Labour bites

Black Lives Matter

Tens of thousands of people protested across Australia over the June long weekend to oppose the deaths of Indigenous people in police custody.

They followed Black Lives Matter protests held around the world in recent weeks after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in the US state of Minneapolis.

Rallies were held in most major cities, along with some regional centres. Major protests were held in Melbourne and Sydney - after the New South Wales Court of Appeal ruled in favour of a last ditch attempt to lawfully authorise a Sydney protest.

The last minute decision meant those marching in Sydney were immune from prosecution for breaching public health orders.

Tens of thousands people turned up to the rally, with organisers and volunteers seen handing out masks and pumping hand sanitiser into the hands of attendees.

In America, the marches are sweeping every state. Hundreds of thousands of people have braved the pandemic to protest George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police.

Like the teacher strike waves of 2018 and 2019, today’s protests against police violence have the support of a majority of Americans. A Monmouth poll showed 78 percent think protesters’ anger about the killing of George Floyd is wholly or partially justified.

What reform would actually make change? Body cams and de-escalation training have not worked. Protesters have been demanding consequences for violent racist officers — not just firing but criminal charges.

In an unprecedented step, the charge against officer Derek Chauvin was upgraded to second-degree murder and the other three involved officers were also charged.

But in Minneapolis and around the country, there’s another rising demand that could have even more profound effects: Defund the police. Scale back their outsized budgets and redirect the money to much-needed services.

Federal decision on casuals

In a significant ruling of the Federal Court at the end of May, the court found that an employee Mr Rossato who was employed under several written casual contracts by labour-hire company, Workpac was entitled to claim payments for annual leave, personal leave and compassionate leave.

The court found that Mr Rossato was not a casual under the enterprise agreement or otherwise as his employment was stable, regular and predictable. Rosters were set well in advance. Accordingly, the court found that Mr Rossato was entitled to annual leave, personal leave, compassionate leave and public holidays.

This decision has been applauded by unions across the country.

The finding means that the employer could not “set off” the 25% casual loading it had paid to Mr Rossato against the claim for annual leave, personal leave and public holidays.

The Federal government has announced it is already considering changes to legislation to effectively reverse the impact of this court finding.

Vale Jack Mundey

On 10 May 2020, the Australian union movement mourned the passing of an icon, Jack Mundey, who died at the age of 90 in Sydney. Mundey was an environmentalist, a social justice activist and a staunch union leader, widely celebrated for his internationally pioneering role in the “green bans” movement of the early 1970s.

Mundey was leader of the NSW Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) from 1968 to 1975. During this period Mundey and his comrades forged alliances with local residents across Sydney and NSW to impose 42 union bans on potential construction sites in the state in a bid to save sites of environmental, social, and cultural significance.

Mundey advocated for unions’ obligation to act with a socially responsible purpose extending beyond wages and conditions to include: social and environmental justice, the struggles for women’s liberation, Indigenous civil rights, LGBT equality, and to advocate for the interests of working class people.