Crane drivers fight attacks
By Shane Bentley
SYDNEY — Mobile crane drivers, members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), employed by three companies — Gillespie, Wilson and Kanabrook Cranes — have been locked out for six weeks. The companies are refusing to discuss new enterprise bargaining agreements (EBAs) with their employees.
The dispute started when workers at a mass meeting in April endorsed claims for improvements in wages and conditions in line with other parts of the industry and took legally protected strike action.
While most EBAs in the industry have been renegotiated after expiring six months ago, Gillespie, Wilson and Kanabrook Cranes responded by locking out their work force. The companies refuse to recognise the CFMEU as the legitimate bargaining agent and intend to remove 90% of award conditions from EBAs.
Unfortunately, some workers in a number of smaller yards have agreed to sub-standard EBAs, with a reduction in penalty rates and take-home pay.
Steve Dixon, union coordinator for the CFMEU construction division in NSW, told Green Left Weekly, "Gillespie, Wilson and Kanabrook, with two other companies, make up 85% of the crane industry in NSW, so it's important that these employers do not get away with their attacks. This dispute is fundamental. Wilson, Gillespie and Kanabrook are using the EBA process as camouflage to implement award stripping by stealth."
The workers have been harassed by the Employment Advocate. "One person from the Employment Advocate even visited one of the blokes and his wife at home to try and put the wind up them", Dixon said.
"These workers have been without wages for six weeks, they are fighting to defend penalty rates and award standards. If they don't get financial support they will be starved back to work on the bosses' terms."
The CFMEU has announced a blitz against employers in the industry who have been ripping off their work force. Workers in some crane companies are not being paid award conditions such as holiday pay and overtime rates, and some companies have been underpaying workers' compensation premiums.
The CFMEU will subject mobile crane companies to a union audit to ensure award compliance. Workers will ban companies that have broken the law and the CFMEU will pursue back claims for all workers who have been underpaid.
Donations to the Mobile Crane Dispute Fund can be sent to the CFMEU, Level 5, 361 Kent Street, Sydney 2001, or phone 9394 9494.