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PSR Fleet Memo for August 8 2015

IBU - Wed, 08/12/2015 - 09:35
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Categories: Unions

Stop Zionist Attacks On AROC-Statement Of TWSC

Current News - Wed, 08/12/2015 - 08:45

Stop Zionist Attacks On AROC-Statement Of TWSC
Statement of Transport Workers Solidarity Committee

August 11, 2015

The Transport Workers Solidarity Committee unequivocally defends AROC against attacks by the Jewish Community Relations Committee. We also defend AROC and any critics of Israel should the California State Assembly bill #35 be implemented and directed against AROC or other anti-Zionist protesters by the U.C. Regents. That is the bill which falsely equates anti-semitism with anti-zionism. Any attempt to stifle AROC’s freedom of speech on campus would also effect any actions in the port protesting Zionist atrocities.

At the same time we are obligated to point out that the UAW 2865 meeting chaired by an AROC supporter at UC Berkeley last December was not run democratically. Members of TWSC were not called on because some of us, including members of the ILWU, who’d participated in the 2010 anti-Zim port protest, are critical of the BDS campaign. It’s not a strategy based on the working class. AROC head Lara Kiswani who was a panelist could have corrected this but didn’t.

TWSC also had differences with AROC last August when Block the Boat and AROC called a rally in the port while the ZIM Piraeus was still at sea, claimed a victory and called an end to the protest. TWSC and others disagreed. We fought to continue the protest until the ship left port unloaded by longshore workers. We knew that to stop the ZIM ship required the support of longshore workers honoring the picket line. We’re glad some of you changed your position and decided to join us on the picket line not only in August but again in September. Together we were able to stop any cargo movements with the support of the rank and file longshoremen. That picket line action was recognized by the Palestinian solidarity group, Friends of Sabeel. Local 10 activist Stacey Rodgers and myself as TWSC chair received the award on behalf of the ILWU.

Despite our differences we recognize that unity of action against Zionist repression is essential. Again, we defend AROC against any Zionist attack and agree to have our organization listed as such on your petition.

Stop Zionist and Imperialist Repression Here and in Israel!

In Solidarity,

Jack Heyman

Tags: TWSCZionists
Categories: Labor News

Walmart Crimes-Tracy Morgan Crash Largely Result of Truck Driver’s Fatigue, Regulators Say

Current News - Wed, 08/12/2015 - 08:42

Walmart Crimes-Tracy Morgan Crash Largely Result of Truck Driver’s Fatigue, Regulators Say
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/12/nyregion/tracy-morgan-crash-largely-re...
By BENJAMIN MUELLERAUG. 11, 2015

Tracy Morgan and his fiancèe, Megan Wollover, during an appearance on "NBC Nightly News" in June.CreditPeter Kramer/NBC

Federal transportation regulators on Tuesday cited a Walmart truck driver’s fatigue as the chief cause of a crash last year that killed the comedian James McNair and critically injured Tracy Morgan, a star of the television series “30 Rock.”

National Transportation Safety Board investigators, presenting their findings at a public hearing in Washington about the June 2014 crash on the New Jersey Turnpike, said unused seatbelts exacerbated the injuries, and criticized the training of emergency medical workers who struggled to remove Mr. Morgan and some of the other six people who were trapped inside an overturned limousine van.

In addition, the limousine had been customized, officials said, leaving the passengers without any available exits until emergency responders cut out part of a plywood panel that had been installed between the passenger compartment and the cab.

“Their single means of exiting had become inoperable in the crash,” the board chairman, Christopher Hart, said.

Even if that sliding door had worked, it was above passengers’ heads, because the van had flipped onto its side. The officials said they shuddered at what might have happened had the vehicle caught fire.

Photo

T. Bella Dinh-Zarr and Christopher Hart at a meeting of the National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday. CreditCarolyn Kaster/Associated Press
The crash left Mr. Morgan with a severe brain injury and killed Mr. McNair, 62, who was known as Jimmy Mack. Eight other people were injured when the Walmart truck — traveling 65 miles per hour in a 45 m.p.h. zone as it approached a construction area where traffic was backed up — rear-ended the van and set off a chain-reaction collision.

The truck driver, Kevin Roper, is awaiting trial in New Jersey on charges of vehicular homicide and assault by auto. Mr. Morgan settled a lawsuitagainst Walmart in May for an undisclosed amount. In an interview on NBC in June, Mr. Morgan said that he was not ready to return to his comedy career, and was still experiencing forgetfulness, headaches and nosebleeds.

Federal officials cast blame for the damage on a wide range of lax training and safety programs, as well as lapses in the emergency medical response. It took around 40 minutes for responders to extricate the passengers.

Medical workers initially “failed to recognize how serious the situation was and how many severely injured occupants” were in the van, Thomas Barth, a safety board investigator, said. By the time more highly trained medical workers arrived, “they were overwhelmed,” because “they didn’t have enough resources on hand,” Dr. Barth said.

Investigators suggested that communication problems could have been compounded because medical teams came from different jurisdictions and had different levels of experience. They suggested that New Jersey set uniform training standards for groups that provide emergency medical service on the turnpike.

Mr. Roper had been awake for more than 28 hours at the time of the crash. He had driven 800 miles overnight from his home in Georgia to a Walmart distribution center in Delaware, where he began his delivery.

The Walmart truck involved in the crash with Mr. Morgan's limousine in June 2014. The truck was taken to an auto body shop in Cranbury, N.J. CreditRobert Stolarik for The New York Times
Investigators questioned Mr. Roper’s decision to take on the load despite having only about an hour remaining in the period he could be on duty according to federal regulations. He did not apply the brakes until he was within 200 feet of the van.

His fatigue, the board determined, made him “slow to react.”

The board recommended that companies like Walmart develop more robust fatigue management programs to educate dispatchers, drivers and their families on the risks of sleeplessness.

Drowsy driving has plagued truck drivers for decades, but the Senate passed a bill last month that exempted some truck drivers from rules limiting their hours of service.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who has opposed efforts to loosen such restrictions, said the safety board’s findings affirmed the need for stronger regulations. In a statement on Tuesday, he criticized the Senate for passing “a transportation bill full of special interest gifts to the trucking industry.”

Mr. Blumenthal added, “Allowing more tired truckers on our roads will only lead to more accidents like the horrific accident that injured Tracy Morgan last year.”

Wearing seatbelts and properly adjusting head restraints could have kept the passengers from flailing about, investigators said. Acknowledging that passengers tend to overlook available safety equipment when they are in a social setting, the board recommended making safety briefings mandatory on such limousine vans.

The truck was equipped with a collision awareness system to alert drivers to dangers ahead, but the data did not indicate that any alerts were made.

Tags: WalmartderegulationTrucking
Categories: Labor News

Greek Dockworkers Against the Troika

Current News - Tue, 08/11/2015 - 16:47

Greek Dockworkers Against the Troika
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6YOltnUung
http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&I...
Dockworker and Union Leader, Giorgos Gogos, who is also a member of the Central Committee of SYRIZA says the workers are very ready for the struggle against privatization and austerity in the Memorandum - August 11, 2015

SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: We're in the port city of Piraeus. It is the largest port in the Mediterranean Sea, located just outside of Athens. It services 24,000 ships each year, including cruise liners, containers, and ship repairs. It is the major port of entry for the two largest Greek industries, shipping and tourism, employing about 1,500 workers. The Greek Hellenic fleet is the world's most valuable merchant shipping system, valued at $106 billion, largely owned by the Greek oligarchy.
The Chinese state-owned shipping company, Cosco, owns the rights to two container terminals at this port. The memorandum that Syriza is currently negotiating with European creditors means that this port will be entirely privatized in the coming years. This will happen in spite of the fact that Cosco has been reporting ongoing losses, and has not bounced back from the 2008 recession.
In the July 5 referendum, over 75 percent of the residents living in this port city voted oxhi, no, supporting the Syriza call, in spite of the fact that both the local church and the mayor, who are supported by the shipping magnates in the city, advise them to vote yes. This port has been the site of struggle against privatization and austerity, not only in these recent times, but for the last decade.
With me to discuss these developments is Giorgos Gogos. He's a Greek dock worker and union leader from the city. He's a member of Syriza's central committee, and he's active in the regional and union levels of the party. He's engaged in local organizing efforts in Piraeus, he supported the Syriza oxhi vote, and urged his union members to do so as well.
~~~
GIORGOS GOGOS: Welcome. I am general secretary the last five years of the dockworkers' union of Piraeus Port Authority, and I work in the port the last ten years, since 2005.
PERIES: So tell me a little bit about the challenges you're facing in this port.
GOGOS: It's ten years now that they are trying to privatize the port. The first strike, it was when Cosco established themselves in the bigger part of the container terminal. This took place in June 2010. So we have already experienced five years of establishment of a private company, the bigger part of the container terminal of Piraeus Port Authority. Now we have a challenge in front of us. The entire privatization of Piraeus Port Authority. Out of 75 percent of the total shares that the state owns, they're going to privatize 51 percent.
So this, it was a decision of the previous government. Initially they started by privatizing 67 percent. And the new government changed this condition to 51 percent. We are against this privatization for several reasons, and we are not the only ones that resist this decision.
PERIES: Tell me a little bit about the union. How large is it, and what are some of the challenges you're facing in organizing against privatization in this port?
GOGOS: Our union represents the traditional dockworkers. We're about 300 working in the public port. There are three more unions in the public port, and they're organizing other specialties. Like people working in the administration. The other union is for technicians and operators of the machines. And the third one is for foremen and supervisors.
We're not organizing people in the Cosco terminal. Recently, before a year, they made their first strike so as to demand their rights. And so far they didn't succeed to conclude in the first basic collective bargain agreement, unfortunately, because they are quite biased by the management of Cosco company.
PERIES: Do the workers in the Cosco port, are they employees of Cosco? Or are they employees of the managers of the Cosco port here?
GOGOS: A few of them they are employed fully by the Cosco company. And a big majority they are employed through a complex system of subcontractors. There is a big company which is called the [akinesis] Port, and they have a number of eight and nine individuals who are providing also people to the [akinesis] and the [akinesis] is providing labor first to the two piers of Cosco.
PERIES: Okay. And so what are the education levels of the workers? One thing that I found very intriguing of working people in Greece is that they're highly educated in terms of what's going on economically, what's going on in terms of the debt crisis, what Alexis Tsipras is actually negotiating, and the impact it has on them and their work. And their site of work, in this case, this port. So give me a sense of the level of worker education and knowledge about what's going on in the economy.
GOGOS: Yes. The last five years that we've had memorandums and Troika presence in the country raised very much the interest of people for politics. And inevitably because these memorandums affected so much our lives we are well informed about what it's happening and why it's happening, this.
People here, especially in this area, they voted with vast majority of 70 percent for no, and this no was against the austerity and continuation of the memorandums. It was not clear that all of this amount of people wanted to exit from Eurozone or from Europe in general, but all of them it's clear--it's clear that we didn't want to continue with the austerity measures we faced that we faced over the last four years.
So I have to tell you that this area has a big percentage of unemployment. So people are really eager to find a job.
PERIES: Well, what percent of unemployment?
GOGOS: National level is about 25, 27. Here I think it raises more than 35. Especially the kind of, the terminal of Cosco, there is the ship repair zone, which was a very productive one and was giving employment to thousands of people. Especially living in the neighboring, [inaud.] in the neighboring municipalities. The lest eight or nine years the employment in this sector of economy, it's about 90 percent. So you can imagine that there are dwellings that don't have a working person in this area. So the real numbers are really high.
So it was something that Cosco took advantage. And because there is a huge pool of unemployed people seeking for job, they took advantage of this and they are paying very low wages. They have these humiliating labor conditions. We're not given the right for people to organize themselves. And it's--we can say in a few words that it manipulates the labor conditions.
PERIES: And did you see the new deal, or the new memorandum of agreement that Alexis Tsipras is about to sign on to, affecting your ability to negotiate and advertise even more?
GOGOS: Yes, that's true. The final product of the agreement, it's worse than the day we've done. We know that this is the product of blackmailing and huge pressure over the government. Unfortunately our government was believing that we could have allies within the Eurozone. And that the humanitarian crisis in Greece, it would trigger changes within the Eurozone.
Unfortunately this didn't come true. And Schauble and [extra] neoliberals within the Eurozone. They defeated our negotiators, our government. And the final result was after a huge dilemma with--they had to choose between a Grexit without any conditions and the memorandum like they said that they are going to sign and to implement.
PERIES: And one other thing that is in the way of port workers organizing against privatization is the rise of the Golden Dawn, here. And I was wondering, the--and that is also sliced by the fact that the rise of the neo-Nazis or Nazis in this area is also on the rise, preventing some of the port worker organizing that's going on. Tell me about some of that complexity.
GOGOS: Yes. It's a bit strange. But in this, let's say labor municipalities, the rise of Golden Dawn is quite high. It's more than the average percentage in a national way, the percentage. Unfortunately these ideas and these practices, they find a field and they cultivate among the poorer societies.
In the port we don't have indications that Golden Dawn has been intervening. But especially in the ship repair zone that they have this huge employment, they have created a, let's say a trade union, which is not a trade union but a tool by employers that are covering this sector so as to minimize the wages and to further cut off labor rights.
This is a challenge that we have to face, and we work in this field so as to prevent expansion of Golden Dawn and Nazis in our working places.
PERIES: So given the majority of the people voted against the referendum here, what are their thoughts now? Or what are your thoughts now that the memorandum has been approved by the parliament, and it's gone against the will and the democratic will of the people have done in this area, and perhaps unions in this as well. What are your thoughts, what do you think the next steps are?
GOGOS: We have mixed feelings. Passing from hunger, disappointment. We are not feeling well. It's a new agreement, as I told you, a product of huge pressure. We know that it's not going to be sustainable, it's not going to be viable, it's going to destroy certain sectors of Greek economy. And we know that we are going to reject it sooner or later. We are in a state of shock these days, because we saw our prime minister negotiating about 17 hours in a table with all these neoliberals trying to promote their plans.
It will take some time. I don't think it will be a long time. But we're going to organize ourselves and start fighting and struggle against these pressures. It's very strange because a left party's in power and they plan to impose these measures. It's something very contradictory. But the target remains the same, these measures should not happen, should not take place, should not be implemented.
So we still want to continue our struggles. The point is organizing better so as to have better results. I think that very soon we're going to have elections, and people will be asked again to say his opinion. So we're continuing, so we remain vigilant to continue our fight.
PERIES: One of the things that will occur as a result of the as a result of the memorandum is that more and more parts of the port will be privatized. However, this, the issue of Grexit, if you exit the Euro the port will also subside in terms of business. Is that your anticipation?
GOGOS: First of all we have to say that we're not talking about privatization like the others that happened in the European Union. Meaning concession to several providers, certain cargo terminals, et cetera. Here the case is the privatization of entire Piraeus Port Authority. It's not only the cargo terminals, it's not only the cruise terminal, it's not only the passenger terminal that connects the ferry lines between the Greek islands and the mainland. It's about privatizing public authorities. And this is unique in the European Union, with one exception. The changes, the reforms in port policy in Britain during the Thatcher era. And they are still trying to recover after 25 years of these reforms. So it's something unique for the European continent.
And I think that even the people in the government, they're not happy at all to implement this privatization. So taking into consideration that we have not the only ones that the resist to this privatization goes form other stakeholders around Piraeus. And being precise, it's the local municipalities of [former] [inaud.] surrounding the port, it's the commerce of--the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of middle-scale business. The bar association and other trade unions in the area of Piraeus.
So whole local society is against this decision. We're not alone in this fight. And we are hoping we are going to win and keep the port under public control.
PERIES: Giorgos, thank you so much for coming on the Real News Network and speaking with us today.
GOGOS: Thank you very much.

Tags: dockworkers' union of Piraeus Port Authorityprivatization
Categories: Labor News

Zimbabwe: Trade Union Leaders Arrested Ahead of Planned Demonstration

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 08/10/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

South Africa: Cosatu takes offence to Springboks' whiteness

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 08/10/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: eNCA
Categories: Labor News

