ACTU

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) launched its national boycott campaign against Streets ice cream products on October 29, urging people to “stand up for fairness and commit to a Streets-Free Summer”.

AMWU NSW secretary Steve Murphy said the workers had no choice but to call for a boycott after Streets “hit the nuclear option”.

In public debate “the thin end of the wedge” — the notion that once made, any penetration of the status quo will inevitably be followed by something greater — is an idiom invoked almost exclusively in the negative. It is an insufferable refrain of the perpetually fearful, the racist, the homophobic, the xenophobic, the Islamophobic, and the climate change-phobic.

It is one of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s favourite lines.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions launched its national “Change the Rules” campaign in Perth on September 21. The campaign seeks to push for pro-worker changes to the Fair Work Act.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said: “We need to change the rules at work so working people can’t be held to ransom by bad employers who will use loopholes to cancel agreements, cut pay and slash conditions.”

The time has come to scrap the misnamed Fair Work Act (FWA) and introduce genuine pro-worker and pro-union industrial relations legislation in this country.

Rising pressure on federal employment minister Michaelia Cash to resign over her cover-up of the illegal actions by former Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) head Nigel Hadgkiss merely underlines the fact that Australia’s industrial relations system is badly broken.

The historical and current injustices following the establishment of industry superannuation and the subsequent undermining of this important social policy initiative needs to be scrutinised.

Today’s crisis of the established political parties and the rise of far-right political projects are linked to the long-running capitalist crisis in which neoliberalism is immiserating the working class and small producers.

The recent Fair Work Commission (FWC) decision to cut penalty rates for weekends and public holidays will deliver a windfall to big retail and hospitality bosses, while slashing the wages of about 700,000 low-paid workers.

Figures released by the ACTU put the average worker in accommodation and food services on only $524 a week and those in retail on just $687. Contrast this with the average pay of $1163 for all Australian workers and you can see just how draconian FWC’s decision is.

Dave Oliver announced his resignation as secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions on January 31 after five years in the post. Vice-president Sally McManus is likely to take the role.

Today, there are 55 workers still camping outside Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) in Melbourne, 16 weeks after they were sacked when their employer lost the maintenance contract for the brewery.

Most of these workers were directly employed by CUB until their jobs were outsourced in 2009. There was a hard fought campaign to keep the positions permanent but, in the end, the workers were forced to settle for contracts with no loss of income or conditions. Supposedly it was a “win/win”.

Fifty years ago this week, 200 Aboriginal stockmen and domestic servants walked off the job at Lord Vestey's Wave Hill cattle station, 600 kilometres south of Darwin. Most of them were members of the Gurindji people, with small numbers of Walpiri and other indigenous people. They were to stay out on strike for ten years.

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