unions

Report on the 2018 IWW Organising Summit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/10/2018 - 6:24am in

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UK, unions

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My notes on the UK IWW's organising summit in Sheffield.

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Unions condemn Labor’s backflip on TPP trade deal

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 14/10/2018 - 7:25pm in

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Labor, unions

Daniel Wallace, secretary of Hunter Workers, the Newcastle Trades Hall Council, resigned from the Labor Party in response to their decision to support the Trans Pacific Partnership-11 trade deal. He spoke to Solidarity.

Why are unions opposed to signing the TPP-11?

Daniel Wallace

The matter had been considered by the rank-and-file of the Labor Party at national conference, and there was a decision that only under certain conditions would Labor support the TPP. That’s been in their platform and was over-ridden in the caucus. Over-riding the rank-and-file doesn’t sit well with a party that’s supposed to represent the working class.

The TPP itself has the potential to bring labour in where skill shortages may not apply, like in regional areas and have an effect on local jobs. There’s also concern about pharmaceuticals that minor changes to original products may extend the patent life and medicines may be dearer.

Who benefits from free trade deals like the TPP?

Corporations and the big end of town benefit, there’s very little in the agreement that would assist workers. There’s a number of clauses that they say have been ruled out but they’ve just been suspended until such time as the US rejoins in the future. Corporations benefit and the government’s rights to regulate in the public interest are compromised.

What do you think of Labor’s decision to backflip and agree to support the agreement?

When power privatisation took place in NSW, Labor MPs were threatened when they breached the platform they would be potentially kicked out of the party. There’s MPs that are opposed to the TPP who spoke against it in caucus but now they’re saying, because of caucus solidarity, they’ve got to support it. Unions are saying they don’t have to support it because it goes against the platform. But they’re not prepared to do it.

What’s the response in the union movement been to this decision?

We’ve seen one union write to the Labor Party saying they’re not participating in any events or donations because of the TPP. The national secretary of the ETU said they’re disappointed and hope they’ll change their mind. The CFMEU and even the ACTU have also commented.

What do you think this means in terms of relying on Labor to Change the Rules or deliver changes like the right to strike?

It’s very clear in my view that if their own party members can’t trust them to abide by their own decisions there’s no way the union movement can trust them. The campaign on Change the Rules has got to hold them to account on any decisions made prior to the election and anything we’d like to see changed by any future government.

 

No to free trade, no to xenophobia

Free trade deals are designed to benefit big corporations. Governments have used them to strike down laws that reduce corporate profits, including labour and environmental regulations.

The TPP-11, the version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership stitched together after Donald Trump ended US support for the deal, is no different.

Labor leader Bill Shorten’s decision to wave it through parliament is about reassuring business that he will govern in their interests. He claims he would renegotiate side deals once in office to improve the deal, but it’s unlikely other countries involved would agree.

It includes an Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism that would allow overseas investors to sue governments that pass new laws damaging their profits. Tobacco giant Philip Morris used a similar mechanism in a trade deal with Hong Kong to challenge Australia’s plain packaging tobacco laws.

The agreement would also allow companies to bring in temporary workers who qualify under the existing temporary skills visa list, waving the usual requirement for labour market testing.

This means there would be no requirement to advertise the jobs or to allow workers to apply locally—a change which should be opposed.

Some unions have opposed the TPP by spreading xenophobia about migrant workers. The AMWU said the deal would, “open the gates to foreign workers”. The meat workers’ union argued against immigration in general, saying the TPP would mean more workplaces like Thomas Foods in Tamworth where, “their workforce is made up of nearly 90 per cent migrant workers, in a region where youth unemployment is currently more than double the national average”.

Workers on temporary visas are vulnerable to exploitation. They rely on their boss to be able to remain in the country. But the solution is to organise them into the unions and demand full permanent migration rights.

But it’s a myth that immigration costs jobs. Job cuts and unemployment are caused by corporate profiteering and government failure. Telstra for instance announced 8000 job cuts in June, and thousands of jobs have gone in manufacturing through automation. We should say no to the TPP, but reject the scapegoating of migrant workers.

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Victorian delegates meet, but electoral campaign for Labor on the agenda

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 14/10/2018 - 7:20pm in

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unions, unions

More than 1700 workers attended Trades Hall’s mass delegates meeting on 25 September, to plan for the next Change The Rules stopwork rally on 23 October—this time branded in Victoria as “Australia Needs a Pay Rise”.

Victorian unions led the way with 120,000 joining the stopwork rally in May. But the strategy at the delegates meeting this time was even more unashamedly electoral. After a brief discussion of the rally, the rest of the meeting was dedicated to signing delegates up for phone banking, door knocking, and train station leafleting for the elections.

