600 strikes fight for pattern agreement

Issue 

BY GRAHAM WILLIAMS

MELBOURNE — More than 600 manufacturing companies were hit by a 24-hour stop work on June 12. The action was initiated a week earlier by a shop-stewards meeting of the Victorian branch of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

The AMWU is campaigning for very similar enterprise bargaining agreements across the manufacturing sector, as part of the pattern-bargaining-based Campaign 2003.

The meeting also decided on a further stoppage and rally on July 3, directed at companies that still hadn't finalised the agreement.

"This is an attempt to force those companies that have been in negotiations for more than three months to take action and sign the agreement", said Steve Dargavel, assistant state secretary of the AMWU.

The Australian Industry Group, one of the major employer peak bodies, has sought court orders against the unions, and against the workers at 40 different companies, claiming that the strikes are illegal because they are industry-wide bargaining.

The Coalition government has declared industry-wide bargaining illegal under the workplace relations act. Dargavel told Green Left Weekly that the union's actions are legal, because they fit into the protected action that workers are still allowed in an enterprise bargaining negotiation period.

The AMWU's fight for similar wages and conditions across metals manufacturing workshops is designed to combat what the Howard government wants: to have workers at one company undermining the conditions of workers at another company. If the government is successful, there will be a gradual dragging down of wages and conditions across the board.

A June 11 meeting of more than 200 labour-hire workers in the AMWU decided to hold week of stop-work action, beginning on July 7. The workers are also fighting for a Campaign 2003 agreement. Five smaller labour hire companies have signed the agreement but the larger contractors are yet to sign up.

The pickets at ACI Box Hill and Smorgons at Laverton continue.

From Green Left Weekly, June 18, 2003.

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