24-hour strike at Email plants
By Shane Bentley
MORE THAN 5000 workers employed by whitegoods manufacturer Email took part in a 24-hour stoppage on June 17. The stoppage affected all 22 Email plants across the country, except the largest, in Orange, NSW. It went ahead despite the previous day's section 127 order from the Industrial Relations Commission to call off the strike.
The stoppage, called by the Metal Trades Federation of Unions (MTFU), was a protest against workplace relations minister Peter Reith's interference in the Email bargaining.
Unions taking part included the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), Australian Workers Union, National Union of Workers, Electrical Trades Union and Australian Services Union.
Adam Kerslake, acting NSW secretary of the AMWU, explained that the focus was on the current round of enterprise bargaining.
"Email wants the one three-year enterprise bargaining agreement that would cover all Email sites and expire on June 30 in 2002. What we are after is an agreement that will expire on June 30, 2000, for our Victorian members and June 30, 2001, elsewhere" Kerslake said.
"This is in line with the AMWU's adopted policy to move towards industry-wide bargaining through lining up the expiry dates of existing EBAs."
Reith has reportedly encouraged Email management not to give in to MTFU demands in order to prevent an industry-wide bargaining pattern.
Kerslake said the employer body Australian Industry Group (AIG) "has asked Reith to include in the second wave of workplace relations legislation laws that prohibit industry-wide bargaining".
AIG spokespeople have applauded the "courageous" stance of Email management in pushing for a company-wide agreement.
Despite the threats from Reith and the AIG, Kerslake said that the union is determined to implement industry-wide bargaining. "We've already got a number of section 127s and 166 injunctions outstanding over this issue. It will not be too long before Reith starts imposing fines and even jail terms on our union organisers, delegates and activists."
In another development Email, after buying the Hoover plant in Meadowbank from Southcorp Appliances last year, has decided to close it down and move the work to an existing plant in Adelaide. Despite talks with NSW Premier Bob Carr, the AMWU holds little hope for the jobs of the hundreds who work there.