Sunday, September 29, 2019

Australia – Wage Theft Wide Spreed Under Morrison Regime

New research shows roughly one in five Australians was underpaid in the past year, costing employees a cumulative $1.8 billion in wages.
Payroll software firm Ascender found Australians were underpaid an average of three times a year and by an average of 27 per cent each time they were underpaid. 

The software firm also found that workers who are paid weekly (28 per cent) and fortnightly (20 per cent) are more likely to be underpaid than workers who are paid on a monthly basis (18 per cent).

The research comes after Sunglasses Hut and Bunnings Warehouse admitted to underpaying their staff over a number of years, with opposition leader Anthony Albanese labelling the Bunnings underpayment as “wage theft”.

According to Giri Sivaraman, employment law principal at Maurice Blackburn Laywers, a number of factors explain the recent spike in wage theft.

First, he said, declining union membership had reduced the bargaining power of workers and made it difficult to organise against wage theft.
Second, many businesses now incorporate large-scale wage theft into their business models to gain “competitive advantage” – and “bank on nobody finding out about it”.
Third, temporary migrant workers – who are less likely to know their rights and pursue legal action if they are underpaid – make up a large and growing share of Australia’s workforce.

“And I think a fourth reason would be: it’s very hard to redress against wage theft. You’re involved in a complex and costly court system, and there’s no simple-to-access tribunal mechanism, so there’s a huge disincentive to do something about it,” Mr Sivaraman told The New Daly.

“Even if you know you’re being underpaid, you may just choose to move on and think it’s just part of the job, because trying to pursue a claim is altogether too hard.”

While temporary migrant workers were most vulnerable to wage theft, Mr Sivaraman said employers across all industries were underpaying staff, with increasing frequency.

“In the 70s and 60s and 50s, we had much stronger union membership in Australia, and I suspect that wage theft will have been much lower then,” Mr Sivaraman said.

“There’s a direct connection between those two things.”

Introducing laws that provide unions better access to workplaces and make bargaining easier would reduce instances of wage theft, Mr Sivaraman said.
As would the creation of an easy-to-access tribunal, and better education of workers.

“Particularly migrant workers – because when you come into this country, you’re told, ‘don’t bring any contraband, plants or wood from overseas’, but you’re not told about what your workplace rights might be,” Mr Sivaraman said.

Jason Low, head of The Association for Payroll Specialists (TAPS), agreed a lack of understanding on the part of workers had exacerbated instances of wage theft. 

But he also said payroll legislation was so complex that employers often made mistakes.

“I’ve dealt with one very reputable business that thought it was doing everything right, until an employee came to them and asked why he hadn’t been paid super on his bonuses. 

The company had forgotten to select a box on their payroll software and as a result, none of the bonuses they’d paid for several years had paid superannuation,” he told The New Daily.

“$350,000 later, they’d finally finished their back-payment programme.”
For that same reason, Mr Low said it was unsurprising to hear so many people had been underpaid.

“Large companies and multinationals typically do the right thing because they have resources and dedicated offices to ensure everyone is being paid appropriately,” he said.

“But in Australia, we have a really large number of small businesses too, businesses with only five employees or less, that are sometimes struggling with cash flow or that simply make mistakes.”

Friday, September 27, 2019


Speaking in the US, Scott Morrison said he would drastically reduce plastic pollution and strongly defended Australia’s position on climate change. Does what he said stack up?
CLAIM: Australia will ban exports of plastic, paper and glass waste starting in 2020 and is leading on practical research and development into recycling.
REALITY: Morrison has made dealing with plastic waste the defining environmental issue of his prime ministership, having flagged the export ban in August. Jeff Angel, the director of the Total Environment Centre, says the PM’s interest and apparent commitment to the issue is unprecedented for an Australian leader.
But experts say Australia is not yet a leader in recycling research and development (for evidence of leadership, try Finland). Most of Morrison’s commitments are aspirational ahead of a meeting of environment ministers in November. The government has promised $167m in recycling investment, but at last count just 12% of Australian plastic waste is recycled, according to government analysis.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Climate Change – Morrison's UN Plastic Distraction

