Graham Matthews

The detail of the federal Labor government’s plan for its new industrial relations system, to come into force in January 2010, is beginning to come to light. On April 9, the Australian Financial Review reported that it had obtained a copy of a letter sent by workplace relations minister Julia Gillard to a range of unions and businesses. It canvassed their opinion on issues including the scope of allowable content in workplace agreements, the scope of individual “flexibility” clauses to be mandatory in all awards and enterprise agreements and regulation of industrial action during a bargaining period for a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA).
At 11pm on April 7, 1998, Patrick Stevedores locked 2000 waterside workers out of their jobs. Following months of speculation, the “leasing” of Webb dock in Melbourne to the National Farmers Federation in late January and the abortive “Dubai affair” — where former soldiers were trained in secret in Dubai as strike-breaking scabs — Patrick opted for a frontal assault on the workers and their union.
On March 20, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that federal immigration minister Chris Evans had agreed to “speed-up” the processing of 457 visas, which allow bosses to hire skilled workers from overseas to fill alleged skill shortages.
On March 12 the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) lodged a submission to the Fair Pay Commission calling for a $26 a week pay increase for workers covered by awards — a 4.9% increase for workers paid the minimum wage (currently $522.12 a week).
On March 10 and 11, the Sydney Morning Herald ran an expose of “white flight” from public schools across NSW. Using a previously confidential survey of 163 high school principals in NSW, it described the phenomenon where increasing numbers of white-European parents were removing their children from disadvantaged public schools in regional and remote areas and areas in Sydney’s south-west and placing them in private schools or in selective state schools in more distant suburbs.
On March 12, 100 people joined a community assembly at the Sydney desalination plant site to protest against the sacking of a Maritime Union of Australia divers’ delegate for raising health and safety issues. It was also to protest the failure of Construction Diving Services (a subsidiary of Dempsey Industries) to negotiate a collective agreement with 14 divers on the site. Apart from MUA members, delegations from the Fire Brigades Employees Union and the Rail Tram and Bus Union attended.
“We’re approaching the future with some confidence notwithstanding the obstacles that are put in our path by institutions like the ABCC [Australian Building and Construction Commission]”, Dave Noonan, national secretary of the construction division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union told Green Left Weekly. Noonan spoke to GLW after the CFMEU national conference, held in Sydney from February 18-22.
SYDNEY — The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) organised a community rally outside the Sombreros Mexican restaurant in the beachside suburb of Cronulla on March 7. The rally was to protest the sacking of chef Basilo Reyes for taking time off to have a cancer removed.
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) organised a community rally outside the Sombreros Mexican restaurant in the beachside suburb of Cronulla on March 7. The rally was to protest the sacking of chef Basilo Reyes for taking time off to have a cancer removed.
Less than 12 months after its re-election, the NSW Labor government is in a poll slump — Premier Morris Iemma has a public approval rating of just 34%, according to a Nielsen poll released on February 26 (the Coalition’s Barry O’Farrell managed just 27%). The government has been rocked by scandals involving dodgy deals with developers, new hospitals unfit for patients, and faulty equipment delaying the opening of new rail lines.
Federal opposition IR spokesperson, Julie Bishop, formally announced that the Coalition had dropped its opposition to the Labor government’s plan to “abolish” Australian Workplace Agreements (individual contracts) on February 19.
On February 14, in a clever piece of political theatre, Labor PM Kevin Rudd declared that federal MPs would forgo their scheduled pay rise for 2008. MP’s wages would effectively be frozen until mid-2009. Rudd also called on business executives to curb their pay rises, which averaged in excess of 30% in 2007 according to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).