Monday, October 28, 2019

NSWTF–Next generation represents a climate for change

October 27, 2019 

Tim Mulroy
Acting Senior Vice President 

The level of engagement by NSW school students during the recent Global Climate Strike is a credit to the awareness of a generation of young people being educated in public schools – the people who will inherit whatever earth we leave them.
The fact that our youth chose to speak and act out against generations of leaders – the “adults” who have virtually aided the planet’s environmental collapse – displays a level of maturity and understanding that should be expected of a society where education is a priority and is clearly serving its purpose.
To say otherwise brings to mind the words of teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg: “How dare you.”
These young people are, after all, our future and they are more than a little disturbed that the world they will get to live in by the time they are adults – and consider having children of their own – will have passed its used-by date.
Any commentator or politician who says our students were better off in the classroom on 20 September is demeaning the children’s intelligence and their moral right to inquiry and expression. 
The commentary at the same time points a finger at teachers for inciting climate-change hysteria in the classroom.
As the environment movement points out, “The science is in”, and our teachers are likely more cognisant of that science, rather than climate-denying lies. They are not press-ganged by any organisation into these beliefs and they are certainly not going to incite their students to break the law.
However, teachers were aware of the number of students who intended to protest and supported their sentiments by attending the 60,000-strong rally in the Domain. A contingent from Federation then fell in behind the students as they marched to Parliament House. 
They did so with politicians, doctors, lawyers, other unions and concerned parents. There were many parents who approached our members over the course of the day to thank us for supporting the rally and acknowledging how important it was that we were there and how much our support meant to their children.
Of course, the tide has risen further with October’s Extinction Rebellion disruptions, involving people from all walks of life, around Australia and the world. 
Young people have appeared in news reports of the Extinction Rebellion rallies, proving they are increasingly concerned about the environment and the legacy they will inherit. 
They need no incitement. As ice melts, sea levels rise, reefs bleach, species die out and forests burn, they realise the importance of action now … before it is too late.
Student activism is not new. Think the Vietnam Moratoriums, the widespread protests against the Greiner government’s assault on public education peaking with the rally in the Domain during the time of Terry Metherell as Minister for Education, and demonstrations against the Iraq War. They have often led the way. 
As far back as 1938, Glenn Innes High School students refused to board school buses after complaining of freezing transport.
More recently, school children participate in Clean Up days around the world every year. That’s activism and school groups are encouraged to participate, but we don’t hear a negative word from the commentators about it. 
When they plant trees for a school project or go whale watching, bushwalking or camping with their parents, they become informed about the environment … and that creates a desire to preserve it.
Concern for the planet is not new either. Any child of the Cold War would remember living under the real or perceived threat of nuclear annihilation. Frighteningly, the fate of the world felt out of our hands and with those in power; as it does with climate change today.
In 1972, following a strike and protest at a western Sydney high school over French nuclear testing in the South Pacific, a rally involving hundreds of students from 22 different schools was held during school hours in Martin Plaza.
Fortunately, in the end, sense prevailed and the immediate finger-on-the-button nuclear threat has diminished somewhat.
Students are entitled to express anger and dismay at the gloomy outlook for their future. They should be applauded for standing up and trying to make the world a better place for all.
Sadly, the message back from commentators seems to be that students should be taught about democracy and freedom – they are central tenets of our society – just don’t practice them on school days.

Monday, October 21, 2019

ACTU – Link between union-bashing bill and public health campaigns

The fight for public safety and to secure justice and billions of dollars’ worth of compensation for asbestos victims would not have been won without a campaign of work stoppages, boycotts and protests.
In light of this history and with silicosis posing a growing threat to Australian workers, Asbestos victims have travelled to Parliament House to warn that the proposed Ensuring Integrity Bill would reduce the ability of unions to protect the public and working people.
The campaign to rid Australia of asbestos has been led by working people and their representatives, but the ability for unions to inspect workplaces and keep the public and their members safe would be severely limited under this bill.
Under the Ensuring Integrity Bill, a union official who visited a workplace without providing 24 hours notice would risk being disqualified from office and could face having their entire union shut down.
These new laws will give big business many more opportunities to prevent unions from organising to bring any wrongdoing to light by bogging them down in endless, costly litigation, limiting unions capacity to fight for justice for the next victims of workplace negligence.
This bill will make Australian workplaces and the public less safe and must be opposed.
Quotes attributable to Dr Chris Clarke:
  • “As a Respiratory Physician specialising in occupational lung disease, I have witnessed the resurgence of occupational lung diseases that were once confined to the history books.
  • “There are coal workers with pneumoconiosis and factory workers with silicosis. These diseases are completely preventable.
  • “The increase in self-regulation of safety, and the reduction or abolition of safety inspectors would appear to coincide with this rise in these occupational lung diseases. An employee who used their volunteer run health and safety committee to advocate for life saving reform could fall foul of this ill thought out Act.
  • “If the Government and cross bench pass the Ensuring Integrity Bill I fear that community volunteers and advocates within the union movement who fight for the right of everyone to come home safely from work would be hamstrung.
  • “I have seen the life changing work the union movement did in securing justice for my patients, the majority of whom were victims of diseases caused by workplace and environmental exposure to asbestos. I fear that the passing of this bill means the next generation suffering from diseases due to workplace negligence would be left to fight on their own or have their strongest advocates become criminals.”

