Strike wave hits over jobs, wages



BRISBANE — Stoppages and pickets are breaking out in the electricity and building industries around Queensland, as unions campaign for improved enterprise bargaining agreements, focusing on key issues such as wages, job security and training.

Four thousand regional Queensland electricity supply workers will strike for 24 hours on July 11, to demand that Ergon Energy, the government power corporation responsible for all areas outside south-east Queensland, negotiate an acceptable agreement.

Electrical Trades Union organiser Peter Simpson said on July 2: "This action is in response to Ergon Energy's new industrial philosophy of improving their bottom line at the expense of their employees."

Unions have rejected Ergon's offer of a 3% pay rise.

Simpson said within five years regional Queensland would face an energy supply crisis similar to the one that has hit California in recent months because of a shortage of skilled workers.

He claimed Ergon was cutting apprentice numbers and making experienced tradespeople redundant.

Meanwhile, 700 building workers walked off state government construction sites on July 6 to demand Peter Beattie's Labor government enforce its own code of practice on all government construction sites.

Workers from the Building Trades Group of Unions struck at major sites, including the Royal Brisbane and Women's hospitals and the Maryborough Prison.

The workers were supporting union members at Nambour Hospital, where contractors have been refusing to sign an acceptable new enterprise agreement.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union construction section state secretary Wally Trohear said, "If the state government's code of practice for its construction sites is not enforced at all sites then it won't be long before workers everywhere start to suffer."