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WINTER 2010

A Paragon of solidarity

INSIDE

Campaign to ‘Build Them Here’ Fair Work not WorkChoices AMWU on Facebook


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EDITORIAL

WorkChoices – Never Again As we go to press, there is plenty of speculation about the date of the next Federal election.

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s you would expect, your Union has strong views about the policy direction that Federal Governments should take to look after the interests of AMWU members and their families.

Our union has successfully campaigned for the government to act on the issues affecting Australian manufacturing jobs.

Our experience with the current Federal Government has been up and down depending on the issue. On the one hand, we have run hard to end discrimination against workers in the building industry and we have worked to prevent a reduction in our OHS rights. We have pushed the government to improve on their industrial laws and to strengthen our bargaining rights. We continue to argue loudly for the protection of workers’ entitlements and corporate law reform around company bankruptcies. On the other hand, we have seen this government take very big decisions which have defended and improved the lives of our members. I urge you to read the column by AMWU economist Nixon Apple on page 14 where he clearly explains the government’s role in protecting tens of thousands of manufacturing workers from the disaster of unemployment during the financial crisis. Nixon also explains the recent surge in spending on apprentices, education and infrastructure – core issues that we have been campaigning on for many years. Our union has successfully campaigned for the government to act on the issues affecting Australian manufacturing jobs. To name a few, we have won mandatory local content tests on government purchasing, fair-work rules around government tenders, establishment of tripartite innovation councils – to give workers a voice at the table with

AMWU News WINTER2010 AMWU News is the official publication of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, (registered AFMEPKIU) National Office, 133 Parramatta Road, Granville, NSW, 2142. Editor: Dave Oliver AMWU Communications Team: Tim Chapman, Jem Wilson, Jennifer Kingwell Design: dcmc Design, Melbourne All information included in this publication was correct at the time of publication, but is subject to change at any time. Please contact your union organiser for updates. © AMWU National Office Made in Australia by AMWU labour

employers and government – and $6 billion to help secure thousands of auto sector jobs over the next 10 years. And of course there is the current debate raging over the proposed resource super profits tax. This for me is a no brainer. Whilst the miners and conservatives are spending millions on a media scare campaign falsely threatening the loss of jobs, it is important that we keep the debate simple. The fact is that mining companies have had enormous increases in their profits as a result of the boom in commodity prices and yet are not paying their fare share of tax to go back to the community. The current government is to be applauded for the stand that they are taking. It is a core labor principle that those who make enormous wealth from what belongs to the country must put back their fair share. The government should not back down because billionaires are protesting in the streets. While the pros and cons of the current government are important, we also need to focus on the record of the alternative government and you don’t have to dig very deep to see the policies of the Howard era waiting to take up from where they left off. For 11 years, the Howard Government was asleep at the wheel when it came to the manufacturing industry. They believed Australia should be a farm, quarry or a nice place to visit. Their attitude to climate change could cost us the chance to grow manufacturing in the clean energy sector. And let’s not forget WorkChoices – the ideological heart of the Liberal Party for the last 20 years. Tony

Abbott was up to his neck in WorkChoices and it is not credible to claim that a future Abbott Government would not go back to the individual contracts, non-union agreements, removal of unfair dismissal rights and cuts to the safety net that ripped money and respect from so many workers. While maintaining a working relationship with the government of the day is an important tool in our struggle to defend and improve the rights of our members, it is not the be all and end all. The improvements under the current government have only been won through the strength, understanding and activism of our members and delegates – working collectively under the banner of our Union. We will continue that struggle no matter which party wins the day, but I urge you to weigh carefully the choice before you and remember the reasons why we fought the Your Rights At Work campaign so strongly just three short years ago. We must campaign to keep the Liberals out for the same reason we campaigned to kick them out. I would finally like to mention the workers on the cover of this magazine, from Paragon Printing Ltd in Wodonga. Their struggle to maintain their jobs and entitlements has been tough and heroic, and is one more reason why we go to this election campaigning for justice on workers’ entitlements.

Dave Oliver AMWU National Secretary

Dave Oliver's editorial ........................................................................... 3 Fair Work not WorkChoices .................................................................... 4 Campaign to ‘Build Them Here’............................................................... 5 Air crew land great pay deal ................................................................... 6 Apprentices fight for better rights ......................................................... 7 Paragon workers .................................................................................... 8 AMWU on Facebook ............................................................................. 11 Future for manufacturing in clean energy ............................................ 13 Delegate Profile . .................................................................................. 16

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Vs Unfair dismissal Businesses hire and fire at will

Unfair dismissal laws protect the majority of workers Individual contracts

AWA individual contracts can force workers onto lower pay and conditions: • 70% lost shift loadings • 68% lost annual leave loadings • 65% lost penalty rates • 49% lost overtime loadings • 25% no longer had public holidays

• AWA individual contracts abolished • Fair Work Australia is based on collective bargaining • Non-union collective agreements abolished

Minimum standards • Award system phased out • Minimum award wages fell by up to $97.75 pw. • Last minimum wage decision of the Howard system: $0

• Award system Modernised and maintained • 2010 Fair-Pay Commission grants $26 pw. pay-rise for low-paid workers • Legislated minimum standards

Bargaining rights and representation • No right to a collective agreement, even when majority vote in favour • Right to representation limited in non-union workplaces

• Employers must bargain in good faith or face penalties if majority of workers vote for a union collective agreement • Right to be represented by a union even if you are the only member on site

The difference is clear

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Morgan Ceramics workers take action and win AMWU members at a Melbourne ceramics manufacturer have won a 13.25% wage increase, full back-pay and a $1000 sign-on bonus after nine months of negotiation, which ended after three weeks of industrial action.