Quotes attributable to AMWU National Secretary Paul Bastian:
  • “James Hardie tried to short-change sufferers of asbestos diseases by over $4 billion. Without our campaign of work stoppages, boycotts and protests, we would not have achieved justice for the victims of these horrific diseases. Under current workplace laws, these activities are illegal.
  • “If Scott Morrison’s union busting bill is passed, the delegates, organisers and officials that campaigned for justice for sufferers of asbestos-diseases could be excluded from the leadership of our union and our union could be deregistered.
  • “If these laws had existed at the time, there’s a real chance James Hardie could have successfully used them to tie up our union and our officials in costly and time-consuming legal actions in an attempt to defeat us. That would have affected not only our union, but the many Australians suffering from asbestos diseases.
  • “We can’t allow the next James Hardie to use the new powers in these laws to prevent victims from achieving justice.”

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:
  • “History tells us that threats to workers and the public’s health like asbestos only get tackled when workers stand together in their unions and demand change. If this Bill had been law during the fight to ban asbestos and hold James Hardy to account we would have seen unions shut down for actions to ensure public and worker safety.
  • “No worker should be afraid to stand up and say they feel unsafe, or that they are worried about a co-worker or the public. This Scott Morrison union busting bill would mean that workers simply trying to protect themselves and the community could face their entire union being shut down.
  • “Four people every week die at work, thousands die every year from workplace-related illnesses. We need stronger protections for workers and the public, not a bill which give employers unprecedented power. Unions play an important role in standing up against the abuse of corporate power.
  • “There is no ensuring integrity bill for the companies who continue to breach the ban on importing asbestos. Directors of companies who routinely put workers lives at risk are not disqualified. This union busting bill is about silencing working people and making workers and the public less safe. It must be stopped.”

MEAA RECOVERED $1,010, 560 Last Year !

MEAA’s National Industrial Team recovered more than $1 million for members members in the last financial year.
The final figure for 2018-19 $1,010,560 which was recovered for members in all sections of the union. That was almost twice the amount of $572,886 which was recovered last year.
This is a reflection of both the effectiveness of the NIT in recovering money for MEAA members, but also of the increasing difficulties many members face in their working lives due to the insecure nature of work in the media, arts and entertainment industries, which are characterised by freelance and short-term contract jobs.
A total of $565,280 was recovered for Media members; $221,051 for ECS members; $186,384 for Equity members; and $22,992 for members of the Musicians section.
MEAA’s industrial staff can take action on behalf of members in cases of non-payment or late payment of money owed for contracts and invoices, underpayment of wages in awards or enterprise agreements, and over redundancy payment matters.
For help or advice, contact MEAA Member Central on 1300 656 513 (these services are only available to financial members of MEAA).

