ITF has again led from the front when it comes to standing up for seafarers’ rights,” Summers said.

“The payment of missing wages and banning of the vessel for 12 months is directly related to the great work the ITF does."

ITF Inspector Sarah Maguire said she was alerted by the fact there had been underpayments made on a vessel owned by the same company when operating in India.

When Maguire asked for paperwork when the vessel arrived in Gladstone, the method of underpayments unravelled.

"The company handed over two sets of documents that didn’t match,” Maguire said.
"I had a look at the numbers and took it from there."

There were mainly Chinese seafarers onboard, one Filipino and two from Myanmar.
AMSA’s General Manager of Operations, Allan Schwartz, said AMSA would not tolerate ships that underpay their crew in Australia.

“The international conventions that protect seafarers' rights are very clear,” Mr Schwartz said.

“Ships visiting Australian ports are put on notice. The next ship we find deliberately and repeatedly underpaying its crew and attempting to deceive authorities, can expect an even more severe penalty than that handed to theShandong Hai Wang.”

AMSA said the Shandong Hai Wang is operated by Qilu Ship Management Co. Limited, adding that that all outstanding wages have now been received by the crew.

The ship was released from detention on Thursday and issued with a direction notice banning its return to Australian ports for 12 months.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

ACTU – Sector bargaining improves employment OECD report

Lifting restrictions that prevent working people negotiating their pay across sectors would lead to fairer pay rises, reduce inequality and improves overall economic performance, according to the OECD’s flagship ‘Employment Outlook’ report, released yesterday.

Sector bargaining allows workers who are not employed by the same business to negotiate together if they do the same kind of work. This means working people have more power in the negotiations, and is a core part of the ACTU’s Change the Rules campaign.

The OECD found that in countries where working people are able to bargain together across industries or sectors, wages, overall employment, economic equality, productivity and even the quality of working environments are better than in countries like Australia where bargaining is limited to a single business.

The same report found that Australia has one of the highest rates of underemployment in the OECD.

The report shows that enabling working people to more effectively fight for better pay and conditions has benefits not only for those workers but makes the entire economy more resilient to economic down-turns.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “Most people would agree that if you’re doing the same work, you should get the same pay. That’s just fairness.
  • “This report shows that lifting restrictions that stop people negotiating across their sector would bring fairer pay rises, create jobs, reduce inequality and move the economy forward.
  • “We are going to change the rules so that working people can win fair pay and more secure jobs. That means being able to negotiate across a sector. We know that when working people win, the economy runs better.
  • “This report shows that there are solutions that can win fair pay rises and a fairer society. We need to change the rules to embrace those solutions.”

ACTU – Check your pay if you’re working under an award

9 July 2018

The peak body for working people has a message 2.3 million people paid under awards – check your next few payslips.

In the first full pay period after July 1, everyone working under an award should get a 3.5 percent raise to all award rates.

No adult worker in Australia can be paid less than the new minimum hourly rate: $18.93 per hour, and $23.66 per hour for a casual worker. And in many industries the legal minimum is even higher, as all awards are set to increase by 3.5 percent.

Workers under an award who do not receive an increase in their payslip should contact their union or call the ACTU on 1300 486 466 during business hours.

Unfortunately for hundreds of thousands of workers, the increase in the minimum wage also comes with the second round of the Turnbull Government’s cuts to penalty rates.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “Our message for the 2.3 million people working under awards today is to check your playslip very carefully.
  • If you think you might not be getting what you’re owed call the ACTU on 1300 486 466 business hours, or contact your union.
  • “Anyone working under an award should get a 3.5 percent pay rise that working people won through their unions.
  • “This is a first important step towards restoring a living wage for all working people. The union movement is fighting for new rules so all working Australians – whether they work under awards or on agreements, can get the pay rises they need to pay for the basics of life.
  • “The Turnbull Government has presided over wage cuts and growth in insecure work while splashing tax cuts around for corporations and those earning over $200,000 per year. Their trickle down model has failed.
  • “Unions want get you a pay rise. Malcolm Turnbull’s government stands for pay cuts for everyone except big business and the very rich.”