Tuesday, July 28, 2020

What have we done? 


Our Annual Report.

No matter how busy we get, we're always a bit surprised at how much we've done when we review our activities each year. Our Annual Report says it all for 2019/2020.

Drought. Fire. Floods. Pandemic. 

In the 25 year* history of the BMUC our community has never experienced a 12 months like it.  Trade unionists have often been in the front line - working in Fire & Rescue, hospitals, aged care, public transport, and schools. It's been stressful, potentially dangerous work and there's no immediate end in sight. I'd like to place on the public record our appreciation for their magnificent contribution to our community.

As with every voluntary organisation in the Blue Mountains the lock down presented us with challenges - things we once took for granted like holding monthly members' meetings or staging Politics in the Pub - in the pub - became impossible. 

COMMUNITY RADIO

They say that in a crisis people turn to the radio. Fortunately, BMUC had already established a presence on Radio Blue Mountains 89.1FM but it's fair to say that during the pandemic our weekly show - Rights, Rorts & Rants (Fridays 4-6pm on Radio Blue Mountains 89.1 FM or livestreamed on rbm.org.au gave us a lifeline. 

Programs reflected the challenges of our times - shocking examples of wage theft by some of the biggest brand names in Australia; the lessons of the catastrophic bushfire season; human induced climate change;  exploitation of foreign workers; the millions of Australians who missed out on JobSeeker and Job Keeper - especially in the mountains' biggest  industry - tourism and hospitality. Our program makers gave voice to community campaigners concerned about a range of environmental issues - including the future of Katoomba Airfield, Warragamba Dam and plans for the Great Western Highway at Blackheath. We've also investigated the complexities of 5G. 

All members are encouraged to contribute and it's a good sign for the future that some of the most stimulating pieces have been produced by our youngest member - a 16-year-old student, James Dawes, whose knowledge of US politics is truly impressive. Many have taken part, but for all their work keeping the show on air I'd particularly like to thank Fran Dyson, Debra Smith and Merran McLaren. 

MUSIC 

An important part of the program is showcasing the work of local musicians. We may be the City of the Arts but it's not always easy for musos to find a place to perform. Before the Covid 19 struck we were able to stage for the second year running a music event for activists at Blackburns Family Hotel. The entrants for this year's Sing It! Say It! contest showed the range of talent in the Blue Mountains - and the audience of all ages that turned out on the night loved it. Many thanks to the Health Services Union and the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance for putting up the prizes of $500 each, contributing to 
prizes to local bands of $500 for Blumedsay, $300 to Safire Palms and $200 to Tigermoth. Since then our Music Director Fran Dyson has kept the spirit of Sing It! Say It!  alive by arranging for performers from that night to play  at The  Family. Once Social Distancing rules are relaxed  local musicians will again perform in the Live and Original series organised by BMUC and held monthly at The Family. This series gives the local music scene a boost by providing industry paid gigs as well as an opportunity for relatively inexperienced musicians to play to a supportive audience. Performers also promote their gigs on the radio show, adding much appreciated live content to the mix.

BLUE MOUNTAINS AIRWATCH

This project originated from a BMUC campaign to monitor coal dust. The 12 air pollution monitors and pod set up between Lithgow and Springwood provided invaluable information on smoke hazards during the bushfires. Residents were able to go online and get near real time pollution readings - an important  service given the known health risks of bushfire smoke. It's been estimated that over 400 people died across Australia during the last fire season. BMUC joined with Blue Mountains Conservation Society, Lithgow Environment Group, Doctors for the Environment, BMCC and Lithgow Councils appealing to the State Government to extend Blue Mountains Air Watch for five years.  When the EPA said that the air monitors would be removed this year over 500 residents signed a petition in support of their retention, which the Member for the Blue Mountains is to table in Parliament. In a later development BMUC member had a chance meeting with Environment Minister Matt Kean while on a bush walk. Mr. Kean promised to consider our request and talk it through with our local member Trish Doyle. Many thanks to Trish for her backing on this issue.

EXPLOITATION OF FOREIGN WORKERS

BMUC joined calls for an investigation into allegations of alarming work practices at the Escarpment group of luxury hotels in the Blue Mountains. These allegations made in a series of reports in the SMH and Sun Herald are under investigation by the Department of Home Affairs and the Fair Work Ombudsman - we've yet to hear the outcome. 