Friday, October 18, 2019

NSWTF – Drought relief robs TAFE funding reserves

Drought relief robs TAFE funding reserves 

October 17, 2019 

The Federal Government’s decision to repurpose money set aside for TAFE to fund drought relief was a “short-term” and “short-sighted” solution to the crisis, NSW Teachers Federation has stated.
Government legislation – passed with the support of Labor – to divert $3.9 billion from the Education Investment Fund to the drought’s Emergency Response Fund, effectively ended any chance of the money being used for the purpose it was intended for; investment in infrastructure improvements in TAFE and higher education.
Federation President Maurie Mulheron said the Morrison Government’s drought response will hurt the education prospects for young people in drought, fire and flood-affected areas for decades to come.
Mr Mulheron, also speaking as Australian Education Union Deputy Federal President, said that while it was essential for the Commonwealth to support communities suffering under record drought conditions, funding its emergency response by cutting investment in education was not the answer.
“People in rural and regional areas who are suffering under the current drought, as well as those subject to extreme fire and flood events, deserve generous Commonwealth assistance to help them to keep their communities alive,” Mr Mulheron said.
“However, the Morrison Government needs to find new sources of funding for its Emergency Response Fund, not spend the $3.9 billion previously set aside for investing in public education infrastructure such as TAFE.
“For example, it could fix the loopholes in the Petroleum Rent Resource Tax, which allows mining companies to escape billions in liabilities every year. This would be much more appropriate source of funding to mitigate natural disasters.”
After the bill passed the Senate today, the Greens slammed Labor for striking a deal with the Liberals “to sell out TAFEs and universities” by abolishing the $3.9 billion, which was set aside for building research and education infrastructure.
“Labor and the Government have teamed up to stab education in the back by abolishing billions in education funding,” Greens education spokesperson Senator Mehreen Faruqi said.
“I don’t expect any better of the regressive Liberals who have cut education funding at every turn, but Labor used to be the party of education. Now they are just selling out communities and young people to remain politically relevant.”
Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie accused the two sides of indulging in “cheap student politics”.
“The Government says, don’t worry about that, TAFEs have enough money as it is,” Senator Lambie told the Senate. “We’re giving them plenty of money. They don’t need this $4 billion. I say that they’re living in a fantasy land.”
Mr Mulheron said the funds were desperately needed to improve TAFE infrastructure and provision across Australia.
  • “Repurposing this funding is a short-term solution to a long-term problem, and will greatly affect the opportunities for people seeking vocational education training in rural and regional areas,” he said.
  • “There is also precious little provision for disaster prevention in this Emergency Resource Fund, which shows that the Morrison Government has no real interest in combatting the root cause of natural disasters.
  • “With high unemployment and drought impacting on employment and training opportunities for young people in rural and remote areas, we should be increasing investment into TAFE in these areas, not cutting it.”

Friday, October 11, 2019

ACTU– Union Education Opportunities

Several union education opportunities remain as we move towards the end of the year. 

Last week we were lucky enough to host a forum with veteran US labour leader Bruce Raynor, one of the most respected labour leaders in the US, who gave a presentation on leading campaigns in a hostile environment. You can access full video and audio podcasts here.

Upcoming course highlights include Developing Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Workplace Leaders, our specialised course for First Nations delegates, which will take place in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. 

Delegates in Western Australia and Queensland may also be interested in Workplace Union Leaders, while union officials with financial decision-making responsibilities still have time to enrol in legally-required, ROC-approved training - Union Governance - which will take place in Melbourne and Perth.  

There's also still time for educators to register for the Trans-Tasman Educators Conference, a three-day event featuring workshops and lectures from guest speakers including David Peetz and Lynette Riley. Scroll down to see the full course program.

Don't forget that you can follow us on Facebook for regular course updates, learning resources and information about other goings on at the Organising Centre. 

As always, don't hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or would like more information about our courses.

In union,

Michael Flinn
ACTU Organising Centre

Friday, October 04, 2019

Fintan O'Toole Boris has destroyed what is left of UK’s credibility

Fintan O’Toole: Boris has destroyed what is left of UK’s credibility 

British government has broken its own solemn legal and political commitments

British prime minister Boris Johnson has told MPs he has made a “genuine attempt to bridge the chasm” to strike a fresh Brexit deal with the EU with his proposals to replace the backstop. Video: UK Parliament

When Boris Johnson described his long-awaited proposals for changes to the Brexit withdrawal treaty as a compromise, he was not wrong. Two questions arise, however. What is being compromised? And who is Johnson compromising with?

The answer to the second is obvious: the proposals are a compromise, not with the EU, but with the DUP. And what is being compromised is the credibility of the UK as a partner in any international negotiations.

Though the EU and the Irish government are too polite to say so directly, Johnson’s plan destroys any remaining sense that the current regime in London is capable of sticking even to its own self-declared principles.

Internal Tory politics

Ever since its victory in the referendum of June 2016, the Brexit project has been dogged by its inability to transcend its own origins. The referendum was always driven by the internal politics of the Conservative Party.

Its purpose, from the point of view of the man who called it, David Cameron, was to silence the increasingly turbulent anti-EU faction in his own party and see off the threat of Nigel Farage. And it has never been able to move on from being an internal negotiation to being an external one. The only thing that has really changed is that “internal” Tory politics came, after the 2017 election, to include the DUP.

