Category: Trade Unions

O’Farrell Government’s Attacks and Cuts

Since taking office in March 2011, Barry O’Farrell and his Government have made a number of cuts to funding, jobs, workers’ rights and services. Here is an overview of what the workers of NSW have endured thus far.


Attacks on Workers’ Rights

Taken Control of IRC and Frozen Wages

-                   The Government passed the Industrial Relations (Public Sector Conditions of Employment) Act 2011. Consequently the Government has given itself complete power to determine wage increases (or not) and conditions for public sector staff through Regulations which do not have to pass any votes in the Parliament.

-                   The Industrial Relations Commission has had its power to arbitrate wage disputes removed.

-                   So far, the Government has frozen wage increases for public sector workers at 2.5%. Whilst the O’Farrell Government has claimed this will not leave public sector workers worse off, the University of Sydney’s Workplace Research Centre found that a nurse would be $12, 232 worse off and a teacher $14, 580 worse off each year had the O’Farrell policy been applied over the past decade.

Attacked Injured Workers

-                   Government amendments to the Workers Compensation Act saw significant cuts to the support and compensation provided to injured workers.

-                   The cuts to Workers Compensation means weekly payments will cease after 2.5 years and medical costs will stop being paid after 3.5 years for most injured workers.

-                   Additionally, workers will have almost non-existent coverage for accidents on their way to or from work.

-                   No lump sum payments can be made for pain and suffering, regardless of the severity of the injury.

-                   Changes to weekly benefits, medical costs and duration of payments are to apply as soon as possible to existing claims.

-                   The O’Farrell government attributed the needs for the cuts to a ‘deficit’ in WorkCover. The cuts have shifted the blame of the ‘deficit’ onto injured workers, with the Government hoping for a reduction in insurance premiums for employers.

 

Stripped Police of their Death and Disability Protection

-                   The Government’s Police Amendment (Death and Disability) Act 2011 severely cut the support and rehabilitation provided to police who are injured on the job, as well as support for families of police officers killed at work.

Attacked Workers’ Rights to Fairly Bargain Collectively

-                   Currently before Parliament is the Government’s Industrial Relations Amendment (Dispute Orders) Bill 2012. If this Bill is passed, it will increase fines for taking industrial action from $10,000 a day to $110,000 a day.

-                   It is also important to remember as mentioned above that unions no longer have the right to independent arbitration over wages and conditions and unlike the Federal industrial relations system have no legal right to strike through protected action.

No Consultation around Significant Industrial Changes

-                   By way of example The Technical and Further Education Commission Amendment (Staff Employment) Act 2011 saw 13,000 TAFE teachers transferred to the Federal industrial relations system where they now fall under the Fair Work Act

-                   No consultations with unions or teachers were attempted prior to the introduction and subsequent passing of this Act.

-                   Similarly, Government abolished the Transport Appeals Board with no discussion with unions.

Forcing Retail Workers to Work on Public Holidays

-                   The Retail Trading Amendment Bill 2012 presented by the O’Farrell Government will allow all retailers to trade on Boxing Day and Easter Sunday which will see employees being forced to work on what should be a day for families.

-                   The Bill will also lead to backroom staff and staff of retail businesses working on Christmas Day and Good Friday.

 No Support for Equal Pay

-                   The most recent State budget has not allocated any funding to equal pay for social and community sector workers in line with the recent Fair Work findings.

-                   There are 30,000 community and public sector workers in NSW. Without NSW funding these workers will not receive the awarded increases in full which range from 19 – 41 per cent.

-                   Prior to the election O’Farrell promised social and community sector workers a fair and equitable pay rise.

Slashing Public Sector Entitlements

-                   The O’Farrell Government has applied to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to change 98 different Public Sector Awards and enact massive cuts to entitlements and benefit.

-                   Some of the cuts include: slashing annual leave loading, cutting penalty rates for shift workers, removal of additional sick leave entitlements and parental leave.

Media, unions and political parties seen as Australia’s most corrupt institutions

by Sunanda Creagh

The media, trade unions and political parties are seen as Australia’s most corrupt institutions but fewer than 1% of people have had recent direct experience of graft, a new poll shows.

The survey, titled Perceptions of corruption and ethical conduct and produced by the Australian National University’s Research School of Social Sciences, surveyed 2020 people aged 18 years and over by phone between August and September this year, with a response rate of 43%. The results were adjusted to represent the national population.

