The Guardian August 1, 2001


SA workers fight back

by Bob Briton

Over 7000 workers could be involved in a campaign of random strikes unless 
General Motors Holden (GMH) does something to restart deadlocked 
negotiations around a new enterprise bargaining agreement.

Last Friday's Adelaide stopwork meeting recommended nationwide industrial 
action unless there is a positive response within two weeks by which time 
the current agreement will have expired.

John Camillo of the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) 
highlighted the difficulties workers have had in dealing with the vehicle 
manufacturer. The company wants "flexible" work arrangements, rostering of 
programmed days off and cutting Christmas holidays.

The company is also holding back over an ambit claim for an eight per cent 
annual increase in pay. Unlike Ford, which has granted workers a five per 
cent a year increase over the three years of the their new agreement, GMH 
has not even discussed the pay claim with the AMWU. 

Mitsubishi workers are also reported to be about to finalise an agreement 
with management leaving the highly profitable, market leader GMH, out of 
step. 

Local media have chimed in with the bosses' line that the dispute puts in 
doubt a third shift employing around 300 workers at GMH's Elizabeth plant 
from next March.

Workers at Electrolux home products are also fighting for a new collective 
agreement. They are seeking the protection of their entitlements under an 
industry-wide trust fund called Manusafe. 

Management is resisting a union proposal that the equivalent of 1.5 per 
cent of the workers' pay be put in the trust as part payment for what would 
become a transportable fund for long service leave and severance pay. 

Jim Watson of the AMWU told "The Guardian" that employers are claiming that 
the writing of the cheque to the fund for these purposes could force them 
to the wall. If nothing else, this calls into question their current 
arrangements for such eventualities and raises the point as to what is 
being done at present with workers' entitlement money. 

Workers went on strike last Thursday and were not due to return until 
Monday morning, this week. 

Stopwork meetings of workers at Monroe Australia, Walker Australia, 
Schefenacker and Hendersons Automotive will decide whether to take action 
over a 16 percent pay claim and other demands for the three years of a new 
agreement with the companies. 

The companies have responded with a proposed 12 percent (or four percent 
per annum) increase over the three-year period. This figure falls short of 
even the officially projected CPI increase of six per cent for this year 
alone.

Workers at the Osborne-based Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC) have 
also walked off the job after a stopwork meeting last Thursday. 

The walkout was in response to comments made in a letter by Corporation's 
managing director, Hans Ohff, that the workers' campaign for an eight 
percent pay increase over two years would jeopardise maintenance contracts 
which might otherwise go to WA. 

"They want to get themselves out of a job...The company can't work on that 
basis, and it will shut down its activity on the shop floor and continue in 
WA  it's as simple as that", he said. Ohff threatened that 80 workers 
would lose their jobs.

So far ASC has only offered six per cent over two years and Mr Ohff was 
reported in "The Advertiser" of July 27 as saying that he believed that the 
workers should actually have a pay cut.

Trains in Adelaide stopped running on Thursday as the workers and 
management of TransAdelaide met to discuss a number of claims. 

They included a 15 percent pay increase over three years and the need for 
an undertaking on pay and entitlements should the metropolitan train system 
be sold to private interests.

TransAdelaide has refused to budge from its 12 percent pay offer and thus 
put train services in doubt in Adelaide this week. 

Ray Hancox Secretary of the Australian Rail, Tram and Bus Industry Union 
said that TransAdelaide had refused to make any guarantees about the 
security of workers' pay and entitlements.

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