What is The Union Show?

7 12 2010

The Union Show broadcast on community TV C31 in Melbourne Australia from 2005 to 2009 and is a rich source of information on unions and issues affecting unions in this country. Whilst the program is no longer produced for television, the producers, United Productions maintain both a Union Show blog and the UnitedPro2010 YouTube channel as a means of disseminating union information that would otherwise be lost in time and in the morass of anti-union misinformation that is distributed by mainstream media.

An extensive archive of Union Show episodes is available for viewing at http://theunionshow.blip.tv. Current union information can be sourced at www.theunionshow.com.au and at the UnitedPro2010 YouTube channel. There are many other web sources for union information that deal mainly in the written word. One of those sites and perhaps the venerable example is www.labourstart.org.au where you will find links to many other like-minded information outlets.


Rigger’s industrial laws fight back in court

14 09 2010

By Candice Marcus

Updated Mon Sep 13, 2010 2:33pm AEST

Ark Tribe

Rigger Ark Tribe arrives for another court appearance (ABC News: Patrick Rocca)

A lawyer for a construction worker charged under federal industrial laws has told Adelaide Magistrates Court the prosecution case is seriously flawed.

Rigger Ark Tribe is accused of failing to attend at the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) to answer questions about a stopwork meeting which was held over safety concerns at an Adelaide building site.

It is the first such case prosecuted.

Tribe’s lawyer Michael Abbott QC told the court that only the commissioner was empowered to form a suspicion that a worker had contravened the laws.

“It always has to be the ABC Commissioner investigating unless he delegates that function, which he never did,” he told the hearing.

“The function of the ABC Commissioner must be performed by him, and him alone, unless he delegates it and he would still have to publish a copy of the instructions of delegation under the legislation.

“The inspectors acted illegally and unlawfully.”

Mr Abbott said much could be read into the fact that Commissioner John Lloyd was not called to give evidence for the prosecution case, when it should have been his investigation.

“We say the silence of the ABC Commissioner is telling,” he said.

Hundreds of union members again rallied outside the hearing to support Tribe.

The magistrate will give a verdict in November and unionists have vowed to take nationwide action if Tribe is jailed.

Greens and Labor Commit to Agreement

3 09 2010

01/09/2010 – 11:30

The Australian Greens and the Labor Party have signed an agreement to ensure stability for Labor in Government. The Greens will ensure supply and oppose any motion of no confidence in the Government from other parties or MPs.

Labor will work with the Greens to deliver improved transparency and integrity to Parliament and pursue policies that promote the national interest and address climate change.

Read Full Agreement

As part of the agreement there will be regular meetings between the Prime Minister and Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown and newly-elected Lower House MP Adam Bandt.

“There will be a Climate Change Committee resourced as a Cabinet Committee, an investment in dental health care in the next budget and completion of a $20 million study into High Speed Rail by July 2011,” said Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown.

The agreement includes a wide range of measures. These include:

* A Climate Change Committee
* A full parliamentary debate on Afghanistan
* A commitment to work with the Greens on dental health care investment
* Completion of a $20 million High Speed Rail study by July 2011
* Legislating for truth in political advertising
* A Leaders’ Debate Commission
*Establishing a Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner
* Establishing a Parliamentary Budget Office
* Restrictions on political donations
* A move toward full three year governments
* Specially allocated time for debate and voting on private members bills and a fixed and fair allocation of questions for Independent and minor party members in Question Time
* Referenda for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians and Local Government
* A commitment for reform to provide above the line voting in the Senate
* Better processes for the release of documents in the public interest in both Houses of Parliament
* Access to relevant departments, including Treasury and Finance & Deregulation for Greens election policies.

Why Vote Greens?

20 08 2010

Bob Brown spoke yesterday at a Greens re-election rally to campaign workers and Greens supporters.

“This is a terrific moment in Greens history” he said, “because we are on the cusp of electing both a Greens senator out of Victoria into the national parliament, and a Greens representative out of Melbourne into the house of Representatives.”

Mr Brown also outlined the case for voting Green regardless of major party election outcomes.

“Julia Gillard has said this is a cliff-hanger election. This time Sunday we may have an Abbott government. What could be better than Adam Bandt, this person of integrity with the intellect he has, on the floor of the parliament, taking it up to an Abbott government for the next three years. And what could be better, if there is a Labor government, than not just having another Labor back-bencher in the house, but having a Green front-bencher, able to introduce legislation for a carbon tax, to tax the polluters and green the Australian economy.”

Workers, unions and stopping Abbott

15 08 2010

Tim Gooden

For many union leaders afraid of a Coalition victory on August 21, campaigning against Tony Abbott simply means campaigning for Julia Gillard.

With a conservative win on the cards unions have escalated their pro-ALP campaigning. The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union — which has filled Labor’s coffers with more than $340,000 – has also enlisted its officials for ringarounds in marginal seats.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has levied affiliates $1 per member, raising a further $1.8 million for electoral advertising. After three weeks of campaigning it had spent $2.13 million on metropolitan TV and radio ads, with the Australian Nursing Federation adding $475,000 of its own.

