Interview: Machine Man
Unions: Testing Times
Bad Boss: Freespirit Haunts Internet
Unions: Badge of Honour
National Focus: Noel's World
Economics: Safe Refuge
International: Global Abuse
History: The Honeypot
Review: Death And The Barbarians
Poetry: Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
The Mouse That Roars
Justice For Victims Denied
The hypocrisy and meanness of employers and their political wing the Howard Government was on full display when the ACTU's Minimum Wages result came down on Wednesday.
Smack bang in the middle of unparalleled prosperity for Australia, (and don't they love to trumpet that widely), employers and the Howard Government had effectively argued in the case for a real wage cut for Australia's low paid.
Their arguments were given short shrift by the Commission which raised 'serious doubts' about the reliability of the evidence from the Howard Government on the employment effects of a minimum wages increase, and described as 'unconvincing' similar twaddle from the bosses.
Incredibly, in the wash up, Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews tried to claim credit for the pay rise and the bosses were still shrill over the impending economic meltdown they were predicting would hit the country.
ACTU Secretary Greg Combet was relatively happy with the $19 a week increase - a record -but was scathing of the employer and government response.
'They don't want to share any of the prosperity. What the employers and the Howard Government put forward in this case was in fact a real wage cut for minimum wage workers in an environment where the economy and employment growth is about as strong as we've seen it for many years. A thoroughly irresponsible position and the Commission has thrown that argument right out the window,' he said.
Spinmeister Field Of Dreams
'Build it and they will come' was Kevin Costner's folksy little homily in Field of Dreams. Well, Melbourne at this time of year is about as inviting as Siberia but it didn't stop 90 intrepid union communications people from turning up at the ACTU's inaugural Union Media & Communications Conference on 22-23 April.
Howard's favourite pollster Mark Textor and the Daily Terror's David Penberthy were two left field participants who gave interesting and insightful analyses of the union movement as seen through the prism of Lib research and from the tabloid desk and what they had to say was, surprisingly, positive.
Labor spin guru Dave Britton, 3AW's Clark Forbes and EMC'S Liz Lukin were others from the media high table to give frank and fearless assessments of unions and how they were travelling with the mass media.
A range of speakers from within the movement spoke about campaigning and communications, the web and union publications to round out the conference.
Around the traps
Victoria's nurses settled their wage claim this week, with the State government backing down on ratios and the nurses receiving a 12 per cent wage rise over three and a half years, mirroring the deal done with the teachers last week. Victoria's psychiatric nurses and other staff, however, have stepped up their industrial bans in the face of the government's refusal to deal with the case load, training and general service under-funding issues their union, HACSU, wants addressed along with their wage claim.
Over 300,000 Victorian workers have moved closer to receiving award conditions abolished by the Kennett government in 1992. Victorian Trades Hall Council and its affiliates on Monday formally submitted 12 federal awards for consideration by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
If accepted, employees on these awards will automatically have access to federal award rates of pay, overtime, penalty rates, allowances and many other conditions they have been missing out on. In a surprise move, financial services giants such as AMP, AXA and Westpac sought to intervene in the case claiming that if common rule awards were to apply in Victoria, superannuation contributions would have to be paid to industry-based super funds, thus hurting their profits.
The Victorian state budget was released, with some increases for social services including $1.6 billion for hospitals, increases in education and dental health spending and transport concession cards being extended to tertiary students. The government also intends to give a $5000 cash bonus to first home buyers, which will not be means tested. The budget was criticised by Leigh Hubbard, Victorian Trades Hall Council Secretary for delivering a huge surplus as well as $1.9 billion dollars in tax cuts to wealthy landowners and businesses, whilst not addressing crucial areas such as mental health, public transport infrastructure and public housing.
Tassie's nurses have taken the batten from their mob in Victoria and are in dispute with the government. They are set to stop work for 24 hours from the 12 May in all the public hospitals in Hobart, Devenport and Launceston. They're after 21.5% over three years and some improvements in conditions. They've already had a well attended show of strength outside Parliament in a warm up to the 12th May.
Unions in Tassie are pressuring the state government to make some fundamental changes to Workers Comp following feedback from members after comprehensive polling. Members were understandable angry about getting hurt in the first place and said there should be more emphasis on prevention. They also said they were resentful about being made feel to be dishonest when making claims and there were too many barriers to returning to work. All up they wanted more info and better support.
The government response has so far being limited and rather half hearted.
Queensland's big Labour Day bash
Labour Day celebrations in Brisbane on May 3 attracted almost record crowds with around 15,000 people marching through city streets to celebrate the occasion.
The QCU's commitment to providing unionists with a family fun day saw celebrations held for the first time at Roma St Parkland. It's not only a better family venue, but it also brings the Labour Day march back to the inner city streets of Brisbane.
QCU General Secretary Grace Grace said attendance figures at the march and celebrations grow steadily each year which was a reflection of the significance of the day for Queensland workers.
The Labour Day weekend began in style with a gala dinner on Friday 30 May at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre attended
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