Friday, December 02, 2011

Strikes surge under Leftist "Fair Work" laws

WORKING days lost due to industrial action have hit a seven-year high, sparking business demands for Labor to use its imminent review of the federal workplace laws to wind back the capacity of unions to strike.

On the eve of today's start to the ALP national conference, at which unions will push for greater workplace rights, employers declared that new figures showing there were 101,300 working days lost to strikes in the September quarter - the highest since June 2004 - represented a "huge wake-up call" for the government.

Unions are expected today to vent their anger at the conference over the continued existence of the building industry watchdog, and Labor's refusal to scrap its coercive powers.

Days lost due to industrial disputes jumped by more than 50 per cent compared with the June quarter.

But 52 per cent of the working days lost were in NSW, where public-sector workers have been taking industrial action against the O'Farrell government.

However, a federal coal dispute in Queensland saw the coalmining industry record the highest number of days lost per thousand employees.

There were 66 disputes, 13 more than in the June quarter, while the number of employees involved was 66,400, up from 14,700 in the June quarter.

The new figures come a month after Julia Gillard defended the Fair Work Act on the grounds that "we have not seen, in general, industrial disputes on the rise".

"The Fair Work Act has been there, it's been working, we've not seen a general rise in industrial disputation," the Prime Minister said on October 31.

The figures emerged as an attempt by striking workers to bring Fremantle port to a halt yesterday failed to eventuate after some workers broke ranks and refused to join the stoppage and others were replaced by management. The 48-hour strike by pilot boat crew and traffic controllers, who guide ships in and out of the busy port, sparked dire predictions of serious disruption to retailers, importers and exporters in the pre-Christmas period.

However, by late yesterday the only impact was a one-hour delay in the departure of one container ship and an hour's delay in the arrival of another. The strike continues today.

Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans said the increase in days lost had been driven by the "failure" of the NSW government to negotiate agreements with teachers and other public-sector workers. "During the September quarter, thousands of public-sector workers took strike action to protest against the O'Farrell government's wages policy," Senator Evans said. "These disputes are not related to the operation of the Fair Work Act and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

"The increased number of days lost during the September quarter is also a result of the large numbers of enterprise agreements expiring during this period.

"There were also high levels of disputation in some industry sectors such as the coal industry."

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the surge in industrial disputes was a "disturbing trend" that showed right-to-strike provisions needed to be wound back when the government reviewed the Fair Work Act from next month.

"It provides evidence that new union powers in the Fair Work Act have had a damaging economic impact," said the chamber's chief executive, Peter Anderson. "This is a sign that Australia is returning to a culture of strike first, talk later."

Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said employers had known the laws would increase union power, but it had been "several years since we have seen so much industrial action taken against multinational companies and in the public sector".

"The industrial dispute statistics released today should be a huge wake-up call for the government," Ms Ridout said.

The ACTU blamed the increase on the action by NSW public-sector workers and employees taking action when negotiating new workplace deals to replace those struck under John Howard's Work Choices regime.

"It is irresponsible to use the few high-profile disputes currently on foot as a reflection of the rest of the workforce," an ACTU spokeswoman said.

Opposition workplace spokesman Eric Abetz said the rise in disputes showed the government's legislation was not working. "Labor, in the Fair Work Act's key performance indicators, point to low levels of industrial disputation as a sign of the act's success - well today it's clear there is a failure," he said.

Unions said yesterday they expected criticism of the government on the national conference floor for its failure to scrap the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said there was "considerable angst" among unions that the government had yet to succeed in passing legislation replacing the body.

Dave Noonan, the national secretary of the construction union, said the ALP had been to two elections with a mandate to abolish the ABCC and "we are still waiting for it to happen".


Reports of Australian sea-level data being suppressed by Left-appointed bureaucrats

The constant Warmist attempts to block public access to basic data tells its own story. What have they got to hide? Below is one answer

SENIOR bureaucrats in the state government's environment department have routinely stopped publishing scientific papers which challenge the federal government's claims of sea level rises threatening Australia's coastline, a former senior public servant said yesterday.

Doug Lord helped prepare six scientific papers which examined 120 years of tidal data from a gauge at Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour. The tide data revealed sea levels were rising at a rate of about 1mm a year or less - and the rise was not accelerating but was constant.

"The tidal data we found would mean sea levels would rise by about 100mm by the end of the century," Mr Lord said yesterday. "However the (federal) government benchmark which drives their climate change policy is that sea levels are expected to rise by 900mm by the end of the century and the rate of rise is accelerating."