United Airlines launches non-union ground operations subsidiary United Ground Express

Current News - Mon, 08/10/2015 - 16:16

United Airlines launches non-union ground operations subsidiary United Ground Express
http://www.bizjournals.com/chicago/news/2015/08/10/united-airlines-launc...
Aug 10, 2015, 12:59pm CDT

United Airlines (NYSE: UAL) said today it is launching "United Ground Express," an airport ground handling business that will be a separate, wholly-owned subsidiary of parent United Airlines.
The new subsidiary will provide customer service, station operations and ramp and cargo service at select second- and third-tier airports throughout United's domestic route system. The airline said the new subsidiary will further enable United "to provide its customers with a travel experience that's closely aligned with its mainline service."
United Ground Express won't be a presence at any of Chicago-based United's hubs, including Chicago.

One thing that apparently isn't in the cards at UGE, at least at this moment, are labor unions, who are the backbone of United's mainline operations. At times, unions have been a source of friction— and a costly one — with United management
But a United spokesman today said the various unions with whom the airline has contracts are aware of United Ground Express and its game plan, but he declined to say more on the matter. "You'll have to ask IAM," said the spokesman, referring to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, one of several large unions with whom United has contracts. There also is no mention of unions on the new website for United Ground Express that has just launched.

United Ground Express employees will have separate work rules and pay scales from those of United mainline, unionized employees. They also will have a 401K retirement savings plans rather than pensions. But a United spokesman said United Ground Express employees will have the same or similar travel benefits available to the airline's mainline employees.
The number of employees United Ground Express expects to hire within the next 6 to 12 months is being kept under wraps, as is the number of airports where UGE will be in place within the next year.
A United spokesman said UGE will be phased in over time as contracts with existing operations providers, most notably Envoy, expire in the months to come at airports around the country.
But United did confirm that UGE will be present in Kalamazoo, Mich., when United launches new service to that town, home to cereal behemoth Kellogg, from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Dec. 9.

Tags: union bustingIAM
Categories: Labor News

Lowe’s delivery driver replaced over Virginia customer’s racist request for white driver: report

Current News - Mon, 08/10/2015 - 06:59

Lowe’s delivery driver replaced over Virginia customer’s racist request for white driver: report
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/lowe-driver-replaced-va-custome...
BY NICOLE HENSLEY NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Sunday, August 9, 2015, 10:15 PM

WSET
Marcus Bradley, a delivery driver for Lowe's Home Improvement in Danville, Va., was swapped with a white driver because a customer didn't want a black driver.
A delivery driver at a Danville, Va., Lowe’s Home Improvement was replaced with another driver when a customer said she didn’t want someone who is black, a local report said.

Longtime employee Marcus Bradley, who is black, took offense to his bosses obliging the woman’s racist request, he told WSET-TV.

A phone call from his workplace of 11 years brought Bradley back to Lowe’s, where he swapped place with a white delivery driver to finish the job.

An unidentified customer, pictured here, told a TV station she didn't feel bad about requesting a white driver over a black driver from Lowe's.

“I asked him why I couldn’t do it and he said ‘because you’re black and they don’t want you at the house,'" Bradley said of the Aug. 3 incident.

Bradley went back to work, but shared his grievances with the local TV station, whose reporter then confronted the customer on the front porch of her home.

“I got a right to have whatever I want and that’s it,” the unidentified woman said of the delivery. “I don’t feel bad about nothing.”

The store manager who honored the woman’s request has since been terminated over the “troubling” ordeal, according to Lowe’s corporate officials.

“The situation brought to our attention was troubling and an investigation was immediately undertaken,” a statement obtained by WSET-TV read. “Under no circumstances should a discriminatory delivery request be honored as it is inconsistent with our diversity and inclusion core values and the request should have been refused. The investigation has concluded and the individuals involved are no longer with company.”

nhensley@nydailynews.com

Tags: racismLowesDrivers
Categories: Labor News

Lowe’s delivery driver replaced over Virginia customer’s racist request for white driver: report

Current News - Mon, 08/10/2015 - 06:59

Lowe’s delivery driver replaced over Virginia customer’s racist request for white driver: report
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/lowe-driver-replaced-va-custome...
BY NICOLE HENSLEY NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Sunday, August 9, 2015, 10:15 PM

WSET
Marcus Bradley, a delivery driver for Lowe's Home Improvement in Danville, Va., was swapped with a white driver because a customer didn't want a black driver.
A delivery driver at a Danville, Va., Lowe’s Home Improvement was replaced with another driver when a customer said she didn’t want someone who is black, a local report said.

Longtime employee Marcus Bradley, who is black, took offense to his bosses obliging the woman’s racist request, he told WSET-TV.

A phone call from his workplace of 11 years brought Bradley back to Lowe’s, where he swapped place with a white delivery driver to finish the job.

An unidentified customer, pictured here, told a TV station she didn't feel bad about requesting a white driver over a black driver from Lowe's.

“I asked him why I couldn’t do it and he said ‘because you’re black and they don’t want you at the house,'" Bradley said of the Aug. 3 incident.

Bradley went back to work, but shared his grievances with the local TV station, whose reporter then confronted the customer on the front porch of her home.

“I got a right to have whatever I want and that’s it,” the unidentified woman said of the delivery. “I don’t feel bad about nothing.”

The store manager who honored the woman’s request has since been terminated over the “troubling” ordeal, according to Lowe’s corporate officials.

“The situation brought to our attention was troubling and an investigation was immediately undertaken,” a statement obtained by WSET-TV read. “Under no circumstances should a discriminatory delivery request be honored as it is inconsistent with our diversity and inclusion core values and the request should have been refused. The investigation has concluded and the individuals involved are no longer with company.”

nhensley@nydailynews.com

Tags: racismLowesDrivers
Categories: Labor News

Welsh Rail workers strike that was forgotten for 75 years to be commemorated this week

Current News - Mon, 08/10/2015 - 06:56

Welsh Rail workers strike that was forgotten for 75 years to be commemorated this week
http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/rail-workers-strike-forgott...
• 18:00, 9 AUGUST 2015
• BY MARTIN SHIPTON
Two strikers were shot dead in Llanelli by soldiers during strike of 1911

The Llanelli rail strike of 1911
A landmark Welsh industrial dispute in which two strikers were shot dead by soldiers will be commemorated this week.

In August 1911, railway workers across Britain went on strike because of low pay and a desire to end what was seen as an unfair arbitration system.

South Wales, because of its coal, tinplate and steel production, and transport links to Ireland, was a crucial part of the British transport network.

Mass picketing had brought all rail traffic to a halt
On August 19, 1911, John “Jac” John and Leonard Worsell were shot dead near Llanellirailway station as striking workers sought to physically prevent a train passing through.

Mass picketing had brought all rail traffic to a halt. Soldiers were drafted in as tinplate and other workers came on to the streets in support of the striking rail workers.

Troops from the Worcestershire Regiment had escorted a train through the station, but strikers and their supporters had succeeded in climbing on board and immobilising the engine.

More: How we covered the Llanelli Riots of 1911

Some stone-throwing took place, although none of the train’s windows were broken, and Major Burleigh Francis Brownlow Stuart, the officer in charge, ordered magistrate Henry Wilkins to read the Riot Act.

Soldiers opened fire, killing two men
When this had no effect, Stuart drew his watch and gave the crowd a minute to disperse. Then the soldiers opened fire, killing the two men and wounding others.

Llanelli rail strike in 1911
John “Jac” John, 21, a tinplate worker, was shot as he stood in the garden of a house which overlooked the railway line.

Shootings led to rioting in the town
Leonard Worsell, a 19-year-old Londoner who had moved to Llanelli to seek work, was shot as he stood bare-chested and barefoot shaving in the back garden of his lodgings which overlooked the railway.

The shootings led to rioting in the town, where railway premises and the homes of magistrates were targeted.

MORE: Dan O’Neill: Strikers gunned down at protest

One man was killed when he attempted to use dynamite to open an armoured freight carriage, unaware that the cargo was munitions, resulting in a massive explosion.

On the following day, three more innocent people died from injuries sustained in the blast.

For years, most people were ashamed of what happened
For many years, most people in Llanelli were ashamed of what had happened, but on the 75th anniversary of the events in 1986 a commemoration was held.

Then a big event took place in the centenary year of 2011, and every year since.

The Llanelli rail strike in 1911
On Thursday afternoon at 5pm, a meeting will take place in Llanelli Rural Council offices at which a number of experts on the dispute will speak about its significance historically and for today.

Then on Saturday, a march will leave Llanelli railway station for the town centre, where an anti-austerity rally will be held.

'There was still grinding poverty and ill-health'
Sian Caiach, a county councillor who represents a Llanelli ward, is treasurer of the committee organising this year’s commemoration.

She said: “Although I wasn’t born very far away, in Gowerton, I didn’t know anything about the events of 1911 until one of my children was doing a history project on it.

“One of the very telling facts about the year is that there was still grinding poverty and ill-health.

“More than 100 infants died in Llanelli before their first birthday. There was no welfare state and people lived in appalling conditions.

'Llanelli was in a crucial position'
“The dispute was the first national rail strike ever and the Government of the day was very rattled.

“They deployed 57,000 troops to try to keep the network functioning.

"Llanelli was in a crucial position, on the main railway line from London to the west coast of Wales from where ships went to and from Ireland, taking manufactured goods and returning with food.

“Llanelli was the only place where the line was physically blockaded. There were about 500 railway workers in the town, but there was a lot of support for them.

'They were badly paid in comparison with miners'
“They were badly paid in comparison with miners, for example. So around 3,000 people were involved in blocking the gates at each end of the station so trains couldn’t get through.”

The councillor said the past emphasis on the rioting which occurred after the two innocent men were shot dead had obscured the significance of the events.

She added: “As the local historian John Edwards, who wrote the first book about the events of 1911, put it, people forgot about the shooting because of the looting.”

