Monday, May 28, 2018

Capitalism’s bread and circuses no joy for Tip Top Bakeries’ Newcastle Workers

Ned K.

Tip Top Bakeries are closing their bread production plant in Newcastle with the loss of regular full time jobs for 79 workers. Tip Top bread for Newcastle will now be produced in Sydney and Bendigo!

Bread has been a staple food for working people in Australia since British colonial invasion in 1788. Even in periods of capitalist depression, bakeries needed workers to provide subsistence food levels for impoverished workers and their families to prevent large scale revolt by workers. In more recent years, with mass production workers' jobs disappearing at a rapid rate, food manufacturing jobs such as bakeries became the great hope of the capitalist class for manufacturing industry with the appearance of some level of job security for workers.


Hundreds of thousands of workers have been employed in the production and distribution of bread and related products over the years. However in more recent times the industry in Australia has been dominated by two multinational companies, George Weston Foods who own Tip Top Bakeries and Goodman Fielder who used to trade as Quality Bakers and Buttercup.


Both have benefitted from 'vertical integration" with George Weston Foods owning its own agricultural land for grain crops and its own flour mills. Goodman Fielder owns margarine production plants  and vegetable oil plantations and processing plants in Southern Asia.


Despite their strangle hold on the mass produced bread market in Australia, there has been a decline in sales due to people attracted to locally owned artisan bakeries in search of better quality bread and the large retailers Coles and Woolworths producing their own bread products in their in-house retail bakery stores. Hot bread bakeries like Bakers Delight and Brumbies have also reduced the big two's market share. Bread as a staple has also been challenged by people's attraction to greater variety in their diets.


However, the biggest impact on jobs of workers employed by Tip Top and Goodman Fielder has been the fierce competition and collusion between the two and the demands of supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths on both to reduce their wholesale bread prices. In the 1980s both Tip Top and Goodman Fielder started closing their suburban bakeries in capital cities and centralised production in large bread factories with semi-automated andfully-automated baking processes. Then in the 1990s and early 2000s they extended the role of automation and computerisation to the packaging sections of the business. They also cut back on driver deliveries to small grocery and snack bars and delicatessens and purchased larger delivery vehicles to deliver to only the larger supermarket chains. In some states
both Tip Top and Goodman Fielder sacked delivery drivers and sub contracted the driving to so-called 'independent contractors' all in the name of efficiency and productivity.


Over the last decade, both Tip Top and Goodman Fielder have closed bakeries outside of capital cities. Tip Top's closure of Newcastle is the latest one.


In Western Australia, Goodman Fielder last year closed its bread production plant in Perth and entered into a deal whereby Tip Top's bread production plant produces Goodman Fielder labelled bread for the WA market! This resulted in the loss of about 60 jobs.


Large bread production factories are generally speaking well unionised and organised workplaces with workers winning good wages and conditions. Each time one of these workplaces is closed by one of the two giant corporations, the organised strength of the working class at the point of production is weakened, not to mention the pain and heartache for families directly effected  by the closures. Small scale production bread bakeries are poorly organised and offer fewer better paid full time permanent jobs.


The revolutionising of the production process of bread over the last fifty years in the large bakeries has been driven by competition between capitalists and the maximisation of profit motive. In the hands and control of the working class, these plants could produce a healthy product for millions of Australians and decent full time jobs.


This will only occur when workers in Australia win independence from the multinational corporations and production is organised based on people's needs, not maximisation of profits.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Transport workers occupy intersection, demand safe rates from Aldi

Nick G.

Traffic was stopped in the heart of Adelaide on Tuesday as Transport Workers Union took to the streets to demand safe rates from German supermarket giant Aldi.

Around 100 Union members and supporters sat down and occupied the street that runs through Tarndanyangga  (formerly Victoria Square) for around 20 minutes.  They were joined by ACTU President Sally McManus.

It is the latest in a series of actions to force Aldi to address safety concerns.  Similar ralies were held in other major cities.

Not only are truck drivers pushed to work long hours to meet Aldi’s unrealistic deadlines, Aldi has also used legal action to stop drivers from speaking out on safety.

“At the heart of this problem is Aldi’s low cost contracts that mean corners are being cut with safety. Aldi is refusing to accept this and is trying to shut down the truth,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.

The number of people killed in truck crashes has escalated since the Federal Government shut down an independent road safety watchdog scrutinising road transport operators.

Safe Work Australia data for 2017 showed almost 40% of all workplace deaths involved a transport worker.

Unlike deaths in construction, another unsafe industry, road transport deaths commonly include death and injury to the general public.

A Macquarie University study in February showed that:

• One in 10 truck drivers work over 80 hours per week.
• One in six owner drivers say drivers can’t refuse an unsafe load
• 42% of owner drivers said the reason drivers do not report safety breaches was because of a fear of losing their jobs

A Safe Work Australia report in July 2015 showed:

• 31% of transport employers say workers ignore safety rules to get the job done
• 20% of transport employers accept dangerous behaviour, compared to less than 2% in other industries.
• 20% of transport industry employers break safety rules to meet deadlines – this compares with just 6% of employers in other industries.

