Building union clerks on strike

Issue 

Building union clerks on strike

By Jenny O'Donnell

SYDNEY — Thirty clerical union staff employed by the Building Workers Industrial Union and the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen's Association have been on strike since March 30 over the BWIU-FEDFA's refusal to agree to seniority (last on, first off) in redundancy procedures.

The mostly female staff have been in dispute for months, with the issue culminating in the retrenchment two weeks ago of two Federated Clerks Union members. Between them the two retrenched women have given 26 years of service to the union. One is also one of three FCU delegates employed by the two unions. The unions are sharing offices and are in the process of amalgamation.

BWIU-FEDFA membership numbers have fallen from the recession's impact on the building industry. Like many other unions, particularly those also preparing for amalgamation, they are looking to cut costs.

BWIU state secretary Dennis Matthews and FEDFA state secretary have organised their members to staff the office and carry out the clerical duties for which the women are employed.

The striking women organised a protest outside the weekly Labor Council meeting on April 2, which was joined by FCU members from the NSW Teachers Federation, the NSW Teachers Health Society and the Independent Teachers Association. As well as seeking support from other clerks employed in union offices, the women are visiting city building sites, handing out leaflets explaining the history of the dispute, and asking building workers to call their officials to order.

The FCU members have said they will not return to work, even if so directed by the courts, unless the two unions agree to reinstate the sacked workers and stick to seniority when it comes to retrenchment.