Support grows for Kennon Auto workers
Twenty-four of the 50 Kennon Auto workers who are members of the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union have been on strike since July 1 for a pay rise. The rise has been denied to them for the past three years.
Police and the company are increasing the pressure to break the picket line, but the community has been mobilising to support the striking workers.
Workers at local factories have walked off the job at short notice to supplement the workers' protest at vital moments, preventing trucks from breaking through.
The company is running out of gas for its forklifts and is desperate to get supplies in and get its product out and onto a ship.
Kennon Auto bought the Preston factory, originally part of the Nylex group, which went into liquidation about 18 months ago. The management claims it is a new company and that there has been no transmission of business from the old Nylex group.
If there were transmission of business, the new company would have to recognise the old enterprise bargaining agreement and all working conditions attached to it. Management claims that it doesn’t have to recognise those conditions.
Some workers have worked in the factory for 20 years doing the same job, under Nylex and now under Kennon Auto.
Since December, the company has tried to undermine working conditions in several ways.
Workers told Green Left Weekly Kennon Auto has encouraged workers to resign from the union. They said the company called workers one-by-one into the bosses’ administration office and asked them to vote individually for a third-rate agreement.
Management was present and watched as workers were asked to sign the agreement. The agreement only had a “Yes” box and no “No” box to vote against the agreement, making it illegal.
Kennon Auto had not translated company proposals into the many languages spoken by workers and had not explained the effects of the agreement and what workers would lose in the proposed agreement.
New casuals hired by Kennon were allowed to vote on the agreement after working there for only seven days.
On July 16, two weeks into the picket, the workers were asked to vote for another management-initiated agreement.
Strikers appreciated supporters who helped maintain their protest assembly. Many trucks and cars honk when they see the sign “Honk for fair workplace rights”.
Workers told GLW about the pressure on workers inside the factory. If a worker does a 12-hour shift and is asked to do another one back-to-back, they risk being sacked if they refuse.
Another worker said that, when they were called into the bosses’ office to sign the agreement, they asked about sick leave. He said they were told: “If you don’t sound sick enough, they wouldn’t pay you. Plus they want to have the right to ring the doctor and ask them what’s wrong with you and what medication you are on.”
Two truck companies have stopped delivering to Kennon Auto because the protest at the gates has held so solidly.
Workers have come from as far away as Geelong and Hastings to support the workers.
Join the protest at 32-46 Chifley Drive, Preston. To make a donation, visit www.tcfua.org.au .