workers' rights & unions

Former national secretary of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) Michele O’Neil was elected president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) at its congress in Brisbane over July 17 and 18. She replaces Ged Kearney, who won the seat of Batman, now renamed Cooper, in Melbourne in March. Sally McManus remains secretary. The following is her President’s Address to the congress.

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More than 300 truckies, their families and supporters protested around the country on July 16 to demand an end to the pressure in the industry that is killing hundreds of people on the roads every year. In the past 12 months, 184 drivers have been killed in truck crashes.

After 12 days on strike, workers at Laverton Cold Storage voted on July 6 for their first union workplace agreement.

Emma Kerin from the National Union of Workers told Green Left Weekly that the striking workers had voted unanimously to return to work after endorsing a new EBA that includes significant gains for the workers.

In this age of neoliberal cut-backs and privatisations, the NSW Teacher's Federation is fighting back to maintain and extend the gains it has won over many years.

“We call on the federal government to scrap the [NewStart Allowance] ‘demerit points plan’ and stop demonising the unemployed,” NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon told a public forum at UnionsNSW on July 4.

The forum was hosted by the national and Western Sydney branches of the Australian Unemployed Workers Union (AUWU). The AUWU is conducting a nationwide campaign, called “Dump Your Demerit Points”, to educate members on how to fight back against this punitive system.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has welcomed as a “victory for common sense” a Federal Court decision on June 21 to reject massive fines sought by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) over the Hutchison Ports dispute three years ago.

On August 6, 2015, Hutchison Ports Australia sacked 100 workers at its Port Botany terminal by text message the day before many were due to go on shift. The company then placed guards on the gates and workers were not even allowed to clear out their lockers.

The Sydney University branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) held a forum on campus on June 13 to discuss how to organise to rewin the right to strike.

Professor John Buchanan, from the University of Sydney Business School, told the forum: "The current Fair Work Act (FWA), introduced by the previous Labor government, is the second worst industrial relations legislation in Australian history, after John Howard's Work Choices.

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.

1968 was one of those extraordinary years when millions of people were involved in trying to change the world for the better. Hall Greenland writes that the year's most compelling events took place in May and June on the streets of France.

The world was shaken by an unprecedented wave of protests and rebellions against imperialism, racism, social injustice and the lack of real democracy. 1968 has been compared to 1848 because of the sheer number of countries shaken to their foundations.

One of the most exciting developments in Melbourne recently was the launch on May 21of Hospo Voice, a new union for hospitality workers, initiated by United Voice.

Host of the event James Lea said he joined Hospo Voice last year when he was offered a job at Bar Americano for $21 an hour flat rate, no penalties.

He had a meeting with the owner of Bar Americano where he was told that “penalty rates don’t exist in Victoria anymore.”

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