'What happened many years ago has relevance today'
Dr Caiach added: “What happened so many years ago has relevance today, when the welfare state that was established after so much struggle is severely under threat from the government of today.

“We hope we get a good turnout from people who understand the parallels between 1911 and today.”

Tags: Welsh Rail Strike
Categories: Labor News

I Am Tired of Healthcare

IWW - Sun, 08/09/2015 - 13:51

By Luz Sierra - Miami IWW, August 5, 2015

Five years had passed since I first began working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). A CNA is a health care provider that assists Registered Nurses (RN’s). They are the ones considered to do the “dirty work” in healthcare: changing, bathing, feeding, and providing any form of assistance to patients that RN’s do not have the time or opportunity to provide in today’s fast-paced and multi-tasking health care environment. Through providing care to patients, I have seen many of the atrocities of today’s society, especially with mental health.

The past year I was offered a patient companion (sitter) position at a local hospital after being laid off at my previous workplace for organizing. It is a pretty chill job. Depending on the census, I either provide one-to-one care or one-to-two patients care who are at risk to fall and are under Baker Act (a Florida mental health law that forces a patient to remain in the facility and to be under supervision up to 72 hours because of potential harm to self or others), or high risk patients likely to be injured. Throughout the majority of my employment there, I have mostly seen patients with mental health disorders. Among them are the elderly that are diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. In my experience, they are not given enough or any treatment at all. They are only given medication that sedates them for hours or they are simply ignored by RN’s. An individual with such an ailment could become very anxious, agitated, and disorientated which leads to many problems. For instance, they often attempt to get out of bed unsafely due to memory loss, they can remove their intravenous therapy (IV) if they are bothered by it, and they will sometimes attempt to physically hurt people they do not recognize as they become anxious and fearful of everyone. The list can go on. Mental health disorders are not easily treated, so there are moments when you will need help from CNA’s, RN’s, or even administration. Unfortunately such help is non-existent at times, like one day at work when I was assigned a patient that had Alzheimer’s and was extremely confused.

On that day I received the patient in a difficult situation. The first moment I arrived to her room, she was already punching and kicking the CNA who was trying to prevent her from getting out of bed. The CNA warned me to be careful since she was very combatant; she wasn’t lying. I spent the first two hours preventing her from getting out of bed while she attempted to repeatedly punch and kick me. Eventually a physical therapist stopped by and walked her to the bathroom and around the room. Afterwards, the nurse provided her medication that calmed and reoriented her. After taking her medication, the patient began to talk to me kindly, telling me about her life until she fell asleep for about thirty minutes. When she woke up, the medication was no longer effective so she was agitated and confused again. She wanted to leave her room, but wasn’t allowed to, so she was pushing and hitting me, and screaming loudly for help. I wanted to back away from her since that’s what you are taught when dealing with an aggravated patient, but I couldn’t as she was trying to get up and placing herself at risk of falling. I called the nurse to tell her what was happening, but all she did was stop by and talk to the patient. When she left, the patient became aggressive again.

During the next three hours I called the nurse five times, but she didn’t do anything other than try to calm the patient through talking to her. There’s no problem with that but if the patient is hurting herself and trying to attack caregivers there should be a better alternative. I am not a big advocate of medication, but in my opinion, it’s better to sedate a patient in order to prevent any further harm if the RN is not going to be there 24/7 and if a patient companion has limited options to prevent a patient from hurting anyone or herself.  Luckily, another nurse stopped by and took the patient to visit her husband who was also hospitalized. I was ordered to stay with her as she visited her husband. She was calm for a while, but then became agitated and wanted to leave the room in order to search for her children who weren’t there. I had to take her back to her room where she didn’t want to stay, and spent another three hours walking back and forth from her room to her husband’s room. Along the way she would hit and scream at me while the nursing staff were all watching and did nothing.

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Categories: Unions

Your Class Needs You!

IWW - Sun, 08/09/2015 - 13:38

By members of the Merseyside IWW – Liverpool IWW, August 5, 2015

About twenty people met in Liverpool Central Library’s meeting room 2 last night, as part of IWW national secretary Dave Pike’s speaking tour of England, Scotland and Wales. Dave’s presentation – called ‘Your Class Needs You’ – attracted a mixture of members, prospective new wobblies (or ‘probblies’ in IWW lingo) and people who were just curious what the IWW they knew from tales of Joe Hill were up to nearly a century after his murder.

It was a lot less eventful than the last time Liverpool IWW met on William Brown Street. In 1921, scouse wobblies led by the writer George Garrett occupied the front of the Walker Art Gallery, and were met with a full scale police riot.

For all us IWW members love the old stories, this was evening very much focused on the IWW of today, and how a new generation of relatively young, casualised workers are leading the way with some inspirational campaigns and struggles. We watched videos of workers from Starbucks, Jimmy Johns and London language schools fighting for improvements to their working lives.

The modern day Liverpool IWW are planning some big things over the next few months, and are thrilled to have settled into our new home of Liverpool Central Library. Watch this space, as well as our Facebook and Twitter. And yes, JOIN US! https://iww.org.uk/join

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Categories: Unions

Big Picture: The Last Mile Boys-They are the backbone of the $16.4 billion, and growing, e-commerce industry of India.

Current News - Sun, 08/09/2015 - 11:46

Big Picture: The Last Mile Boys-They are the backbone of the $16.4 billion, and growing, e-commerce industry of India.
http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/big-picture-the-last...
He is 24, BA in Hindi Literature, and more than 250 km away from home in UP. For Rs 10,500 a month, he tackles Delhi roads six days a week as part of the ecommerce industry’s nameless delivery force. Amid a protest by 400 online delivery staff in Mumbai, The Indian Express follows him for one day.
Updated: August 9, 2015 5:56 pm

They are the backbone of the $16.4 billion, and growing, e-commerce industry of India. A rough estimate puts their number at more than 1 lakh, whizzing through traffic and tackling India’s cities and suburbs to deliver everything from books to furniture and vegetables on the doorstep. In the heady convenience of online shopping, it is easy to overlook what stands in the way of that package in the real world. But last week, over 400 online delivery and sorting staff brought the message home. For eight days now, they have been on strike in Mumbai, demanding, among other things, regular offs, uniform, bike maintenance, laundry allowance — and toilets.

The 24-year-old from Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh is part of this nameless force.

It’s 8.20 am and he is at Okhla Industrial Area in South Delhi, having left his home in Faridabad at 7 am to cover the 20.4 km in time for his shift. The delivery warehouse located in a huge depot, where he has to report by 8.30 am, is buzzing already. Over 10 vans and nearly 30 bikes are lined up outside while the 40 delivery staff on duty at this hour make their way up to the first floor to collect their parcels for the day.

10:00 am, B P Singh Slum:
The 24-year-old hands over a parcel with a phone at a makeshift cyber cafe in the slum. An argument breaks out as the customer claims he was led to believe the phone would be cheaper; beginning the second part of his shift.
On the ground floor, the packaging staff are sealing parcels with tapes bearing names of the respective e-commerce brands. The delivery company the 24-year-old works for is a third-party logistics provider, carrying out last-mile deliveries for big online commerce portals which outsource their work to such firms to ensure faster transportation.

While some companies like Flipkart have in-house companies such as eKart taking care of deliveries, most (including Flipkart), now hand out these jobs to third parties such as Delhivery, Ecom Express, Blue Dart, Gojavas, Dotzot etc. The 24-year-old works for one such firm (he doesn’t want himself or that firm to be identified).

In Okhla Industrial Area itself there are close to 15 such companies, each with around 40-60 delivery staff, forming the last link in the online delivery chain. Most of the delivery staff is between the ages of 18 and 28, earning Rs 10,000-15,000 a month, with one weekly off.

Noon, Tughlakabad Railway Colony:
He took a break to escape the heavy downpour that started at around 11 am, but still got drenched. “If I fall ill, they will cut my salary,” he fears.
The supervisors are yet to arrive, and right now junior managers and warehouse staff are seeing off delivery staff like the 24-year-old, with sheets listing the addresses and phone numbers of customers.

He had skipped breakfast to ensure he wasn’t late. “Leaving early helps me beat the morning traffic jams,” he says, wiser after three months in the business.

After signing in and collecting his parcels — 35 in this round — he checks each individually, to ensure he doesn’t get the rap for any damage later, before adjusting them into a big blue backpack. By 9 am, he is ready to leave.

He is pining for some tea by now. “I wish the company at least gave us a cup,” he sighs, heading towards his bike carrying the backpack, weighing more than 10 kg.

In 2010, he graduated from Allahabad University with a BA in Hindi Literature. After failing to get a job in his hometown, he first came to Delhi in 2011, and through a cousin, joined an electronic goods repair shop in Greater Noida. He had been working there for more than two years when he had to go to Mainpuri to attend to his ailing father. When he returned after a month, he says, he was asked to resign. Disheartened, he returned to his village, only to come back to Delhi in April this year, when the same cousin helped him get a job as delivery staff.

“I had learnt to ride on my father’s bike and fortunately even had a licence. I borrowed some money and bought a bike for Rs 18,000,” he says. “They just asked for my Pan card, Aadhaar card and driving licence.” The company gives him Rs 2.15 per km for the fuel.

“We need to carry out two trips in a day. The first trip has a maximum of 50 parcels and the second about 20-30 deliveries,” says a fellow delivery staff, loading his own bike. While most of the deliveries are carried out on bikes, which are easier to manoeuvre through narrow lanes, there are vans for the bigger packages.

The staff are assigned parcels as per pin code. “I, along with two more boys, are responsible for 110044 pin code,” says the 24-year-old. It has seven large areas under it.

Before he sets off, the 24-year-old dials the number of the first customer on his list, in Vishwakarma Colony, 8 km away. The recipient doesn’t answer, so he decides to head to Tughlakabad Railway Colony first. “This happens often. We keep the parcels for three-four days in such a situation and then cancel the order,” he explains, strapping on the backpack and a helmet.

