By Dick Nichols
SYDNEY — The long-running campaign by the Australian Chamber of Manufactures to turn the dispute at the Vista Paper Products plant in outer Sydney into a precedent-setting smashing of working conditions is beginning to run out of steam.
The dispute began 30 weeks ago, when 39 workers at the plant were sacked for refusing to sign individual contracts which increased their ordinary hours of work by five hours per week, cut their pay by about a dollar an hour and cut out all their rostered days off.
The ACM has backed the Vista management all the way. Its main aim has been to eliminate any recourse to industrial tribunals on the part of the workers. If it succeeds, the way will be open for other bosses to cut working conditions and wages without fear of being hauled before the court.
Management's chief tactic has been to try to break the will of the picketing workers with endless legal hassles and threats of common law action against individual workers and their union, the Printing and Kindred Industries Union.
But the 24-hour picket stands firm, despite continued threats and harassment, including one gun shot and a rock thrown through the window of the bus used by the picketing unionists.
Vista management has lost its appeal against the jurisdiction in the case of deputy president Joe Riordan of the Industrial Relations Commission. The way is now open — after 30 weeks! — for a hearing of the substance of the dispute. The employer's "case" looks to be in trouble.
But the Vista workers are not relaxing. A September 17 march from Penrith shopping centre to the Vista plant in protest against Greiner's proposed industrial "law of the jungle" is their latest move in a campaign of resistance that will continue until justice prevails. n
Can You Help? Financial support for the Vista workers should be sent to: "Vista Pulp and Paper Lockout Fund", PKIU, 594-596 Crown Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010.