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Somerton workers defeat AWAs
indonesia / philippines / australia | workplace struggles | news report Thursday May 17, 2007 08:56 by "a concerned citizen"
And Yallourn’s stuggle goings on
Direct Action Beats AWAs In Somerton and How to get out of an AWA.
Workers in Somerton (a northern suburb of Melbourne) have proved that it’s possible to get off an AWA and onto award rates and an EBA. How did they do it? By resigning en masse and setting up a community assembly out the front of the work site.
A group of construction workers in Somerton have proved that it is possible to get off an AWA and onto award rates and an EBA. Metal construction workers building the new Coles distribution centre in Somerton were forced on AWAs that dramatically undercut their wages. $18 an hour casual rate was all they were being paid and ripped off on penalty rates as well.
Some of the workers were referred to the job through a Centrelink Job Network member. Under the ‘Welfare to Work’ breaching system, they were threatened they’d lose their benefits for 8 weeks if they refused this position. In addition, some of the workers were asked to sign a 20 page AWA which they had only seen on a computer screen.
The AWAs might have been a clever device for their employer not to pay the building industry award but the workers weren’t going to put up with being ripped off. Striking outside a bargaining period is illegal and aren’t AWAs binding contracts? The answer in the end was rather simple. All the workers affected resigned en masse and protested outside the distribution centre gates.
In response their employer sought legal sanctions against the workers claiming the union [AMWU] was organising an illegal strike. The case was thrown out. The workers weren’t on strike, but resigned and were protesting against their rotten conditions. What they hoped to achieve was to be re-employed on the industry standard rate of pay.
Still the company refused to budge. Coles was not the direct employer of the construction workers but were happy to allow a contractor to rip workers off who were building the Coles distribution centre. Ironically at 6am on Friday the 13th a community assembly magically materialized, literally from the early morning fog, outside the main gate of the distribution centre. Security and amazed truck drivers were informed that nothing would be going in or out until 10am and nothing in fact did move in or out for four hours.
Protesting by the metals construction workers and the community assembly had the desired effect. After some argy bargy with the union, Coles and the contractor agreed to pay the correct rates and the workers were re-employed. Workers on the site have scored a $10 an hour increase and a host of other benefits that come with working on a union EBA linked to the correct award, it doesn’t get much sweeter than this, they won!
More working class struggle in Melbourne
- Successful Community Assembly outside Elliot Engineering About 60 supporters gathered outside Elliot Engineering* on Friday May 11 between 6 am and 12 noon. Delivery trucks were turned away by the peaceful Community Assembly.
Elliot Engineering is part of a group of companies behind the outrageous lockout of union members in the La trobe Valley
- 48 workers from Mechanical Engineering Services have been locked out for 34 weeks from the Yallourn Workshop in the Latrobe Valley. According to Gippsland Trades & Labour Council, the company has used Howard’s Treacherous IR laws against these workers and is refusing to negotiate on a new enterprise agreement.
The peaceful community action was halted at midday when the police intervened on behalf of management to allow a truck to exit the premises. Numbers on the Community Assembly had dwindled by this point, making it difficult to maintain an effective presence.
AE has locked out his workers for 33 weeks at Yallourn in La Trobe Valley, set up dodgy shell companies MEC etc but finally after yesterdays little effort where he also crashed the cop car has been charged (at last!) AE drove along Canterbury Road with the deliberate intention of removing those still attached to his crane truck on bushes he swerved into.
Will be interesting to see how the «Fair’ legislation updated by backfooting Howard and proposed by ALP (Another Liberal Party) will be relevant to this case of classic unfair Bossy boots behaviour!
Later yesterday the Union Solidarity folks went to confront Howard at a Scout Hall being fitted with a water tank..... When one of the Union Solidarity crew pointed out that the roof which would collect the water was asbestos.... and that it would be better to fund removing the hazardous material roof and replace it with a safer material for the kids Howard’s minders got a bit unsettled and Howard was moved on.
Howard showed up in the City to announce his nicer fairer masked workplace laws for the Election and once again UnionSoli and a large contingent of Nurses heckled him in a community building and celebrating effort -well done to all who rocked up.