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he workers at Morgan Technical Ceramics in Notting Hill, Victoria, are now back at work after the action helped them secure a new union collective agreement.

“We were shocked that the offer was 0% and that they wanted to take away conditions. All through the financial crisis we were making money and last year was their biggest profit ever.

Just before Easter, the company – which had initially offered a 0% wage rise despite a highly profitable year – stalled negotiations by threatening to strip away conditions which had been in place for almost 30 years and refused to back-date any payrise to the expiry of their previous agreement on June 30 2009.

“Management were given bonuses of 10%, so we think our claim was fair,” he said. Frank Vojnic, who has worked for Morgan Technical for almost 26 years, said the workers had never had to resort to industrial action before.

AMWU delegate, Scott Wilkinson, said that the company had made a record profit last year and workers had been told they would be rewarded in the next collective agreement.

“I started here in ’84 and I had to go on a picket line to defend our conditions. I felt betrayed. They were trying to take away conditions that we’ve had for 30 years.” AMWU organiser, Dinh Nguyen, said that the solidarity showed by members paid off in the end.

“Our industrial action was the main reason they agreed to our claims. We had full solidarity on the line. The company is very busy.

They had a lot of contracts coming in. So when they tried to bluff us and test how strong we are, we stood together and succeeded.” ■

Build Them Here campaign launched I n May, the AMWU launched ‘Build Them Here’, a campaign to call on the New South Wales Government to award transport contracts locally, rather than send them overseas.

An independent report commissioned by the AMWU said that awarding train, bus and ferry contracts to manufacturers in the Hunter region of NSW would create 1200 direct jobs and boost the local economy by $1.3 billion. AMWU NSW Secretary, Tim Ayres, said the local manufacturing industry is “at a crossroads” and the NSW Government must utilise the opportunity to invest in specialist skills and manufacturing capacity. “The announcement of new buses, ferries and trains means the NSW Government has a great opportunity to invest in our state and in the future of NSW manufacturing.

“We are asking the NSW Government to invest taxpayers’ money in the manufacturing workers of NSW and give them the opportunity to build our buses, ferries and trains, instead of sending the work overseas.” Local content requirements for public transport procurement have dropped significantly in recent years. Train carriages and buses are now commonly brought in from overseas in flat pack or shell form, to be fitted out and given their finishing touches here. Mr Ayres said a strong transport manufacturing industry in NSW can build jobs, offer an efficient solution to public transport procurement and drive our economy. “If the NSW Government – the biggest player in transport

procurement – continues to send the work to low-cost offshore competitors, it won’t be long before we lose our skills base and manufacturing capacity. “Here in NSW, we have some of the best manufacturing technology and most skilled manufacturing workers in the world.

“They aren’t just building our infrastructure, they are also creating skilled jobs, developing valuable intellectual property, contributing to local communities and strengthening the NSW economy,” said Mr Ayres.

AMWU NSW Secretary Tim Ayres addresses a meeting at Maintrain, a major western Sydney employer with 450 workers, about the public transport manufacturing contracts that will be going to tender in the coming months.

“It makes sense to build them here.” For more information and to show your commitment to keeping jobs local, visit the ‘Build Them Here’ campaign website at www.buildthemhere.com.au ■ Maintrain workers signed petitions and unanimously supported a resolution to fight for transport manufacturing jobs.

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Workers’ Memorial Day and May Day AMWU members across Australia have taken part in marches in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart to celebrate May Day. May Day is the day where working people celebrate the fight for a better world and the social and economic achievements of the Labour Movement. On April 28, 2010, AMWU members across Australia also marked International Workers’ Memorial Day by holding a minute’s silence to remember all those who have been injured or killed at work.

Komatsu workers win first collective agreement A

MWU members at the Komatsu site in Fairfield, NSW have successfully negotiated a 19% pay rise in their first ever union collective agreement.

For the first time, workers’ benefits at the site include a commitment from the company to develop and implement a seven level classification system. The 19% wage rise will be paid over the next four years and improved working conditions for the 27-strong workforce will begin immediately. 6

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A successful recruitment

campaign in 2008 saw more than half the workforce join the union with the aim of organising to win a collective agreement. AMWU delegate, Danasa Danasa,

says that workers are now much better off. “It was a big concern that there was no union agreement. Everything we gained in this agreement were things we had to do without for a long time. The main reason people joined the union was for protection - under our previous conditions there was no allowance for union involvement, and now there is.” Keith Brown, AMWU organiser, said that apprentices on the site would also benefit as a result of the agreement.

