Union Briefs

Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey.
Friday, July 21, 2017

Unions NSW: Wage theft the new business model

A Unions NSW report Lighting up the black market: Enforcing minimum wages, released on July 17, found 80% of a sample of online job advertisements in Korean, Chinese and Spanish publications around the country paid below award rates.

In a two-year investigation, translators employed by Unions NSW posed as jobseekers to gather data. It revealed widespread migrant exploitation and wage theft, particularly in the hospitality industry.

Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey said underpayment of overseas workers had become routine. "It is now a systematic business model where people think they can pay what they see as community rates rather than the appropriate rate," he said. "This is wage theft on a massive scale, perpetrated against people ill-equipped to fight back."

Unions want to use the findings to push for the right to again enter workplaces and inspect pay logs. Morey said: "We're certainly going to be pushing to have right-of-entry powers increased for unions to inspect wages books. We'll be pushing for that at the state conference in NSW in the coming weeks.”

Union rally in Sale

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and union leaders addressed a rally after 500 workers marched through the main street of Sale, Victoria, to protest Exxon Mobil’s new maintenance contract.

Up to 200 maintenance workers contracted by UGL are facing a 30% pay cut, cuts to allowances and anti-family shift rosters after the new agreement, signed by a handful of workers in WA, was then applied to the entire UGL workforce.

Other speakers at the rally included ACTU president Ged Kearney, secretary of the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council Steve Dodd, Electrical Trades Union organiser Peter Mooney and AWU organiser Jeff Sharp.

Pro employer appointees to the Fair Work Commission

In three years, the Abbott and Turnbull governments have made 14 appointments to the Fair Work Commission. All have represented employers; none have represented workers.

On July 14 it appointed three new Deputy Presidents. All have acted for companies that engaged in wage underpayment, cancelled agreements and reduced working conditions: Amber Millhouse worked for Carlton & United Brewery; Ian Masson has held senior positions at oil and gas giants Exxon Mobile and Woodside Energy; and Abbey Beaumont from Fortescue Metals

The Australian Council for Trade Unions said the prime minister had just handed corporations more power and shown his "allegiance to the business community” by giving big business even more dominance and influence over working people’s lives.

Miners strike at Oaky North coalmine

Miners from the Oaky North coalmine, west of Rockhampton, have been on strike since May over demands by Anglo-Swiss miner Glencore to be allowed to cut their wages and conditions. Glencore’s proposed workplace agreement would:

  • Limit workers’ access to union representation ;
  • Allow the company to unilaterally change rosters against the wishes of employees;
  • Pay workers based on profit, not hours and work;
  • Raise the cost of accommodation for workers provided by the company; and
  • Limit the ability of employees to have some matters determined by arbitration.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland district president Chris Brodsky said: “Workers are not asking for anything more than they are entitled to and with coal prices on the rise, Glencore has no excuse whatsoever for trying to strip workers of their basic rights.”

New enterprise agreements at UWA

An in-principle agreement has been reached for new enterprise agreements for academic and professional staff at the University of Western Australia.

The deal includes pay rises ranging from 5.9% to 9.5% over five years; a 17% employer superannuation contribution for all fixed-term staff and new appeal rights on disciplinary penalties for misconduct and unsatisfactory performance. It also includes employment objectives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff.

The parties are now completing the final drafting and the union’s bargaining team has strongly recommended that the agreement be approved. Voting on the agreement is expected to commence on August 2.

CFMEU Mining and Construction splits from QCU

CFMEU Queensland’s Construction and Mining divisions have split from the Queensland Council of Unions over its failure to push harder for industrial manslaughter laws.

QCU secretary Ros McLennan told state unions on July 14 that both divisions have "now formally notified their determination not to continue affiliation with the QCU, effective from July 1".

The government announced in May it would introduce a new offence of "negligence causing death", making employers liable to criminal prosecution over workplace deaths, but the CFMEU accused the government of neglecting health and safety by failing to pass the law.

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