BY GRAHAM WILLIAMS
MELBOURNE More than 700 workers mobilised on July 3 at Footscray's Whitten Oval, as part of a campaign to win a new enterprise bargaining agreement across the Victorian manufacturing industry.
This round of pattern bargaining agreements, known as Campaign 2003, involves several different unions, including the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Australian Workers Union. Most of the meeting's participants were members of the metal and vehicle sections of the AMWU.
Workers from one company were offered $1200 if they did not go to the mass meeting. There was huge applause when Steve Dargavel, assistant secretary of the Victorian AMWU, announced they had scorned the bosses' dirty tactics to come.
Dargavel also commented that some workers hadn't attended because they had already had success. He reported that more than 160 companies had finalised agreements with shorter hours and/or secure workers' entitlements. Key demands of Campaign 2003 are a 36-hour work week and the securing of entitlements, such as holiday, sick and redundancy pay, in a trust fund.
"The employers and the Australian Industry Group claim that the agreement has only been successful in construction. This is simply not right, and has been proved not right", said Dargavel. He explained that more than 40 manufacturing companies had committed to delivering a 36-hour work week.
Other speakers at the meeting included AMWU state secretary Dave Oliver, who spoke about campaign tactics and the bosses' use of lockouts against workers; AMWU national secretary Doug Cameron, who described the success of the Morris McMahon picket in Sydney; and the assistant state secretary of the ETU.
The stop-work meeting followed a June 12 24-hour stop work.
In 2003, Victorian manufacturing workers have faced more lockouts than have occurred for many years. Currently, workers are locked out at ACI Box Hill, KSB Ajax Pumps in Tottenham and Bendix Mintex in Ballarat. The lockout tactic is an attempt to shock and scare workers into returning to work on the bosses' terms. In many cases, however, this has backfired, as, with union support, workers simply become more determined to win.
The workers at KSB Ajax Pumps were locked out on July 1, after workers implemented rolling stoppages in four 10-minute blocks a day. The metalworkers at the factory are in the AMWU and the store workers are with the National Union of Workers. They are fighting first of all for job security the company's work has been increasingly contracted out. During the last few years, a major workshop that would build a whole pump has become one that makes minor adjustments to pumps made in Asia.
The workers want their entitlements secured and decent redundancy packages guaranteed. One worker had been with the company 36 years and never been locked out before.
Six-hundred workers at Bendix Mintex who make brake linings for most of the car industry were locked out for a week from June 23. The workers returned to work after the Industrial Relations Commission ruled that the company had issued the lockout notice incorrectly. The original lockout was due to be for a month. An assessment from the AMWU was that the company couldn't last for more than three to five days with the stock that they had on hand.
Production and maintenance workers at McCain Foods were locked out for four days from July 4. The workers are covered by the foods division of the AMWU. They are fighting for similar claims to Campaign 2003.
Workers at ACI Box Hill have now been locked out since early May and electricians at Smorgon Steel have now been on strike for more than four months.