Climate change experts say Scott Morrison is using recycling and plastic in the ocean as a distraction from the much bigger threat of global warming. Car Salesman Tactics exposed
While Mr Morrison downplayed Australia's contribution to global emissions, Professor Sherwood said the government's failure to step up action had not gone unnoticed by bigger countries like China which is holding off increasing its targets until other developed countries do more.  
"Even though we're pretty small, we do set an example. If we decide we're not going to particularly worry about this problem then other's aren't going to either."
The federal government insists it's on track to meet its Paris Agreement target to reduce emissions by 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, even as emissions continue to rise. 
Mr Morrison instead told the UN that estimates of future emissions had fallen. 
"In 2012, it was estimated Australia would release 693 million tonnes of emissions in 2020. As of 2018, this estimate has fallen to 540 million tonnes."
Professor Sherwood said more ambitious plans were needed to roughly halve carbon emissions by 2050 and limit a global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celcius. 
"That requires getting started yesterday in terms of planning and executing changes. If you are just not going to do those things then that is just not going to happen.
"Currently Australia is one of the highest emitting countries per capita. We're in a position where it's relatively easy for us to reduce our emissions and yet we have among the weakest targets among developing countries compared to Europe."

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Pea Protein News

When Tyler Lorenzen first started to sell protein powders derived from peas he received some "odd looks".
In 2013 he was working for his family's business, Puris, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which had just developed its own pea protein.
But when he tried to sell them, customers were dubious: "What are you guys doing... protein from peas? I didn't even know peas had protein," they would tell him.
The firm also had to battle people's childhood memories of eating peas, which did not necessarily endear them to the product.
"Most people's memories as a kid of eating peas is not delightful or delicious," he says.
But the firm's timing turned out to be good. Health conscious consumers were looking for alternatives to dairy and to soya.
And over the years that has turned into a boom, from meat-free burgers to dairy-free cheese, you can find pea proteins in all sorts of foods - you can even drink pea "milk".
For decades soya beans have been the main supply of plant-based protein, but since the turn of the millennium, it has been falling out of favour.
Some people are simply allergic to soya, so they needed something else.
Other consumers, particularly in Europe, were put off by the fact that soya protein is often derived from genetically modified soya crops.

Image copyright

Also hexane, a solvent derived from oil, is typically used to extract protein from soya beans. While the industry says virtually all of the chemical is eliminated before soya protein reaches the market, for some consumers the use of hexane was a deal breaker.
So pea protein, which doesn't require chemicals during the production process, has become an attractive alternative.
Also the source crop, yellow field peas, are plentiful and liked by farmers.
"Peas are a real nice crop, they're pretty easy," says Bill Gehl, whose family has been farming in southern Saskatchewan, Canada, for three generations.

Spain––Franco Exhumation Approved

By Guy Hedgecoe, BBC News, Madrid

This was a resounding ruling in favour of the Spanish government, with the Supreme Court unanimously approving the exhumation. 
Just as noteworthy was the court's rejection of a claim by the Franco family that if the exhumation should go ahead, the remains should be reburied in a crypt beneath Almudena Cathedral in central Madrid. 
Although the family could now go to the Constitutional Court, many observers believe another appeal would not succeed. The government, which has seen its plan to exhume Franco repeatedly delayed, will now aim to carry it out as soon as possible. 
There are some, relatively minor, hurdles still to overcome, such as securing the Catholic Church's co-operation, but if Franco's remains are moved by 10 November it would give the Socialists a boost in the general election to be held that day. 

What has been the reaction to the ruling?

Mr Sanchez said the government had always been guided by the determination to alleviate the suffering of Franco's victims.
"Today is a great victory of Spanish democracy," he said. 
"The Supreme Court has endorsed the exhumation of Franco's remains and his transfer to El Pardo. Justice, memory and dignity."
Pablo Iglesias of the leftist Podemos party said the move was a "very important step" to remove a shame which had been present despite 40 years of democracy.

