|Issue No 105||03 August 2001|
Entitlements Betrayal at Centre of Car Crisis
A refusal by the management of a Sydney manufacturing firm to extend an insurance bond guaranteeing workers entitlements is the real issue behind a strike that has paralysed the motor vehicle industry.
The stoppage - involving 320 workers - has been sparked by the refusal of Tri-Star to sign up to the Manusafe workers entitlement fund.
And the Australian Workers Union's Ray Sparkes says the rejection follows a back-flip on an existing entitlements deal.
Previous owner TRW was one of the first employers to agree to insure workers redundancy payments against the company's collapse as part of enterprise bargaining negotiations .
The employer agreed to take out a bank guarantee - through a property insurance policy - to cover all workers entitlements
When the new management took over - and would't even negotiate the bank guarantee - a four day strike ensued. That was March 2000.
The Industrial Relations Commission at the time recommended the employer actually talk to the employees about the issue - something they had never tried to do. Eventually they struck an agreement to lodge a new bank guarantee.
Under the current EBA negotiations, employer Arrowcrest has taken it off the table at the behest of the Australian Industry Group.
Even in the protected bargaining period - where the only time a union can take strike action - the management have refused to negotiate.
Sparkes says the insurance bond was something very close to the workers' hearts.
"The problem is that the company wants to place a cap of 26 weeks redundancy - even though 92 per cent of workers would be entitled to more than this amount, based on their length of service," Sparkes says.
"The workers realise the company was purchased in a fire sale and they are refusing to trust the company to protect their entitlements."
With workers due to meet on Monday, he's predicting ongoing strike action if their demands are not met.
ACTU Blames Howard
Meanwhile, ACTU President Sharan Burrow says that the attempt by Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott to blame the Tristar workers and their union, the AMWU, for the dispute in the vehicle industry was both hysterical and hypocritical.
"Abbott's comments about 'economic treason' are so ridiculous that they are embarrassing for Australia,'' Burrow says. "Mr Abbott is denying the reality of the industrial relations system put in place by his Government. But Mr Abbott is also being hypocritical.
She says the failure of the Government to establish a comprehensive national scheme, and only put in place a an inferior safety net arrangement, means that workers and their unions have to establish their own arrangements. That is what the AMWU and the Tristar workers are attempting to do," said Ms Burrow.
"Tristar appears to be under clear direction from the peak employer body, the Australian Industrial Group (AIG), to not negotiate the issue. This is pattern bargaining by the AIG - something for which it is criticising the union.
"The ACTU calls on the AIG to come out of the shadows and to sit down with the AMWU to discuss this issue at an industry level so that the vehicle industry can get back to work," Burrow says.
Bevis: Abbott an Embarrasment
And Arch Bevis has weighed in, saying the comments by Workplace Relations Minister, Tony Abbott, concerning the TriStar Steering and Suspension dispute were an embarrassment, not only to himself but also to the Prime Minister.
"Tony Abbott's comments that strike action undertaken by the workers at TriStar Steering and Suspension was 'industrial and economic treason' are ill considered and only serve to inflame what is already a very heated dispute.
"I noticed that even the comments reported this morning made by the Prime Minister were far more considered, and rightly so. He is trying to negotiate a deal to keep Mitsubishi manufacturing in Adelaide.
"Tony Abbot's ridiculous outburst has undermined the Prime Minister.
"Time and time again we have seen Tony Abbott make outrageous claims and this outburst is just the latest in a long line of these.
"Tony Abbott describes himself as an 'L' plate Minister and continues to prove that this description is accurate.
"The fact remains that this dispute is the only way parties can attempt to negotiate under the Coalition's Workplace Relations Act.
"The current dispute is in relation to negotiations for a new enterprise agreement, the actions being taken are legal and in accordance with the Government's 1996 Act.
"As Labor has said from the beginning, the Howard/Reith 1996 laws promote division and an adversarial approach to negotiations. The most unfortunate thing about disputes that occur under these laws is that the government seems to think that when an industrial dispute comes along, their job is to be in there swinging punches.
"Tony Abbott is an embarrassment to himself, the Prime Minister and to Australia as a whole", said Mr Bevis.
Interview: Whose Advocate?
Employment Advocate Jonathon Hamberger argues the case for his organisation's survival and reveals his secret union past.
Politics: CHOGM: What Should Unions Do?
Activists Peter Murphy and Vince Caughley kick off the debate about what is the appropriate action ot take when CHOGM leaders meet in Brisbane
E-Change: 2.1 - The Changing Corporate Landscape
In the second part of their series on the impact of new technology, Peter Lewis and Michael Gadiel try to understand the new corporate playing field.
Jim Marr reports that the Employment Advocate has been handed a chance to salvage some credibility by cleaning up anti-union practices in the call centre industry.
Economics: Privatisation: The Dangerous Road
Frank Stilwell argues that the corporate collapses of HIH and One Tel are potent reminders of the downside of ‘people’s capitalism’.
History: Hard-Earned Lessons
Art Shostack looks at the legacy of the landmark strike by PATCO air traffic controllers 20 years ago.
International: Political Prisoner
Greenpeace campaigner Nic Clyde, facing up to six years gaol in the United States for taking part in a non-violent protest, speaks exclusively with workers Online.
Review: Seven Pubs and Seven Nights
Labor Council's newest recruit, Susan Sheather, shows she respects tradition by going in search of the perfect bar
Satire: Obituary: Mr Rob Cartwright - Captain of Industry
In all fields of endeavour, there are those who command our respect through their sheer commitment to excellence. One such titan was Rob Cartwright, whose chosen field, the obscure HR discipline of "moving people onto individual contracts" lost its greatest practitioner and champion late last night, following a tragic self-inflicted accident.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005