According to Danasa, morale is now much higher at the site since the agreement has been reached. “This industry pulls a lot of money out of mining, but we felt left behind. “Now we’ve got this agreement, everyone’s looking up and feeling like we’ve achieved something.” Komatsu is a leading construction and mining machinery manufacturer with 35 service depots around Australia. Workers at the Fairfield site are mainly service technicians and workshop mechanics. ■


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Air crew win better work/life balance

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n a break through agreement for their industry, AMWU members within the Air Crew at CHC Helicopters have negotiated an agreement to reduce dangerously long work hours and gain an average pay rise of 17.8% over three years.

The Air Crew conduct search and rescue operations for members of the Royal Australian Air Force and for civilians through Air Ambulance Associations across Australia. Bill Smits, an Air Crew member for 28 years, says it can be a tough job. “In the Air Ambulance role we’re trained to assist Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance (MICA) paramedics. We do a lot of hands on work with patients so you get exposed to a lot of death and trauma. You need passion to do the job but also aviation, piloting and medical skills.” Three years ago, two Air Crew workers approached the AMWU and asked if they could join. The two workers became AMWU

delegates and now 48 of the 55 Air Crew workers at CHC Helicopters are members of the AMWU. “The advice, direction and technical expertise we get from the AMWU is just invaluable,” said AMWU delegate at CHC in NSW, David Collins. The members began negotiations for a new Union Collective Agreement in mid 2009 after the previous agreement expired in August 2008. The major aim in the negotiations was to achieve the same duty hours for the Air Crew as the pilots whose rosters are regulated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. Under the previous agreement, the Air Crew had to work up to 16 hours to get relieved and they were concerned the long shifts could affect not only their own welfare, but the welfare of the people they rescued.

“In the Air Ambulance role we’re trained to assist Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance (MICA) paramedics. We do a lot of hands on work with patients so you get exposed to a lot of death and trauma.”

The agreement also guarantees Air Crew Cadetships will be offered at CHC Helicopters. Organiser, Darren Hanisch, congratulated the two delegates on their hard work in reaching the agreement.

“Without the organisational skills and capabilities of the two delegates concerned, Bill Smits and David Collins, the AMWU would never

have been successful in reaching the outcomes we have delivered. The skills demonstrated by the delegates are a credit to them both.” ■

Apprentices plan action to improve pay and conditions

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pprentices want better opportunities and transferable skill recognition, as well as more pay and mentoring, according to apprentices who attended an AMWU conference in Queensland.

plans – I found that I can actually change my working plan, which I didn’t know before. Also, we had been told that as apprentices we weren’t allowed to take industrial action and I found out at the conference that that’s not actually true”, she said.

The apprentices and trainee members of the AMWU met in Brisbane for two days and decided to take action to improve the apprenticeship experience.

AMWU National Secretary, Dave Oliver, opened the conference and swapped stories from his time as an apprentice, encouraging the members to become active in the union.

Sharon Dove, an apprentice boilermaker from Racecourse Sugar Mill was encouraged by the experience to campaign for an elected apprentice delegate in her workplace.

Each conference participant developed an individual action plan aimed at improving apprentices’ experiences and engagement in their own workplaces. Many apprentices came away planning to become more involved as

“We decided that we should have an apprentice delegate at our work. We need someone fighting for the apprentices. The regular delegates do a good job but sometimes it seems we get a bit shoved to the side. I’m not going to be an apprentice for much longer so I can’t do it, otherwise I would! “I got a lot out of the conference. Especially learning about our rights and our training

apprentice delegates or as members on union collective agreement negotiation committees. Other action plans involved organising forums and conducting apprentice recruitment campaigns in the workplace. AMWU Queensland Secretary, Andrew Dettmer, said it was crucial that action was the outcome of the conference. “It was fantastic to see how switched-on and dedicated our next generation of activists and leaders are”, he said. “It is vital that young people in manufacturing are aware of their rights and know that being in a union means they can do something about their concerns. AMWU training advisor, Kate Perry, said the aims of the conference were to educate apprentices on their rights in the workplace, provide opportunities for apprentices and trainees to share their experiences and to discuss the future of the manufacturing industry and the impact that conference participants could make. ■ AMWUNEWS

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A Paragon of Solidarity: How 140 workers s for six weeks and brought their company back

“Under federal corporate law, banks and other creditors have priority when recovering a failed company’s assets. This means there is rarely any money left to pay employee entitlements”,

Workers blockade the gates to Paragon Printing Ltd.

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t’s a worker’s worst nightmare: Protesting outside your own workplace, linking arms with your workmates demanding unpaid wages and leave.