And so here we are again. Political compromise is about two sides with different agendas meeting each other half way. It is easy to see why Johnson might be sincere in thinking he has achieved this – but only if the two sides are Johnson himself with his need to look like he is coming up with some vaguely credible alternative to the backstop and the DUP with its “blood red line” of Northern Ireland leaving the EU on exactly the same terms as the rest of the UK.

ACTU Stop Morrison's Anti Worker Bill

Scott Morrison’s so called “ensuring integrity” bill – the most anti-worker, anti-union laws we have seen in a generation - has been the subject of a Senate inquiry and public hearings, and the bill is likely to be voted on soon. It’s really important that the Senators voting on these laws hear from everyday working people now, before they decide which way they are going to vote.

Eight excellent, courageous rank and file union branch committee of management members and delegates gave evidence in person at hearings in the last two weeks and they represented all of us extremely well. Now it's our turn to back them up.

We are asking all union activists to make contact with one of the Senators whose vote will be the difference between these laws coming in or not. We need you to contact Senators from the Jacqui Lambie Network, Centre Alliance and One Nation via Facebook.

Senator Jacqui Lambie
Senator Rex Patrick
Senator Stirling Griff
Senator Pauline Hanson
Senator Malcolm Robert

Before Senators make up their mind on whether to vote in laws that are anti-democratic and will hurt working people, they really need to hear from working people about the impact these laws will have. It’s important we do this in a positive way, let them know why it’s important and ask them to vote to stop the Bill.

This is a chance for you to speak up and tell your personal story about how the so-called ‘ensuring integrity’ bill will affect you, and your union. It’s your chance to tell Senators why you think these laws are bad and unfair for workers.

Remember, these laws do not apply to banks or business. These laws single out unions and make it harder for workers to stand up to employers who do the wrong thing. This is about silencing working people and making it harder for workers to win pay rises.

That’s what Senators need to hear.  Can I count on you to contact them?
In unity,

Michele O’Neil
ACTU President

Authorised by S. McManus, ACTU Secretary. Australian Unions · L4 365 Queen St, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Acoss Minister must retract offensive Newstart comments

Minister must retract offensive Newstart comments, apologise and take urgent action 

Offensive comments made by the Minister of Social Services show she is out-of-touch with the harsh realities of trying to get by on Newstart and the strong community support for an urgent, real increase after 25 years. 

The Australian Council of Social Service is calling on the Minister to retract the comments and apologise to the hundreds of thousands of people trapped in poverty on Newstart.   

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said it was inexcusable for any Minister, especially for the Minister of Social Services, to show such a lack of understanding and empathy for people looking for paid work in today's competitive job market. 

"The Minister's out-of-touch, inexcusable comments make it clear she needs to spend more time with people on Newstart, who are skipping meals, sleeping rough and going without the very basics in our wealthy country. 

"Instead of making irresponsible, stigmatising comments, the Minister should focus on getting people through tough times by increasing Newstart, which 72% of the community agrees is overdue." 

CEO of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children, Terese Edwards, who was at the event where the Minister made the offensive comments, said: 

"At the event, I asked the Minister to broker a meeting between the Prime Minister and people on Newstart about the urgent need for a real increase to the payment after 25 years. The Minister's deplorable comments make it all the more obvious why this forum needs to happen. 

"People on Newstart, including 100,000 single parents trying to raise kids on next to nothing, should not have to put up with this sort of stigma while they're doing everything they can to find paid work and make ends meet." 

South Australian Council of Social Service CEO Ross Womersley said many people in South Australia on Newstart were ready to meet with the Minister, who is a South Australian Senator. 

"Given the Minister's home state of South Australia has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the nation, it's even more incomprehensible that the Minister could make these comments, which show a lack of understanding that people are working hard to find employment, while barely surviving on such an inadequate income support payment. 

“People on Newstart include young people making trying to get their foot in the door of the workplace, single parents juggling caring responsibilities, older people confronting age discrimination, and people with disability who have been refused the Disability Support Pension," Mr Womersley said.   

Responses to a recent ACOSS survey highlighted the harsh reality of trying to get by on Newstart. They included:

“I eat once a day, at night”. 
“I halve my dosages of medicines so they last longer.” 
“I don’t go to watch my kids play sport because I have to pay an entrance fee into the oval.”