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Category Archives: ACTU and unions

If you were to ask people what they want out of their politicians, most people will say clear and open leadership. The problem for politicians is that that the moment they attempt to provide leadership, the same people will argue any initiative into non-existence. Why? I dunno.

I think there is an argument and it is persuasive (I have presented all over the country on this theme, mostly to senior HR managers, about the new roles for HR managers in a climate change reforming world), that responding to climate change will create jobs, make some jobs and occupations obsolete, and add to the labour market woes confronted by employers. Hopefully we will see the genius of the market system, coupled with government intervention to prompt the development of the right skills, research, innovation and diffusion, and far-sighted employers looking after their medium term interests with their employees and unions, in operation here….

Rant Over. Back to work gerry, you verbose malingerer. No, blogging is not work.

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Setting price will create ‘34,000 jobs’
Adam Morton
February 28, 2011

A CARBON price aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent by 2020 could help create 34,000 jobs in regional Australia, research says.

To be launched today by independent MP Tony Windsor, the report by the Climate Institute predicts that a substantial carbon price, backed by renewable energy policies, would trigger tens of billions of dollars of investment in geothermal, large-scale solar, bio-energy, hydro, wind and gas.

In Victoria, the number of people employed in the electricity industry was projected to increase over the next two decades despite some job losses as coal-fired power plants closed.

 The new jobs would be concentrated in the state’s Western District, central highlands and the Mallee.

Climate Institute chief executive John Connor said the report, based on work conducted by consultants SKM-MMA and Ernst & Young, showed that clean-energy projects could provide an economic foundation to support strong regional populations.

It challenged claims that tackling climate change would cost jobs and hurt the economy.

“It is important we have a discussion about the costs and how to manage them, but it is also important to look at the benefits and how you achieve those,” Mr Connor said.

Mr Windsor said the report showed regional Australia could be a big winner as renewable energy projects were developed.

It is estimated nearly 6900 new electricity industry jobs could be created in Victoria by 2030.

Nearly 4600 would be in power plant construction and about 1200 in manufacturing. More than 1000 would be permanent roles running new plants.

The total number of jobs in the industry would rise over the next five years as wind and gas plants were built, dip in the second half of the decade, but then grow dramatically after 2020 as more clean-energy technologies became commercially viable.

The report suggests about 40 per cent of Victoria’s electricity could come from clean sources by 2030, up from 5 per cent today.

Gas-fired power, with about a third the emissions of brown coal, would also expand dramatically to provide about a third of the state’s electricity.

Specific projections for Victoria include:

■ More than 1500 jobs created in wind and geothermal energy in the south-west around Warrnambool, Portland and Hamilton.
■ Nearly 1200 new jobs relating to building and running large-scale solar plants in the Mallee.
■ About 600 new jobs in wind in the central highlands around Ballarat and Bendigo.
■ In the Latrobe Valley, the loss of about 500 permanent jobs in coal power, but the creation of 720 construction jobs building new gas and renewable plants.

The modelling does not consider the impact of the possible implementation of carbon capture and storage technology.

The jobs figures are based on a carbon price starting at $47 in 2012, the national 20 per cent renewable energy target, and policies to encourage clean technologies, including loan guarantees and tax credits.

The research won the support of the ACTU and several energy companies.

Tony Maher, the president of the mining and energy union, applauded the Climate Institute for focusing on jobs, skills and training as the key to Australia cutting emissions.

http://www.climateinstitute.org.au

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

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Today’s decision by the soon-to-be-scrapped ‘Fair Pay Commission’ is another kick in the guts for working Australians from the Liberals’ WorkChoices, say unions.

More than 1.3 million Australians that rely on minimum award wages, including many low paid young workers, women and migrant workers will suffer.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said the Fair Pay Commission had shown no respect for the contribution low paid workers are making to the economy during the downturn and had relied on discredited and flawed research.

“The Fair Pay Commission has saved its worst for last,” Mr Lawrence said.

“The decision means ordinary working Australians and their families are bearing the brunt of an economic downturn they did not cause.

“Many workers have already lost their jobs, had their hours cut and now more than a million families are facing a pay freeze despite rising living costs.

“Only a week after new IR laws came into operation, WorkChoices is back from the dead.

“Working families are again the victims of the unfair wage-setting system established by the previous Liberal Government.

“The real wages of low paid workers have gone backwards since the Commission was established, and today’s decision is another attack on their living standards.

“The costs of rent, food, medicines, education and utilities have all risen in the past year and families need a pay rise to keep up.”