But that’s how 140 AMWU members at Paragon Printing Ltd (PPL) in Wodonga spent much of March and April this year. On March 5, the workers’ jobs were thrown into limbo when owner Amir Hyster placed PPL and several other companies into administration. Four days later, Hyster fled overseas, leaving a $20 million trail of debts behind him. The workers were devastated. “We’ve gone without pay rises and made sacrifices to keep our jobs and keep the company going and this is the thanks we get,” said Jane Kernaghan who had worked at the company for 15 years. “We raised some concerns about it in the weeks before, but we were assured that everything was OK, so it was still a shock,” said AMWU Organiser Leigh Diehm. Most of the workers had been with the company for decades and some, nearing retirement, had just begun sacrificing 70% of their wages into superannuation.

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But after administrators were called in, it quickly became apparent that the company had stopped paying tax, super and salary-sacrificed payments three months prior to the collapse. Even the money from the social club was missing. “The money had disappeared; super funds hadn’t been paid and our union deduction came out of our pay but never went any further,” said Llwella McDonald, who had been with the company for almost 32 years.

company was profitable and had plenty of work. “There were still orders coming in while we were under administration,” said Neil Cullen. “We were trying to keep the place going but it was frustrating because the administrators wouldn’t buy the ink we needed for printing.” Despite campaigning by the AMWU to find a way to maintain the business, 12 days after the administrator’s were appointed, the workforce was stood down.

As the administration process began, the reality of Australia’s insolvency and entitlements systems hit home.

With nothing to lose, the workers rallied together and the community of Albury-Wodonga rallied around them.

“Under federal corporate law, banks and other creditors have priority when recovering a failed company’s assets. This means there is rarely any money left to pay employee entitlements”, said AMWU Victorian Secretary, Steve Dargavel.

In an effort to stop the remaining assets from being taken from the warehouse, they voted to block the gates to the factory.

The workers were owed over $10 million in unpaid wages, annual and sick leave, superannuation and redundancy money, but the odds were against them ever getting it. Most of PPL’s assets had been moved into other ‘shell’ companies owned or controlled by Amir Hyster. Worst of all, the workers also knew that their livelihood was being taken away, even though the

In defiance of court orders and under the threat of arrest, the workers were joined by their children, parents and even grandparents in a protest which lasted four days. “The products in the warehouse are our last hope, they are the only bargaining chip we have left,” AMWU member, Tania Martini, told the local Border Mail newspaper. After the workers held firm and the administrators called off legal threats against the protest, AMWU officials were able to broker discussions to have the


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stood together k from collapse majority of the workforce go back to work ahead of negotiations to sell the business as a going concern. But on April 21, the workers and other creditors made the difficult decision to liquidate the company. “It was really up and down for all the workers and their families. Uncertainty. Anxiety. It’s a terrible thing for people to go through,” said Leigh Diehm. Despite the set back, eight days later, the AMWU

managed to convince Print Media Group to purchase the plant and run it under a new entity, called the South Pacific Print Group. Eighty workers from Paragon Printing Ltd have now been re-employed under the new owner and 22 more have gained work with an associated business, Moore Australasia. AMWU Federal Print Secretary, Lorraine Cassin, said the complicated legal status of the company had made negotiations over the sale difficult, but the members and the AMWU local, state and national officials all worked together to get the sale over the line. “It was a far better result than we dared to hope for but obviously it’s been a very traumatic time for

everybody and not everyone was able to get their job back. They’re exhausted by the whole process of not having job security and not knowing what their future will be.” “It’s a relief for the many who did keep their jobs, but why should workers end up in this situation in the first place?” ■

The AMWU is campaigning to change the laws so that workers’ entitlements are protected in full and directors are held to account for legal obligations to employees. To see a short video about the Paragon Printing Ltd workers’ case and why the laws need to change, visit www.youtube.com/AMWUTV Paragon Print in Canberra is not associated with PPL Wodonga.

Change the laws to protect entitlements

Devastated workers rally at Paragon Printing Ltd before a meeting of creditors.

Workers rally outside ASIC

AMWU National Secretary, Dave Oliver, said the Paragon Printing Ltd workers faced a situation many manufacturing workers have been through before and it’s just one more example why the Federal Government needs to change corporate law and protect workers’ entitlements in full. “Workers who didn’t get new jobs will receive some of their entitlements under the Federal Government’s General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS). But GEERS only covers 16 weeks of redundancy and doesn’t cover unpaid superannuation. This leaves many workers short changed.” AMWU Delegate, Jim Corboy, lost his job as a leading hand fitter after 29 years of service to PPL. “I should have got 91 weeks pay including notice which is about $87 000. But under GEERS I’m only entitled to 16 weeks pay, plus four weeks’ notice, which is about $16 000,” he said. “I’ve lost about $71 000. I still haven’t got my GEERS payment and God knows how long it will take. I’m living off my savings, Centrelink and casual work. I need a permanent job.” On April 30, hundreds of workers rallied outside the offices of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in Melbourne to demand the regulator prosecute directors who don’t fulfil their obligations to employees. Workers from DSI in Albury, Apollo Engineering in Altona, Forgecast Forgings in Mitcham, ACL Bearings in Tasmania and Metaltec in Melbourne all took part in the protest. “It’s a pretty ordinary situation when bosses can get away with taking millions but if I stole a nut or a bolt, I’d go to jail,” said Jim. “It’s a double standard.” Visit www.amwu.org.au to find out how you can get involved in the campaign to change corporate law and create a National Entitlements Scheme that protects workers in full. ■

