Workers In Struggle
MUA vs Patrick’s at Botany Sydney
The MUA EA negotiations with Patrick’s at Botany Sydney were characterized as ‘extortion’ by the Prime Minister who said the MUA was holding the country to ransom and that he was not taking the army off the table to clear the 40 ships left stranded with vital medical supplies, held up by the dispute. We’ve seen this tactic before - think striking miners in 1949 and pilots in 1989.
There wasn’t 40 ships or medical supplies held up. Patrick’s is trying to remove around 50 pages of conditions from the existing agreement and casualise the workforce. The Prime Minister supported Patrick’s move at the Fair Work Commission and used the tired old line that the Australian economy was being threatened by industrial action and the MUA.
Meanwhile the MUA has reached in principle agreement with both DP World and Hutchison in their EA negotiations.
In Victoria, Oz Port workers are moving towards protected action over conditions. The company is responsible for general duties at the ports and workers have never taken this type of action before.
CFMMEU vs Transurban & Victorian State Government
According to WorkSafe reports, three workers on the West Gate Tunnel project were hospitalised after seriously injuring their hands between May and July, including two subcontractors, in the space of two weeks. A CFMMEU organiser Joe Myles said tight deadlines had been driving up injuries on the West Gate Tunnel project. “The job is so far behind; everything is a rush,” he said. “They are cutting corners to catch up.” When companies cut corners, workers get injured.
Today (15 October 2020) is the 50 year anniversary of the West Gate Bridge collapse that killed 35 workers, and another worker when construction resumed.
TWU vs Qantas
The TWU has accused Qantas of having complete disregard for its workers and using the COVID-19 pandemic as a cover to implement its aim to expand the casualisation of work. In June, 6,000 jobs were made redundant. Last month, another 2,500 will be outsourced from baggage handlers and cabin crew to engineers, with the number of jobs to be outsourced expected to grow. The union had previously raised concerns about the safety record and conditions of workers at Swissport, the company which is the front runner to be contracted by the airline. Some of the existing workers could be re-employed. Most will not be taken back, and even if they are, only by agreeing to forego exiting employment conditions.
Qantas is betting on being given the green light by Fair Work Australia, using the pandemic as a good enough justification.
This makes what is going on in Qantas a test case, and other employers are looking on to see the result. The last time this was tried on a major scale was during the 1998 Patrick Stevedores waterfront battle to get rid of the unionised workforce.
The case is likely to go to court soon. Beyond this, it could become a rallying cry towards another waterfront like showdown.
Tax the Rich, Not the Poor
Tax figures from the ATO 2018-19 show up to 22 large energy exploration companies in Australia paid no tax despite billions of dollars of income. The list is topped by Exxonmobil Australia Pty Lt., Woodside Petroleum Ltd, Australia Pacific, Chevron Australia, Shell Energy Holdings Australia, and Santos. Over 700 multinationals operating in Australia pay no tax in Australia.
These revelations are a backdrop to the Federal Government’s decision to give tax cuts to high end earners as a method of kick starting the economy out of the COVID-19 pandemic despite strong evidence tax cuts of this sort reduce government coffers with no discernible increase in jobs. The tax concessions for the rich will cost Australia’s budget 6 times more than the extending JobSeeker.
Meat Workers in the US
According to a tracker maintained by the Food & Environment Reporting Network, more than 44,000 meatpackers have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 200 have died from it.
Now, a new exposé by the New York Times shows how many meatpacking families have struggled to get compensated for their loved one’s death on the job:
“Workers’ compensation has traditionally been used to address on-the-job injuries — not fatalities tied to a pandemic that has disrupted millions of lives and killed more than 200,000 people in the United States. Tracing the exact origins of individual infections can be difficult, which appears to have given JBS (the meatpacking company) an avenue to deny compensation claims on the grounds that the illnesses were not necessarily work related. Kim Cordova, the president of the local chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers, a union that represents many JBS employees said, “it is my understanding that JBS was stating that the workers didn’t contract COVID-19 at the plant.”
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.
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