This ‘Unions’ section is arranged in the following hierarchy. Your comments are appreciated.
Meeting of Affiliates (Queensland Council of Unions) regarding IR Legislation and award modernisation will be held at 10:00am in the Alex Macdonald Room, Level 5, TLC Building, 16 Peel Street, South Brisbane.
You would have to wonder whether the union leaders at the QCU think unions can survive under Labor governments, federal and state. ACTU president, Sharan Burrows, had no answer when the Rudd government moved to legislate for 18 weeks parental leave without any reference to the unions. The aim of federal Labor seems to be to bypass the unions and set wages and conditions centrally by legislation, thus side-lining the importance of service oriented unionism.
Unions should not be service oriented and seeking only to improve wages, they should be pushing for greater democracy in the workplace where workers have a genuine say in the work that they do.
The union should be less concerned about what the CEOs are think about workplace issues and should be prepared to go into the workplace and tell the boss to get stuffed.
ALP Industrial Relations Policy
The following is a summary of the Industrial Relations (IR) Policy accepted at the National Labor Party Conference in April 2007. It is included here in the interest of clarity and completeness.
We have summarised the Labor’s IR policy directly from the ALP policy document ‘Forward with Fairness’. The entire policy document can be read here alp-lndustrial-relations-policy-april-2007.pdf
I do not agree with this policy imposed on workers in the interests of managing capitalism. However I have refrained from making comment except where necessary to distinguish it from existing IR policy under the 2007 Howard coalition government.
National Industrial Relations System
- One National System for the Private Sector using co-operation and referral of powers by the Labor States (currently all states and territorities). Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) and other agencies (Fair Pay Commission, Office of Employment Advocate etc) to be replaced by Fair Work Australia.
- Fair Work Australia will include a separate division with jurisdiction to hear and determine unlawful dismissal claims, matters relating to Labor’s minimum entitlements and freedom of association.
- Pattern bargaining. The policy is worded as follows “Where more than one employer and their workers or unions with coverage in the workplaces voluntarily agree to collectively bargain together for a single agreement they will be free to do so”.
- Abolishes Australian Building & Construction Commission (ABCC). However Fair Work Australia’s inspectorate will have specialist divisions and the first two will be for building and hospitality industries.
- Collective bargaining is based at the enterprise level. It includes the following aspects:
- No statutory individual contracts i.e. Australian Workplace Agreements AWAs
- Collective agreements permit:
- parties to break off negotiations, in which case the industrial arrangements already in place would remain in force;
- requests for Fair Work Australia to help reach agreement
- request determination of particular matters; or
- in certain circumstances, take protected industrial action.
- Parties must bargaining in good faith;
- No strike without a secret ballot.
- Workers can take protected industrial action.
- The ballot process will be supervised by Fair Work Australia.
- Unlawful for employers to pay strike pay.
- Employers may lock out workers in response to industrial action by those workers.
- Fair Work Australia will have the power to end the industrial action and determine a settlement between the parties for their workplace
Legislated Minimum standards
The existing 5 minimum standards under WorkChoices of the 38 hour week, 4 weeks annual leave, sick leave, parental leave and carers leave, and public holidays have been increased to 10 standards outlined below:
1. Hours of work — 38 hour week for full time workers. Workers may be required to work additional hours, but cannot be required to work unreasonable additional hours.
2. Parental leave —both parents entitled to up to 12 months of unpaid leave associated with the birth of a baby. Also chief care giver to child may be entitled to additional 12 months of unpaid parental leave from their employer.
3. Flexible work for parents — right for parents to request flexible work arrangements until their child reaches school age.
4. Annual leave — 4 weeks’ paid annual leave for full time workers. Part time workers paid pro rata. Shift workers entitled to additional paid week of annual leave.
5. Personal, Carers and Compassionate leave— 10 days’ paid carers leave each year. Part time workers leave paid pro rata. Compassionate leave on the death or serious illness of a family member or a person the worker lives with. Additional 2 days of unpaid personal leave where required for genuine caring purposes and family emergencies.
6. Community Service Leave
Paid community service leave for jury service and unpaid leave for emergency services duties.
7. Public holidays
Labor’s industrial relations system will guarantee public holidays. Workers entitled to penalty rates on public holidays as set out in the award.
8. Information in the workplace
Employers to provide information about the worker’s rights and entitlements at work, including the right of the worker to join a union.
