More than five years since the global financial crisis, many OECD countries are still facing high rates of unemployment, losses in income and worsening social conditions. This was confirmed in the latest OECD social indicators report, Society at a Glance 2014, released on March 19. The reports says: "The financial upheaval of 2007-08 created not just an economic and fiscal crisis but also a social crisis ... Some 48 million people in OECD countries are looking for a job – 15 million more than in September 2007 – and millions more are in financial distress.
Five hundred construction workers walked off the job following the death of a young worker, who fell 30 metres from scaffolding at the Barangaroo construction site in Sydney on January 9. The NSW Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) said emergency services were called to the site at 8.30am after Lend Lease construction workers reported that a man had plunged about 30 metres to the ground. Workmates on site attempted CPR, but the 26-year-old was pronounced dead when the paramedics arrived on site.
About 200 people gathered outside the Liberal Party headquarters in Melbourne on December 4 to protest against the decision to restrict abortion in Victoria. The Victorian Liberal Party state conference voted on December 1 to wind back Victoria's abortion laws, which were amended in 2008 to decriminalise the procedure and to require a doctor with a conscientious objection to abortion to refer a woman to another doctor without prejudice.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members have been on indefinite strike at the Centre for Adult Education (CAE) since November 18, in pursuit of a new agreement with fair pay and conditions. Staff and their union have been trying to negotiate a new agreement since February 2011, and have not had a pay rise since May 2010. Their pay is 20% behind teachers in the TAFE sector, despite the Box Hill TAFE buying the CAE back in 2010.
Unionists and community activists protested outside the Melbourne headquarters of Australian-based mining company OceanaGold on November 15, in solidarity with the people of El Salvador and the Philippines. The protest took place in support of a tour by an anti-mining activist from El Salvador, Vidalina Morales. A grassroots environmental advocate, Morales has been a leader in her local area in the struggle to oppose mining in El Salvador's Cabañas province since 2006.
Supporters of refugees from Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Newcastle converged on Parliament House in Canberra on November 18. About 600 protesters gathered, among them were Hazara and Iranian refugees. The protest coincided with the Labor parliamentary caucus meeting to decide whether to support the Greens move to disallow temporary protection visas.
Unity negotiations between Australia's two largest socialist organisations, the Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative, ended after the latter's National Committee decided on October 26-27 that the unity process had “reached an impasse and consequently we are for ending the negotiations with the Alliance”. Over the past few months there were tactical disagreements between the two groups over how to advance the movements for the rights of asylum seekers and for women's liberation.
Police on horseback and riot officers violently broke up a student protest in Melbourne on October 30. The demonstration was held to oppose federal government threats to higher education, and was part of a national week of student action, called by the National Union of Students. Just two days before the protest, education minister Christopher Pyne told the ABC’s Q&A the government was investigating the possibility of selling off student HECS debt to private companies.
Emergency service workers rallied on October 29 to oppose attempts by the Victorian government to introduce sweeping changes to the Transport Accident Act, which would take away emergency workers’ common law right to seek injury compensation for psychological injury, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Peter Marshall, Victorian Secretary of the United Firefighter Union, told the rally: “63% of firefighters have moderate post-traumatic stress levels, 17% have full blown post-traumatic stress levels, and that is on the increase.
Women and men took to the street in Brunswick for Melbourne's Reclaim the Night rally and march on October 19, to demand an end to victim blaming and violence against women. Speakers included Yorta Yorta woman Monica Morgan, chairperson of Elizabeth Hoffman House, Poppy Jacob from Hollaback Melbourne, an organisation dedicated to ending the street harassment of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer individuals, Rose Ljubicic from the Council of Single Mothers and their Children, and Jane Green, a sex worker activist from the Vixen Collective.