Category: News

Filed under: News

BHP’s Mount Arthur in class action over ‘casual’ employment


A CLASS action that questions the legal right of coal companies to use casual labour is being launched in the Federal Court over employment practices at  BHP’s Mount Arthur mine.

Canberra law firm Chamberlains is launching the class action, which takes aim at the hiring practices of mine owner BHP and two of its contractors, Chandler Macleod and Tesa, saying contract mineworkers are being systematically underpaid by tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Chamberlains describes itself as a class action specialist and says it has 400 people ready to sign on to the case. Litigation funder Augusta Ventures has agreed to fund the case, which should be lodged in the Federal Court in the coming weeks.

Chamberlains became involved after meeting former Mount Arthur contractor Simon Turner, whose situation was featured in the Newcastle Herald in 2016.

Chamberlains partner Rory Markham said Mr Turner and two other former contract workers at Mount Arthur – both women – would be the lead claimants in the action.

Mr Turner was sacked by his contractor, Chandler Macleod, after a truck accident at Mount Arthur in late 2015. For decades, the coal industry has had its own workers compensation system which is supposed to cover all coal mining employees.

But as the Herald has reported, Chandler Macleod has used a legal precedent to insure its employees under the general NSW system, and to not pay the accident pay otherwise available to injured miners.

As a result, Mr Turner has been living on $400 a week since the accident, rather than the $1800 he would have got through Coal Mines Insurance. He says both compensation schemes have ignored his plight – and that of other injured Chandler workers – and his case has been raised by the Greens in state parliament.

Mr Markham said  “the decision by Chandler Macleod to not pay accident pay is without foundation”.

“There is no legal basis to deny Mr Turner his fair entitlement,” Mr Markham said. “We are aware of many other people in Mr Turner’s position. The actions of Chandler Macleod must be held to account.”

Mr Markham said the class action went well beyond accident pay, and challenged the legal basis for employing casual mine workers in an industry that only allowed full-time and part-time employment under the ruling award.

Mr Markham said the contractors were being classed as casuals yet they worked side by side with directly employed BHP workers, doing the same shifts on the same rosters in the same manner as full-time permanent workers.

He said the class action would allege that BHP and the contract companies worked together to casualise the Mount Arthur workforce in contravention of the Fair Work Act.

“The move by the industry to casualise its workforce has exploded since 2010 in a system that is meant to prohibit casualised workers,” Mr Markham said.

“These contractors are being treated like second class workers and we now have the necessary backing to correct this wrong.”

Mr Markham said Mount Arthur was the largest coal mine in the Hunter region. He said that the class action, if successful, could have ramifications for the entire NSW coal industry.

Mr Turner said he was extremely grateful that Chamberlains had taken up the case. He said some people outside of the industry could see what he was saying but those inside, including regulators, seemed content to ignore the contradictions he’d discovered.

“It’s destroyed my life,” Mr Turner said.

“After being hurt at work through no fault of my own, I find I’m not entitled to accident pay because I’m a ‘casual’. Then they say I’m not covered by Coal Mines Insurance because apparently I don’t work in the ‘coal industry’.

“But it’s never been just about me. There’s an awful lot of people suffering out there who have been chewed up by the coal industry.”

Responding to the class action announcement, both BHP and Chandler Macleod said they had not been notified by Chamberlains of any action against them.

Chandler’s said: “Our employees are covered by, and paid in accordance with, the relevant enterprise agreement and we comply with all workers compensation obligations.”

The Herald is still seeking comment from Tesa’s successor company, the Japanese-owned Programmed Management Services.

Source: BHP’s Mount Arthur in class action over ‘casual’ employment

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NAB boss gets new job (for one day)

For a bank boss focused on the big issues of the economy and finance, $7 is small change.

But for The Big Issue vendors like Allan Crabbe, selling the magazine is a lifeline to financial security.

National Australia Bank chief executive Andrew Thorburn took a break from his $50 billion balance sheet to sell a few copies of the magazine and promote the efforts of vendors like Mr Crabbe, who operates in the shadows of NAB’s Melbourne tower.

“It’s been great to be with him,” Mr Thorburn said.

