Union battle looms over WA mines
By Geoff Spencer
PERTH — With the announcement of merger talks between the WA branches of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) and the Metal and Engineering Workers Union (MEWU), battle lines have been drawn over coverage of workers in the state's mining industry. The proposal follows amalgamation talks between the Electrical, Foundry and Engineering Union (AEEFEU) and the Construction, Mining and Energy Union (CMEU).
The AEEFEU-CMEU amalgamation could challenge ACTU plans for the WA mining industry, for which the AWU claims principal status. The AWU-MEWU merger would unite up to 45,000 workers in one of the state's most powerful unions and dramatically boost the right wing in the WA Trades and Labor Council.
Union structures in WA differ from those in most other states. The AEEFEU and the CMEU both grew out of amalgamations that took place in WA and not elsewhere. Both are significant unions in the mining industry.
The CMEU is linked with the national Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), and in recent months mineworkers in both NSW and Tasmania have moved to leave the MEWU and the AWU to join the CFMEU and the FEDFA, which is soon to vote on amalgamation with the CFMEU.