“Satisfaction with democracy in Australia remains high by international standards, although it is lower in 2012 than at any time since 1998,” the study said, with most concerns related to the quality of government.

“There is a widespread perception that corruption in Australia has increased, with 43% taking this view and 41% seeing corruption as having remained the same,” the report said.

The police and armed forces were seen as most trustworthy while the media, trade unions and political parties were seen as most corrupt.

“The media one is interesting because it confirms a finding across 25 EU countries earlier this year about the pillars of integrity in our community – the media again came down near the bottom,” said study author, Professor Adam Graycar.

“We’ve seen a number of media stories recently globally — the Murdoch scandal in the UK. There have been issues with talk back radio and the cash for comment allegations. This poll was done before the latest talk back controversy. But it’s a global phenomenon and the implications are important because of the very important role the media has in transparency,” he said.

While less than 1% of respondents said they or a relative had experienced corruption directly, “where corruption exists, it does have a serious and deleterious effect on government, on the delivery of our services and infrastructure,” said Prof Graycar.

While political parties were seen as corrupt, more than half of respondents see ‘almost none’ or ‘a few’ federal politicians as being corrupt and public scepticism of politicians’ motives has been stable since the 1990s, the study said.

Professor Mark Findlay, Deputy Director of the University of Sydney’s Institute of Criminology, said public perceptions on crime “often have very little to do either with personal experience or factual knowledge.”

“It is particularly interesting that police corruption is no longer viewed in the serious end (when, in fact, instances of such corruption, particularly in some states such as Victoria, see no sign of abating),” he said.

“This may be explained by things as tangential as new series of ‘Underbelly’ in this viewing season, or in more concrete variables such as a desire to believe in our institutions of public security in a political climate of border protection and prevailing concerns about local and national security.”

The loss of confidence in politicians and trade unions is troubling but consistent with a worldwide disillusionment with conventional institutions of representative governance,“ Prof Findlay said.

“What is more troubling is the belief in media corruption when, in other circumstances, the media is relied upon to expose public sector corruption. Maybe all this could be put down to the recent political scandals and degenerating level of political debate, and the biased and irresponsible role of individual media personalities in fuelling this state of affairs.”

Overall, respondents were mostly satisfied with the direction Australia is headed in, with the economy, immigration and employment topping respondents list of most important issues and concern for the environment on the wane.

Respondents were only asked about perceptions of corruption in public institutions, not private businesses or corporations.

Darren Palmer, Associate Professor in Criminology at Deakin University said the poll showed anti-corruption agencies needed to boost their profile.

“One of the most interesting and also somewhat surprising results is that almost half of the respondents indicate they would report suspected corruption to police. This flies in the face of the major restructure of mechanisms for dealing with corruption, whereby all jurisdictions have invested heavily in various anti-corruption agencies, including those dealing with allegations or suspicion of police corruption,” he said.

“More needs to be done by these agencies to enhance public awareness and access to their complaints processes.”

Sunanda Creagh is the Editor of  The Conversation.   Additional reporting by Bella Counihan.

This article was first published by The Conversation at www.theconversation.edu.au

 

What Future for ‘This Great Movement of Ours’?

by Martin Upchurch

Trade unions in Britain are at a watershed. This month’s public sector strike on November 30th, involves 3 million workers from 27 different unions. It follows the largest ever trade union organised demonstration held in March and the public sector strike of three quarters of a million workers in June. This wave of strikes and protests must be viewed from a wider perspective. The student demonstrations late last year, followed by the Arab Spring and then the Occupy Movement have given  union members confidence to take the plunge and vote to strike. Protest has returned.  In 2010, the number of strikes in Britain were the lowest since records begun, now the masses are taking part.

But do the strikes also mark a major change in the relationship between the unions and the Labour Party? In the post War period trade unions swam with the stream for thirty years. Full employment provided the opportunity for unions to expand their membership, notably in the public sector and among women. When membership peaked in 1979 at nearly 13 million, governments were willing to do business with the unions. Concessions were made to expand the welfare state so long as trade union leaders held back the wage demands of their rank-and-file.

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Decent Work 2.0

by Frank Hoffer

Last month, Juan Somavia, the long serving Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) announced his departure in 2012.

