Hamersley sacks union activist
By Stephen Robson
PERTH — One hundred and eighty members of the Metal and Engineering Workers' Union (MEWU) struck after Hamersley Iron sacked John Mercer, the union convener at the Tom Price operation, on July 6.
A lunch-time meeting on July 7 voted to continue the strike indefinitely.
Mercer was sacked after he intervened in a company inquiry into the standing down of a union member.
Last year when a worker refused to join the union, a two-week strike over the threat to the closed shop reportedly cost the company $60 million in sales. At the time Hamersley issued writs against several union officials, including Mercer.
Following this dispute, all the union conveners except Mercer accepted voluntary redundancy packages. Mercer rejected additional inducements to leave. After failing to buy Mercer off, Hamersley Iron was now victimising him.
A WA Trades and Labour Council meeting of the four unions representing Hamersley workers on July 8 indicated support for the strike action by the MEWU workers.
On July 9, 150 Australian Workers Union members walked off the job for 24 hours after Hamersley refused to abide by an agreement to provide transport for workers attending a stop-work meeting. Hamersley refuses to allow union meetings on site.
On the same day, industrial relations commissioner Gavin Fielding proposed that Mercer be stood aside on full pay until the matter could be heard. The hearing was set for Karratha on July 21.
Fielding also recommended that the 180 metalworkers return to work. A meeting of the metalworkers on July 10 was expected to comply with the recommendation.
Meanwhile, the dispute with Robe River Iron in the Pilbara is continuing. The Robe River workers were initially sacked following their participation in solidarity action with Victorian unionists on November 30.
In early June, 16 of the workers were ordered reinstated by the Industrial Relations Commission. On July 7, Robe filed an appeal against the decision.