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Workers on track with MISTAS Q

ueensland Rail (QR) workers who recently underwent a job redesign exercise have gained pay rises for a staggering 75% of their workforce. The exercise was conducted by the AMWU’s Registered Training Organisation, MISTAS (Manufacturing Industry Skills Training and Assessment Services) and also led to improved career path opportunities for the workers. “This is really a win-win opportunity for workers and the employer alike,” said Neil Zsoldos, MISTAS National Coordinator. “The employee gets new skills, career pathways and greater job opportunities and the employer gets a more flexible workforce,

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which can adapt to new situations, allowing them to compete with private companies and secure work contracts.” Greg Cotter is a fitter with QR and an AMWU delegate and was one of the 150 workers who underwent the job redesign process and gained a pay increase and classification boost. “We showed MISTAS all the work we do in the shed, explaining all the different jobs to them. Then we ticked off on their worksheets what we do. They were very thorough and helpful. “We fitters went from a 2.2 to 2.4 classification level, and the electricians went from 2.4 to 3.2. The carriage builders are getting qualified through TAFE now. “All in all, since MISTAS

“We’re recognised for the skills we’ve got now, which we appreciate. It’s also improved our pay, which is a big boost”, Greg said.

came through, everyone’s had a chance to improve themselves. “We’re recognised for the skills we’ve got now, which we appreciate. It’s also improved our

pay, which is a big boost”, Greg said. MISTAS is an AMWU initiative, set up to provide vocational training and job redesign services for and on behalf of AMWU members. Achievements such as the QR experience demonstrate how the AMWU is leading the push to make Australia a leading manufacturing country, through taking real action to provide career path progression and enterprise training plans. If you would like more information about how MISTAS might be able to help members at your workplace, talk to your organiser or contact MISTAS direct and speak to one of the Industry Advisors on (07) 3238 5500. ■


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AMWU on facebook

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t’s now easier than ever to stay in touch with the AMWU through our social media channels on facebook, twitter and youtube.

These online forums are a quick and direct way for AMWU members to communicate with each other and the union’s officials. Join our facebook group so you can get union updates in your news feed, share the stories and information you like with other friends and post what’s happening at your workplace for other members to see. You can post photos and comments about the issues that concern you and chat with other AMWU members from all over Australia. If you have a twitter account, you can also follow the AMWU and be the first to know our latest news. The union has an account @ theAMWU, as does National Secretary, Dave Oliver @ amwudave, and hundreds of members around the country are also on twitter.

AMWU Online:

On our youtube channel, www.youtube.com/AMWUTV, you can watch video updates on campaigns, official messages and much more. You can also have your say on our website by commenting on our news stories - tell us if you agree, have a different point of view or have your own experiences you want to share. It’s your union – stay in touch!

www.facebook.com/theAMWU www.twitter.com/theAMWU www.twitter.com/AMWUDave www.youtube.com/AMWUTV

AMWU provides asbestos expertise to Vietnam

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he Vietnam - Australia Asbestos Awareness and Disease Prevention Project has been launched in Vietnam with the support of the AMWU.

The initiative has funding from the Federal Government through AusAID and is a combined effort of the AMWU, the ACTU charity APHEDA-Union Aid Abroad, the National Institute of Labour Protection in Vietnam, the Asbestos Disease Research Institute (ADRI) and several other national and international unions. The project will establish a dedicated National Resource Centre on Asbestos within the National Institute of Labour (NILP) in Vietnam. The AMWU will provide the centre with expertise in worker education and the Asbestos Disease Research Institute will provide technical, treatment and diagnostic expertise on asbestos related diseases. While Vietnam has banned other

The AMWU is working to prevent the asbestos industry causing a public health tragedy in Vietnam. Paul Bastian, AWMU National President.

forms of asbestos, it still imports around 60 000 tonnes of crysotile (white) asbestos each year to make cheap roofing tiles.

