GEELONG — On April 28 at 6am, one hour before the end of the 12-hour night shift, security guards removed and locked out 110 workers from Geelong Wool Combing's Corio factory. The company's justification was that during enterprise bargaining negotiations with the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia, the union had refused to accept 25% pay cuts over 12 months.
According to Glen Musgrove, a TCFUA workplace delegate, Elders-subsidiary GWC had previously tried to strip the enterprise agreement back to minimal award rates. Union members believe the company is trying to force its unionised workers to leave.
Not long after the lockout, a picket was set up at the front gates and solidarity started to arrive. The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's "Johnny Rotten flying picket caravan" was there within hours. On April 29, busloads of construction workers were stopped on their way back from rallying in support of CFMEU state secretary Martin Kingham. On May 1, workers from several unions dropped in on after attending the May Day rally in Melbourne.
On April 30, the Federal Court ruled the lockout illegal and demanded the workers be paid. On May 5, it will rule on whether the workers can properly return to work or whether the lockout could be made legal.
Meanwhile the workers are digging in, confident of winning with the backing of the Geelong trade union movement. Musgrove said: "They might think they can treat us like shit, but these are our jobs and we are a strong union with the support of the community and other unions. They can't starve us back into the dark ages. This is one fight that we will win".
From Green Left Weekly, May 7, 2003.
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