Shearers oppose union sell-out
By Dave Wright and Ray Fulcher
BALLARAT — The breakaway Shearers and Rural Workers Union (SRWU) is angry over the proposed award restructuring deal the right-wing AWU-FIME is set to conclude with the National Farmers Federation.
The deal means that shearers will get the $8 per week safety net rise flowing from the September national wage case, which they should have received anyway. They will also finally get a pay increase in instalments which was awarded after the 1991 national wage decision.
In a trade-off of conditions, the AWU-FIME has agreed to extend hours from four runs (eight hours) to 5 runs (10 hours) a day. It has also consented to weekend shearing.
Steve Roach, general secretary of the SRWU, told Green Left Weekly that extended hours would take shearers work hours and conditions back to the 19th century. "It will increase unemployment amongst younger people because there will be fewer jobs. It also means the training of the younger blokes just will not happen. This is a real step backwards for shearers", Roach said.
The AWU-FIME coverage of the pastoral sector has declined to 15%. In Victoria and South Australia, it now has fewer financial members in the industry than the recently formed SRWU. The SRWU claims to be joining new members each week in South Australia, Victoria and NSW.
Currently the SRWU is awaiting official registration, so is unable to take part in the award restructuring discussions.
John Morgan, assistant secretary of the SRWU, told Green Left, "The AWU-FIME is in decline because it has repeatedly failed to communicate with the rank and file. While we don't promise miracles, the SRWU will provide far better representation to members through discussion, consultation and real accountability."