Delegates were told that we needed to kick the Liberals out federally, “re-elect Daniel Andrews” and then the rules would change, and we would get a pay rise.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus described Daniel Andrews as the “best boss ever”. Trades Hall Secretary Luke Hilakari told the Herald Sun that Andrews “would be the most progressive Premier we have ever seen in this state. He’s delivered more for working people than just about anyone else”.

This is the same Daniel Andrews that has just prioritised funding Catholic schools over government schools with a $400 million sweetheart deal, and proposed laws criminalising the freedom of association of African communities. Andrews also privatised the Port of Melbourne and the Land Title Registry. More welcome is his statement that electricity privation in Victoria has not worked. But he is not promising to take power back into public hands.

The tottering federal Liberal government needs to go, and their racist clone Matthew Guy in Victoria must be stopped. But we can’t simply leave it to Labor to deliver the change we need.

This risks repeating the mistakes of the Workchoices campaign that went from “Your Rights at Work worth Fighting For” to “Your Rights at Work worth Voting For”. The mass rallies of 200,000 did not continue after the election and Labor did not deliver on our rights at work. The rules we are trying to change now are the ones that Labor put in place after getting elected in 2007.

Federally Labor is promising some modest changes including the restoration of penalty rates and an end to the termination of agreements. But Labor won’t deliver on the one rule that really holds the union movement back—the right to strike. Nor has Labor made any promises around the ACTU’s call for industry wide bargaining. Shorten’s backflip to support the Trans Pacific Partnership is an indication that the ALP is still committed to supporting corporate interests.

But there was no room for debate, with the delegates meeting stage managed. Motions or amendments to the official motion were not allowed on the basis that these needed to “come up through unions’ structures”.

We need to make the right to strike a key demand of the campaign and plan for an ongoing campaign of stopwork rallies beyond the federal election. A follow up delegates meeting and stopwork rally in the new year would be a good start.

By Chris Breen

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Sydney Uni staff rally against job cuts and deskilling

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 14/10/2018 - 7:18pm in

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unions

Over 150 Sydney University workers have held a feisty rally in their bid to stop forced redundancies and deskilling in support services.

Members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) came together to protest the planned changes.

They delivered almost 1000 signatures against the proposal to the deputy vice chancellor Stephen Garton and boldly argued directly against him when he said the restructures were necessary.

Young members of the ICT helpdesk showed great courage in challenging him directly about the lack of evidence supporting the changes and argued the restructure would in fact worsen customer service. Garton had no comeback and was forced to slink away embarrassed.

The uni bosses are trying to put the wrecking ball through support services, aiming to axe 30 jobs. Staff who specialise in helping people with ICT, finance, campus infrastructure or HR issues would be forced into generalist roles and expected to answer questions on all four.

There would also be job cuts in finance and the workload associated with them pushed onto academics and remaining staff. The changes would prepare the ground for further outsourcing down the track.

The strength of the petition and rally turnout showed the directly affected staff how much support they have and was a real step forward in the campaign.

In previous restructures, there has been too much of a focus on responding within the “proper channels” of the Change Management Process. But the bosses just use this process to string workers along and prevent us from openly campaigning, all the while making facts on the ground by forcing people out of jobs.

Earlier in this campaign, there was reluctance from some staff to organise a petition and hold a rally, thinking it might anger management and jeopardise the consultation they were doing with staff. Through discussion, we were able to overcome these doubts and push forward.

After seeing the petition come out, management agreed to redesign one of the change proposals for the ICT section, where workers have fought the hardest.

There will now be even more pressure on them to meet the demands of no job cuts, no de-skilling, no workload increases and no outsourcing.

It’s only through openly campaigning and taking industrial action that we can win.

By Miro Sandev

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Hutchison signals plan for savage attack on workers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 14/10/2018 - 7:17pm in

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unions, unions

Hutchison Ports Australia (HPA) have submitted a savage log of claims which would decimate conditions of wharfies at its Sydney and Brisbane terminals.

The company is seeking to outsource jobs, eliminate the fixed roster, force a longer working week from a 30 hour week to 35-42 hour week, cut pay by regrading the jobs, implement a 12 month wage freeze, cease to pay for meal times, force mandatory overtime, introduce minimum shifts of just four hours, and abolish long service leave. These are just some of hundreds of claims.

