Talking union


  • Members of the former building workers (BWIU), united mineworkers (UMFA), engine drivers and firemen (FEDFA) unions and the small plaster workers union (OPPWFF) have voted overwhelmingly for the final major stage in an amalgamation process to form the 140,000 member Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. The amalgamation particularly strengthens the CFMEU's construction and mining divisions. The mining division, previously limited to the black coal industry and Broken Hill, will now have a presence in most states and most metallurgical mining areas.

ADELAIDE — Unions have reacted angrily to Premier John Bannon's plans to sell the South Australian Gas Company. The United Trades and Labor Council unanimously condemned the move, and the Federated Gas Employees Industrial Union is planning a midday rally on August 20, at Victoria Square. SAGASCO is one of South Australia's most profitable companies, and in 1988 the Bannon government gave an assurance that at least 80% of its shares would remain under government control. Privatisation of the company will mean a dramatic increase in the cost of gas for South Australians. Most of the $300 million price of the company would go towards paying off the State Bank debt. Gas workers' union spokesperson Russell Wortley says the sale "will be of no benefit whatsoever to the South Australian public. This is only the beginning: if the government can sell SAGASCO, what's to stop them selling off other companies?"

HOBART — In clashes over non-union labour that brought the Hobart waterfront to a standstill, 56 wharfies were arrested by August 10. The Waterside Workers' Federation picketed the fishing trawler Australian Leader after it attempted to unload its 240 tonnes of frozen fish using non-union labour.

MELBOURNE — Hospitality workers struck for 24 hours on August 10, and about 500 gathered outside Trades Hall and marched on the Industrial Relations Commission to oppose employer moves to scrap penalty rates for weekend work. The Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry is behind the move, which would also do away with loadings for part-time and casual work. Bar attendants could lose around $53 and waiters around $65 if the bosses get their way.