Mr Lawrence said the decision was unwise in the current economic circumstances and rejected the argument that a pay freeze for the low paid is good for the economy.

“A pay freeze will sap consumer demand and undermine confidence. Any green shoots of economic recovery will be nipped in the bud by this unfair and unwise decision.

“It will be felt not only in the homes of Australia’s 1.3 million minimum wage workers, but in the shops and businesses in every main street of every Australian town and suburb.”

Mr Lawrence said the decision runs counter to the economic stimulus strategy, ignores the Federal Government’s submission in favour of maintaining real wages, and even ignores the views of some business groups who supported a modest wage rise.

“There is no credible evidence that modest rises in minimum wages have a negative effect on jobs. This is a furphy put about by the same free market fundamentalists that brought us deregulation and who contributed to the GFC.

“We look to Fair Work Australia’s new wage-setting body to provide a fairer and more rigorous approach.”

http://www.actu.asn.au/Media/Mediareleases/WorkingAustralianstosufferasWorkChoiceserapaycommissionsavesitsworstforlast.aspx

Posted Fri Jul 3, 2009 12:44am AEST

The union representing childcare workers, the Liquor Hospitality Miscellaneous Union (LHMU), has applauded the Council of Australian Governments for making progress on national standards for the sector.

The Federal, state and territory Governments agreed to a national strategy and are seeking feedback on a plan to overhaul regulation of childcare.

The plan would see a new rating system for kindergartens and childcare centres, nation-wide standards for staff-to-child ratios and minimum qualification requirements for childcare workers.

LHMU spokeswoman Sue Lines says it is an important step forward for the sector, but she is worried there may not be enough funding.

“Some recognition that under fives have some sort of universal right to childcare in this country, that will be fantastic, and if it’s consistent across the country that will be something that hasn’t been achieved before,” she said.

“But the funding to make it work needs to be there. We’ve got to lift workers’ wages and we’ve got to make sure there’s proper programming time in paid work time for staff.”

Childcare workers say they are encouraged by the plan and Ms Lines says workers are happy to work with the national qualifications and ratio benchmarks.

Kirsty Needham and Stephanie Peatling
July 2, 2009

UNEASY employer groups lined up beside the triumphant ACTU president, Sharan Burrow, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to face the full bench of the nation’s new workplace tribunal yesterday.

Fair Work Australia replaces the Australian Industrial Relations Commission in an expanded role in which it will set minimum wages and adjudicate collective agreements – heralding a significantly altered industrial relations landscape.

The acting chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Greg Evans, told Fair Work Australia that in the difficult economic climate many businesses were struggling to maintain viability and employment levels.

The chamber is concerned about the effect of unfair dismissal laws on small business and noted Fair Work Australia had already appointed 25 roaming conciliators that it said highlighted an expected “upsurge in claims”. All employers were also now facing widened anti-discrimination provisions, it said.

Outside the tribunal Mr Evans warned unions against going “too hard too early” under the new workplace laws and said this would threaten not only the existence of their members’ jobs “but potentially Australia’s economic recovery”.

“Unfortunately, employers are now required to sit down at the bargaining table despite unions making irresponsible wage claims,” he said.

However Ms Gillard said employers should be celebrating the introduction of a system “that matches the will of the Australian community, that ends the era of division”.

“Employers can look to this system as one that is simpler, has less red tape and enables them to bargain at the enterprise level in good faith,” she said. “And gives them a safety net that is simple to understand rather than thousands of complex pages which employers had to struggle with in the past.”

She said it was to be expected “that unions will make claims on behalf of their members, you would expect that employers will respond to those claims … what matters is what happens at the enterprise level where representatives of employers and employees will sit down and work out a deal that is best for their enterprise”.

Unions have moved quickly to test the new system. The hospitality union, the LHMEU, has lodged an application to bargain collectively for agreements on behalf of low-paid staff at 15 hotels. The Australian Workers Union also signalled the start of a campaign to increase membership in 100 workplaces.

The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, dismissed a call by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union for a wage increase of 4 per cent as an “ambit claim”.

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, urged wage restraint on the first day of the new industrial relations system, saying employers and workers had a responsibility to remember the fragile state of the economy.

Telstra, the ACTU and three communications unions yesterday jointly released a set of principles for bargaining in good faith under the Fair Work laws.

Ben Schneiders
July 2, 2009

LOWLY paid workers such as security guards and cleaners will be the big winners under Labor’s new Fair Work laws, unions say.

But employers warned that the new system, which took effect yesterday, would result in a sharp rise in unfair dismissal cases and greater costs for business.

Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union national secretary Louise Tarrant said many low-paid workers would now be able to collectively bargain with employers rather than rely on changes to award rates to boost their pay.

The introduction of laws to help low-income workers bargain and laws that required parties to negotiate in “good faith” were a marked shift from WorkChoices, Ms Tarrant said.

Other significant changes include enhanced unfair dismissal rights and a more significant role for the industrial umpire to settle disputes. Standards covering penalty rates and hours of work will start from January.

The LHMU was the first union to use the new industrial watchdog, Fair Work Australia, yesterday when it applied to represent 3000 hotel workers in negotiations. Australia Post could be the first employer to face a strike, with the Communications Workers Union set to apply for industrial action.

Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes said his organisation would go on a recruitment drive this month as it took advantage of the improved environment for unions. But he said the top priority for members was job security.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry workplace head David Gregory warned of a rise in unfair dismissal claims as thousands of businesses with 100 or fewer staff lose the exemption they had under WorkChoices.

But Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Brian Boyd said he was yet to be convinced the new laws would reverse the extremes of WorkChoices.

Fair Work Australia will replace several bodies including the Australian Industrial Relations Commission and the Workplace Ombudsman.

Speaking at yesterday’s launch of Fair Work Australia in Sydney, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the laws would provide a “decent safety net”, but enterprise bargaining would secure conditions in workplaces – not decisions by the independent umpire.

Meanwhile, Treasurer Wayne Swan and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday called for restraint amid claims that the laws could produce increased wage demands in the manufacturing sector, where 1300 agreements have expired. But the Australian Industry Group’s Peter Nolan said that in Victoria, wage settlements so far had typically been around 2.5 per cent to 3 per cent. “We don’t expect to see any massive outbreak of industrial activity,” he said.

With STEPHANIE PEATLING

http://www.theage.com.au/national/unions-hail-win-for-the-lowly-paid-20090701-d583.html

Ben Schneiders
June 30, 2009

UNIONS expect a new era in industrial relations and a more conciliatory relationship with employers from tomorrow as they seek to take advantage of new laws that finally consign WorkChoices to history.

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said yesterday unions would seek to “strategically” take advantage of Labor’s Fair Work laws and the improved bargaining rights and protections provided to workers.

He said it was a good day for workers and unions would “exploit” the laws to the maximum.

Their introduction follows a long union-led campaign against WorkChoices that was regarded as an important factor in the election of the Rudd Government.

Mr Lawrence said unions would test important elements of the new laws such as the requirement that parties bargain in good faith.

Companies such as Cochlear, which he said had sought to bypass unions in talks, would be targeted.

Mr Lawrence said the ability of unions to grow would depend on how well they targeted particular industries and employers using the new laws. “New industrial legislation doesn’t mean unions automatically grow.”

Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry workplace relations head Alex Marriott said smaller businesses were likely to face the biggest challenges from the new laws.

She said the reintroduction of unfair dismissal laws for businesses with fewer than 100 staff would add to pressures and costs for business.

A recent poll conducted for the VECCI found that 70 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposition that “small business employers need the ability to sack workers who are not pulling their weight”.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union national secretary John Sutton said the new laws were a step forward in some areas but kept some of the restrictions on unions and bargaining from WorkChoices.

“The Fair Work Act and other pieces of industrial legislation fall short of the trade union movement’s legitimate expectations,” he said.

A government-funded program has offered $12.9 million to employer groups and unions to educate their members about the new laws. Most of the money is allocated to business groups, with about $2.5 million going to the ACTU.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/unions-hail-new-era-for-employees-20090629-d2jw.html

| June 19, 2009
Article from: The Australian

DEAKIN University has locked in a 16 per cent pay rise over four years to April 2012 in an agreement with the academic union that is likely to set the standard for further university wage deals in Victoria.

Deakin has also agreed to review the operation of its newly adopted trimester academic year while the National Tertiary Education Union has agreed to drop its legal action against the new arrangements.

The deal also includes improved conditions for casual staff.

The 16 per cent pay rise includes a 2 per cent increase granted in April, but Deakin has also agreed an additional sign-on bonus of $1,000 for full time staff, with a pro rata payment for part timers and casuals.

The increase compares with last month’s wages deal at the University of Sydney where pay will rise by 17 per cent over the period from March 2009 to January 2012.

“It sets a standard against which other agreements will be measured and we’d be looking to secure other agreements as soon as possible,” the NTEU’s Victorian secretary Matthew McGowan said.

