The workers at a Super A-Mart warehousing and distribution centre in Somerton, Victoria, have scored a victory over company management nearly six weeks after they were locked out of their workplace. The workers have won a 10% wage rise over the next three years, improved redundancy conditions, permanency conversions after six months, an Occupational Health and Safety committee on site, as well as a $750 sign-on bonus. Their victory was in partly due to the overwhelming success of the “Low Wage Bus Tour”, which left Melbourne on April 9 with the slogan “Raise the Wage”.
The Supreme Court of Victoria decided on March 31 to fine the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) $1.25 million for its protest action on Grocon sites in Melbourne in August 2012. Grocon is now seeking costs due to the industrial action, which could amount to an extra $1.7 million. The CFMEU-led campaign against the construction giant began over the issues of safety and appointment of shop stewards as Occupational Health and Safety representatives on high risk construction sites, in opposition to the management-appointed “safety inspectors”.
The Super A-Mart workers in Somerton have now been locked out of their workplace for three weeks. Management has refused the workers’ demands to raise wage rates to the industry average of $24 an hour, improve health and safety standards, start monthly rostered days off, and allow casual workers to become permanent. In response to the lockout, the workers, members of the National Union of Workers (NUW), have initiated an indefinite strike and 24-hour picket at the Super A-Mart warehouse complex in Somerton.
The EarthWorker Cooperative is off to a good start this year, as it begins to distribute its renewable energy products. The EarthWorker project has been the result of a 16-year development between trade unions and green movements across the country, also involving small-scale businesses that have been financially damaged by the neoliberal policies of the state and federal governments for the past two decades.
The latest unemployment figures have revealed symptoms of a long rise in inequality and falling living standards for working Australians. The unemployment rate now stands at 5.7% — the highest level since the beginning of the financial crisis back in late 2008. According to the latest figures published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of full-time jobs fell by 4400 in the month of June alone, while the number of part-time employment positions increased by 14,800.
Last August, La Trobe University was engulfed in protests from students demanding a reversal of cuts to the humanities and social sciences faculty. More than 600 subjects and 41 full-time positions were permanently wiped out by the corporate-minded vice-chancellor, John Dewar. The campaign of peaceful protest and civil disobedience has been faced with severe repression and violence from the university security. One piece of video footage clearly showed a member of the security team physically assaulting and injuring one of the protest organisers.
About 50 staff and students gathered outside the University of Melbourne ERC Library on August 2 to protest ongoing cuts in the library workforce. Corey Rabaut, an industrial officer with the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), said 13 University of Melbourne library staff members face losing their jobs due to upgrades underway in the Baillieu and ERC libraries.
On September 2, the steps of the state library, and later Parliament House, were filled with more than 300 protesters for the second time this year. The rally demanded that international and post-graduate students be given the right to hold concession cards for public transport.
On April 29, the steps of Victorian Parliament were filled with the stomping feet of angry protesters. They had marched through the city demanding public transport concession fares for international and postgraduate students.