Boris Johnson–Beginning of the End ?

It is beginning to look like it, isn’t it? Lady Hale, wearing a huge brooch that resembled a venomous spider, delivered a near fatal dose of judicial poison in her carefully worded, logical and comprehensive take-down of Johnson’s suspension of parliament. Johnson was the big fat fly caught in a sophisticated legal web, a ready meal for the Supreme Court.
In declaring the order in Council quashed they have left no room for Johnson to just organise a new prorogation, for that too would be quashed. He has no way out. It is a strategic defeat because it has strengthened the hand of parliament and weakened the government, permanently.
So there he is, then, our prime minster. A man who is yet to win a vote in the House of Commons. A man who then tells the Commons to just buzz off and then loses the court case. A man who destroys his own parliamentary majority at a stroke by sacking 21 of his MPs in a fit of pique - and thereby creates a guerrilla army of enemies with nothing to lose. Not so smart.
A man who cannot be seen in public without getting heckled and insulted. A man who cannot make a decent speech. A man who cannot command the Commons. A man who has to watch while the Commons outlaws his Brexit strategy. No deal is illegal, and the Commons will be back in business shortly to ensure it stays that way.
So if leadership is about judgement, Boris Johnson has been found badly wanting. It is true that, thanks to Labour’s ineffable ability to snatch defeat from any given political situation, he has a decent poll lead. But polling a third of the vote is no mandate for anything, and he knows as well as anyone that the next general election will be extremely unreadable – and could easily see another hung parliament elected.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Direct Action World War I Anti Conscription Poster

Faith Bandler–Poster YES for Aborigines May 27th

50 years on, Clarrie O’Shea’s legacy rings loud

50 years on, Clarrie O’Shea’s legacy rings loud

Luba Grigorovitch Branch Secretary
Fifty years ago today, a Victorian union leader was sent to prison for standing up against tyranny.
The jailing of Clarrie O’Shea triggered Australia’s mass industrial uprising, with around one million Australians participating in a General Strike.
The General Strike came at a pivotal moment in the history of modern Australia.
After nearly twenty years of conservative rule under Menzies, Holt, McEwan and Gorton, Australia was finding its modern, progressive voice.
Our first peoples had finally won the right to vote, support for the Vietnam War was starting to fade following the Tet offensive, and the Beatles were about to drop their seminal Abbey Road album.
The times were a changin’.
Meanwhile, conservative forces were starting to worry that their choke-hold on political power was slipping. They were determined to quell any sense of popular rebellion.
Into this volatile mix strode Clarrie O’Shea – a Melbourne tram conductor, who had been the Secretary of the Victorian Branch of the ATMOEA, the Tramways Union, since 1947.
Clarrie was no shrinking violet. While genial and funny, and a keen punter, he strongly believed that the capitalist system was stacked against working people, and he dedicated his life to upending the injustices he saw around him.
He also believed that workers had an absolute right to strike. So when the courts piled fine upon fine upon fine onto the Tramways Union for taking unauthorised industrial action, he stood firm and refused to pay.
The authorities seized ATMOEA’s bank accounts – but the Union had taken precautions by moving most of its money elsewhere.
Summonsed to the Industrial Court, O’Shea turned up flanked by thousands of workers and unionists.
Before presiding Judge Sir John Kerr (later to become Australia’s most infamous Governor General) he refused to take an oath or to disclose the whereabouts of the union’s remaining funds.
“I do not wish to be sworn,” he said. “I challenge the authority of this court … because I am a paid servant of my members, I am directed to protect their interests at all times.”
“I do not want to hear any speeches from you,” Kerr replied.
After adjourning court for half an hour, Kerr came back to invoke the Industrial Court’s controversial ‘penal powers’, and ordered O’Shea be taken to Pentridge Prison.
He was told he would remain in jail indefinitely – to be freed only when he “purged his contempt”, by revealing where the unions funds had been stashed.
The news spread like wildfire. Thousands of Victorian unionists walked off the job immediately. Workers in other states quickly followed suit – some through organised strikes, many more through wildcat actions.
Soon over one million Australian workers withdrew their labour in protest over the jailing of Clarrie O’Shea, and the use of state power to attack working people.
The situation became untenable for the Federal Government. As the crisis escalated, a mystery ‘philanthropist’ paid ATMOEA’s outstanding fines, breaking the deadlock, and enabling O’Shea to be set free.
Today’s parallels with 1969 are startling.
We now have had conservative rule for 17 of the past 23 years. Across the economy, union density is at historic lows, and the bargaining power of workers has been diminished.
Workers’ wages are barely keeping up with inflation, while jobs are becoming more precarious.
Casualisation of work is rampant, while the much-trumpeted new frontier of the gig economy is little more than a re-badged form of serfdom.
Today, it is commonplace for people to be working two, three or four different jobs just to make ends meet.
The right to strike has been whittled away by successive governments. Last year, striking NSW rail workers – taking legitimate and legal protected industrial action – were forced to go back to work by the Fair Work Commission.
Trade unions have been under relentless attack. The Trade Union Royal Commission spent nearly two years and over $45 million crawling through union records and publicly grilling union officials.
Permanent quasi-judicial bodies such as the Registered Organisations Commission and the ABCC have been established purely to monitor, regulate and disrupt union activities, and to tie union officials in a web of red-tape.
As we have seen through the botched Federal Police raids on the AWU, the close ties between political offices and these bodies has raised serious questions about integrity and the misuse of government power.
That’s why Clarrie O’Shea’s legacy will ring loud this weekend.
The Federal election is our chance to set Australia on a new path.  It’s our chance to take power for the people, to make our scandal-ridden corporate sector accountable, and to restore faith in our public institutions.
This is Australia’s chance, once again, to find its modern, progressive voice.