“To see how he interacts with people in a very conversational way about the big issues and sells the magazine in the process, and really has a livelihood for himself. There’s a lot to really love about it,” he said.

Casualisation a threat to full-time jobs

The magazine is often used as a stepping stone to employment, and Mr Thorburn noted the difficulties arising from the growth in precarious, casual jobs.

“I think this is one of the big issues in Australia for the next five to 10 years: the new nature of work, more casual,” he said.

“The internet is changing things. I think overall that’s very good for people, but there’s a huge shift in the type of work.

“That’s happened in Australia for the last 30 to 40 years. But with the internet — with digital business — huge transformation.”

In November, when NAB revealed a full-year net profit of $5.3 billion, Mr Thorburn revealed the loss of 6,000 jobs over three years as digital transactions and banking technology wipe out traditional jobs in the sector.

About 2,000 new digitally-focused positions are set to be created at the bank in the same period.

The Big Issue helping people help themselves

Mr Thorburn joined more than 100 high-profile sellers taking to the streets this week, including Telstra chief executive officer Andy Penn, ANZ boss Shayne Elliott, and deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek.

Vendors buy the magazine for $3.50 a copy and sell them for twice that, keeping the difference.

More than 11 million magazines have been sold since the project began in 1996.

“You know, the motto of Big Issue is ‘help people to help themselves’,” Mr Thorburn said.

“He’s helping himself, out there building some cashflow for himself, but building self-esteem and his ability to connect.”

That is what will drive jobs in the coming years, he added.

“Individuals having initiative, educational institutions teaching people the skills of the future and then big companies like ours making sure we invest in training and development — which is what we’re doing — to help people in the future,” he said.

Mr Crabbe spent the morning giving tips to the bank boss, and greeting longstanding customers.

“After 21 years of working at the Big Issue, standing at 500 Bourke Street Monday to Friday, and working the weekend — I’m a workaholic,” he said.

“I get myself here, I get myself to work.”

‘Stark focus’ as royal commission begins on Monday

The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry begins on Monday, ushering in what will be a searching year-long examination of the big four banks.

The bank’s submissions are not yet public, but Mr Elliott called theirs “confronting” in a note to staff last week.

Mr Thorburn concurs: “I would use a similar word,” he said.

“I’ve been working in banking over 30 years, I think a bank fundamentally does so many good things to help people

“We’re part of the community all around Australia and I’ve very proud of that.

“But when you read that, and it brings it into stark focus: you know, mistakes have been made.

“We have to own those, be accountable for them and we need to rebuild trust with the Australian people.

“That’s absolutely what we’re going to do.”

Although the banking industry and Government denied the need for a high-level inquiry, Mr Thorburn hopes the commission’s hearings and report is cathartic for the sector and the economy.

“I hope it enables us closure and the ability to move forward,” he said.

“For people to not just have confidence in the industry, but to have trust in it.

“That’s what I hope lies ahead.”

Source: NAB boss gets new job (for one day)

Filed under: News

Palaszczuk challenges Adani to prove mine finance and jobs promises

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is calling on Adani to prove it is moving ahead with the Carmichael coal mine as federal Labor leader Bill Shorten continues to cast doubt on the project.

Mr Shorten said yesterday Adani was promising “fake jobs” to north Queenslanders.

Today, Ms Palaszczuk called on Adani to prove it has the finance and that the project is progressing.

“Other companies meet their milestones and it is up to Adani to show the people of this state that they are meeting their deadlines,” she said.

“I was at a signing ceremony eight months ago — it’s up to Adani to demonstrate to the people of this state that those jobs are forthcoming.

“Some of those milestones appear not to have been met.

“It all hinges on getting the finance — so it is up to the company to get the finance.

“That project needs to stack up financially, just as every other resource company investing in Queensland needs to stack up.”

Mr Shorten appeared to question the viability of the project.

“I’m beginning to wonder if the people of north Queensland are being sort of led on with this promise of fake jobs and they’ll never be able to materialise,” he said.

“They [Adani] time after time keep saying that they’re going to have this project up and running and they miss a deadline.

