Win for Kennon Auto workers

July 23, 2010
Photo: Sue Bolton.

The Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union ended its 20-day strike at Kennon Auto on July 20 after voting for a new agreement with a 10% pay rise and protection for the union’s conditions.

Kennon Auto used to be part of the now-liquidated Nylex group. The new owner, Maggie Dong, at first refused to negotiate a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) with the union.

Management provoked the strike by calling workers individually into the office to sign an EBA written by the company in front of management. The agreement had only a “Yes” box and no “No” box in which to vote. The agreement was not translated into different languages spoken by workers at Kennon Auto.

Initially, Dong was dismissive of the strike and protest. But once trucks were stopped from entering the factory for seven days, the company knew it was in trouble.

Kennon Auto supplies floor carpets and boot liners to Toyota. It is believed Toyota exerted pressure on Kennon Auto to resolve the dispute when it had only three days of stock left.

The new agreement provides better conditions at Kennon Auto. There are no longer two rates of pay and conditions, and two classes of workers on the site. There is now a limit on the number of casual workers and the length of casual employment.

The company can no longer ask workers if they are “genuinely” sick when they apply for sick days. The company cannot change hours without workers’ agreement to “meet the needs of the client”. The redundancy package proposed by the company has been improved and workers are no longer forced to sign the agreement in the bosses’ office.

This victory shows it is possible to win against bosses with Dickensian “master-servant” attitudes if workers are prepared to take strike action.

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