The Guardian 20 July, 2005
Boeing hits turbulence
US aerospace giants are using the "corporate veil" to deny Aussie union members their share of millions of dollars in agreed bonuses. The Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) claims Hawker de Havilland, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boeing, is illegally discriminating against more than 1000 members employed at Port Botany and Port Melbourne.
Workers on collective agreements were shocked when the company denied them $1300 bonuses last year. The company confined payouts to workers on individual contracts and senior staff, and financial analysts believe this year's payouts could hit $3000 a head.
Payments under Boeing's Share Values Trust arrangement are triggered by the company's share price. The AMWU and APESMA (Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia) won the right to pursue discrimination action last month when Federal Court Justice Donnell Ryan granted them leave to file an amended claim, and to examine documents.
The documents controlling the Share Values Trust are held at Boeing's Seattle headquarters in the USA and its subsidiary has stone-walled efforts to see them.
"Hawker de Havilland hides behind the terms of the trust but has made it extremely difficult for anyone in Australia to see them", AMWU spokesman, Maurice Addison, said.
"We have been asking to see them for the last nine months, without success."
Essentially, Addison says, the company says it cannot be held accountable for arrangements entered into by its parent.
"Our claim is that it is unlawful, under Australian law, to discriminate against workers under the freedom of association provisions of the Workplace Relations Act", Mr Addison says.
"They are using the corporate veil to try to dodge their obligations under Australian law."
Justice Ryan rejected Hawker's bid to have the discrimination action thrown out. It has been set down for a directions hearing on September 9.
Meanwhile, locked out workers at Boeing Williamtown RAAF base are taking their campaign for a collective agreement global.
The International Metalworkers' Union has offered assistance to the locked out workers.
Those supporting the Boeing workers are writing letters of protest to the following people:
John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia
Senator Robert Hill, Federal Minister for Defence email@example.com
Kevin Andrews, Federal Minister for Workplace Relations Kevin.Andrews.firstname.lastname@example.org
David Gray, Managing Director, Boeing Australia Limited DL Contact BAL@AustraliaBoeing.com
WJames Mc Nerney, Chairman, President and CEO, Boeing World Headquarterswwwmail.email@example.com