Graham Matthews

In a majority decision of five to two, the High Court dismissed the legal challenge brought by state governments, Unions NSW and the Australian Workers Union (AWU) against Work Choices on November 14.
On November 14, the federal court ordered the reinstatement of two National Union of Workers (NUW) delegates after their employer, Saint-Gobain Abrasives, was unable to prove that its decision to dismiss them was unrelated to their involvement with the union.
John Howard’s new industrial laws contain a raft of penalties for workers and unions taking “unlawful” industrial action. Workers can face individual fines of $6600 ($22,000 for those in the building industry), and unions face $33,000 or more. One result has been a decline in industrial disputes since Work Choices was enacted in March.
On October 20-22, four local supporters of Turkish political prisoners held a solidarity hunger strike. They called on the Turkish state to abandon its F-Type prisons and for the European Union to end its support for isolation prisons. They also demanded that prisoners detained in F-Type prisons be allowed to communicate with each other, see their lawyers, and have visitors and access to books and other materials.
In its first national minimum wage decision on October 26, the Australian Fair Pay Commission (AFPC) handed down an increase of $27.36 for workers earning under $700 per week and $22.04 for those earning more than $700 covered by awards.
"If there's an organisation that can lead the trade union movement to where it should be going, it's this one", Chris Cain, Western Australian state secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia told the opening plenary of the 5th Socialist Alliance national conference held at Geelong Trades Hall on October 29.
Bernadette Peters is a part-time cleaner and a full-time activist. She is also the partner of Mal Peters, one of the “Leighton Kumagai 107", who were fined $22,000 by the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) for a strike in February in defence of a sacked health and safety delegate.
The second Workers Charter conference, held at the Auckland Trades Hall on October 7, drew a broad cross-section of the New Zealand union movement and its supporters. The Workers Charter, launched 15 months ago, is a draft list of 10 demands aimed at guaranteeing workers’ rights. Its demands cover rights such as a living wage, affordable housing and the right to strike.

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