In a major attack, Hutchison want to outsource key roles. These include shift leader, bus driver and first aider, mooring and unmooring operations in Brisbane, operating cranes (ASCs) that load trucks and monitoring refrigerated reefer containers. The latter are two of the four core jobs currently done by Hutchison wharfies. The company also wants to completely automate the stacking cranes, which would inevitably mean shedding jobs. They haven’t ruled out outsourcing the crane operator positions to Hong Kong.

Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) wharfies have voted to reject every single claim and are preparing for a big fight. Hutchison say that as the stevedoring company with the smallest market share in Australia they face a “tough commercial environment”. But they are one of the largest stevedoring companies in the world, with 52 terminals globally. In 2015 they tried to sack half their workforce, but a year later they were expanding and hiring a new intake of 120 people at the Sydney terminal.

The workforce is demanding better conditions and higher safety standards across the board, after a near-fatal accident earlier in the year. Claims include a permanent safety facilitator elected from the workforce, and on-the-job training to be carried out by qualified wharfies. Another demand is a fixed roster for all workers. Currently, half the workforce receives work orders via a text message only one day in advance. Living by the phone is a nightmare for work-life balance, especially for families.

The current EBA will expire in November. After that, “protected” industrial action can take place over the terms of the new agreement. This will coincide with EBA negotiations at neighbouring terminal DP World. We have immense power across the waterfront.

The major Change the Rules union rally on 23 October provides an opportunity to show port bosses we are ready to fight by yet again shutting down all three terminals on the waterfront. The MUA will march behind banners demanding the right to strike, a right we will need to exercise during the bargaining campaign. We should be prepared to walk off the job even if the company won’t agree to a four-hour shut down, as they have for previous rallies.

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Thousands join Sydney stopwork against Morrison’s anti-worker laws

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 15/09/2018 - 12:42pm in

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unions, unions

Five thousand striking workers took over the streets of Sydney’s CBD on Thursday 6 September, demanding fairer laws for workers, the abolition of anti-union bodies, and the right to strike.

Hundreds of construction sites were shut down as thousands of workers walked off the job in illegal strike action. They were opposing the Australian Building Construction Commission (ABCC), a union watchdog which persecutes the construction union.

The rally happened on the same day as another horrific workplace accident left a construction worker dead and two others injured in Victoria.

One CFMMEU worker told Solidarity, “The big companies use the ABCC to prevent the union from coming on site and informing the workers about whether they’re being treated fairly and being paid the right money.”

Wharfies from the three terminals at Port Botany shut down the port with a four-hour stoppage. The ETU, the plumbers’ union and the AMWU had strong contingents.

The rally put the heat on the Coalition government, at a time they are weak and divided. New Prime Minister Scott Morrison has threatened to deregister the CFMMEU. Darren Greenfield, NSW secretary of the CFMMEU construction division told a cheering crowd they should, “deregister the banks, deregister the Liberal party.” He said, “This government cannot stand organised labour in this country. [But] they’re on their knees, you can see the rabble they are now. We just have to push ‘em out, and hold the other side to account.”

ACTU President Michele O’Neil argued that: “We are fighting because the system is broken. We have had 30 years of economic growth in Australia, but workers’ wages are going backwards.

“We need new bargaining rights, where we can bargain across sectors, across supply chains and industries. We need new rights, where workers can actually stick together…and take industrial action.”

This is the fourth time in two years construction workers have walked off the job in Sydney, often joined by the MUA. They are sending a message to the Labor opposition that the CFMMEU expects them to honour their promise to abolish the ABCC when in power.

One construction worker at the rally said, “I’m not confident in any politician at the moment. Marches like this go a long way to keeping them accountable.”

We need more strikes like this, with more unions involved. Another stopwork rally has already been called for 23 October in Sydney, joining unions in Melbourne who will rally on the same day.

Labor

But with the Liberals’ loss at the next election likely, there needs to be more pressure on the Labor party to meet the union movement’s demands.

At the ACTU congress in July, National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan distributed a leaflet reminding delegates of the damage inflicted by the previous Labor government: “The Rudd/Gillard government, which the CFMEU construction division helped get elected, gave us IR laws that resulted in million of dollars in fines and our officials and members persecuted for doing their jobs. We as a trade union movement must ensure this never happens again.”

This shows why we need to build pressure on Labor to really Change the Rules at work. Labor has committed to some significant changes but has not indicated it will do anything to reduce restrictions on the right to strike. Yet so far the bulk of the union movement has restricted the Change the Rules campaign to electoral campaigning in marginal seats, simply designed to elect a Labor government.

