workers' rights & unions

Despite court action by the Victorian International Container Terminal (VICT) against unions and key union leaders, support for the community assembly at Webb Dock is growing.

At the annual Geelong Trades Hall Council (GTHC) President’s Night on December 12, a solidarity motion with the community assembly was carried unanimously. The 100-strong gathering also agreed to mobilise the community on New Year’s Day 2018.

Melbourne unionists closed down Webb Dock in Port Melbourne. Photo: Matt Hrkac

On December 8, national president of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Christy Cain told a peaceful assembly of trade unionists and their supporters that every dock in Melbourne had been closed.

On that day, some 3000 trade unionists attended a rally at Webb Dock in Port Melbourne called by Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) in support of MUA members protesting the bullying, harassment and sacking of their members.

Australian Services Union (ASU) members at Melbourne’s Women’s Health West (WHW) took protected industrial action and walked off the job on November 29 to protest their employer’s actions in relation to stalled enterprise bargaining negotiations.

WHW is a not-for-profit organisation that provides a range of domestic violence and women’s health services to the community. The industrial action took place during the global “16 Days of Activism” campaign held from November 25 to December 10, which focuses on eliminating gender-based violence against women and girls.

Workers gathered at Geelong Trades Hall on November 24 to raise funds for Esso maintenance workers in Longford, Victoria, who have been locked out for 170 days. Barbecues sizzled, drinks flowed and Scabby the Rat was inflated, while workers were entertained by the classic rock band, Rock n Roll Exchange.

Esso’s maintenance contractor UGL, which operates maintenance on the gas rigs in Bass Strait, ended the previous employment agreement and offered workers a new agreement with 40% less pay, worse conditions and extended rosters on the platform with no guaranteed shore breaks.

Finance industry workers are facing increasing pressure as banks seek to maximise their already hefty profits. Our jobs are becoming increasingly precarious, and all the while our wages and conditions are being threatened with cuts.

These days, if you walk into a bank, you’ll find very few staff and a lot of ATMs, which not only give cash but do almost everything a teller can do. You will also find a concierge, whose job is to shift customers to self-service via online banking. Tellers have performance targets for shifting customers online.

Momentum for a new super-union has accelerated with a strong vote by members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) in favour of amalgamating with the giant Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU). Both unions reported an overwhelming Yes vote.

The MUA vote was 87% in favour, with 50% of members participating. This involvement is higher than past internal MUA elections for union officers.

This month we celebrate the 163rd anniversary of the Eureka Stockade.

It is important to celebrate and mark historical anniversaries, especially one such as the Eureka Stockade, whose legacy has played such a pivotal role in the struggles of Australia’s working people for a fair, just and democratic society.

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.

Centrelink, the federal government's main social welfare agency, is planning to hire 1000 private labour-hire staff to carry out "debt recovery" operations and assist in enforcing compliance by welfare recipients.

This latest large-scale outsourcing exercise comes just a month after the Coalition government announced that controversial multinational corporation Serco would use 250 employees to staff a Centrelink call centre, supposedly to help reduce long waiting times.

More than 100,000 people took part in a three-day sit-in outside the national parliament in New Delhi over November 9-11 against the “anti-worker, anti-farmer and anti-national policies” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, Inuth.com said November 13.

Ten national trade unions and many other workers’ organisations from across India took part to campaign for a 12-point workers’ rights charter.

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