By Sue Bolton
MELBOURNE — On July 3, the Victorian Trades Hall Council called a second delegates rally to discuss the campaign to protect award pay and conditions, and to discuss attacks on apprentice and trainee wages. Some 1500 workers and delegates attended, including a large contingent of electrical apprentices from the Electrical Trades Union.
Under the Workplace Relations Bill, apprentices and trainees would be paid only for time spent on the job, not for time spent training. Dean Mighell, state secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, described wage reductions of 20% as "a crime — it must be opposed. We have a responsibility as unionists to look out for each other."
The meeting also heard from ACTU president Jenny George; Joe Riordon, former Industrial Relations Commission deputy president; and Anna Harvey, a carpentry apprentice. George Crawford, previous state secretary of the plumbers' union, talked about the original campaign in 1944 for paid training for apprentices.
The meeting voted to begin the campaign with a statewide day of action, including a stoppage, on Wednesday, July 31. Leigh Hubbard from the VTHC expects 15,000-30,000 workers to attend the rally. The Australian Education Union, waterside workers and emergency service workers have decided to strike for 24 hours on July 31.
Two supplementary motions moved from the floor were carried with no debate. One called for a 24-hour national strike as part of the ACTU's "cavalcade to Canberra" on August 19. The other sought to commit the ACTU to reject the Liberal government's proposed industrial relations legislation outright.
While the ACTU gives the impression that it is against the legislation, the ACTU petition to the Senate accepts the proposed system of Australian Workplace Agreements as long as they are able to be scrutinised by the IRC.