Talking union

Wednesday, August 7, 1991

MELBOURNE — Ford Australia announced on August 1 that it would cut about 550 jobs in its Broadmeadows and Geelong plants partly through voluntary redundancies because it was halving its production of Capri sports cars. The Vehicle Builders Union is not opposing the cutbacks and has agreement with management on redundancy packages. Some of the Broadmeadow plant's most militant shop stewards were dismissed a month ago. Ford has retrenched a total of 2700 workers in the last seven months.

As ACTU secretary Bill Kelty launched another verbal attack on the Industrial Relations Commission for rejecting Accord Mark VI, a much-touted "victory" for the ACTU's campaign to win the deal through direct negotiations with employers — the public service pay deal — faltered. The Public Service Union has threatened industrial action following the Hawke government's rejection of the pay deal negotiated over the last few months. The government is demanding further trade-offs in return for the promise of productivity payments. These include more contract and casual employment, provision for compulsory redundancies in awards and the abolition of promotion appeal rights. According to PSU secretary Peter Robson, the government is also backing away from a promise to backdate the $12 first instalment to May 16.

Metal unions appeared divided when their renegotiated pay deal with employers went before the Industrial Relations Commission on August 1. The Federation of Industrial, Manufacturing and Engineering Employees and the Electrical Trades Union broke with the Metal and Engineering Workers Union to argue that the first pay instalment of 2.5% be handled separately from the subsequent enterprise bargaining productivity payments. The MEWU has threatened to walk out of the hearing if the latter payments are delayed.

The Public Sector Union, the Professional Radio and Electronic Institute of Australia and the Professional Officers Association have begun an industrial campaign to fight a plan by the Civil Aviation Authority to halve its 7000-strong workforce. The unions say that the job cuts will threaten air safety. Joint stop-work meetings have been called for August 5 and 6.

SYDNEY — Motor registry workers have launched a campaign of work bans in protest against Roads and Traffic Authority plans to cut its workforce by 2000. The officers will refuse to work overtime and will not prepare offices before customers arrive.

The federal Attorney General's Department has notified a committee on enterprise bargaining in the public service that it is prepared to adopt a plan under which overtime would be abolished, pay would be negotiated individually on the basis of productivity, annual pay

rises would be scrapped, and job security would also go. The PSU says it is completely opposed to the plan and will come up with its own enterprise bargaining model.

Industrial Relations Commission judges are unhappy with last year's decision to discontinue the link between their pay and that of Federal Court judiciary. They are campaigning for a restoration of the nexus, which enabled them to escape the financial consequences of their own wage-freezing judgments. The commissioners are apparently feeling the pinch, with IRC president Justice Maddern struggling by on $143,000 a year, while a deputy president finds the going even tougher on $131,000.

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