Talking union

Wednesday, November 20, 1991

MELBOURNE — The Kirner government settled its dispute with the Federated Teachers Union of Victoria, which covers most primary and technical state school teachers, on November 15 after 12 weeks of bans and rolling strikes. The government promised to abide by industrial agreements, as it did two weeks earlier with the Victorian Secondary Teachers Association, the other major teachers' union. While both settlements promise no cuts to teacher numbers, announced education budget cuts will go ahead through cuts to school cleaning staff and public servants in the Education Department, deferral of certain pay increases due with the creation of advanced-skills teacher positions, deferral of teachers' study leave, and other measures. Teachers in Mildura have vowed to carry on industrial action against these cuts even though the unions have settled.

  • While persistent picketing by meatworkers forced the closure of the Troubleshooters Available contract-labour-operated Camperdown meatworks after only a few days' operation late last month, the National Farmers Federation appears determined to try to spread the anti-union practice. The NFF has contributed at least $10,000 from its fighting fund towards a video promoting contract labour. This follows an earlier $600,000 to Troubleshooters to take the Building Workers Industrial Union to court to ratify breaking award conditions through the practice of body hire.

  • Recent elections in the Federated Clerks' Union Victorian and north Queensland branches further weakened the right-wing old guard's decades-long hold on the union. The left-wing Victorian leadership, led by ALP Socialist Left figure Lindsay Tanner, was returned despite a strong challenge by the right. In north Queensland, the incumbent right-wing leadership was ousted by a non-affiliated rank and file group based in Mt Isa. Numbers on the union's national bodies will now be finely balanced, though the right still controls the main national officer positions.

  • Unions, employers and the Victorian government will make an unprecedented joint submission to the coming state wage case flowing out of the recent national wage decision. The submission will recommend procedures for enterprise bargaining in Victoria in the wake of the Liberals' blocking of the government's state Industrial Relations Bill in the upper house.

PERTH — Confrontationist tactics by Western Mining Corporation have led to strike action at the company's Kambalda nickel and gold operations. WMC is pressing for an eight-hour working day instead of the present 7 1/2, and seven-day continuous operation, rather than the present five-day week. The company, whose management is dominated by New Right ideologists, claims to have been forced to shelve $105 million expansion plans due to the union action. It was not offering higher rates of pay in return for the longer hours it was demanding.

SYDNEY — In recent ballot, members of the 600-strong commercial and industrial artists' association (ACIAA) have voted to join the Australian Journalists' Association. The move is in response to a hat the registration of unions with fewer than 10,000 members will be assessed by the Industrial Relations Commission in 1993-94. The amalgamation is the first step towards a media alliance in which the journalists will unite with two theatrical unions.

  • The ironworkers' union (FIMEE) has asked the federal Industrial Relations Commission for "principal" status in the metal manufacturing industry. Under plans to streamline the union movement, unions accorded principal status will be entitled to enroll all workers in that industry. The ironworkers' move could signal a major struggle with the metalworkers' union (MEWU). Both are large unions, with more than 100,000 members.

  • The Civil Aviation Authority has begun staff reductions that will cut its 7300-strong workforce by half over the next five years. Public sector unions have negotiated a voluntary redundancy package similar to that for workers in the private aviation industry. The package offers two weeks' pay for each of the first five years of service and three weeks for every year above that, with an upper limit of 72 weeks.
Issue