Construction Unions Rally – July 4 2012 Melbourne, Australia

9 07 2012


July 5, the Fin Review covered the rally and cited MUA Victorian Secretary Kevin Bracken’s call for an end to importation of international labour racist. In fact Mr Bracken was pushing for due process of all persons who wish to obtain work in Australia and an end to the 457 visa.

In fact Mr Bracken was calling for an adherence to the existing migration process that protects international workers from abuse by giving them citizenship of this country. He was also speaking for reinforcing skills in this country and said that those skills sould cease to exist in Australia if they were not taught to Australian citizens.

The 457 visa exists exists for companies wishing to extract maximum profit by cutting corners on migration in so called skill shortage areas. However international workers employed on 457 visas have often been subject to wages and conditions that fall far short of Australian conditions and are in breach of Australia’s Fairwork industrial relations law yet the Federal govt has been loathe to regulate the 457 system.

The May 25 announcement of an agreement that would allow Hancock Prospecting to import 1715 457 visa workers to their Roy Hill mine, Federal Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has embarrassed the Federal government into some show of revision.

BOB BIRRELL, MIGRATION EXPERT, MONASH UNIVERSITY: Over the past few years, the Government has systemically rejected any proposals this that there should be labour market testing for 457 visas sponsored by Australian employers, and suddenly on Friday, the Prime Minister says that she now feels that Australian workers should be given an opportunity to apply for work that 457 visa holders intended to do. So if this was the case, it would be a massive change and administrative revolution in the 457 visa regime.

Not embarrassed enough though, to call a halt to the expansion of agreements like Roy Hill with other companies chomping at the bit to get a hold of those low paid workers.

The 7:30 report touched on the issue in May this year.

730 Report on Rhinehart's Roy Hill Mine migration agreement
(29/05/2012 copyright ABC)

KRUNO KUKOC, SENIOR IMMIGRATION OFFICIAL To date we have had four applications for EMA, we have four applications, one fully considered, assessed and before the Minister, three with us at the moment.

STEVE KNOTT, AUST. MINES AND METAL ASSOC.: The number of projects that meet that criteria of $2 billion or 1,500 employees is very small – there’s only about 10 to 13 projects in that category. So yes, there are other enterprise migration agreement programs being considered.

GREG HOY: It is clear from comments made publicly over the past week that it won’t be long before further enterprise migration agreements are announced. The multinational Chevron corporation will today neither confirm nor deny rumours that it’s Wheatstone and Gorgon gas projects off WA are the next in line for such agreements, followed by the Indian GVK and Adani coal projects in Queensland. Unions are angry at the lack of transparency.

And Gina’s position?

GINA RINEHART (from corporate video): Whilst continuing to limit sufficient guest workers, we are not only losing or delaying projects, but creating problems for the future by putting ourselves in an unnecessarily high cost base structure, from which we will be forced to struggle to compete internationally for decades ahead. Both unions and migration experts have long called for greater market testing of availability of Australian workers, including for the closely related 457 visas that have, or will, bring in tens of thousands more skilled workers than will now arrive under enterprise migration agreements.

Gina Rhinehart could not be more blatant in her stated wish to undercut Australian wages and conditions but foisting lesser conditions on 457 workers who do not have rights the same as Australian citizens.

It seems pretty clear too, that such agreements would intentionally undercut Australian Enterprise Agreements and are designed to rid the space of union representation.

Finally the Fin Review should be noted as shark infested media and should note: it is a racist migration scheme in which inherent under-privilege is linked with country of origin.


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 Current union information can be sourced at 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 where you will find links to many other like-minded information outlets.

Collective bargaining – it’s good for all of us

17 08 2010

How do nurses achieve better nurse-patient ratios to lift the standard of patient care? How do workers in dangerous industries win tougher safety standards? How do teachers win smaller class sizes to boost students’ ability to learn?
The answer is collective bargaining, and these benefits go hand in hand with better pay, better conditions and the ability to have your say at work — in all industries.

Workchoices never again – but who does stand for Fair Work?

13 08 2010

The VTHC has passed a motion to support both Greens and ALP candidates in the seat of Melbourne. The motion followed a previous motion by the Council Executive to support ALP in marginal seats. However the seat of Melbourne Greens candidate Adam Bandt is supported by several affiliate unions in preference to ALP candidate Cath Bowtell.

Both candidates spoke to the chamber at the Council meeting last Thursday as exponents of workers rights. Both candidates have a history of union employment and advocacy. They do however stand opposed to each other on Fairwork Australia.

Ms Bowtell was employed at the ACTU for 15 years and was the lead ACTU negotiator in the development of the Fair Work Act introduced by Julia Gillard. She replaces Lindsay Tanner and was the clear frontrunner to replace Mr Tanner in the marginal seat, with the support of key state and federal ministers. Mr Bandt is an industrial and public interest lawyer. He was previously a partner at Slater and Gordon and has more recently worked on legals for both the UFU and the ETU where he has been an architect of the successful CEPU representation to the ILO on the contravention of ILO conventions on workers’ rights by Fairwork Australia.

The VTHC unequivocally supports changes in Fairwork Australia and it is largely acknowledged that the Gillard Fair Work Act 2009 saw only the partial return of rights lost under Howard’s Work Choices legislation; with the retention of the ABCC, the continued outlawing of “pattern bargaining”, and considerable restrictions on union right of entry in the workplace.. Most unions have spent the last year or so adapting to the Fair Work Act, the so called Award Modernisation process and OHS ‘harmonisation’. All very time consuming and often frustrating.

