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50 years ago today a section of the West Gate Bridge collapsed in Australia’s worst industrial incident. In this edition we pay tribute to the 35 workers killed in the collapse, the 18 who were seriously injured and all of the family members and workers who were deeply affected by this disaster. Remembering also means that we remember how this preventable catastrophe happened and the callous and inadequate response from the bosses and government.

we.are.workers.solidarity@gmail.com

 
Ben Juers West Gate Bridge
Ben Juers | @Benjuers
 

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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.

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


Shoot us a line with your thoughts at
we.are.workers.solidarity@gmail.com

 


 

What's On

 

Workers Solidarity General Meeting (Online via Zoom)
Third Thursday of every month
Next meeting: TBA
Workerssolidarity.org.au

Livestream Forum: A Left Wing Critique of Lifestyle Politics
Hosted by Socialist Alternative Melbourne University
Thursday, 15 October 13:00
facebook event here

Launch of ‘Peace Crimes’ book (Online event)
Hosted by Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition and Gleebooks. Kieran Finnane discusses her new book about Pine Gap and the trial of some protesters in 2016.
Friday, 16th October 18:30
more information here

Young Leaders Summit: With Love, With Pride (Online event)
Hosted by United Nations Youth Victoria
Queer youth activist event featuring panels and workshops
facebook event here

COVID, capitalism & ecology: A conversation with Mike Davis & Rob Wallace.
Hosted by the Global Ecosocialist Network
18 Oct at 04:00 UTC+11 – 18 Oct at 05:30 UTC+11 (be sure to double check Australian time)
facebook event here

US Fall 2020 Online Labor Film Series
12 leftist films screening at set times - free entry
Organized and sponsored by the DC LaborFest
dclabor.org/dc-laborfest.html
Regular sessions until 27th October

Starting a Worker Cooperative
Formal short online course hosted by Earthworker Cooperative.
Every Wednesday starting October 7th til December 9th 9:30am - 12:30pm
03 94158700 for more info & enrolment.

2021 Australian Progress National Fellowship - Applications now open
Leadership course for advocates, campaigners, activists and changemakers.
19 February - 5 June 2021
more information here

Dangerous Goods Advisory Group - OHS (Online)
Bimonthly general networking & discussion update meeting, open to all, to discuss Dangerous Goods and Chemical Regulation campaigns.
Wednesday 21 October 17.30-19.30
Jeff.Simpson@haztech.com.au

HSR Conference 2020 - Risks to Psychosocial Health
Online conference, Free Event
October 27th 2020
ohsrep.org.au/conference

Virtual Organising Conference
Australian Trade Union Institute
16 – 20 November
voc2020.atui.org.au/

Eureka Rebellion Anniversary (Online event)
Saturday 28th November
spiritofeureka.org

 
 
 

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

 
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