Casuals strike in Land Titles Office
By Chris Slee
MELBOURNE — Casual workers at the Victorian Land Titles Office held four-hour strikes at the beginning of each of their shifts on November 14 and 15. The workers, members of the Australian Services Union, are campaigning for federal award conditions, which would mean a pay rise and better conditions.
Under the former Kennett government's "industry sector minimums", some of the workers are currently paid as little as $12.05 an hour (even less for those on junior rates). Even those working from midnight to midday on weekends are paid only $18-$20 an hour.
The workers are also concerned about several occupational health and safety issues. They're employed as part of a project to put all land titles — currently in paper form — onto computer. This involves using guillotines or even Stanley knives on damaged documents — a dangerous procedure, particularly at the end of a 12-hour shift.
The casual workers are crowded into a very limited space within the Land Titles Office. They were put there contrary to the recommendations of management's own occupational health and safety consultants, who said, "You can't have people working here".
The five companies contracted to do the work, and the LTO management, all say it is someone else's responsibility to fix the problems.
The workers maintained a picket outside the office throughout November 14 and 15. They received visits from many other unionists and from comedian Rod Quantock.
They have received pledges of "in-principle support" from several ministers in the new Victorian Labor government, but Martin Foley, Victorian branch president of the ASU, told Green Left Weekly: "We will judge them not by what they say but by what they do".
An award claim has been lodged with the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.