Deakin vice chancellor Sally Walker said the agreement “provides a good platform for Deakin going forward and it rewards the hard work of staff.”

Professor Walker said the university wasn’t stepping back from the new trimester format, the operation of which she said was due to be reviewed in 2010. But in the wake of union concerns over workload and compressed teaching times the timetable for the review has been brought forward and consultation with staff and students will commence this year.

Under the agreement research active staff won’t be required to teach in more than two out of the three trimesters, while research inactive staff will be allowed to apply to have sufficient time off teaching to become research active.

“I don’t want teaching only staff, I want people to concentrate on what they are good at but that may change from one period to another,” Professor Walker said.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25657644-12332,00.html

Ben Schneiders
June 22, 2009

A SENIOR union leader has promised a tough line on violence and intimidation, saying it will not be condoned, amid claims of death threats and violence at the recent West Gate industrial dispute.

The dispute was used earlier this month by Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard to justify Labor keeping laws that treat the building industry and building workers differently. They include tough coercive powers that can require building workers, under threat of jail, to answer questions.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union national secretary Dave Oliver said if allegations were proved against any organiser at his union they would be dealt with.

“Very clearly we have a policy in place, we do not condone violence, intimidation and bullying and if anything is substantiated about any allegation about our organisers we will deal with it,” he told The Age.

A union organiser was alleged to have made death threats against a security guard and his family, although these claims have been denied. Civil and criminal and court court cases are under way as a result of the dispute and Mr Oliver said he would watch what came out of them.

“If anything comes out we will deal with it appropriately, we don’t condone that (violence) whatsoever,” he said.

Ms Gillard has been criticised for using the dispute despite none of the allegations being proved by a court. Labor’s stance has enraged many unionists.

Electrical Trades Union state secretary Dean Mighell said construction union organisers would be “laughed at” if they told members they should vote Labor at the next federal election.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/union-boss-promises-tough-line-on-violence-20090621-csm5.html

Posted Mon Jun 15, 2009 8:01pm AEST

Map: Hobart 7000
A move by the Tasmanian government to adopt a range of measures that improve working conditions for cleaners has been welcomed by the union.

The Clean Start principles include a four to eight per cent pay rise over four years, longer minimum shifts and greater job security when cleaning contracts change hands.

The Government will insist all contractors hired to clean government buildings employ the principles from the first of July.

The Workplace Relations Minister Lisa Singh says cleaners often work odd hours for low pay and deserve greater protection.

“This is about wage justice for some of the lowest paid workers,” she said.

“They are our cleaners and we need to show them the respect and the dignity they deserve by remunerating them and giving them the conditions they deserve.”

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/06/15/2598965.htm

Ewin Hannan | June 17, 2009
Article from: The Australian

THE Rudd government plan to switch off coercive powers in selected parts of the construction industry was giving unions a “get out of jail free card”, especially in Victoria, which had become the “heart of darkness” for industrial standover tactics and intimidation.

Builders yesterday criticised Labor’s proposed changes to the construction industry watchdog, warning proposed safeguards surrounding the use of coercive powers would hinder the ability to combat unlawful behaviour.

Peter May, a Melbourne commercial building contractor, said he was surprised by Labor’s plan to switch off coercive powers in parts of the industry deemed peaceful. “If that part of the industry is peaceful then there should be no need for the coercive powers to be used,” he said.

“Switching them off just encourages the unions to move to that part of the industry or that particular site where life isn’t as difficult for them.”

Mr May said the safeguards proposed for the use of coercive powers by the new building industry inspectorate could prove to be counter-productive.

“It does make it very bureaucratic, it does make it very cumbersome and it does make it harder for the ABCC (Australian Building and Construction Commissioner) to use their powers effectively,” he said. “It’s OK having the tough cop on the beat, but you don’t want to hamstring them with excessive bureaucracy.”

He said the existence of the ABCC and the imposition of the coercive powers had led to the building industry “undergoing a lot of change for the good”. “A lot of the unlawfulness on building sites is very hard to prove and that’s why the coercive powers are needed,” he said.

Brian Welch, executive director of the Master Builders Association of Victoria, said the switch-off proposal was like giving unions a “get out of jail free card”. “We can see that Victoria is the heart of darkness when it comes to industrial standover tactics and intimidation,” he said. “I have grave reservations over these constraints.

“You are dealing with witnesses that are intimidated and clearly you need to have powers of coercion to get to the truth.”

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence welcomed the end of higher penalties for building workers, but wanted construction industry employees to have the same rights as all other Australian workers.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25648363-5013404,00.html