ACTU nonsense about Labor

Workers have every reason to be concerned about a Coalition victory: a triumphant Abbott would doubtless try to reintroduce aspects of Work Choices.

But does this mean that to defend workers’ rights the Rudd-Gillard record must be glossed over? Can unions campaign effectively against Abbott without being straight about Labor’s Fair Work Act?

Unfortunately, in their desperation to build support for Labor, the majority of unions are being dishonest about its industrial relations record.

For example, the ACTU executive’s pre-election resolution lists “protection from unfair dismissal for all workers” as a gain under Labor. But most workers in small businesses for less than a year have no right to appeal against unfair dismissal.

Another supposed gain is protection of delegates who exercise their workplace rights. But any union official who leaves the office desk knows union activists are regularly targeted and sacked, with successful reinstatement a rarity.

Many hail the FWA as a return to collective bargaining. While some FWA provisions do force the boss to negotiate, this law also gives the bloody-minded employer intent on frustrating bargaining an arsenal of weapons, with no obligation to reach an agreement.

By contrast, the right to strike remains one of the most restricted in any developed country and violates International Labor Organisation standards.

This makeover of the FWA has taken place even though workplace minister Simon Crean told the ACTU executive that there would be no “second tranche” of workplace reforms if Labor wins. It would also reintroduce legislation — blocked by the Coalition in the Senate — to replace the Australian Building and Construction Commission with a similar body with “coercive powers”!

Labor’s only carrot for the unions is its “Fair Entitlements Guarantee”, covering workers in businesses that go broke. This revamped version of the Coalition’s scheme significantly increases the guarantee to four weeks of redundancy pay per year of work. A welcome reform, even if it comes too late for the tens of thousands hurt by the Global Financial Crisis.

It’s no surprise then that a number of unions have broken ranks with the ACTU line. The Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union, which disaffiliated from the ALP earlier this year, is backing the Greens, as is the Victorian United Firefighters Union.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union is calling for a Green vote in the Senate, citing the ABCC and the charges against shop steward Ark Tribe. But the CFMEU has also contributed funds to the ALP campaign and is backing Labor candidates in the House of Representatives.

The Melbourne test

The dodgy argument that the unions need to support the ALP to keep the Coalition out of government is most plausible in marginal seats where the contest is between Labor and Coalition. It loses all punch in ALP-Green marginals such Melbourne, where Greens candidate Adam Bandt came within 4.7% of winning in 2007.

Bandt, a former lawyer well-known for his work defending workers and unions, is standing again, facing ex-ACTU official Cath Bowtell.

Reflecting the polarisation within the unions, the Victorian Trades Hall Council’s August meeting hosted presentations from Bandt and Bowtell. In discussion Victorian ETU secretary Dean Mighell asked the ALP candidate if she would be prepared to break Labor caucus discipline and speak publicly on issues of concern to unions.

Bowtell said she would make a judgment about “the most effective way to achieve reform…sometimes you will get reform working quietly and sometimes speaking publicly.” Bandt commented that “the ALP caucus is where progressive voices go to be silenced.”

Despite the Greens’ record in moving for the full abolition of Work Choices and the ABCC, some unions have gone into overdrive to support Bowtell. The ACTU has also approached affiliates seeking access to their membership data to allow a “cold-calling” campaign.

The Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union, Community and Public Sector Union and Australian Services Union have donated funds, staff time and office space. Left-wing unions such as the Maritime Union of Australia and AMWU are also reported to be assisting.

Responding to an ACTU request for membership data, Dean Mighell told the August 3 Australian: “I just question the judgment of the ACTU on a whole range of matters, given the Greens policy on industrial relations is far more favourable to Australian workers than the ALP’s, yet the ACTU issues a call to arms to support that party.”

On August 10, Crikey.com reported that CFMEU national president Dave Noonan said “a Bandt victory in Melbourne was a ‘zero sum game’ in terms of worker rights because it did nothing to keep Tony Abbott out of power”.

This argument is nonsense. A Greens victory in Melbourne wouldn’t deliver government to Abbott, but it /would /deliver an MP able to speak out against the ABCC, which all unions say they oppose.

Defeating Abbott, strengthening labour

Urging workers to put Abbott last would have been part of any serious union campaign at this election. But glossing over the reality of Labor in government only helps breed cynicism, confusion and disengagement. It is this mood that periodically delivers Coalition governments and allows Labor to get away with its own anti-worker policies when the political cycle turns.

By contrast, if the Greens win the Senate balance of power at this poll a returned Labor government will have to publicly bloc with the Coalition to keep anti-worker laws in place.

Unions have a duty to be honest with members and credit them with enough intelligence to vote against anti-worker policies without voting for the Coalition. When workers fully understand Labor’s failure to deliver, they are hardly likely to vote for more punishment under Abbott.

They will look for other parties to support, those — like socialists and Greens — that really do defend our rights at work.

