By Peter Boyle
MELBOURNE — Outgoing officials of the Victorian branch of the Transport Workers Union, along with office staff and organisers, ended a week-long occupation of the union's offices on September 4. The dispute erupted after the incoming right-wing leadership froze the accounts of several outgoing officials and union employees to block their redundancy and other pay entitlements. The occupation ended after these payments were guaranteed.
Outgoing left-wing TWU state secretary Chris Keily told Green Left Weekly that he believed there were irregularities in the recently completed elections in the branch. He knew of 856 members who had reported not receiving ballot papers. While the left lost the leadership of the state branch, it won the two federal leadership positions. Keily intends to lodge a challenge to the result.
On September 1 Keily rejected an offer in the industrial court to honour his pay entitlements but not those of other employees.
Other outgoing organisers said they expected to be black-banned in the industry. Already, according to former organiser Denis Evans, nine TWU shop stewards have been sacked from their jobs with various transport companies. This was the sort of thing that happened when the right wing last held the leadership of the TWU, he said.
During the election campaign, he added, his car tyres had been slashed six times, his 13-year-old son had been threatened, and two bricks had been thrown through windows in his home. The wives of several outgoing officials had received threatening phone calls.
The right-wing leadership of the National Union of Workers is believed to have contributed to a $150,000 campaign by the TWU right. The Victorian branch last year voted against amalgamation with the NUW.