The traffic is heavy as he makes his way to the colony. By 9:45 am, two deliveries are made. After another call, he gets off the main road onto a broken lane with water puddles, and heads to a make-shift cyber cafe near B P Singh jhuggi. A customer is waiting for him — cyber cafes, it turns out, are a common dropoff point for online deliveries.

The customer has to pay Rs 1,100 for the phone he has ordered. When told the amount, he flares up. Soon a crowd gathers around the Mainpuri youth. “Ye newspaper clip dekho, yehan 899 rupay likha hai, le jao wapas ye phone (See this newspaper clipping, it says the phone is for Rs 899. Take the phone back),” fumes the customer.

Hassled at the crowd around him, the delivery guy tries to keep his cool, pointing to the fine print below the newspaper advertisement. “See this, Rs 199 is the delivery charge,” he says. After a brief argument, the customer pays up. Driving away, he shrugs, “It’s just been three months, but I have got used to such encounters.”

Not all arguments with customers end as quickly. “Once I delivered a phone in this same colony and the customer just refused to pay up. He even opened the parcel in front of me and insisted it was an exchange offer. When I called my supervisor, he simply said I needed to sort it out on my own or else pay the company from my salary. I had to call the cops ,” he says.

4:00 pm, Molarbund:
Beginning the second part of his shift, he hopes to return home early but is soon caught in evening traffic jams.
He asks his next two customers to come to a water tank in the same colony to collect their deliveries. “It is difficult to get to the interiors of some areas. People make online orders from all sorts of places, it is not restricted to just the wealthy,” he says.

His destination now is Pul Prahladpur village, a kilometre away. A drizzle has begun by now; he decides it is light enough for him to continue.

Outside the house of the next customer, a big bulldozer is excavating the road to lay down water pipes. The mud guard on his bike is damaged as he makes his way, so he parks it and decides to cover the rest of the distance on foot, minding his steps. His company doesn’t provide maintenance, and he can’t risk further damage. “I will have to repair it on my own,” he says.

Making his way up a spiral wrought-iron staircase to an address on the third floor, he adds, “I have delivered here many times, so finding houses is not a problem.”

But this part took getting used to. When he joined, he was given “training” of all of two days — basically accompanying a delivery staff to understand the job — and then left on his own. “Of 40 parcels on my third day, I managed to deliver just 10. I got an earful from my supervisor,” he recalls.

It’s a little over 11am now, and he is back on the street near his bike. The scanty rainfall has given way to a heavy downpour. After a few seconds of deliberation, he decides to take shelter under a bus-stop. “The backpack is water-proof, but I need to protect myself too. If I fall ill, they will cut my salary,” he says. “Ten-twelve days ago a few boys put their foot down and asked for raincoats. The management just said they could resign if they wanted to,” he says.

Amit Kumar, a career consultant with Teamlease, which helps provide delivery staff to companies, says that is not true for most firms. “They provide basic facilities, including a raincoat,” he claims.

Adds a regional head at Ecom Express, who declines to be named, “We give all kinds of social security benefits.” He doesn’t specify which benefits though.

But, as the 24-year-old notes, the companies hold all the power. “Customers often end up blaming us for bad products, some talk to us like we are terrorists. If a parcel is opened and then returned, we have to cough up the money. The other day two laptops were stolen from the company, and the boys on duty had to pay Rs 45,000. But I need to deliver at all cost, otherwise the company holds back our salaries,” he says.

The staff on strike in Mumbai have accused e-commerce retailers Flipkart and Myntra of denying basic employee benefits to them. All pickup and delivery services of the two firms there are at a halt due to the agitation.

The rainfall has reduced to a drizzle again, and the Mainpuri youth, by now completely drenched, has got back on to his bike. The next three customers are at Jaitpur, 5.5 km away. After delivering two of those parcels at a cyber cafe, he dials the next customer, who dismisses him saying he had cancelled the order. “I will just return his package to the company,” he says.

Ready to leave for his next stop in Badarpur, he gets a call from his supervisor, who asks him to collect a “faulty package” from Gautampuri. With little time to waste, he quickly makes the detour.

By the time he reaches his next destination, a boys’ hostel in BTPS colony, his phone has died. He speaks to the guard at the gate, who fortunately calls the customers down. “I would have had to go back to the office otherwise,” he says relieved.

With three more destinations on his itinerary, he spends the next 20 minutes at the guard’s room, charging his phone. “They give us Rs 250 for phone bills, but I usually end up spending much more. There is no point arguing,” he says.

6:00 pm, Vishwakarma Colony market:
At congested places such as these, he often calls customers to a common, easily accessible point to collect their packages
He is now in a congested lane in the noisy Badarpur main market. He halts under an old archway and calls his next three customers there. “It’s a very unorganised colony, some of the homes don’t even have proper addresses. This system works,” he says.

His backpack is almost empty now, but the cash pouch is full. He admits he is nervous. “I have to be careful about the money,” he says. “A few days ago, I heard, a boy from a company was thrashed by the customer, locked up in a bathroom, and robbed of his cash and the delivery bag.”

The maximum cash he has had on him at a time is Rs 43,000.

His first shift is done only by 3 pm, when he heads back to the warehouse in Okhla. He first goes to a counter to hand over the cash paid by customers and return the cancelled/uncollected items. After making required entries in a computer, he heads up to the first floor to have his first meal of the day — two chappatis and bhindi.

He cooks his own food and gets a tiffin from home. “I can’t spend on food, there are no reimbursements here,” he says, gulping the meal in big morsels.

He hasn’t taken a toilet break as well so far since morning, and has to ensure he manages to get his turn while here. The warehouse has a single toilet used by 80 people.

Again logistics firms disagree with charges of lack of basic facilities. “We always ensure our boys get all the facilities and that their salaries are given on time,” says Santosh Gupta, who heads the South Extension Branch of Dotzot, an online delivery firm.

None of the officials though denies a high attrition rate. “Koi bhi ladka 7-8 mahine se zyaada nahin rehta (No one stays more than seven-eight months),” says Hari Prakash, one of the in-charges for van delivery services at the 24-year-old’s warehouse.

Amit Kumar acknowledges that the high attrition is partly due to how companies treat their staff. “There is no denying that some companies delay salaries,” he says. Inadvertently, he also lets out why the firms may not be overtly concerned. “These boys continue to work because they have a need,” he says.

6:30 pm, Badarpur:
Towards the end of his day’s delivery run, he takes first halt within duty hours, for a cup of tea. It would be another two and a half hours before he goes home
Finishing his meal, the 24-year-old talks about the time he wanted to join the Army. “I failed the medical test because of a fracture in my thumb.”

Soon he is back at the collection counter, picking up parcels for his second shift of the day. There are just 11 deliveries on the list, he notes, smiling.

By 4 pm he is back on the road, headed first to Molarbund, 11.7 km away, for five of those deliveries.

His hope of finishing his day early is soon crushed though. The evening traffic jams have set in and he takes about 40 minutes to get to just the first destination. “I never manage to leave for home on time. Even on the one off day I get, Wednesday, I get calls to report to work,” he sighs.

“Sometimes there is pressure to deliver packages when the boys can be called, but usually they are allowed their weekly offs,” insists Santosh Gupta.

After Molarbund, the delivery guy turns towards his next stop, which is again Vishwakarma Colony. On the way, he makes a brief halt for a cup of tea.

As he sets off again, his bike suddenly splutters to a halt. He has run out of fuel. He tries not to lose his cool as he looks around for help, finally hailing down a passerby to help push the bike to a petrol pump, luckily just 5 minutes away.

6:50 pm Jaitpur
Two kilometres from his final delivery destination, his bike runs out of fuel. He pushes it to a nearby petrol pump.
It’s almost 7 pm when he reaches his last stop of the day. “Evenings have fewer parcels, but end up taking more time because of the traffic jams,” he says, ruing the lack of fixed hours.

Finally, all the deliveries are done, and he is back at the warehouse by 8 pm. Here he repeats the afternoon procedure of handing over cash and making the entries.

He doesn’t leave for home immediately still, waiting for the supervisor in case “there is more to do”. It’s only by 9 pm that he gets onto his bike to head for Faridabad to his one-room home.

The salary of Rs 10,500 a month, the 24-year-old acknowledges, is barely enough to make ends meet. The rent for the room alone is Rs 2,500, and he sends Rs 6,000-7,000 back home. “My younger sister is married, but my brother is still studying, I need to take care of them too,” he says.

“I have heard of a bonus but I am not too sure,” he says, driving away. “I am looking for other jobs.”

- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/big-picture-the-last...

Tags: E-Commerce
Categories: Labor News

A West Japan Railway Co. official briefs reporters Sunday at a train depot in Fukuoka Prefecture about how an aluminum plate fell off a speeding Sanyo Shinkansen Line bullet train the previous day, causing the component to hit several windows and damage a

Current News - Sun, 08/09/2015 - 11:20

A West Japan Railway Co. official briefs reporters Sunday at a train depot in Fukuoka Prefecture about how an aluminum plate fell off a speeding Sanyo Shinkansen Line bullet train the previous day, causing the component to hit several windows and damage a power cable.
KYODO
NATIONAL
Police probe possible negligence in Fukuoka shinkansen electricity failure
KYODO
• AUG 9, 2015
FUKUOKA – Police on Sunday began probing an electricity failure on a Sanyo Shinkansen Line bullet train the previous day caused by an aluminum plate falling off the train as it hurtled down the tracks at a speed of 285 kph.

Local police entered West Japan Railway Co.’s train depot in Fukuoka Prefecture and examined the train, Sakura 561, suspecting a possible maintenance flaw and negligence resulting in injury. One passenger was injured in the incident.

The railway operator, also known as JR West, said electricity failed between Kokura and Hakata stations in the prefecture at around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, causing the Sakura 561 train to come to a sudden stop.

JR West checked the track and found the aluminum part in a tunnel. The 6.5-kg plate, 71 centimeters wide and 62 cm in height, had fallen off the second car of the eight-car train bound for Kagoshima Chuo Station from Shin-Osaka Station.

After falling off the train, the plate ricocheted off the tunnel wall and the train, damaging it in three areas and also wrecking a wire that supplies electricity to the overhead cables, the railway operator said. The electricity is believed to have failed because the wire shorted out, it added.

The nearly full train had about 500 passengers aboard.

A 26-year-old high school teacher from Kagoshima sustained minor injuries to her left wrist and elbow, police said.

