Labour bites

Cash only at the gallery

The prestigious National Gallery of Victoria has been rocked by a wage scandal with allegations emerging that security guards are being forced to work for cash and workers say they were fired or threatened with the sack for raising pay concerns.

The Victorian Government has appointed auditing firm KPMG to investigate, and may refer the allegations to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

One employee said he was hired by the gallery’s security contractor Building Risks International Pty Limited (BRI Security), but said after about two months he was transferred to a sub-contractor called Java Security. “They said you have to work cash in hand,” he said.

“If you don’t want to do it, you have to leave.” He was paid between $17 to $20 an hour flat rate with no tax and no entitlements such as sick leave.

BRI and Java Security deny the allegation. But BRI operates under a Work Choices era agreement, allowing them to pay their guards less than the award on weekends. (Source: ABC)

Sitting down to take a stand

Catholic schools are taking a stand against children in detention, a policy they say violates basic human rights and is inconsistent with their Christian values.

At Bethlehem College, Ashfield earlier this term about 50 schoolgirls emerged at lunch time with their student numbers scrawled across tape that covered their mouths. Provocative images of refugees hung from their necks, covering the school crests on their blazers. For the duration of their lunch break, they sat in a square staring blankly at nothing much. They did it every day for a week.

“We got a lot of weird stares from everyone and you felt helpless while you were sitting there thinking ‘why isn’t anyone helping me? Why isn’t anyone asking about it’?” a Year 11 student said. “And it’s really symbolic of what’s happening to refugees because they sit in the detention centres, everyone knows they are there, but no one really does anything about.”

The bold demonstration against the Federal Government’s refugee policy was part of a remarkable student activist movement that has emerged in Catholic schools. (Source: SMH)

Teacher replacement scheme suspended

In Northern Ireland a scheme to replace older teaching staff with newly qualified teachers has been suspended. The program aimed to allow up to 120 teachers over the age of 55 to retire early over the next 12 months and be replaced by teachers who had graduated since 2012, but the scheme is facing a legal challenge.

At least one teacher excluded from the scheme, because they qualified prior to 2012, is seeking to have the criteria judicially reviewed.

In a statement announcing the decision, the Department of Education said: “The applicant believes that this is unlawful age related discrimination”.

Avril Hall Callaghan, General Secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union said: “This amounts to the worst possible news coming at the worst possible time, when teacher morale is at an all time low”.

“Members are reeling. Just when you think things can’t get any worse for our profession the Department of Education launches this salvo.” (Source: BBC)

Charter school union

Teachers at Chicago’s biggest and best regarded charter school network have set out to form a union. In an open letter to administrators and school board members, teachers at the Noble Network of Charter Schools requested permission to organise a union without interference or fear of retaliation. Founded in 1999, Noble operates 17 campuses across the city, educating more than 12,000 students.

On Monday, Noble teachers held a press conference in advance of a Noble school board meeting, reiterating their request to management for a fair and neutral process.

The response they have received from network CEO Michael Milkie has been skeptical.

“We respect the rights of individuals to organise or not organise, and we will continue to address concerns of teachers, staff, parents, and all members of the Noble community,” said Milkie in an emailed statement.

“In my experience as a former CPS teacher, I believe a restrictive union contract could eliminate the curriculum and flexibility we have to best serve our students’ needs.” (Source: The American Prospect)

Compiled by John Quessy