The Guardian August 29, 2001


Heads held high

Members of the National Union of Workers (NUW) employed by Australian 
Pharmaceutical Industries conducted their first self-initiated strike in at 
least 13 years.

Their current Enterprise Agreement expires on September 23 but the company 
was reluctant to begin negotiations for a new one. To kick-start 
proceedings the union handed out nomination forms to both union and non-
union members to establish a rank and file committee.

A committee of four was elected but the company refused to recognise it and 
began its own election claiming that it was its role and not that of the 
union.

The company then asserted that it would not negotiate with the NUW because 
several other unions also had a small number of members on site. 

A stopwork meeting was held on August 21 where it was demanded that the 
company recognise the NUW elected rank and file committee, give a date on 
which negotiations would start and agree to negotiate an agreement with the 
NUW.

Union organisers, delegates and the committee members met the company's 
representatives but management remained adamant.

When this was reported back to a meeting of members a decision was taken 
not to return to work until the demands of the membership were agreed to.

At one stage the company management objected to the inclusion on the 
committee of a particular person, an act that was regarded as a provocation 
and an attempt to once again determine who the workers would have as their 
representatives. 

Company management took the dispute to the Industrial Relations Commission 
which ruled in the Union's favour.

Workers returned to work with their heads held high. A further Commission 
hearing was held on August 27 at which the company's attempted provocation 
was criticised and the company was forced to offer an apology.

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