“What we need from the Government of Australia are plans to help create jobs in regional Queensland which are sustainable and real.”

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said she was disappointed with the comments from the federal Opposition Leader, and urged Labor to consider the long-term implications for the party at the next federal election.

“These people live the life of luxury — they don’t seem to understand that in north Queensland we’ve got a very high rate of unemployment — I’ve got youth unemployment at about 23 per cent,” she said.

“All these people want to do is stop the growth of what I consider working-class jobs.”

She said if Adani did not get a financial start and had to walk away, that should be up to them.

“We should let the economy decide, not people sitting in $2 million homes in Batman,” she said.

“If they want to develop a policy for developing northern Queensland, stand up, annunciate and deliver it — don’t go weak at the knees because there is a by-election in Melbourne or the need to win seats in Perth — actually put their money where their mouth is.”

‘Why would anyone invest here?’

Queensland Labor candidate and union official Mike Brunker did not support Mr Shorten’s remarks on Adani.

Mr Brunker, who is based in the north Queensland town of Bowen, said Australia faced a “sovereign risk” to investment opportunities if Adani was scuttled amid ongoing environmental protests.

“Why would anyone want to come and invest in big major projects when they just keep getting this crap thrown at them all the time?” Mr Brunker said.

“The Labor Party I knew, and the Labor Party I hope I can still be involved with, creates jobs.

“It puts in infrastructure so you can actually encourage investment.”

He said a government-initiated jobs package would not have the same benefits.

“We’ve had plenty of jobs packages from both state and federal [governments] and usually it’s a subsidy so you can employ people,” Mr Brunker said.

“To come up with some fictional thing where we can create all these jobs in the tourism industry — we’ll have 10 people serving you coffee or 50 people on boats going to the reef, it’s absolute rubbish.”

Adani Australia issued a statement yesterday saying it currently had “800 people working across operations and projects in Queensland”.

“Each month we pay $7.2 million in salaries to our direct staff and seconded employees [average for past six months],” the company said.

“We are proud this money is supporting the livelihoods of local people and we value the work they do and the enthusiasm they bring to work every day.

“We remain committed to the Carmichael project and look forward to the time when more people in places like Townsville and Bowen can join the Adani team.”

Source: Palaszczuk challenges Adani to prove mine finance and jobs promises

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Boss defends tourist attraction at centre of sex assault claims

The boss of a major Victorian tourist attraction at the centre of sex assault allegations — Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill — has denied there is a “misogynistic culture” at the popular goldfields museum.

Jeremy Johnson, CEO of the Sovereign Hill Museums Association, said 50 per cent of the staff at the attraction were female.

“Around 50 per cent of our management staff are female, our management team, our directors, two out of six are female. Five out of 12 of our board directors are female,” Mr Johnson said.

“We are very proud of our compliance with gender equity and diversity as an employer.”

Sovereign Hill has been hit with claims of sexual harassment and misconduct.

Victoria Police has confirmed it is investigating a number of allegations of sexual assault at the gold mining museum attraction Sovereign Hill in 2017.

A spokesperson said the investigation was ongoing and it would be inappropriate for Victoria Police to comment further.

Fairfax Media reported that a number of Sovereign Hill’s female staff members had complained about being manhandled and groped, and that a male staff member had exposed himself to them on numerous occasions.

Union says complaints have been ignored

The Victorian Director of Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), Mr Adam Portelli, said its members had raised issues with the workplace culture at Sovereign Hill over the past two years.

“Sovereign Hill has fallen well short of its duty of care to provide its workers and especially women, with a safe workplace,” Mr Portelli said.

“Rarely have these matters been resolved to the satisfaction of the members involved.

“Moreover, there’s been a disturbing pattern of complainants being targeted with disciplinary actions due to fairly minor infractions while at the same time the bigger complaints are left unresolved.”

The MEAA represents performers, support staff and retail workers at Sovereign Hill.

“From our perspective this is a business, an organisation, that our members want to be proud to be working for,” he said.

“But also they want to feel secure coming into work and at the moment we just don’t think that’s the case.”

CEO proud of compliance with gender equity, diversity

Mr Johnson said the male employee at the centre of the allegations had been placed on paid leave prior to police investigations beginning last November.

