Rail strike against Vic jobs trade-off


By Peter Boyle

MELBOURNE — All train services here stopped on June 13, when Electrical Trade Union members employed by the Victorian government struck for 24 hours to protest against a deal between the Trades Hall Council and the Kirner Labor government to grant meagre pay rises in return for an agreement not to strike.

While VTHC secretary John Halfpenny tried to present the June 11 deal as a victory for the ACTU-led claim for Accord Mark VI payments, the deal falls far short of that.

The Kirner government agreed to pay a $12 weekly rise from May 16, agreed to negotiate productivity-linked pay rises after September 30, but deferred any superannuation increase. In return, the VTHC promised to abstain from any industrial action around Accord Mark VI payments.

The ETU, the Victorian Public Service Association, the Health Services Union and the Metal and Engineering Workers Union opposed the deal but were outvoted by other unions.

ETU state secretary Gary Main said the VTHC-Kirner government deal was an attempt to trade off jobs for pay rises. The Kirner government has axed 6000 public sector jobs this financial year and promises to slash another 10,000 next year.

Premier Joan Kirner has vowed to "keep up the pain on the public sector" for at least three years. Main said Halfpenny and other union official were taking the "weak line" and being soft on the Kirner Labor government at the expense of their members' interests.

The ETU has vowed to carry out further industrial action unless the government gives a firm commitment to no job cuts and to specific productivity pay rises on top of the $12 increase. Halfpenny said the ETU strike was not supported by Trades Hall and the union was "on its own".

The deal will be taken to the Victorian Industrial Relations Commission for ratification. Transport minister Peter Spyker — who described the strike as "bastardry" — has threatened to ask the commission to exclude ETU members from receiving the $12 pay rise.

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