Talking union

May 27, 1992

Talking union

ADELAIDE — A mass meeting of vehicle workers from Mitsubishi's Tonsley Park and Lonsdale plants threw out a proposed enterprise agreement on May 22. The 3000 angry workers jeered VBEF union officials who supported the package, central to which is a 9




55D>-hour day, four-day week and a 7.5% wage rise over 18 months. The workers, who are the lowest paid in the vehicle industry, demanded an immediate, no-strings rise as a starting point for any enterprise agreement. Other demands included the right to accrued sick leave, a speedy end to award restructuring talks and long service leave after 10 years rather than 15. Negotiations on a new agreement are to start within 10 days.

MELBOURNE — Familiar faces such as Geraldine Turner, Jacki Weaver and Julia Blake were on the picket line on May 22 as plays and musicals around the country were delayed by actors' protests against employer attempts to impose individual contracts in place of the standard contract in operation since 1982. In return for a wage rise of around $60, the theatre bosses also want concessions including an end to rules protecting job opportunities for local actors. Some theatres, including Sydney's Belvoir Street, were not affected because they had reached satisfactory agreements with the actors. The recently amalgamated actors', theatre workers' and journalists' union warns that big-money productions like The Phantom of the Opera could be hit if the actors are forced into further industrial action.

  • About 1500 employees of the Victorian Gas and Fuel Corporation struck on May 20 and marched on Parliament House in protest against the Kirner government's proposed corporatisation of state-owned utilities. The workers fear this will mean more job cuts followed by privatisation. Several unions have written to Labor politicians threatening to end union support for the Labor Party. On May 19, the government introduced legislation to sell 40% of Loy Yang B, the state's most modern power plant.

  • State health service employees braved the rain on May 19 to protest outside state parliament against the Kirner government's revised Health Bill. According to unionists, the bill will enable the government to transfer dental therapists out of the public service, putting at risk the excellent public dental care program for primary school children. The protesters said that health minister Maureen Lyster had broken a promise to representatives of the State Public Service Federation that the bill would not be introduced in this session of parliament.

PERTH — Striking Qantas ground staff returned to work here on May 22 after the company reinstated two workers accused of stealing food from the catering service. The workers had taken some fruit and cakes for a tea break under a long-standing arrangement sanctioned by lower management but apparently unknown to the higher-ups. The strike forced the airline to cancel a number of international flights.

  • Unions in the WA construction industry are planning to take on the anti-union Buckeridge Group, which operates outside the award system. The union campaign was launched after a meeting of the AWU and electrical and transport workers. About half of the construction work force now operates in a completely deregulated labour market, which means hourly flat rates, piecework, no superannuation, no long service leave, no paid public holidays, no inclement weather pay, no paid annual leave and dubious workers' compensation cover. As three Labor Party housing ministers have gone along with this system over the past nine years, the unions are planning to establish pickets to force the issue.

SYDNEY — Members of the Telecom (ATEA) and postal workers (APTU) unions have voted for amalgamation into a new, 82,000-member Communication Workers' Union. A further amalgamation is projected with the smaller Telecommunications Officers' Association. Postal workers recently got a 3-4% pay rise in return for acceptance of a rationalisation plan that will eliminate 1500 out of 8000 jobs. The cuts will be achieved through attrition and voluntary redundancy. The deal includes elimination of penalty rates for late-night and weekend work at Australia Post's new post shops, and an increase in post agencies not staffed by the post office.

  • Eleven out of 25 remaining unions with fewer than 1000 members were called before the federal Industrial Relations Commission last week to explain why they shouldn't be deregistered under the new minimum membership requirement that became law in March. Seven said they were planning to amalgamate with larger unions and two were in the process of winding up, having transferred their members to other unions. The 500-member federation of Catholic school principals (AFPECS) wants exemption from the new law, and the international pilots' association (AIPA) says it has more than 1000 members.

  • The NSW Teachers Federation is considering industrial action over state government attempts to change the system of transfers. The federation fears the new system will increase the difficulties of teachers seeking to transfer from schools that are difficult to staff.

  • The clerks' union (FCU) is supporting a discrimination complaint by an employee of the NSW branch of the Red Cross Society. The pregnant worker was told she was not entitled to maternity leave and was later sacked. As well, the society retrenched 11 staff two days after assurances that no sackings were planned. There are also reports of employees being intimidated into leaving. The society is in the midst of a rationalisation drive, in which it recently closed a day care centre for underprivileged children.

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