In a separate action the following day, the TWU organised its members to hold a protest at Adelaide Airport calling on airports, airlines and Governments to address poor working conditions that are forcing staff to sleep at the airports. called for an end to low pay, forced part time jobs, casual work and split shifts. They warned these working conditions are risking safety and security because of high turnover rates and chronic fatigue.

Forcing the big corporations such as retailers, banks, oil companies and ports to adopt safety measures relating to rates and schedules helps all Australians.

Deadlines must not become lines of dead just to satisfy profit margins.

The sound of wallets closing exposes ruling class split

Louisa L.

There’s a split in the imperialist ruling class over tactics.

Since Federation in 1901, they’ve swapped their support backwards and forwards between the Coalition, Labor and their predecessors. It’s been a good rort. 

If threatened, they’ve briefly sidelined some democratic pretences. First Nations have often been on the receiving end.

The colonies and the Federation of Australia have never been independent. Check out Australia’s dodgy constitution. The people barely get a mention.

MPs swear allegiance to a foreign queen. Her unelected representatives have twice sacked elected leaders, once to benefit British interests and once to benefit US domination (via a CIA bloodless coup).

Outside that, the Liberal – Labor seesaw has worked well for the imperialist ruling class.

Paper thin
But deception is wearing thin. Ordinary people loathe those who say one thing and do another. Peter Garrett sang Midnight Oil's brilliant lyrics supporting the people, but had no faith in them. He thought the Labor Party was the way to bring about change. 

Malcolm Turnbull was more paper thin. He ditched every policy that made him more electable than Abbott in return for the prime ministership. A hollow crown.  He’s despised in his own party and by the wider population.

The Guardian’s Katherine Murphy: (  “Malcolm Turnbull has been used as a recruitment tool, and not in a positive way. Conservative forces in the Victorian branch have used the rolling of Tony Abbott and Turnbull’s alleged progressivity as a rallying cry to recruit new members.

“An army is being raised in Melbourne’s outer-eastern suburbs with the objective of taking the Liberal party back from the Costello clique – the group that rose to a position of influence when Peter Costello was the most significant centre-right political figure in Victoria.”

This group is led by Marcus Bastiaan.

Katherine Murphy continues, “In the federal sphere, Bastiaan is aligned with conservatives” including “Michael Sukkar (an ambitious up-and-comer who has characterised party moderates somewhat colourfully as ‘socialists’ and ‘termites’).”

Quiet plan 
Wondered why Malcolm Turnbull had to fund his own election? Here’s your answer. Key factions among the Liberals and their backers closed their wallets. 

They aren’t conservatives. They want a radical move to the far right. Their very quietly touted plan is a one-term Shorten government followed by another Abbott-led coalition. 

Abbott is now best mates with Pauline Hanson after being instrumental in her gaoling. Her supporters see her as a battler like them, despite her support for corporate tax cuts and attacks on workers, which she’s reportedly backed out of.

The sound of wallets closing has forced the Business Council of Australia (BCA) into action with a fighting fund to get corporate tax cuts now, rather than later. Capitalism impels corporations to put increased profits above all else. This is problematic for them. 

Successive governments have fallen over themselves to serve the corporate inheritors of the British invasion. 

Yet the BCA blames governments for crushing the rights of First Nations, for low wages, and the debacle called vocational “education”, for following the very policies corporations demanded; access to Aboriginal lands and privatisation. 

The BCA and its members have spent considerable effort rebadging themselves as the human face of capitalism, but the fund to fight for tax cuts exposes open self-interest.  

They’ll pretend tax cuts bring jobs and prosperity, but that’s a very big lie and a very hard sell, especially if Murdoch’s media empire break ranks and goes with the Coalition’s far right.

The answer is the same
What’s the solution? One hundred and twenty thousand fired-up workers in Melbourne marched to support an independent working class agenda. Across Australia, May Day marches had a spirit of militancy and determination not evident in recent years. 

Whether it’s Shorten or Turnbull or Abbott serving corporate rulers, the answer is the same. Unite. Organise. Fight. 
And educate the people in their millions that capitalism will never, ever serve their interests.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Breaking the Rules to Change the Rules: Lessons from the great O'Shea struggle

Alice M.

“Everything I have done or tried to do I have done with the idea of service to the people in struggle.  I do not believe I can just arbitrarily impose my ideas on people.  But I do believe that the breakdown of capitalist society is impelling thousands into struggle and I believe they are learning in struggle that capitalism must be ended.” (Clarrie O’Shea)

The massive working class battle of 1969 against the draconian anti-workers Penal Powers laws was led by Clarrie O’Shea, Secretary of the Victorian Tramways and Buses Union, and a Vice-Chairman of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist).

It was one of the biggest and most inspiring working class struggles in Australia’s history, and has important lessons for workers and unions today gearing up for a major battle to Change the Rules.

May 21st is the anniversary of the release of Clarrie O’Shea from gaol after 5 days of non-stop national strikes, demonstrations and protests.

