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Taxpayers receive $436,000 legal bill for Hadgkiss defence

Taxpayers have received a $436,000 legal bill for the defence of former ABCC Commissioner, Nigel Hadgkiss.

As expected, the opposition has renewed calls for Employment Minister Michaelia Cash to be sacked.

In September, The Federal Court ordered Mr Hadgkiss to pay an $8500 penalty.

Judge Berna Collier found he displayed “arrogant ignorance”, and careless conduct in breaching the Fair Work Act.

Acting ABCC Commissioner Cathy Cato, appeared at a Senate estimates hearing yesterday, and confirmed that the cost to tax­payers had ballooned.

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Ms Cato said the cost was originally estimated at $35,000 to $50,000.

It increased to $170,000 in February, then to $260,000 in May before rising to $418,000.

Another $18,000 went on in-house advice taking the total bill to $436,000.

Senator Cash told the hearing the cost would have to be absorbed by the ABCC within its existing budget.

This came as the AWU served a subpoena on David De Garis, a former senior media adviser to Senator Cash, to appear in court proceedings.

There was a hubbub at the estimates hearing about the ­location of Mr De Garis. His lawyer contacted lawyers for the AWU to organise receipt of the subpoena.

AWU national secretary Daniel Walton said the union had also served subpoenas on the following people.

Senator Cash,
the Fair Work Ombudsman, and.
Mark Lee, a staffer with the Registered Organisations Commission.

The AWU said lawyers for Senator Cash had applied to have her subpoena set aside.

Senator Cash said she had not spoken to Mr De Garis since last month when he resigned from her office. (Mr De Garis admitted he leaked information to the media about an AFP raid on the AWU).

Investigators were hired by the AWU to serve the subpoenas which are related to legal action it has taken seeking correspondence between Senator Cash, her office and the ROC about the AWU raids.

Senator Cash refused to answer questions about her office’s involvement in the leak to the media about the AFP raids, citing the AWU legal action and the AFP investigation into the leak.

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor called on Malcolm Turnbull to sack Senator Cash. “Minister Cash presided over the resignation of her hand-picked commissioner for breaching the law he was supposed to uphold,” he said.

“She approved taxpayers paying almost half a million dollars for him to drag out the case for more than 12 months before admitting breaching the Fair Work Act.

“She lost an adviser for leaking a federal police investigation to the media; there is currently a federal police investigation into her office’s conduct; she has misled the Senate five times; and she has fatally politicised each of the regulators she is responsible for.

Image: Former ABCC chief Nigel Hadgkiss. (Source: The Australian)

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Fair Work Laws Amendment (Proper Use of Worker Benefits) Bill Introduced To Parliament

Following on from Minister Michaelia Cash’s announcement in early September, The Fair Work Laws Amendment (Proper Use of Worker Benefits) Bill 2017 (Bill) was finally introduced into parliament last sitting week.

While the bill passed the lower house, it has been referred to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 10 November 2017.

The Government has said that this Bill was designed to protect worker entitlements that are held for their benefit, whether that be for redundancy pay, sick leave or other employment benefits.Continue reading

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Woolworths facing possible staff strikes

Supermarket giant Woolworths faces widespread industrial strife with as many as 2000 workers to potentially go on strike in the coming weeks over pay and job security.

The National Union of Workers last week lodged applications in the Fair Work Commission flagging possible strikes.

“Workers at four Woolworths distribution centes have applied for Protected Action Ballots,” a union spokeswoman told AAP on Sunday.

“The number of workers across the four sites is approximately 2000.”

Industrial action at four giant warehouses in Victoria and NSW would likely cause serious problems for Woolworths in supplying its supermarkets and liquor stores.

The workers are pushing for much improved job security, more full-time work, greater redundancy pay-outs and wage increases of $2 an hour, per year. Depending on their wage and experience that could equate to well in excess of 6 per cent a year.

A Woolworths spokesman said the company was negotiating with staff.

“We will continue to work with our team members and their chosen representatives to get the right outcome at each of our sites,” he said.

“Our number one priority will remain our team members and the service to our customers.”

Staff at the centres still have to vote on whether they will agree to go on strike.

The union’s industrial officer Dario Mujkic​ said talks over new workplace agreements had stalled.

“Primarily, our members want a fair share of their employer’s profits, and job security now and into the future,” he said. “This isn’t unusual, these are two of the most important issues for NUW members across the country.”

Mr Mujkic said if strikes went ahead it would be the largest industrial action involving the union for decades. The NUW has also reapplied for an industrial action ballot at an important tomato supplier to Woolworths and Coles, Perfection Fresh in South Australia.

The union’s national president Caterina Cinanni said negotiations had stalled after more than six months of talks. It could be the first major farm strike in decades. Ms Cinanni said workers at the site wanted more secure jobs and fair pay rises.

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No end in sight for aged care industrial dispute

About 20 days into industrial action, Bupa Wodonga management and union members appear no closer to a resolution.

Bupa Wodonga is just one of three branches statewide not to have moved to, or announced a plan to move to, stage-two industrial action.

Stage-one consisted of wearing red ‘Value Recognise Reward’ campaign t-shirts and distributing campaign information.

Stage-two of the actions consists of a ban on aged care funding paperwork and working to rosters unless overtime is approved in advance and in writing.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation were unable to confirm how many Wodonga staff were participating in the action.Continue reading

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“Paradise” was hell for workers

A Gold Coast restaurant’s operators have been penalised more than $284,000 and criticised by a Judge for their “heinous” conduct after paying overseas workers as little as $8 an hour and using false records to try to cover it up.

Judge Salvatore Vasta of the Federal Circuit Court slapped a $38,000 penalty on Shigeo Ishiyama and another $246,400 on his company, Samurais Paradise Pty Ltd.

