Tony Carvalho, an Australian Manufacturing Workers Union metal division shop steward sacked from the Altona Toyota plant, says that in the three months since he has been sacked, the use of outside contractors to work at the plant has increased dramatically. Speaking to Green Left Weekly, Carvalho said the number of contractors who are being called in threatens full-time jobs at the plant.
Under the site's enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA), preference is given to contractors that have an EBA with the union. Carvalho explained that while he was the head shop steward, the regular meeting over contractors usually had a list of contractors a page long to review. "Now that's blown out to two or three pages", he said. "Contracting out is a sure sign that they are looking at downsizing."
Carvalho also reported that, according to his contacts inside the plant, management is starting to introduce time sheets to monitor what maintenance workers do in-between breakdowns. "This is just the thin end of the wedge", he explained, "to show they don't need so many people to do maintenance".
Carvalho was sacked on May 3 along with occupational health and safety representative Shane Blackney on a series of dubious misconduct charges. Since then, the two have camped out every day at the front of the plant with banners reading "Shame Toyota".
The charges against Blackney and Carvalho originally arose from complaints made by two employees, one of whom had been a strikebreaker when workers successfully struck against the attempted sacking of another delegate in August 2006. Toyota conducted a lengthy investigation that included an independent arbitrator — a retired judge who told Carvalho that there was no case against him based on the evidence he had seen.
Carvalho was charged on three counts by management. Firstly, he was accused of making "vexatious claims" when management asked him about an incident involving one of the two complainants who was involved in an altercation with another employee. Carvalho responded that he had witnessed the incident, which was later described as a "vexatious" allegation.
The second charge against Carvalho was that when questioned by a manager about another worker's conduct, he had responded "I have to be careful what I say".
The last charge was that in November 2006 he had held the two complainants in a lunch room to abuse them and had threatened violence against them as they were being let out. When it was found that Carvalho had been in a meeting with management at the time of the alleged incident, management claimed that the same incident had occurred on a different date, and then admitted that it didn't happen but that management believed he had made the same threats at some time.
Blackney and Carvalho maintain their protest in front of Toyota in Grieve Parade, Altona and welcome visits from supporters from around 6am until late afternoon.