9. Termination of Employment & Redundancy
All workers will be entitled to fair notice of termination
10. Long Service Leave
As well the ALP policy outlines minimum industry award conditions including:
1. Minimum wages. Based on skill classifications and career structures, incentive based payments and bonuses, wage rates and other arrangements for apprentices and trainees;
2. The type of work performed, conditions vary if the worker is permanent or casual, and flexible working arrangements, particularly for workers with family responsibilities, including part time employment and job sharing;
3. Arrangements for when work is performed, including hours of work, rostering, rest
breaks and meal breaks;
4. Overtime rates for workers on long hours;
5. Penalty rates for workers doing shifts or working on unsocial, irregular or unpredictable hours, on weekends or public holidays.
6. Minimum annualised wage in lieu of penalty rates where patterns of work in an occupation, industry or enterprise. Workers not to be disadvantaged;
7. Allowances including reimbursement of expenses, higher duties and disability based payments;
8. Leave, leave loadings and the arrangements for taking leave;
9. Superannuation; and
10. Dispute settling procedures.
Claims for unfair dismissal may be permitted on the following conditions:
- where there are 15 or more workers, must have worked for 6 months;
- where there are fewer than 15 workers, must have worked for 12 months;
- if the worker is not covered by an award, the worker must be earning annual remuneration of less than $98,200 (to be indexed).
- 7 days to lodge claimRemedy for unfair dismissal may be reinstatement or compensation. There will be a cap n compensation paid.
Published at http://www.alp.org.au/media/0407/msirloo280.php . Website checked on 2 May 2007.
Hoinanese Chicken and the Haymarket Martyrs
As we celebrate the Day of the Workers this weekend, I am reminded of a story I heard which irrefutably links the famous Hoinanese Chicken dish with the origins of May Day.One of the first eight hour day marches in Australia, at Wyalong (from Wikipedia)
At its convention in Chicago in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions resolved that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labour from and after May 1, 1886, and that we recommend to labour organizations throughout this jurisdiction that they so direct their laws as to conform to this resolution by the time named.”
On May 1, 1886, Albert Parsons, head of the Chicago Knights of Labor, with his wife Lucy Parsons and two children, led 80,000 people down Michigan Avenue, Chicago, in what is regarded as the first-ever modern May Day Parade, in support of the eight-hour day.
In the next few days they were joined nationwide by 350,000 workers who went on strike at 1,200 factories, including 70,000 in Chicago, 45,000 in New York, 32,000 in Cincinnati, and additional thousands in other cities. Some workers gained shorter hours (eight or nine) with no reduction in pay; others accepted pay cuts with the reduction in hours.
Lucy Parsons was well known not only for her labour activism, but her great culinary skill. Often at the Parson’s family home labour activists would gather to discuss their campaign for the eight hour day and discussed strategies over a meal prepared by Lucy. One of her favourite dishes was one that had come from the Chinese workers on the Californian goldfields, a simple steamed chicken dish, garnished with available spices including a ginger sauce. Her own diary of the time recorded such a meal on May 2, on the eve of yet another demonstration in support of the eight hour day.
On May 3, 1886, August Spies, editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung (Workers Newspaper), spoke at a meeting of 6,000 workers, and afterwards many of them moved down the street to harass scabs at the McCormick plant in Chicago. The police arrived, opened fire, and killed four people, wounding many more.
At a subsequent rally on May 4 to protest this violence, a bomb exploded at the Haymarket Square. The rally began peacefully under a light rain on the evening of May 4. August Spies spoke to the large crowd while standing in an open wagon on Desplaines Street. According to many witnesses Spies said he was not there to incite anyone. Meanwhile a large number of on-duty police officers watched from nearby. The crowd was so calm that Mayor Carter Harrison, Sr., who had stopped by to watch, walked home early. Some time later the police ordered the rally to disperse and began marching in formation towards the speakers’ wagon. A bomb was thrown at the police line and exploded, killing policeman Mathias J. Degan. The police immediately opened fire. While several of their number besides Degan appear to have been injured by the bomb, most of the casualties seem to have been caused by bullets. About sixty officers were wounded in the riot, as well as an unknown number of civilians. In all, seven policemen and at least four workers were killed in the riot. There is no accurate count of the latter, as those injured were afraid to seek medical attention for injuries, fearing punishment for their part in the riot.
Eight people connected directly or indirectly with the rally and its anarchist organisers were charged with Degan’s murder: August Spies, Albert Parsons, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Louis Lingg, Michael Schwab, Samuel Fielden and Oscar Neebe. Five (After an exhaustive trial where all eight were found guilty and seven sentenced to death, appeals saw two of the men having their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment. Of the remaining five, one (Lingg) suicided on the eve of his execution while the next day, November 11, 1887, Spies, Parsons, Fischer, and Engel were hanged together before a public audience. Taken to the gallows in white robes and hoods, they sang the Marseillaise, the anthem of the international revolutionary movement. Family members including Lucy Parsons who attempted to see them for the last time were arrested and searched for bombs. None were found. August Spies was widely quoted as having shouted out, “The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.” Witnesses reported that the condemned did not die when they dropped, but strangled to death slowly, a sight which left the audience visibly shaken.
