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.


No Jobs on a Dead Planet

19 07 2010

In the lead up to the Federal Election neither of the major parties has tabled an adequate response to climate change.

This is a time for bold action as we enter an emergency which some are likening to a total war scenario, both in terms of the effects upon our nation and the scale of the responses required.  Due to the level of planning and regulation, and the massive engagement demanded of the Australian people and our institutions, the context of a war economy is being discussed by growing numbers of people.  With approximately two thirds of the Arctic gone, and significant rapid losses in depth at the Antarctic as well, this discussion is gaining force.

Where major political parties fail to introduce adequate measures to reduce carbon consumption, we the Australian people must participate in the new thinking towards a new zero carbon economy.  Over the next ten years we must insure an equitable Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS),

The opposing argument, which postulates that eco-systemic change must not cause the economic crisis to worsen, appears to be made up primarily of economic vested interests; their position is developing into “Jobs versus the Environment”.

All the facts lean towards a drop in employment if the status quo is maintained.  Around the world renewable energy is proving to be a viable way to secure long term jobs.  Investment in renewable energy will provide all parties across the CCS divide with an opportunity to unite around an agreed direction.

A CFMEU/Gippsland Trade and Labour Council combined initiative

In response to the threat of job loss in the power industry which is a mainstay of regional employment in the LaTrobe Valley, the Earthworker Social Enterprise Association’s (ESEA) is an initiative of the CFMEU and the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council.

Using the Everlast factory in Dandenong as a model, the Earthworker Social Enterprise Association’s (ESEA) first factory, “Eureka’s Future,” will need 12 staff members to manufacture the tank alone.  However in the early days of the Earthworker Project, most jobs will be created in the installation.  For each solar hot water system manufactured, one day of work for an installer would be required, plus some additional trade time for plumbing and electrical work (depending upon the system installed and the skills of the installer).  Eleven installers doing an installation every week day would be the minimum required to install 2400 systems.  Given the need to do site visits to quote on jobs and the variability of time required to do different installation, more than 20 installers would likely be needed to cover this level of installations.  There will also be additional staff required in sales and marketing, and over time, there will be jobs created in repairs and maintenance.

Establishing a small manufacturing facility and generating more local interest in installing solar hot water systems will therefore result in around 30 – 40 new jobs.  Making this initiative a success will then provide the enterprise with the experience to expand into a diverse range of sustainability manufacturing and installation initiatives, resulting in more job creation.

Gippsland Trades and Labour Council is continuing to push ahead to establish Eureka’s Future in the Latrobe Valley, now that the initial work done by CFMEU Mining and Energy in commissioning the Business Plan is complete.

The unit we will produce is the Everlast tank, solar collectors and associated components, a unit which is already successful in the marketplace.

The plan is to start with, but not be limited to:

  • Manufacturing Jobs linked to environmental sustainability.
  • Providing jobs which never leave our shores because they are owned by union-supported Social Enterprises, affiliated to the ESEA.
  • Manufacture of Solar Hot Water Units – 26% of the household bill.
  • Organising for deferred payment either through a person’s Energy Bill, their EBA or Superannuation.
  • Ultimately diversifying into manufacture of the full range of green technologies (see below).
  • While the majority of profit will advance the Social Enterprises, we will seek to always insure that some profits are used towards the elimination of youth homelessness and the waiting list for our elderly in hospital, dental, optical, and for other social justice responsibilities. We intend to take our communities with us.

The  cooperative aims to address both the pending environmental overload and the economic issues arising from it, based on development and implementation of new technologies for energy production. It provides a regional context, at the heart of the power generation economy in the LaTrobe Valley, for staged redeployment of a workforce.

You can view details of the development at http://www.earthworker.org/

A Viable Energy Production

The argument often made is that renewable energy cannot replace the “baseload” nature of our coal generators.  Two reasons are often given for this:

The first is that you could never harvest the amount of energy stored in fossil fuels such as coal which is quite energy dense from the wind/sun and biomass.

This is in error because we actually only need to replace the “delivered energy” service, not the energy contained in the raw coal.  According to the Federal Government’s Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator in June 2009, of the 2050PJ delivered to power stations by coal, only 388 PJ is used by industry, or less than 20%.  It is not 2050PJ we need to replace, but 388PJ.

