Melbourne

The Victorian Labor government announced on April 15 that it would fast-track the controversial North East Link, a 26-kilometre freeway to connect the Metropolitan Ring Road at Greensborough with the Eastern Freeway at Bulleen.

More than 2000 delegates from unions across Victoria overwhelmingly supported state-wide action on May 9 as part of the Change the Rules campaign.

The April 17 meeting was one of the largest gatherings of unionists seen for some time as delegates from a range of blue- and white-collar sectors filled the Melbourne Town Hall, with about 200 more being turned away at the door.

 

This is an abridged version of an interview with assistant secretary of the Victorian Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Jeff Hoy, which was broadcast on Green Left Radio on 3CR.

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The wharfies are on strike at Webb Dock once again, 20 years after the infamous Patrick dispute. Can you tell us about the current strike and the factors that led to this industrial action?

Habiburahman, a Rohingyan refugee and founder of the Australian Burmese Rohingya Organisation, has called on the Australian government to suspend its military aid to Burma (Myanmar). Australia currently spends $450,000 a year on aid to the Burmese military.

Habiburahman was speaking at a public meeting on March 28, organised by the Refugee Action Collective. 

He called for a halt to Australian investment in Burma, with human rights conditions being imposed on any resumption. Woodside Petroleum has invested $400 million in offshore gas and oil exploration.

The Coalition opposition has blocked legislation introduced by the Victorian Labor government to restructure Victoria's fire services.

The legislation aims at changing the current situation where cities such as Geelong and Ballarat, and many Melbourne suburbs are covered by the Country Fire Authority (CFA) rather than the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the Victorian state government’s March 29 announcement to arm its police with semi-automatic, military-grade weapons was an early April Fool’s joke.

After all, the announcement came in the aftermath of yet another mass shooting in the United States. It also came after the Crime Statistics Agency published data on March 15 showing that crime rates have fallen by 9.9%.

“What is happening in Venezuela is a revolution, not a dictatorship,” Pacha Catalina Guzman, an activist with Venezuela’s largest peasant-based organisation, the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front (FNCEZ) and the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ), told a public meeting of more than 40 people on March 29.

The meeting was the last in Guzman’s Australian tour coordinated by Latin America Solidarity Network (LASNET) that took her to Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney.

About 30 National Union of Workers’ members at Yakult’s Dandenong South probiotic drink factory won a wage rise of 3% and reinstatement of RDOs on March 28 after being on strike for 10 days.

The workers walked off the job on March 19 and maintained a 24-hour picket line at the site while management refused to discuss the issue. Yakult had offered 2.5% at the cost of ending RDOs and deduction of union dues from wages. Australia is profitable for Yakult — it made $332 million profit in 2016-17.

 

More than 6000 early childhood educators walked off the job on March 27 for the third time in 12 months to demand equal pay. In addition, more than 30,000 parents made other arrangements for their children, or kept them at home, to stand in solidarity with childcare workers.

The walk-off was part of a nationwide day of action called by the workers’ union United Voice prompted by the failure of the federal government to act on equal pay. Early childhood educators are among the lowest paid professionals in Australia.

The result of the Batman by-election on March 17, triggered by the resignation of Labor MP David Feeney over his citizenship status, shows Labor, with the right combination of candidate and policy, can hold off the Greens.

Labor’s Ged Kearney retained the seat, with 43% of the primary vote. The Greens’ Alex Bhathal, who many expected to win, received 39%. The Liberals did not contest the seat, although a variety of small conservative parties did.

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