CBD cleaners take strike action

Krishna Ghimire. Photo: Justin McManusHundreds of cleaners at dozens of Melbourne’s most prominent high-rise office towers have left bathrooms dirty and refused to refill toilet paper as part of a bitter dispute with the CBD’s biggest cleaning company.
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About 400 workers at cleaning giant Consolidated Property Services took partial strike action on Thursday by refusing to perform a range of regular duties at dozens of office towers such as 101 Collins Street, Casselden Place, Freshwater Place, the CBA building and the NAB’s Docklands building.

The office buildings are home to some of the city’s biggest-name companies, including major banks, industry super funds, international law firms and several government agencies.

The cleaners had voted for the bans amid a long fight for a better pay deal.

The United Voice union, representing some of Australia’s lowest-paid workers, said Consolidated’s cleaning staff been denied a pay rise since 2012.

“The most they get is $24 an hour, and that’s for night shift,” union state secretary Jess Walsh said.

Consolidated is also being urged to promise to avoid using subcontractors or exploiting international students by signing the “Clean Start” agreement.

Krishna Ghimire, 26, has been working as a cleaner for a year while studying engineering at university.

He cleans offices at Southbank’s Freshwater Place for four hours each night, but took part in a 20-minute stoppage on Thursday night.

“The main thing we are asking is for a fair workplace … we need fair pay for our job we are doing here, and we need job security,” he said.

“We love our job but a pay rise would really help us. We are not demanding such a higher pay rate and it is not something they cannot afford.”

Consolidated Property Services did not respond to requests for comment.

Ms Walsh said one major cleaning company, Glad, had committed to a 3 per cent pay rise for the next four years and ending subcontracting of international students as a source of cut-rate cleaners.

“Today is just the start,” she said. “This will continue until Consolidated treats cleaners with respect.”

As well as stopping toilet cleaning and resupplying, the disgruntled cleaners have also vowed to stop emptying bins.

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Gardeners near Tullamarine Freeway uprooted then rebooted amid East West Link confusion

For 36 years Roger Exell has grown everything – from tomatoes, beans, carrots and celery to daffodils and jonquils – on his six-by-three-metre plot at the Essendon Community Gardens.
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“I’ve got a peach tree in my plot, and there’s a lemon tree that I planted, too,” said Mr Exell, 73, a retired food industry employee.

The gardens opened with a handful of plots in 1978 on badly degraded land next to Moonee Ponds Creek and the Tullamarine Freeway.

Today, there are 75 plots, toilets, two 10,000-litre water tanks and a pavilion that City West Water gave the gardens a grant to build, where the committee holds its meetings. There’s a waiting list to get a plot, too.

On Tuesday, Moonee Valley City Council and the garden’s vice president were told by the Napthine government’s road authority the garden would be bulldozed to make way for the East West Link.

The new $6.8 billion toll road will link the Eastern Freeway to CityLink – which runs near the gardens.

But on Thursday afternoon, after inquiries by The Age, the garden appeared to have been spared the bulldozer.

A Linking Melbourne Authority spokeswoman said: “While it had appeared originally that relocation may be an option, we have confirmed with East West Connect [the consortium building the toll road] that the land is not needed and we informed the Essendon Community Gardens of that today – they are staying put, which is great news.”

The government is planning a four-lane on and off ramp built near where the gardens now sit. The expanded interchange, at Ormond and Brunswick roads, will make it possible to get on and off East West Link.

John Hassell, the gardens’ vice-president, said he had been rung on Tuesday by the authority with the bad news. Mr Hassell said he was now not sure what to expect at a meeting the authority had requested at the gardens on Friday morning.

“It could be an episode of Utopia,” Mr Hassell said, referring to the ABC satire. “On Tuesday we were bluntly told they were compulsorily acquiring the community gardens. Now I’m not sure what they are saying.”

Opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee said the process surrounding the community gardens was “shambolic”, and a sign of how quickly the project was being rushed through.

“Taxpayers ought to be alarmed by this,” Mr Tee said. “This isn’t the way you should be running a major project in Victoria.”

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One life lost, another ruined: Dylan Closter jailed for Rye punch killing

David Cassai’s mother, Caterina Politi, outside the Supreme Court. Photo: Mal FaircloughLike so many Australian parents, Caterina Politi was on tenterhooks when her young son travelled around Europe – courting danger in Pamplona where he ran with the bulls, partying in Ibiza and drinking steins at Munich’s Oktoberfest.
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She could never have expected her worst fears would be realised outside a Rye pizza shop a few months later, where David Cassai would be killed in an unprovoked attack by 18-year-old stranger, Dylan John Closter.

