Interview: Crowded Lives
Activists: Life With Brian
Industrial: National Focus
Unions: If These Walls Could Talk
Economics: Beating the Bastards
Media: Three Corners
History: The Brisbane Line
Trade: The Dumping Problem
Review: Frankie's Way
The Locker Room
Spicey and Tart
Tony and Pauline
PNG Bags Plastic
Fighting Words Craig Emerson
Showdown in Cancun
International union leaders will be pushing for enforcable labour standards and environment protections when they meet world trade leaders at the WTO meeting at Cancun in Mexico next week.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow will join the global unions forum for a meeting next Tuesday with WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi, US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy.
"We will be challenging the WTO's so-called neutrality on the issue of labour standards, which is promoting a race to the bottom in global working conditions. It is not good enough for the WTO to have rules about investment, but no rules about the basic rights of people affected by investment decisions. National governments, including Australia's, need to globalise the rule of law by making human rights, labour standards and environmental protections integral to the global trading framework," Ms Burrow said.
In a warm up bout before Cancun, Australian and American unions have made it clear the proposed US-Australian Free Trade Agreement will be contested unless it is shown it will benefit working people in both countries.
The American peak union body AFL-CIO has been clueing up the US Labour Department about Australia's anti-worker IR laws and is leaving open the option of a lobbying campaign of US politicians.
Qantas Won't Come Clean
Qantas promised to go down market last week with a new low cost airline to compete with Virgin and also raised the spectre of casualising a significantly greater proportion of its workforce citing SARS, Iraq and the general ambience of terror as affecting its bottom line.
This proposed new direction to casualise a minimum 25% of its workforce was nonchalently announced by Qantas to its 34,000 loyal employees through the media days before it posted a $343.5 million dollar profit. Qantas spun a gloomy line about the windfall but the truth is it would have been a record profit only for abnormals such as a $91 million depreciation write down and redundancy payments of $115 million . Financial analysts MacQuarie described the profit results as 'exceptional'.
Unions have responded that they are prepared to sit down and talk seriously about what needs to be done to maintain Qantas' health in what everyone recognises is a difficult moment in the aviation industry but not at the expense of base rates of pay and conditions.
'We are prepared to talk about flexibility but flexible work still means secure work and well paid work. Qantas employees don't have casual mortgages and casual bills. There is already a framework for casuals, part time work and job sharing within the existing agreements that can be discussed to keep Qantas competitive,' says Greg Combet.
Blue Ribbon enters 15th week
It may be cold, wet and windy at the Killafaddy gates of Blue Ribbon in Tassie but workers there are still manning the ramparts at this meatworks for the fifteenth week. The Tasmanian Industrial Commission has received final written submissions, has heard final oral submissions and a decision is now expected during September. Those on the picket line are determined it will remain in place until the final decision is handed down.
Tassie has a battle of its own raging over casuals. Misso members have been standing firm outside Cuthbertson's Tannery in South Hobart against a decision by the company to sack long term employees and replace them with labour hire. Six long term employees have been told they are no longer required - despite working in a full time capacity for up to two years.
2000 Turnout For Geelong Wool Combing Workers
In another chapter in another long festering dispute, over two thousand workers rallied in Geelong's market square this week demanding that the 93 workers who have been locked out of Geelong Wool Combing since May 1 be allowed to return to work.
In a fantastic act of solidarity, workers from the ETU, the CFMEU, the AMWU, the MUA and Plumbers division of the CEPU, attended the rally. These unions also put their money where their mouths are. Union secretaries Dave Oliver (AMWU) and Kevin Bracken (MUA) presented cheques to the combined value of $23,000 to the Geelong Wool Combing Workers. The funds were raised by donations from union members.
Redundancy Win For Queensland Workers
Queensland workers have improved redundancy entitlements following a decision in the QIRC this month which doubles the severance payment to 16 weeks for award employees with a maximum to apply after 12 years service. Left open to submission at a later date is the extension of these entitlements to long term casuals.
Phoenix council rises from the ashes
The South East of South Australia - mmmm, that sounds like our deep south - is just about to revive a regional labor council. The area is enjoying some economic prosperity with timber, wine and manufacturing the booming industries. At the moment there are two organisers - one from the AWU and the other from the CFMEU - walking the walk in the area but Janet Giles from the UTLC says the revived regional council will kickstart organising opportunities for other unions.
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