The Guardian 17 August, 2005

Boeing workers’ protest trek

About 20 maintenance engineers locked in an industrial dispute with their employer, Boeing, went to Parliament House in Canberra last week to call on the Howard government to support their right to choose a collective agreement in their workplace. Thirty-one Boeing workers at the RAAF base at Williamtown near Newcastle had been on strike for 75 days as The Guardian went to press.

"These qualified technicians, who maintain the RAAF’s fighter jets, have been taking legal industrial action for ten weeks now, which hasn’t been easy on them or their families", said Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) National Secretary Bill Shorten.

"They’ve decided to make the trek to Canberra because they are fed up with the government ignoring their plight, or worse still, rubbing their noses in it.

"John Howard is spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars on advertisements telling us one of the key points of the government’s IR proposals is to ‘preserve the right of workers to have a union negotiate a collective agreement if they wish’.

"Well, our members have clearly demonstrated they want the right to a collective agreement, rather than being forced to stay on unfair and discriminatory individual contracts."

But in Federal Parliament last week Howard made his position crystal clear, stating that Boeing was "within its rights" to refuse to negotiate a collective agreement.

The AWU says the existing contracts are in breach of the principle of equal pay for equal work, as Boeing was paying the workers up to $2 an hour less than their counterparts elsewhere who were doing the same job at the same skill level.

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