Shell workers buck award restructuring

Wednesday, June 19, 1991 - 10:00

By David Mizon

MELBOURNE — A mass meeting of all unions at Shell's Geelong site unanimously rejected the company's award restructuring proposals on June 6.

Shell had offered a 13.3% pay rise in return for: acceptance of the "production zone" concept which will place greater responsibilities on console operators; 37 redundancies from reorganisation of work; "multi-discipline teams", meaning that console operators assist maintenance workers or even do maintenance work during "quiet periods"; abolition of taxi fares home after overtime; abolition of telephone disturbance allowances, travelling money and the free shift bus; changeover to monthly pay and a 12-hour shift roster.

Management told workers they should accept the offer "while we feel generous". To add pressure, the company threatened shop stewards at a "crisis meeting" it summoned that workers might be stood down if, during the mass meeting, operators attempted to hand over running of the plant to engineers and supervisors.

As the meeting approached, engineers and supervisors disappeared, thus preventing a large number of operators from attending.

This tactic infuriated workers. The company's proposals were rejected, and a motion from the floor urged that restructuring be rejected in favour of a more direct wage campaign. ACTU secretary Bill Kelty, chairing the meeting, ruled out the motion because the union had accepted three earlier payments in return for restructuring.

Kelty accepted the rejection of Shell's proposals and urged workers to "bide their time". Shell is believed to be working on a new proposal which retains most of its former demands.

From GLW issue 17