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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 16 January 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 16 JANUARY 2016 23 OPINION OPINION GEORGE ZANGALIS Protect your living standards Stop the Liberal war on unions In most inappropriate language for a royal commissioner and former High Court judge, Mr Dyson Heydon, the head of the Abbott government-appointed Royal Commission into Union Corruption and Governance, presented his report the day before the New Year, under provocative media headings about "louts, thugs, bullies, thieves, perjurers, errant, fiduciaries and organisers of boycotts in the ranks of trade unions". He had thus completed the task given and desired by the Abbott - and now Turnbull - government to declare a renewed war on the unions to achieve that most desired by employers - industrial relation changes - that is, lower wages, abolition of overtime rates and collective bargaining, less protection for health and safety on the job, reductions of the minimum wage and above all, marginalised and compliant unions. LETTERS Letter of gratitude to Nobel signatories for the ‘Support for Greece’ petition Dear sirs, With this letter, on behalf of the Hellenic Informatics Union's (HIU)1 and all the informatics scientists, professionals and researchers in Greece, we wish to express our deepest gratitude and respect for your initiative for supporting the ‘Support for Greece’ petition (2015). Your sincere interest and academic viewpoint provides an invaluable voice to what is going on in Greece and how it must be remedied. The HIU, established in 2001, is the official representative of all scientists in the field of informatics & communications technologies (ICT), with a university (BSc) degree in informatics, computer science, computer engineering and software engineering in Greece. We are committed to the preservation of high stand- ards in the scientific, professional, technical and ethical code of conduct for the people working in various areas related to ICT, including education, research & development, industry, academia, government, etc. Our primary goal is the proper organisation of the ICT field in Greece, in terms of academic and professional standards, through the establishment of a National Chamber of Informatics (NCI), a critical actor that does not yet exist. Greece is undergoing the eighth consecutive year of a very difficult economic recession and GDP shrinkage (over 30 per cent), with a substantial impact in every aspect of the Greek society, including education, national heathcare and ICT-related projects of national scale. One in four people in the active workforce, three out of five young people with skills and academic degrees, are still unemployed. More than 250,000 of them have already migrated to other countries in what has been called the most massive ‘brain drain’ of our times. There are few- er than 3,000 high-ranked prominent R&D professionals (PhDs and post-docs) remaining here in Greece - a very small ‘army’ altogether, but still more than enough for a fresh start of the economy, if proper steps are made and viable policies are adopted, right now. International initiatives like the ‘Support for Greece’ petition, together with the public support from the absolute top of the international academic community, constitutes an extremely The two-year commission inquiry, costing more than $50 million, discovered that in four unions (out of over 100 in the country), 37 unionists (out of many thousand of paid and unpaid union officials) could be prosecuted for a range of illegal actions - remember the right to strike is not constitutionally legal - if the appropriate legal bodies consider the commission evidence strong enough to take to court. In the final analysis, it is the court that will determine guilt or innocence, which could have been done without the politically-loaded royal commission. Mr Heydon lightly dismissed calls to resign his position when it was revealed he had addressed a fundraising function for the Liberal Party in August last year. It is not a secret that conservative governments have in their DNA bitter enmity against unions and their organised strength, especially the militant ones. They could never stomach Howard's utter defeat at the union's victory over his work choices. There are, of course, individuals and some practices in unions, too, that place personal gains, economic or political, above responsibilities to members and the wellbeing of the working class. They should always be dealt with in accordance with union rules, and if need be, by the law. The more transparent, accountable and democratic the functioning of the unions - which the majority of union officials aim and work towards - the easier to identify and eradicate such people and practices, which after all are the by-products of the capitalist immorality - grab as much as you can and to hell with morals. History in general, and my own very long involvement in the labour movement industrially and politically, gives the lie