Category Archives: Unions

Unions are planning big marches to bring change to industrial relations law

By a  member of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance

Unions are planning a series of big marches around Australia, and they are expected to be the largest turnout since those that occurred during the “Your Rights at Work” campaign, directed at John Howard’s WorkChoices law. Continue reading Unions are planning big marches to bring change to industrial relations law

Glencore wash plant workers join miners against contract work

From Townsville

Glencore is another employer trying to turn its permanent workforce at the Oaky North into contractors.

In its effort to enforce compliance after the failure to  on a new agreement, replacing the one that had ended in 2015, the  owners of the coal mine near Rockhampton in Queensland, have locked out the 190 miners 90 days so far this year. Now, the same change has been tried on 45 workers at the wash plant, also at North Oaky and they have rejected it too.

All are members of the CFMEU’s Mining and Energy Division. Local district union Vice-President, Chris Brody said that both workforces at Oaky North were standing strong in the face of extremely hard line industrial tactics by Glencore.

The deal insisted by Glencore would erode rights and conditions around workplace representation, dispute procedures, and severance and retrenchment, it is argued.

The dispute is set to keep on going for some time yet, because the Glencore workforce has no intention of giving in and is prepared to dig in for the long haul.

Management is continuing with its hard-line stance. Its difficulty however, is that the longer this goes, the greater the impact on its bottom line and its reputation. It must eventually calculate how much it is prepared to commit. Glencore is also risking the possibility of the dispute extending to the six other coal mines it owns in the Hunter Valley, where new agreements have not been worked out either.

For their part, workers without a wage coming in are dependent on the contributions made by supporters. So long as this remains sufficient, they can hold out for as long as they need to. In their favour is the rising trend for others to dig into their pockets and make a contribution.

Chris Brody says, “Glencore… have taken court action to try and stop legal pickets, and they are trying to intimidate, control and silence their workers with extreme and ludicrous company policies on what people can wear and say.

“They are incredibly sensitive to any negative publicity so much so that they even took a giant inflatable rat to court.

“But most ominously, their end game seems to be to replace the workforce with contractors – which would be a dire outcome for the local community of Tieri.

“In the wake of very healthy profits from their Australian coal operations this year, you would think Glencore would be sitting down and negotiating in good faith with the workforce.

“All we have seen from Glencore is contempt for the workers who line their shareholders’ pockets.”

Glencore’s revenue from Australian coal operations jumped from US$1.77 billion to US$3.1 billion in the last half-year.

Ugly greed at Exxon Mobil and Esso

 By Ugly

Esso’s parent, The American Exxon Mobil, happens to be the sixth largest company in the world. It chooses to use its subsidiary in Australia for both a tax dodging and screwing workers, even though it has in its hands unimaginable wealth and is experiencing soaring profits, $7 billion for the last year.

Like many of its cohorts, the company uses the generous loopholes provided by the Australian government, to launder money and get away from paying its contribution into Australia’s taxation system.

For instance, loopholes allow the writing off interest borrowed from offshore subsidiaries, and Exxon Mobil has benefited by millions of dollars in this way, according to research by the University of Technology School of Accounting and campaign group GetUp.

The Federal Court recently ruled that the company had not paid $340 million in taxes during 2004 and 2008.

Tax avoidance is an important matter in this own right. It is also important, because it betrays the desire at the very top, to squeeze out the last drop, no matter what it cost others.

This is what lies behind efforts to drive down the wages and conditions of maintenance workers at the onshore at Longford plant and offshore facilities in Bass Strait. Using a contractor, wages have been cut by up to 30 percent and new family unfriendly rosters put in place.

A significant part of the wage cuts, comes through a reduction on loadings and the allowance paid to those who work offshore. Annual leave has been reduced as well.

The new roster turns away from the one week on, one week off system and is replaced with five weeks on and one week off.

Instead of lying down, the workers have refused to accept the changes and have been sacked for doing so.  Rather than give in, they have been waging ongoing  action and maintaining a picket on the Longford site.

Scabby, the mascot from the CUB was there. The connection? Here too management tried to use the same method to the same end.

CUB came unstuck and had to pull back and it is hoped that the same will happen here.

Esso took the matter to the court and Scabby was ordered off. Greedy the Fat Cat is now on the scene.

The battle continues unabated and the Esso workers are being recognised and winning increasing support around the country and they are being supported by their unions, the Australian Manufacturing Union, the Electrical Trades Union and the Australian Workers Union.

This is an important battle, because it is another test case that will have repercussions on the wages and conditions of the whole Australian workforce, by setting a precedent that allows conditions that have been hard fought for over the years to be torn up. The question is, can we afford for this to happen?


Scabby at Longford

Unions brought out Greedy the Fat Cat at a picket at Esso's Longford gas plant to mark its first Australian appearance.

Greedy the Fat cat