He remains on paid leave.

Mr Johnson said an initial complaint made in mid-2016 was dealt with internally, but subsequent formal complaints were later referred to an external investigator.

“The procedures we have allow for people to bring complaints forward and every case has to be treated on its own individual facts and has to be treated with procedural fairness and natural justice,” he said.

“Policies such as this are in a fast-moving political environment.

“Every organisation is reviewing what they do and there’s no question that if there are improvements or ways in which we can provide an even safer workplace, we will be reviewing and taking those actions accordingly.”

Mr Johnson said Sovereign Hill was cooperating with the police investigation.

Sovereign Hill markets itself as Australia’s “foremost outdoor museum”. It re-creates Ballarat’s first 10 years after the discovery of gold in the district in 1851.

Source: Boss defends tourist attraction at centre of sex assault claims

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Big business dubs Labor’s IR approach a ‘dagger to the heart of the system’

Employer groups say populist tendencies and union-dominated policy responses could cause business to “lose faith in the system”.

“That would basically be disastrous,” said the Australian Industry Group’s chief executive, Innes Willox.

As the government attempts to build pressure on Labor and the Senate crossbench, Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said Australia’s company tax rate had been “frozen in time for the last 16 years” and needed be cut for business to thrive.

“If you reduce tax for Australian business they can take on their global competition, you create the opportunity for more investment, more jobs and higher wages,” she said.

The warnings follow Labor’s case against the major banks, its trenchant opposition to lower company taxes, its plans to restore Sunday penalty rates, and its growing antipathy to the proposed Adani coal mine in Queensland.

Mr Willox said Labor’s campaign against company tax cuts, and its plans to re-regulate the industrial relations framework, were of greatest concern.

He singled out its plan to overturn the Fair Work Commission’s ruling on Sunday penalty rates, after the case was exhaustively argued and decided, which he said, “basically puts a dagger in the heart of the IR system”.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten speaks to the media.
Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Speaking to reporters in Parliament on Wednesday, Mr Shorten denied that blocking the company tax cut made him anti-business.

“That fairytale doesn’t have a happy ending – the government wants to say that I’m anti-business. I’m not anti-business. But I am pro-worker,” he said.

Not all business figures have expressed outright for company tax cuts. Heather Ridout, a former AIG chief executive and current Australian Super chairwoman, warned on Monday that the policy could be polarising.

“Business doesn’t want to be offside with its employees, there’s no interest,” she said on the ABC’s Q&A program.  

For his part, Mr Willox said it was “transparently obvious” that Labor’s approach was being driven by the unions.

However, he said there were dangers on the conservative side also as demonstrated in last year’s Queensland state election where almost a third of voters opted for populist candidates.

“It’s pulling parts of the Coalition to the right and parts of the Labor Party to the left and the fear I have is that if that trend continues, then the centre will hollow out even more and you will have no room for bipartisanship,” he said.

Ms Westacott called for a more mature debate leading to proper tax reform. “We need a pro-growth, competitive tax system for all businesses – big and small – to stimulate investment, raise productivity and increase the wages of working Australians,” she said.

The new resolve from employers comes as even some within Labor privately question the direction and tone of policy.

A long-time Labor MP said it was clear Mr Shorten was “tilting left” in rhetoric and public questioning of the Adani project.

Another senior Labor MP criticised Labor’s approach to the March 18 byelection for the Melbourne seat of Batman.

“Rather than chasing Greens voters by suggesting Labor could formally oppose the Adani project, the party should be playing up the contrast and emphasising the ALP as a party of government that can get things done,” the MP said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently described Mr Shorten as the most left-wing and anti-business Labor leader in generations.

In Parliament on Wednesday, he slammed Labor’s suite of policies as counter-productive.

“They’re such hopeless generals they can’t even manage a class war,” he chided.

Source: Big business dubs Labor’s IR approach a ‘dagger to the heart of the system’

Filed under: News

Tourist deaths prompt new rules for snorkellers on Great Barrier Reef

Certain tourists will be made to wear life jackets and swim in pairs while snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, under a new industry code of practice.

