Holland picks new fight with West Gate workers

August 2, 2009

Canice Lynch was sacked from his job at the West Gate Bridge strengthening project on July 24. Lynch was the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) shop steward at the site.

The project is run by construction giant John Holland under contract from the Victorian state government.

The workers on the site are all on a six-month probationary period. The company didn't give any reason for the dismissal.

The shop steward's sacking comes just 10 weeks after the end of a long and bitter industrial dispute between John Holland and members of the CFMEU and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) on the site.

Thirty-nine workers were sacked in early March. The sacked workers were all members of the AMWU and CFMEU.

John Holland sparked the three-month long dispute when it refused to honour an industry agreement the workers had negotiated with subcontracting firm Civil Pacific Services.

Instead, John Holland wanted to do a deal with another union — the Australian Workers Union (AWU) — to cover the work on the bridge project and undermine industry standards.

Ongoing community protests in support of the sacked workers eventually brought John Holland management to the negotiating table.

Since May 15, most of the sacked workers have been reinstated. The company was forced to pay wages according to industry standards.

The workers are now covered by the "Southern Region" agreement, which is an industrial agreement John Holland struck with the AWU.

While John Holland lifted the pay rate in this agreement, it is still substandard in relation to industry standards in other mixed metal jobs

Gareth Stephenson, a CFMEU organiser, told Green Left Weekly that even though a settlement was struck with John Holland on May 15, the company has since refused to sign an industrial agreement with the CFMEU and AMWU.
It is believed Lynch was targeted because he was the CFMEU steward and dared to raise questions with management in relation to some industrial matters. It appears John Holland wants a pliable workforce on the job and the AWU as the union representing construction workers

Stephenson told GLW that workers on the site continued to receive threatening letters from John Holland and its lawyers in an attempt to intimidate them from building a strong union culture.

The sacked steward is fighting his unfair dismissal and will take his case to the Federal Court.

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