Talking Union

September 4, 1991

MELBOURNE — The Kirner government's budget, delivered on August 17, confirmed plans to cut 10,000 public services jobs, privatise $900 million worth of government assets, increase the cost of public transport, and introduce charges for outpatient treatment at public hospitals. So far only the teachers' unions, whose members stand to lose 1650 jobs, have announced industrial action against the cuts. Rolling half-day strikes will be complemented by a statewide stoppage on September 12. The South Australian and Western Australian budgets have announced job cuts of 3300 and 2000, respectively.

The Commonwealth Bank plans to shed up to 4000 jobs in a major reorganisation. Many of these sackings will be in the State Bank of Victoria, which the Commonwealth bought out last year. The first 489 sackings will be in management levels. The Financial Sector Union has called a stop-work for September 3 to discuss action.

NEWCASTLE — Eight unions at Port Waratah Coal Services, the world's largest coal loading operation, have agreed to sweeping changes involving multi-skilling and multi-tasking. Job classifications have been reduced to five. In return, the 205 workers are guaranteed job security for three years. The enterprise deal follows a shift in the workforce from the Hunter Port Authority to the coal company. It will probably set some precedents for other waterfront agreements.

PERTH — A survey of 300 Perth office workers reveals that more than half are concerned about air quality in their workplace. Other concerns were temperature, stuffiness and lighting. About 38% had taken time off because of illness due to their work environment. Jim Robertson of Healthy Buildings International said the workers' views were supported by air quality tests, and many offices were poorly ventilated and unhygienic. The most common symptoms included tiredness, headaches, flu-like symptoms, blocked or stuffy noses, dry throats and watery eyes.

SYDNEY — The truce between the right and left factions of the clerks' union (FCU) is under threat following the late nomination of supposedly breakaway right-wing candidates against the left-wing Victorian leadership. The two factions had agreed not to oppose incumbent leaderships in the next round of elections because of difficulties facing the union as a result of the ACTU's amalgamation plans.

The federal court has dismissed a challenge to the amalgamation of the building workers' union (BWIU) and the timber workers union (ATAIU). While there had been irregularities in the timber workers' ballot, the court ruled that these had not influenced the overall result, which was 57% in favour of

amalgamation. This decision means BWIU elections scheduled for this year will now be delayed until 1993 under the rules of the new union.

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