Australian Workers Union

On January 13 Socialist Alliance members took the opportunity to visit the striking Esso workers in Longford who have been maintaining their picket line for more than 200 days.

The picket was established on June 20 last year in protest at 200 sacked Esso workers being offered their jobs back with a 30% pay cut and unfair roster changes.

Life could become harder for some of Australia's lowest paid workers.

The Australian Industry Group, on behalf of Hair and Beauty Australia, has asked the Fair Work Commission to slash Sunday and public holiday penalty rates in the hairdressing industry.

They want to reduce Sunday penalty rates for hairdressers from 200% to 150% and public holiday rates from 250% to 225%.

The Australian Workers Union said the cut would mean a qualified hairdresser could lose $85 a week for an eight-hour Sunday shift and almost $4500 a year.

The Geelong refinery dispute may not hold the record for the longest campaign for workers’ rights, but the dispute over safety nevertheless won due to a concerted campaign.

Twenty graduating Qantas apprentices have become the first aircraft maintenance engineers in decades to complete their training without being offered secure positions by the airline.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, the Australian Workers Union and the Electrical Trades Union intervened in the Fair Work Commission on February 7 to stop Qantas terminating their employment.

Forest firefighters employed by the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) have been battling the Andrews government for recognition as emergency services workers.

Hundreds of the firefighters, who work in state forests and national parks, are paid $12 an hour less than a first year forest firefighter employed by other fire agencies for doing the same work and are denied equal levels of death and disability insurance.

BlueScope's October 26 announcement that the Port Kembla steelworks would be saved from closure came as an obvious relief for the workforce, who had agreed to 500 job losses to save 4500 jobs, together with a three-year pay freeze and foregone bonuses for the next 12 months.

These union concessions are reportedly worth $40 million to BlueScope. The New South Wales government agreed to defer $60 million in payroll tax payments over the next three years, and the company will save a further $100 million through “worker flexibility”.

Enterprise bargaining is the only way that workers and their unions can legally seek wage increases. Since the system was first introduced by a federal Labor government in 1993, it has achieved its deliberate, but unstated, aim of lowering aggregate wages and increasing profits.

Esso has locked out maintenance workers from its oil and gas plants in Victoria and its offshore platforms in Bass Strait.

The move is part of an enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) dispute with members of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Australian Workers Union (AWU).

Unions had imposed bans on overtime and call-outs as part of their campaign against Esso’s proposed changes to pay and conditions. The lockouts affect the Longford gas plant, Long Island Point and Esso's oil and gas plants in Bass Strait.

The union movement’s opposition to the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) has ratcheted up since the agreement was signed in Canberra on June 17.

ChAFTA allows for 95% of Australian exports to China to be tariff free. These will include many agricultural products, including beef and dairy. In addition, there will be liberalisation of market access for the Australia's services sector, and investments by private companies from China under A$1.078 billion will not be subject to Foreign Investment Review Board approval.

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