Sue Bolton

About 500 Toll warehouse workers at Somerton in Melbourne’s northern suburbs have voted for an indefinite strike in their campaign for a new enterprise bargaining agreement.

The warehouse is a Coles distribution centre, but Coles outsources the workers to Toll Logistics. This has resulted in workers getting up to 20% less pay than other Coles warehouse workers.

The Victorian Coalition government has taken to the state with a razor and announced huge cuts in the 2012 budget. These are the biggest cuts since the Jeff Kennett-led Coalition government that ruled Victoria from 1992-1999.

Victorian TAFE institutes in particular will be hard hit. The level of cuts was so severe that higher education minister Peter Hall sent a letter to TAFE heads on April 29 indicating that he had considered resigning from the ministry.

The Ballroom at Melbourne Trades Hall was packed with about 130 people on May 4 for a public forum titled “Protest on Trial”. The event sought to build support for the “Max Brenner 19” — Palestine solidarity activists on trial for taking part in a protest outside a Melbourne Max Brenner chocolate shop last year.

Speakers at the forum drew links between the violent attacks on Occupy Melbourne last year and the police repression of peaceful Palestine protesters outside Max Brenner.

Nineteen Palestine solidarity protesters face court on May 1 for their involvement in a protest on July 1 last year in support of Palestine.

At the July 1 protest outside a Max Brenner chocolate store, the police ran wild, viciously attacking peaceful protesters.

Max Brenner is owned by Israeli conglomerate the Strauss Group, a company that provides “care rations” for the Israeli military forces in occupied Palestine, including the Golani and Givati brigades.

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.

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