Over the past two weeks the Victorian Labor government has ramped up its hostile rhetoric towards rail and tram workers fighting to defend their rights. This culminated in joint legal action taken in the Fair Work Commission with rail boss Metro Trains against the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) in a bid to stop railway workers from taking strike action on September 4. It failed to stop the strike going ahead.
An emotional and highly charged stopwork meeting of hundreds of tram workers jammed into Trades Hall on August 27 to hear a report on their dispute with Yarra Trams. Yarra Trams and Metro Rail workers had called off a planned four-hour strike on August 21 in the hope that the companies would present the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) with a better offer. The better offer never came so the tram workers struck for four hours on August 27. This was the first tram strike since 1997.
After a huge amount of political pressure from the Victorian government, the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) agreed to postpone its August 21 tram and train strike, and Metro Rail and Yarra Trams agreed to return to the negotiating table. Had the strike gone ahead it would have been the first such strike in 18 years. RTBU members were clearly fed up with their respective train and tram companies, with 98% of railway workers and 99.4% of tram workers who returned ballots voting for industrial action.
August 13 was Day 4 of an indefinite strike and picket by workers at Woolworths’ Melbourne Liquor Distribution Centre (MLDC). The strike began at 4am on August 9 when workers walked off the job in protest at Woolworths’ plans that all new employees would be labour hire casuals. During the last enterprise bargaining negotiations, Woolworths had agreed not to introduce labour hire. Currently, all employees, including casuals, are directly employed by Woolworths with opportunities for casual workers to apply to become permanent each year.
The official unemployment rate in Broadmeadows is 23.5% but the real unemployment and underemployment rates are far higher. Youth unemployment is higher than the overall rate. We are very close to the 30% unemployment rate of the Great Depression. Woolworths has now announced that it intends to close its Hume Distribution Centre and shift it across town to the outer south-eastern suburbs. This would throw about 680 people out of work.
In what has become a typical pattern by employers, Woolworths sent a text message to the 680 workers at its distribution centre in Broadmeadows on June 9 to inform them that the warehouse would be closed down in 2018.
Woolworths’ decision that all new employees at its Melbourne Liquor Distribution Centre (MLDC) will be labour hire casuals has sparked an indefinite strike.
There has been a wave of support for famous Sydney Swans footballer Adam Goodes in the face of the racist torrent that has been directed at him. At the same time as people are expressing their solidarity with Goodes, right-wing commentators such as Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine and Alan Jones are doing their best to stoke the racism, by denying that Goodes has been subjected to racist booing.
Photo: Ali Bakhtiarvandi. A planned show of strength by racists and neo-Nazis in Melbourne backfired when once again far-right protesters were outnumbered 20 to one on July 18.
The demonising of asylum seekers is an elaborate exercise in racist scapegoating designed to distract Australians from the real causes of anxiety and insecurity in their lives. We need to be absolutely uncompromising in our resistance to this toxic agenda.