The following is a statement, being distributed by the Democratic Socialist Party, in support of the BHP workers in the Pilbara.
We, the undersigned, extend our support and solidarity to striking workers at BHP Pilbara in their action to defend the right to collective bargaining.
On January 19, police charged the picket line at BHP's Newman mine wielding batons. This led to the hospitalisation of several unionists. A number of picketers were arrested.
There was further police violence at Newman and Port Hedland as police cleared the way for scabs to cross the picket line. Again, several union officials and striking workers were arrested and one worker hospitalisation after being struck by a vehicle.
BHP, the so-called Big Australian, is clearly using its push towards individual contracts as a wedge to further undermine worker and union rights. The fact that BHP is refusing to negotiate on a new enterprise agreement is evidence of this.
The financial incentives and significant superannuation benefits being offered to workers to sign up to individual contracts are blatant bribes aimed at dividing the work force. BHP has publicly reported that this will save it more than it will need to spend in inducing workers to sign the contracts.
BHP obviously wants to use this tactic to cut jobs and reduce conditions once it succeeds in breaking collective bargaining. This is the same BHP that closed its doors on communities in Newcastle and Whyalla.
The push for individual contracts is not a new or unique tactic. Big business, supported by the government of the day, whether Liberal or Labor, has had similar goals in many other industrial disputes; going back to Mudginberri, Robe River, Weipa and the Patrick waterfront dispute.
We know from the experience of these other disputes, especially in remote locations, like Weipa, that rallies and solidarity actions in the cities are a necessary adjunct to the determination of striking workers.
We will continue to motivate and support the union and community solidarity action that is necessary to defend the fundamental right of workers to collectively organise and bargain through their union. An attack on one is an attack on us all.
Solidarity and good luck with your actions.
[To attach your signature, e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>, fax (02) 9690 1381 or write to PO Box 515, Broadway, NSW 2007.]