The Guardian • Issue #2068


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2068

Trade union federations in the EU have called for affiliates to support French trade unionists who are being prosecuted for taking collective action during recent pension protests. IndustriALL, which represents manufacturing and energy unions, and the European Public Services federation (EPSU) made the call after mining and energy union FNME-CGT general secretary Renaud Henri, the general secretary of CGT’s energy workers in Marseilles, and several other activists were told to appear in court in September. The targeting of union leaders and activists comes in the aftermath of mass industrial action taken to oppose government attacks on pension rights and the closure of pension funds for electricity and gas workers in France. IndustriALL Europe and EPSU say this is a direct attack on fundamental trade union freedoms and the right to strike – and marks the first time senior union leaders have faced public safety charges for engaging in trade union activism. Christophe Garcia, the leader of CGT energy workers in the Gironde region, is also set to appear in court during November in Bordeaux. FNME-CGT is planning a demonstration at the Montmorency police station on 6th September while IndustriALL Europe and EPSU will stage solidarity protests outside the French embassy in Brussels.

PARASITE OF THE WEEK: A lot of employers

New analysis has revealed Australian workers are being underpaid nearly $850 million a year. The analysis by the McKell Institute looked at Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) business audit campaigns dating back to 2009. Their analysis found more than 40 per cent of the businesses audited fell foul of the Fair Work Act, while more than a quarter recorded breaches of monetary obligations such as award rates and agreements. Extrapolated across Australia, this equates to 269,728 businesses collectively ripping off more than 1.3 million workers, or roughly 11.5 per cent of the country’s workforce, a collective $847.25 million annually.

McKell Institute CEO Ed Cavanough said the estimates were at the lower end, because the analysis did not account for cases where workers were underpaid against appropriate award rates or the incorrect payment of penalty rates. “The analysis puts a conservative figure on the cost of wage theft that is rampant across Australia, equivalent to a 0.01 per cent loss in GDP,” Cavanough said. “The total amount of actual wage theft is likely much higher. This is an extraordinary amount of money being stolen and it’s unacceptable. Being unaware is not an excuse. The onus is on employers to understand their obligations to their employees,” Cavanough said. “It shows why we need strong laws to criminalise wage theft, like the protections being pursued through the federal government’s workplace reforms. These horrifying figures are another blow for workers who are struggling to meet mortgage repayments, keep up with rising rents and paying their bill.” The McKell Institute is calling on the federal government to introduce strong laws to criminalise wage theft, and to provide more funding to the FWO to enforce these laws.

The Guardian can also be viewed/downloaded in PDF format. View More