work choices

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.

More than 800 workers gathered in Bicentennial Park on August 23 to protest against the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement in a rally organised by the Electrical Trades Union (ETU).

ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks told the crowd Chinese companies need invest only 15% in a project worth at least $150 million to be able to bring in workers from overseas who are not subject to labour market testing.

For as little as $22.5 million, a Chinese investor in a joint venture with an Australian company can avoid paying Australian wages and conditions.

For the first time in Australian history, construction workers are facing government moves to seize houses and cars in relation to an industrial dispute.

The 33 workers affected took part in an eight-day strike in north-west WA in 2008. Mick Buchan of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) told the ABC that the dispute between workers and the company was resolved at the time.

“It was some time later that the ABCC [Australian Building Construction Commission] intervened and brought charges against individuals”, he said.

The fight is on at Bluescope Steel, in Western Port Hastings, where 86 maintenance workers from the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) are holding their picket lines in the face of scab labour.

The workers are under attack from their employer Silcar and Bluescope Steel, which contracts its plant maintenance to Silcar.

The steel manufacturing plant employs around 1400 people full-time and produces more than a million tonnes of steel products a year.

It had to happen eventually. Kevin Rudd's popularity has gone into decline, and the Labor party now trail the Liberals in the latest polls.

According to a May 3 Essential Research poll, Rudd's approval rating has fallen to 46%, down from 71% a year ago. The Liberals lead Labor by 51% to 49% on a “two party preferred” basis according to polling by Newspoll published in the May 4 Australian.

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