to such untrue and insulting accusations of "louts, thieves, perjurers, etc." harboured in the ranks of unionism - among whom are many hundreds of Greek Australians. Let us ask what kind of living standards and society we would have even today without the heroic struggles and sacrifices of people in the la- bour movement in Australia, and indeed in the world. Never-ending battles and concern for people's rights. The eighthour day, the 40-hour and later 38-hour week, annual and long service leave, sick leave, extra pay for after hours and dangerous work, protection for health and safety on the job and arbitrary dismissals, collective bargaining, as well as broader social issues such as a better deal for education, health and pensions, social justice, peace and democracy. Exposure of the large-scale systematic corruption and criminal activities beginning with the exploitive capitalist system. With shameless hypocrisy the Turnbull government races to pass legislation to tie down the unions with iron bars, wanting us to believe it does so "to protect workers from their bad leaders". At the same time, the government proposes to increase/ widen the GST, slog parents another $30-$40 a day for child care, reduce incomes - wages, overtime rates, pensions, huge cuts of up to $80 billion on education and health, hitting hardest and excessively those least able to shoulder such pain, and that's most of us. The very people the Libs want to save from their union bosses. In the meantime, the rich and powerful corporations are left loose to loot more than $100 billion a year in tax avoidance and tax concessions and underpay hundreds of thousands of migrant and young workers. The catch cry "we all have to put in to balance the books" ends up robbing the poorer to make the rich richer. When, if ever, will there be a truly independent commission appointed to examine the extent of corruption, thuggery and theft which characterises the operation for the large corporations, banks, investors of all sorts, the comings and goings between political parties and the establishment? This is not said by me to deflect even the least unacceptable behaviour in some unions but not to get bogged down in analysing the fly and losing sight of the elephant. The unions, created by the working people to collectively protect and advance their rights and the vision for a just society and better world, have been and remain the worker's best shield and spear. They deserve at all times the support of all, especially right now that the ruling class are all out to drive down people's incomes and people's living standards. A certain Kathy Jackson - of Greek background - is but one discredited individual among the many hundreds dedicated and totally committed to the cause. Greek Australian unionist officials such as Andreas Raftopolos, Kostas Zaglanikis, George Filopoulos, Andreas Kyriacou, Nick Alexandridis, Thanassis Roris, Angelos Gavrielatos, Effy Papadopoulos, Cathy Sdrinis, George Gotsis, Spirow Kokkinos, George Koletsis, Theo Zannias, Panagiota Andritsakis and Jim Anastasiou are just a few of the 300 mentioned in my book Migrant Workers & Ethnic Communities. Email your letter to: firstname.lastname@example.org important asset in our struggle to get our country back on its feet. We thank you and we promise not to give up. Yours sincerely, Harris Georgiou HIU, Gen. Secretary (A.C.) Farewell Dear friends, As we depart Australia at the end of our term of duty, we wish you all a healthy, happy and fruitful 2016 and we thank you for your Have Your Say LAST WEEK’S QUESTION: Should Greek Orthodox priests move away from the formalities of the church to embrace and understand the younger generation? 75% YES 25% NO THIS WEEK’S QUESTION: Do you think Kyriakos Mitsotakis is the right choice for New Democracy’s leadership? Yes/No Vote online now. Go to neoskosmos.com Published by Ethnic Publications Pty Ltd (ABN: 13005 255 087) of 169 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122. Printed by Rural Press Printing, Ballarat. 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Editor-in-chief: Sotiris Hatzimanolis Journalists: Christopher Gogos Nelly Skoufatoglou, Anastasia Tsirtsakis, Nikos Fotakis, Panos Apostolou, George Stogiannou Contributors: Dean Kalimniou, Theodora Maios, Billy Cotsis, Zoe Stokes-Paizis, Patrick Skene Sub-editor: Angela Costanzo Graphic design: Peter Kelidis friendship and cooperation. The Greek Australians and the Philhellene Australians of the Antipodes are two powerhouses in which the Hellenic Heritage and Spirit will always find worthy torch bearers in the years to come. At this critical juncture, when Greece is trying hard to cross the threshold to recovery, we wish to thank you for the sentiments of deep sympathy, solidarity, understanding and encouragement you all have shown during the difficult years. We will always remember you. Ambassador Haris Dafaranos and Eva T. Dafaranos Please note that the submission of a letter does not guarantee that it will be published. 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