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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.

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Train drivers vote in favour of industrial action

The devil is always in the details.

Despite boasting that he was proud to get a 2.5 per cent pay rise “just like every one else”. Sydney Trains boss, Howard Collins’, actually managed to score an $88,000 bonus.

The revelation of the payment couldn’t have come at a worse time.

With the Rail and Bus Union ­officially voting in favour of industrial action in pursuit of a 6 per cent a year pay rise.
The vote threatened to create more travel chaos for hard-pressed commuters.

A Sydney Trains spokesman last night claimed Mr Collins was being paid an extra $88,447 allowance because he had also been acting as chief executive of NSW TrainLink since March 2017.

“This has seen a significant saving for the NSW taxpayer due to the combination of two roles,” he said.

Interestingly, Mr Collins’ $695,000 a year paypacket is 30 per cent more than his 2013 salary of $530,000. When he was first poached from the London Underground.

RTBU members were balloted on the option to take industrial action if they are not able to reach a pay deal they are happy with.

Of the Sydney Trains workers who voted, 84 per cent backed a one-week or indefinite strike.

With 94% being in favour of stoppages of up to 72 hours.

Delegates will meet in coming days to determine what their members will do next.

If a strike is called, several days notice has to be given.

The RTBU’s NSW secretary Alex Claassens said the results didn’t guarantee they would go on strike. Though he added members were “angry” at their treatment by the government.

“What this means is that the option to take various forms of protected industrial action is now live, but we are still very hopeful we won’t have to go down that path,” Mr Claassens said.

“Industrial action is always a last resort.”

Sydney Trains said it was disappointed in the vote.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said he would negotiate in good faith despite union demands “for a 24 per cent pay rise”.

He urged them to put customer needs first.

“The government will agree to a pay rise for NSW Train drivers in accordance with the wages policy — a policy that applies to teachers, nurses, police and all public sector ­employees,” he said.

The government’s wage policy caps pay increases at 2.5 per cent per year.

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Unions to fight rise of casual workforce

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Secretary Sally McManus wants an overhaul of casual work rules. Picture: AAP

Unions are preparing to fight the rise of casual employment, setting up a bitter battle with industry groups in a showdown affecting millions of Australian workers.

The ACTU wants to see a “proper” definition of casual work included in the Fair Work Act and employees given the option of converting to permanent positions after six months of regular work with one company.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus says casual employment was once largely restricted to retail and hospitality industries but the rise of “fake casuals” has contributed to plunging more than half of Australians into insecure work.

“Employers are able to call people casuals – fake casuals – when they’re not casuals,” Ms McManus told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.

“They tell them to go and get an ABN number when they’re actually permanent workers. They convert them to labour hire just to reduce their wages and conditions.

“All of these are loopholes that need to be shut down so that we make sure we once again have good steady jobs.”

Employers have come out swinging against the proposal, arguing it would harm employees, businesses and the broader community.

Stephen Smith from the Australian Industry Group said restricting casual employment was a ridiculous proposition.

“Casual employment suits a very large number of people, who prefer this form of employment because it gives them the flexibility that they want or need,” he told The Australian.

Opposition employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor said it was important to maintain some casualisation in the labour market but it should not be the norm or primary method of employment.

“Federal Labor has made it clear that we are going to look at the definition of casual in order to ensure it is used for what it was originally intended to be used for,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“(That is) peaks and troughs, work which is replacing permanence but not for people who are working indefinitely year in and year out and being deemed by their employer to be casual. That is not what we think is reasonable.”

Labor will hold talks with employers and unions before potentially committing to defining casual work in legislation and setting an objective test for when a worker is casual if it wins office at the next election.

The opposition is also examining the ACTU’s push to block employers from reasonably refusing a request by a casual to convert to permanency, which was rejected by the Fair Work Commission in July.

Mr O’Connor said casual employment undermined job and financial security, made it more challenging to organise a loan and deprived people of the opportunity to paid leave entitlements.

“One of the contributions to the fall in real wages is the fact people do not feel confident enough to ask for a wage rise because they have no permanent work,” he said.

“They’re fearful that if they ask for more wages or more work, they may not have any work at all.”

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has been contacted for comment.

Source: AAP

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Latest Round Of Industrial Action See Catholic School Teachers Stopping Work For 4 Hours

Catholic school teachers across the Riverina will stop work on Monday. Taking a stand in the latest round of industrial action.

Chapter representative Ian McGrath, is ready to send a clear message.

“Teachers don’t take this decision lightly because the nature of the job is about supporting the children and the community,” he said.

“It is difficult to take this position because it has a knock on effect.”

Secretary John Quessy of the Independent Education Union said members were at “boiling point” after an enterprise agreement went to the vote without gaining a union endorsement.

Mr McGrath said the action had 100% support of all catholic schools across the Riverina, with 16 expected at rallies in three different locations and has called for community support.

“We are asking for the parents to support us and we hope they will see this as an important issue,” Mr McGrath said.

“It’s important for teachers to have this access and be able to simply get on with the job.

“We have no choice but to take industrial action.”

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Mr McGrath said members were being “blackmailed” and offered their prior agreed pay rise in exchange for a yes agreement vote.

“If we vote yes we can have it but we are entitled to it,” he said.

“The state schools got this raise 12 months ago and didn’t have to sacrifice any conditions.”

The ICU insists the dispute is not focused on pay but rather the catholic employers union right to access the Fair Work Commission for arbitration, with enterprise agreement details yet to be resolved.

ICU Canberra officer Lyn Caton, who will spearhead the Griffith rally, said it was a basic social justice right to have an independent party judging the strength of an agreement.

“The challenge for all teachers is that the students are their first concerns but being Catholics – this social justice and support is important to them,” she said.

“They have always honoured arbitration up until March this year so this really is concerning.”

The strike is expected to last four hours, with a rally held at the Wagga RSL at 10am.

The vote is due to start on December 5 and set to finish on December 11.

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RIVERSIDE Meats’ workers have not ruled out another strike

Workers at Riverside Meats have not ruled out further industrial action as negotiations continue about pay and conditions.

‘‘Negotiations are pretty steady. There’s not much happening,’’ union representative Darrel Holgate said. ‘‘It (striking) is still on the cards just not at the minute…we just want a fair deal…hopefully we can come to an agreement.’’

Workers took industrial action last month after talks broke down.

The workers main concern is about the tally system, an incentive system that pays workers more for increased output.

Riverside wants to shift its staff onto fixed hours and salaries.

Riverside Meats declined to comment.

Image: Workers protest at the front gates of Riverside Meats. (Source: Facebook)

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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.