Kraft strike in sixth week
By Alana Kerr
MELBOURNE — Seventy-three members of the Electrical Trades Union and the Automotive, Food, Metals and Engineering Union have entered their sixth week of an around-the-clock picket outside Kraft's Port Melbourne factory.
The strike was called after 73 electrical and maintenance workers were given one week's notice on February 28. They were told some workers might be able to retain their positions for three months to train workers from a body hire firm, Skilled Engineering, and the plant's own process workers to do their jobs.
The picket, which managed to stop production for its first four weeks, is now being confronted by police from Wednesday to Friday between 9am and 3pm. Police have allowed scab Mifsud trucks through the picket line. Apparently police have been able to allocate only these days to the picket because Mondays and Tuesdays are taken as days off, and weekends are filled up with policing Albert Park demonstrations, anti-freeway extension rallies and other public rallies.
Production is limping along at the factory, thanks to Mifsud Trucks and Mayne Nickless, which has hired a warehouse in nearby Turner Street, in which supplies are unloaded from its trucks and then reloaded into Mifsud vehicles. Mayne-Nickless drivers are covered by the Transport Workers Union.
Process workers within the plant (members of the National Union of Workers, which is against the strike) are also facing difficulties. They are expected by management to run production lines without the maintenance and electrical workers. Officials within the NUW are reported to be pressuring process workers to carry out the work of the maintenance and electrical workers.
The predictable consequence has been a rise in the number of machines not operating. Picketers were also not surprised when they were required to let an ambulance through the picket to take a process worker to hospital after his hand was crushed in a machine he was attempting to fix.
The strikers have received support from other workplaces, particularly in the Port Melbourne area. Support has also been received from students, due to publicity on campus and collections for the strike fund.
Workers at the picket would appreciate any show of support; people are welcome to drop by at 520 Lorimer St, Port Melbourne, or send money to the Kraft strike fund, AFMEU, 174 Victoria Pde, East Melbourne, 3002, ph 662 1333.