On November 14, the federal court ordered the reinstatement of two National Union of Workers (NUW) delegates after their employer, Saint-Gobain Abrasives, was unable to prove that its decision to dismiss them was unrelated to their involvement with the union.
Tony Seymour and Jeff Gearin were retrenched in September, along with eight other NUW members, for what Saint-Gobain Abrasives claimed was "a lack of skills". Seymour had worked for the French-owned company for 30 years, while Gearin had been employed for 18 years.
Saint-Gobain claimed that the retrenched employees lacked the skills to operate a printing machine at the company's Lidcombe site. In court, it was revealed that training would take "two or three hours" and that before the retrenchments Gearin asked to be trained to use the machine but had his request rejected.
In his ruling, Justice Robert Buchanan said the selection process used by the company for the retrenchments was "a convenient mechanism" to make Seymour and Gearin redundant.
Meanwhile, NUW members at the company's Lidcombe and Wetherill Park sites have continued to take protected industrial action after the company refused to negotiate a new collective agreement with its employees, demanding they sign individual contracts (AWAs).
"All we want is a collective agreement", Seymour told Green Left Weekly. "We're doing this not just for ourselves but for our kids — for the next generation." He said that around 90% of drivers had respected the NUW picket lines. He also reported receiving support from the Fire Brigades Employees Union and local residents.
The strikers are picketing the factories between 5.30am to as late as 7.30pm each weekday. They are located at Nyrang Street in Lidcombe, and Newton Street in Wetherill Park and welcome visitors.