TWU urges halt to 5,000 Qantas sackings!

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Queensland Nurses Union fighting against job and funding cuts
Queensland Nurses Union fighting against job and funding cuts

AUSTRALIA’S Transport Workers Union (TWU) National Secretary Tony Sheldon, at talks in Sydney on Thursday afternoon, said he would urge Qantas CEO Alan Joyce to reveal his future plans for the airline, and to back away from the proposed 5,000 sackings.

Last Thursday, February 27, Qantas’ Board announced 5,000 job cuts, but failed to outline a strategy to restore profitability.

Sheldon said: ‘Taxpayers have a right to insist that Qantas and the government explain how it will protect Australian jobs while they are encouraging foreign control.’

Sheldon said he would be seeking from Joyce:

• Details of Qantas’ strategy to return to profitability;

• A commitment to discuss cost savings to mitigate proposed job losses;

• A commitment to rethink the failed Jetstar Asia strategy, which was the cause of Qantas’ half-year loss; and

• A fair and even playing field for family incomes across the aviation industry.

‘Public opinion has united against Qantas’ sacking and foreign takeover plans,’ Sheldon said.

‘Political leaders like Clive Palmer and Senator Xenophon have also made clear the real cause for Qantas’ woes are the decisions of its Board.’

Last Tuesday, Palmer United party leader Clive Palmer called for the Board and CEO to be sacked.

The week before, independent Senator Nick Xenophon said: ‘Alan Joyce and the Qantas Board have brought one of the world’s great airlines and a national icon to its knees.

‘Their botched strategy of pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into Jetstar’s Asian operations seems to be the real cause of the demise, and Australians shouldn’t believe Joyce’s lame excuses.’

Sheldon said last Tuesday that the Qantas workforce was highly productive and loyal to the airline where many had worked for decades.

On February 27, Qantas management reported that workforce productivity had increased by more than 22% in recent years.

Despite repeated promises of a pay freeze for executives, executive pay at Qantas has risen by 82% since 2010.

A 2011 Oxford Economics study found each Qantas baggage handler, check-in staff and ramp worker generated a $205,000 return to Qantas above the cost of their employment.

• Nurses, midwives and academics met yesterday to discuss the situation facing Queensland staff as a result of drastic job and funding cuts.

Queensland Nurses’ Union (QNU) Secretary Beth Mohle said the Liberal-National Party state coalition government sacking of of 1,200 nurse and midwives meant overworked staff now struggle to provide high quality care.

Mohle said the issue would be on the agenda at the 2014 QNU Professional Practice and Ethics Conference. She said: ‘We know nurses and midwives are extremely worried about the serious impacts job and service cuts are having on sick and injured Queenslanders.

‘With 1,200 jobs cut, the intensified workload means nurses and midwives must fight to provide quality care. ‘The Queensland experience is unique in its severity and raises ethical questions for those who have dedicated their lives to helping others.’

Mohle said increased workloads and an undue focus on profit were significant issues for patients and nurses in both the public and private sectors, including elderly care.

Nurses and midwives have voted to take industrial action against the Mater Hospital in Brisbane which owes them more than $1 million in back-pay.

She said the State Government funds were paid to Mater management to meet annual pay increases but were not passed on to the hospital’s 2,300 nurses and midwives, some of whom are now owed $6,000 each.

The state’s 32,000 other public health nurses and midwives all received the increases.

‘We want the Mater to please pay their nurses and midwives the $1 million-plus they are owed,’ Mohle said.

‘This pay is two years overdue, not two weeks. That’s why our Mater members have voted overwhelmingly to take action in order to get the attention of management.

‘We want to negotiate a fair deal while ensuring patients continue to receive high levels of care. We won’t compromise patient care.’

On February 5th, the Far Work Commission (FWC) ruled the QNU had grounds to proceed to a ballot on protected industrial action. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) oversaw the ballot to allow QNU Mater members to vote on protected industrial action, including possible strike action. The vote was finalised on Thursday.

QNU will meet with Mater members to discuss possible action including one-hour stop work meetings in coming days.

Meanwhile across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand, the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) is poised to stop train workers from operating asbestos-contaminated locomotives, making it ‘very difficult’ to move freight around New Zealand.

Forty DL locomotives KiwiRail bought from China during the last four years were removed from service last Friday, after asbestos was discovered in a sound-proofing compound.

The locomotives were quarantined for testing.

RMTU general secretary Wayne Butson said ‘It’s going to make life difficult and I feel sorry for the customers of KiwiRail.

‘However, it is necessary to take this action.

‘It is a very serious situation and we will not have our members putting their lives at risk.’

KiwiRail had other locomotives, meaning some freight could still be moved without use of the Chinese machinery, he said.

Clearing the asbestos, especially from locomotive cabs, will be a major operation.

• University College Of Learning (UCOL) workers have taken strike action after pay negotiations failed to reach any agreement.

One hundred UCOL academic and support staff picketed for fair pay outside the polytechnic campuses in Palmerston North, Whanganui and Masterton on Wednesday.

The ongoing industrial action, including strikes, Wear Red events and handing out pamphlets and stickers, has been spurred by a stalemate between UCOL and the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) over the lack of an across-the-board pay rise this year.

UCOL’s 220 union members, made up of academic and support staff, want a 2.5% pay rise.

The polytechnic tabled an offer this week which included two additional days” paid leave a year, plus salary increases of just 2% depending on whether additional government funding was given. It was declined.

Supporters from the First Union and Unions Manawatu joined UCOL staff marching from Princess St in Palmerston North to Queen and King streets, waving placards and chanting for UCOL”s chief executive Paul McElroy to resign.

UCOL branch president Tina Smith said: ‘The staff at UCOL are the foundation and substance of this institute and management need to start valuing and appreciating their staff.’