The Victorian firefighters’ union has won a major legal battle against the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB). On 3 November, after months of deliberation, the Fair Work Commission rejected the MFB’s application to scrap the 2010 enterprise agreement it had negotiated with the union.
The MFB had been seeking to have firefighters’ conditions drop to the award, a major tactical advantage in current enterprise agreement negotiations. “Ultimately, we are looking to build an agile and flexible organisation”, MFB chief executive Jim Higgins told the Age after the decision.
Management also has revealed plans to reduce crew numbers by up to 9 percent, depending on weekly weather forecasts.
Speaking to Red Flag, union secretary Peter Marshall said the brigade’s case had political backing. “Under the endorsement and supervision of the Victorian premier Napthine and the federal emergency services minister Mr Mills, the MFB outrageously spent millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on highly expensive lawyers.”
Throughout the 15-day hearing in July, each MFB witness was escorted through the commission by bodyguards. This was an eyebrow-raising precaution given that firefighters were considered the most trusted Australian profession in 2013. The MFB were “attempting to portray firefighters as thugs”, says the union.
Firefighters, in turn, gave evidence against the MFB. The union had to spend $600,000 on the case. Up to 100 firefighters were present each day of the hearing to express their dismay with the MFB executive.
Asked about the lesson to take from this victory, Marshall said: “It’s only with the collective strength of the union that government attacks on employment can be defeated.”
A recent union staff poll showed that 95 percent of firefighters have no confidence in MFB chief officer Peter Rau and 92 percent have no confidence in MFB president Murray Neil Comrie.
Revolutions happen only in places with repressive regimes and extreme poverty. They don’t happen in economically advanced, democratic countries like Australia. Most people think this. But is it right? Recent history might seem to suggest so—social revolutions are practically unheard of in the West. There are, however, a number of reasons why revolution in Australia is possible.
The billionaires have had it too good for too long. CEO salaries are up more than 40 percent in a year, while living standards for everyone else are getting smashed. Decade after decade, under both major parties, the rich have gotten richer while everyone else struggles. And the politicians run Victoria like it’s their own private cash machine.
Women’s oppression looks quite different today than 60 years ago. Women’s rights are more accepted now, women are a bigger part of the workforce, contraception and abortion are legal in much of the world. There are more women world leaders and CEOs than ever before. At the same time, the vast majority of women, even in a wealthy country like Australia, are still paid less on average than men, still do most of the unpaid child care and other domestic labour in the home and still have to contend with demeaning sexist stereotypes.
Imperialist occupation has always generated resistance. Time and again, oppressed people have risen up heroically to drive out occupying armies. But heroism isn’t always enough: the politics of the resistance frequently make the difference between victory and defeat.
The whole country is talking about Labor’s Climate Change Bill. But there’s nothing there.
Chants of “Victory to the RMT” echo through Britain’s major cities as 40,000 rail workers continue their resolute campaign for better pay. Their actions have ignited the confidence of a working class facing wide-ranging assaults on living standards. Headline inflation is running at 9.4 percent in the UK, and ordinary workers are being hit hardest. Housing, water and fuel costs have