TCFUA workers do it with Flair



MELBOURNE — Workers at Flair Menswear Preston, manufacturers of Hugo Boss fashions, held a victory barbecue on the morning of March 18, after a two-week picket.

A planned solidarity sausage sizzle at the factory's three gates with construction and manufacturing union members became a victory feast when the employers decided to settle in the workers' favour late on March 17.

Management gave in to the workers, who were sacked by Flair management and were demanding: four weeks' redundancy pay each year for those workers who had been employed at Flair for less than four years; three weeks' pay per year for those who had been employed for more than four years; pro-rata long service leave entitlements after five years' work; holiday and sick leave; and payment for their final month, including the fortnight spent on the picket line.

Victor Brincat, one of the workers, said that on the picket "we shed a lot of tears but we shed a lot of fears". Anamaria Ianncona movingly described the solidarity the picketing workers received from other unionists. Dean Mighell from the Electrical Trades Union and Leigh Hubbard from the Victorian Trades Hall Council gave toasts at the celebration.

Mighell declared that the workers' victory was an example of "unionism at its best". "No one will walk away from this and not be a unionist forever", he said. Hubbard congratulated the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia for an intelligent and militant campaign. The workers applauded TCFUA organisers Michelle O'Neil and Jenny Kruschel.

Throughout the struggle, the employers tried to get trucks through the picket line to remove goods from the factory. Two people were injured in separate violent attacks by the employers. One protester suffered grazing and bruising as he was flung onto a fence, while a woman was pushed in front of a truck and had to be taken to hospital. Both are likely to take legal action against the owners of the company.

The mostly women workers also faced intimidatory tactics by police. At one stage, four busloads of cops descended on a group of 10 women and violently broke up their picket. However, when a company director assaulted a picketer, the sergeant on duty refused to take action.

The guest of honour at the celebration breakfast was Lulu, the canine champion of the working class. On March 13, Lulu was helping block a company director from leaving by the main gate when the automatic electronic gates closed on his car, ruining the front panel. "We love Lulu" was the chant.

From Green Left Weekly, March 27, 2002.
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