Ten thousand workers in 42 factories are exposed to the dangers of asbestos each day, as they produce over 80 million square metres of roofing tiles that are used to build cheap houses in Vietnam. AMWU National President, Paul Bastian, who is also a board member of the Asbestos Disease Research Institute, said the AMWU will provide the centre with expertise on safe asbestos handling and removal. “The AMWU’s hard won expertise in fighting the causes of asbestos disease will benefit the millions of Vietnamese people who are being exposed to asbestos in their homes and workplaces every day,” he said. “From our experience in Australia we know that even if asbestos use in Vietnam were to end tomorrow, asbestos related-disease would continue to take a toll for generations to come, not peaking until 30 or 40 years from now.” The project will investigate alternative roofing tiles that do

not contain asbestos and will help Vietnam build a database of relevant and accurate information on this deadly fibre. Awareness about the dangers posed by asbestos remains low in Vietnam, so Mr Bastian said the AMWU will provide information and training materials to educate Vietnamese workers and inform them about low-cost personal protective equipment. Mr Bastian, who recently visited the centre, said that it was already making a difference. “The AMWU is working to prevent the asbestos industry causing a public health tragedy in Vietnam. There is so much the AMWU can offer in terms of experience and knowledge on safe asbestos handling and systems of enforcement and inspection.” The AMWU hopes the establishment of this centre is the first step to an asbestos-free Vietnam and an asbestos free world. ■ AMWUNEWS

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Pensioners demand a fair go R

etired members of the AMWU have joined pensioners in a rally at the Victorian Parliament House to highlight the plight of older Australians living in poverty. Around 100 pensioners and supporters called for the pension to be increased to 35% of the average adult wage. Representatives from the Fair Go For Pensioners Coalition spoke of the need for State and Federal Governments to take action on the pension. With 77% of the over 65 year old population receiving the pension, it’s an issue that governments can ill afford to ignore. Many pensioners survive on or below the poverty level, with over half making do with just $20 a week of private income. Frank Cherry, Secretary of the AMWU’s Retired Members’ Division, is also the National Coordinator of the Fair Go For Pensioners Coalition, which organised the rally.

“We’re rallying to highlight the plight of pensioners, both to the State and Federal Government and to begin the second stage of our campaign to increase the pension,” he said. The AMWU’s Retired Members’ Division is one of the founding members of the Coalition, which is made up of progressive and community organisations including the Council of the Ageing, ethnic community councils, church groups and retired members’ divisions of several trade unions. In her address to the rally, Patricia Reeve, National Chairperson of the Fair Go For Pensioners Coalition, spoke of the additional difficulties faced by Aboriginal pensioners and read out a letter of support from Brian Boyd, Secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council. “Social justice for retirees is a natural and logical extension of our campaign for social justice in the workplace. Pensioners

are right to get organised and in turn place progressive demands on both State and Federal Governments.” Frank described the rally as a successful launch to the second phase of the campaign, which will see the Fair Go For Pensioners Coalition travel to Canberra in August to take their fight to a national level.

“We’re very happy with the outcome of the rally. We had some wonderful representatives from seven or eight organisations right across the board, including church, indigenous and Greek community groups. It’s a great lead-up as we head off to Federal Parliament to continue our campaign.” ■

Book review - The Wal-Mart Effect:

How an Out-of-Town Superstore Became a Superpower by Charles Fishman

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he Wal-Mart Effect is Charles Fishman’s ambitious and impressivelyresearched study of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest and most influential global retailer.

cannibalised by the superstore’s demand that suppliers accept its mantra of cost-cutting at all cost.

Fishman examines the impact of the super-corporation on workers, communities and industries. He describes with marvel and horror how its blindly ruthless pursuit of ‘always lower prices’ has seen it slash waste, inefficiency and its own profit margins, as well as product quality and the living standards of its employees and customers.

While Fishman acknowledges the employment and low grocery prices that Wal-Mart has delivered to many lower socioeconomic areas of North America, he does not miss the irony that as manufacturing is sent overseas and manufacturing workers take jobs at Wal-Mart, the store’s lower prices help them afford their new lower wages.

Beginning in 1962, Fishman’s tale of Wal-Mart describes how countless businesses were bankrupted and

In what Fishman calls the ‘Wal-Mart Economy’, its high volume and low quality products create a cycle of

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cheap, easy, unhealthy and wasteful consumption.

pickles and panties end up affecting

He also exposes Wal-Mart’s efforts to prevent workers from organising for better pay and conditions, both in America and offshore.

From the factory floors of China to

Wal-Mart’s notoriously anti-union policies see Bangladeshi factory workers toil 16-hour days for a measly 13-17 cents per hour; U.S. manufacturing workers face massive layoffs; retail workers struggle close to or below the poverty line; and Chilean farmers abandon traditional agricultural industries to intensively farm non-native Atlantic salmon to devastating ecological effect.

billions of people. Even if you’ve never

While Fishman draws upon economic data and statistical analysis, the down-home way he describes real people’s experiences with the corporate monolith brings The WalMart Effect to life. Fishman neatly describes Wal-Mart’s global influence through tales of how small changes to the production of deodorant boxes,

economy and industrial justice.

thousands of people. the checkouts of North America, The Wal-Mart Effect examines how Wal-Mart has reshaped the lives of set foot in one of their thousands of stores world-wide, the reality is that Wal-Mart has made an indelible mark on the global patterns of consumption and production that affect us all. The Wal-Mart Effect is essential reading for anyone who wonders how just one company can have such a profound impact on the global The Wal-Mart Effect is published in Australia by Penguin Group. The first 20 financial members to write to the AMWU or email news@amwu. asn.au will win a copy of Charles Fishman’s ‘The Wal-Mart Effect’ ■


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International news

U.S miners win against Rio Tinto International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) members at Rio Tinto in California won a new agreement in May after a 15-week lock-out by the company and solidarity actions by trade unions around the world. The workers voted to accept a new six-year agreement which maintains union protection and includes a 15% wage rise.

