|Issue No 107||17 August 2001|
Soldiers Suffer Dodgy Bog
By Andrew Casey
Soldiers at the Puckapunyal Barracks, north of Melbourne, have had to suffer cuts in the cleaning of their barracks and their ablution blocks - as well as longer queues in the canteen, as a private contractor tries to increase its profits.
" The soldiers are not impressed that their canteen meals are not hot because kitchen staff numbers have been cut back," LHMU Assistant National Secretary, Tim Ferrari said.
" Where once at meal times kitchen staff were serving 80-90 soldiers the staff cuts have been so deep that at meal times kitchen staff are now sometimes serving double that number - one kitchen hand to 160-plus soldiers."
There can be several hundred soldiers and their families living at Puckapunyal at any one time.
Puckapunyal is well known to many thousands of Australians who lived there and were trained there during their army careers - either as volunteers or national servicemen.
" These former soldiers would be disgusted if they saw what was happening to the living conditions of our current service people," Tim Ferrari said.
"To cut corners a supervisor at Puckapunyal's kitchen recently decided to clean it out by using a fire hose, washing out an area where there are dozens of electrical appliances and power points.
" That created an obvious occupational health and safety issue which our members were not prepared to put up with. The company created an industrial dispute over this issue. They seem to be more interested in the bottom line than anything else."
The cleaners - members of the LHMU this week took their first
industrial action against Spotless/Nationwide, the private contractor who won the tender in March 2000.
" They won the contract to service the soldiers on the basis they could undercut the wages of our members.
15% pay cut
" In the 18 months since Spotless won the tender they have cut our members pay packets by 15%, reduced working hours and have recently threatened to reduce the number of full-time staff and cut the number of hours worked by the remaining staff.
" This company has decided to make a profit out of the soldiers by dramatically cutting the level of services at the barracks. For example, ablution blocks, which used to be cleaned out everyday, are now only cleaned out on five days.
"The employer has also threatened the income of employees who complain about their methods. LHMU members will not accept this behavior lying down," Tim Ferrari said.
The local Federal MP, Steve Gibbons, has promised to raise the issues involved in this dispute in Parliament.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005