Analysis: Recession is a Reason to Fight

Australia is now firmly in the throes of a recession, as is the rest of the world. Unemployment is at levels not seen since the Great Depression. Entire industries have been destroyed, and many companies will close their doors and simply will not be seen again.

Previous editions of this Bulletin have argued that the economic crisis, though catalysed by the COVID-19 pandemic, was in the makings well before the first COVID case emerged in December 2019. This was evidenced by the crisis in retail, with some 169 closures of outlets in January 2020, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald in the same month. Those closures and the impact of the retail crisis emerged before the full impact of low sales over the Christmas and holiday period would be realised. In January 2020, these were figures not seen in several decades.

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Backbone of Our Movement: Diarmaid

 

Diarmaid, NTEU
Delegate

How long have you been a union member?

6 years.

Why did you join the union?

As an immigrant, I could see how Australia had better working conditions in higher education compared to other countries I previously worked in. Better pay, more super contributions, long service leave, and other benefits. I recognised that this was the result of the work of my union, the NTEU.

Going back decades, the members had been pushing for better conditions, and now I had the chance to benefit from their victories. So I felt I needed to pay them back. Furthermore, I wanted to be able to pass those benefits onto the future workers in my sector. It’s our responsibility, I believe, to honour the struggle of those who came before us, and pass it on to those who will come after us. Unions are a way to achieve this.

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OHS Matters: COVID-19 and Abattoirs

 

In the past week there has been an increase in alarm with the number of new COVID-19 infections growing in Victoria in numbers not seen since mid-March.  The numbers are still extremely low if we look at other countries – for example the hotspot councils of Moreland and Hume had 26 and 51 active cases respectively early last week. However, the number of new infections in the state increased by 75 on Sunday June 28, the highest since the peak in April, illustrating we cannot be complacent. 

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Analysis: The Movement for Black Lives is Different this Time

This analysis comes to us from Haley Pessin, member of the Afrosocialist and Socialists of Color Caucus of the Democratic Socialists of America and a rank and file member of 1199 SEIU. She organizes with the group Legal Workers Rank & File in New York Cvity.

 

Late May and early June saw the biggest wave of mass rebellion in the United States since the 1960s. Protests erupted in every major city and in all fifty states, demanding an end to racist police brutality. The character of these uprisings has been less like protests and more like rebellions, with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets, blocking highways, and burning and destroying police cars along with other symbols of economic and racial oppression. At the time of writing, in New York City alone 47 police cars have been damaged or burned.1 More than 11,000 people have been arrested across the country.2 And, in Washington DC, protests outside the White House temporarily forced Trump to flee to his bunker—allegedly to “inspect” it and not in abject fear of the riots.3

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Analysis: Cabin Fever: Hope on the Edge of Despair at YYZ

 

This edition’s feature article comes from our comrades, the workers at Toronto International Airport, who have been fighting an industrial battle in light of the devastation of their workplace because of the COVID-19 pandemic

 

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OHS Matters: Changes to Industrial Chemical Regulation

 

Starting July 1, the scrutiny on new industrial chemicals entering Australia will change. Under the previous system originally introduced under a Labour government in the 1980’s – all new chemicals had to be thoroughly assessed by the industrial chemicals regulator, NICNAS (the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme), unless a company applied for an exemption based on specific criteria.

The new scheme puts much more power into the hands of industry – which has never liked being regulated.

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Backbone of Our Movement: Gabrielle Bennett

Gabrielle Bennett
Australian Nursing & Midwifery Assocaiton
Rank and file member, previous delegate

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Backbone of Our Movement: Kath Larkin

 

Kath Larkin, Rail, Tram & Bus Union
Delegate & Deputy Women’s Officer

How long have you been a union member?

14 years (in various unions)

Why did you join the union?

I grew up understanding the importance of not just joining but being an active member of a union. My mother is a nurse and was involved in the rank and file campaign led by Irene Bolger within the nurses union in the 80s, which successfully campaigned to reform the union. Most notably they were able to remove the anti-strike clause in the constitution. And my grandfather was a member of the tramway union and participated in the 1969 general strike to free Clarrie O’Shea. So from my first job in a cafe at 15 I’ve always joined my union.

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OHS Matters: Public Transport

 

Last week we discussed some of the issues relating to returning to work, including the necessity that employers consult with workers and their representatives to ensure measures are taken to minimise risks of infection at the workplace (for example: the physical layout; air conditioning; cleaning and sanitisation; etc).

There are other risks workers may be exposed to when returning to work over which the employer has no control. A big one is the commute. We’ve seen reports of the congested public transport system in the UK as their restrictions are being lifted and workers urged to return to work, and the outrage this caused to the public and the transport unions in particular. This is an example of how things should NOT be done.

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Analysis: Are the Police Workers like the Rest of Us?

At first glance, the answer would seem to be yes. Police officers need to sell their labour power to their employer like the rest of us. Nevertheless, the position that police hold in our society and the work that they perform makes them different to almost every other worker. This separation has existed from the very origins of policing and police forces.

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