The move has come in a bid to tighten safety requirements after a shocking 2016 for tourism operators in which 10 people died on the Great Barrier Reef.

In the most prominent case, a French man, 76, and woman, 74, died of heart attacks while snorkelling together off Cairns.

Speaking in Cairns today, Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the new code of practice followed several round-table meetings with dive and snorkelling organisations.

Ms Grace said the code now required all reef-bound tourist boats to carry an automatic external defibrillator, and for snorkellers identified as high risk to swim with another person, similar to the buddy system used in scuba diving.

“Operators now have the ability to get medical declarations from those snorkelling on the reef,” Ms Grace said.

“If they identify someone who they believe may require a floatation device or to be colour-coded or to buddy up, they will now be able to use the code to enforce that.”

Ms Grace said there would also be changes to the reporting of deaths on the reef, which occur from various causes, including heart attacks and jellyfish stings.

As soon as the coroner knows the cause of the death, the dead person’s family will be notified within 24 hours, government departments within 36 hours and the public within 48 hours.

‘People are still going to die’

Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators spokesman Col McKenzie welcomed the changes and said many reef operators were already putting the recommendations into practice.

“Being able to enforce that people give us a medical declaration, that is going to change the culture on these boats and it is going to increase safety,” he said.

But he said people would still die on the reef.

“The simple reality is the biggest market is the baby boomers, and the baby boomers are old and lack physical fitness. They are going to have medical emergencies — how we respond to that is critical.”

He said the most positive result coming from the recommendations would be the arrival of a second rescue helicopter in Cairns.

There is currently only one helicopter that services an area the size of Tasmania.

“We’ll be able to get people off the reef when they have had a problem, that’s going to be an even bigger step forward than tweaking the code of practice,” Mr McKenzie said.

Source: Tourist deaths prompt new rules for snorkellers on Great Barrier Reef

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Tradie anger boils over at locked Cooper & Oxley building site

There were angry scenes as subcontractors tried to retrieve their tools from a locked building site of a major WA construction firm, which yesterday flagged financial difficulties, sending shockwaves through the industry.

Cooper & Oxley, which has worked on both private and government contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, sent a letter to subcontractors advising them to cease work as the company was not in a position to pay them.

The letter, seen by the ABC, said the firm was reviewing its financial viability.

Several subcontractors returned this morning to the 500 Hay Street site in Subiaco — a partially built hotel, office space and restaurant precinct demanding access, at one point pushing over a fence, as private security guards tried to stop them taking tools and equipment.

Police officers arrived and told the guards to let the workers in, saying they were entitled to their tools.

Tradies left blindsided

Ceiling fixing apprentice Sam Hodges said he had only just paid off his tools, so was relieved to be able to retrieve them.

“I came to work on Monday morning, and before I could even get in my mate called to say they had locked it up,” he said.

Ceiling fixer Liam McGlore had been working on the project for more than a year.

He said he had always been paid on time and had no idea the lockout was coming.

When he arrived this morning, security told him he could not enter.

“They were just saying you can’t come in, it’s trespassing, and we said it’s hardly trespassing … we’re not trying to steal tools, we’re just trying to get our own tools,” he said.

Offers of help refused

The project’s owners, Singapore-registered firm Dradgin, said in a statement they were unaware the shutdown would occur, and were “very disappointed” with the current situation.

“All payment terms and conditions of the contract have been met by Dradgin Pte Ltd,” the statement said.

“In fact, Dradgin offered financial assistance to Cooper & Oxley to help Cooper & Oxley meet its obligations, unfortunately this was not accepted.

“Dradgin’s priority is working with all parties involved — including subcontractors — so that the project may be completed as soon as possible.”

WA Premier Mark McGowan said it was “pretty rotten” that workers had been locked out.

“Locking the gates, so people couldn’t go and get their tools, was pretty bad and I expect people would be very upset by that,” he said.

“I don’t know if it’s lawful or not.”

Cooper & Oxley today issued a one-line statement, saying it was making arrangements for all subcontractors to collect their equipment and hardware from their sites.

Who are Cooper & Oxley?

