NSW Nurses and Midwives went on Strike this month defying threats of fines
UWU Members Strike on 21st of February
UWU members employed at SunRice in Victoria and NSW struck on the 21st of February. This is following a 48 hour strike action on the 1st of February. The workers are seeking a four percent raise.
CFMEU Members Win After Action Against Dodgy Master Builders Superfunds Coup
The CFMEU won weeks after staging protest actions with Cairns and Brisbane job sites walking out to protest a dodgy take over of the BUSSQ super fund by the Master Builders Association Queensland (MBAQ). BUSSQ is in the top ten of Australian superfunds and holds the retirement savings of 70,000 CFMEU members. The move, in which MBAQ went to take over the $6 billion fund, involved the three MBAQ members on the board resigning. This was a premeditated stunt designed to make a forced merger with a larger super fund more possible. On the 23rd of February the CFMEU announced that the MBAQ will reconstitute it’s portion of the board after a series of negotiations.
NSW Nurses and Midwives Defy Government to Strike For Better Conditions
Australia’s most embattled workers throughout Covid-19, nurses and midwives, went on strike across New South Wales on the 15th of February. The union defied last minute orders to cease strike action from the industrial relations court. The nurses and midwives are fighting for a pay rise and a fixed patient to nurse ratio similar to that of Queensland and Victoria. It is hoped that these changes in conditions will stop the bleed of healthcare workers quitting due to burnout.
Sydney Government Locks Out Railway Workers in Cynical Scheme
On Monday 21st of February workers at Sydney Rail arrived at work to find that they had been locked out by the NSW government. Commuters and staff were left hanging while the government played media games.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) has been in talks with Sydney Rail, the government’s rail service, over pay, scheduling, changes to the rail network and the encroachment of privatisation into the sector. The government put in a claim with the Fair Work Commision the previous Saturday to stop planned industrial action. The RTBU agreed to drop both overtime bans and a 24-hour strike as part of their planned 2 weeks of industrial action. However, they did not agree to drop a ban on “altered working” meaning that union members would only work their set shifts as laid out in Sydney Rails schedule and not change their working hours at the request of management. RTBU NSW secretary Alex Claassens, speaking on the Monday, stated “We walked away on Saturday thinking it was done and dusted, then at 8pm last night they dragged us back because they realised what they’d agreed to didn’t satisfy them so they asked the commission to return”.
The NSW government had not realised they had agreed to the “altered working” action taking place and, looking for a reason to kneecap the union, declared that the railways would be unsafe to operate on Monday with the altered working bans. At the urgent 8pm Fair Work Commision meeting on Sunday, Sydney Rail did not provide any evidence that the ban would endanger anyone's safety. If they had then the action would have been suspended by the Fair Work Commision as was done in the previous round of contract negotiations in 2018.
Throughout the stoppage the government played media games. They blamed the shut down on the RTBU and set angry commuters against workers. The transport minister David Elliott accused the RTBU of “hijacking the city” with “terrorist-like activity”. The media lent into the government’s narrative with 7 News, among others, attributing the stoppages to a strike despite the RTBU putting out a press release at 6:30am explaining the situation. Workers who were waiting to begin work at stations and depots, and cleaners going about their duties were subject to verbal abuse by angry commuters. There was also solidarity between commuters and workers when there were opportunities to explain the situation face to face or via hastily designed posters at stations.
The item that could have cut through the confusion was the risk assessment from Sydney Rail that was used to support their health risk theory. Weeks before, David Elliot made a commitment that the RTBU would be involved with all risk assessments made at Sydney Rail, yet the union was left in the dark about this one. The RTBU requested the risk assessment three times before issuing a subpoena through the Fair Work Commission. They issued the subpoena at 10am and at 11am the government's lawyers informed them that they would withdraw their claim in the Fair Work Commision. At the time of writing, the RTBU has not received the risk assessment from Sydney Rail. The government has still not issued an apology to the workers and commuters for the charade they pulled. The media also deserves some scorn for their parroting of the NSW government's statements. Limited services have returned with the altered working ban in place.
UWU Shows Solidarity with Cambodian Workers
Since December the 31st the Cambodian government has arrested dozens of workers and labour organisers involved with a strike at NagaWorld casino. This was done using the government's draconian Covid-19 legislation in bad faith. A Human Rights Watch representative stated “Using public health measures to repress workers undermines the public’s faith in the government’s actions against Covid-19”. On the 7th of February the United Workers Union picketed the Cambodian embassy in Canberra in solidarity with the jailed workers.
Nigerian University Workers Vote to Strike
In Nigeria the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has voted to go on a month-long warning strike. The vote was decided on the 14th of February after stalling from the Buhari government. The demands of the strike go beyond wages and conditions, demands around accountability seek to reform the corrupt university system. In 2013 the ASUU was prepared to go on a five month long strike but the government caved to their demands. The ASUU stands as a shining example of what a militant union can achieve in the university system. https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2022/02/13/certainly-not-another-asuu-strike/
This has been just a shortlist of industrial action undertaken in the past month. If you are not unionised, get in contact with your sector's union and join the fight. If you are unionised, get involved and make some labour news or your own!