The penalties, imposed in the Federal Circuit Court, are the result of an investigation and legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Ishiyama and his company underpaid nine employees a total of $59,080 over a period of just four months in 2015.Continue reading

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PN Coal, Grain Train Drivers On Strike In NSW

RTBU Organiser Steve Wright at a previous protest Source: unknown

Port of Newcastle coal rail services will be disrupted until midday Monday due to a 48-hour strike by hundreds of Pacific National train crew.

RTBU organiser Steve Wright said the stoppage affected about 600 coal train crew and another 300 from PN’s bulk cargo trains.

Mr Wright said the union had been negotiating with Pacific National about a new enterprise agreement but after 30 meetings the two sides had been unable to come to agreement.

He also confirmed that another 48-hour stoppage was planned for next weekend.

“We’re at loggerheads,” Mr Wright said.

Pacific National responded to the union’s claims on Friday night, saying the stoppage would halt 90 coal trains to Newcastle and Port Kembla.

Pacific National was “not wanting to reduce the terms of employment” of its crews, although it did want to “better utilise the hours they are being paid to better help the company remain efficient in a competitive sector”.

The company said that under existing conditions, drivers worked four days a week for an average $110,000 a year with 12 per cent super. About 20 per cent of drivers earned more than $150,000 a year.

It said the offer put to employees was attractive and “aligned to industry standards and practices”.

Mr Wright said union members would hold a protest outside Pacific National’s Hunter Bulk Terminal on Industrial Drive on Saturday afternoon, with a mass meeting of members at the same site on Monday at 9am.

Pacific National has long been the largest coal haulier to the Port of Newcastle, and is believed to account for more than 60 per cent of the market. Its competitors are Aurizon (formerly Queensland Rail), Southern Shorthaul Railroad and Genesee & Wyoming.

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Senate report seeks better overall pay for workers

Senate report seeks better overall pay for workers

The Australian understands the inquiry’s ALP majority report has found the trading off of weekend penalty rates for higher weekday pay was “perfectly legitimate” provided affected workers backed the changes and were better off overall under the deals.

However, the majority report, prepared by committee chairman and Labor MP Gavin Marshall, calls for the development of an improved, more robust better off overall test to ensure “optimal outcomes” for workers were safeguarded.

The report, due to be tabled in the Senate today, followed an inquiry into claims that retail and fast-food employers received a competitive advantage over small businesses by striking deals with the shop assistants’ union that paid below-award weekend and public holiday penalty rates.Continue reading

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ex-ABCC chief hits taxpayers with $400,000 legal bill

Aussie taxpayers will soon face a bill of up to $400,000 for the legal bill of former ABCC chief Nigel Hadgkiss.

Judge Berna Collier ordered Mr Hadgkiss pay $8500, to the CFMEU for contravening the Fair Work Act

Unions attacked the $8500 penalty as “completely inade­quate”. Though supporters of Mr Hadgkiss said they were “furious” at the decision and would not rule out an appeal.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said Mr Hadgkiss had been Senator Cash’s “hand-picked attack dog” and the public funding of his legal bill was a “tremendous waste of taxpayers’ money”.

She called on Senator Cash to resign, saying: “With such utter arrogance from the minister, ­people have a right to be furious and to question her competence.’’

Senator Cash said the decision by Mr Hadgkiss to resign “stands in stark contrast to the many CFMEU officials who remain despite numerous court findings against them’’.

Mr Hadgkiss resigned this month after admitting that in ­December 2013 he directed that looming changes to right-of-entry laws, which were beneficial to unions and workers, not be published by the FWBC.

In her judgment, Justice Collier said Mr Hadgkiss’ conduct was serious and he “admitted to contravening a law he was required to police”.

Justice Collier found Mr Hadgkiss exhibited “a degree of carelessness and, indeed, somewhat arrogant ignorance, in respect of the truth of information. His careless conduct resulted in incorrect information remaining on the FWBC website for several years, in apparent disregard of the reputational risk to the FWBC.”

She said Mr Hadgkiss had not intended to contravene the Fair Work Act. “I note the contrition expressed by the director, his remorse for his actions, the fact that he has no record of previous contravention of the FW Act, and the fact that he has paid a high personal price in the loss of his position as a result of his contra­vention,’’ she found.

The national secretary of the CFMEU’s construction division, Dave Noonan, said taxpayers should not have to pay Mr Hadgkiss’s legal bill. He said Mr Hadgkiss was “hyper-partisan” and had increased the cost to the public by unnecessarily prolonging legal proceedings.

While Mr Hadgkiss was ordered to pay the $8500 to the CFMEU, Mr Noonan said “we don’t really want Nigel Hadgkiss’s money”. The union intended to donate it to a refuge for women fleeing domestic violence, he said.

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ACTU: Time to change the rules

The ACTU launched their “Change The Rules” campaign in Perth last night.

“Change The Rules” seeks to push for pro-worker changes to the Fair Work Act.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said “The pendulum had swung too far toward big business and Australia needs a pay rise”

Ms McManus said workers across Western Australia have had their pay and conditions stripped by laws that allow companies to terminate enterprise agreements, keep wages low, cut penalty rates, and support mass casualisation and wage theft.

The ACTU will use the responses from the national survey of workers to identify the union movement’s priorities for change.

Ms McManus has previously said her chief priorities were to grow the union movement and strengthen the rights of workers. She has said she would lead a union campaign for major changes to the Fair Work Act and put “demands” on the political parties in the lead up to the next federal election.

As well as reduce the bargaining power of employers, unions want to ease legal restrictions on strikes and limit the use of casuals and labour hire.