On 15 May 1969, Clarrie O’Shea was gaoled indefinitely for defying the bosses’ courts orders to pay heavy fines for “unlawful” industrial action taken over the years by his union and its members in defence of their working conditions. Under instructions from his members, O’Shea refused to pay the fines and hand over his union members’ financial books to the government and the courts. For weeks he refused to front up to the courts and was hounded by the police and ASIO.

When news spread of his gaoling, a million angry workers across the country immediately walked off their jobs, went on indefinite strikes, held stop work meetings, rallied and demonstrated in the streets and outside Pentridge gaol and the courts, demanding O’Shea’s freedom and the abolition of the anti-worker Penal Powers. Victoria’s economy came to a standstill.

Wild-cat strikes spread to all parts of the country in defiance of some tame-cat union officials’ instructions not to take industrial action in support of Clarrie O’Shea. Workers in the Pilbara and Kalgoorlie walked off their jobs and went on strikes. In Queensland mass meetings were held in 20 towns. It was huge. The militancy, the size and breadth of struggle across Australia had never been seen before. 

The power and strength of the united and mobilised working class left the capitalist ruling class shaking and trembling in fear.

On 21st May, after 5 days of non-stop “illegal” strikes, bans and stop work meetings, demonstrations and protests in workplaces and communities, O’Shea was released from gaol. The fines were paid anonymously, later revealed to have been paid by ASIO. O’Shea and his union did not pay one cent of the fines.

Clarrie was released, and although the penal powers remain on the books, the ruling class of monopoly big business have not used them against unions in that way since. 

The broad based battle by working people to abolish the bosses’ penal powers was not spontaneous. The penal powers had been a constant topic of discussion at union meetings across the country for years leading up to the struggle of 1969, and workers were well informed of their draconian anti-worker nature and the fact that sooner or later they would need to be confronted. When O'Shea was gaoled, workers knew the time had come.

Years of preparation and exposing the capitalist class nature of the industrial laws, the courts, and the state forged a strong foundation of class consciousness which would be crucial to the struggle. Many workers and union leaders understood deeply that to win this battle it was necessary for the working class to organise and mobilise independently of parliament and the courts. Many Communist working class leaders at that time like Clarrie, O’Shea, Ted Bull, Norm Gallagher and many others, including Ted Hill, the CPA (M-L) Chairperson at that time, worked tirelessly with working people and unions to raise working class consciousness and expose the capitalist class state, parliament and the legal system.

It was only the massive mobilisation, unity and power of people’s struggle on the ground in workplaces and communities that won the release of Clarrie O’Shea from gaol and pushed back the Penal Powers. It was clear to many that parliament and the courts serve capitalism and have to maintain the rule of the capitalist class and suppress working class rebellion and resistance to exploitation.

The main enemy still remains
How much has changed today? If we strip away the disguise of the “independent and impartial  umpire” wrapped around the unFair Work Commission, ABCC, ROC, the same anti-worker capitalist laws and rules are still operating. The titles and format have changed, but the essence of capitalist class rule remains.

Capitalism is the dominant rule of big business and corporations – the tiny minority of exploiters.  The capitalist class holds state power over the majority.  Exploitation and maximisation of profit are inherent in the very existence of capitalism.  The anti-worker laws, the courts, the police, parliament are the core in the very existence of capitalism.  The capitalist legal system - the courts, the laws - exist to suppress workers’ resistance to capitalist exploitation.

Workers in Australia have never had the “right to strike”. Strikes have always been unlawful. But for over 100 years workers, through their unions, defied the bosses and their courts, dared to organise and mobilise working people, struggle, and win. The important conditions for working people have always been won primarily through independent struggles on the job, in the streets and in communities.

There are some parallels with the recent dropping of blackmail charges against CFMEU officials John Setka and Shaun Reardon following the huge mobilisation of over 200,000 working people across the country demanding the overturning of anti-worker legislation.

Workers in Australia have a rich tradition of struggle, rebellion and defiance against injustice and suppression of our rights. From the Eureka rebellion in 1854, the powerful strikes and struggles of the 1890s by shearers, maritime workers and labourers; the 1916-17 anti-Conscription struggle; the battles in the 1930s Depression; against fascism and wars, for democratic rights and peace and justice; and the powerful Clarrie O’Shea struggle against the Penal Powers of 1969. Countless every day battles, big and small, on the job and in the communities, have been fought to win and defend the living standards in this country.

Clarrie O’Shea was one of many working class heroes who dedicated his life, and made many sacrifices, in the struggles of the working people. As a Communist he had great confidence in the power of an organised, aroused and mobilised working class. As a Communist he deeply understood that in time the working class, the majority, will dump capitalism and its parasitic monopoly corporations, and build socialism - the only economic and political system capable of giving power to the working class to run this country for ordinary people.

“My release is a great victory for workers. I am certain that all workers remain adamant in their opposition to the penal powers, which are designed to suppress the workers. The infinite power of the workers when they are really aroused has frightened the life out of the government and the employers ... I am certain the workers will continue the struggle for the abolition of all penal powers.”