In a show of anger against the attacks on workers rights by NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell, 12,000 public sector workers stopped work and rallied outside NSW parliament on June 15. The protest was organised in just over a week, and several unions, including the Nurses Federation and the fire fighters took stopwork action on the day. In spite of constant rain, the rally spread out for more than a block along Macquarie Street and into Martin Place.
A bill attacking the rights of NSW public sector workers pushed by the O’Farrell Coalition government are set to pass through the upper house on June 14, with the support of Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats and the Shooters Party. It can then be put through the Liberal dominated lower house on June 15. The anti-union bill is a draconian measure. If passed, it will give the state government the power to unilaterally set the wages and conditions of public sector workers.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members at Macquarie University in Sydney took rolling industrial action across four faculties during the first teaching week of semester. The industrial action was part of a campaign for a new collective agreement for academic staff. Three hundred staff and students rallied on March 3 to hear about the bargaining impasse. Issues of concern for staff include overcrowded classes, lack of facilities, workloads, budget cuts and job security.
The secretaries of eight NSW unions have signed a letter to the NSW Greens urging them to “commit to an upper house preference swap with Labor” at the upcoming NSW state election. The unions represented include the Communications Electrical Plumbing (Telecommunications and Services Branch), the Construction Forestry Mining Energy union (Energy and Construction divisions), the Maritime Union of Australia national office, the Fire Brigade Employees Union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Australian Services Union and the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers’ Union.
For communities affected by Cyclone Yasi and the recent floods across Queensland, Western Australia, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, it will be no comfort to hear that the Fair Work Act provides little protection for workers from unscrupulous employers. Many bosses will choose to stand workers down without pay if their business is affected by these natural disasters. At the height of the Queensland floods, state Workplace Rights Ombudsman Don Brown told ABC Online on January 21 that employers have the right to not pay workers for time off caused by the floods.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) began industrial action on June 30 to pressure management to reach agreement with the union on a range of claims. They want reinstatement of job security protections for contract research staff; improved conditions for casual and fixed-term staff; Indigenous employment targets and an increase in paid parental leave from 26 to 36 weeks.
The Live Red Art Award and Festival, an initiative supported by Cultural Dissent seeks to promote and recognize art that investigates a radical social and political perspective.
Thousands of staff from 16 universities across the country will strike on September 16 for new union collective agreements. The actions follow strikes at the University of New England and Charles Sturt University on September 9 and at Victorian and Tasmanian campuses on May 21.
SYDNEY A network of trade union activists concerned about climate change has formed in Sydney.