Footwear workers win demands
By Bronwen Beechey
MELBOURNE — Workers at the Michaelis Bayley footwear factory have ended an 18-day strike after reaching a settlement with management on April 24. The demands of the workers for a 10% pay rise and improved redundancy were met.
The 100 workers, members of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia, set up a picket line at the Footscray factory after management refused to negotiate the claim.
The unionists, mainly women from non-English speaking backgrounds, were harassed by police and threatened with legal action by the company, which lodged writs to sue them individually in the Supreme Court. At a court hearing on April 23, Michaelis Bayley was instructed to negotiate with the union.
The workers received considerable support from other unions and individuals. This included a delegation of Footscray Council workers who brought food and groceries, and individuals who drove up to the picket line and donated money.
The TCFUA pointed out that most of Michaelis Bayley's workers took home less than $300 a week, while the Homy Ped shoes made by the company sell for $80-$90. Despite the hardship caused to the workers, many of whom were sole breadwinners, they maintained their solidarity. "We're like a family, we look after each other", one of the picketers told Green Left Weekly.