Industrial round-up



By Melanie Sjoberg

  • Nineteen waterside workers at Port Adelaide were sacked on March 17 after refusing to work "double header shifts" in protest over the sacking of 55 workers in Sydney.

Daryl Grey, South Australian branch president of the Maritime Union, told Green Left Weekly that the sackings by Australian Stevedores were jeopardising all the effort that had been put into genuine reform on the waterfront.

A picket was established, and local shop owners demonstrated their support by supplying food and offering to display a banner. Port Adelaide has a strong community history of work and support around the docks.

Ric Newland, MUA branch secretary, told Green Left that workers in Whyalla and around the Iron Triangle were ready to go out in support if need be.

  • The heat wave here during early February brought occupational health and safety issues to the fore at the Australian Submarine Corporation.

Members of the Automotive, Metals and Engineering Union walked off the job during the 40-plus degree temperatures, but the company refused to pay them. National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines require workers suffering heat stress to be provided with liquids and permitted to rest.

The Industrial Relations Commission has ordered the company to change its work practices. The AMEU negotiated a payment for the workers along with an agreement to stop work when temperatures reached 38 degrees.

  • A picket outside of a chicken processing factory here is into its third week after the company, St Croix Holdings, closed and failed to pay workers out.

The workers had not been paid in the week prior to the closure, and the company reneged on a later agreement to pay up. The 25 workers are owed around $26,000 in total. In the meantime, many are unable to access Social Security benefits.

The picket is preventing the removal of stock and equipment while the workers await their dues. The Trades and Labour Council will consider support for the picket at its next meeting.

  • In an attempt to weaken the organisation and effectiveness of the public sector unions, the Brown Liberal government announced on February 15 that it would stop automatic payroll deductions of union dues for public sector workers. The move was condemned by the South Australian Institute of Teachers (SAIT) as "petty, provocative and pointless".

SAIT president Clare McCarty stated, "This is a clear breach of [the premier's] election promise on the issue. The government promised consultation and cooperation in its dealings with teachers. It is obvious that the dry rump of Brown's government has decided to flex its muscle."


By Alan Bradley

  • Five hundred members of the Maritime Union met on February 18, and passed unanimously a motion to support wharfies in dispute with Australian Stevedores. Workers for Conaust, the other stevedoring firm here, voted to donate $100 per week each to the strike fund.

Union officials reported that the Environmental Youth Alliance had sent a message of support, acknowledging the union's contribution to the campaign to boycott rainforest timber imports.


By Stephen Robson

  • Responding angrily to Western Collieries' announced closure of the last two underground pits in Western Australia on February 15, and the resulting loss of 239 jobs, more than 500 union members began a 48-hour strike on February 17. The strikers marched on the offices of local Liberal MLA Hilda Turnbull as well as Western Collieries.

Western Collieries plans to close the pits on March 25. The former Labor government's plan to build a 600-megawatt power station was modified by the incoming Court government to 300 megawatts. It has been suggested that the government move had a key impact on Western Collieries' decision to close the mines.

The Coalminers' Industrial Union of Workers wants the pits to be shut over an 18-24 month period. It is also calling for: the state government to resume the 600-megawatt power station; the company to negotiate severance and retrenchment packages; Western Collieries to disclose all its tonnage and contract details; open cut miners to work a 35-hour week roster.

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