The metal plate had been examined in the past two days and JR West found no abnormalities in a check Friday, it said.

The incident caused delays of up to 97 minutes for 53 trains on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line, affecting about 15,100 passengers, during the already congested start of the Bon holidays.

Tags: Japan Railhealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

Portland Airport contractor refuses to bargain with Machinists

Current News - Sun, 08/09/2015 - 11:02

Portland Airport contractor refuses to bargain with IAM Machinists
http://nwlaborpress.org/2015/08/airport-contractor-refuses-to-bargain-wi...
Aug 7, 2015 | Filed under: Top Stories,Workers Rights

THICKET OF PICKETS: At Portland International Airport Aug. 6, passengers heading to the security checkpoint for Concourse D and E passed unionists picketing ABM. Taking part, from left to right are: Machinists organizer Will Lukens, ABM dispatcher Jim Shannon, assistant directing business rep Noel Willet, ABM union steward Aaron Dexter, Machinists Local 1005 vice president Frank Rouse, ABM dispatcher Mike McGuire, and apprentice organizer Jake Merkel.
Workers who fix jams in the Portland airport’s baggage conveyor system voted 15-6 on April 2 to join the Machinists union. But their employer — ABM Onsite Services — is refusing to meet to negotiate a contract for the 25-worker group.

Instead, the company is employing a DC law firm to challenge their right to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act. ABM says the workers fall under the Railway Labor Act. That law makes it much more difficult to win a union campaign. The National Labor Relations Board has already rejected ABM’s argument, and ABM is very likely to lose in the court of appeals, says Machinists associate general counsel David Neigus. But it could take a year and a half to get a decision.

“I’m astonished at the amount of money a company is willing to spend to fight the union,” ABM dispatcher Mike McGuire told the Labor Press. McGuire works in a control room watching a bank of computer displays, dispatching workers called “jammers” whenever he detects a problem, like a piece of luggage getting stuck somewhere on the five-mile-long conveyor belt system — something that can happen hundreds of times a day.

McGuire and coworkers say they were driven to unionize by a difficult manager, who has since been fired. But they also want better wages, more affordable health insurance, greater stability and job security, improved safety, and an end to constant policy changes over which they have no say. Wages for jammers and dispatchers start at $12 an hour, and don’t go much higher. Union steward Aaron Dexter (the son of an IBEW Local 48 member), makes under $14 after five years as a jammer. Meanwhile, employer-provided health insurance costs upwards of $300 a month. And workers say too many injuries are occurring — particularly when they’re made to push six-feet-high stacks of tubs that weigh hundreds of pounds.

On Aug. 6, McGuire and several other ABM workers, joined by union reps, held the closest thing they can to a picket in two of the airport’s “Free Speech Zones.” The picketers’ message: ABM is committing unfair labor practices and denying workers’ rights. [Airport free speech, per Port of Portland policy, means applying for a permit at least three days in advance for permission to stand in a roped-off area, with no more than 10 people, no signs larger than 22” x 28,” and no chanting, dancing, tables or gathering of signatures.]

Neigus, the Machinists attorney, says the Port of Portland could use its influence to get ABM to quit stalling, because it’s a party to the ABM contract. The Port built the baggage conveyor system but turned over its management to a consortium of airlines, which then contracted the work to ABM.

“The employees went through an election,” Neigus said. “They want representation. ABM needs to bargain with them and follow the law.”

Tags: Portland AirportIAMMachinist
Categories: Labor News

Zimbabwe: Cops besiege ZCTU offices

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 08/08/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: NewsdzeZimbabwe
Categories: Labor News

Most Railroads Won’t Meet Deadline for Safety Controls, Report Says "few railroads were on schedule to meet the deadline."

Current News - Sat, 08/08/2015 - 09:32

Most Railroads Won’t Meet Deadline for Safety Controls, Report Says "few railroads were on schedule to meet the deadline."
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/08/us/most-railroads-wont-meet-deadline-f...
By RON NIXONAUG. 7, 2015

Investigators worked near the wreckage of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train No. 188, from Washington to New York, that derailed in May in Philadelphia, killing eight passengers. CreditWin Mcnamee/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — A majority of freight railroads and passenger trains will not be able to meet a year-end deadline to install technology that prevents trains from exceeding speed limits and helps avoid collisions, the Federal Railroad Administration said Friday in a report to Congress.

Congress set a deadline of Dec. 31 for freight and commuter rail companies to install the technology, which is known as positive train control, after a California passenger train derailed in 2008, killing 25 people.

But the report, which was provided to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, said few railroads were on schedule to meet the deadline.

The largest railroads would only have 39 percent of their trains fitted with the technology by the end of the year, the report said. In addition, just 34 percent of the employees who need to be trained on the equipment would be ready by Dec. 31.

The report also said that just 29 percent of commuter railroads were expected to complete installation of the safety equipment by the end of 2015. Full implementation of the technology for all commuter lines was projected to be completed by 2020, five years after the deadline, according to the railroad administration.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, more than 300 lives and nearly 7,000 injuries could have been avoided in railroad accidents over the past 46 years if the technology had been installed.

The N.T.S.B. said the May 12 Amtrak derailment near Philadelphia that killed eight and injured 200 also could have been prevented had positive train control been installed. Amtrak said it would be able to meet the Dec. 31 deadline to have the safety technology installed on its trains on the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston.

But some other railroads have not even provided complete information on their plans to meet the deadline, according to the rail administration.

The findings in the report are not surprising. Railroad companies and many commuter rail authorities had already told Congress they would be unable to install the technology by the end of the year. The railroads said several factors have led to the delay in installing the necessary technology, including cost and a limited number of vendors who sell the equipment.

“Positive train control has been an unprecedented technological challenge; it is not off-the-shelf technology and has had to be developed from scratch,” said Ed Greenberg, spokesman for the Association of American Railroads, an industry trade group. “What the F.R.A. report illustrates is the complexities involved with the development, installation and testing of P.T.C. before it can become fully operational across the U.S.”

The railroad industry said it had been working to test and install positive train control. It has spent more than $5.7 billion on the technology, with the final costs estimated to be close to $9 billion, Mr. Greenberg said.

A recently passed Senate bill would push back the deadline to 2018. The bill would add money to the Department of Transportation’s budget to help the industry with installation of positive train control. A memo from the Senate Commerce Committee said the year-end deadline was not feasible and that some “freight and commuter railroads may be forced to cease some or all service at the deadline as a result of unknown liability and penalty risk.”

Technology to prevent train accidents is not new, and federal regulators for decades have called for railroads to install the safety systems.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said his department would do what it could to help the railroad industry install what he called the “the most significant advancement in rail safety technology in more than a century.”

Still, the railroad administration said it would begin enforcing the rules outlined by Congress if railroads have not installed positive train control by the end of the year, including issuing fines and penalties.

“The rail system is not as safe as it could be without full implementation of P.T.C.,” the agency said.

Tags: Rail safetyDOLtrain accidents
Categories: Labor News

Modern Day Rosies: Women at the Railroad Workplace at Nippon Sharyo Illinois rail car factory

Current News - Sat, 08/08/2015 - 08:07

Modern Day Rosies: Women at the Railroad Workplace at Nippon Sharyo
http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Other-News/Modern-Day-Rosies-Women-at-the-Wor...
0COMMENTS08/07/2015Ricky Angel and Rachele Huennekens

During World War II, Rosie the Riveter inspired women to take on jobs traditionally held by men, with the iconic slogan declaring “We can do it!” Modern day Rosie the Riveters are still doing it, working hard as electricians, assembly technicians and quality inspectors at transit equipment manufacturing facilities such as the Illinois rail car factory of Nippon Sharyo.

While these women are bravely taking on leadership roles, they still face challenges when they speak up on the job. Jennifer Svenkerud, a two-year veteran at Nippon Sharyo, recently blew the whistle on safety concerns, including fall hazards up to 17 feet, and was fired shortly after.

Jennifer had previously stood her ground, knowing that workers should be guaranteed safety, and reported the safety violations to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), whose inspectors found more than 11 safety violations this year. Read more about it here, here and here. Jennifer is adamant, “We need to make sure the workers are safe, and that they can go home every day the same way they went to work.”

Donna Comp-Penwarden, a quality interior inspector, has also faced challenges as an outspoken woman worker at Nippon Sharyo. Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice
“Recently, I was told [by manager that] I had a promotion as a team lead, but it was taken away, they said it was all a misunderstanding," says Donna Comp-Penwarden. Donna applied for the position, pointing out her years of experience and background in quality assurance. “Instead, they promoted a guy who had no background [in quality assurance] … I know 100% I was more qualified than him.”

Stacey Corcoran, a 24-year transit manufacturing veteran, made it well known early on that she would not tolerate discrimination. Photo courtesy Deanne Fitzmaurice
“At the beginning, we had one of my co-workers who treated one of the girls pretty bad,” says Stacey Corcoran. “I stepped in, and said, ‘Let’s not forget, I’m a female, I know more than you do, I make more than you do, and I’m little. So what now?’ And he got the message right then and there.’” Stacey’s long experience in transit manufacturing has made her a linchpin in the workplace. “I was the only one that walked into this brand-new facility that could step in and build,” she said.

Workers at Nippon Sharyo are banding together, supporting brave women like Jennifer who demand their rights to have a safe workplace. Recently, Jennifer said, “Stand up for yourself. Stand up for your co-workers!…Workers need to come together.”

All workers should have the right to work in a safe environment without the fear of harassment or discrimination. Modern-day Rosies like Jennifer, Donna and Stacey are addressing issues important to workers and showing true leadership on the factory floor.