POLITICS IN THE PUB

Before the lock down we were able to stage two Politics in the Pub events - examining the ever contentious issue of Fair Trade and the never ending War on the Poor where we called for a raise to the rate of Newstart.  

CLIMATE CHANGE RALLIES

Pre pandemic BMUC members joined other community activists at well attended climate change rallies  at Springwood and Blackheath - the latter event organised by Macquarie Electorate Students Climate Activists

BLACK LIVES MATTER RALLY

Our members also gave support to a Black Lives Matter rally in Katoomba. 

SUBMISSION ON THE ENSURING INTEGRITY BILL

We joined many other unionists around the country who saw this bill as a fundamental attack on trade unionism. We sent a detailed submission to Cross Bench Senators.  Earlier this year the Federal Government withdrew the Bill. 

ATTACKS ON THE ABC

Following  the loss of one thousand jobs in ten years the Federal Government has continued to reduce funding for the national broadcaster and in June it was announced that another 250 plus jobs are to go, along with major programming cuts including the flagship 7.45 am Radio News Bulletin. BMUC has campaigned for funding and programming to be restored in the interests of democracy at a time when surveys show that more Australians trust the ABC above all other media, and when our own community relied on the ABC for accurate information during our emergencies. 

BUSHFIRE INQUIRY

Two members gave evidence to the NSW Government's bushfire inquiry -  pressing the case for the Blue Mountains Air Watch project, and the need for much greater resources for fire-fighters in future. 

ON THE WEB

Our blog, website, membership applications, social media, podcasts and 
YouTube channel can all be accessed via one easy link: l.ead.me/bmuc

BLUE MOUNTAINS UNIONS BLOG

For yet another year Mark Gregory's Blog has tracked important stories in politics and industrial relations - the blog is viewed about 4000 times per month and since its creation has been viewed 479,234 times. 

SOCIAL MEDIA

We have two Facebook pages, one for Blue Mountains Unions & Community with 728 followers and a much newer one for our radio show Rights, Rorts and Rants with 81 followers. We also have a Twitter account with 2192 followers.  

PODCASTS

We've recently started publishing material from Rights, Rorts and Rants as podcasts. You can listen to them via Spotify, iTunes, Anchor, Overcast, Radio Public, Google Podcasts, Breaker and Pocket Casts.

SOCIAL LIFE

Many thanks to Merran McLaren for opening up her home for what was a great end of year party. 

MCRN

We would like to acknowledge the support of the Mountains Community Resource Network.

THANKS TO

The Family Hotel for again  giving the BMUC a warm welcome and great support throughout the year; the BMUC Executive: Paul Wray , Susan Lammiman, Bruce Cornwell, Norm Short, Peter Lammiman, Fran Dyson and especially our Secretary Deb Smith, who does so much in so many ways to keep us going. 

THE YEAR AHEAD

We hear a lot these days about "the new normal". At the time of writing nobody really knows what that will really be. For example, will Blue Mountains workers currently working at home be allowed to continue to do so after the pandemic? What agreements are in place for working at home? The biggest private employers in the mountains - hospitality and tourism - have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic - when will those stood down get their jobs back? 

I'll end on a positive note: A recent poll found that three out of four Australians believe unions provide essential services to ensure members are paid properly, have a strong and safe working environment, and provide a strong collective voice. It's time to belong to a union

In Solidarity 

Kerry Cooke 
President 
Blue Mountains Unions & Community 
(Blue Mountains Union Council Inc) 
June 2020 

* Although we know that BMUC was definitely founded in the 1980's, the exact date is lost in the mists of the mountains. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Poll Australian workers would be better off with stronger unions.

A new poll has revealed that for the first time since the series began in 2012, half of all Australians believe Australian workers would be better off with stronger unions.

A further 3 out of 4 Australians believe unions provide essential services to ensure members are paid properly, have a safe working environment and provide a strong collective voice.

The peak body for working people in Australia has welcomed the results, saying they are a reflection of the crucial role unions have played during the pandemic, and the important role unions play giving workers a voice.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

“This research tells us that Australians know who has their back - not just in the workplace but also during a national economic and health crisis.