George Edmund Hampel is the sole director and secretary of firms trading under the names Cooper & Oxley Builders and Cooper & Oxley Builders WA, according to records filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

A firm registered at Mr Hampel’s residential address, Ozena Nominees, is the sole shareholder of both private, unlisted businesses.

Cooper & Oxley Builders had multiple directors in the early 1990s, but four stepped down on the same day, just under five months after they were appointed.

William Rivett was left as the sole director.

Mr Hampel was appointed about a month later, and Barry Edwards about four months after that.

Mr Edwards stepped down in 2011, and Mr Rivett in 2013.

Financial records are not available for Cooper & Oxley Builders, but Cooper & Oxley Builders WA filed an audited financial statement on December 19.

It was set up as a holding company for a building and construction business operated via a unit trust.

It posted a loss for the 2016/17 financial year of $614,621.

It wrote down $614,621 in assets, while in 2015, listed $14.8 million of write downs.

In a signed declaration, Mr Hampel said it was his opinion there were reasonable grounds to believe the firm would be able to pay its debts when they fell due.

Source: Tradie anger boils over at locked Cooper & Oxley building site

Filed under: News

New pay deal offered to Sydney rail workers

As the deadlock over pay and conditions continues, NSW and Sydney Trains workers will consider a new pay package offer which includes an annual pay rise for workers of 3 per cent for the next three years.

In a memo issued to members last night, the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RBTU) said the total value of the offer was 4.06 per cent and included a $1,000 payment, travel passes and additional benefits.

“After the previous offer was overwhelming rejected by your union delegates, management today presented the group with an amended version of their offer,” the RTBU said in a statement.

“Management at the meeting indicated that they would be presenting the new offer directly to the workforce via depot meetings, with those meetings expected to start as early as next week.”

The union said members would now have time to consider the package.

“We’re very close on all the conditions,” RTBU NSW secretary Alex Claassens said.

“We have gone out and hired an independent economist to check the numbers.

“We will obviously determine over the next couple of days whether we’re going to be going out there and saying ‘This is the best offer we can get’ or whether this is a bad offer.”

It comes two weeks after union members rejected a 2.75 percent pay increase and threatened to walk off the job.

Sydney’s rail network was bracing for a 24-hour strike last month, only for the Fair Work Commission to order a suspension on all industrial action until March.

The union began negotiations seeking a 6 per cent annual pay increase for workers.

Topics: rail-transport, industrial-relations, unions, sydney-2000

First posted February 08, 2018 07:53:58

Source: New pay deal offered to Sydney rail workers

Filed under: News

Cost of living rising at concerning pace, economist warns

Figures from the Bureau of Statistics show the cost of life’s basic essentials like fuel and transport are rising at their fastest pace, and well above growth in wages.

Key points:

  • Cost of living rose 2pc last year — strongest pace of growth in 3.5 years
  • Some people’s living cost index rose 1pc in Dec quarter to annualised rate of 2.4pc
  • Salvation Army say more Australians showing up simply looking for next meal

The latest data shows the cost of living rose 2 per cent last year — the strongest pace of growth in 3.5 years.

“Broadly, rising cost-of-living pressures are pressuring income-earners across the board,” Commsec economist Ryan Felsman said.

He said Australians receiving welfare payments and pensioners were suffering the most.

“What we’ve seen of course is that some of the poorer cohorts, their living-cost index has risen by 1 per cent in the December quarter to an annualised rate of 2.4 per cent — which is well above the consumer price index in particular,” he said.

“And at the same time pensioners and beneficiaries, their living cost indices rose the most.”

Charity organisation the Salvation Army said while demand for clothing and shelter had always been strong, more Australians were now showing up on their doorstep simply looking for their next meal.

Salvation Army’s Mitchell Evans said at their Sydney’s Street Level Mission he was seeing more people coming to them every day for help.

“We’re seeing people coming to services like Salvation Army just to eat during the day,” he said.

“They’ve had to pay for bills, they’ve had to pay for medication, which is all quite costly, and they’re having to come to services like us just to eat.”

‘It’s impossible to even move out of home’

One young couple, May and Ben, said they had been spending increasing amounts of their money on food, rent and transport.

