On April 9, some 700 workers employed at the Port Melbourne-based Boeing subsidiary Hawker de Havilland went on strike. They were protesting against the company's April 7 sacking of an Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) member without going through the agreed dispute-settlement procedure. The HDH plant makes parts for Boeing's new 787 airliner.
The striking workers have defied an April 9 industrial commission order against industrial action, and an April 11 Federal Court ruling ordering a return to work. Their defiance of these orders could lead to the strikers being hit with hefty individual fines.
The AMWU could also be hit with fines of up to $1.3 million per day if its officials are in any way involved, or are seen to be in support of the striking workers
Boeing management alleges that the sacked worker practised "irregular" time-recordings. However, according to co-workers, the swipe card time-keeping system has been fraught with problems ever since it was commissioned and has been responsible for some 11,000 errors in the past year. The problem had been raised with management on numerous occasions by union delegates without results.
Workers at the plant believe that Boeing wants to use the current dispute in a broader campaign to replace its unionised work force with non-union casual workers and "independent" contractors.
The company has been trying to sow confusion among the strikers by sending letters to their homes encouraging them to return to work and blaming the AMWU for the impasse in negotiations. Boeing has also denounced the Union Solidarity group for backing the strike with a 24-hour picket of the HDH plant.
The workers have held regular report-back meetings on the picket line and at an onsite mass meeting on April 18 they voted overwhelmingly to continue the strike until Boeing is prepared to negotiate with their union.
Participants at an April 17 Your Rights at Work forum, organised by the ACTU and Victorian Trades Hall Council, pledged to support the struggle at the HDH plant after a delegation of striking workers addressed the meeting.
If you can assist with funds, food or picket support contact Union Solidarity at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.