As head of the ILO, he introduced the Decent Work Agenda in 1999 to re-focus the ILO and make it relevant for the 21st century. Twelve years later, the concept of ‘Decent Work’ is firmly established in the global debate and as an objective of national policy. It appears in many documents of the multilateral system, the G20 and national policy fora. It generates millions of Google hits. It is the subject of much academic research and debate. It is enshrined in several ILO Conventions and Declarations, and the international trade union movement introduced the annual Decent Work Day to campaign for workers’ rights. ‘Decent Work’ is so ubiquitous in ILO documents that some cynics say: “Decent Work is the answer, whatever the question!”

Will Decent Work survive the departure of the Director-General who coined the term and so successfully marketed it? Should it survive? The answer to the former question is one of the unknowns of “Realpolitik”. The answer to the latter depends on the assessment of what Decent Work means and how it should evolve.

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3 key priorities for NSW Labor Policy Forum

by Hugh McDermott

 

 

 

 

On Monday, 17  October,  voting commences for the election of your 16 representatives on the  NSW Labor Policy Forum.    With your support, we can work together to rebuild NSW Labor by ensuring ALP policy is aligned with our strengths, values and beliefs.   If elected, I will pursue 3 key priorities:

1. Rebuild NSW Labor to win future elections

The loss at the 2011 State election was the end of a decade of decline of our Labor Party.  Over the  years we have seen membership and Branch numbers diminish to an unacceptable level. We all have opinions and views why this has  happened, and who or what we feel is responsible.

Putting these thoughts aside, one thing is certain. The decline must stop and we must put into place new strategies and structures that will re-engage the electorate, recruit a new generation (regardless of age  – both young and old – of Labor activists and take the fight to the Liberal-National Coalition. We owe this not only to those “true believers” that have continued to support us at the ballot box, but also  to those electors that became disillusioned with Labor and whose trust and confidence we must earn back.

With your support, I am committed to this rebuilding – not only to put  us in a position to win back many seats in the next election – but to create a growing membership base that is committed to reinvigorating the  NSW Labor movement in the long term.

2. Encourage the creation of progressive policy to re-establish Labor values

NSW Labor has always been the State Branch that led the way in progressive pragmatic policy and actions. However, our Labor values have not always been reflected in the recent actions of those in power. We just need to think of the heated debate concerning electricity privatisation or the ICAC investigations to confirm this concern. In  turn, the electorate no longer believed that NSW Labor reflected our core vales.

We now have an opportunity to realign NSW Labor policy with our core labor values. While the 2011 election loss was deeply disappointing for all of us, it has brought a resolve from many in the Party to reform the way we develop policy. Forums such as the NSW Labor Policy Forum create  a platform for rank and file members, trade union officials, and elected  representatives to debate issues and influence policy outside the traditional forums like State Conference.

If elected to the NSW Labor Policy Forum, underpinning my views would be  what I see as core Labor values. These include providing opportunities  for those who work hard to achieve their dreams, protecting the vulnerable, creating an environment where people feel safe and secure in  their homes and at work, and respecting people with different views, beliefs and backgrounds. With these values as a basis, we will be able to create progressive policy that is aligned to the values we share as Labor Party members.

3. Represent the views of Labor members living in Western Sydney

Having lived in Parramatta through the 1990s and now in Greystanes with my       fiancé Bettina, I have seen many changes in Western Sydney over the past  20 years.   People who live along the M4 and M5 cannot all be stereotyped as blue  collar workers living in Struggle Street.

We are people who have professional careers; we are executives in listed companies and government agencies, and business owners. We are also successful tradespeople, educators and healthcare providers.

We work hard so that we can make choices about the sort of life we want for ourselves and our families. We want to choose whether or not to  holiday in Australia or overseas, whether or not to start a family, or whether or not to send our children to private school. We don’t expect a free ride, but we do expect the same opportunities as everyone else and to be able to enjoy the rewards of our hard work.

Having come from a modest background, I have taken every opportunity  available to me to get an education and work experience that has allowed me to have a successful legal and academic career. I am committed to ensuring Labor policy continues to create these opportunities for others. While these views are not unique to Labor members living in Western Sydney, they are central for many of us who have not come from a privileged background but who have worked hard and been successful in our lives.

If you agree with my views on rebuilding NSW Labor, then I would appreciate your support on Monday.


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