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Longford workers still standing up and fighting back

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Nick G. 5 January 2019

A picket line at Longford in Victoria epitomises the determination of the Australian working class to stand up and fight back.
The makeshift camp was established by unions near the entrance to the Longford gas plant in June 2017 after 230 Esso maintenance workers effectively had their employment terminated when they refused to sign a new workplace agreement with subcontractor UGL.  The terms of the new contract included the following attacks on workers’ wages and conditions:

• 30% to 50% Drop in Wages
• Annual Leave Entitlements Cut
• Significant Allowances Cut
• Worker's Shift Loading's Cut
• Implementation of Harsh anti-family shift rosters (eg. from 1 week on & 1 week off, to 5 weeks on & 1 week off)
• Implementation of Stand Down Clauses which could see employees at work, but unpaid
At the time of writing this article, January 5, 2019, workers have been on the picket line for two Christmases and a total of 563 days.
New pages in the history of Australian working peoples’ struggles are being written at Longford.

So are pages in the history of capitalist infamy.

Many of our readers will know that ExxonMobil has paid no taxes on its Australian earnings over the four years that the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has made the tax payments of some of the biggest corporations in te country pubic.

For the record, ExxonMobil paid no tax on Australian earnings of $9,617,324,823in 2013-14; on $8,464,272,972 in 2014-15; on $6,728,562,395 in 2015-16; and on $8,360,800,462 in 2016-17.  So, over four years, ExxonMobil has had an income of $33.1 billion in Australia, and paid not one single cent to the ATO.

Not to be outdone, its junior partner in infamy, UGL Pty Ltd, the sub-contractor responsible for the conditions it wants to enforce on the workforce, has paid no tax either.

UGL had earnings of $2,019,200,016  in 2013-14; of $2,094,794,620 in 2014-15; of $1,526,225,273 in 2015-16; and of $838,141,880 in 2016-17, for a total of $6,478,361,789. $6.5 billion in untaxed income and this bunch of mongrels wants to cut workers’ wages and intensify their exploitation.

These two companies – ExxonMobil and UGL – are just the tip of the iceberg. In its annual report on tax information on corporate entities, the ATO looks only at public and foreign-owned entities (including foreign-owned private companies) with total income of $100 million or more, as well as Australian-owned resident private entities with total income of $200 million or more.  Thus, many large, medium-sized and smaller corporations escape public scrutiny.

Even so, for the latest report in this four-year series of reports, 722 companies – or around a third of the total listed – paid no tax.
Some of those that did pay tax, paid well less than the 30% tax rate that the Business Council and the Coalition Government complain about.

Elders Ltd earned $1,513,312,368 in 2016-17 but paid only $36,101 in taxes.

Glencore has been one of the biggest non-payers of Australian taxes in previous years’ reports. In 2016-17, Glencore Grain Holdings Aust Pty td earned $1,510,526,283, had a so-called taxable income of $3,333 and paid tax of $1000.  Glencore Investment Pty Ltd had earnings of $14,970,581,402 of which $1,675,470,589 was deemed to be taxable. It somehow managed to pay the same as its grain holdings arm, i.e., $1000.  I hope we all noticed the improvements in roads and hospitals from this unanticipated revenue windfall of $2000 from joint earnings $16.5 billion!

In all probability, not one of these 722 major corporate non-payers of Australian taxes has done anything wrong under bourgeois law.  They are part of the ruling class and their rule enables them to obtain legislation protecting their profits from the people via the ATO.

Illegal activity certainly exists amongst the rich, and particularly the super-rich of “high net worth individuals”, some of whose tax evasions were exposed din the leaked Panama papers.

But whether it is legal loopholes or illegal offshore tax havens, none of it passes the pub test.  None of it can be defended in the court of public opinion where the jury consists of working people who have no option but to pay taxes on static or declining incomes.

The rich hold us in contempt.  By their actions they show they think that paying taxes is something that should only affect the lower orders, those who haven’t been smart enough or industrious enough to have become so rich that they no longer have to pay tax.

And injury piggy-backs on insult when big foreign and local non-tax-payers try to enforce wage cuts and worsening conditions on those who make them rich - the workers of Australia.

As they say on the picket line: Stand up, Fight back!
(Keep in touch with the Longford workers:  )


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