Parliament House staff fight for jobs
By Sue Bolton
CANBERRA — Catering staff at Parliament House have set up a picket in an effort to protect their jobs and working conditions.
Catering services are being privatised. Workers have been told that their jobs no longer exist and that they should reapply for them to Spotless, the private catering company.
About 150 full-time staff and about another 100 casual staff lost their jobs. Many of the workers had worked there for 16 years.
In the absence of any direction from the Liquor Trades Union, many workers applied for their old jobs. Thirty to 40 have gone back, only to find that they were working for $2-3 less per hour, and that other work conditions have vanished as well. Some have left the job and come to join the picket line.
The workers voted this week to keep the picket on indefinitely, rejecting an offer that they repay their redundancy pay and be granted an extra six months' work under the new conditions.
Trucks, buses, Commonwealth car drivers and taxis are honouring the picket. There have been some interesting scenes when drivers and taxis refuse to take MPs across the picket line. Liberal Senator Jocelyn Newman berated her driver for an hour to get him to drive through the picket line. She didn't win. Inside Parliament House, most other workers are showing their support by boycotting the staff canteen.
Anyone wishing to show their support by joining the picket line should go to the loading dock at Parliament House to be assigned an entrance to picket. Donations of money and food are also needed.