Victory for rope workers


By Geoff Spencer
MELBOURNE — After 11 days of 24-hour picketing, workers at the Geelong factory of rope manufacturer Kinnears Pty Ltd have won a victory. Most of the 80 workers were earning $8.97 an hour, with a small bonus on top of that. Earlier this year, Kinnears offered them a "claytons pay rise" of 4% which would have been taken out of the bonus. The workers wanted the unfair bonus system to be incorporated into a higher all-purpose rate, and an upgrading of the skill levels.
While the workers at the Geelong factory rejected the offer at Footscray they accepted the terms of the agreement. It seems that the major reason was because the right-dominated Australian Workers Union/Federation of Industrial, Manufacturing and Engineering Employees (AWU/FIMEE) covers those workers.
The Geelong factory, sick of AWU/FIMEE sweetheart deals with management, had recently switched to the metalworkers branch of the Automotive, Metals and Engineering Union (AMEU), a decision disapproved of by Kinnears management. After three months of fruitless negotiations, Kinnears locked out the Geelong workers on September 13.
In what shop steward Harry Skinner described as "a first" for the Geelong factory workers, they established a picket line outside the Footscray factory, involving a 150 kilometre round trip for most of the workers staffing it. Despite this hardship, the workers were determined to tough it out.
On September 28, Kinnears gave in and the workers successfully renegotiated a new enterprise agreement which will gradually eliminate the archaic bonus system and give the rope workers a 7% wage rise. They will also be allowed to join the union of their choice.

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