Right to strike

Maritime Workers took stopwork action under the demand “the right to strike”. The demand was also popular with construction and other workers. The right to strike campaign collected 350 signatures on a petition to scrap the anti-strike provisions from the Fair Work Act in favour of the unrestricted right to strike. The petition also called for the ACTU to organise national stopwork rallies.

Speakers at the rally highlighted the GWC Cranes and Boom cranes strikes, which have been suspended on the basis they are “pattern bargaining” – the union is using a template agreement across multiple sites. So it should! This again highlights just how far the anti-strike laws have gone. We need a clear union-wide campaign against the laws, and to openly defy them.

Between now and the next rally in October delegates across the union movement should pass motions calling on their union to bring people out on stopwork action, or at the least to mobilise large contingents. We need to bring down this government and show Labor we are ready to keep up the fight.

By Erima Dall

Sydney Right to Strike public meeting
Change the rules for Esso workers
3pm Sunday 22 September, MUA offices 365 Sussex St
Speakers include AMWU delegate Troy Carter from the Esso dispute—where workers have been picketing for over 440 days
Facebook event here

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Alcoa workers out on indefinite strike for job security

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 15/09/2018 - 12:33pm in

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Over 1600 workers at Alcoa in WA are continuing an indefinite strike after five weeks.

The strike, which began on 8 August, comes as Alcoa’s request to terminate the existing enterprise agreement altogether is set to be heard by the Fair Work Commission on 17 September.

Alcoa employs 1600 workers in its alumina refineries and bauxite mines across the state, in Kwinana, Pinjarra, Wagerup, Huntley and Willowdale as well as at Bunbury Port.

Despite offering some concessions, Alcoa refuses to budge on the core issue which strikers are concerned about, job security. It wants to remove conditions in the existing agreement that guarantee no forced redundancies except in the event of mine closures. And in return it is offering just a one-off $3000 bonus and then pay rises of 1 per cent a year.

“Many of us are long-term employees who have never caused them any grief but they won’t provide assurances about not casualising employment, outsourcing contractors or agreements on manning hours,” Andy Hacking, a refinery worker and Australian Workers Union (AWU) West Australian Branch president said.

Like other bosses at Port Kembla Coal Terminal, Murdoch University and the Oaky North coal mine, Alcoa is trying to use the threat of terminating the existing EBA, forcing workers back onto far lower Award conditions, to get them to accept a sub-standard deal.

But a ballot on Alcoa’s latest offer ended on 6 September with an overwhelming 80 per cent of members rejecting the EBA proposal. Now a new proposal from Alcoa is awaited.

Despite denying claims that they seek to casualise the workforce and eradicate security, that is the clear objective of the proposed EBA, which Alcoa told Workplace Express would allow it to, “manage our operations efficiently and productively, and [give] us the ability to respond to changing market and operating conditions”.

Alcoa has admitted that the strike has reduced alumina production by around 15,000 tonnes in August, but claims to have contingency plans in place. But the workers have pledged to keep striking for as long as it takes to get a decent agreement. They deserve everyone’s solidarity.

By Peter Burrell-Sander

Support the Alcoa workers’ strike by donating here

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We need a total NAPLAN ban

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 15/09/2018 - 12:30pm in

The release of the 2018 NAPLAN results should be the death knell of the national testing regime.

Teachers, psychologists, principals, academics, unionists and even Liberal Party politicians have condemned the test as a curriculum-distorting educational disaster.

But to further discredit the regime, in August the testing authority ACARA admitted it was applying an unpublished scaling system to online test results.

This was designed to blend the results of two different tests (NAPLAN Online, which 20 per cent of the students sat, and the paper based tests which everyone else sat) together in its national report.

The Australian Education Union (AEU) has condemned the 2018 results as almost useless and called for ACARA to discard them. The Victorian AEU State Council called for school sub-branches to pass resolutions against NAPLAN online, “expressing their strong view that schools should not be undertaking the preparation work and delivering the next stage of NAPLAN online rollout.”

But it’s all of NAPLAN that needs to go, not just online NAPLAN. Of course students who sat two different tests shouldn’t be compared to each other.

But it’s even more unfair to compare the results of students in the most over-funded schools in the country, like Knox Grammar in NSW, to students in funding starved schools in poorer areas, and pretend as though the difference in results is the fault of the schools and teachers, not systemic inequality.

The Gillard Labor government designed NAPLAN for exactly this victim-blaming purpose.

ACARA publishes the results and the socio-economic mix of students at every school in the country on the MySchool website so that parents can compare, and avoid enrolling their children in the schools getting the worst results.

Over the last ten years, this has increased inequality between schools, as parents rush to enrol in “magnets” and avoid “sinks”.