ACTU– Morrison Plan Puts Millions of Workers at Risk

The legislation prohibits default insurance by superannuation trustees for members under
25 years of age and with account balances under $6,000.
The ACTU welcomes the amendments made by the ALP and the senate crossbench.
The amendments will allow for workers in high-risk occupations to be covered by
default insurance.
Despite these improvements, many workers with children, mortgages and others
who need insurance are going to be left without.

The Bill will affect 1.9 million workers, many of whom will expect to be covered
by insurance. 
The amendments run counter to the desire of the Morrison Government to categorise
superannuation as another financial service and show that the majority in the
Senate understand the importance and benefits of a close relationship between
workplaces and super funds.
Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Scott Connolly 
“Super is not just another financial service, it is a workplace entitlement and should be 
tailored to individual workplaces.
“Industry funds consistently outperform retail funds on performance but because 
they understand workplaces are also able to provide services which are suited to 
their members and specialised for their workplace and industry.
“The amendments for high-risk occupations are welcome, but this bill will still strip 
insurance from many workers who need it.
“We are concerned for the 1.9 million workers who will be worse off under this bill, 
and the families who may be without support should the worst happen at work to a 
loved one.
“Reforming super to follow workers from job to job remains a better solution to the
problem this bill sets out to address, and it is disappointing that the Morrison
Government instead decided to rip insurance from millions of workers.”

ACOSS welcomes Labor’s opposition to locking in Stage 3 Cuts

ACOSS welcomes Labor’s opposition to locking in unaffordable tax cuts 5 years in advance

The Australian Council of Social Service welcomes Labor’s sensible opposition to the Stage 3 tax cuts, which risk future cuts to essential services. 