“Unionised workers have steered the country through this pandemic and will continue to play a leading role in the economic rebuild.

“Australian unions fought for and won the JobKeeper wage subsidy and the increase to the JobSeeker payment.

“We continue to campaign for paid pandemic leave and proper workplace safety regulations to keep all workers safe as the economy reopens.

“And we will be holding big business and the government to account throughout the economic rebuild.

“We are working to win more secure jobs and fairer wages.

“The pandemic may pass, but some in the business lobby have made clear they want to make pay cuts permanent. We won’t allow pay cuts to further punish young people, women and be a drag on the living standards of working people.

“Pay cuts and cuts to workers’ rights will not help Australia recover. They will just make this crisis last longer and deeper while people at the top reap the profits.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

What part does Aldi play in safety in transport?

What part does Aldi play in safety in transport?

When wealthy retailers like Aldi squeeze transport, drivers are pressured to work longer hours, speed and skip mandatory rest breaks to get the job done.

But Aldi refuses to acknowledge or address the risks to safety they cause in their supply chain.
In fact, Aldi took the TWU to the Federal Court in an attempt to silence truckies speaking out on safety.

Coles and Woolworths have signed charters with the TWU to ensure safety in their transport supply chains. It’s time for Aldi to come to the table.

Last year alone, 60 transport workers were killed on the job.

Transport workers serve a claim on Aldi


Monday, May 25, 2020

Polling conducted for the ACTU shows a staggering lack of basic preventative measures

Polling conducted for the ACTU shows a staggering lack of basic preventative measures in Australian workplaces and highlights the need for immediate action to improve WHS standards.

Key findings from the poll:

Asked if their employer had implemented basic preventative measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19;

11% of those currently in the workplace and 4% of those working from home said they had additional hygiene measures like hand sanitiser or access to soap and water

4% of those in the workplace said there was additional cleaning or disinfection occurring
9% of those still in their workplace and 8% of those working from home said there was a plan in place in case they or a co-worker developed symptoms or tested positive

1% had access to additional paid pandemic leave
0% of those still in their workplace said their employer had made any effort to support their mental health

Social distancing, the highest-profile preventive measure, which states, territories and the federal government have been mandating for months, is only in place for 70% of people still in their workplace, and 59% of those working from home.

The polling shows workers on lower incomes are more likely to say they would go to work even if they were sick. Universal paid pandemic leave would allow all working people to take time off when they need to in order to protect themselves and the community.

This data shows there is an overwhelming majority of Australians without the basic protections we know will help prevent the spread of the virus.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

“More needs to be done to keep workers safe. We are more than two months into the lockdown period and almost 90% of working people say their workplaces don’t have hand sanitiser.

“Pandemic leave, or some form of additional paid leave is necessary to ensure that people can get tested or self-isolate, but has been provided to 1% of working people.

“This polling shows how much work is left to be done before the economy can be safely re-opened. The union movement is launching a campaign to make workplaces as safe as possible, but we need immediate action from all governments to prevent a second wave of infection.”

Saturday, May 23, 2020

ACTU Federal Court has ruled to protect the rights of working people

The Federal Court has ruled to protect the rights of working people who are labelled casuals purely to strip them of job security, rights and pay in a landmark ruling in the case of WorkPac Pty Ltd Rossato.

This decision is a massive step forward in the fight for more secure work for Australian workers.

It shines a spotlight on the unfairness of casualisation and has shut down a loophole that labour hire companies have been exploiting to undermine job security and pay.

Working people need more job security, this decision confirms their rights to permanent rights if their job is permanent.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

“This is a huge win for the workers involved and their union the CFMMEU, but it is also a win for all workers who are suffering because of systemic casualisation. It clearly demonstrates the need to reduce workplace insecurity.

“We need the stop the practice of some employers labelling jobs “casual” when they are in fact permanent. This has stripped workers of rights and security.

“It’s time for employers to accept that finding new ways to make permanent jobs casual has to end. We should be working together as a country to reduce the number of insecure jobs, it has got out of control and unfortunately too many people are now feeling the harsh reality of having no job protections during the pandemic.

“We congratulate Paul Skene, the worker whose case led to this decision, for standing up with his union and fighting for this win for casual workers.”