Sue Bolton

Local bus services in the City of Whittlesea in Melbourne’s outer north may be thrown into chaos due to the opening of the South Morang rail extension on April 22. Rather than serving the new station and surrounding housing estates with new bus services, the Baillieu Liberal state government intends to re-route most of the existing Epping and Mill Park bus services to South Morang without public consultation and with little information to the public.
Mental health workers have been striking for two hours at a time in rolling stoppages around Victoria since April 10. The campaign is in support of a new enterprise bargaining agreement. Key elements of the claim include a 16% pay rise over three years and improved staffing. After seven months of negotiation, the government has still not budged on its position of capping pay rises at a below-inflation 2.5% a year. The union covering mental health workers, the Health and Community Service Union (HACSU), has negotiated with the employers via Fair Work Australia.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) was forced into compulsory arbitration in December over the primary Victorian Public Service Agreement (VPS), but continues to campaign on several other agreements.   There is still no outcome of the compulsory arbitration from the VPS, which covers 30,000 state public servants.   For agencies such as the Victorian SES, parliament and parks, enterprise bargaining agreements expired mid-last year. But negotiations were stalled because the government still insists on a cap of 2.5% a year on public sector pay rises.  
The decision by the organisers of the three-day Marxism 2012 to invite a broader range of international speakers and allow other socialist groups to set up stalls at its three-day Marxism 2012 conference in Melbourne over the Easter long weekend was a welcome and positive step. The conference is organised each year by Socialist Alternative and its sister organisation, the International Socialist Organisation of Aotearoa/New Zealand.
“I was a people smuggler,” said Hungarian refugee and refugee rights activist Peter Farago to a public meeting of about 70 people in Melbourne on March 27. The public meeting, titled “Smuggled to Freedom: behind the anti-people smuggling rhetoric”, was organised by the Refugee Action Collective Victoria to expose the rhetoric behind the government’s anti-people smuggling campaign.
Like many single parents, Helen Said and Ewen Kloas have spent years fighting their way out of the casual labour poverty trap to rebuild their lives and provide for their families.
Another company is following in the footsteps of Qantas by locking out its workers from March 5 to 14. Sigma, a company that distributes pharmacy products to wholesale and retail customers, locked out 150 workers in an attempt to intimidate them into ceasing all industrial action. The workers are members of the National Union of Workers. The workers walked off the job for 48 hours on February 23 after Sigma management told them that it would cut night-time shift loadings. Workers at both the company’s sites at Rowville in Melbourne and Shepparton walked off.
UPDATE, Nov 22: The striking Baiada poultry workers have won their campaign and the company has backed down. The workers won a 4% a year pay rise over 2 years. They also won increased union and delegate rights and increased redundancy payments to 42 week maximum (up from 20 weeks). Workers employed at the Baiada-owned GKK Enterprises poultry factory who were suspended after taking industrial action to support their Victorian colleagues have been reinstated.
Occupy Melbourne has re-established its occupation at Melbourne’s Treasury Gardens. Its general assemblies are still held in City Square, the original Occupy Melbourne site. Since being violently evicted from City Square on October 21, Occupy Melbourne has become a travelling occupation. When the Occupy Melbourne march arrived at the Treasury Gardens on October 29, it was met with a big police contingent, including police on horses. The police had threatened to arrest anyone who tried to pitch tents.
Green Left Weekly’s Sue Bolton has been part of the Occupy Melbourne protest since it began on October 15. Below she recounts the past week of the occupation in Melbourne’s City Square, which was broken up by a fierce police assault on October 21. * * * Day 5: Still going strong We are still going strong with about 45 to 50 tents in City Square. I estimate there are about 100 people camping each night with many others staying until late in the night.

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