Seasonal fruit pickers are systemically exploited and underpaid. Now several unions are mounting a challenge, Jim McIlroy reports.
Fair Work Commission
Delivery rider Josh Klooger told the Fair Work Commission on July 3 that he deserves rights and protections, after Foodora sacked him earlier this year when he challenged their low rates and poor conditions.
The hearing is the first involving an unfair dismissal of a worker in the gig economy.
Ahead of the hearing, Klooger said: “Riders deserve fair rates, superannuation and protections when they are sick and injured on the job.
"We deserve the right to be able to challenge unfair sackings and speak out about the way we are treated.
Earlier this year firefighters employed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) voted to endorse the proposed enterprise agreement that had been agreed on by MFB management and the United Firefighters Union (UFU).
This followed a long campaign by the union for an agreement that would protect workers' rights. UFU state secretary Peter Marshall told Green Left Weekly the agreement was endorsed by the "overwhelming majority" of firefighters.
About 700 members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and other unions gathered at Sydney Town Hall on May 29, and marched to the offices of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) where a lively rally was held calling for an end to laws limiting the right to strike.
The action was organised around demands for the right to organise, right to strike and right to live.
Workers at the Streets ice-cream factory in the south-western Sydney suburb of Minto voted on November 22 to end a boycott campaign against the company, after agreeing to ratify an in-principle agreement with Streets over pay and other issues.
The new agreement will reportedly give the workers a 5% wage increase over three years, maintain their current working conditions and rosters and add 39 new flexible part-time jobs to the company’s workforce.
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.
Less than a week after federal education minister Simon Birmingham urged universities to follow the example of Murdoch University in West Australia in terminating its enterprise agreement (EA), vice chancellors at another two universities launched actions designed to undermine staff unions and collective bargaining.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) said the Fair Work Commission’s decision on August 29 to agree to terminate Murdoch University’s enterprise agreement (EA), which covers more than 3000 staff, is extremely disappointing but not unexpected.
The test for terminating an agreement is very low. The agreement must be past its expiry date, negotiations for a replacement agreement must have been unsuccessful, termination must not be against the public interest and it must be considered “appropriate” to do so.
Townsville pizza delivery driver Casey Salt and the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) are taking Domino's to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) in the latest challenge to unfair agreements struck between big retail and fast food employers and the conservative Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees Association (SDA).
Salt will ask the FWC to terminate an exploitative agreement her employer made with the SDA that has left workers underpaid tens of millions of dollars
Multinational giant Unilever, which owns Streets ice cream, has applied to the Fair Work Commission to terminate an enterprise agreement at its Minto plant in western Sydney. If the workers are forced back on to the award, they would suffer a significant loss in pay and conditions.
The Minto workers, members of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), rejected a proposed agreement that would have seen new employees paid less and with worse conditions compared to existing workers.
About 190 Oaky North miners were locked out of their workplace in the Bowen Basin west of Rockhampton on August 4 for a third consecutive eight-day period. It was the fourth time the workers had been locked out since June by Anglo-Swiss mining giant Glencore, which the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) suspects of trying to replace the permanent workforce with contractors.
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.
For a second time the Fair Work Commission has rejected the ACTU’s bid to make 10 day’s paid family and domestic violence leave a minimum standard in all modern awards.
However, in what the ACTU said was a move in the right direction, the full bench of the FWC said it had “formed the preliminary view that all employees should have access to unpaid family and domestic violence leave and … should be able to access personal/carer’s leave for the purpose of taking family and domestic violence leave”.
Minimum wages rises $22 a week
Australia's lowest-paid workers will get a $22 a week pay rise after the Fair Work Commission lifted the national minimum wage to $694.90 from July 1.
FWC lifted the wage by 3.3% or 59 cents an hour to $18.29 an hour. Inflation for the year to the end of March was 2.1%. Minimum rates in modern awards will also rise by 3.3%.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus said the rise would not make up for penalty rate cuts affecting 700,000 workers.
The decision will affect up to 2.3 million people reliant on minimum rates of pay.
An Essential poll released on March 7 found 56% of voters disapprove of the Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut penalty rates in the retail, hospitality, fast food and pharmacy industries, while 32% approve.
Asked what would be the result of the cuts, 57% said businesses would make bigger profits; only 24% thought more people would be employed.
On whether the government should legislate to protect penalty rates, 51% said yes while 31% said it should accept the decision.
More than 1000 early childhood educators walked off the job at 3.20pm on March 8 as part of a national action to protest gender pay inequality and a lack of government funding for the industry.
Dozens of childcare centres closed mid-afternoon to support the national campaign, which follows similar actions held on the same day last year.