workers' rights & unions

Twenty-two Canberra school cleaners won a claim for underpayment in the Federal Court on April 21, in a case launched on their behalf by United Voice.

Nineteen of the workers are S’gaw Karen refugees from Myanmar, who spent two decades in refugee camps in Thailand before being resettled in Australia. 

The part-time school cleaners had been pressured into signing contracts they did not understand, paid by different business entities without explanation either to the workers or the ACT government and routinely exposed to unsafe working conditions.

More than 35 million people in Brazil launched one of biggest general strikes in the country’s history against President Michel Temer’s neoliberal reforms on April 28, bringing the country to a standstill.

The strike was largely organised by Unified Workers Central (CUT), the largest union federation in Latin America. It was backed by the Workers Party (PT) of Dilma Rousseff, the elected president overthrown in an institutional coup last year.

Dozens of other unions, grassroots groups teachers, church leaders and civil servants also threw their support behind the strike.

Recently, I received an email invitation from the University of NSW Young Alumni to attend “networking drinks” with the co-founders of Airtasker.

One hundred years ago, on May 7, 1917, the following declaration appeared on the front page of the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda under the title, “Draft of a mandate for use in electing delegates to the Soviet of Worker and Soldier Deputies”. 

This “mandate” marked the first appearance of the slogan “All power to the Soviets” in an official party statement.

The Soviets emerged out of the February Revolution that year, which succeeded in overthrowing the Tsar. The Soviets were based on elected delegates of workers, soldiers and peasants.

The struggle to build a united left force with enough support to implement real social and environmental change took a crucial step forward in Barcelona on April 8.

On a bright spring day, the new Catalan “political subject” provisionally called Un Pais En Comu (“A Country Together”) held its founding congress.

The group, whose definitive name will be decided by membership referendum, is the third Catalan left unity project with “en comu” (“together”) in its title.

Prime Minister Theresa May has called a general election for June 8.The Tory leader is hoping that Labour has been sufficiently weakened by the attacks of the right on Labour’s left-wing leadership around Jeremy Corbyn that she will be rewarded with a further five years in office.

It is, of course, a complete coincidence that rumours had started to emerge that the Crown Prosecution Service were about to move against 30 individuals for electoral fraud in the last general election, threatening the Conservative government.

Staff at stationery chain Kikki.K will be the first employees covered by an enterprise agreement to directly face cuts as a result of the Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut weekend penalty rates.

The 550 Kikki.K workers are covered by a new enterprise agreement approved last month.

It has a clause that allows it to cut public holiday and Sunday penalty rates without any opportunity to renegotiate when the FWC's cuts to the retail award come into effect.

The deal was struck without the involvement of any union or employee bargaining representatives.

Workers at Fletcher Insulation in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs have been on indefinite strike since February 17 after being offered an Enterprise Agreement (EA) that would slash conditions, raise serious safety concerns and offer no pay rise.

Fletcher Insulation produces heat, fire and sound insulation for residential and business properties. New Zealand-owned Fletcher took over the Dandenong factory from ACI Glass several years ago.

Multinational timber industry giant Carter Holt Harvey has indefinitely locked out about 150 workers who are members of the Electrical Trades Union; Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union; and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union at the company's Myrtleford plyboard manufacturing site.

The lock out began at 2.30am on April 19.

It follows a breakdown in enterprise agreement negotiations between the company and unions.

Union members are seeking improved income protection insurance coverage and a significantly better wage rise than the company is offering.

KFC, Pizza Hut, Carls Jr and Starbucks workers wenton strike across new Zealand on April 22 after negotiations broke down over a new collective agreement.

“Yesterday Restaurant Brands announced  profits of $26 million and they have paid their CEO a million dollar bonus. Tomorrow the workers who actually make and sell their products have to go on strike to get a few cents above the minimum wage” said Unite National Secretary Gerard Hehir said on April 21. 

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