The American Federation of Labor, meeting in St Louis in December 1888, set May 1, 1890 as the day that American workers should work no more than eight hours. The International Workingmen’s Association (Second International), meeting in Paris in 1889, endorsed the date for international demonstrations, thus starting the international tradition of May Day.
The trial is often referred to by scholars as one of the most serious miscarriages of justice in United States history. Most working people believed that [private detective] Pinkerton agents provoked the incident. On June 26, 1893, Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld signed pardons for Fielden, Neebe, and Schwab after having concluded all eight defendants were innocent. The governor stated that the real reason for the bombing was the city of Chicago’s failure to hold Pinkerton guards responsible for shooting workers. The pardons ended his political career.
The police commander who ordered the dispersal was later convicted of corruption. The bomb thrower was never identified, although some anarchists privately indicated they had later learned his identity but kept quiet to avoid further prosecutions
Authors note: Some historians might quibble about the Hoinanese Chicken reference
Decline in Union membership
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) issued its latest figures on wages and union membership on 3 April 2007 .
Briefly, the main ABS findings are that the decline in union membership has continued despite the unpopularity of WorkChoices.
Meanwhile average weekly wages have continued to rise (caution with this statistic, some workers are better off while those working in retail, tourism and hospitality have gone backwards).
Unions lost 126, 000 members between August 2005 and August 2006. The Murdoch Press claims that the largest losses are in Western Australia in the resources sector. If you look at the data there have also been very large losses in the Australian Capital Territory which now has the lowest union participation level in the country (Tasmania has the highest).
The losses in Western Australia are severe but this process started a long time ago. The mining unions were also hit hard under the Hawke Labor Government when Charles Copeman (former CEO of Peko-Wallsend) sacked 1000 workers at Robe River in 1986. Copeman defied orders from the Industrial Relations commission to reinstate the workers. By the time the workers went back their unions had been forced to concede many conditions. This was the end of strong unionism in the Pilbara. The strike of Capital was similar to events in the 1998 MUA dispute when Corrigan (Patricks) sacked its entire workforce.
So put in perspective, the ABS data shows a decline that started long before WorkChoices, it began 30 years ago.
The decline started to run out of control during the 1983-1996 Labor governments with more members lost during Keating’s reign (1991-1996) than during the long years of the Howard Coalition government (1996- ). See the graph below showing the decline till 2005 (according to ABS data).
Unions have lost one quarter of their total membership since the Keating Labor government came to power. The decline has continued throughout the ensuing period, save for a brief respite after the 1998 MUA dispute.
Currently 1,786,000 trade union members is the lowest number in real terms since the 1890s. The number of male union members fell below 1 million for the first time since the Great Depression.
The lesson from history is that an ALP pledge to scrap Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) is not enough. The anti-union laws are many, WorkChoices is just one of a long line of laws that restrict workers democratic rights.
Unions should reduce their fees and start fighting because the union strategy of changing the laws through getting the ALP into government is a high risk strategy that is not working.
The ACTU has collected $20 million to help the ALP win the next election. But what about the Tristar workers in Sydney losing their jobs without the correct redundancy. What has the ACTU done for them? Call a secondary boycott of the plant? Use the money as a fighting fund? No.
Then Marty Peek, a union shop steward who worked for Tristar Steering and Suspension, was sacked on 31 March 2007 after 35 years’ service with the Marrickville car parts manufacturing company. Was any industrial action called? All the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) could come up with is to go to the federal industrial magistrate, cap in hand. Of course the union will use members if its only strategy is to go to court.
Forget the federal election campaign, start the fight for workers, their jobs, and their conditions.
Bad Friday, April 2007
THREATS TO UNION SOLIDARITY: community protests attacked under the Trade Practices Act.
The Federal coalition Government is to introduce legislation to strengthen the secondary boycott provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (TPA). This move by the government will have a major impact on attempts by environmentalists to blockade loggers. The new amendments will restrict workers picketing firms like Spotlight when it tried to introduce Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs).
It is also aimed at preventing community groups from supporting unions as occurred during the 1998 MUA dispute. This has been a tactic used by the ACTU in its campaign to defeat WorkChoices.
