Labour bites

No freedom of speech in Australia

The High Court has upheld a government decision to fire a public servant who used a pseudonym to criticise government immigration policy on Twitter. The Court unanimously ruled that Michaela Banerji’s dismissal was not unreasonable.

Banerji used the Twitter handle LaLegale to send more than 9000 tweets in six years while she was employed by what was then called the Department of Immigration and Border Protection from 2006 and 2012. The tweets were often critical of government policies, such as banishing refugees who attempt to reach Australia by boat to camps on the poor Pacific island nations of Papua New Guineas and Nauru.

A tearful Banerji said outside court that she pursued the case “to affirm the role of this freedom of speech for public servants and we failed. It’s not just a loss for me, it’s a loss for all of us and I’m very, very, very sorry,” she told reporters.

Her lawyer Allan Anforth said outside court that he expected the decision would entitle any employer to fire an employee for criticising the boss’s stance on a political issue. “The logic of it does not stop at the bounds of the public service,” Anforth said. (Source: ABC)

Teachers urge boycott of Walmart guns

One of the largest teacher unions in the United States is calling on Walmart to stop selling guns. The American Federation of Teachers also demanded that the company stop donating to politicians who take money from the National Rifle Association and threatened a boycott if the retailer didn’t take action.

“If Walmart continues to provide funding to lawmakers who are standing in the way of gun reform, teachers and students should reconsider doing their back-to-school shopping at your stores,” the union’s president, Randi Weingarten, said in a letter addressed to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon.

The company stopped selling assault rifles after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2015, and raised its minimum gun purchasing age to 21 after last year’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida. It also does not sell handguns outside of Alaska. But as the nation’s largest retailer, Walmart is still one of the largest sellers of guns and ammunition in the country.

Walmart stores were the site of two shootings in recent weeks. A white nationalist is accused of killing 22 people inside a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas and two employees were killed in a shooting at a Mississippi Walmart on 30 July. (Source: CNN)

Hermione launches advice line

The actor Emma Watson has urged women to understand their rights as she launched a legal advice line for those experiencing sexual harassment at work. The Harry Potter star said it was “completely staggering” that the free helpline for women in England and Wales was the only service of its type.

Pointing out that TUC research found that one in two women had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, Watson said: “It finally feels like people are realising the scale of the problem, and I’m certainly hopeful that with global standards such as the recent International Labour Organisation treaty on harassment at work we’ll start to see a new climate of prevention and accountability on this issue domestically.”

Watson said: “Understanding what your rights are, how you can assert them and the choices you have if you’ve experienced harassment is such a vital part of creating safe workplaces for everyone, and this advice line is such a huge development in ensuring that all women are supported, wherever we work.”

The aim of the helpline is to help plug a gap in the availability of legal advice so that women can get the right help they need to hold their employer and harasser to account. Donations from members of the public, including Watson, helped to kickstart the advice line. (Source: The Guardian)

Workers occupy Titanic shipyard

The Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is facing closure after its Norwegian parent company failed to find a buyer. One of Northern Ireland’s most historic brands the shipyard where Titanic was built is about to go into administration and its workforce has occupied the site demanding action by the UK Government.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell visited the shipyard site on Monday afternoon. “We know this is a viable concern, we know the Government has naval contracts it can put here to ensure the long term future,” he said. “We know there are contracts out there, but it just needs support from the Government.

Workers broke out in a round of applause when a union official suggested that if the DUP did not make the ultimatum to the Government, then workforce representatives would stand against them in future elections. (Source: Belfast Telegraph)

John Quessy