Wednesday, December 11, 2002

'No to war'

BY Chris Latham

PERTH - On December 8, more than 1000 people rallied in Perth to oppose the impending war in Iraq. Organised by the NOWAR Alliance, the protest demanded: no war on Iraq; no Australian support for war; an end to sanctions on Iraq; and no attacks on civil liberties.

ALP parliamentarian Carmen Lawrence spoke at the protest. "Australian people are not willing to support a new American imperialism", she said. "People need to come out and oppose the war."

Other speakers included Theo Mackaay, from the Anglican Social Responsilities Commission, Russell Pickering, from the Socialist Alliance, Sheik Omran from a local Islamic college, Rosemary Miller from the Uniting Church Social Justice Commission, local Greens MLC Giz Watson and Democrats representative Helen Hodgson.

Pickering said: "World wide protests against the war on Iraq are developing solidarity with people of the Third

World, who are under attack from the military and corporations from countries like Australia and the US. Today we are taking a stand against the agenda of repression and exploitation that divides our world. The war on Iraq is bringing together a powerful movement for change -

a peoples' movement which says no to war, end the sanctions."

From Green Left Weekly #520.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2002

WA building workers win 36-hour week

Chris Latham
On November 22, members of the Western Australian branch of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's construction and general divisions began the process of implementing of a new enterprise agreement.



The agreement includes a 36-hour week for construction workers, based on the introduction of increased rostered days off over the next three years (five days in first year, nine in the second and 13 in the final year).

Other gains include: a 12% pay rise over the next three years; travel allowances increased to $22.50 a day; weekly superannuation payments of $95 in the first year, $100 in the second and $110 in the final year; redundancy payments increased to $70 a week; a 150% increase in trauma insurance payouts for death or permanent incapacitation, from $100,000 to $350,000 (in addition to any workers compensation payments); and a 10% increase in site allowances.

The agreement has been signed by WA's eight largest construction contractors and 40 subcontractors, with 100 subcontractors likely to sign on in the next two weeks, resulting in 6000 CFMEU members (90% of the union's WA membership) in Perth being covered by the agreement.

The CFMEU is committed to winning the extension of the agreement to all members, CFMEU construction division secretary Kevin Reynolds told Green Left Weekly. “We will seek protected action and take all forms of bans, limitations and strike action against the companies that haven't signed”, he said. The CFMEU has not signed an agreement with notorious anti-union millionaire Len Buckridge. However, the union will sign up the subcontractors used by Buckridge.

Reynolds told Green Left Weekly that the ability of the CFMEU to make significant gains for its members without having to take industrial action reflected the union's strength in Western Australia and Victoria. “The builders saw what can happen when they take us on, in Victoria three years ago. The builders there made a decision that they were not going to go through hell again. The major contractors in Western Australia are the same contractors who operate in Victoria and they knew what they were in for. Therefore, they made a commercial decision and decided it would be cheaper to settle with the union without a brawl, than to have a punch-up.”

Reynolds added that “on this occasion it suited us to negotiate ... as it demonstrates to everyone that the unions and the employers, left to negotiate things, can sort out their problems ... without any interference from governments or royal commissions”.

In recent weeks in Perth, there have been two deaths on building sites. Reynolds blamed the deaths on intransigent employers who refuse to work with unions. Unionised companies are more likely to enforce safety regulations.

However, Reynolds pointed out that when the same companies operate in places where the CFMEU is not strong, their health and safety records are significantly worse.

“We hope for the day that contractors who kill workers face manslaughter charges”, Reynolds told Green Left Weekly.

Originally published in Green Left Weekly http://www.greenleft.org.au/2002/519/27053

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Building workers protest royal commission

By Chris Latham

PERTH — On October 2, some 1000 members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's construction division protested against the return to Perth of the royal commission into the construction industry.

CFMEU state secretary Kevin Reynolds, who appeared at a commission hearing for the first time, informed the rally that "of the 640 witnesses called only 30 have been from the side of the union".

Reynolds reminded the CFMEU members that commissioner Terence Cole "is not interested in the truth, but in destroying your union. Kevin Reynolds may come and go but the union will always remain a strong militant union willing to bring them to heel."

Transport Workers Union state secretary Jim McGiveron expressed his union's support for the CFMEU and all unions under attack. He pointed out the hypocrisy and anti-union bias of the commission's hearings with "97% of the witnesses called in NSW being anti-union [and] 71% of all witnesses were employers, it amounts to an attack on unions".

CFMEU mining and energy division state secretary Gary Woods, former West Australian Labor premier Brian Bourke and former federal industrial relations minister Senator Peter Cook also addressed the rally.

From Green Left Weekly #512

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Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Unions attempt to stop deportation

BY CHRIS LATHAM

PERTH — On June 1, Iranian asylum seeker Nader Sayadi Estahbanati was deported from Esperance in WA on the Iranian freighter Mazardaran.

In 2000, Estahbanati and two friends stowed away on the Mazardaran to flee persecution in Iran following the Abadan uprising during which 23 people were shot dead and hundreds disappeared. Hosein Iran hid them in the 60-centimetre-high space above his cabin for five weeks.

When they arrived in Australia, Hosein was charged with "people smuggling", but received a suspended sentence because the magistrate found that he broken the law for humanitarian reasons rather than financial gain. The sentence is being appealed and Estahbanati's deportation will impact negatively on subsequent hearings.

During Hosein's case, Estahbanati gave testimony and was named as an enemy of the Iranian state. His picture appeared in the media. He was worried about the safety of himself and his family and friends. Since Estahbanati's brother Nesser voluntarily returned to Iran last month, no-one has seen or heard from him.

Despite lawyers' appeals, on May 29 Estahbanati was drugged in the Perth Immigration Detention Centre and forcibly transported to the Mazardaran, which was docked in Fremantle and about to sail to Esperance.

Under maritime law it is legal to return stowaways to the vessel they came in on. After activists contacted the ACTU for support, they accompanied Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the International Transport Federation (ITF) officials to Esperance to issue a subpoena, obtained by the ACTU, to remove Estahbanati from the ship.

The ship's master initially denied Estahbanati's presence, but then told the officials and activists that they could see Estahbanati if they had legal documents. He added that he would prefer Estahbanati was removed because he did not think the asylum seeker would make it to the next port of call due to his poor health.

Before Estahbanati could be seen, Australasian Correctional Management officers arrived and directed the officials and activists to wait in another room. After several phone calls, they were informed that they could not see Estahbanati, however, the subpoena would be delivered.

The ACTU and ITF asked that Estahbanati be allowed to see a doctor. The doctor later said that Estahbanati seemed in good health, but admitted that he had not seen identification for the patient. He described the man he treated as being 2 metres tall with a beard — very different to Estahbanati's description.

The ACTU has committed to take up Estahbanati's case with the government, and the ITF will discuss it at its conference in Britain next month. The ITF and ACTU are also concerned about Estahbanati's deportation because of the broader implications of merchant ships being used as detention centres and to assist deportations.

From Green Left Weekly #496.

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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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