Shearers union recognised
By Ray Fulcher
MELBOURNE — Following formal recognition of the Shearers and Rural Workers Union (SRWU) by the Victorian Employee Relations Commission on December 23, the union is now set to seek registration in other states and federally.
Rural workers now covered by the SRWU include shearers, fruit and vegetable pickers and dairy industry workers. According to the SRWU general secretary Stephen Roach, cases for further registration are already "in the pipeline".
The "rebel" union formed last May following the decision of a meeting of shearing industry representatives to break from the Australian Workers Union-Federation of Industrial, Manufacturing and Engineering Employees. While the split is seen as a rejection of ACTU "super unions", it also reflected "strong disenchantment with a lazy union leadership supporting award trade-offs under the guise of enterprise flexibility".
Registration of the breakaway SRWU was opposed by AWU-FIMEE, the Woolclassers Association, Victorian Trades Hall Council and the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry despite the union covering more shearing industry members than the AWU-FIMEE Victorian and SA branches combined.
Meetings of SRWU members in Victoria and NSW have resolved to defend their working conditions from National Farmers Federation/AWU-FIMEE "enterprise flexibility agreements" which, among other things, could force shearers to work an extra two hours a day. Meetings in both states condemned any proposals for award trade-offs — no matter who proposed them — and voted to "actively oppose any further measures for so called enterprise flexibility".
In a motion rare in the union movement in this age of enterprise bargaining, the shearers declared, "This meeting recognises the need for stable, enforceable, uniform and fair standards across the entire national shearing industry and pledges to fight to preserve what little we have as minimum standards and where possible improve them for this and future generations of shearing industry workers".
The meeting authorised the union executive to call mass stop-work meetings to consider further industrial action should any more agreements be made "without our involvement and consent".