John Holland agrees to mediation with sacked workers

A seven-week industrial dispute between building industry giant John Holland and 39 sacked workers from the West Gate Bridge reconstruction project has entered a new stage. Workers and their supporters unanimously supported a moratorium on further protest actions against the company at a meeting on April 17.

The workers are members of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union. Ralph Edwards, Victorian CFMEU branch president, told the meeting that on April 16 Holland approached the unions with a proposal to enter into a mediated discussion during which both parties agree not to take any actions. The moratorium and discussions are to start on April 20 and are expected to last for a week.

The workers lost their jobs after Holland refused to honour a collective agreement the unions had struck with the original employer, Civil Pacific Services. Holland offered an agreement with less pay and worse conditions, which the workers refused. John Holland is one of Australia's biggest construction companies and has netted many lucrative government contracts, such as the $240 million bridge project.

Since their dismissal in early March, the workers have received support from the broader community for their protest actions, which has led to a significant delay for the bridge-strengthening project. Holland has had limited success in inducting a scab labour force willing to cross the picket.

Contrary to reports from some news outlets, the community picket has not prevented the erection of temporary anti-suicide barriers.

Supporters of the workers are encouraged to attend a picnic being held by the Western Suburbs Community and Unions Coalition on April 26 from 12.00pm at Yarraville Gardens, corner Hyde Street and Somerville Road. For more information, phone 0417 456 001.