ADELAIDE — A mass meeting of 1300 bus drivers on March 24 overwhelmingly rejected a deal between the state government and their union (ATMOEA). The deal came out of negotiations on government threats of savage cutbacks to Adelaide's bus services. Drivers are demanding that no services be cut and that plans for privatisation of some routes be dropped. Under the rejected deal, 100 jobs would be cut, earlier starting times would be introduced for 12-hour shifts, other shifts would be extended by up to 40 minutes, drivers' duties would be extended to include refuelling and washing buses, and some penalty rates would be dropped. In return, the State Transport Authority would agree not to oppose a 4.5% pay rise. After the deal was rejected, officials were able to prevent a motion of no confidence in the leadership being put to the meeting, but such a motion is likely to go to the union's annual general meeting on April 12.
BRISBANE — General staff at the major Brisbane universities struck for 24 hours on March 25 over employer demands for a minimum rates award, which could cut pay for many staff by attacking over-award payments. The strike went ahead despite an Industrial Commission recommendation that all strike action be suspended until the commission resumes hearing the case on April 24. The strikers voted overwhelmingly to continue their campaign for a paid rates award, and refused to rule out further strike action. Another stop-work meeting has been scheduled for April 8.
PERTH — The Construction Mining and Energy Union here has disaffiliated from the ALP. For several years the union, under the leadership of Bill Ethell, has been at odds with the right-wing Labor government over many issues. It was particularly displeased with Labor's position on the East Timor massacre, and also opposed the Lawrence government's recent juvenile crime legislation. Several smaller unions in WA have already disaffiliated from the ALP, but is this the first large, strategically important organisation to make the break.
- The Construction Mining and Energy Union (CMEU) and the Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) rank and file in WA have had two successful joint meetings on the road to eventual amalgamation. The two unions have also organised a joint unemployed building workers' group, which has taken action against rogue employers in the industry.
SYDNEY — Telecom workers gathered outside Telecom Plaza in Pitt St on March 25 to oppose privatisation of the service's manufacturing arm, Telecom Industries, with the loss of 1200 jobs. The sale is scheduled to take place by mid-April. The Telecom union ATEA/ATPOA says 8000 jobs have already gone in the past two years through technological change and reorganisation. The union says morale is low among the remaining 80,000 employees. On March 21 the Victorian state conference of the ALP expressed grave concern over the proposed sell-off.
- The NSW Labor Council claims the state wage case, delivered on March 20, stands in contradiction to the Greiner government's draconian new industrial relations laws due to Assistant secretary Peter Sams told Labor Council the judgment stands opposed to the government's approach to enterprise bargaining by recognising a role for public interest advocacy and trade unions, including the Labor Council. The Labor Council has also allocated $21,500 for what it describes as a small but effective campaign against the government's privatisation drive.