“Yeah it’s just getting more and more expensive,” Ben said.

He said to cut back he had switched to a cheaper phone plan, as well as going out less.

“Wherever you can cut costs,” he said.

“I never actually left home. I’m trying to move out and it’s just too expensive — you can’t do it.”

May said she was 27 and that about half of her friends were still living at home with their parents.

Both expressed concern about their long-term financial security.

A retired couple from Switzerland, which has the world’s highest cost of living, have been making the same trip to Australia for 20 years.

They said Australia was heading in the same direction as their own country.

“Sydney’s getting close to Switzerland — everything has become more expensive.”

Source: Cost of living rising at concerning pace, economist warns

Filed under: News

Domain to ‘review’ workplace culture after Catalano allegations

Domain Group has told its staff it will undertake a review of its workplace culture in light of allegations that former chief executive Antony Catalano led a “boys’ club” in parts of the company.

In an email to Domain employees on Wednesday evening, acting executive chairman Nick Falloon pledged to undertake a review of its “working environment” following an article published in The Australian Financial Review on Wednesday.

An unnamed male manager quoted in the article described Domain’s Melbourne operations as “like working in an office in the 1980s” and claimed Mr Catalano called female employees “doll” and “babe”.

Mr Falloon’s email to staff said they “would have seen the AFR report this morning regarding Domain”.

“Be assured that the board and management are committed to ensuring that Domain is an employer of choice. Our future prosperity is based on the quality of our people and creating a positive, safe and welcoming workplace,” he said.

“We believe Domain has done well in this regard. But we can always do better.

“Accordingly, we have recently commissioned a review of our working environment. We ask that you all participate in this review so we can further improve our workplaces for the future.”

Mr Falloon is also a chairman of Fairfax Media, publisher of The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review. Fairfax holds a 60 per cent stake in Domain.

Mr Falloon said details of the review and its scope would be provided “shortly”.

Mr Catalano announced his surprise departure from the company in late-January, saying the job was taking its toll on his personal life and that he was unwilling to make his family relocate from Sydney to Melbourne.

The announcement, two months after the company had floated, caused a sharp drop in the company’s share price and sparked speculation as to whether there were other reasons for his resignation. Domain shares closed at $3.03 on Wednesday.

Mr Catalano was unavailable for comment.

Filed under: News

CFMEU official threatened to ‘smash’ company over refusal to sign deal

Construction union officials have been found liable for trying to force building company BKH Group to sign a pattern enterprise agreement at two Sydney building sites by threatening to “smash” their jobs if they refused.

The Australian Federal Court has also found a CFMEU official kicked down a safety rail before instructing workers to leave the site because of an absence of safety rails.

The court also concluded that officials had stopped concrete trucks from entering a building site by sitting on the bonnets of cars to stop them being towed away.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission had alleged CFMEU official Darren Taylor threatened to “smash” jobs as a warning to other contractors against refusing the union’s EBA.

Federal Court Justice Geoffrey Flick concluded that CFMEU officials threatened action against the company “with intent to coerce”.

He said the union sent a “simple message” that formwork companies were to sign the enterprise agreement proposed by the CFMEU “otherwise the union would pick one of them and ‘smash’ the company selected”

A text message which said “eenie, meenie, minie mo” sent by union official Robert Kera in February 2015 was found to have been sent as a threat to reinforce a message that one formworkcompany was to be selected at random. Mr Kera did not give evidence.

“The conclusion that the text was sent as a threat and was intended as a threat is a conclusion founded upon both the terms themselves and also the context in which the text was sent,” Justice Flick said.

Justice Flick accepted that union official Ben Garvey deliberately kicked a safety handrail until it fell in March, 2015 and then instructed workers to leave the project citing a lack of safety rails.

The judge concluded “that there was no reasonable basis upon which any opinion could be formed that the handrail was unsafe”.

“Any suggestion that Mr Garvey was simply testing the strength of the safety rails is rejected; his conduct was that of a man intent on creating disruption and generating a safety concern where none previously existed,” Justice Flick said.

A penalty decision will follow the liability finding against the CFMEU and its officials.