The ACTU leadership has made a few brief statements about the need for a second term IR agenda in the lead up to the federal election.
At the recent ACTU Executive a comprehensive pre–federal election resolution was passed. It included strengthening workers’ rights and extending collective bargaining: “The Executive recognises there is more work to do to secure and improve the rights of working Australians.”

New Federal IR Minister Simon Crean told a recent ACTU Executive (20/7/2010) that he believed the Federal Government had ‘got the balance right’ on IR and that the Fair Work Act was not up for more changes. Victorian unions are united for change to the Fairwork legislation. Both Melbourne candidates cite support for the union position on workers rights.

Second ITUC World Congress concludes by electing its first female General Secretary

29 06 2010
25 June 2010: On Friday 25 June, Sharan Burrow was elected General Secretary of the ITUC. On the fifth and final day of its second World Congress in Vancouver (Canada) Sharan Burrow was elected to succeed Guy Ryder, the first General Secretary of the ITUC, the world’s largest international trade union organisation, founded in Vienna in 2006. Sharan Burrow will leave her post of President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), that she has held since 2000, to become the first woman at the helm of the ITUC.

“It’s a very proud moment for me, but I hope it will be also a very proud moment for every woman around the globe,” commented Burrow after her election.

“The ITUC is still facing many challenges in the wake of the global financial crisis. Although we have seen some exceptional results in a small number of countries including Brazil, Argentina, China and Australia, the recovery in jobs has not been universal. Global unemployment and underemployment continued to rise throughout 2009 and during the first half of this year” Burrow added.

The election of the first female General Secretary of the ITUC is historically significant for the global trade union movement and occurs at a time of high participation for women at the ITUC Congress with 50 % of delegate’s seats being held by women.

Michael Sommer, DGB, Germany, has been elected as the ITUC President. Jaap Wienen has been elected as the Deputy General Secretary Luc Cortebeeck, CSC Belgium, has been elected as ITUC Deputy President Nair Goulart, Força Sindical, has been elected as ITUC Deputy President

Sharan Burrow’s acceptance speech

Sharan Burrow photo gallery

Sharan Burrow- Biography

- Born in 1954 in Warren, a small town in western NSW (Australia), she started a teaching career in 1976 and became an organiser for the NSW Teachers’ Federation. President of the Bathurst Trades and Labour Council during the 1980s, she became Vice-President of Education International (EI) from 1995 to 2000. President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) in 2000, she also became in 2006 the first President of the new ITUC founded in Vienna.

See the entire biography

Westpac staff back collective agreement

29 06 2010

June 29, 2010 – 4:49PM


About 90 per cent of affected Westpac Banking Corporation’s employees have approved a new collective agreement promising a four per cent annual pay rise over two years.

The agreement covers 26,000 of the bank’s employees, including some St George, Bank SA, BT and Asgard employees.

It was endorsed by 90 per cent of affected employees at a vote last week, the Financial Sector Union (FSU) says.

// “It was a complicated and difficult process, but both of us (Westpac and the FSU) came to the table with an attitude of negotiating a good outcome and that’s what’s been achieved,” FSU national secretary Leon Carter told AAP.

The collective agreement is the first between FSU members and the bank in a decade and will deliver a 10 per cent pay rise over 26 months, a one week extension to paid parental leave, and the right to cash out long service leave and annual leave accruals.

About 28 per cent of Westpac’s 36,000 employees will not be covered by the new collective agreement, including about 5,200 St George and Bank SA branch and call centre employees who are covered by a separate agreement.

The agreement must now be approved by Fair Work Australia, after which it will become effective on September 1.

The agreement will run to December 31, 2012.

New agreement boosts apprenticeships at Ford Jun 23, 2010

29 06 2010

Four hundred AMWU members at Ford in Geelong and Broadmeadows have won significant improvements to apprentice intake quotas and other gains in a new collective agreement.

The agreement was reached after workers took protected industrial action during a drawn out bargaining period.

AMWU members took to the picket line in May, demanding better apprentice ratios, job security, wage increases, and a guarantee on entitlements in the event of redundancies.

This result is especially significant given Ford’s history of zero apprentice intake for the past three years, which it had proposed to continue over the next agreement. Ford has now agreed to take on 12 apprentices in 2011 and a further 6 apprentices in 2012.

In addition, Ford has agreed to overturn the original proposal to freeze fixed term and new tradespeoples’ wage rates at the base entry level of the trade classification structure.

These new improvements to the union collective agreement come on top of previous wins, including increased paid paternity leave from five to ten days; improved conditions while working in high temperatures; access to ten days training for Health and Safety representatives and Shop Steward representation for workers during the early stages of dispute settlement procedures.

AMWU organiser, Ian Thomas, says that the agreement has resulted in more job security for Ford workers and is a big win for apprentices in particular.

“It’s resulted in security of employment through the contractor clause. The apprentice intake is the best part of the agreement, along with the entry level wage rates.

“We got rid of the two-tiered wage system where new workers were started on a lower rate and didn’t get any pay rises out of the agreement until after they’d completed their first year of permanent employment, which would have lowered the hourly rate for any new people by up to $3 per hour”, he said.

According to AMWU Senior Delegate, Brad Pearson, while the agreement is improved many aspects of workers’ conditions at Ford, further improvements could still be made.

“As a result of taking industrial action we won a minimum guarantee of 18 apprentices over 2011-2012. Contractor consultation was greatly improved. The company had a proposal to freeze the wages of fixed term and new trades workers.

We got that removed from the agreement.

“Overall, it is a good agreement, apart from the wage increases. Ford is still not on par with Holden and Toyota in terms of workers’ wages, so there’s still plenty to fight for next time”, said Pearson.