By Paul Oboohov
SYDNEY — New Zealand brewing giant Lion Nathan bugged, spied upon, videoed and photographed union meetings of workers during a recent dispute at its Tooheys plant here recently.
Criminal lawyer and Sun-Herald columnist Chris Murphy reported on October 17 on a statement by Tooheys in which it boasts of its prowess and technique, while denying any "illegal" surveillance.
Tooheys said that it had used video and still photography. Murphy says that Tooheys hired private investigators who filmed the picket line daily using hidden cameras. This has given the company mug shots of the people on the picket line, who included those slated for redundancies and those who weren't. Of course, this makes for excellent material for black lists that might find their way to contractors to whom Tooheys was trying to palm off its maintenance staff.
Union meetings of the Liquor Trades (LHMU) workers at Auburn Soccer Club on August 23 and 30 were bugged by private investigators hired by Tooheys, according to Murphy. These tapes allowed Tooheys to fine-tune its position, and have up-to-the minute information for negotiations. Peter James, LHMU (NSW) secretary, is quoted by Murphy as saying, "It [Tooheys] gave us nine final deadlines in 10 days to accept their settlement offers and then kept changing their position as to what they wanted."
Murphy says that the LHMU meeting of the 30th, which decided to go back to work and left the maintenance workers high and dry, was discussed by company officials immediately in the Tooheys board room, allowing them to be ready to "formally" accept the surrender of both the LHMU and metal unions covering the maintenance staff.
Murphy also discussed a leaked 110-page plan known as "Project X", drawn up by Lion Nathan to replace permanent staff with contract labour. Murphy calls it a "union-busting, 'maximum head-count reduction' plan". The plan, also known as the "Launch Day Plan", had a conscious aim to "divide the labour force" and "eliminate the engineering unions from taking the advantage".
Murphy also looks at the intimidatory use of legal threats and redundancy cheques hand-delivered to homes.
Murphy's article quotes Labor federal MP Con Sciacca as saying that Lion Nathan are "profit leeches" and "not abiding by Australian rules", but there is no doubt that Lion Nathan's success at Tooheys (Sydney), Swan (Perth) and XXXX (Brisbane), soon to be followed by SA Brewing (Adelaide), has given heart to the rich that there are in fact no rules. Enterprise agreements are simply holding devices to be abrogated when the work force has been sufficiently weakened. Employers can go for broke now while unemployment is high and a decade of the Accord has weakened unions.