Greek ‘austerity measures’ lead to ongoing strikes Greece’s main labour unions have been taking strike action against the government’s so-called ‘austerity measures’. Workers are concerned about many conditions of the EU-IMF 40-45 billion euro bailout package, including public wage cuts, raising of the retirement age and heavy tax increases. Workers in Portugal and Spain have also taken similar action.

IMF takes action against Filipino human rights abuses International Metalworkers’ Federation affiliates from the Asia-Pacific region met in April to discuss G20 preparations, responses to the financial crisis that hit metal industries hard and action against human and trade union rights abuses in the Philippines. Filipino trade union and human rights activists still suffer from violence and intimidation, often at the hands of the military and police.

23-year-old Japan Railways union dispute settled Japanese railway union representatives recently decided to accept a 20 billion yen (AU $206m) government package to bring a 23-year old industrial dispute to an end. The dispute began in 1987 when Japanese National Railways was sold to a number of companies which refused to hire 1047 rail workers, many of them union members. After lengthy negotiations, the union brokered a deal which will see the workers each receive approximately 22 million yen (AU $295 000), with a further 6 billion yen (AU $4.5m) going to help workers secure new jobs.

Caterpillar union network goes global Under the coordination of the International Metalworkers Federation, a global network of cooperating unions has been formed at Caterpillar, one of the world’s largest heavy machinery manufacturers. The move is an example of the growing union focus on developing global strategies to counter anti-worker behaviour by multinational corporations.

Manufacturing workers in the race for green jobs M

anufacturing workers could be big winners in the race for green jobs, according to a new report released in June by the ACTU and the Australian Conservation Foundation.

The report titled, Creating Jobs – Cutting Pollution: The Road Map for a Cleaner, Stronger Economy, found that Australia could create more than 770 000 extra jobs by 2030 by taking strong action now to cut pollution. Using extensive economic modelling from the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research, the report found that strong action on pollution would result in 140 684 new manufacturing jobs. According to the report, manufacturing workers would benefit from rapid expansion of clean energy infrastructure, clean vehicle production and public transport infrastructure. AMWU National Secretary, Dave Oliver, said the report shows that moving to a low carbon economy relies on re-skilling workers, not laying them off. “We must have strong government intervention to ensure that shifting to a low-carbon future does not mean workers are worse off. If Australia takes the lead, we can take advantage of new jobs in renewable industries,” he said.

The $652 million investment in the Renewable Energy Super Fund announced in the Federal Budget will help grow Australian renewable energy manufacturing.

“There are multi-billion dollar export opportunities in clean technology and we have to make sure Australia gets in early.” Worldwide investment in clean energy totalled US $162 billion in 2009, but only US $1 billion of this investment was in Australia. China is ranked number one in clean energy investment out of the G20 countries, with US $34.6 billion. Australia is ranked 14th, behind Turkey, Mexico, Canada and others. The AMWU also has a paper which outlines the opportunities for Australian manufacturing titled Making Our Future: Just transitions for climate change mitigation, which is available on the union’s website. Dave Oliver said Australia needs to make a strong commitment to drive innovation and invest in renewable energy. “The $652 million investment in the Renewable Energy Super Fund announced in the Federal Budget will help grow Australian renewable energy manufacturing. “It’s a good start towards combating climate change and ending our fossil-fuel dependence. It also shows that green jobs can be the future of Australia’s manufacturing industry.” ■

Projected increase in manufacturing jobs by 2030 if Australia takes strong action to cut pollution

State Jobs ACT NSW NT QLD SA TAS VIC WA

847 33,199 737 23,982 13,443 2,260 53,533 12,683

 Total 140,684 Source: ACTU/NIEIR

AMWUNEWS

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Economics with Nixon Apple

Why the stimulus packages were so important and why the campaign by the mining industry is so misleading

T

ony Abbott would like us to believe that the Government spent too much money on saving jobs during the financial crisis, but if Australia had continued the economic policies of the Howard Government, Australian manufacturing would have lost 100 000 to 150 000 jobs. Up to a million workers would now be unemployed. The nation’s debt would be twice as high as it is now. And if Tony Abbott were to become Prime Minister at the next election, his policies would cost us up to 200 000 manufacturing jobs.