The second reason cited against the viability of renewables is that the wind doesn’t blow all the time and the sun doesn’t shine all the time.

However Australia is a vast country and our electricity system spans the eastern seaboard, with varied meteorological conditions.  Solar Thermal Plants, 97,000MW of which is now planned for Government land in California, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado have 17 hours of storage and run annual capacity factors of 75% very similar to Latrobe Valley 85-90% capacity factors.  Lowest sun periods in Queensland Jan/Feb correlating with the monsoon offset lowest solar incidence in the southern latitudes June/July at excellent solar sites such as Mildura.  Because Solar thermal with storage works the same as a hydro dam, in that the heat energy is stored in giant molten salt tanks (Two small 50MW plants in Spain store 1,045MWe and dispatch power each night for 7.5 hours after sun down.  Solar Thermal stations are proposed worldwide with 50MW, 250MW and 400MW turbines. They are able to provide “firming” power like a gas peaker or hydro dam, to match the supply curve of more variable wind power.

Plant Closures

We are faced with the possible phased closure of Morwell, Hazelwood and Yallourn within a very few years.  Closure of these three older plants could happen in any number of ways and will more than likely happen as a result of the combination of overseas corporations closing them down, as part of a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), and/or massive pressure from populations as a result of catastrophic climate change.

CCS is something that our union will obviously pursue because in the long run, if it works as planned, it will provide valuable time and space for Australia to put the 50, 100 year and beyond-solutions we will require to maintain a relatively civilised standard of living. Employers on the other hand see things in terms of costs and return for the shareholders.  With plant closures imminent, if we are limited to negotiation with Governments and corporations with protest as our fall back, our union’s ability to defend our membership and their families into the future is under threat.  In the shorter term however, with our members as the renewable energy provider , we can begin building the alternative jobs and environment pathways straight away. Therefore our union is taking the reins and determining our own direction.

We are moving beyond protest! Wont you join us in this, our country’s work!

Labor unrest and role of unions

21 06 2010
By Anita Chan (China Daily)

Workers of several factories in Guangdong province have been drawing global attention over the past couple of weeks. First, there were reports of workers jumping to their deaths in a factory of Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer. Around the same time, some 2,000 workers went on a two-week strike at a Honda component manufacturing factory, halting production in four Honda assembly plants. The two were unrelated incidents but the causes were similar – low pay, long working hours, absence of channels to redress their grievances, and trade union branches that exist only in name.

The methods chosen by the workers to protest against their plight were very different – Foxconn workers committed suicide out of desperation, but despite consequential international publicity their co-workers did not seize the opportunity to organize themselves in protest.

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The Honda workers, on the other hand, were well organized, strategic and assertive, demanding sizeable wage increases, proposing a pay scale and a career ladder, electing their own representatives, re-electing office-bearers to their union branch and demonstrating solidarity and a determination to win.

The passivity of the Foxconn workers is not new. Migrant workers generally accept their fate, and protests only flare up when work begins to stretch their physical tolerance to the limit, or when their legal rights are violated and wages not paid.

In contrast, the Honda workers went on strike to demand higher wages and better working conditions, something that is unprecedented among Chinese migrant workers. Their employer apparently had not violated the law by paying them a wage below the legal minimum level. They were fighting proactively for their interests rather than for their minimal legal rights.

The All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) has realized that the Honda strike is a different form of labor protest, not least because it goes to the heart of a problem – what is the union’s legitimate role. Its impact is potentially enormous.

At Foxconn, the union did not even come forward to make a statement. And at Honda, the union blatantly sided with the local government, which in turn was on the side of the employer. In both places, the workplace unions fitted the stereotypical image that migrant workers have of the official unions – that they are “useless”.

There are a handful of city-level and workplace unions in State enterprises or large joint ventures that play an intermediary role between the management and workers. They have softened some of the harsher edges of management practices. They are even able to informally negotiate better wages for workers, which are then formalized by so-called “collective consultation agreements”.

In contrast, in foreign enterprises in Guangdong’s Pearl River Delta region, union representatives (where they exist, that is) are assigned by the local governments, whose paramount interest is to attract foreign investment. These governments, historically, are former production brigades or communes or townships, which now rent out land to companies and appoint a few local union-ignorant people to run the trade union offices. Even some higher-level union officials dismiss them as “fake unions”.