Mr Lord, who has 35 years experience in coastal engineering, said senior bureaucrats within the then Department of Environment Climate Change and Water had rejected or stopped publication of five papers between late 2009 and September this year.

"This was very thorough research, peer reviewed and getting the highest ranking from various people, and one of the papers got a nine out of 10 for the quality of the work," he said.

"You have to ask yourself why they were rejected, considering they had been peer reviewed, and the Fort Denison tide data is among the longest continuous data of its type available in the world. "There's never been a sensible explanation of why they have stopped these papers."

Mr Lord left government work in 2010 but continued to co-author the tidal data papers with experts still working for the state government.

The latest incident came in September when organisers of the Coasts and Ports 2011 Conference in Perth accepted one of the studies, only to have senior OEH bureaucrats tell them it had to be withdrawn. "They were able to do this because my co-author of this study, and the co-authors of the other rejected studies done after I left government work, still work for the government," Mr Lord said.

"As far as I am aware the minister has not been made aware by her department that this has been happening."


Angry criticism of Prime Minister and her partner on popular music station

TWO ABC broadcasters have called Julia Gillard a "whore" and accused boyfriend Tim Mathieson of being gay in blistering Twitter attacks as the Prime Minister prepared to open the ALP national conference today. One of the brutal tweets was deleted after complaints to the ABC.

The attacks underlined the heat being generated by Labor's debate this weekend on same sex marriage. Triple J broadcaster, Paul Verhoeven, retweeted the suggestion that someone put the illegal amphetamine "meths" into the ALP's drinking water to turn the conference into a "a wild sex game".

He also wrote "boo you whore" about the Prime Minister but later deleted it, claiming it was merely a reference to to a popular movie. The Triple J presenter said the tweet had been taken down "because the ABC were copping complaints from people who clearly haven't seen Mean Girls," he said in a later tweet.

An ABC spokeswoman told News Limited: "Paul Verhoeven has been asked to delete his tweet as it is not in accordance with the ABC social media policy."

Another Triple J identity and musician Brendan Maclean tweeted: "Just because you don't want to marry your gay boyfriend doesn't mean I shouldn't be able to marry mine."

The ABC is unlikely to discipline the men because they are contributors - not on staff - and were using private Twitter accounts.

Mr Maclean defended his comments on Twitter, saying: "note my bio disclaimer sweetheart". "My Twitter has nothing to do with tax dollar." he said

The Labor Party will tomorrow debate same sex marriage with the left demanding the party platform endorse it and the Prime Minister calling for a conscience vote in Parliament.

Today Ms Gillard opened the conference pledging a year of jobs, growth and fairness but made no direct mention of gay marriage.


A win for South Australian home-buyers

THE Upper House has voted to block controversial worker health and safety laws.

The Government had wanted the proposed legislation passed this week so it could come into effect from January 1. But late yesterday afternoon, the chamber, led by the Opposition, voted narrowly by 11 votes to 10 to defer any further consideration of the Bill until February.

Opposition industrial relations spokesman Rob Lucas said the Liberals had sought the support of the minor parties and independents in the Upper House to adjourn the debate.

The Bill, introduced in April by then Industrial Relations Minister Bernard Finnigan, was aimed at harmonising state and federal worker safety laws.

The Housing Industry Association has warned the new laws could add up to $20,000 to the cost of a new house while other industry groups have claimed it will give unions more powers to enter worksites for health and safety reasons.

These claims have been rejected as "pure scaremongering" by Industrial Relations Minister Russell Wortley, who said yesterday that the Opposition's move was a disgrace and had handed an early Christmas present to the Housing Industry Association. "The workers of SA will be worse off because of this delay to a Bill which has been in Parliament since April," he said.

Both the WA and Victorian governments have announced they will delay by up to 12 months the introduction of the legislation in their states. "The Weatherill Government has continued to ignore the growing concern from industry organisations about the impact on housing affordability," Mr Lucas said.

He said employer groups including Business SA, the Housing Industry Association, the Master Builders Association, and Independent Contractors Australia were all supporting amendments to the legislation.

"There is no prospect of harmonised work safety laws operation in all states and territories," Mr Lucas said. "Already NSW has amended the model Bill and WA has indicated they will also amend the model Bill. The Victorian Government may also.

"The Weatherill Government also has not done any analysis on the impact on SA businesses and costs and this work should now be undertaken."


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