The Guardian May 3, 2000


Locked out:
Solidarity with Moss Vale workers

Workers at the Joy Mining Machinery plant in Moss Vale on the south 
coast of NSW are presently on a picket line, their employer, a union-
bashing US multinational, having locked them out, claiming it will keep the 
gates closed against them until July. The unions had been attempting to 
negotiate an enterprise agreement since late last year.

Then in February the company served four separate bargaining periods on 
different sections of the Moss Vale plant  the hydraulic shop, the 
gearbox shop, the warehouse and the main fabrication shop.

For 20 years the plant has had a single agreement covering the whole site.

Pressure was put on individual workers to sign the company's EBA or face 
being locked out or the site closed.

The workforce remained united and determined to not be split up by the 
company, aware that following the introduction of separate agreements 
management was planning to introduce individual contracts.

Then, on March 31, the company began removing uncompleted jobs off the site 
to be stored in a local transport yard.

The workers, members of the Manufacturing Workers' Union, the Australian 
Workers' Union and the Electrical Trades Union withdrew their labour and 
set up picket lines at the main entrances to prevent the equipment being 
removed.

Having failed to break the spirit of its workforce by threats, the company 
locked out its workforce on April 14.

The letter of notification stated that they would not be permitted to 
return to work until day shift (7am) on July 13.

"During this period you will not be permitted to enter any premises of Joy 
while you are locked out. Any presence by you on such premises will be 
treated as trespass and Joy reserves its rights to take appropriate action 
in respect of any such trespass by you.

The key issues in dispute are the unions' demand for one agreement covering 
the whole site, and for the agreement to have a common expiry date in line 
with the rest of the industry.

The aim is to gain the maximum solidarity and strength when bargaining by 
bringing an end to isolated EBAs and trade-offs.

The company not only sought to break up the workforce with four separate 
EBAs, but wants a different expiry date for each agreement.

There were a number of other important issues on which the company's 
position was unacceptable:

* it wants wage increases below the industry standard  with wage 
reductions for some classifications!

The unions sought a minimum eight percent wage rise per annum and 
additional wage increases as a result of any increase in the CPI not 
covered by the GST tax offset package.

* the company is seeking to remove restrictions on the use of casual 
labour, posing a threat to the jobs of the permanent workforce;

* the unions want to retain the present ban on the introduction of 
individual work contracts (AWAs). Joy Machinery wants to delete it, paving 
the way for a casualised, non-unionised workforce on individual contracts.

There are also differences over redundancy provisions, trade union training 
leave, decision making processes, how often wages are paid, collective 
bargaining, accumulated sick leave, and the taking of maternity leave.

The workers are receiving tremendous support from the local community and a 
number of local businesses with food and equipment on the picket line.

CFMEU and MUA members and students from the Wollongong University have been 
amongst those joining the "Concerned Citizens at the picket lines.

Workers at the company's Rockhampton plant have taken 24-hour strike action 
in solidarity.

Messages of support, financial assistance and visits to the picket line are 
needed. The workers have no form of income and are not eligible for social 
security for three months while locked out.

The fighting fund is called Joy Workers (Moss Vale) Fighting Fund. 
Messages and financial support can be sent to the AMWU NSW State Council, P 
O Box 167, Granville, NSW 2142 or fax: 02 9897 2219.

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