By Kerry Vernon
BRISBANE — More than 300 women workers at Triumph International women's underwear factories at Ipswich and Wynnum went on strike from October 26. The strike is in response to the refusal of the company (trading as the House of Jenyns) to discuss a reasonable redundancy package following the shock announcement that it would close its production operations in Australia next June and move them to Asia.
The workers have set up a 24-hour picket. Green Left Weekly spoke to Janice Mayes, president of the Australian Services Union clerical division, on the picket line at Wynnum.
"There has been a long history of disputes with the House of Jenyns. After nine months of bargaining, we finally reached an agreement on enterprise bargaining on an interim increase, and the very next week the company informs us they were closing their production units.
"We immediately attempted to negotiate a redundancy package because we thought we had until June next year. The company started laying people off virtually immediately and refused to strike process deals with the union."
According to Mayes, the company then made two offers that were unacceptable to the members. One was the award minimum and the other discriminated against the longer term workers.
Mass meetings were held. Union members asked for two weeks' pay for each year of service and payment for accrued sick leave.
The company then walked out of negotiations, and later attempted to intimidate the union members by physically removing union officials from a meeting and threatening to liquidate the company and sack everyone. Further mass meetings were held, and union members decided to strike.
"The strike is about a fair and reasonable redundancy package for these people. The reality is the company is closing down here because they want to import cheap Asian imports and to increase their profits tenfold", said Mayes.
On October 27 two striking workers were hurt as two cars accelerated through the picket line at the Wynnum factory. Later in the afternoon police wagons were used to escort six non-striking workers through the picket line.
The Textile Union has rejected the company's assertion that Australian labour costs are too high and the reason that Triumph is relocating its factories. Union state secretary Rob Davis said that the closure is really an excuse to continue an international restructuring program. There had always been labour cost differences between Australia and Asia.
Messages of support can be sent to the unions involved: the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union, the National Union of Workers and the Australian Services Union (Queensland branches).