The Coalition’s argument about debt completely ignores reality. As the graph below shows, Commonwealth Government debt as we come out of the worst global recession since the 1930s is way below what it was during the recessions of the early 1980s and 1990s. That’s because the Rudd Government got in early with targeted stimulus packages and didn’t let unemployment soar to more than 10% as it has in past recessions. This means a great deal to every worker who didn’t lose their job, their mortgage and their security and it helped the economy recover much quicker. When unemployment surges, the tax take falls, unemployment costs rise and workers stop spending for fear of losing their jobs, which just makes things worse. That’s why government debt was so high after the last two recessions when unemployment surged past 10% and that’s what the stimulus packages prevented this time around. Commonwealth Government Net Debt As a % of Gross Domestic Product 18.0% of GDP

15

10.1% of GDP

10

6.1% of GDP

5 0

Early 1980s Recession

-5

1983-84

1989-90

1995-96

2001-02

The graph (top column two) shows that the consequences for manufacturing workers in previous recessions have been severe.

AMWUNEWS

144 000 (-12.5%)

120000 100000

113 824 (-25.3%)

80000

This important spending is why Labor must keep the resource super profits tax it has announced.

130 000 (-11.2%)

60000 48,500 (-4.5%)

40000 20000 0

1930s depression

Early 1980s

Early 1990s

2008-2009

Thousands of jobs were retained this time because of the stimulus, the interest rate cuts and because unions and employers co-operated at the enterprise level to keep workers in jobs.

Australia got through the global economic recession better than almost any other country Many advanced nations lost 10% or more of all their manufacturing jobs. Australia lost less than 5%. In the United States, unemployment went from 5% to 10% and it will take the Americans up to seven years to get back to 5% unemployment. Australia will be back to 5% unemployment in less than seven months. We now have to focus on recovery and manage the resources boom better than we did during the Howard years. A big part of doing this will be to invest in those things that really matter to workers and their families particularly investment in skills and education, as well as the nation’s transport infrastructure.

This tax funds a cut in the company tax rate for industries like manufacturing that get hurt by the high exchange rate that comes with mining and energy booms. It helps fund much needed infrastructure, it helps Australia move to 12% superannuation and it leaves money left over to pay for the stimulus packages that saved us during the global recession. The political scare campaign run by the mining lobby is one of the most uneconomic propaganda programs ever seen. As one of Australia’s leading progressive economists John Quiggen put it:

“ Ever since I can remember, and probably before that, mining companies have been threatening to pack their bags and go overseas. They’ve made these threats when they were upset about tax policy, about environmental restrictions, about Aboriginal land rights, about union wage demands and work practices and when they were in a bad mood for no particular reason. But, even though lots of Australian industries have disappeared, or contracted drastically for a range of reasons, the miners are still here. The reason is obvious. They can leave, but they can’t take the minerals with them.”

As shown below, on average, the government is spending over a third more than the Coalition did on education, skills and transport infrastructure.

Even the former head of the Mining Industry Council David Buckingham has come out and said the miners are crying wolf. He said on ABC Radio:

These investments in skills and infrastructure help workers get better paid jobs, they give us better public transport systems, cut down traffic congestion and they help Australia stay competitive in the world economy. They also provide greater job and income security to workers.

“ The threats to withdraw investment, to withdraw jobs, to withdraw exploration, quite frankly these threats were never true and they are not true now…The balance over time is likely to see an escalation in investment, a growth in jobs, a growth in exploration activity, not as a number of the more hysterical commentators are suggesting, withdrawal.”

Commonwealth Government Annual Spending on Skills/ Education and Transport Infrastructure

Early 1990s Recession

Source: 2010-2011 Budget Paper No.1 pg 10-8 Australian Government General Government Sector Net Debt

14

160000 140000

35 30

2013-14

Less than $20 Billion per annum 5 years through 2007-08

25 $ Billion 2009-2010 prices

20

Why is the Resource Super Profits Tax so important?

Job losses in Australian Manufacturing during global Recession

20 15

More than $30 Billion per annum 5 years through 2013-14

10 5 0

Howard Government

Rudd Government

There is a lot more to be done to help the manufacturing industry and other industries that face cheaper imports and less competitive exports when a mining boom pushs up the exchange rate. The Rudd Government has made a start. The Coalition is behaving like economic vandals. ■


AMWUNEWS

15


PROFILE “

Andy Beamish Alstom Power, TAS

I’ve been a delegate for about nine months but I’ve been in the union since 1994. Our workplace wasn’t unionised so we wanted to get people involved and I was asked to be a delegate. It was a good feeling to be asked and to know that I was trusted by our members to represent them in front of the bosses. We’ve just negotiated a new union collective agreement. Our members were happy with it because we got a pay rise, income protection and RDOs. Now that we have union representation, management see that we can’t be pushed around. But there’s no animosity between us and the bosses. We both know where we’re coming from and there’s a lot better communication about issues that weren’t discussed before. I wanted to do the Delegate’s Education Course to learn negotiating skills. I’ve also learnt about the Fair Work Act and what rights we’ve won back since getting rid of WorkChoices. Being a delegate makes you think more about other people, not just yourself. It makes you think of the bigger picture. I’m proud to be a delegate and to represent the views of our members and our union.

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AMWU NEWS Winter 2010