Fair Work Australia

Australian workers are doing it tough. Wage rises have dropped to their lowest level in decades: ABS figures show average full-time wages have fallen below basic cost of living needs. Casual workers have taken an even harder hit.

It’s time to fight back and get organised. The Australian Council of Trade Unions seems to have come out of its bunker. It has called for a full blown “Change the Rules” campaign to win back our “rights at work”, lost progressively since 1996.

Treasurer Scott Morrison's speech to a Bloomberg business breakfast in Sydney on August 25 echoed previous warnings by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that Australians were heading for economic trouble if the new parliament fails to pass the government's "omnibus" budget package.

"This morning marks 50 days since the start of this important dispute," Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Sydney branch assistant secretary Paul Garrett told Green Left Weekly on September 25.

He was speaking at the community assembly outside the Hutchison Ports terminal at Port Botany, which was set up after the company's sudden sacking of 97 waterside workers by text and email on August 6.

A resolution of the long-running dispute between the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Hutchison Ports is reported to be near, as the community assemblies continue at the terminals at Port Botany and the Port of Brisbane.

A further hearing in Fair Work Australia is due in the week beginning September 21.

The dispute began on August 6, with the midnight sacking by text and email of 97 waterside workers at the two ports.

Following a Federal Court injunction, the sacked workers are back on the payroll, but are not being rostered on to work.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Hutchison Ports management agreed on August 28 to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which will result in all sacked workers at Port Botany and Port of Brisbane being reinstated for a further six weeks from August 31.

Top officials from the John Howard government's Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) have been appointed to head its successor, the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate (FWBII).

The ABCC was never completely abolished under the recent Labor government, but instead had most of its functions transferred to the Inspectorate.

Employment minister Eric Abetz appointed former ABCC deputy commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss as director of the inspectorate, and former ABCC commissioner, John Lloyd, as chair on October 17.

Despite Fair Work Australia putting in place an injunction banning National Union of Workers (NUW) officials from taking part in the Baiada poultry workers’ picket line, workers and community supporters were able to hold off an attempt by riot police to break the picket late on November 11.

One man’s legs were crushed when about 80 police charged the picket. He was taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg.

NUW members at Baiada Poultry in Laverton North voted to begin indefinite strike action on November 9 and instigated a picket line around the chicken processing plant.

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