Chris Slee

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.

Seventy refugee supporters held a birthday party for a young girl outside the State Library on May 12. They ate birthday cake and sang "happy birthday".

But three-year-old Kopika was unable to attend. She was kept behind razor wire in the Broadmeadows detention centre, along with her parents and sister.

About 100 people attended a forum on April 23 with the theme: "Change the rules for refugees".

The forum, organised by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC), aimed to show the links between the struggles for union rights and refugee rights.

Chairperson Lucy Honan, a member of RAC and the Australian Education Union, said that unionists and refugees are under attack by the same Coalition government. She noted that many refugees are themselves workers.

Habiburahman, a Rohingyan refugee and founder of the Australian Burmese Rohingya Organisation, has called on the Australian government to suspend its military aid to Burma (Myanmar). Australia currently spends $450,000 a year on aid to the Burmese military.

Habiburahman was speaking at a public meeting on March 28, organised by the Refugee Action Collective. 

He called for a halt to Australian investment in Burma, with human rights conditions being imposed on any resumption. Woodside Petroleum has invested $400 million in offshore gas and oil exploration.

The Coalition opposition has blocked legislation introduced by the Victorian Labor government to restructure Victoria's fire services.

The legislation aims at changing the current situation where cities such as Geelong and Ballarat, and many Melbourne suburbs are covered by the Country Fire Authority (CFA) rather than the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

More than 100 people marched in Northcote on March 10 in support of refugee rights. The rally was called by the Refugee Action Collective to focus attention on refugees in the context of the Batman by-election.

Aziz Muhammad, who has been imprisoned on Manus Island for 5 years, spoke to the rally via skype. He spoke of the “terrible” conditions on Manus Island. The three camps where refugees are living are overcrowded. There is no proper medical care. Mental health is deteriorating, as people see no hope. Refugees have been badly beaten by local people.

Two people died and homes, vehicles, shops and mosques were burnt during anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka.

The riots began in Kandy on March 5 and spread to other nearby towns. Victims accused the police of failing to protect them in the early stages of the violence. A state of emergency was declared on March 6.

Both of Victoria's daily newspapers, The Age and the Herald-Sun, had front page articles on March 6 attacking the proposed enterprise agreement covering firefighters employed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB). This agreement is currently being voted on by MFB staff.

Firefighters employed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) have begun voting on a new enterprise agreement, which includes a pay rise of 19% over four years.

The previous agreement expired in 2013.

MFB management resisted including clauses in the new agreement requiring it to consult with the United Firefighters Union (UFU) on a range of questions, such as equipment and uniforms, and clauses clearly specifying the rights of workers in relation to issues such as rosters.

About 20 people attended the launch on February 15 of a campaign aimed at countering the "law and order race to the bottom" in the lead-up to Victoria's state election in November.

The "Stop failing our kids" campaign, initiated by the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA), aims to get thousands of people to send postcards to Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews.

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