UnionsACT move on wage-theft crisis

UnionsACT are trialling a Young Workers Centre to help fight rampant wage-theft by dodgy employers. Young workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation in this area. Broken workplace laws and under-funded regulators provide little protection.

The Young Workers Centre is a free service to support any young worker who has questions or concerns about their rights and safety at work.

Employers are required to abide by labour laws which include:

  • Payment of minimum wage and/or penalty rates;
  • Payment of superannuation;
  • Work health and safety standards;
  • Payment for all hours worked, including overtime;
  • Providing proper records including payslips.

For information, and for support if someone you know is being ripped off, go to: www.youngworkerscbr.org.au.

The Centre is calling for donations to help in its establishment.

Averting Climate Catastrophe

Vintage Reds who are gnashing their teeth over the government’s inaction on the global climate emergency will be interested in the views from an evening’s event at the ANU on 9 July 2019, “Averting Climate Catastrophe: Extinction Rebellion, Business and People Power”.

The event was run by the ANU Climate Change Institute. See their Twitter account for posts from the evening.

Extinction Rebellion is a global non-violent civil disobedience movement which came to rapid prominence late last year when its supporters shut down central London, blockading 5 bridges over the river Thames. Media attention to climate change soared. After ten days of civil disobedience in London in April this year, a climate emergency motion was passed by the UK Parliament.

In 2018 the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that we have only 12 years, at current global greenhouse gas emissions rates, before our chances of limiting global warming to 1.5C are seriously at risk. Beyond 1.5C the consequences for us all are extremely disturbing. We have a very brief window to achieve a rapid decarbonisation of the global economy.

We need to move fast. But how might such a fundamental shift – from business as usual to transformative change – be achieved?

Neil Gunningham, from ANU’s School of Regulation & Global Governance (REGNET), examined Extinction Rebellion’s strategy, its emphasis on non-violent civil disobedience and its impact, before asking: what, beyond grassroots politics, would a transformational movement built around climate change involve? Pressure must be brought to bear on recalcitrant governments from many quarters: not just from grassroots activist groups but from business, financial markets, scientists, unions, school children, and faith groups.

As groups like Extinction Rebellion gain momentum, and join with others, a tipping point may be reached, generating rapid changes across the economic and social system. If so, then bottom up action driven by civil society, in a coalition with its allies, may yet be the catalyst for rapid, radical and constructive action by nation states.

Carolyn Hendriks, from the Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU, discussed other forms of community engagement, especially those comprising people who are frustrated and distrustful of democratic government. She mentioned Lock the Gates, Knitting Nannas, and some very successful renewable energy cooperatives, all local groups which draw on ordinary people’s practical wisdom and show what’s possible at the small end of community resistance to business as usual. Whatever groups such as Extinction Rebellion can achieve, there will then be a need for decision making groups and citizens’ assemblies in the transition to a sustainable world.

Lachlan James, a a “venture capitalist” and visiting fellow at REGNET, provided perspectives from the business sector. His most cheering quote came from the Harvard Business Review, “Firms have become too big to let the planet fail”. Sustainable investment is going mainstream; there are huge amounts of capital chasing a shortage of sustainable investment opportunities.

It is clear that the union movement’s Just Transition plan, to secure workers’ jobs and livelihoods, must be part of the coalition of activist groups which will take us all through to a zero carbon future.

In an almost full house at the Coombs Theatre, ANU, it was noticeable how many grey heads there were, even though it is not us but our children and our friends’ children who will be paying the price for our inaction. It is a critical time for retired activists to add our support and be involved.

Photos: Knitting Nannas, GloucesterAdvocate.com.au; @ANU_Climate on Twitter.

Canberra Rally for refugees on 20 July

July 20 – Save The Date,
6 Years on Manus & Nauru, 6 Years too Long!

“July 19, 2019 will mark 6 years since Kevin Rudd took Australia’s refugee policy to a sickening low by announcing that no person arriving by boat to Australia to seek protection would ever be allowed to settle in Australia.” [Refugee Action Committee]

Join thousands around Australia to rally against this continuing horrific injustice.

Saturday, July 20, 1 pm, corner of Northbourne Avenue & London Circuit, Civic.

Refugee rights are Union business.

Union Aid Abroad Apheda Trivia Night

Two teams of Vintage Reds took part in the Union Aid Abroad Apheda Trivia Night at the Belconnen Labour Club on 12 June.

The event was fiercely competitive (but you can make financial donations to improve your score… ) and unfortunately our brainy table was easily trounced by other brainier tables.

The event raised money for the Karen community. (These are members of a minority group from Myanmar.) We heard from two very good Karen speakers, including one from Harmony Cleaners, a community cooperative business set up as a pilot program with help from United Voice. Many cleaners have experienced exploitation by employers, but Harmony cleaners are paid at the proper rate, work under proper conditions, and set a fine model for any enterprise. An additional bonus is that the company is not-for-profit so invests any extra funds into the Karen community.

Valiant election volunteers

Vintage Reds worked tirelessly in the electorate of Gilmore, beating the pavements in Tuross, Moruya and Bateman’s Bay to bring the union movement’s concerns to voters in the federal election.

We campaigned on themes of fairness and equality, and opposing casualisation, penalty rate cuts, wage-theft and stagnant wage growth.

“Honk for penalty rates” was a particular favourite with motorists, one of whom (not personally known to us) drove on to a local coffee shop and brought back two coffees for our volunteers!

The election results were a shock; but congratulations to Fiona Phillips, the new ALP member for Gilmore.

Sally McManus joins Vintage Reds in Gilmore

Election day saw Sally McManus, secretary of the ACTU, in the electorate of Gilmore, providing her with a chance to have her photo taken with the Vintage Reds and south coast activist friends.

Quite a lot of our members put long hours in, hoping for a result against the government in the election. We failed; but not in Gilmore.

Students’ Climate Strike in Canberra

Students wagged school and gathered in Garema Place on Friday 15 March 2019 as part of the Global Climate Strike. They called for 100% renewable energy by 2030.

“We’ll stop acting like adults if you stop acting like children!” they said. Organisers estimated that 3500 people attended the rally, including 2000 school students. Some parents and grandparents, including a sprinkling of Vintage Reds, also came and were vastly impressed by the students’ organisation and mature activism.

UnionsACT have endorsed the student climate strike.

“Tackling climate change & ensuring a Just Transition * is core union business. There are no jobs on a dead planet.”

* The ALP will establish a Just Transition Authority if elected, to develop regional transition plans & oversee redundancy schemes. Unions, industry & local communities will have direct input.