BY ANGELA VECCHIO
MELBOURNE — Australian Manufacturing Workers Union members at Stramit Building Products in Preston have won the first round of a struggle for a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA).
The workers' claim is based on the AMWU's pattern agreement, which includes claims for a 36-hour working week and the regulation of casual labour.
After 21 days on the picket line, the workers returned to work on June 10 without conceding to any of the management's demands.
Workers were stood down on May 19, after taking industrial action on May 16 in support of a new agreement. After deciding that no one would return to work unless everyone was offered work, all the workers were locked out by management.
After bringing in non-union labour during the three weeks of the picket, management gave in and agreed to allow the workers to return to work. The company also agreed to resume negotiations with the union.
Stramit shop steward David Williamson told Green Left Weekly: "This is the first EBA we've had at the Preston Stramit site in five years. We're determined to win all our demands, even if it means going out [on strike] again."
The local Socialist Alliance branch and its members visited the picket on a regular basis and collected money for the workers at the weekly Socialist Alliance stall at the Preston Markets on a Saturday morning.
"When we were given the money, our blokes were moved by the gesture. It really lifted morale to know that we weren't alone. There were people out in the community who cared about us", Williamson commented.
Negotiations between the AMWU and Stramit are due to begin in a week's time.
Industrial action has also been taking place at two other Stramit sites in Melbourne — at the Kilsyth and Mulgrave plants. The union is trying to get a common agreement for all Stramit sites throughout Australia.
From Green Left Weekly, June 18, 2003.
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