It has been the smokescreen behind which governments shovel ever-greater proportions of public funding into private schools.

NAPLAN is totally discredited, but Labor and Liberal governments will not dismantle it until they have another testing tool to replace it with.

Now is the time for education unionists to prepare a ban on the test in 2019. If our union leaders will not call for a total ban, we need to find school sub-branches, and groups of schools and teachers who will lead the action in refusing to participate in any NAPLAN test preparation and delivery in 2019.

By Lucy Honan

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Strong showing for the left in NTEU elections

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 15/09/2018 - 12:27pm in

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Left activists have won a strong presence in the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at Sydney University, alongside an upset defeat for the incumbent state secretary of the union in Victoria.

NTEU branch and national elections concluded in August. At Sydney Uni the left activist network Union Action (UA) led a grassroots campaign and contested the two Vice President positions, Branch Secretary and positions on Branch Committee.

The election saw a significant growth in participation—with 170 extra votes compared to previous elections, a 45 per cent increase. Union Action candidates won the VP (General Staff) and five of the 11 Branch Committee positions. Additionally, some of the other elected candidates are not firmly aligned and are sympathetic to the Union Action platform. In terms of official branch leadership, the left activist voice will be very well placed in the next two years at Sydney Uni.

Union Action came together from activists who believed the campaign for a better enterprise agreement was wound up far too early last year. We ran on a platform of confronting the top-down corporate model of university governance, for a campaign against casualisation, greater member involvement in branch decision making and action in solidarity with the wider union movement.

The incumbent president and vice presidents formed their own ticket for the executive positions, and called for a vote for non-UA affiliated candidates for the branch committee. On campus, UA conducted a heavy poster and leafleting campaign and held two public forums. Our goal in addition to simply winning positions was to increase political participation and debate in the branch. None of our campaigns and direction for the branch has any chance without a strong, committed and active membership.

NTEU elections were also taking place across the country. The Victorian NTEU has a new leadership after RMIT Branch Secretary Melissa Slee defeated the incumbent State Secretary Colin Long. Slee campaigned on a platform that included defending basic conditions and refusing to accept trade-offs. Unfortunately UTS Branch President Vince Caughley lost the National Assistant Secretary position to WA’s Gabe Gooding.

Union Action will continue to build a rank-and-file movement at Sydney Uni. At the moment, management is pushing a change in ICT (as well as finance and HR) that will mean higher workloads, redundancies and deskilling of specialised staff. This shows that in this post-bargaining period we must maintain and build up the level of action on campus.

Union Action members are pushing for a strong public campaign across the university, beginning with a petition and walk-throughs in the affected areas. The current approach of the branch in this and other disputes is to conduct negotiations behind closed doors and to pursue a legalistic implementation of the EA. We need to build up our capacity to mobilise and take industrial action—all the way to confronting the anti-strike laws—to win key demands on campus. Sydney Uni staff and students are encouraged to get involved in the campaign as it escalates in the next few weeks.

By James Harding

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NSW crane drivers’ strike banned

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 15/09/2018 - 12:26pm in

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unions, unions

Crane drivers in NSW at WGC Cranes and Boom Logistics have been banned from striking by the Fair Work Commission.

The Commission ruled that the union was “pattern bargaining” at WGC, because it was negotiating based on a template agreement it has drawn up for the industry. This would fix the same pay rates and conditions across different companies. The decsion came despite the fact that industrial action was not being organised across the industry, but only company-by-company.

It objected in particular to the CFMMEU’s desire for a short-term agreement to expire at the end of January next year, in order to take advantage of Labor’s promise to scrap the Building Industry Code if it wins government.

After workers at Boom Logistics began an indefinite strike, the company obtained interim Fair Work orders within hours to declare it unprotected action.

The CFMMEU is pushing for an increase on the casual loading from 25 per cent to 35 per cent, rising to 80 per cent if casuals continue working after six weeks, as well as a pay rise.

WGC and Boom are two of the biggest companies in the mobile crane industry in the state.

WGC Cranes is based in Wollongong while Boom has three yards at Port Kembla, Newcastle and Singleton.

CFMMEU Construction National Secretary Dave Noonan told the stopwork rally in Sydney in early September, “WGC are owned by a bloke worth $130 billion, Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world. And he can’t give Australian crane drivers a decent pay rise.”

It’s another example showing why we need the right to strike—and to get rid of the Fair Work Act.

The ACTU is calling for the right to bargain across an industry. But Labor is not about to overturn the ban on pattern bargaining.

Unions will need to defy the laws banning industrial action if we’re ever going to win the right to strike.

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