Student activists at La Trobe University have begun a campaign against a proposal to slash funding to the Humanities and Social Sciences faculty. About 150 students and staff protested at the university’s Bundoora campus in Melbourne’s northern suburbs on July 31. Students marched to the administration building where security guards wrestled with a protester and locked the students out. Undeterred, students marched to the office of Humanities and Social Science dean Tim Murray where they were also locked out but occupied the corridor outside the office.
On July 25, Tamil refugee Dayan Anthony (formerly known as "Mr X" in Australia in an attempt to protect his identity from Sri Lankan authorities), was deported from Melbourne. Australian authorities handed him over to the Sri Lankan intelligence forces - who had held Mr Anthony in custody for years, and had tortured him.
Coles warehouse workers met two days into an indefinite strike on July 12 and voted unanimously to reject the latest offer from their direct employer Toll Logistics. Hundreds had gathered on a picket line to prevent trucks entering the site. Striking workers outside the warehouse, which owner Coles outsources to Toll, told Green Left Weekly that the offer wasn’t really “new”, but was only tweaked slightly from the old offer.
The indefinite strike by Coles warehouse workers in Somerton, Melbourne, began with a few hundred people on the picket lines from 6am on July 10. At the time of writing, no trucks have been allowed in or out of the site. Coles outsources the operation of the warehouse to Toll Logistics. Coles and Toll had expected industrial action, but they hadn’t expected that the workers would vote for an indefinite strike.
In the first construction worker rally in years, up to 10,000 workers marched through Melbourne on July 4, telling the state government to dump its new building code. Premier Ted Baillieu’s Coalition government began to implement its Code of Practice for the Building and Construction Industry on July 1. Unions say the new code is all about attacking unions. Building companies that fail to comply with the code on any site will be thrown off the government tender list.
About 500 Toll warehouse workers at Somerton in Melbourne’s northern suburbs have voted for an indefinite strike in their campaign for a new enterprise bargaining agreement. The warehouse is a Coles distribution centre, but Coles outsources the workers to Toll Logistics. This has resulted in workers getting up to 20% less pay than other Coles warehouse workers.
The Ballroom at Melbourne Trades Hall was packed with about 130 people on May 4 for a public forum titled “Protest on Trial”. The event sought to build support for the “Max Brenner 19” — Palestine solidarity activists on trial for taking part in a protest outside a Melbourne Max Brenner chocolate shop last year. Speakers at the forum drew links between the violent attacks on Occupy Melbourne last year and the police repression of peaceful Palestine protesters outside Max Brenner.
The Victorian Coalition government has taken to the state with a razor and announced huge cuts in the 2012 budget. These are the biggest cuts since the Jeff Kennett-led Coalition government that ruled Victoria from 1992-1999. Victorian TAFE institutes in particular will be hard hit. The level of cuts was so severe that higher education minister Peter Hall sent a letter to TAFE heads on April 29 indicating that he had considered resigning from the ministry.
Nineteen Palestine solidarity protesters face court on May 1 for their involvement in a protest on July 1 last year in support of Palestine. At the July 1 protest outside a Max Brenner chocolate store, the police ran wild, viciously attacking peaceful protesters. Max Brenner is owned by Israeli conglomerate the Strauss Group, a company that provides “care rations” for the Israeli military forces in occupied Palestine, including the Golani and Givati brigades.
Local bus services in the City of Whittlesea in Melbourne’s outer north may be thrown into chaos due to the opening of the South Morang rail extension on April 22. Rather than serving the new station and surrounding housing estates with new bus services, the Baillieu Liberal state government intends to re-route most of the existing Epping and Mill Park bus services to South Morang without public consultation and with little information to the public.
Mental health workers have been striking for two hours at a time in rolling stoppages around Victoria since April 10. The campaign is in support of a new enterprise bargaining agreement. Key elements of the claim include a 16% pay rise over three years and improved staffing. After seven months of negotiation, the government has still not budged on its position of capping pay rises at a below-inflation 2.5% a year. The union covering mental health workers, the Health and Community Service Union (HACSU), has negotiated with the employers via Fair Work Australia.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) was forced into compulsory arbitration in December over the primary Victorian Public Service Agreement (VPS), but continues to campaign on several other agreements. There is still no outcome of the compulsory arbitration from the VPS, which covers 30,000 state public servants. For agencies such as the Victorian SES, parliament and parks, enterprise bargaining agreements expired mid-last year. But negotiations were stalled because the government still insists on a cap of 2.5% a year on public sector pay rises.
The decision by the organisers of the three-day Marxism 2012 to invite a broader range of international speakers and allow other socialist groups to set up stalls at its three-day Marxism 2012 conference in Melbourne over the Easter long weekend was a welcome and positive step. The conference is organised each year by Socialist Alternative and its sister organisation, the International Socialist Organisation of Aotearoa/New Zealand.
“I was a people smuggler,” said Hungarian refugee and refugee rights activist Peter Farago to a public meeting of about 70 people in Melbourne on March 27. The public meeting, titled “Smuggled to Freedom: behind the anti-people smuggling rhetoric”, was organised by the Refugee Action Collective Victoria to expose the rhetoric behind the government’s anti-people smuggling campaign.
Another company is following in the footsteps of Qantas by locking out its workers from March 5 to 14. Sigma, a company that distributes pharmacy products to wholesale and retail customers, locked out 150 workers in an attempt to intimidate them into ceasing all industrial action. The workers are members of the National Union of Workers. The workers walked off the job for 48 hours on February 23 after Sigma management told them that it would cut night-time shift loadings. Workers at both the company’s sites at Rowville in Melbourne and Shepparton walked off.