“He wasn’t anyone famous, but to know the impact he had on his family and friends, it has left a huge hole that will never be filled. People say, ‘You’ve got two daughters’, but I’ve lost my only son. Some days I think it’s getting easier then the next day I’ll fall in a heap,” Ms Politi said.

“But I’m so proud to be David’s mum, as much as I want David to be here. I would hate to be Dylan Closter’s mum,” she said.

On Thursday, Closter was sentenced to nine years and three months with a non-parole period of six years after he pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter and one count of affray.

Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth said Mr Cassai did nothing to provoke the “gratuitous attack” where in the space of less than a minute, one man was dead.

“What happened that night was entirely your making,” the judge said to Closter in sentencing.

While Closter’s life is not ruined, it has been irreparably damaged by the tragic and senseless events of New Year’s Eve 2012.

Fuelled by Galliano and mindless bravado, Closter and four mates had been looking for trouble when they encountered Mr Cassai and five friends returning from celebrations at the Portsea Hotel.

Closter deliberately bumped Mr Cassai as he walked along Point Nepean Road, before abusing him and goading him to fight.

Ms Politi says she wishes her son put his hands up to protect himself. “I wish he’d done something to defend himself, but that just wasn’t him. He was such a gentle kid.”

But Closter, a combat sports enthusiast, shaped up and unleashed a flurry of punches as Mr Cassai stumbled to avoid the confrontation.

Closter’s mates joined the fray, one calling out, “Welcome to Rye, c—-.”

The death of the 22-year-old landscape gardener was as senseless as it was familiar. A “round house” punch to the head, a sickening thud as he hit the pavement and the end of yet another promising young life.

Rather than render assistance, the apprentice plumber danced around the crumpled body of his victim, while one of his group yelled “This is what we came here for”, according to at least one witness.

Reports of Mr Cassai’s death on New Year’s Day 2013 sent a shudder through every parent. Many would have reached for phones to check their loved ones had made it home unscathed.

Ms Politi buried her only son on January 11, 2013, after a heartbreaking funeral at St Clement Church in Bulleen, not far from the family home in Templestowe.

His sisters Elisa and Luisa spoke about a young man with a dazzling smile and an irresistible sense of humour. A bloke who regularly kissed friends and strangers on the lips for a lark. He was a “Peter Pan”, who told them “mystical stories of places no one else had been to”, as he led them on childhood adventures through the sand dunes of Rye.

At a bail hearing in January 2013, Closter claimed he was the one who had been assaulted, knocked to the ground and kicked while on all fours. He claimed he lashed instinctively at the person nearest.

While Closter’s family released a statement expressing sympathy towards David’s family and friends, Ms Politi says she’s never been directly contacted. She says the time for an apology has long passed.

“If he had of pleaded guilty within the first couple of months of killing David, I could have begun to accept remorse, but not 19 months down the track,” she said.

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Napthine accused of spending taxes on campaign ads

The Labor Party has accused Premier Denis Napthine of using taxpayer-funded advertising as part of the Liberal Party’s campaign.
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In the Liberal Party’s latest television commercial Dr Napthine lists some of the government’s achievements and plans.

Behind him are series of videos, some of them including extended grabs from government department advertising material including Moving Victoria and information graphics developed for the East West Link.

It is understood the opposition is considering complaining to the Auditor-General.

Labor’s scrutiny of government spokesman Martin Pakula said it was clear material produced by government departments had been appropriated into Liberal Party advertising.

“You have effectively got government departments doing the Liberal Party’s job for them,” Mr Pakula said.

“It is totally inappropriate. The Premier and the Liberal Party do not understand the distinction between the government and taxpayer funds, and the Liberal Party and their political interests,” Mr Pakula said.

The Premier’s office referred questions to the Liberal Party. A party spokesman said it welcomed the ALP highlighting the government’s commitment to the East West Link.

“Mr Pakula should focus on explaining to the Victorian public why Daniel Andrews and Labor are against jobs, against supporting local industries and against this congestion busting state-shaping infrastructure project,” he said.

“As the Treasurer said yesterday, Labor claims they are for workers and families, but Daniel Andrews would sacrifice thousands of Victorian jobs to save Labor’s inner-city seats from the Greens.”

The complaint follows concerns that government information advertising, including the Moving Victoria series, which is paid for by taxpayers and explains the government’s transport agenda, is too political.

In 2010 the opposition attacked then Premier John Brumby for spending more than $100 million on government advertising campaigns, arguing that such ads were also too political.

The Coalition promised to crack down on misuse of advertising by setting up a  five-person panel with a retired judge as chair. But only a watered-down three-person panel has been established. It is next due to report after the election.

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