Therefore defeat of these types of laws is just as important as the defeat of industrial relations legislation such as WorkChoices.
As it gets closer to electoral defeat, the government will rush through more of these laws to have them in place so they can block change in the senate. The photo shows meatworkers engaged in secondary boycott on Hamilton No 4 wharf in Brisbane in 1977.
This action to protect their jobs would have been severely restricted or impossible under the Trade Practices Act changes proposed by Costello. In 1977 Bjelke Petersen used his police task force to stop the meatworkers. The proposed legislation would enable even greater attacks on their right to organise.
Treasurer Peter Costello said the amendment to the TPA would allow the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to bring representative actions for breaches of the Act’s secondary boycott provisions.
The move will give the ACCC unprecedented powers to stop boycott action by unions and other organisations, including community groups.
The Government says the aim is to help small businesses damaged by boycott conduct but lacking financial resources to initiate private litigation.
Mr Costello said the Government had also been consulting on a separate bill to strengthen the misuse of market power and unconscionable conduct provisions of the Trade Practices Act. These amendments would be introduced into parliament in the near future in a separate bill.
Treasurer Peter Costello: Government amendments to the Trade Practices Act 1974.
From National Institute of Accountants Technical Advantage Magazine 16 March 2007
Local Government CEO bans union T-shirts, wrist-bands, buttons
BushTelegraph have received confirmation from Craig Darlington, an organiser with the Australian Services Union (ASU), that workers at Boonah Shire Council were banned from wearing “Your Rights at Work promotional material” prior to yesterday’s anti-WorkChoices rallies.
His email is reproduced below:
“I can confirm that the CEO of Boonah Shire Council issued a memo on 28 November banning staff from wearing or displaying ‘Your Rights at Work‘ promotional material; a copy of the memo is attached for your info.
The ASU advised members that the memo was a lawful direction. However we discussed with our delegates a number of strategies to thwart the intention of the ban and the members themselves decided on the actions they would take.
On 30 November, members from all unions at Boonah Shire Council wore their Your Rights at Work orange wrist-bands to work inside out, while some staff also wore orange coloured ribbons and clothing.
We fully support our members actions on this matter and further action against the ban will be ongoing.
Australian Services Union
Queensland Services Branch”
The memo from the CEO of the Boonah Shire referred to by Craig Darlington is reproduced below:
To: ALL STAFF
From: CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Date: 28 November 2006
Re: YOUR RIGHTS AT WORK CAMPAIGN
I refer to the Your Rights At Work Campaign that has recently been promoted through the workplace. I advise that I consider this campaign to be a political campaign which has not been endorsed by Council and hence any promotion of the campaign is not permitted in the Council workplace.
The wearing or displaying of material involved in this campaign is therefore deemed to be inappropriate and it is also considered to be not appropriate that staff be involved in the promotion of this campaign in Council time.
I request the cooperation of all staff in abiding by this directive.
Chief Executive Officer”
South Australia’s Unions secretary Janet Giles issued a press release describing similar actions against workers in Adelaide:
A short time ago construction workers were ordered to remove a giant Your Rights at Work banner which was unfurled on the Advertiser building site in the city this morning.
The workers were also threatened with fines if they wore Your Rights at Work t-shirts, displayed Your Rights at Work stickers on their hard hats and equipment, or if they possessed leaflets about Thursday’s event.
So, simultaneously in South Australia and Queensland, bans have been placed on the wearing of “Your Rights at Work” clothing, stickers and banners.
This is how Ernie Lane describes what was done to overcome the ban in chapter 9 of his book “Dawn to Dusk“.
Ernie Lane describes the general apathy of workers at that time and then says the following:
“This reversal of form arose from a strike of the Brisbane Tramway Employees Union in January, 1912. The union badge was placed on the prohibited list by the manager, and members who insisted on wearing their badges were sacked.
The dispute quickly developed, culminating in a strike of drivers and conductors.
The company procured a number of scabs, and with office workers and inspectors kept the trams running to some degree…
Strike resolutions would be carried by large majorities but the delegates with few exceptions could not pledge their unions to take such drastic action.”
At one of the meetings Ernie Lane proposed that a general strike resolution be submitted, he describes what happened:
“The chairman (Coyne) said that the strike was a very drastic weapon and every other avenue should be explored before adopting the strike.
I retorted that we had been exploring every avenue for a long time with absolutely no success and only the strike method was left.
The unions had to use it in support of the tramwaymen – of a vital union principle – or throw in the towel.
The resolution was passed unanimously and the fate of the struggle was thus left in the hands of each individual union to decide their policy”
Ian Curr, late 2006