Australian Council of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said: 
  • “The Opposition is taking a responsible position in opposing stage 3 of the tax cuts which would cost $12 billion dollars every year from 2024, on top of $18 billion already legislated.
  • “The government is banking on the lowest growth in funding for services in 50 years and growth in GDP and wages of more than 3% to pay for these tax cuts. That’s just not the real world. 
  • “We can’t know what the economy will look like in five years time, so the government’s plan to lock in these expensive high-end tax cuts years in advance is a hazardous path to take.
  • “Locking in high-end tax cuts years in advance means we won’t be able to meet the challenges we face as a community, with an ageing population, a housing affordability crisis and persistent poverty rates. 
  • “We need to be able to ensure we address the major gaps in essential services we all rely on, including health, education, aged care, childcare, community services and social security. But we won’t be able to do this if we sign up to expensive high-end tax cuts for years down the track.  
  • “We urge the Government to split the Bill so each stage can be considered on its merits. This is the responsible course,” Dr Goldie said.

Sydney Climate Strike– 80000 +

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Scotland’s Climate Strike

People in Aviemore, Shetland, Oban, Iona, Fort William, Glasgow, Stirling, Edinburgh … and all across Scotland joined with nations across the world in a global climate strike demanding action to halt the climate emergency that threatens the future of the human race.
Amongst the four million that participated in the global protest were children and teenagers from schools throughout Scotland, who joined with activists and politicians, environmentalists and conservationists, charities and trade unions, young and old to argue for the necessity of a more radical response to climate change … There were 5225 events In 156 countries on all 7 continents including 400,000 across Australia, 100,000 in Berlin, 100,000 in London and on. 
Here’s some photos from across the country this weekend.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Landworker Journal Celebrating Rural Workers–100 Years

Celebrating rural workers and 100 years of The Landworker journal

The trade union movement is known for what some might see as a rosy, nostalgic view of our past. But the stories of those who have worked on the land are far from nostalgic, as trade unionists earlier this week discovered at a packed fringe meeting to celebrate 100 years of The Landworker journal. 
Rural and agricultural workers are an often overlooked and undervalued part of our trade union family. Many still face the same issues of low pay, job and housing insecurity as they did a century ago. The battles for justice, fairness and equality still rage on.
The Landworker represents the outward and visible sign of the political and spiritual strength of the British agricultural labourer: it is the birth of a new power; the creation of a mighty potential force,” its opening editorial reads.
“Liberty, equality and fraternity”, “peace, retrenchment and reform,” “justice, unity and goodwill”. These are the forces; this is the faith which will be the guiding principle of this newspaper. That carried to their logical conclusion they mean revolution, we do not hesitate to say.” 
Revolution indeed, nothing less. These inspiring words are from the man that founded the Eastern Counties Agricultural Labourers & Small Holders Union in 1906, later known as the National Union of Agricultural Workers, and now part of Unite the Union. That was George Edwards, a farm labourer’s son, whose vision brought about The Landworker.
At the beginning of the war, the union had 2,583 members. By 1919, as the soldiers returned from Flanders Fields to the fields of home and hope, membership topped 170,000 – the result of constant union campaigning for higher wages and better conditions during the war years.
Many returning were lonely, disillusioned and irreversibly traumatised – lost in a world that had little understanding of what they had suffered. So it was time to join the union, and they did so in their droves, demanding a better life after years of wartime sacrifice. And into this new world, with 152 days lost to strikes, Landworkerwas born, supporting activism, supporting rural workers.
Landworker captured the radicalism at home and abroad during this period and tempered it with realistic and peaceful goals. ‘Revolution’ meant “the revolution of mind, not brute force; of the saving of men’s lives, not of the bloody slaughter of their bodies; of economic, national, and international goodwill”. 
Landworker continues: “That a man has a right to live, not only decently, but with leisure to cultivate the powers of his body, mind and soul, equally with others of whatever class; that the land was made for all, and not for the few; that essential industries shall be worked for the good of all; that the aged and infirm shall be cared for by the State; that women are to be placed on an equality with men.” Surely this is the very revolution that 100 years on we are still fighting today. 
Over the last century, Landworker has indeed been part of this revolution – sometimes quietly, sometimes roaring like a lion – always fighting for the rights of workers many take for granted. But what of the situation facing our members today? Landworker has just reported on the impact a no deal Brexit will have on our food industry – it’s nothing short of a complete farmageddon.