Socialist Alliancce member Tim Gooden is Geeelong Trades Hall Council secretary. Written in a personal capacity

Unions warn of Abbott IR deals

15 08 2010
Josh Gordon

August 15, 2010

Unions have increased their attack on Tony Abbott over industrial relations, accusing him of entering into ”secret deals” with business groups to wind back unfair dismissal laws and reintroduce individual contracts.

Australian Council of Trade Unions chief executive Jeff Lawrence has claimed the Coalition has for months been quietly reassuring business leaders that Labor’s Fair Work Act would be overhauled if it wins the August 21 election – despite opposition claims to the contrary.

”They have explicitly promised to wind back protections from unfair dismissal, reintroduce individual contracts and reduce minimum standards in awards,” Mr Lawrence said.

The move comes as a major study by 30 academics concludes that employers have been the clear winners from a decade and a half of industrial relations changes, including WorkChoices.

The study, co-ordinated by Monash University, has concluded that changes since the Howard government was elected in 1996 have ”contributed to a decisive shift in the balance of power away from employees and institutions protecting them (e.g. tribunals and unions) and towards employers”.

The ACTU has compiled an extensive dossier of quotes from business leaders to make the case that business has a major agenda to ”wind back workers’ rights and hand more power to employers”. It includes demands for lower minimum standards, the removal of redundancy protections, watered down unfair dismissal laws and the reintroduction of individual contracts.

”No doubt big business is expecting a payback from the Liberals if they gain power,” Mr Lawrence said.

Mr Abbott began the election campaign by declaring that WorkChoices was ”dead, buried and cremated”, promising that Labor’s legislation would be left unchanged for three years.

But doubts emerged after opposition industrial relations spokesman Eric Abetz said the Coalition’s policy would involve ”tweaking” the legislation.

The ACTU is claiming that there are 198 ways that the legislation could be watered down through regulations and ministerial powers without actually changing Labor’s legislation.

Amid ongoing concern and a fierce advertising campaign from Labor and unions, the Coalition is expected to release a one-page statement on industrial relations tomorrow reiterating Mr Abbott’s pledge not to change Labor’s Fair Work Act for at least three years.

But the right-wing industrial relations think tank, the HR Nicholls Society, has backed the union claims that major changes to workplace relations could be made without changes to the law.

The Monash report said the industrial relations changes since 1996 had particularly hurt workers with limited bargaining power in low-paid service jobs, as well as young people and workers with English as a second language. These workers had experienced slower wages growth than the national average, bigger workloads and less job security, access to training and flexibility.

Monash professor Richard Mitchell said the study ”unequivocally shows that employers were the clear winners under the Coalition’s employment laws”.

Another contributor to the study from Monash, Dr Anthony Forsyth, said: ”While the Howard government did boost resources devoted to enforcement agencies . . . many long-established employment conditions were eroded during the years of the last federal coalition government.”

High stakes election for workers with up to $150,000 extra in retirement at risk & return of WorkChoices

15 08 2010

In a last ditch attempt to inform voters of the dangers of a return to WorkChoices and a massive cut to their retirement incomes after the election, unions will hold an urgent series of meetings with workers across western Sydney starting today.

The Liberal Party is yet to release either its detailed Industrial Relations Policy or its Superannuation Policy, heightening fears among workers over the security of their jobs and incomes if Tony Abbott is elected, the ACTU says.

Average workers could lose up to $150,000 from their superannuation if there is a change of government says ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence.

“Today I will be meeting with workers in western Sydney who are worried about their jobs and worried about the security of their entitlements and superannuation,” Mr Lawrence said.

“So far, the Liberals have said they will axe the mining tax and with it, Labor’s plan to lift national superannuation from 9% up to 12%.

“Working Australians should be aware that not only would the Coalition bring back the worst aspects of WorkChoices, but it has a track record when it was last in government of preventing workers from having greater financial security in retirement.

“Tony Abbott can’t be trusted on WorkChoices and he also can’t be trusted on superannuation and workers’ entitlements. A re-elected Labor Government will increase national superannuation to 12%, delivering an extra $108,000 in savings for the average 30-year-old worker. Tony Abbott opposes this.

“For a 30-year-old worker on an average wage the new MySuper default superannuation product would lift their retirement savings by $40,000. Together, these changes would deliver an extra $150,000 into the pockets of retired workers.

Mr Lawrence said unions will continue reminding working Australians of Mr Abbott’s record in the Howard Government as one of the strongest supporters of WorkChoices, and his plans to bring back  WorkChoices-style individual contracts and to cut protection from being sacked unfairly.

AWU National Secretary Paul Howes will be joining Jeff Lawrence in a workplace meeting in Ingleburn, south western Sydney today.

Mr Howes said “In difficult economic times we need a government that is committed to workers’ job security. Only one of the political leaders in this election campaign actually believes in good, secure jobs — for the people of today and for the people of tomorrow.

Working families need to know that only Julia Gillard is committed to securing the future of our workplaces by delivering decent jobs and securing workers’ entitlements and better retirement incomes.”

Unions are also preparing a series of newspaper advertisements in NSW marginal electorates to inform workers unable to attend the union meetings (see PDF of media release below) and http://www.superstake.com.au.