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This week Australia began its long anticipated vaccine rollout. What workers are prioritized in the distribution, which vaccines will likely be available and how should HSRs be involved in the process? We also look at the incitement charge used against a refugee activist in Melbourne and the implications a guilty verdict could have for broader worker organising.

 

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Graffiti of the Murugappan family on the side of a house with the words 'let them stay'.
 

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Workers In Struggle

 

MUA v VICT

EBA negotiations at VICT have stalled with VICT management failing to endorse uncontentious clauses of the agreement. The result is a total 100% vote by workers to endorse protected action over the key issues of 12 hour shifts without breaks and pressure for workers to find their own replacements when they request their leave entitlements. The Union seeking better rosters and working hours along as well as wage parity with other sites and guarantees of transitions for VICT workers from casual jobs to permanency. The Union is demanding VICT’s CEO, Tim Vandercampen, pick up the phone and call the MUA’s National President, Will Tracey.

The protected action started with a 3-hour stoppage on Tuesday 16 February. Following a further 12-hour stoppage on Friday 19 February, VICT has now applied to the Fair Work Commission to have all further industrial action by their workers suspended for a period of 3 months, including a further 36-hour stoppage running from Sunday 20 to Monday 21 February. This is despite the stoppages receiving the unanimous of all VICT workers.

The VICT site at Webb Dock in Melbourne is one of the most automated sites in Australia. The MUA has been able to increase its membership from the low base of 2 to almost 100% coverage over the past year.

Asbestos neglect on North East Link site

The CFMEU Victoria’s Construction & General Division is continuing to uncover major safety breaches on the State Government’s North East Link road construction site, the biggest current construction project in Victoria (see ‘CFMEU vs CBP Contractors’ in Issue 31). The North East Link project has been contracted-out to Spanish-owned CPB Contractor. After CPB’s own commissioned hygienists (ADE Consulting Group) gave a certificate of clearance to a works area, supposedly confirming it was clear of asbestos, CFMEU officials found more asbestos clearly there upon inspection.

CPB’s hygienists and their Asbestos removal company, Asbestos Australia, have also prevented the site’s workers from using decontamination units at the end of shifts as per OH&S guidelines – relegating them to only using the second-class, corner-cutting safety provision of using wet wipes and bottles instead.

The CFMEU’s discovery of these infractions resulted in the project coming to a standstill and closing the gates. The situation would appear to be another scandalous indictment of the fraud of ‘Public-Private Partnerships’, which rip-off the taxpayers, the public consumers and the workers who build vital public infrastructure & services alike. The union has said they “will continue to fight for better safety and conditions of all workers.”

TWU & OHS for Truck Drivers

The first major survey of truck driver health reveals shocking problems in Australia’s most common job for men, with over 80% of drivers overweight or obese, one in five suffering from depression, over 70% living with chronic pain and almost a third with multiple chronic health conditions.

“The economics at the top of our industry is creating the dynamics which result in poor health for drivers and high death rates of drivers and other road users. The financial squeeze by major retailers, manufacturers and oil companies which continually demand lower cost contracts from transport operators, results in an industry continually under pressure and subsisting on tight margins. This is the reason for the long hours, the stress and the injuries that drivers experience. Now that the evidence is abundantly clear just how badly this impacts on drivers, we urge the Federal Government to act,” TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said.

The survey of almost 1,400 drivers is part of a three-year study by Monash University - the Centre for Work, Healtn & Safety in partnership with the TWU and Linfox.

The Philippines

The President of the union for dock workers, Nagkakaisang Manggagawa sa Pantalan Incorporated (NMPI), Leonardo Escala, was murdered on 7 February by unidentified assailants. Escala was with his four-year-old niece on the Sunday evening when unidentified assailants shot them multiple times before speeding off on a scooter. According to the police report, Escala later died in hospital, and his niece is undergoing medical treatment. The ACTU expressed outrage and dismay at the murder. “This appears to be yet another case of a trade unionist in the Philippines killed by extra-judicial violence because he stood up for workers,” said Michele O’Neil, ACTU President.

In a letter directed to the Filipino Secretary of the Department of Labour and Employment Ms O’Neil wrote: The Australian union movement stands in solidarity with unions in the Philippines against persistent attacks, violence, harassment, and murder. We will continue to campaign for justice for Filipino trade unionists and closely monitor the human and trade union rights situation in your country.

 


 

The Worker’s Solidarity Bulletin is a living document written to reflect what is happening within the labour movement, here in Australia and across the world. The producers of this publication, and participants in Workers Solidarity more broadly, don’t necessarily endorse or agree with all of the views in this publication. This is a place for debate and discussion.

See something you disagree with? Not seeing something you think we should talk about? 


Shoot us a line with your thoughts at
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What's On

 

Workers Solidarity General Meeting (Online via Zoom)
Third Thursday of every month
Next meeting 11 March, 6PM
Free the Refugees Daily Protests
Hosted by Stand Together for Justice Weekdays 5pm, Weekends 3pm 701 Swanston St, Carlton VIC
Info Night: Campaigning for Climate and Environmental Justice in 2021
Hosted by Friends of the Earth Melbourne
Tue 2 March, 6pm
Edinburgh Gardens, Fitzroy North, VIC
More information melbournefoe.org.au
Screening: Brazen Hussies (for IWD)
Hosted by the AEU
Tue 2 March, 6pm
Cinema Nova, Carlton VIC
National Day of Protest: End Indefinite and Arbitrary Detention of Refugees
Hosted by Refugee Action Collective
Fri 5 March 6pm
State Library of Victoria
Kangaroo Point Central Hotel, QLD
International Women’s Day
Monday 8 March
Check social media for local marches and events
Seminar: Why Capitalism Needs Sexism
Hosted by Green Left
Tue 9 March 6:30pm
Resistance Centre, Level 5, 407 Swanston St, VIC
Or online via zoom, link here
Palm Sunday Rallies (Online and In-Person)
Hosted by Australian Medical Students’ Association’s (AMSA) Crossing Borders
Sun 28 March
 
 

Workers Solidarity acknowledges that our activities take place on Aboriginal Land. We recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

 
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