Over the last 70 years, women have lived up to the Rosie the Riveter chant by showing that women can build. Now, it’s up to us to show our support for them. As the original Rosie said, “We can do it!”

In solidarity, show your support by signing the petition urging Illinois public transit agency Metra to reinstate Jennifer Svenkerud and ensure safe working conditions for Nippon Sharyo workers.

Tags: Modern Day Rosies: Women at the Railroad Workplace at Nippon Sharyo
Categories: Labor News

Maritime Union of Australia MUA elections: continuity and change

Current News - Fri, 08/07/2015 - 21:23

Maritime Union of Australia MUA elections: continuity and change
http://www.leftvoice.org/Maritime-Union-of-Australia-elections-continuit...
The Quadrennial Elections of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) have just been finalised, with newly elected officials taking office on July 1. The election results in the union which covers the economically strategic areas of shipping, stevedoring and the offshore oil and gas industry were a real mixed bag. The Maritime Union and its predecessor unions have had a long association with Communism, an association which has left behind a contradictory legacy.Sean Robertson

Photo: The ’Patrick dispute’ (1998).

Nationally, only one of the four national office positions changed hands. Among the union’s nine branches, only three in the states of Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland saw wholesale change within their leaderships. Aside from an unsuccessful challenge to one of four positions in Sydney, every other official in the remaining six branches were re-elected unopposed.

Nationally, the main contest was for the Deputy National Secretary position, which was previously held by Mick Doleman who announced his retirement late last year. Will Tracey from the union’s militant Western Australia (WA) branch was the first to nominate for this position. On hearing news of Doleman’s planned retirement, the WA Branch acted quickly to nominate Tracey, with his nomination being unanimously endorsed by a 500-strong WA branch meeting at the end of 2014. The WA Branch of the MUA has been controlled by Christy Cain and other members of the “Rank and File” ticket since they first won office in 2003. This branch, partly as a result of the boom in the offshore oil and gas industry, has grown from around 1,200 members in 2003 and reached over 5,000 before levelling off to around 4,000 members.

Tracey’s 3551 votes saw him easily beat two other candidates, Wal Pritchard with 1396 votes and Hugh Doherty with 1008. Pritchard is the former WA MUA Branch Secretary who lost his position in 2003 to the “Rank and File” ticket. He is also closely aligned to outgoing Deputy National Secretary Mick Doleman, both former members of the Maritime Unionist Socialist Activities Association (MUSAA) (see Communism and maritime unions in Australia).

The two incumbent National Assistant Secretaries, Ian Bray and Warren Smith, both comfortably held on to their positions. Bray was part of the WA “Rank and File” ticket back in 2003, while Smith is a leading member of the small pro-Moscow Communist Party of Australia (CPA). The only challenger Vin Francis, who was one half of the “Back 2 Basics” team, was beaten by margins of three to one.

Will Tracey, Ian Bray and Warren Smith were all members of the “MUA United National Team”, formed specifically for the elections and headed by National Secretary Paddy Crumlin [see: http://muaunitednationalteam.weebly.com]. Crumlin was once again re-elected unopposed. Since taking over from his predecessor in 2000, Crumlin has been re-elected four times without ever being challenged by an opposition candidate. He has also served as the President of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) since August 2010.

The “MUA United National Team” is a reflection of the recent convergence between, on the one hand, a section of the traditional leadership around Paddy Crumlin and other MUSAA figures, along with their uncritical supporters in the CPA, and on the other, the more militant “Rank and File” leadership from WA.

The Victorian MUA Branch saw three out of four incumbents, including Victorian Branch Secretary Kevin Bracken, lose their positions to members of the “MUA Change Ticket” [see: http://www.muachangeticket.org]. This ticket now holds the positions of Branch Secretary (Joe Italia), Deputy Branch Secretary (Mark Jones) and one of the two Assistant Branch Secretaries (Jeff Hoy). Incumbent Bob Patchett held on to the second Assistant Branch Secretary position. One factor that helps to explain this result was the incumbents’ poor handling of the “Qube Two” case. In mid-2013 a number of “wharfies” (stevedores) were sacked by Qube Logistics in the Port of Melbourne as the result of a controversial safety dispute. Two of the sacked MUA members, Richard Lunt and Torren McMaster, waged a two year struggle for their reinstatement. Lack of initial support and later bungled attempts by the incumbents to offer some assistance left a dark stain on their record.

The “MUA Change Ticket” ran a glossy, well-funded campaign, but their election material was heavy on rhetoric and light on substance. Time will tell whether or not the new Victorian leadership will perform any better than their predecessors.

The island state of Tasmania saw the election of the first ever female MUA official, with Alisha (“A.J.”) Bull being elected to the Honorary Deputy Branch Secretary position. This is a milestone in a union where women make up no more than five percent of the total membership. The 2015 elections also saw the inauguration of a new Honorary National Women’s Representative position, which former Sydney wharfie Mich-Elle Myers won unopposed.

The Sydney MUA Branch in the state of New South Wales saw an unsuccessful challenge to the Assistant Branch Secretary positions by young Sydney wharfie Mick Stewart, the other half of the “Back 2 Basics” ticket alongside Vin Francis. The two Assistant Branch Secretaries, Joe Deakin and Paul Garrett, with 591 and 694 votes respectively, easily beat Stewart’s 237. Both Sydney Branch Secretary Paul McAleer and Sydney Deputy Branch Secretary Paul Keating were re-elected unopposed.

The Sydney MUA Branch is an anomaly within the MUA and the Australian union movement. It is the only branch of any union in the country where the majority of elected officials belong to the Communist Party of Australia. Despite its “class struggle” rhetoric, the Stalinists of the CPA function as little more than a cheer squad for Paddy Crumlin and other “left-wing” trade union bureaucrats.

For Marxists, the most exciting result occurred in Queensland. The Queensland Branch Secretary position was won by veteran socialist and union activist Bob Carnegie by a margin of 50 votes (see more below). It was a sweet victory for Bob, who in 2011 was defeated by Mick Carr by only two votes (504 to 506). This time round, Carr did not re-contest his position. Trevor Munday, the Queensland Deputy Secretary under Carr, was hoping to fill the spot. The final tally saw Carnegie win with 315 votes, Munday with 265 votes, seafarer Brian Gallagher with 170 votes and wharfie Steve Cumberlidge with 116 votes. Former MUA Gladstone (central Queensland) organiser Jason Miners comfortably won the Deputy Branch Secretary position by 588 votes to 277. Carnegie’s running mate Paul Petersen missed out on the Assistant Branch Secretary position won by Paul Gallagher (446 votes to 319).

Above all else, the results from this year’s MUA elections highlight the deepening industrial and political disengagement of the membership with their union. This is most clearly seen in this year’s poor voter turnout. The 47 percent voter turnout this year was little better than the 45 percent result from 2011, the lowest ever for the MUA. Maritime unions have traditionally prided themselves on their high participation rates. For instance, in 2003 the figures reached 64 percent nationally and 75 percent in WA. While much better than most Australian unions, this is a historic low water mark for the union. This situation will not be helped by the convergence in recent years of the traditional leadership of Paddy Crumlin with the more militant “Rank and File” leadership from WA. On the other hand, the election to office of radical socialists such as Bob Carnegie is a beacon of hope for the future.

* * *

“Revolutionary socialist” Bob Carnegie elected as MUA Queensland Branch Secretary

This year’s MUA elections saw veteran socialist and union activist Bob Carnegie win the Queensland Branch Secretary position on a radical program of militancy and rank and file union democracy. For over three decades, Carnegie has been centrally involved in all major workers’ struggles in the Queensland capital of Brisbane. Along the way, his political journey has taken him from his youthful Stalinism to becoming a committed Trotskyist and supporter of Workers’ Liberty*.

Carnegie’s election material included radical policies such as fighting to make a 30-hour week with no loss in pay to become MUA policy in the stevedoring industry, a sector facing massive job losses due to the introduction of automated machinery. Bob’s platform also included a call for the rotation of all elected official positions. Bob has pledged to serve no more than two four-year terms in office (a practice implemented by the leadership of the Builders Labourers Federation in New South Wales, best known for their “Green Bans” industrial action that stopped the demolition of historic buildings and parks between 1971 and 1975). During his election campaign, he demonstrated his commitment to internationalism by going on a speaking tour of Britain in mid-May and speaking at over a dozen meetings, including the national conferences of the Fire Brigades Union and the Public and Commercial Services Union.

Bob first got involved in politics when he joined the pro-Moscow Socialist Party of Australia (SPA) in 1979. One year later he was sent to the Soviet Union for six month’s political training. On his return, he became a seafarer and joined the SPA-controlled Seamen’s Union of Australia (SUA). When the SPA split in 1983 over the question of the class-collaborationist “Prices and Incomes Accord” social contract, Carnegie sided with the “industrial wing” of SPA union officials that supported the Accord. Some of these officials were expelled from the SPA. Others resigned in protest. When ex-SPA seafarers and wharfies formed the Maritime Unionist Socialist Activities Association (MUSAA), Carnegie was among their ranks.

Bob was on the frontline during the 1985 South East Queensland Electricity Board (SEQEB) dispute when the National Party government in Queensland sacked 1,000 electricity workers. Carnegie was arrested nine times and was the first person to be jailed, serving 22 days behind bars.

From 1988 to 1994 Carnegie was the SUA Honorary Queensland Branch President, and after the SUA amalgamated with other unions to form the Maritime Union of Australia, Carnegie served as the MUA Southern Queensland Branch Organiser (1994-98) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) QLD Co-ordinator (1995-98).

Bob started reading books from outside of the ideological starvation diet of official “Marxism-Leninism” by authors such as Gramsci, Orwell and Trotsky. MUSAA leaders started to see him as a “maverick” and a “Trotskyite”. Bob started to see the same things in the SUA that Orwell and Trotsky had written about.

Then the “Patrick dispute” of 1998 hit. During the lock-out, Carnegie worked with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) to launch a boycott of the scab-loaded “Columbus Canada”. This solidarity boycott, which defied secondary boycott laws for seventeen days, helped turn the Patrick dispute around. Bob also gained notoriety for having himself chained up and the chains welded to the railway lines outside the Patrick terminal in Brisbane.

For Carnegie, the negotiated settlement of the Patrick dispute was a political and personal crossroads. Bob was torn between loyalty to a union leadership he had known nearly all his adult life and loyalty to the union’s rank and file. He knew that the settlement would be a severe blow to the union. Bob could not bring himself to betray fundamental working-class principles and resigned from his well-paid job as a MUA official.

