The Guardian 14 February, 2007

Collective agreements for all —
workers, managers, professionals!

Union members from Thales Defence operations in NSW, Queensland and Victoria are seeking support from their colleagues in France in an attempt to get Thales to agree to a union collective agreement. Thales is a major contractor in defence, aerospace, and nautical engineering, employing highly skilled professionals.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) has been trying to negotiate a new agreement with Thales, a French company, since the expiry of the last collective agreement in September 2006.

AMWU Industrial Officer, Marj O’Callaghan said that since they began negotiations for a new agreement, they have faced massive obstacles from the company. In some workplaces, the company refuses to negotiate outright, while in others they want some workers on individual contracts.

"The company is saying they want to exclude certain classes of workers from this agreement and have ‘an individual relationship’ with these workers." The most-affected workers are mainly professionals and middle managers.

O’Callaghan says that the workers have made it very clear that they want a collective agreement. "They’ve signed a petition saying they want a union collective agreement and they want the company to come to the table and negotiate in good faith."

"You would think that in the middle of a skills shortage, a company like this would be doing anything to keep its employees happy. So much for Howard’s argument that highly skilled workers will be in a powerful negotiating position."

O’Callaghan said that the AMWU will continue to campaign for the right of all workers to be included in the agreement. The union is writing to the Board of Directors in France and to the French workers asking for support.

"This is an attack on collective bargaining and we are not going to cave in."

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