Talking union

Wednesday, August 28, 1991

ADELAIDE — Workers occupied part of the Workcare building here during a 600-strong protest in freezing winds and hailstorms on August 23. The building workers, cleaners and corrective service employees were protesting against proposed changes to the workers' compensation act. The government is proposing to reduce employer contributions to the workers' comp scheme.

The Miscellaneous Workers Union (FMWU) is seeking IRC approval for unionisation and award coverage of about 11,000 people with disabilities employed in workshops, some of whom are now paid less than $20 for a 40-hour week.

The Westpac banking group is asking for volunteers for retrenchment following its announcement that it will slice another 300 jobs, after earlier job cuts. In previous cutbacks, the group offered voluntary redundancy and redeployment schemes.

MELBOURNE — Oil industry workers in Queensland and NSW last week took strike action to press the Industrial Relations Commission to accept their Accord Mark VI deal. Workers on the Sydney picket line were photographed and threatened with legal action. Victorian workers decided to await the outcome of the hearing, but a statewide mass meeting had accepted an official National Union of Workers resolution for a claim including a 2.4% or $12 pay increase with back pay of $350-$450, a travel and location allowance increase from $10.40 to $12.90 and rejection of the ACTU-oil company plan for a new award scheme.

A subdued mass meeting at Shell's Geelong refinery accepted the companies' award restructuring proposals on August 16 in return for a 15% wage rise. The deal will make at least 37 plant operators and four emergency response team members redundant. Other trade-offs include amalgamation of special allowances, monthly payment of annually calculated pay, an end to taxi fares for workers on overtime, and a simplification of safety procedures. Australian Workers Union officials told workers trade-offs were necessary in the current economic conditions.

On August 21, the ACTU executive approved the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation as the sole union allowed to operate at Toyota's planned new Melbourne car-manufacturing plant. The VBEF will cover everyone from tradespeople to clerks to engineers. ACTU policy is to accept single union representation at all "greenfield" projects to encourage investment.

SYDNEY — Operators at the Kurnell refinery have obtained pay rises of 7-11% (their first in nearly three years) in return for agreement to restructure their award. AWU officials

worked out a deal which includes 25% redundancies, automation and computerisation of shutdown procedure (the control of which gave unions considerable power) and agreement to participate in "information-sharing" sessions to build a "bridge of trust" between management and employees.

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