After 1998, Bob battled with both a debilitating bout of depression and his Stalinist past. In the process of getting back on his feet, he befriended leading Workers’ Liberty member Martin Thomas, a regular visitor to Brisbane, and later joined the British-based socialist group.

In 2003, Carnegie found work in the construction industry. One year later he became an organiser for the Builders Labourers Federation Queensland (BLFQ), where his militancy earned him the nickname “Comrade Hand Grenade”. In 2008 he resigned as a BLFQ organiser and went back to working in construction.

Bob later returned to sea. As a delegate on an exploration rig off the coast of Western Australia in 2010, Carnegie led a campaign that won the first ever AU$75 per day hard laying allowance and a three week on / three week off swing for MUA members on the rig. He was soon put on a “no-fly” list for air transport to the rig, making him the first worker to be effectively blacklisted by Chevron.

In 2012, Carnegie led a successful nine-week strike of 600 construction unionists at the Queensland Children’s Hospital site in Brisbane. After construction union officials were given court orders to stay away from the site, Bob was asked to lead the dispute as a community activist. Just days after this victory, the Abigroup construction company had Bob charged with 54 counts of criminal contempt of court. Every single charge was eventually dismissed after a 15-month legal battle.

Carnegie’s victory in this year’s MUA elections is one that the bosses are closely following. The Thomson Reuters employers’ news service “Workforce Daily” interviewed Bob for its June 25 edition, where he was described as coming from a “lost time of union working class militancy”, a “very solid revolutionary socialist background” and believing that “society should be based on human need not human greed”.

* Workers’ Liberty has moved from adherence to the positions of United States Trotskyist James P. Cannon to its present “Third Camp” position most closely associated with Max Shachtman. The group is informally divided between a “bureaucratic collectivist” wing led by Sean Matgamna and a “state capitalist” wing led by Thomas. Many consider Workers’ Liberty to have pro-imperialist positions on questions such as Palestine and Northern Ireland.

* * *

Communism and maritime unions in Australia

The Maritime Union and its predecessor unions have had a long association with Communism, an association which has left behind a contradictory legacy. On the one hand, there is a proud history of industrial militancy and action in the interests of world peace and working class internationalism. On the other, there is the reformist political legacy of Stalinism that has seen maritime union leaderships fall into line behind the anti-worker governments of the social-democratic Australian Labor Party.

Today’s MUA is a product of the amalgamation in 1993 of different maritime unions, the most important being the Seamen’s Union of Australia (SUA) and the Waterside Workers’ Federation (WWF). The influence of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) is not hard to find. The longest-serving leaders of these two unions were CPA members. “Big” Jim Healy was elected General Secretary of the WWF in 1937 and led that union until his sudden death in 1961. Eliot V. Elliott was the Federal Secretary of the SUA from 1941 until his retirement at the end of 1978. Elliot was succeeded by fellow Communist Pat Geraghty who was the SUA Federal Secretary until 1993.

Maritime unions in Australia have a long history of taking internationalist action. One of the most famous was the 1938 “Pig Iron dispute” at Port Kembla in the state of New South Wales. After the Japanese army invaded China in 1937, WWF members launched a number of largely spontaneous actions where they refused to load Japanese cargo. The “Pig Iron dispute”, which was led by local WWF and Communist Party leader Ted Roach, lasted for nine weeks. For his role in attempting to break the boycott, the conservative, anti-communist Attorney-General (and later Prime Minister) Robert Menzies incurred the life-long hatred of militant unionists and the derogatory nickname “Pig-Iron Bob”.

Other actions of international solidarity include the 1946 boycott of Dutch shipping in support of the newly formed republic of Indonesia; the refusal during 1966-67 to load and sail on the “Jeparit” and the “Boonaroo”, two ships transporting bombs and munitions to South Vietnam during the Vietnam War; and the periodic anti-apartheid bans placed on South African shipping in the 1970s and 80s.

These actions often had a contradictory nature. For example, working class sentiment during the “Pig Iron dispute” was a mixture of genuine outrage at Japanese atrocities and solidarity with China, along with a racist fear of the Japanese “yellow peril” that threatened to invade “white Australia”. Similarly, these actions did not always have the initial support of maritime union officials or the Communist Party. Nevertheless, they all point to a real internationalist tradition that unions in Australia today would do well to rekindle.

The flipside of this internationalism is the reformist political legacy of Stalinism that is still felt in Australian maritime unions today. To fully understand this legacy, a brief look at the history of the Stalinist left in Australia is required.

Like most Communist Parties in advanced capitalist nations, the CPA had by the 1960s slowly drifted towards Eurocommunism, an uneasy mix of blind loyalty to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and adaptation to the domestic labour bureaucracy. What remained of the CPA’s Stalinist faith was put to the test in 1968, when Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia to crush the "Prague Spring" uprising. As opposed to their previous stance on Hungary in 1956, this time round CPA leaders came out in opposition to the Soviet invasion. The Party was soon polarised between a majority who denounced the 1968 Soviet invasion and the minority who supported it.

The pro-Moscow minority eventually split from the CPA and formed the Socialist Party of Australia (SPA) in 1971. Seamen’s Union leaders Eliot V. Elliott and Pat Geraghty were founding members of the SPA. In the WWF, the SPA could count on pockets of support from groups around WWF members Peter Symon in Adelaide and Harry Black in Sydney.

The SPA suffered its own split a decade later. In 1983, the newly elected Labor government introduced the “Prices and Incomes Accord”, a class-collaborationist agreement similar to British Labour’s social contract of 1974-79. This agreement had the overwhelming support of trade union officials from the Labor Party ‘left’ and the Eurocommunist CPA. Thirteen years of the “Accord” saw real wages fall by 15 to 25 percent, corporate profits soar and unleashed a wave of neo-liberal economic restructuring, all while union delegate structures and industrial strength collapsed.

The SPA and other left-wing groups correctly opposed the “Accord”. However, a large group of SPA union officials sided with the Labor Party government and the pro-Accord union officials from the CPA and the Labor ‘left’. The SPA expelled a number of these pro-Accord union officials in 1983, while others resigned in protest. They included SUA leaders Pat Geragthy and Pat Sweetensen, and Sydney WWF leaders Tom Supple, Merv McFarlane and Wal Jennings. A wave of resignations from the SPA quickly followed. These former SPA maritime unionists soon formed the Maritime Unionist Socialist Activities Association (MUSAA). MUSAA quickly developed a stronghold within the SUA, where it soon became little more than a vehicle for the election and support of “Marxist” trade union bureaucrats. The majority of MUA leaders, including Paddy Crumlin, Mick Doleman and Wal Pritchard, were all leading figures in the ranks of MUSAA.

The amalgamation of the WWF and the SUA to form the MUA in 1993 saw the coming together of two different unions, both historically led by Communists, but with two very different cultures of organisation. The WWF was a highly democratic and decentralised union with local branches in each port that exercised a good deal of autonomy. The SUA was a very different entity, with a very centralised and bureaucratic structure. MUSAA leaders helped to ensure that the MUA inherited some of the worst organisational features of the SUA.

Post-amalgamation, MUSAA leaders in the MUA have presided over repeated setbacks for maritime workers. In September 1994, after an initial five-day national maritime strike, MUA leaders reached agreement with the Labor government and its plans to privatise the Australian National Line (ANL), the government-owned shipping line.

In 1997, MUA leaders gave up union control of the seafarers’ industry roster. Equality of engagement was replaced by a system that sees seafarers at the mercy of shipping companies.

The famous “Patrick dispute” of 1998 saw Patrick Stevedores and the conservative Liberal government conspire to smash the MUA. Union strategy during the lock-out prioritised court room challenges and the avoidance of any escalation of the dispute, either from other MUA members or solidarity action from other unions. The victory on the picket lines was handed over at the negotiating table. The MUA got back onto the wharves, but at the cost of 600 permanent jobs at Patrick and a further 500 permanent jobs at P&O Ports a year later. The “Patrick dispute” resulted in a massive growth in casualisation and a weakening of the MUA that the union has never fully recovered from.

The Stalinist left in Australia has continued on its downward trajectory. The Eurocommunist CPA dissolved in 1991, with the aging SPA reappropriating the Communist Party of Australia name in 1996. Just a year later the “new” CPA entered into a formal alliance with MUSAA. Today, MUSAA appears to have all but collapsed, with most of its MUA leadership having long ago joined the Labor Party. Others have found their way into the “new” CPA, which has added numbers to the CPA’s one-off stronghold in the MUA’s Sydney Branch, and little else.

While it would be wrong to call today’s MUA a Stalinist-controlled union, residual aspects of Stalinism still remain. One that has refused to die is the MUA leaders’ use of the language and methods of amalgam used during Stalin’s Great Purge of the 1930s. Left-wing oppositionists during the show trials were accused of being “splitters”, “wreckers”, of being “anti-Soviet Union” and “agents of Hitler”. In today’s MUA, oppositionists are accused of being “divisive”, “anti-union” and of being agents of the employers, the conservative Liberal Party and the extreme right. Before they took office in 2003, members of the militant WA “Rank and File” team were regularly subjected to this type of abuse (which makes the current convergence between them and former MUSAA leaders all the more ironic).

MUA leaders still speak in the language of “class struggle” and even occasionally of “Marxism”. But the heady days of industrial struggle and political militancy of the WWF and SUA are long gone. Industrially, with the exception of the WA Branch, whatever limited industrial or solidarity action that does occur is generally called off as soon as the industrial courts threaten the union with fines and legal sanctions. Politically, the union is a bit player within the ‘left’ of the Labor Party, a ‘left’ that, aside from factional squabbles, is barely distinguishable from the mainstream ‘right’. Organisationally, its centralised, bureaucratic structure and occasional stage-managed conferences sees rafts of lofty policy aims adopted and the paying of lip-service to internationalism, but next to no concrete action being decided on. Today’s MUA might no longer be a Stalinist-controlled union, but it is still as far removed from being a genuine rank and file controlled organisation as it has ever been.

Tags: MUAMaritime Union Of Australia
Categories: Labor News

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Categories: Labor News

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